Wednesday, October 3, 2012

30 Days of Fright - 02: Don't Look Up

I've never been a fan of the idea of excessively high taxes on the rich. This perhaps slightly controversial opinion on the subject of progressive taxation stems from my no doubt delusional belief that someday I will be rich myself and when that day comes I don't want to be taxed to the hilt.

After last night's film I'm now prepared to change my opinion on the whole tax thing.

An example of a well-heeled gentleman

Don't Look Up (2009) opens by telling the audience the story of how donkeys years ago, some chick called Matya was murdered in Romania (the Transylvania part of Romania, of course) basically because she was born with a birthmark on her face and the superstitious locals believed it was a sign of the devil. Turns out that the pitchfork wielding bumpkins were right for a change as the birthmark was actually the result of Matya's dear old mum having made a pact with the devil where she got herself a top-notch lover (cash, looks, horror-movie review writing ability, you know the sort) and in return was to spawn a child for Satan.

The story moves forward in time to the late 1920's where a film of Matya's tragic story is being made by visionary director Béla Olt (played by real-life director Eli Roth - yes, that Eli Roth, the man behind films like Hostel). One night on the set of the movie the actress playing Matya is frightened by something and Béla tries his damnedest to catch whatever it is on film, thinking it to be the ghost of the real Matya. Béla chases after the spectre but instead of filming a phantom he manages to get himself killed.

Spinning forward to the present, we meet Marcus Reed, a budding young director who is cursed with terrible visions. He's been trying to turn this affliction into an asset by using his visions as inspiration for his films but with only some success - his first film did well but his last attempt was never finished. As well as the problem with the visions, Marcus is troubled by his ex-girlfriend who is suffering from cancer and is very ill. Despite his worry for her, Marcus decides to avail of the chance to restart his career by travelling to Romania (the Transylvania part of Romania, of course) in order to make a film. The film in question is the big-screen adaptation of the story of the gypsy woman and her daughter and it just so happens that Marcus is a big fan of Béla Olt so he jumps at the chance to travel to Europe to use the same sets that still remain from that earlier production.

Upon their arrival, Marcus and his producers are told by the local fixer, Gregore, that the studio they are using is "bad", alluding to curses and hauntings and what-not. The lads do get an uneasy feelings and Marcus' visions go into overdrive. As production gets under way, the cast and crew of Marcus' film discover that there is something very wrong with their studio and that someone, or something, doesn't want a certain story told...

Great at giving direction but utterly incapable of following any, Marcus does the exact opposite of what he's told... and looks up!

Having watched this film I now no longer think that the rich should be free to spend their money any way they like, because when given that level of freedom they will only go off and make a film like Don't Look Up. Some idle rich prick with a desire to make a movie is the only possible explanation for the travesty that is Don't Look Up making it to the screen. I reckon that someone with cash simply bankrolled the whole thing as that's the only plausible way it got made at all. Within the studio/production company system someone along the way would have pointed out that the film is shit, if not someone on the crew, then at least someone in the test audience.

Don't Look Up is another one of those remakes of a Japanese horror film along the lines of the The Ring only this time scaled up from video tape to film stock. Without having seen the original it's impossible to comment on how faithful a version of the story Don't Look Up contains but regardless of where the story came from, it has problems.

There's a gypsy who made a deal with the devil and had a daughter. The daughter was tortured to death. Several years later someone tries to make a film of this story. The production is cursed and the director dies. Some more time passes. Someone else tries to make the same film. That production is also cursed and there are some deaths and the director has weird visions. There's a twist at the end, quickly followed by another twist.

At first glance, that's not too bad a story, but you can spot where the film-makers got carried away. If they hadn't given Marcus the visions and didn't bother with the two (count 'em), two twists at the end they might have been onto something. But rather than keep it subtle and interesting, they added in too much crap and the whole film ended up stinking of it!

Don't Look Up seems to have been made on the cheap (fitting with the notion that one person paid for the whole thing), but rather then using some imagination to deal with that limitation like some classic low-budget films have done in the past, the entire production reeks of it's bargain basement price tag. The bulk of the effects are just plain shit, with far too much really bad CGI utilised, most noticeably where flies attack people. Eli Roth's less than gentle hand can be felt in some of the make-up effects and for some reason there's an emphasis on scenes where there's a mutilation of the eye. This is pretty gross and there's one scene where it's used very well but mostly it's heavy handed and boring. The other recurring effects revolve around flies attacking people and overly graphic and therefore comical scenes of childbirth.

As Don't Look Up feels so cheap and tacky, the more I think about it the more I believe that my "rich guy paid for the film" theory is right. If you were minted and planned to make a movie wouldn't you put the actors you wanted into it? Of course you would, but no self respecting actor is going to go near a project like that out of the justified fear that it'll turn out shite. So, if Tom Cruise or Christian Bale or Bill Pullman (I think he's good), won't play along what do you do? You go down the list a bit and find someone interesting who'll turn up for the cash. In the case of Don't Look Up the interesting person they got was Henry Thomas. "Who?" I hear you ask.... here's a hint:

Henry Thomas in E.T. (he's the one on the left)

Thomas's appearance answers the question "Whatever happened to the kid from E.T. that wasn't Drew Barrymore?" but that's all it does. Like everyone else in the film, and I mean everyone, he was crap. Acting, Directing, Story, Effects, and even the Music were all terrible. Not even Eli Roth and Elliot could save this mess.

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for Don't Look Up

Don't Link Up:

No comments:

Post a Comment