Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Deadpool 2 Trailer!

So, today instead of watching the next film in my horror series, I watched the new trailer for Deadpool 2.

What do you even say about this? It's totally insane and perfect at the same time. It's also and excellent litmus test to see if you can roll with the kind of movie that this is going to be.

We're already going to be seeing this one when it hits theatres, but this is still a funny, well-made trailer that gets you excited for the movie and shows you what to expect without spoiling anything. The Deadpool films have had fantastic marketing so far, and it's good to see that continuing. There are also way too many references in here to get into them all, but it's a fun game to see how many you get each time you watch it. Well done.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Fear and Film: A Horror Retrospective- 1920's

And we’re back again! Its November now, but why quit a good thing? This entry was a little more difficult, I ended up watching three different films for it. I’ll talk really quickly about the other two, but our main focus will be The Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney Sr., from 1925. This will be both the first with a ‘feature length’ runtime, and the first Hollywood film I’ve reviewed for this project. So let’s get to it!

First, a couple of quick words on the other two movies I watched. The first one was an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher from 1928. This was a short film at 13 minutes, and it was also super trippy (or avant-garde, as the article for it says). It was hard to discern the story when watching it, because you weren’t sure what was supposed to by symbolic and what was real. It did have a fascinating visual style with distortions of the screen from shooting through a prism, to M. C. Escher-esque set design, and no intertitles to explain what’s going on. It’s an absolutely fascinating film to watch, but I didn’t feel like I had enough to make a full review, so I tried something else.

The second movie I watched was a Swedish film called Körkarlen (The Phantom Carriage in English) from 1921. I was lucky enough to find a version with English captions translating the intertitles, so I thought I’d give it a try. And it was really good. I’d honestly recommend seeing it because I thought it was an excellently-made movie and has some really neat special effects. The acting was also great and at a couple of points I got kind of emotional. So why am I not reviewing this one fully? Well, watching it, it never really came off as a horror movie (even though it’s in my list of horror films for the decade). It has some supernatural/horror elements, but the story is honestly rather akin to A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life and I kept waiting for the horror shoe to drop and it just never really did. On the plus side, it’s my second favorite version of this type of story (the first of course being The Muppet’s Christmas Carol). I just couldn’t review it as a horror film.
Finally, I sat down and watched The Phantom of the Opera and this is the one we’re going to talk about in depth. I watched the original 1925 version of the film rather than the 1929 re-edit. There is also a version with partial sound from 1930 (the film is lost but the sounds discs have survived). There was also seventeen minutes of colorized footage, but only part of that is still around. The version I watched was all in black and white and silent, which was fine. It would have been cool to see the color part that is still available, but other than novelty it really wouldn’t change things all that much.

The story of the Phantom pretty well-known in pop culture, so I don’t want to dwell too much on story. It is apparently quite faithful to the original novel (which I haven’t read but should), especially in its depiction of the Phantom’s appearance.

This appearance was created by star Lon Chaney Sr., who did his own makeup for roles, and was apparently kept secret until the film’s release at which time it scared the ever-loving crap out of people. And it’s effective. You can believe this guy was ostracized from society for appearance alone and that’s why he lives in the caverns under the opera house. For comparison, I had a look at some of the other Phantoms without their masks, and it was interesting. I don’t know why Gerard Butler’s Phantom is even bothering with the mask for that bad sunburn he’s got over his one eye; at least Robert Englund’s brought a bit of his Freddy look to it. Either way, Chaney’s Phantom is iconic, and part of that is his amazing makeup work.

Let’s talk about the acting. I’ve come to enjoy the acting of these silent films, and I’m going to miss them since from here on out we’re going to be into ‘talkies’. Phantom was no exception to that. The pantomime, exaggerated style of the silent era is quite different from what I’m used to and I enjoy expressiveness. Again, Lon Chaney Sr.’s acting ability is every bit as impressive as his makeup skills, giving the Phantom a melancholy and gravitas that almost makes you feel for him despite his obsessive perusal of Christine and his willingness to do whatever necessary to get what he wants. Christine herself, played by Mary Philbin, is stuck in a difficult situation, yet is surprisingly resourceful in trying to help her lover Raoul (Norman Kerry) get her away from the Phantom. The rest of the cast is just as good, and indeed the cast itself is huge, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of extras giving life to Paris. The sheer number and quality of all those costumes is staggering, considering most of them are suits/gowns for wearing to the opera and costumes for the Bal Masque party scene.

To that end, the sets are also amazing. The Paris Opera House in the film is a soundstage, which is crazy when you look at the size and complexity of that set alone. Even crazier? That soundstage wasn’t fully dissembled and demolished until 2014, at which time any remaining parts of the Opera House set were preserved and moved.

To be honest, I don’t even know what else to say about this movie. It’s excellent, go watch it. It would do it better justice than listen to me ramble on about it anymore.

So in conclusion, the 1920’s were an interesting decade for this project. I watched three movies, and thought highly enough of all of them to recommend. Whether you’re interested in the surreal, the dramatic, or the horror, I guess I have something for everyone this time. Thanks for coming around again and talking horror films and we’ll see you next time when we get into the advent of sound!

Watch The Fall of the House of Usher HERE
Watch Körkarlen HERE
Watch The Phantom of the Opera (1925) HERE

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Fear and Film: A Horror Retrospective 1910's

Hey, everyone, back again and looking at horror films. Also kicking myself for doing a project like this while also armpit-deep in Halloween, but that’s neither here nor there. Let’s instead move into 1912 and talk about one of the two versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made during this decade. Let’s get to it.

Now, as I said above, this is the first of two versions of this same story. I opted for the 1912 version over the one made the next year because to be honest, I just found I liked this one better. The 1913 film is fine, but it almost seems too long (which sounds strange to say for a film with a 26 minute runtime), since they don’t have a whole lot of variety in what Hyde does. The second thing was I liked actor playing Jekyll/Hyde in the 1912 one better. In the later version, the way he bounces and shuffles around as Hyde I found too comically distracting, and not menacing at all. But enough about the comparisons, let’s talk about the film at hand. 

The first thing I have to say I really enjoyed about this movie was the music, and how it was used to convey the dichotomy between Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll’s music is calm and sedate, almost dreamy. Hyde’s, on the other hand, is mischievous in an almost malevolent way. It was very striking and I found it fascinating to watch how it emphasized the personalities of both characters. It really adds to the film and heightens the impact of the action.  

The acting is very good, and as I said above, I preferred this version of Hyde over the other. In the 1913 film it was too over-the-top, and I didn’t get the same sense of menace like I did here. I mean, this Hyde straight up kills a man (his fiancée’s father no less!) after attacking her first. This is a huge contrast from the calm, kind Jekyll we see with her only a moment before. I didn’t think that anyone was hugely over-acting, either. They played this film totally straight without any camp. I really felt for the guy when things started going haywire and his evil alter-ego started taking over and wrecking things. Right after the police officer leaves when looking for Hyde, you see a brief shot where Jekyll drops down to one knee and just has this ‘what have I done’ moment. Then, at the end, you see even Hyde in a moment of desperation as his time has run out; he’s destroyed the laboratory and the police are breaking down the door. So then we see him find and take the vial of poison, and end to the madness for Jekyll and one last middle-finger to the authorities for Hyde.   

The transformations themselves are done mostly with cuts, and look good, and I like the way they really made Hyde look so much different from Jekyll. The ratty, opposite-color hair, the blacked-out teeth, the buggy eyes and big eyebrows, and even the way he holds his hands in a gnarled way really emphasize Hyde’s personality and his contrast from Jekyll. 

So, in conclusion, I really enjoyed 1912’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s only 12 minutes long, but it’s a very enjoyable film and a really good interpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella. I definitely recommend it. Next time we’re going to be heading into the 1920’s, so I hope you’ll join me then! Until next time!    

Watch the film HERE

Watch the 1913 version HERE

Friday, 13 October 2017

Fear and Film: A Horror Retrospective- 1900’s

And we’re back! Sorry for the delay, but now we’re back to talk horror again! Today we are jumping to 1909 and looking at D.W Griffith’s The Sealed Room in our second installment of Fear and Film.

In watching The Sealed Room, you immediately find a number of differences from our earlier entry, The Haunted Castle. The first is that there is a much larger cast in this film, with a number of background people that, while not necessarily impacting the story, give the illusion of there being many inhabitants in the castle and serving as the retinue for the king and as maids for his consort. We have also upped our runtime from three to just over eleven minutes, allowing us time for a more in-depth story. It also delivers the horror aspect of the story in a different way from The Haunted Castle, but in a way that is similar even to us today. So let’s have a look.

The first thing I noticed when trying to decide which movie to choose from this decade was that descriptions for The Sealed Room compared it to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. As someone who has been known to enjoy the works of Poe, I was intrigued, which led me to watch it. As I said above, the horror is done in a different, more realistic way than in The Haunted Castle, which relied on its special effects to bring you supernatural creatures that provide the fright. Here, the horror comes from much more mundane, human actions and doesn’t really come into play until the end. I thought this was a really interesting change between the two, and since I want to highlight different kinds of films within the genre, it seemed perfect.

The film depicts a king who has ordered constructed a special room for his consort that has only one door and no windows. When the king and his retinue leave, she and the court’s minstrel make themselves comfortable in the room. The king finds this out and, in a fit of anger, (spoilers, I guess?) has masons wall up the only door and mocks the two as they suffocate on the other side of the wall. So the Amontillado comparisons are certainly apt ones. As I said above, I like that this film has human nature as the cause of the horror element. It makes for a bit of a slower buildup to that element, but it’s more of a sinister and horrifying payoff knowing that it wasn’t anything otherworldly, but something very familiar that brought this end to these two. And it’s something that we as modern movie goers can relate to and appreciate even today, as those human actions are no different now than they were then.

As with The Haunted Castle, this film is silent. You could see that the actors were speaking as they were acting, but unless you’re a good lip-reader, the words will be lost on you. You don’t really need them, though, as the actions tell the story well enough. The version I watched did have musical accompaniment, which was nice. It was fairly upbeat, classical music, not turning dark until the end. That really helped with the feel of the movie, and the buildup I talked about earlier. The acting is again somewhat exaggerated to make up for the lack of sound, although not to such a degree that it is goofy. The set is actually based in two rooms instead of one; the aforementioned one-entrance room and a larger one outside it. The costumes are quite elaborate and invoking a more historical time period, even for the 1900’s.

In conclusion, The Sealed Room is a very interesting film. I love the timelessness of the themes and how they still resonate even more than a hundred years later. It is a slower burn in the horror aspect, but overall still conveys the genre well. I mean it must, we’re still making films in this vein even now, looking at themes of jealousy and revenge. I would highly recommend The Sealed Room, it’s well worth a watch, even just to see the advancement of filmmaking from our first entry.

Watch The Sealed Room HERE  

Monday, 2 October 2017

Fear and Film: A Horror Retrospective- 1890's

Hey, everybody! Happy October! Since its Halloween month I wanted to do something special. And so I’d like to introduce: Fear and Film, where we look at one horror movie per decade from the past one hundred and twenty or so years until now. I’m really excited to go on this trip through time and look at these films and how they change and evolve as we progress. So let’s start back at the beginning by looking at Georges MélièsLe Manoir du Diable (The Haunted Castle), released in 1896. 

I was thinking about looking at multiple films from this decade simply given the fact that films at this time are very short. To put it in perspective, The Haunted Castle has an ‘ambitious’ runtime of three minutes, 18 seconds. But it feels like a disservice to these films to do shorter reviews of multiple entries, so we will just be talking about The Haunted Castle, considered by some film historians to be the very first horror movie.

To start things off, what I found most fascinating about watching this film was the special effects. This film is 121 years old, what we’re seeing is special effects like the stop trick (or substitution splice) at the time of discovery. And these effects aren’t used sparingly, either. Méliès starts the story off with one, as a bat transforms into Mephistopheles and ramps it up in the ensuing chaos. Even though Mephistopheles is a demon, the bat transformation and other imagery such as the specters/brides have led some to call this a vampire (or perhaps proto-vampire?) movie. If that were the case it would also be the first of that genre. As to the effects themselves, they are really well done. Méliès wasted no time in making the most of this technique with awesome results as things appear and disappear throughout the runtime, from single items or creatures to entire groups of specters. Even jaded, cynical, modern me watched it bright-eyed, exclaiming ‘this is so cool!’ to myself. 

The story of the film is pretty simple: Mephistopheles appears and he and his minion make a woman in a magic cauldron. Two ‘cavaliers’ show up and he proceeds to mess with them as much as possible until he is finally scared off by a large crucifix. The acting is very pantomime, which makes sense for the time, Méliès’ theatre and magic background, and the fact they are conveying the story without the assistance of sound. There is one actually quite funny part near the end when one of the cavaliers decides he wants no further part of this and takes his leave rather… abruptly. There’s another part that I didn’t notice until my third or fourth watch where they actually jog the set and the whole thing moves. It doesn’t distract from the whole experience, though, and kind of adds to it. I looked to see if there was a (hand) colorized version to watch, but if any were made they do not appear to have survived the passage of time. Although to be honest, I don’t think that would affect my level of enjoyment one way or the other, but it would have been neat to see.  It's not scary in any way to a modern eye, but to audiences of the 1890's? Might have been a different story.

In conclusion, this was a fantastic way to start off a retrospective on horror movies. I had so much fun watching Le Manoir du Diable/The Haunted Castle, and I would one hundred percent recommend people check it out. This is the first time I’d ever watched a movie of this kind of age, and it was a wonderful start to exploring movies at their very beginning. I hope you all enjoyed this and come back next time when we are going to look at the film from the turn of the 20th century!

Watch The Haunted Castle HERE             

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Marvel's The Punisher Trailer Reaction

The Mummy Spoiler Free Review

Well, we’re back again with another movie review. Today we’re going to look at an interesting one: the first (second? third?) revival of the Universal Monsters and the beginning of their own, new cinematic universe. I’m talking of course about, The Mummy. Now there’s been a lot of really bad buzz about this one, so we decided to see what all the fuss was about. As usual, no spoilers ahead.

I’ll be totally honest, I kind of expected this to be a hate-watch. In fact, we came prepared, just in case. I even tried something new for the occasion.

Not bad, but really sweet. Also, why do I always get pink wine for these kind of movies?

I was willing to give this movie the shot, the benefit of the doubt, even. That is despite how dumb the trailers looked. Because trailers can be deceiving. It was kind of a ‘hope for the best but prepare for the worst’ kind of scenario. And well, I’m kind of glad I did. I’m going to come right out and say it: this movie is dumb. Not the dumb fun way that I actually tend to really enjoy, but the flopping over like a disgruntled teenager while whining ‘this is duuuuumb’ kind of way.


Let’s examine this further by breaking down the exact issues with this movie. 

-Tom Cruise is horribly miscast and phoning it in. Watching this movie, you can tell that this role was written for a younger actor (Russell Crowe even says ‘you are a younger man’. Cruise is 2 years older than Crowe). So much of it just doesn’t add up with Cruise as the lead. That’s not the only reason he’s miscast, though. His character is clearly supposed to be a ‘dashing rogue’, Han Solo-ish type and Tom Cruise cannot sell that, nor can he deliver a one-liner or quip that lands. He’s an annoying asshole with none of the charm this character needs, especially with his buddy Vale, played by a grating Jake Johnson who’s worse than he was in Jurassic World. They obviously cast Cruise for the star power, but he is completely wrong for this role. 

-Annabelle Wallis’ character, Jenny. First off, her and Tom Cruise have exactly zero chemistry on screen. Their ‘romance’ arc is totally forced, unearned, and basically out of nowhere. She’s also the worst character, and that isn’t the fault of the actress. She has nothing to do but spout exposition, be a damsel in distress, and have cringe-worthy conversations about how she thinks Cruise’s character ‘is a good man’. I don’t know who she’s trying to convince more, her or us. It was a conversation that was so trite, forced, and cheesy that I rolled my eyes so hard I’m pretty sure I saw my own brain. If I wanted to watch a movie about lost ancient treasures with a loveable rogue and a useless blonde, I’ll go watch Temple of Doom, because that one’s actually enjoyable. 

damn rights

-Ahmanet’s timeline. This one really gets under my skin, and that’s putting it mildly. We have three different dates for Ahmanet, each corresponding to very different periods in history. In trailer 2, Jenny says that the tomb has been buried for 2,000 years. That would put Ahmanet in the Roman period and long after the end of the native Egyptian pharaohs. Okay, so maybe that was a flub on the trailers’ part, right? Both the UniversalMonsters Wiki and Wikipedia itself say that Ahmanet is from the New Kingdom era, or around 3,000 years ago. That date actually makes sense given what we see of her in the flashbacks. This would have been peak Pharaonic Egypt and that would have worked great. In the movie itself, Jenny says twice that Ahmanet (and her sarcophagus) are 5,000 years old. That would put her way back in the First Dynasty (New Kingdom was 18-20th Dynasties), not long after the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. That would also mean that those lovely, recognizable pyramids in the background of the flashbacks wouldn’t be there, as they wouldn’t be built until the Fourth Dynasty. So… get your dates right, guys. Seriously.

-Stupid archaeology. This kind of goes along with my last point about the timeline, but as someone trained in the field, I can’t let this go. Jenny is a terrible archaeologist. They pull out the sarcophagus, seemingly taking nary a provenance, or you know, contacting the government of the country they’re in before they just haul it away. And what about all the rest of the stuff down there? Are they just going to leave it there? They pull up the sarcophagus with two little straps tied around it and then the helicopter flies away, swinging it through the air like it’s a carnival ride. Two straps and not even a blanket or a tarp to protect it as its sails through the air and the blowing sand.
Ahmanet's gonna need some Gravol

 This is beside the fact that while the stuff in the tomb looks relatively Egyptian, Ahmanet’s sarcophagus doesn’t look Egyptian at all. I suppose they wanted a ‘horror’ or ‘monster’ theme with that, but it looks dumb and out of place. Oh, and you can’t ‘mummify someone alive’. That’s not how it works guys. You can bury someone alive, and I suppose you can start mummifying someone alive, but they aren’t going to stay that way for very long. Again, just a dumb line that stuck out to me.  

-Sexist crap. Okay, just a quick point on this. There are some gross shots of the female characters in this film. There’s one part where Jenny reaches up to get something while in the foreground and you’re basically looking down her exposed stomach and pretty much down her pants. Yuck. She also ends up in the water in a white t-shirt. Also yuck. This is added on top of how Jenny is basically just a useless, damsel character. This movie even has a butt-focused shot of the Mummy herself! And it would have been so much cooler if Ahmanet herself wasn’t so interested in bringing Set into our world, but rather was consolidating her power for herself and her own rule. Wasn’t that her whole plan in the first place? I’m not even going to go into something said at the end after Cruise has rescued Jenny that was said (and done) so much better in a movie that came out earlier in the summer. I actually had to pause the movie because I was so angry about it and how it cheapened that line. I don’t want to say what it was, because spoilers, but it was the same thing a male character said to a female one in a much better movie and with much more emotional impact. (If you really want to know, I can post it in the comments lol)

-Exposition, aka, let me tell you a story. Honestly, there are so many scenes where everything just stops and one character begins telling another what’s going on or what we need to know at that given moment. The film literally begins and ends with an exposition dump. It is ‘tell, not show’ to the nth degree, and it gets pretty tiresome. In fact, one exposition scene is telling us about things that we just had seen a few minutes ago on screen. It just grinds everything to a halt to try and flesh out this universe that they’re building, but it really affects the overall pacing. And yet with all this exposition, there are things that don’t get explained! The double iris thing, the Templars and the dagger, why she’s buried in Mesopotamia (Iraq) instead of Egypt, and so on. 

-Bad CG. It’s not very good, need I say more? Much like Tom Cruise’s performance, it felt like they weren’t even trying.

Alright, I’m not going to end this off on such a negative note. There were a couple of positives. Let’s lighten things up and have a look at them.

-Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. You can tell he’s having fun with this, and truthfully he’s one of the best parts of the movie. Think of him as the Dark Universe’s Nick Fury. 
I'm here to speak to you about the Monster Initiative....
 The differences in his character between the two personalities was pretty cool, even if most of what he does is exposition. 

-The plane crash/ zero grav stunt. I’ll give credit where credit is due, that stunt was pretty cool. The fact that they did so much of it practically is really impressive. Tom Cruise may not have fit well with this movie, but at least you get here what he does in his other films: him doing something completely nuts and doing it for real.

-At one point when the Mummy is bearing down on our main characters, my other half busts into Hall and Oates’ ‘Maneater’. It was hilarious, out of left field, and sorely needed at that point. 

So there it is, guys. This really was not a good movie. I’d say just stick with the Brendan Fraser ones, or the original Universal Monsters films. It’s really not worth your time, and will in several places remind you of other, better films that you could be watching instead. Skip it.