Monday, October 31, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 30: The Tattooist

I've often considered getting a tattoo but for the longest time was never able to decide what I'd get done. There were some ideas I liked but they didn't rock my world sufficiently to endure the pain or cost of getting it done. When I settled on the avatar I use (as can be seen here) it occurred to me that it would make for a great tat. But, after some careful consideration, I came to the conclusion that, regardless of which way he intended to lean, it would probably be best not to show up in front of St. Peter sometime in the future with a big fuck-off tattoo of Satan down my back.

At a tattoo expo in Singapore Jake Sayer (Jason Behr) is The Tattooist (2007) with an interest in the healing power of certain patterns and designs associated with native cultures around the world. His deep interest in ink came from a nasty incident when he was younger when his father, a deeply religious man, took a knife to Jake’s arm to remove a tattoo of a pentagram he’d had done. Now grown, Jake has developed a reputation for his ideas on tattoo healing, though it’s not entirely clear if he truly believes or whether it’s just an angle he’s playing though he does apply a tattoo to a sick young boy whose father believes.

While in Singapore, Jake encounters a young woman he’s attracted to who’s part of a group of New Zealand based Samoans, one of which is a tattooist and is currently working on the pe'a, a large tattoo that some young Samoan men receive to mark the passage into manhood. Jake is fascinated by the designs and curious if there’s a healing side to the whole thing (which is odd because it’s really painful), and keen to incorporate the Samoan material into his gig he steals a traditional tattooing tool that was in a display case by the Samoan’s stall at the expo.

As he leaves the expo, the distraught father of the young lad Jake had tattooed arrives to tell him that the boy died and that he was now interested in helping Jake meet the same fate sooner rather than later. Flustered by this, Jake drops his gear and as he struggles to gather up his belongings he cuts his hand on the tool he’d lifted from the Samoans.

Under a little pressure in Singapore, Jake decides to travel to New Zealand, which is one of the places in the world where he learned his trade, and while there he can find out a bit more about the Samoan tradition, and maybe get off with yer one but only after returning the stolen tool as his conscious is playing up since he nicked it, giving him nightmares and not letting his hand heal properly. Once he gets to Auckland, Jake hooks up with one of his old mentors who loans him a place to stay and the use of a car and he sets about finding the Samoans while paying his way as a tattoo artist.

Jake manages to find the Samoans and gets the tool back to them via the girl he encountered in Singapore. She brings him to a ceremony to mark the completion of one of the giant tattoos that the lads get and there he meets her uncle, a high up mucky muck in the Samoan community. After leaving the Samoans, Jake is dragged to a party being held for one of his customers. Jake isn’t comfortable so he leaves, right before the guy he’d drawn on dies mysteriously in a swimming pool, apparently coughing up ink and other nasty stuff. When Jake finds out about the death he’s more than a little shocked as the tattoo he gave seems to be the root cause of the death, and the other people he inked are suffering from an ailment where their tattoos are spreading painfully across their bodies before killing them horrifically. Jake slowly wakes up to the fact that the contents of his nightmares, the strange spread of his tattoos, and the deaths are all liked to the tool he stole, and that it has unleashed something far worse than a nasty infection...

Jake dies a little bit inside as he applies his 1000th tramp stamp

The Tattooist is at its heart a simple vengeful spirit type movie that has drawn inspiration not only from the traditions of the Samoan people living in New Zealand but also other films that are based on a similar idea. The Tattooist has elements of The Ring present in the storyline, particularly with regards to a piece of technology unleashing a naughty ghost with that has badness in mind. However, the culture of the New Zealand Samoans provides that backdrop and therefore context for the story is the real influence at play in this film, which reminds me very much of how The Serpent and the Rainbow put the culture of Haiti front and centre. Just like Serpent, The Tattooist focuses on the cultural aspects of the people in the film and, just like in Serpent, uses an American outsider someone audiences can relate to as they find out about the natives at the same time as he does.

The strength of The Tattooist is also its single greatest weakness. As fascinating as the cultural aspects of tattooing are they cannot cover the fact that the story is pretty weak and has been done lots of times before. The originality of the tattoo bits are in direct opposition to the unoriginality of the vengeful ghost. It's as if the film-makers were sitting around one day (somewhere in New Zealand) after they'd come into some lucky funding (most likely from the New Zealand national lottery or whatever) and were kicking around ideas for a film and one of them had just gotten a tattoo of a Samoan dude, so he (or she) said "how about making a film about Samoan tattoos?" and all the rest of them said "Yeah! Great idea! We can get all sorts of cool ethnic stuff into it!" and that was a far as they got with their idea for a film until they actually had to sit down and write a script and one of them threw in a bit about a ghost who was pissed off about their death.

In terms of performances Jason Sawyer is a perfectly competent lead in a small film like this but whether he'd be able for a bigger production is questionable. For me, the really impressive performance came from Mia Blake as Sina, the girl Jake fancies. The other actors and actresses were all functional and there were a couple of faces you might recognise from TV shows that need someone from New Zealand from time to time.

The Tattooist is, to be fair, a weak film. But while it's filled with conveniences (like open doors and kids who can channel spirits at the right time) which are symptoms of a story in need of much deeper development, I can't bring myself to dislike the film. The Tattooist is a movie very much in the same vein as The Serpent and the Rainbow but that's fine, because Serpent managed to tap into that sense of the unknown in order to build a horror story, the big difference being that Serpent used Voodoo which is a lot scarier than inky ghosts, as fun and all as they are. The main fright in The Tattooist is that when people go in to get ink from Jake, they're not asked what they want, he just drew whatever he fucking pleased...

Two Thumbs Up for The Tattooist

Here are some links for you to tattoo on your forehead:
Official Site:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 29: Outpost

Playing soldier is something a lot of kids like to do and increasingly a number of adults enjoy to play too. As kids, little war games can teach important lessons about team work and conflict resolution. As adults, running about playing war games in a couple of acres of plantation can teach important lessons about dealing with a fucker of a hangover when on a stag weekend.

In deepest, darkest Eastern Europe, in some country that's a bit on the war-torn side, a representative of a company that's bought some real estate in the area kicks of Outpost (2008) by recruiting a mercenary to put together a squad of hard chaws to provide some security as he goes about his business. Hunt (Julian Wadham) hires DC (Ray Stevenson) who gathers up some tough nuts who are well up for the job. Hunt seems to be a man of the world and has experience dealing with mercenary types and some of the squad suspect that he’s not telling the whole truth about their little mission.

The lads all set off towards a particular location in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival the squad discovers a German World War 2 bunker that seems to be the focus of Hunt’s interest. As they take a look around the place they make the horrific discovery of a stack of bodies piled up in one of the rooms of the bunker. The bodies look fresh and sure enough one of them turns out to still be alive, though the poor sod is severely traumatized and unable or unwilling to speak.

The squad secures the bunker for the night but is attacked by unseen assailants who manage to wound one of the soldiers. This changes the dynamics of the mission quite severely and the problems for the soldiers grow as one of them is captured and killed in a torturous manner that puts the wind up the rest of them. DC confronts Hunt demanding an explanation of what’s really going on with the bunker and Hunt reveals that it had been used by the Nazi’s as part of a twisted super-soldier creation program that used a large machine to jimmy around with the laws of physics. Hunt shows the remaining squad members a film he found that documents some of the experiments and the extreme lengths the researchers had gone to. Hunt and DC realise that their unseen attackers are closely related to the experiments that took place in the bunker and might still be fighting a war…

Paintball in the Irish midlands is a serious fucking business! (that's me on the right)

For some strange reason films about soldiers set in modern times and located in Eastern Europe do not feel like “real” war movies, but that is how Outpost presents itself at the start, though mostly as a way to lull you into a false sense of what the film will be about. What Outpost is about on the surface is very simple. Nazi Zombies (of sorts). For all the times I’ve heard Nazi zombies mentioned I haven’t really seen too many so it’s nice to finally run into a few in a movie.

However, the Nazi’s that feature in Outpost are not actually zombies, in fact they seem to have more in common with Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen then they do with anything from The Walking Dead as the core of the story is the machine in the bunker and what it can do. As a plot device (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s not the worst way to conjure up some baddies that are suitable for the type of goodies that were available, in other words it was nice and handy that a bunch of armed to the teeth soldiers were the ones who discovered the bunker as opposed to some teenage hikers as it’s unlikely that the hikers would have been as able for the situation.

Outpost is an unusual little movie that takes a swing at a bigger story then it's really able for. The theme of soldiers being laid siege to by supernatural entities has been done a few times and there are a few common threads to these stories that you can expect, particularly things like each of the soldiers having their own quirky personalities which in Outpost is presented well as each of the squad are of a different nationality, but while good at the small stuff delivering on the idea of the Nazi's working on advanced technology and the consequences of that work is a tall order and sadly Outpost wasn't really able to do it.

Once an excuse had been presented to get the Nazi's into the picture the film descends into a standard slaughter-fest with the soldiers simply fighting for survival over the course of a day or so. This is very standard fare and it happens in a very standard way. Ray Stevenson and Julian Wadham as DC and Hunt respectively are the best thing in Outpost because in a sense they're the only thing in it. The other characters are only in the film so as to be victims and are in no way developed beyond displaying whatever traits they were assigned so that you could tell them apart as they're murdered.

Outpost is a low budget British horror film but the lack of budget isn't why the film feels lacking. What it's really missing are better characters, if they'd been there then they might have told the story better and gotten across the real horror, the notion that World War 2 could have had a different outcome if some of those terrifying experiments had worked...

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Outpost.

Have you Seen Kyle (he's about that high)? Try these links, maybe he's there:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 28: Flatliners

Horror loves the field of medicine. Ever since the likes of Dr. Frankenstein made it cool to go to medical school and then dabble in un-natural and highly unethical experiments, horror has always had time for a good doctor, but the preferance has always really been for a bad one! Medicine is kinda scary in its own right, dealing as it does with skeletons and blood and guts, so there's a lot of material in this particular area that works well for horror. Of course, the really important thing that horror dwells on a lot and that medicine somewhat specialises in is the bit at the end, death.

Flatliners (1990) is set in the world’s best looking medical school where five students are rising to the top of their class in their own ways. Nelson (Keifer Sutherland) is poncing around with a head full of weird ideas, Rachel (Julia Roberts) is a moody sort who’s interested in her patients tales of near death experiences, Joe (William Baldwin) appears to be interested in a career in gynecology, Randall (Oliver Platt) has his heart set on surgery, and David (Kevin Bacon) is something of a whizz in the ER until he oversteps the boundaries laid down for students as he helps a patient and gets suspended from school. This prompts Nelson to seek him out with some urgency as he’s planning on implementing one of his nuttier ideas and he needs David’s help.

Nelson is somewhat of an outside the box type thinker and he’s come up with the idea to kill himself in controlled medical circumstances and then be revived with the use of electrical do-hickeys and a variety of drugs in order to experience the afterlife, if there is one. Nelson manages to convince the others to give him a hand and they meet up one night to get down to the serious business of bumping him off. Using some gas and drugs the other four manage to get Nelson to flatline, that is they successfully induce a state of clinical death upon their classmate.

After the pre-arranged time has elapsed they set about resuscitating Nelson and manage to bring him back. Slightly euphoric from their success they quickly begin to argue among themselves as to who will go next and for how long and a bidding war breaks out as each of them threatens to "go" for longer than the others and therefore run the risk of coming back with brain damage or not coming back at all. A short time after his resuscitation Nelson begins to see visions of a little boy he bullied when he was a nipper himself, but he keeps this to himself as he's not sure what he's experiencing. As the others die and return they too are haunted by things from their past and an interesting side effect turns more serious as visions turn violent...
With one of the Baldwin's lying dead on the table, the rest of the gang discuss why they should bother their arses to save him?

Firstly I’ve got to say this as it’s been on my mind from during my watching of Flatliners: the sets and locations are fucking amazing! The building where the group conduct their experiments with death is being renovated and looks fantastic, with murals on the walls and high windows and plenty of room, in fact the entire medical school is made up of rooms that look like they belong in art galleries or museums and while these must be great places to go to college it must be fiercely impractical as, for example, the room where anatomy class is held doesn’t seem to have any actual equipment for dissecting cadavers, though it does look pretty. This valuing style over function permeates the film like the stink of a medical student. From the medical school to Nelson’s apartment, to David’s truck, to Julia Roberts, things look good but don’t make a whole pile of sense. Except, they do make the film wonderfully atmospheric and actually kind of cool in a retro way.

Nelson’s apartment is right out of a 1989 music video, all bare white walls and fuck all furniture and lots of lights casting interesting shadows; David owns what appears to be an ex-military truck that’s full of stuff but has only a canvass flap for a rear door, and at one point he absails from a window to get to the ground floor as opposed to taking the stairs; Joe’s apartment (wasn’t there a film called that?*) is a split level thing with exposed rafters where he can hide video cameras for the purpose of filming his sexual exploits as he cheats on his fiancĂ©e; and Julia Roberts is the girl of the group. All these things are the trademark of the visual style of director, Joel Shumacher, the man behind The Lost Boys, and while they do make for excellent viewing just like Lost Boys they cause the film to be sadly forever stuck in 1990 which, again like Lost Boys, is a crying shame as Flatliners is brilliant!

The atmospherics coupled with the calibre of the cast would be enough for Flatliners to be well on it's way to a place among the decent movies of the early nineties anyway, but add in an interesting story and some top notch character development and it should have been guarenteed a much higher regard then it currently manages. The characters are interesting from the point of view of audiences now very well used to the idea of driven doctors who are more than a little bit full of themselves. Flatliners uses this God-complex years before ER hit our TV's and made this type of person seem normal. All of the group selected by Nelson are chosen because they are allegedly so good at what they do, and the archetypes used became staples of character development for shows just like ER. There's the egotist, the slightly disturbed one, the maverick, the genius, and the philanderer; all people we now know a lot better then we did when Flatliners used them.

Having characters like this allowed for such a deep an meaningful subject as death and the existance of an afterlife to be plausably dealt with under the auspices of an experiment designed by a  fame-hungry young man who wanted to be known for his breakthrough research into the human condition (though it seems the nickname "Dr. Death" never crossed his mind until it was said to him in the film). What happens to those characters and the developments of their relationships as a result makes for great viewing even though as a film with a supernatural slant there are very few chills and no scares to speak of. While this absence of fright might be considered a drawback for a spooky movie and seems to be a waste of a well developed atmosphere, I think adding in anything overly designed to get a reaction from the viewer would have cheapened the film and I'm glad it's as subtle as it is.

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for Flatliners.


Friday, October 28, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 27: Angel Heart

Over the years I've had many items of clothing ruined by money burning holes in the pockets. While this is not a major complaint (hardly a compaint at all really) it did lead to many fine items of body-covering having to be pegged out dues to all the stuff I lost from out of those holey pockets. As I've gotten older and found more diverse ways to throw money away as quickly as possible, the problem with the pockets has been significantly reduced. Now I find that the things I purchased with that cash are burning holes of their own as they lie idle and begging for use. Stangely though, the DVD of last night's movie did not suffer from that problem. Don't get me wrong, it sat on a shelf for ages before I ever watched it, it's just that I didn't buy it - I stole it off a friend of mine...

The action in Angel Heart (1987) takes place in 1955 andstarts off in New York city, where Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is a privatedetective who normally works small cases like cheating spouses for divorces andthe like. He is approached one day by a lawyer who wants to engage Heart’sservices for a client of his, the enigmatic Loius Cyphre (Robert DeNiro).Cypher is trying to locate a singer with the stage name Johnny Favourite whoapparently ran out on a contract of some sort he’d entered into with Cypher.

Favourite had been suffering from shell-shock caused by hisadventures in World War 2 and for the previous twelve years or so had been receivingtreatment in a hospital outside the city. Heart takes the case and quicklydiscovers that Favourite had done a runner from the hospital ages ago and thathe, or an associate of his, had paid off a doctor to maintain the pretence thatFavourite was still a patient. Tracking down the doctor, Heart finds him to bea barely coherent morphine addict, and in an effort to get some sense out ofhim, Heart forces him to go without his drug of choice for a little while. Whenhe checks in on the good doctor Heart finds that the doctor appears to havetaken his own life with a bullet to the braincase.

Now fearing he’ll be questioned over the death, Heartconfronts Cyphre who ups the fee he’s paying in order to keep Heart on thecase. As Heart investigates further he uncovers that Favourite was mixed up insome very shady dealings and seemed to have developed a strong interest in theoccult, spending a lot of time with a fortune teller and other occultists.These people were likely the ones who helped him escape from the hospital andHeart follows them to their most likely hiding place of New Orleans.

Jumping on the train to Louisiana, Heart finds himself quicklyup to his neck in the local scene, made up of swinging jazz and a bizarre mixof religious and occult practices, all with a funky Creole/French accent. Theclues in the case lead Heart around in some circles and more and more peopleconnected to the case wind up dead. While everything points to Favourite beingdeceased himself, something else is always hinting that what actually happenedto him is far worse than that…

Overcome by DeNiro's powerful, manly presence, Mickey Rourke cops a sneaky feel

The Angel Heart DVD has been kicking around my place forages now (well over a year!) and I’ve been trying to decide if I’ll watch it as part of this seriesor not for over a year. The reason I’ve been so unsure about this film is that,as hard as it can be for other movies, it’s really, really hard to decide ifAngel Heart is in fact a horror at all. I am inclined to think it is, but amore accurate, though not perfect, description might be “Supernatural Thriller”.

Angel Heart features a wealth of occult material from tarotreaders to voodoo practitioners but none of these things really come to bear onthe story until quite near the end. In fact, while this hocus-pocus is evidentfrom early on, it always feels merely coincidental, like characters that areinto voodoo could just as easily have been into gardening or stamp collectingor any other more mundane hobby. The way all this is spun makes Angel Heartquite a clever little film.

DeNiro’s character, Cyphre, is the most blatantly obvious inthe film and there’s very little doubt as to his true nature from the moment heappears (manifests, perhaps?) on screen. But even while you know he’s really thebaddest of the bad the film still plays out like a regular detective story.Even scenes where DeNiro turns up sporting a cool pentagram ring and longfinger nails he still acts in a semi-normal fashion and you forget that there’sbound to be some sort of diabolical ending to the whole thing.

But, as clever and all as Angel Heart is, its lack of clearly defined genre lines means that it's lacking as a horror film. The dread never builds when the end does come it plays out in the same understated way that the previous hundred minutes did leaving you with more than a bit of an anti-climax on your hands. As a broody detective story Angel Heart is excellent, as a flat out horror it needs some work; I can 't help but feel that if the supernatural element had turned out to be something more natural instead the whole thing would have worked much better.

For a real scare, take a good look at Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart (in which he was excellent, by the way) and take a look at the poor bugger now...

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Angel Heart

Satan's Links:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 26: A Nightmare on Elm St. Pt4: The Dream Master

If you've ever had a lucid dream (a dream where you are aware that you're dreaming and as a result have an element of control) you know what an amazing experience that is. It can also be something of an addictive experience as if you've had such a dream and can remember it you'll want to have another, and another, and so on. There are some techniques that can allegedly induce a lucid dreaming state and I've experimented with them once or twice, but to no avail; instead of an immersive dreaming experience where I was master of my environment, all I got was a crick in my neck.

Though it takes a couple of minutes before you realise it, A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: Dream Master picks up the story of the children of Elm Street after the events in the third instalment of the series. Now home from the psychiatric hospital where they were being treated for various sleep disorders they are living back in the old neighbourhood and are living more or less normal lives. Kristen still has the power to draw people into her dreams which she tends to do on a semi-regular basis, especially if she’s having a nightmare. Kristen isn’t so sure that they’ve seen the last of Freddy Kruger and when she draws the others into her nightmares she tries to convince them that they’re still in danger.

At school, the Elm Streets have made new friends and settled into the social structures reasonably well. Among their new friends are a brother and sister, Rick and Alice, a geeky kid who’s asthmatic and good at the old book learnin’, and the usual collection of jocks and the like.

Sure enough, good old Freddy does manage to return, his bones joining back together and the flesh growing back (though still terribly disfigured) during one young lads nightmare. He then proceeds to murder all round him, focusing his efforts on the two kids who with Kristen, had defeated him last time out. With these two dispatched, Freddy then attacks Kristen, using her power to draw others into the dream world for him to kill and, in some way that’s not made all that clear, use their souls to grow more powerful.

Kirsten draws her friend Alice into the dream realm and before she’s killed she passes her power to Alice. Now, as Freddy ups the body count, Alice is imbued with the strengths of the person he has killed, which Alice uses to prepare herself to face Freddy...

Hey Freddy, did you go bald when those parents set your ass on fire?
 No, Bitch....

I got a Kru-cut!

Part three of the hugely successful Nightmare on Elm Street franchise set things up nicely for the next movie and I was looking forward to seeing how the story would develop and whether the ghost of Fred’s mum would show up again and curse at people. Part 4 didn’t continue the story as much as it simply carried on the story, by which I mean, unfortunately, that it’s really just more of the same.

The idea behind the Nightmare series is a good one and the previous film had added in a couple of new angles, with the idea that lucid dreamers could do some good in the dream world, that the dream world itself is more than just something in our heads, and that Freddy is a deeper and more complex character then you’d think due to his background and the fact that his mum is a ghost. Most of this was ignored for the fourth film so that Freddy could have some lines that were meant to be funny (but weren’t) and so that the film makers could show off a wide variety of special effects that they had available to them.

The effects in Nightmare 4 are, for the most part, excellent. I really liked the waterbed and the landshark scene sticks in my head too, but nearly all of the effects were well executed (except the bit where Freddy got a hole blown in his chest, the animation for that sucked!) The story is so weak, however, that it’s hardly worth talking about which then leads to good effects being used in places where you just don’t care. A bunch of teens get killed off in this film and none of their deaths really resonate. None of them seem as painful or horrific as those in the earlier films did, and as so many characters are new there’s a strong sense of lambs to the slaughter, so when one of them does bite it you’ve nothing invested. And while the effects are technically well done, they’re not shocking enough to make you sit up and take notice.

There are some things that you can't help but notice in Nightmare 4. The most obvious one is that Patricia Arquette was replaced as Kristen by, and I swear I'm not making this up, Tuesday Knight (that's her name, not sure if she's any relation to Michael or not). One other thing is the way the character of Freddy moves more and more towards comedy as opposed to horror which is a crying shame for a little humour in these films went a long way; in Nightmare 4 the comedy gets in the way of the whole point of the movie.

Two Thumbs Down for A Nightmare on Elm St. Pt4

A Linkmare on Url Street:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 25: Creepshow

I love a good comic book.It's a brilliant way to tell stories and as a medium it has a lot in common with cinema, only without the chance for a load of people to get together and really make a mess of it.Perhaps this close link is why it's now so common for comic-based movies to hit the picture houses.

Creepshow (1982) is a different kind of film as it’s an anthology of five short stories presented as if they were part of a 1950’s style horror comic book that a young boy was reading before his father took the book away. The whole film is wrapped in the story of the boy and his Dad with the start of the film about how the boy lost the “Creepshow” comic and the end about what happened next. The five stories presented are each quite separate from each other as stories in comics often are.

Story 1: Father's Day
The first film presented in Creepshow tells of a wealthy family of sorts getting together for dinner with a dear old aunt of theirs. The aunt in question shows up on father’s day every year to visit the grave of her own father and to be a hindrance to her younger relatives. As the time for her arrival approaches, the mother of the family tells of how her aunt had killed her father and now felt a vague sort of remorse about the whole thing. Sure enough, the aunt arrives and head to her father’s grave to sit and get shitfaced with a bottle of Jack. As she contemplates what her father had done and how it affected her life a hand shoots up from the grave and the family experience the second murderous rampage in their history...

Ed Harris hits the bottle (pity it wasn't Regaine, the now-baldy fuck)

Story 2: The Lonesome Death Of Jody Verrill
The second tale of terror follows an unsophisticated rural gentleman (fucking redneck) called Jody Verrill (Stephen King – yes THAT Stephen King) whose evening is disturbed by a meteorite crashing to Earth near his house (shack). He investigates and dreams of making a bit of cash from his find by selling the rock to a nearby college. The meteorite is too hot to pick up out of its crater (as the simple gobshite discovers by burning his fingers on it) so he throws a bucket of water over it, causing it to split in two and leak some retched looking fluid. Returning to his house (hovel) for the evening to consider his next move, Jody notices that some green mossy looking stuff has sprouted on his fingers and is spreading to anything he touches. Soon, most of the house and surrounding fields are covered in an alien plant and Jody is in danger of being overgrown himself...

The author of The Green Mile reveals his inspiration

Story 3:Something To Tide You Over
Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) is at home one morning when an older gent Richard (Leslie Neilson) knocks on the door and barges in, telling Harry that he knows he’s having an affair with his wife Rebecca. Richard is incredibly possessive when it comes to his missus so much so that he’s done something terrible to her and if Harry wants to see her again he’s have to go with Richard. Reluctantly agreeing to this Harry sets off with Richard down to the beach where Richard pulls a gun and demands that he jumps into a deep hole in the sand. Now buried up to his neck harry watches as Richard fetches a TV set and about three miles of cable so that he can watch a feed from a camera somewhere else on the beach where Rebecca is buried in similar circumstances, the only difference being that she’s nearer to the incoming tide and is starting to struggle as she’s slowly submerged. Harry realises that he’s about to suffer the same fate and swears revenge on Richard. That night back at his place, Richard is disturbed by two uninvited watery guests...

People tend to forget just how fucked up the last episode of Cheers really was!

Story 4:The Crate
Set in a college town two professors, Henry and Stanley, are attending a social gathering during the summer holidays. The two lads are friends but Henry is married to a right old bitch, a woman who gets on everyone's nerves and is totally different to her husband and his friends. A janitor working at the college contacts Stanley to say he's found a crate under the stairs. Stanley goes to investigate and discovers to his horror that the crate contains a living Yeti that's rightly pissed off for having been in a wooden box for over a hundred years.After the creature kills a few people Stanley tells Henry about it and Henry spots a chance to improve everyone's lives by ending one in particular...

Henry utters the first known instance of "Yeah, you'd better run!" in cinema history

Story 5: They're Creeping Up On You!
A rich old dude living in a high tech apartment hates bugs and he's killed by them. That's it.

A rich old dude living in a high tech apartment hates bugs and he's killed by them

I am seriously conflicted on the subject of Creepshow. I really can't decide if it's muck or a masterpiece. It is defeinitely innovative and certainly manages to invoke the idea of those older horror comics that you sometimes see reprints of, where the stories are twisted and genuinely horrifying.

The thing about Creepshow is that there are no big twists and absolutely no scare worth mentioning and all the performances (bar one) were terrible and the comic book animations that kick in at the end of each story are distracting and silly.The only actor worth a damn in the whole thing was Leslie Neilson, who came across as a fucking sinister nutball and was a joy to watch as he pranced about on screen delighting in his murderous game. Even with big name actors, Stephen King writing the material, and George A. Romero directing Creepshow just doesn't click.

Whatever way you cut it, Creepshow is shit. So why then this indecision? Because, as poorly delivered as it was, Creepshow remains a very clever film. The level of respect it gives to the material it was inspired by is to be commended and in terms of a comic book movie it was way ahead of its time. Creepshow is a film born out of a love of horror and it's a safe bet that everyone involved in making it had a good time in the process, which is too often missing from film production. Sadly though, this wasn't enough to prevent the shortcomings in the production from overwhelming the better aspects.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Creepshow


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 24: My Bloody Valentine

There is a strong tradition of mining in many parts of the world but the places I tend to associate with that industry are the North of England, parts of Wales, and parts of Cornwall. It is purely because of my knowledge of the UK that I think of those places when I think of digging stuff out of the ground on a big scale.Places like Cornwall have so many legends and folklore tales associated with the practice of mining that it comes as no real surprise that a horror movie or two has been made over the years set in and around mines. What is surprising that at least one of them is Canadian!

In a blatant attempt to cash in on day-themed movies like Friday 13th and Halloween, My Bloody Valentine (1981) is set in a small mining town called Valentine Bluffs somewhere in deepest darkest Canada where, in 1960 during that year’s Valentine’s Day dance, an accident occurred in the mine that was caused by two supervisors who were in a hurry to get to the dance and left five men in unsafe conditions. The rescue attempt took six weeks and by the time they got to where the miners were only one was still alive and he had apparently only survived by letting his diet go to hell and feasting on the remains of his co-workers (whether or not they died in the accident or if he killed them is unclear).

The survivor, Harry Warden, was institutionalised for his trauma but the following year, having learned of the cause of the accident, he returned home and murdered the supervisors responsible and a few others, leaving a message for the town that no Valentine’s Day dances or other celebrations are ever be held there again. Every year since, Harry has busted out of the puzzle factory around the 14th of February and nipped home to make sure no one’s getting their groove on.

Twenty years have passed since the accident and most of the towns inhabitants have either forgotten the story of Harry Warden or now think the whole thing is just some local legend. Deciding to resurrect the towns Valentine’s festival, the centre piece of which in the dance, the towns organisers led by the mayor and the local Laundromat owner, prepare the place for the festival with decorations and sweets in heart-shaped boxes (in an apparent homage to Nirvana about ten years before that band dominated the Seattle music scene!).

The mayor is the recipient of one of those boxes but is horrified to discover that it doesn’t contain novelty chocolates but instead a human heart, recently forcibly removed from its owner’s chest. As the mayor is of the right vintage to remember Harry Warden he put’s two and two together and pisses himself as he cops what’s about to go down in Valentine Bluffs, just in time for Valentine’s Day...

Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and Kurt Cobain before they turned their backs on mining for good

My Bloody Valentine is a low budget, no names, no hope, heap of crap that got thrown together and puked up onto a screen. While I can appreciate the desire to cash in on a trend in movies like those that used keys days in the year as their main reason for butchering teenagers, the shoddy way that this film was made is almost certainly one of the main reasons films like Halloween are looked upon so kindly as, despite their glaring faults, they all look like Oscar worthy masterpieces in comparison to My Bloody Valentine.

There are two main failings with My Bloody Valentine: what it’s about and the people in it.

The “acting” is fucking shit. Holy Jesus, you’d think someone on the crew, sitting down to watch the dailies or maybe in the editing suite later on would have looked at the footage and thought to themselves “Shit! We’ve made a terrible film and it’s mainly because no-one in it can act!” I’m stunned that no one intervened to stop this thing getting loose, it’s not like they had You Tube in 1981 and couldn’t have stopped some of it leaking out. All someone had to do was burn the master copy and we’d b rid of this monstrosity, I mean they lost chunks of the original print of The Wicker Man for crying out loud, why couldn’t that happen to a bad film?!

There are a boat load of characters in My Bloody Valentine and they’re all portrayed by useless plebs. The mayor, the woman who owns the laundry, the Sheriff, the geezer who runs the bar, the mayor’s young lad, the other “men” who work the mine, and their girlfriends, are all equally shite. I kid you not, there’s not one of them who was able to put in even a reasonable performance. Even if they were all part of the same amateur dramatics society you’d imagine one of them would have gotten lucky and been able to deliver their lines without sounding like an eight year old forced to read in front of the class. Even the girls, whose main function in the film was to scream at the appropriate moments, couldn’t get that right. How do you mess up screaming? I don’t know either, but sure enough at least two of the women in My Bloody Valentine were unable to scream in a convincing manner.

My Bloody Valentine's Harry Warden in happier times

With the bar set so low by those on screen it’s a little hard to see past them to the story they were trying to tell. Which is no loss really as that was crap too. The need for revenge by one crazed dude is a staple of the slasher flick, but in the case of My Bloody Valentine, there’s nothing supernatural going on, and the baddie, Harry Warden, is batshit crazy and has, apparently, been visiting town every year for the last twenty. Hang on. He’s been able to skip out from the asylum, travel home, make sure no-one’s throwing a Valentine’s bash, and then... goes back to the asylum? There’s a lot wrong with this idea. As we’ve learned from other horror films of the seventies and eighties, the level of psychiatric care available to those with murderous tendencies as was very poor, so it’s no big surprise that a straightforward trauma like that caused by six weeks in the dark with only co-workers to eat wasn’t effectively dealt with. That Harry is able to escape every year like clockwork is a bit of a stretch, that he goes back to the “hospital” is fairly improbable (because if you’re crazy do you know you’re crazy, if not why go back, and if so Harry must have realised he wasn’t getting any help where he was, why didn’t he break out of one loony bin and check himself in somewhere better?). The most unlikely thing though is that the audience is expected to believe that Harry goes home every year to mess up Valentine’s Day, and no-one busted a cap in his ass! I would have thought Hallmark would have hired someone.

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for My Bloody Valentine.

My Bloody Links:

Monday, October 24, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 23: Paranormal Activity

My dislike of films made from the first person, that is as if they were entirely recorded on a regular video camera, is by now well documented. I don’t like the idea, not because it always results in poor movies, but because it’s a gimmick so flawed that there’s never a really good excuse to use this method of film production. Every time it gets trotted out new and even more outlandish reasons for the filming to be taking place have to be concocted and these reasons inevitably become less and less plausible and therefore more and more insulting to the audience. When you look back at how often this style has featured in horror you’re forced to ask why did it become so popular in the first place? I think it’s partly down to the notion of how anyone could make one of these movies (which is total nonsense really as there’s increasingly a decent sized budget and crew behind the whole thing(though to be fair, not in the case of last nights movie)), but it’s mostly about attempting to inject a heavy dose of realism into the films. If the things you’re seeing on screen were filmed on someone’s Dad’s Handycam, then they might really have happened, and that adds to the scare factor. The worst miss-step of too many first person films is that the element of reality provided by the video camera approach is wasted by the events that then take place in the film.

Set in San Diego in 2006, Paranormal Activity (2007) is the film of the material recorded on the video camera of Micha Sloat (Micah Sloat) as he filmed21 days and nights during September and October of that year in an effort to figure out and deal with what was happening to his girlfriend Katie Featherston (Katie Featherston - no I haven't flipped my lid or hit 'paste' twice by accident, they play themselves in the movie). For most of her life Katie had suffered from a number of unusual problems that appeared to be related to a haunting that occurred when she was a little girl. Unlike a traditional haunting the entity involved was haunting her and not the house she grew up in. This became apparent when the strangeness returned to her new home with Micha.

Unimpressed with the situation, made up of strange noises and moving objects during the night, Micha bought himself a good quality camera and all the gear he’d need to capture footage of whatever it is, as at the back of it all he really suspects the neighbours kids are playing an elaborate prank. The first few nights footage do show some minor unusual happenings, like lights turning on and doors opening by themselves. No longer suspecting those pesky kids, Micha begins to get excited and interested in the possible explanations. Katy is less impressed with things and is far more inclined to be terrified by them. She calls in a psychic to offer some advice and after an awkward meeting the psychic reveals that whatever is after Katy it’s not a ghost in the traditional sense, in that it’s not the spirit of a human, and he gives her the number of a local demonologist who might be able to help.

As time passes, and possibly due to Micha’s interference, the phenomena get progressively worse and Katy is affected by them directly. More physical manifestations occur and it slowly dawns on Micha and Katy that what was once a bit of a nuisance might actually be a very real danger to them both...

Micah's "busy" hand puts the shits up Katie

Paranormal Activity did not fare well at the cinema. I don’t mean in terms of money or box office figures or anything like that, what I mean is that audiences weren’t kind to the film. When I saw it at the picture house the audience were particularly cruel, especially for the scenes where things happen over time at night so the footage is sped up for you to see events that might be hours apart or take place slowly over a couple of hours. This kind of thing didn’t scare people, it made them laugh. The thing is Paranormal Activity had no business being in the cinema in the first place. This is very definitely a film to watch at home on a TV as it adds to the idea of watching footage from a video camera that anyone could own. In the cinema, it was a Hollywood movie offered up for your approval or otherwise. On TV, it’s a dread delivery system and quite an effective one.

Paranormal Activity works by slowly building up the tension by showing practically nothing and mixing in a very real sense of terror on Katie's part mixed with a sense of excitement on Micah's. As the events progress everyone is left wondering how things will turn out, even though there's a hint at the beginning when thanks are offered to the San Diego Police Department that there isn't a happy ending coming. A clever use of sound effects manages to ratchet up the tension at the right moment, and when something does happen you're left feeling a little silly that you were so worried and also a little relieved. This excellent dread development does not however work all the way through the film and things do start to go awry as the story moves along.

After a while you start to wonder why Micah and Katie don't take more drastic action to deal with their worsening problems. As far as Micah is concerned, seeing as how he does so much research on the Internet on the subject of the paranormal you'd expect him to have come up with something more action-orientated then simply filming their bedroom at night.While he seems reluctant to get outside help, it's weird that he didn't download a do-it-yourself exorcism kit or some such. As for Katie, the focus of all the trouble, I'm shocked that she didn't just leave Micah as he's quite the dickhead! The really odd thing though is that neither of them turned to God-bothering (AKA: religion) for a little help, though Katie does get a little cross at one point (you would too if you were shacked up with that gobshite Micah), but if demons and ghosts and psychics had become a regular part of your day I don't see how an actual exorcist would have hurt.

Technically, Paranormal Activity is quite an achievement as it was made on a teeny-tiny budget. The two principle actors are very good, effectively playing themselves, but putting some effort into it. There's no music to speak of and the only set is a house, which is fine. There are some effects and they work well considering the low budget, though the final shot's in the film aren't spectacular in that regard.

The most important aspect of Paranormal Activity is, like any film, the story. The one presented here works for a "recovered footage" style movie and manages to make you concerned for those involved. It's not a terrifying movie, but it is creepy, and that's better than nothing.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Paranormal Activity.

Paranormal Aclinkity:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 22: Jennifer's Body

Whether or not you'll enjoy a film depends largely on your mood. If you're not in the humour for a comedy, you'll likely find them silly if you're made to sit through one.If you're really not in the form for a horror then you might struggle to see the highlights in such a film if it's forced on you. Knowing this, unless you're absolutely sure a film is crap, it might actually be worth giving a movie you weren't in the mood for another go if the opportunity should arise.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) is set in the wonderfully named town of Devil’s Kettle somewhere slightly off the mainstream in America. Two girls, Jennifer and her friend Anita, AKA: “Needy”, attend high school there and are BFF’s (which = Best Friends Forever! Just in case you’re not keeping up with all the hip young talk like I am) and have been friends since they were tiny tots, which goes some way to explain why Jennifer, who’s kind of a cheerleader and good looking, is such good friends with a girl who would normally reside at the other end of the social spectrum. Life in Devil’s Kettle is perfectly ordinary with the girls and the boys associated with them doing all the usual things, including visiting bars while still too young to legally drink in order to see a band, as Jennifer and Needy do one night.

The band in question, “Low Shoulder”, are visiting from the city to play a gig in a dive bar because they think it’s necessary to connect with fans  everywhere, even the shitty places. Jennifer is smitten with the lead singer while Needy is unimpressed with the lot of them (and she has a boyfriend) and her opinion of them drops further when she overhears them discussing whether or not Jennifer is a virgin. Needy confronts the band and tells them that yes, Jennifer is a virgin and they should leave her alone. In fact, Jennifer is not completely unversed in the way of the boudoir; in fact it’s not unfair to say she’s a bit of a slut.

As the gig gets underway, the bands equipment causes a small fire to break out which quickly turns to a raging inferno that burns down the bar and kills a few people. Jennifer and Needy escape, thanks to Needy’s quick thinking and outside they meet the band who also escaped unharmed. Spotting his chance, the lead singer convinces Jennifer, who appears to be in shock, to go with the band in their van. Needy stays where she is and pleads with Jennifer not to go, but to no avail.

Later that night, Jennifer turns up at Needy’s house in a bit of state and looks for all the world like a girl who’d been attacked. Needy thinks the band is responsible until Jennifer starts acting very strangely, throwing up some sort of evil material over the floor, eating a whole chicken, and attacking Needy before leaving. The next time the girls meet is in school where everyone is shaken up by the deaths at the bar. Everyone except Jennifer who’s acting like a right bitch and treats Needy very badly. Needy slowly realises that there’s something very wrong with Jennifer, and that she’s not the same girl who got into that van that night. After her experiences with the band, Jennifer might not be a girl at all anymore...

 So, there are these two girls, and they're friends...

 One's a gobby bitch and apparently good looking (in an obvious sort of way)...

The other's a bit nerdy, but that might just be because she wears glasses...

They lez up...

One eats the others boyfriend...

And the nerdy one's all, like, What the Fuck?!

I picked out Jennifer’s Body for reviewing as part of this series with the express intention of ripping it apart as I’d seen it before and didn’t enjoy it that much. Last night, as I watched it again, I was surprised as I found it to be more than just entertaining, I thought it was good! This threw me, I mean how come I didn’t think much of it the first time but did the second? What had changed? What was different between the two viewings? And then it hit me. This time... I was sober!

Booze had severely impeded my judgement the last time, or rather it had magnified my feelings about a particular problem with Jennifer’s Body, and that’s Jennifer’s Body. More specifically, the actress behind it, Megan Fox. I do not like Megan Fox that much. I understand the attraction with her, she is relatively good looking, I’ve seen some of the Transformers movies, I’ve even seen the stills from Jennifer’s Body where she’s swimming naked in the lake (it was a camera trick, she wasn’t nekkid at all) but she’s nowhere near good looking enough for her looks to be able to distract from how bad an actress she is. Megan Fox can only play Megan Fox, she has no range at all and as a character actress, if she’s not playing the character of a vapid young woman, she’s fucked. The first time I sat through this movie all I could do (thanks to much imbibing) was shout abuse at the screen every time Fox appeared. This time however, I was able to get beyond my blinding hatred of shite acting and was able to see Jennifer’s Body for what it is, and that’s a good laugh with a bit of depth to it.

Jennifer’s Body is a horror comedy and it works very well. There are some good laugh out loud moments, and some great lines delivered well (i.e. not by Megan Fox). The script is punchy and well written and the story moves along at a nice pace. Despite their young age the characters are well developed, have back stories (thanks to flashbacks), and you do get drawn into that alien world of the relationships between teenage girls and how they operate. One of the strengths of the film is in how it examines the way the relationship between Jennifer and Needy works and how external influences come to bear on that, not just the events that happen to Jennifer as a result of getting into the van but also things like the girl who’s always digging at Needy, a girl who’s obviously blinded with jealousy over how well Needy gets on with someone like Jennifer (though I’m not sure if she actually wanted to be Needy’s friend or Jennifer’s – if anyone could shed some light on that I’d appreciate it).

Jennifer’s Body is well directed and Karyn Kusama manages to get a great performance from Amanda Seyfried as Needy despite her having to work with a plank like Fox. Effects wise there are some clever subtle moments that are delivered well, and some that are just CGI, but that’s kept to a minimum. There’s a nice splash of blood about the movie and one or two nicely gory moments. There’s more than one good makeup effect and the pyrotechnics used in the bar scene are excellent.

Jennifer’s Body is aimed at a younger audience and therefore music is used extensively to portray that fact. The Low Shoulder tune that dominates the soundtrack is perfect – just good enough and really annoying so that you can see how it would be a hit. The other tracks, including songs from Florence and the Machine and Panic! at the Disco, that feature are well used and not too distracting.

Having now seen Jennifer’s Body both drunk and sober I find myself torn between two radically opposed views on the film. Drunk: it’s a pile of dirt vehicle for that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown, she’ll probably get her very own reality show. Sober: it’s a clever, subtle comedy that’s really about the interactions and relationships between women that uses the metaphor of a “man-eater” to explain one aspect of those difficult aspects of life while all the time using surrounding characters to flesh out all the other problems that face two people regardless of the nature of their relationship that features that no-hope Megan Fox who’ll no doubt follow in the footsteps of other actresses just as great as her, big name stars like Denise Richards, and someday in the future after some fun with drink and drugs and a breakdown , she’ll probably get her very own reality show.

Two Thumbs Up for Jennifer’s Body.

Meanwhile, in Devil's Kettle: 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 21: The Descent Part 2

There are roughly three types of film that end up getting reviewed as part of this little series. There are those movies that are excellent, those that are woeful rubbish, and those in the middle. The good ones are easy to review becuae they're so good I just want to bang on about them in a gushing fanboy way. The bad films are also easy to write about as it's entertaining to tear a poor movie asunder. The hardest films to talk about are the ones in the middle, one's that are so dull there's just nothing much to say about them.

Continuing the events from the first film, TheDescent Part 2 shows Sarah emerging from the cave system and meeting a passingmotorist. At the same time as she’s being rescued, a team of people frommountain rescue are searching for her and the other missing girls who went intothe caves with her. However, Juno, the organiser of their trip, filed the wrong“flight plan” so the rescue team are looking in the wrong place.

When word gets out that Sarah has beenfound and taken to hospital, the local Sheriff goes to see her immediately, asit turns out that Juno is related to a Senator making the Sheriff highlymotivated to find her. Sarah is badly traumatised by the events in the cave andhas developed a form of short-term memory loss as a psychological protection.Unable to tell the Sheriff anything about the whereabouts of the others, heinsists that Sarah leads them into the caves to find the others.

Sarah is haunted by images of the creaturesthat she and the others encountered in the caves but she can’t remember enoughto be able to object and so she goes with the Sheriff, his deputy, and three ofthe mountain rescue team back into the caves. Once inside, Sarah is easilyspooked and her nervousness puts everyone on edge. This gets worse as theyprogress deeper into the cave system and finally discover the mutilated corpseof one of the missing girls. Suspicion quickly falls on Sarah, even though theextreme wounds on the body don’t look like something she’d be capable of.Moving on, Sarah begins to remember what happened and she attacks the Sheriffand the others in order to get away from them. Forced to split up, the group goafter Sarah and encounter all sorts of things they weren’t expecting to finddown in the caves...

Bloody woman, alway screaming all the time...

The original Descent was a bit of anunderground hit (if you’ll pardon the pun) due largely to some of theboundaries it was prepared to push relating to gore and girls, as well as thequite high production values present throughout. The second outing is reallyjust a cashing in exercise, making it a classic horror film sequel, and aboutas shite as that label indicates.

The big problem facing a follow-up to thefirst Descent movie would be how to escalate things above what happened in theoriginal. Rather than even trying to do this, the makers of the sequel insteadopted to try and convince the audience that the whole story was really splitinto two parts and that the second film is in fact just the second half of thesame tale. If that’s the case, then The Decent Saga is a woefully boringmisadventure with far too many coincidences and conveniences.

Once again, the film makers decided toallow fate to do their explaining for them, principally in giving the maincharacter Sarah a dose of amnesia in order to explain why the hell she’d goback into the caves. It’s this type of thing that puts the entire film on theback foot as the dependence on tricks to get characters into play makes youcall bullshit every time something happens. And the only reason some of the people even feature in the film is to bekilled off and while that’s true of loads of films it’s really apparent in TheDescent Part 2.

The production level is roughly the same as the first though for some reason some of the caves seem a little more fake than they did in the first movie. I don't think the fist set of caves were all that realistic, it's just that this time the film is so boring that you tend to pay closer attention to things like sets as there's fuck all else to do. All is not lost in Part 2, the outside cinematography is great and the soundtrack is excellent, with just the right sort of music kicking in at the right time. But music alone is not enough to save this wreck of a film, a film so dull it deserves this low score:

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for The Descent Part 2


Friday, October 21, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 20: Devil

This is the image I sometimes use as an avatar on websites and such, it's a copy of an engraving done by Gustav Dore for an early edition of John Milton's Paradise Lost and it shows Satan wigging the fuck out.

Where do bad folks go when they die? They don't go to Heaven where the angels fly...

Over the years El Diablo has appeared in many guises and in many places, but none as weird as where the bugger popped up in last nights movie.

With a disorientating set of opening credits, Devil (2010) brings us to Philadelphia where we meet a police detective Bowden meeting with his AA sponsor who’s advising him to believe in something bigger than himself and to try to change his anger over the recent hit-and-run death of his family into something more positive. Not happy with this advice Bowden heads off to his day at work.

Which begins with the body of a suicide victim that jumped from a skyscraper window that then landed on a truck which rolled down the street. While Bowden is investigates this, fate conspires to put five people together on an elevator heading up the skyscraper. The five, a mattress salesman, an older woman, a man, a woman, and one of the buildings security guards, are heading to different floors on different business. As the lift climbs it suddenly gets stuck somewhere above the twentieth floor and the occupants start hitting buttons to try to get help.

Two security guards are monitoring the towers CCTV system and spot the elevator that’s stuck and send the maintenance man to check it out. In the close proximity of the elevator the five passengers quickly begin to get on each other’s nerves. The salesman is a bit too chatty, the security guard appears to be claustrophobic, the old woman is scared and loud, the man is a bit edgy, and the woman has all the hallmarks of being a bitch. While the maintenance man struggles to find anything wrong with the lift an assault apparently takes place inside the lift with the woman getting a bloody wound on her back that gets blames on the salesman.

The security guards watching on the monitors call in the police and Bowden responds as he’s right outside. Playing back the video shows that the girl seemed to get the wound out of nowhere. It also shows the image of a demonic face when paused at just the right spot, which one of the more religious guards puts down as being the face of the Devil himself. Setting this notion aside Bowden watches with horror as, when the lights in the lift go out as they sometimes do as maintenance struggle to get to those trapped inside, the salesman is murdered. This causes the rescue effort to escalate and the fire department get involved. But as the rescue proceeds someone else in the lift is killed and everyone, those inside and those watching, realise that no-one is safe as all the key players are somehow linked...

While attending a Coldplay concert these fans encounter the Devil... obviously

I first became aware of this film as I roamed the isles of a local DVD Rental shop and spotted it for rent. I didn’t hire it but I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it when it appeared on TV, as it did this week, so I was looking forward to giving Devil a viewing. As a horror film Devil succeeds in terrifying the audience right from the opening credits as a name appeared there that strikes fear into the heart of any rational movie audience member: M. Night Shyamalan. I saw that name and I blessed myself, for I instantly knew in my now fearful heart that this film was going to be shite and have a silly twist at the end.

I was half right. Well, more like quarter right.

Thankfully, M. Night didn’t direct Devil, so there was a small glimmer of hope from that. Secondly, he didn’t write the screenplay, so things were really starting to look up though he did write the original story, so the chances of a twisty ending were strong.

The story told in Devil is an interesting one and more than hints at a religious subtext. The second security guard who’s watching the monitors serves as narrator for the film but also, seeing as he’s Hispanic and therefore (in the wonderful world of cinema stereotypes) raised in a religious family, he provides a level of expertise and advice as to what might actually be happening with those trapped in the elevator. Though his narration and nuggets of advice we learn that a suicide can prompt the Devil to walk the earth and torment some of the dammed before they get to Hell, which will be soon as he’ll torment them to death. This is not a bad plot device and like so many horrors it will appeal to those with at least a passing understanding of all things Christian, but the suicide part bothers me for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Devil perpetuates a rather old fashioned notion of how certain western religions handle the subject of suicide and the flippant way in which it’s stated that a suicide will invite Satan to Earth is playing just a little too fast and loose with a difficult subject. The really big problem with it though is that the suicide is pretty quickly forgotten once the main event kicks off even though there’s at least one big hint that it was related to what’s taking place in the elevator. The story never comes back to the person who jumped out of the window once the suicide note is read out, even though that note references all things unholy and the victim was clutching Rosary beads when they took the plunge.


That aside the rest of the tale is intriguing enough despite every cliche in the horror-film handbook getting a look in. The way in which the rescue unfolds is believable and grounds the film nicely as supernatural events occur. As those events take place in the elevator, it’s a little hard for the sense of tension to be portrayed in a way that the audience can appreciate as you’re in on what’s really happening while those on the inside think they’re just in the presence of a murderer. The lack of palpable tension is a shame and betrays the more run of the mill approach taken when Devil was being made.

That approach does result in a slick looking film that plays out well. The character of Bowden is one of the few with any sort of explained background and he’s ably played by Chris Messina. We’re supposed to see much of the action in the film through his eyes and for the most part we do, though the audience has a slightly better notion of what’s going on before he does.

M. Night Shyama-lama-ding-dong-ding may have written the original story but once it was out of his hands Devil was turned into a more mainstream and highly entertaining film, and while not all that frightening, a little disrespectful to religion, and ever so slightly racist, it is shockingly entertaining. Devil is movie that tries to make Satan the baddie but in doing so highlights how absurd any ultimate evil would have to be considering what people are capable of doing themselves. This poke in the eye for Old Nick makes Devil more of a film then it probably wanted to be. It also makes it good.

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for Devil

Official Site: