Tag Archives: Horror

69. The Woman in Black – James Watkins (2012)

First Viewing.

There’s not been too many horror reviews over the past 60+ entries on this blog, I’ve never really been the biggest fan of the genre. However, there are a few that I do love, The Exorcist, naturally, The Fly (1986 version), possibly not quite a horror, but pretty damn creepy, El Ofanto, and a small bunch of Asian films. That’s about it. The problem that I have with the whole genre is that I’m not really scared by them, and this isn’t a macho boast or anything, cos there’s plenty of things that do scare me, like people preparing my food with dirty hands, Joan Rivers/Pete Burns’ plastically altered faces, or getting a really bad hair cut.  Horror films, on the other hand, don’t bring on the night terrors, so when I see a horror flick it needs to be more than something just trying to scare the crap out of me. So, bearing that in mind, I present a quick review of The Woman in Black.

We all know Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, even to someone like me who’s only seen a couple of the films and never read any of the books he is Harry Potter. He’ll always be known for those performances. This is the first role I’ve seen him in playing someone other than a wizard, and, I suspect, the first time most other people have too. So, the big question is, does he manage to jump out of that huge spectacled shadow? I would say yes, to a certain extent. His performance is very sound, well acted, and I didn’t expect him to call for Ron at the first sign of trouble. However, I don’t think he was quite right for the role, he seems way too young. The story revolves around Arthur (Radcliffe) visiting a house, circa 1910, that has recently had a death in it, and his job is to correct paperwork for a will. Arthur is also a widower, and left with a young son. As you can guess certain things start happening to Arthur once he reaches the house, and so on…. The problem I had with Radcliffe playing a widower like Arthur is that he doesn’t carry enough gravitas or weariness to make the character seem real. He’s too fresh-faced. He does the best he can under the circumstances, but, picking a name off the top of my head,  say Johnny Depp, for instance, he would have been much more suitable. This isn’t so much a criticism of Radcliffe, but more of the casting process for the film. No doubt though having Radcliffe attached certainly helped get the movie made and, subsequently, receive plenty of attention in the press when it was released, so I can see why he’s in the lead role.

The film, as a whole, is pretty good. It ticks all the boxes for me when it comes to horror; it’s not utterly predictable, it’s fairly suspenseful and it doesn’t have characters walking around doing completely stupid things like so many other horrors movies do. I’ve always been an advocate of the “less is more” approach to making a horror. I honestly don’t want to see dozens of people sawn to death (unless it’s the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and so on, but give me flickering ghosts/people in the corner of the room, and some creepy music and I’m a lot more happy. Building up suspense is a much underrated movement in modern horror it seems. Thankfully The Woman in Black goes for the understated approach, in fact, it does it even more than I thought possible. It really takes it too the limit, and, I guess, perhaps that’s why this film doesn’t get the best wrap from other viewers. It’s, arguably, a little too slow and methodical for most peoples taste. I liked it though.

All in all I don’t really have too many complaints. It’s a good “nuts and bolts” horror as Mark Kermode would say, and that’s fine with me.

Marks out of ten – Seven.



Filed under British

60. Videodrome – David Cronenberg (1983)

Repeat Viewing.

“Long Live the New Flesh”

Stop me, ohh stop me, stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, but David Cronenberg is a genius. I know I’ve been bloggin’ his praises at length recently, I can’t help it, I love him, even slightly more than I used to. <I’ll stop with the Moz paraphrasing> Although interestingly, and perhaps only interesting to me, is that Videodrome, with all it’s perverseness and horror, wasn’t banned, but “Stop Me…“, by The Smiths, was. Good ole’ BBC. Anyway, on to the review!

Videodrome is fucked up, incomprehensible, dangerous, creepy, disturbing, and it’s all done in the best possible way. Here’s the story if you don’t know it; Max Renn, played by James Woods at his absolute smarmy best, is the owner of an ultra low budget Toronto cable TV station. Renn provides his viewers with the worst material available; seedy, cheap, erotic/violent stuff. It’s basically The Sun newspaper in televisual form. Renn is also dating Nicki Brand, a radio agony aunt, played by Debbie Harry. Of course this being a Cronenberg movie the agony aunt likes to let off steam by having masochistic sex with Renn. Nothing is ever what it seems to be in Videodrome. Woods’ quest for the quintessential form of  cheap entertainment brings him to Videodrome; a TV show like no other, it’s violent and sexual beyond the normal bounds of TV. From the moment Videorome is introduced into the story it gets weird, inexplicably weird. Renn’s life is twisted apart to the point where he no longer is himself. It would give too much away to continue with the narrative, but be prepared for anything to happen.

Videodrome is the pinnacle of the Cronenberg horror phase. It’s where he takes all the gore of his previous scary movies and marries it with an attack on the brain. You literally start to wonder what the fuck is going on, and then you start to wonder how Cronenberg could have created such an alarming and psychotic story. This man must need help! Videodrome is inventive to the point where it becomes surreal, you lose yourself inside the movie, you have to let the weirdness wash over you.

I love Videodrome. It is completely unique. There’s nothing I’ve seen that can rival Videodrome for the genuine surprise of what happens in this film. And I don’t mean surprise in terms of plot twists, but surprise in the sense that a film can be so strange, provocative, powerful and affecting. Like all Cronenberg flicks not everyone will enjoy it, he’s a love it or hate it kind of director. I’ve read reviews from people who’ve hated Videodrome. They couldn’t stand watching it. I’ve read dozens of reasons why it doesn’t work, but that for me is the point of Videodrome, it’s doing something that creates a reaction from the viewer. So, fuck The Ring and it’s scary videotapes, Videodrome, the videotape, is much more disturbing. If this were a 1950s film trailer, instead of an occasionally witty blog, it would tell you to “watch it if you dare” and laugh ominously.

Marks out of ten – Ten


Filed under American, Canadian

51. Session 9 – Brad Anderson (2001)

First Viewing.

Brad Anderson’s probably most famous for directing the 2004 Christian Bale movie, The Machinist, which would be filed somewhere between Fight Club and Mulholland Drive, but nowhere near as good as either. Session 9 was the movie that showcased Anderson’s talents well enough to get The Machinist green-lit. So, presumably, it’s rather good, right? Well, you know, it ain’t so bad, it ain’t so bad….

Firstly, and this is what almost makes the movie work, it’s set in a abandoned mental hospital- a real-life abandoned mental hospital -which, so the director claimed, didn’t even need to be dressed for shooting! Making the movie a whole lot more affecting and creepy. It’s hard to convey the story precisely as to do so would give away too much, but it’s basically about five people renovating a mental hospital and, well, some weird stuff starts to go down. Paranoia takes over the men and we’re left with a modern day retelling of The Shining. There’s also something of a mystery being revealed as the movie goes along and the viewer is invited to draw their own conclusions on whether this mystery relates directly to the actions of the men or is more of a cautionary tale.

Overall Session 9 doesn’t really do anything that stands out or sticks in your mind especially, each function of the film process is capably handled without being amazing or fantastic. The acting is fairly good, despite the use of a Glaswegian actor who seems to be quite out of place with the other four characters, making for an unnecessary distraction. The cast also has some guy from CSI: Miami in it I’m reliably informed by the good people of IMDB, but, naturally, I only use my television for watching movies, sports and the occasional cooking show, so I have no idea who he is. The movie is a solid, if  not spectacular, mystery/thriller/horror – although it never really exceeds enough in any of those areas to even make for a good genre movie.

Marks out of ten – Six

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50. The InnKeepers – Ti West (2011)

First Viewing.

50th film review extravaganza! (I did consider using a different colour or font to write this, but that would be madness. I’m allergic to anything that’s got more than a little colour in it. So I’ll just try mention my favourite director at some point instead to celebrate this milestone)

I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, but I do love ghost stories; Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving and so on. So, The Innkeepers intrigued me, it, so it has been claimed, isn’t your traditional try-scare-the-shit-out-of-me-24/7 type horror movie, but a slow burning old ghost movie instead. That’s enough to sell me on a horror flick. Nothing to do with me being an epic coward….

Now The Innkeepers is very low budget, we’re talking a few thousand dollars, but don’t let that put you off, the horror genre is rife with classics made for next to no money. The film does have that hipster vibe about it, you know, Baghead and Mutual Appreciation et al, you can imagine the director’s target audience was a bunch of kids with Win Butler haircuts who read Pitchfork (note: I’d totally get the one-side-shaved Win Butler look if I had more guts.) Again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I like a film that sets a tone and sticks to it. I hate to give spoilers away, but the film doesn’t exactly aim to scare you, but more make you invest in the characters and thus it plays with your emotions when certain things happen to these characters, it’s a rather interesting way of going about creating a horror. Of course this isn’t the kind of film that’s going to blow you away, but it’s a very enjoyable watch and, for my money, it pisses all over the torture-porn type horror genre as it actually shows some brains and humility. So take that Paranormal Activity 17!  If Jim Jarmusch ever made a horror this is how I would expect it to play out, except Jim’s film would be dripping with coolness and Iggy Pop would probably be playing the cross-dressing ghost of Jim Morrison. So, you know, The Innkeepers got that laid-back, we’re in no hurry vibe that Jarmusch works so well, which I do enjoy….

Marks out of ten – Seven.


Filed under American

39. I Saw the Devil – Jee-woon Kim (2010)

First Viewing.

Korean’s certainly know how to make a revenge movie! I Saw the Devil treads familiar ground to that seen previously in Oldboy, with both movies pertaining a ruthless sadistic streak throughout in their protagonist’s pursuit of vengeance. In both movies Min-sik Choi is the recipient of said vengeance, but here, in I Saw the Devil, he’s much more deserving of what is coming his way. It can be a pretty gruesome watch at times, well, most of the time it’s all rather gruesome. ISTD isn’t quite up to the high standard of Jee-Woon Kim’s standout film, A Bittersweet Life, but that’s a truly high standard to constantly live up to. ISTD is shot in a stylish and captivating way, and it’s a dark, dark, dark film yet perversely entertaining. If you can stomach the extreme violence then you’ll enjoy this

Marks out of ten – Seven

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