Month: October 2016

The Shining

Year: 1980
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Written By: Stephen King (novel) Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie really features the best of both worlds. It’s a movie directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time based on a book written by one of the most popular horror writers of all time. This turned out to not be such a perfect marriage between Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King but it’s still hard to argue with the final product.

This movie was made by a true master of his trade and you can see that from the very onset of the film. The panning shot of the horizon as the car drives toward the hotel is both breathtaking and eerie with the musical overtone. This is largely hailed as one of the greatest horror films ever made and I think this intro sets the tone for a scary film. The stillness of the camera as it rolls over the scenery is particularly impressive. The perfection of Stanley Kubrick really shines through this movie from beginning to end. It’s an aesthetically pleasing movie with it’s incredible set designs and contrasting colors. Nearly every shot of this movie is filled with color almost like it was painted for the screen. Kubrick was an artist and you can see that in all his films; a truly one of a kind filmmaker.

While this movie is considered one of the best horror films ever made there is one strong opinion to the contrary. The author of the book, Stephen King, absolutely hated the movie and spent years bashing it before he was contractually silenced in order to make his own version. He has a lot of problems with the movie and is on record saying he has no idea what people find scary about it. The truth is that it was his baby and a new step daddy raised it into something different than King had in mind. He did not like the casting of either Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall. He specifically hated Duvall as she was the exact opposite of the character he wrote and he felt like Nicholson’s Jack was crazy from the get go rather than having a slow descent into madness as in the book. As far as King is concerned it’s far scarier for a Jack who is actually a loving and caring father to go crazy rather than a Jack who seems sort of already crazy when the movie starts. The hotel itself is the real villain, and Nicholson’s performance makes Jack the primary villain as opposed to merely a weapon of the evil hotel.

Jack Nicholson is truly magnificent in this movie, the true face of a madman. It’s easy to see why King hated the part because in the Jack is obviously a little crazy from the beginning. It seems a bit obvious in the scene on the ride to the hotel with his family. Nicholson really comes off as if he is suppressing rage throughout the whole scene. It may not have been how King envisioned the part for the adaptation but it is hard to argue with Nicholson’s performance. He does appear a bit crazy from the get go but when he starts delving farther into madness he is truly terrifying.

On the other hand I don’t understand why they ever cast Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. Not only did she not even come close to resembling the original character but she is simply awful. Her acting simply isn’t on par with the others in this movie and she is legitimately annoying throughout the entire film. Kubrick wanted her for the part because he wanted a weak and vulnerable Wendy, and to ensure he got one he bullied her relentlessly during filming. She appears so on edge throughout the film because she actually was on edge in real life working under Kubrick. I find her to be too weak and vulnerable though. It’s off putting, she is the weak link in this otherwise fantastic movie.

This was practically the only thing that Danny Lloyd ever did as an actor. He made one appearance in a TV film before retiring as an actor at the age of 9. It is unfortunate because he did such a compelling job in this movie that it would have been interesting to see what else he was capable of. He came up with the finger thing for Tony on his own and I think it was a really effective tool to have stumbled across. I have always thought that this little kid talking to his finger in that creepy voice was part of what made the film so scary. Due to his young age Danny wasn’t actually privy to what the movie he was making was about and Kubrick managed to get him through the film without him ever realizing that he was making a horror film. He remained under the impression throughout filming that he was filming a drama about a family that lived in a hotel.

One of my favorite performances in the movie is that of Scatman Crothers, who just embodied everything I had imagined for the character when I read the book. This was a hard movie on him at age 70 and his friend Jack Nicholson actually had to smooth things over with him multiple times. Kubrick is notorious for taking several takes of everything and he at one point nearly brought Crothers to tears after an unreasonable amount of takes in which Crothers seemingly could not please the director. If I’m not mistaken it was the airplane scene in which he simply asks the stewardess when they will be arriving. After an insane amount of takes Crothers looked at Kubrick and asked him what he wanted, to which Kubrick replied “I want you to do it right.”

Of all the movies we have reviewed this October this is the only one so far that fits with the season. The other horror movies have all been disappointing or flawed in some aspect but this one is legit. Whether King liked it or not it’s still a great movie that offers plenty of entertainment. He might have not found it scary but there are plenty of people who disagree with him. Personally I don’t find it too scary but entertaining none the less and it has the feel of a horror film. Horror films simply aren’t made with this quality of filmmaker and cast. It’s what makes this movie exceptional. King’s version of the film has it’s merits but it will never stand up against what Stanley Kubrick was able to do. I would easily recommend this movie to watch during Halloween season, it’s worth your time.

As a side note there is an interesting conspiracy theory attached to this film that is enough to make you question things. Check it out below and leave a comment with your thoughts if you feel so inclined.

Did Stanley Kubrick film the moon landing? I don’t know but while the whole the conspiracy theory surrounding this movie has been debunked I still find it to be quite interesting. I do not know if the moon landing was real or not and truthfully I have never cared. I’m not big on conspiracy theories because they simply encourage the foolish, and things are never quite so theatrical in real life. Yet there are certain differences in this movie from the book that have always befuddled me. Specifically the 237 room number makes me wonder. The number 217 was used in the book and it is specifically a Stephen King thing to use numbers that add up to 19. It’s change in the movie was apparently a request by the hotel so people didn’t get spooked by a real room within the hotel but if it actually correlates with the distance to the moon then it is a fascinating coincidence. While I have no interest in the conspiracy theory I do think if a director was hired to do it Stanley Kubrick would have been the one chosen. Kubrick was arguably the greatest filmmaker of all time and he was so intelligent that the theory makes me wonder. Is it a coincidence or was Kubrick actually trying to tell us something? I’ll let you decide, check out the video below and take a trip down the rabbit hole.

 

 

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Saw IV

Year: 2007
Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written By: Three guys who should seek therapy

RYAN’S REVIEW

OK, full disclosure. I didn’t even bother watching this movie to review it and I don’t care to. I barely remember having seen it nearly ten years ago and I’m totally cool with that. I can’t even come up with a reason to subject myself to more of this crap. I’m sure there is probably a twist I don’t remember that makes it all worth wild but after sitting down to watch the third one I simply don’t care. I can’t imagine how immature I must have been to have actually included a fourth rendition of this madness to my collection but it does not belong.

These movies were successful enough to warrant seven films but even at the immature age in which I purchased the fourth movie for the collection I had simply had enough. I have never seen the fifth, sixth, or seventh film in this franchise and have lost no sleep whatsoever on not knowing how it all turned out.

As a fan of horror films these movies make me sad because they left an influence on a genre that used to be cool. This is the season for things that are spooky and somewhere along the line it became the season of disgust with seven years worth of Halloween releases for this awful franchise. If this wasn’t enough there were Hostels and even lower budget knockoffs peppered in between.

I don’t even watch the new horror movies coming out these days because of films like this. It seems the torture porn era might have faded in favor of the found footage era with movies like Paranormal Activity but I don’t go for those either. I miss the good old slasher films that gave us something to fear. The psycho killer that escaped to wreak havoc or the secluded inbred family that some poor soul accidentally stumbled across. Movies that invoke fear rather than disgust.

I have never been a fan of The Exorcist for the same reason. Though hailed as one of the greatest ever I just see something too vile. I only see disgusting green vomit and a little girl who violently penetrates herself with a crucifix. The power of Christ compels that movie be recreated over and over and over again! Will there ever be enough exorcism movies for the public? I don’t know but I feel like it falls in line with the same thing I see in films like this.

Why get creative and do something new when you can simply copy what worked before and make money on it? Why come up with fresh ideas when we can just spoil classics with a sub par remake? Need a “new” idea, let’s look across the Pacific and simply Americanize one of their films. The horror genre lost its way a long time ago and that’s so sad and disappointing.

I will always hold out hope that eventually some clever mind out there will get greenlit and offer us more than simply a rehashed or borrowed idea. I find with each succeeding year that disappointment is becoming the norm. So much so that I don’t even bother giving things a chance anymore. So for those of you out there that are still with me in this rant let me know if you have seen a horror movie in this era worth watching. I would really love something new to get on board with.

 

Saw III

Year: 2006
Directed By: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written By: Leigh Whannell (screenplay) James Wan (story)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I reached the Saw series a few months ago and after two movies in I decided to simply put off the rest until the Halloween season. While it correlates with the release of the films I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate. These movies may have been released every year during the season but they are simply what passed for horror films during nearly a decade of obsession with unreasonable torture. The horror genre has lost something since the days of John Carpenter and Wes Craven. Somewhere along the line it became more important to shock and disgust horror film goers rather than scare them. These movies manage to be clever at interweaving story lines and mystery but they offer little to no scares. No, what they offer is a different altogether. They are the Marlyn Manson of the genre, they exist only to repulse us and push the line of what is acceptable on screen.

I will admit that these movies made it into our collection for a reason, but there was a limit to what was tolerable. I found the second film in the series to be shocking enough with its twist to garner a place on the shelf. These movies do a fantastic job of weaving timelines among yearly installments that make the coming twist all that much more unexpected. However, to get the thrill of these interesting twist you must sit through disturbing and unreasonable amounts of gore and torture.

As interesting as I found the twist in the second film it started to lose me with this third movie. This one starts with that awful scene in which a man is hooked to several chains he must rip out of his skin in order to survive. Yet there is no survival and really no way to even free himself with that last chain connected to a ring embedded within his jaw. It’s an awful scene that is only there to disgust us as this man rips his flesh in a desperate attempt to escape certain death. I have a strong stomach, and have thoroughly been desensitized to this kind of torture in a film but I find it disgusting nonetheless. This isn’t thrilling or interesting, it’s just gross and uncomfortable to sit through. The sad thing is that it’s only the beginning in a long series of scenes meant only to shock and gross us out.

I am a movie lover, a story lover more than anything else. A twist that actually surprises me is enough to keep me interested any day of the week but I’m not interested in torture porn. I had never even heard that term until movies like this rose to popularity and I have always found it disturbing. There may be people out there who are into this type of thing but it simply isn’t me. I found the sequel to the similar Hostel to be as interesting as the initial sequel to this series but it was really just more of the same. I am a “to each his own” type of person but I worry about anybody who is seriously into this kind of stuff and pity them. If you get off on seeing people tortured to death then you should really seek some sort of therapeutic help. These movies line up appropriately with the titled studio Twisted Pictures, these movies are twisted, and they became a stain on the horror genre.

Needless to say, I do not recommend this movie during the Halloween season or any other season for that matter. If you are seeking something gross and disgusting this is the movie for you. If you want something scary though I suggest you look to the past when horror movies did more than simply shock us with over the top violence and gore. Not even during the Spanish Inquisition was this level of disgust actually reached. In some cases it’s not even torture but simply gross. There’s one scene of this film where a man is slowly being drowned with liquefied pig remains. Who comes up with this crap and does anybody actually find it scary? Seeing those rotten pig corpses dropped into that machine does nothing but make me lose a taste for barbecue. Really, who comes up with this crap and which parent didn’t love them enough?

I’m categorizing this film as simply a sequel because I can’t bare to classify it with the horror films we have reviewed. I can happily say that I have undoubtedly watched this movie for the last time and will never revisit it, or the series in the future.

 

Stephen King’s The Shining

Year: 1997
Directed By: Mick Garris
Written By: Stephen King

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie before sitting down to review Stanley Kubrick’s version of the film. Stephen King was so disappointed with the famous rendition that he bashed the film for years before signing himself to silence for the opportunity to make his own version. In this incredibly long version of the story you can easily see why he disliked Kubrick’s version. However, while operating on a TV budget and with a much less skilled man behind camera this movie still manages to be exciting while staying very true to the source material.

Stephen King’s problem with Stanley Kubrick’s version was that Jack seemed kind of crazy the whole time and there was no build up to it. He also really disliked Shelley Duvall in the role of Wendy. With both of those things he made right with his own version. He made a six hour television special that could focus more on Jack’s alcoholism and his slow descent into madness. With Wendy he cast an actress,  Rebecca De Mornay, that fit the part more truthfully to the source material. Shelley Duvall was the exact opposite of Wendy as she was written to be curvy and blonde. Kubrick wanted a more vulnerable and on edge Wendy, which is exactly what he got with Duvall but all King saw was a character robbed of all the strength he wrote her with.

Jack’s struggle with alcoholism was a big part of the book as King was writing it during his own trouble coming to grips with the problem. In this movie we see much more of it while Jack slowly gets influenced to madness by the hotel. King didn’t like Jack Nicholson’s performance because he seemed to have always been crazy. Stephen Weber brought a different personality to the role and you can actually believe in him as a loving and caring father. You never had that with Nicholson and that was a big part of the character. He was supposed to be an unlikely man to lose his mind and that is clearly conveyed with this movie.

I really like this version of the film but I really don’t like Courtland Mead in the role of Danny Torrence. It’s not his fault he’s just a kid but he was a poor substitute for Danny Lloyd. Mead just doesn’t convey the strength of character we saw from Lloyd in Kubrick’s version. I’m also a big fan of that finger thing he did, which was his own and absent from this rendition of the character. It may not have been something done in the book but it was quite creepy and brought something to the Kubrick version.

I have read The Shining and while it was never a book I was in love with I do appreciate a more truthful adaptation. It’s typically hailed as one of King’s greatest books and I have always disagreed. I’d take The Dark TowerThe Stand, Under the Dome, or 11/22/63 over it any day of the week. This book was too much about alcoholism if you ask me and I’ve always found it to be a bummer.  I will vouch for the sequel to the book, Doctor Sleep. I actually liked that book a bit better than the first although it too was a bit too much about alcoholism.

This will never be the version of The Shining you turn to when you’re looking for scares during the Halloween season, but if you are a fan of Stephen King and his book you should definitely see this one. So, while I think this movie is pretty cool I am by no means recommending it for Halloween. It was a three night TV special back in 1997 so it runs about six hours long. It’s a very thorough version but it simply takes too long to watch.

 

 

The Serpent and the Rainbow

Year: 1988
Directed By: Wes Craven
Written By: Wade Davis (novel) Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman (screenplay)

 

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie that was suggested to me years ago and in lieu of renting it I simply bought a copy and added it to the collection. In hindsight I probably should have just rented it because this movie is very near unwatchable. I should have known when I had never heard of it before. A Wes Craven film featuring zombies made from Voodoo sounded like something that would be awesome but sadly that is not how it worked out.

Adding to the intrigue of this story is the fact that it was based on a non fiction book by the same title. Of course as most movies do this one embellishes a lot and exaggerates even more. The author, Wade Davis, did make many trips to Haiti to research the drugs associated with Voodoo and zombies but never really found anything of note. More importantly he was never harassed, or tortured by the Haitian government for his efforts. He sold the rights to his book on the condition Peter Weir would direct and Mel Gibson would star but neither of those things happened and it would have made for a very different movie.

Voodoo is a fascinating religion with ideals that spark lots of curiosity and misconceptions. The lore that goes along with it is more fantasy than reality. While it’s awesome to think of the magic that comes with voodoo dolls and the creation of zombies these are not really part of the religion and simply part of other ideals that are just associated with Voodoo. For example, the ancient African practice of Hoodoo is often confused and lumped together with what people think of Voodoo but they are not the same. It’s movies like this that lead to the confusion, and as fun as it is to fantasize these things they ultimately mislead people.

I’m calling this movie nearly unwatchable, even at only an hour and a half running time. The narration, the poor camera quality, and the lack of good story telling all bring this movie down. I tried to sit down with it in the middle of the afternoon to give it my best effort but somehow during the wide eyed post coffee hours of the day it literally put me to sleep. I think a movie with this type of story has no business not being any good but it just isn’t. Wes Craven usually brings it with these types of films but he simply missed the mark on this one.

This is a forgettable movie and it isn’t worth your time. I made a mistake getting caught up with the possibilities a movie like this could offer and I have been disappointed every time I try to watch it. This movie qualifies as a horror film with Craven behind camera but it isn’t going to scare you like some of his best films will. For something better check out Nightmare on Elm Street or The Hills Have EyesBoth are really good horror films from Wes Craven. Don’t waste your time with this one though, it’s not worth the hour and a half it would steal from you.

 

Halloween Season 2016

Image result for halloween 2016

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are beginning to fall and the nights are getting darker. As we wind down to All Hallow’s Eve we will only be reviewing horror movies throughout the month. This year we have some great and some OK horror movies to go through. Starting off we will drop the perfectly themed albeit OK version of Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton. To follow we have two different versions of The Shining, Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow, David Cronenberg’s Scanners, and possibly more as we try to fit in as much as time will allow.

As I always say this is my favorite holiday of the year because it’s the only one that is all about fun. Nobody has family drama on Halloween, nobody breaks the bank, no pressured obligations beyond showing off the kids on the night of.  Just fun and exciting days before the crazy holiday season. I love this time of year and I love the movies that set the tone for the season.