Wednesday, 26 January 2011

January 2011 Reviews

Destiny (1921) - Decided to try out some German Expressionist films given its reported influence on the visual style of the horror genre. Many striking and poetic images to be found here, along with a pretty tight narrative structure that allows for plenty of exotic locations and outlandish characters. Enjoyable.

Vampyr (1932) - As a fan of "dreamlike" cinema, I had heard that this film was mandatory viewing. It did not disappoint in this respect. A genuine sense of unease is quickly established and built upon via a succession of creepy occurrences in a quiet rural setting. Reminded me frequently of Lynch's Eraserhead. Would like to re-watch soon.

A View From A Hill (2005) - Writing this review a week or so too late to be able to properly remember details of this entry in the Bbc's noughties run of Ghost Stories for Christmas. I can however remember that it was scary and enjoyable while staying faithful to the atmosphere and tone of the original 1970s series.

Jaws (1975) - First time seeing this landmark blockbuster in its entirety. Very gripping and suspenseful, and more gory than I had previously realised.

Black Belly of the Tarantula (1972) - Enjoyable and stylish giallo whose best asset was the fact it reminded me of lots of other classic thrillers. Very nasty method of killing gives the film an edge.

Out of the Past (1947) - Prototypical noir with the prototypical femme fatale character who is central to the progression of the plot and the downfall of the male protagonist. Plot became difficult to follow towards the second half/last third, which hampered my enjoyment.

Idi I Smotri (1986) - Troubling mixture of disturbing realism and poetic surrealism in this wartime psychological drama/horror film. Lack of tight narrative doesn't take away from the power of Klimov's film which thrives on horrifying yet gripping images and set-pieces. The gradual and total degradation of the central character is powerfully portrayed.

The Killers (1946) - Gripping, dark Noir with a complex story that is slowly revealed to explain the main character's fatalist attitude.

Deep in the Woods (2000) - Very good postmodern slasher with style galore and some welcome 70s-esque strangeness thrown into the mix. Enjoyable and original enough to make this a standout horror film. Planning on watching again some time.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) - Extremely affecting drama with an extremely sharp and incisive script. Early part of the film is surprisingly funny in many parts due to the great script and spot-on delivery by Taylor and especially Burton. Leads to a gripping and revealing climax at the end of the film. Plenty of replay value in these performances.

House of Usher (1960) - Great gothic b-movie with some stunning visuals and authentically gloomy sense of lingering death. very simple plot handled carefully without being too slow. Price appropriately keeps his character somewhere between sympathetic and despicable. "Evil" Madeline is genuinely frightful and disturbing.

Maniac (1963) - Disappointing Hammer thriller set in the French Camargue. Scenery is impressive but the plot is confused and the male protagonist's behaviour is questionable bordering on illogical.

Dirty Harry (1971) - Brilliant prototypical tough crime/action film. Some impressive stylistic flourishes keep this interesting along with a great Schifrin soundtrack and disturbingly insane villain. Shame about the political insinuations.

The Collector (1965) - Marvellous British gem from the mid 60s which seems to have aged remarkably well. Surprised I have not seen this movie mentioned more often. Remarkably gripping and moving for a film with such limited cast and locations and a relatively long running time. Very well directed and acted with a welcome side-serving of social commentary.

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) - Atmospheric giallo thriller that is too drawn out for its own good. Venetian scenery is put to good use and host of strange characters are intriguing at first, but become somewhat tiresome as each are picked off. The ending is fairly good but seems like a cop out after a long build-up. Some impressive cinematography and style to be found here though.

The Aura (2006) - Intriguingly contemplative crime thriller from Argentina. Wanted to enjoy it more than I did in the end; mainly due to plausibility of the plot occurrences and the behaviour of certain characters. Feels like the film needs to decide whether it is arthouse or thriller - too uneventful as a thriller and too heavy on crime details to allow the film and its characters greater depth of meaning. Great photography however, certainly worth watching.

The Night Evelyn came Out of the Grave (1971) - Enjoyably silly gothic Giallo with a very questionable moral sensibility whereby the protagonist's multiple murders of red-haired prostitutes are completely overlooked and ignored after they happen. Would have been better if 15-20 minutes had been shaved off the running time.

F (2010) - Fairly good British horror film cleverly set in a mostly-empty school in the evening after classes. Welcome psychological angle by making the main character a put-upon teacher on the edge of a breakdown. Interesting ending, but felt slightly inadequate.

Return to Oz (1985) - Surprisingly dark children's film that has become a cult favourite among adults. Very enjoyable with some genuinely disturbing parts. Outstanding art direction throughout.

Don't Look Now (1973) - Second viewing - beautifully made and artfully edited supernatural thriller. Very unnerving atmosphere and ominous images abound. Still plenty of replay value here.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Whistle And I'll Come To You (2010) (TV) - Brilliantly subtle horror builds to a very creepy climax in this TV film. John Hurt makes his character very sympathetic. Demented wife angle lessens ambiguity - undecided as to whether this is a good thing.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) - Second viewing: scary parts just as gripping but the exaggerated nature of the drama became slightly off-putting. Young actors are impressive and visuals striking and beautiful.

Double Indemnity (1945) - Second golden era Noir I've seen (other is the Third Man) - enjoyably dark and pessimistic. Great snappy dialogue, especially Keyes character. Could have cut 10 mins somehow?

Vampire Circus (1972) - Obscure latter Hammer film provides an original twist on the vampire mythos. Involving and fun setting and interesting parallel with the plague. Ran out of steam towards the end.

M (1931) - Very effective documentary feel to this classic early talkie. Enjoyed it more than was expecting. Impressive portrayal of the community as a whole and the different factors involved. Because of this and Lorre's pathetic turn, it becomes much more than a simple goodie/baddie crime movie.