Monthly Archives: January 2015

IMDB ratings and the horror masters

A lot’s been said about the decline of genre directors such as Carpenter, Hooper, Argento and even Romero.

so, Hotdog thought some descriptive stats of IMDB ratings for these directors might be of interest. what does the web’s top film site say about cinephile’s preferences for these directors?

It’s clearly the case that the trend in IMDB ratings is down for all of these directors over time. In other words, their earlier films are “better performing ” than their later films. Nothing new there, it’s what we have all known for some time.

However, it’s important to look at performance over the course of their careers. These guys are in their twilight years and how will/does IMDB treat them>? Here are the summary stats for each director’s IMDB rating*:

John Carpenter: Median = 6.8, standard deviation = 0.8
Dario Argento: Median= 6.3, standard deviation = 1.2
George A Romero: Median= 6.2, standard deviation=0.9
Tobe Hooper: Median= 5.4, standard deviation=1.3

The median is a measure of the average rating. Carpenter is the clear winner here, followed by Argento, Romero and Hooper in last place. The standard deviation shows the spread of ratings around the average rating**. From these figures, you can see that Carpenter achieves the most consistent ratings out of the four, whilst Hooper is once again propping up the rest. Argento does ever so slightly better than Romero on average but his movies’ ratings are more dispersed than those in Romero’s back-catalog.

So what does this tell us? Well, based on – admittedly crude – IMDB ratings, then John Carpenter isn’t doing as badly compared to his peer group as you might expect. That said, Hooper’s career overview doesn’t look too great at the moment – and I can’t see opinion being revised anytime soon. His successes of Texas Chainsaw and Poltergeist seem like a long time ago now.

* ratings correct as of 24th January 2015.
**the standard deviations refer to differences from the mean and not the median; however the mean rating is very similar to the median rating for all directors here.

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Oculus (2013)

Whilst ostensibly a horror movie about a haunted mirror, OCULUS is anything but familiar. Told via a chronologically choppy narrative and performed by believable characters, there is much to love here.

To me, the film evokes elements of Lommel’s THE BOOGEYMAN (1980) – a “marmite movie” if there ever was one – in story, score and atmosphere. But OCULUS is a far better movie than that low-budget charmer. The premise of the film is based on two siblings who set up an elaborate “execution” device for an evil mirror. Director Mike Flannagan concentrates at least 90% of his movie in one house – and mostly in one room – split over two periods, one historic and one set in the present. By the end, both worlds have somehow merged into one chaotic mind-bender.

The absence of visceral gore is telling and has drawn comparison with the similarly bloodless THE CONJURING (2012). There are less “boo” scares than in James Wan’s stellar haunted house movie, but in many ways OCULUS is the more curious and memorable of the two. It’s pleasing to see some horror movies abandoning the gratuitous torture-porn approach seen so often since the early 2000s.

All that said, some have found fault. You could argue that the increasingly non-linear flashbacks end up frustrating the the audience and you’d be right. But that is Flannagan’s whole point – we end up as confused as the pitiful brother and sister on screen having little clue as to whether they are trapped in a nightmare 11 years ago or attempting to stay alive right now. The editing techniques to deliver this effect really deserve a mention and get progressively funkier with the running time.

Flannagan’s real coup-de-grace moment comes about 2/3rds through, when tricked by the mirror Karen Gillan bites into an apple only to discover it’s a light-bulb. The cringing use of sound in this scene is fabulously grim as she unpicks the bloody class from her ravaged mouth.

Whilst you can see the ending coming a long way off – you know that huge jackhammer positioned above the mirror is going to make its presence felt sooner or later – it still manages to send a jolt through you as we are encased in the utter despair of a very unhappy ending.

One of the best horror movies of recent years, of that I have little doubt. A sequel is much warranted.

Hotdog rating: 8.5/10

Best & Worst of 2014

It’s come to that time of year again….so here’s my picks of the best and worst movies I have seen this past year.

starting with the positive experiences…

THE GUEST (2014)

An electro synth music video or a cross between THE TERMINATOR & UNIVERSAL SOLDIER? I’ll let you decide but Dan Stevens’ ice cold performance and the dazzling finale cement this as probably the coolest movie of the year. Absolutely ace.

THE PIT (2013)

Low-budget backwoods terror flick with a real difference. The opening credits sequence, rhythmic score and underlying sexual tension make for a gripping 90 mins. Think dirty and vintage Craven with a modern upgrade and you aren’t too wide of the mark.

LITTLE ERIN MERRYWEATHER (2003)

This film has more than a whiff of Argento’s virgin giallo THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, but if you look past the borrowed imagery and plot, it is one of the most effective slasher homages in over a decade. Gorgeous to look at and lovingly crafted, it’s dogged willingness to play it straight is a breath of fresh air with so many slasher parodies doing the rounds.

THE BORDERLANDS (2013)

Minimalist British found footage movie which hinges on two fantastic performances and an involving script. One of the few movies in this swollen sub-genre which I actually enjoyed. Church CCTV has never been so frightening, but here what’s really scary is the emotional cynicism in one of our leads.

TOWER BLOCK (2012)

A sniper targets the remaining inhabitants of a condemned tower block in London. You’ll see the reveal coming, but the rough-diamond acting and ingenious set plays made this a surprise hit for me.

and now for some film experiences I rather wish I hadn’t sat through this year:

VHS (2012)

A much-heralded anthology from the oft-maligned found footage genre. The film makes no attempt to link the individual stories together – the thread that does emerge is half-hearted at best – but what’s worse is these tales are essentially all derivatives of familiar, and by now tired, urban legends. A deep disappointment indeed.

HOLLOW (2011)

A senseless movie which relies on shots of a tree to illicit fear and suspense. The lack of any kind of revelation at the climax and indeed the more important omission of a character we can care about leaves you feeling cheated at the end.

MORTUARY (2005)

Tobe Hooper’s star has truly fallen, and little evidence of the director’s impressive cannon can be found in this messy small-town zombie movie. It is badly acted and woefully scripted. It tries to echo Lovecraft but the shortcomings are far too great to admire it for intention alone.