Posts Tagged ‘alien

06
Jan
09

The Substitute 2007 (a.k.a. Vikaren)

This trite cover does nothing to convey the genuine charm of this film.

This trite cover does nothing to convey the genuine charm of this film.

First off, let me commend the fine job Ghost House Underground has done collecting and distributing indie horror films in their first year in existence.  So far, I’ve only seen Dance of the Dead and The Substitute, which makes up for 2 of the 8 total films released through Ghost House in 2008, but they have both been dynamite little films.  And even if they wind up being the only 2 good ones out of the bunch (8), it’s still an impressive batting average for a company in it’s rookie year.

Now, onto to the review.

What happens when you combine The Faculty, The Goonies, The Witches and Monster Squad?

If you answered ” a big pile of mish mash poo poo” I totally would’ve agreed with you.

The “young kids vs. a real “monster” their parents don’t believe is real” genre has been around for almost 30 years now, yet it really hasn’t had a shot in the arm in quite some time, and has been done both very well and very poorly in the past.  It has laid fairly dormant for a while.  That is until now.

Leave it to a writer/director from Denmark, Ole Bornedal to breathe new life into a genre that Americans pioneered.

Our story concerns a small 6th grade class that gets the best news a 6th grade class can hope for.  There main teacher has been struck ill, and they will be getting a substitute.  For those of us who remember school, you probably know how exciting this can be.  Little did the kids know however, that there new teacher isn’t some lenient push over they can run rampant over, but instead a woman of immense power and inhuman abilities, who seems to be not of this world.  While there is a little more to the story than simply the young class matching wits with the nefarious new teacher, I’ll leave the details and subplots for you to explore on your own viewing.

Paprika Steen, who plays Ulla, the new mysterious teacher, really steals the show here, alongside the rag-tag, but never annoying, class.  Her performance is a bit of a combination of Famke Janssen’s role in the Faculty, mixed in with The Terminator.  Robotic motions and piercing eyes combine with a forbidden sexy charm and aloofness to make her a villain your never really sure you want to hate, because the “mission” she is here to perform is actually fairly noble.  Her class, led by Carl (Jonas Wandschneider) are also impressive, each filling out roles like the bully, the computer genius (an obvious nod to Data from the Goonies complete with the nerdy specs) the pretty girls, and the love interest for Carl, and so on.

They teach rope bondage in Denmark in the 6th grade.  Awesome.

They teach rope bondage in Denmark in the 6th grade now a days. Awesome.

Aiding the the solid performances by the main and supporting cast, is Ole Bornedal’s competitent directing.  He never gets in his own way in the pacing department, and when he has to use CGI in order to create a specific effect, he always hides it well, meaning you’ll see no “effects” in broad daylight where you can easily spot, and the make fun of, the lower budget computer animations.  Along side this knowledge, he creates a great auditory mood and visual atmosphere, and while he could have used some colors other than black, grey, white and blue, the style of the film matches the tone and subject matter, while never becoming the main focus.  Something more horror film makers should note, just because a of a scene looks good (well lit and etc.) doesn’t mean it’s a good scene.

Ulla (Paprika Steen) says Stop! In the name of love.  You'll think that joke is hilarious once you see the movie.

Ulla (Paprika Steen) says Stop! In the name of love. You'll think that joke is hilarious once you see the movie.

My only complaint is a bit of an unexplained hiccup torwards the finale, by which no means ruins the film, but feels kinda like getting a rug burn from a classmate for no reason.  Other than that small, but completely noticeable wrinkle, the only hump to get over is how willing are you to watch an R-rated kids vs. monster movie with no gore to speak of, that is driven by clever cat and mouse games, unique takes on the war of wits, and easily loved characters.  The answer to that question should be a deafening yes.

Charm, heart, and originality can all be debated, considering that a film like this couldn’t possible exist without the its obvious predecessors, but I feel this gem has those intangible qualities in spades.  With every flick trying to be the next Saw, the next big souless “Boo Scare” hit, or the next big money remake, The Substitute quietly walks into the fray, sits down, and and nearly aces the test without having to cheat off the smarter students.

I told you the kids in the class were cool.

I told you the kids in the class were cool.

Don’t be shocked when this is remade in 2 years.  The picture above expresses my feelings towards that inevitability.

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17
Nov
08

Splinter directed by Toby Wilkins

Looks like it's already inside that hand.

Looks like it's already inside that hand.

Splinter, an independent horror film that’s been getting a serious amount of buzz lately, deserves every bit of the flurry of interest it’s creating and then some.  Sure, it owes A LOT to its forefathers, most notably John Carpenter’s The Thing, ALIEN, and even to a lesser extent, Tremors, but that doesn’t mean that Splinter can’t stand on its own two parasite infected legs.  Toby Wilkins (who oddly enough is also directing The Grudge 3, god bless him in trying to resurrect that piece of shit horror series) has made something from nothing here.  That’s right folks, this is not a sequel, it’s not a remake or re-imagining of an Asian film, and it’s really clever, fast-paced, and surprising in ways I had forgotten horror films can be.

Our plot is familiar, a couple goes away on a camping trip alone in the woods in the back country, the tent doesn’t work and snaps, and of course they forgot to pack the spare.  So back in the SUV they go, and while driving to a motel, they are confronted by two hitchhikers, who are actually criminals on the run from the law.  The criminals take over the vehicle, but keep the couple as hostages, more or less.

The Flat tire seems to be the next logical step, but it’s WHAT they hit that is interesting, and before they know it they are at a gas station, trying to fix the now very fucked up SUV, when all hell breaks loose.

It’s not groundbreaking, and the “boo” scares aren’t going to make you shit your pants, but it’s all so well executed and framed, that it’s really easy to just slip into the atmosphere and the setting.  I quickly allowed myself to get over the fact that I’ve seen this done before, mostly because I haven’t seen it done THIS WELL before.

The cast, made up mostly of four characters, are excellent.  Shea Whigham really stands out here as someone who could easily handle a starring role in a major movie, as he plays the hardened criminal who has an amazing story to tell.  His transformation in the film is subtle, but magical.  It’s rare that ANY character development takes places in horror movies now a days, and to have one as profound and jaw-dropping as this, really elevates the movie above the “Creature Feature” title I was thinking of giving it.

Monster design is, for the most part, also somewhat subtle, but it’s also very detailed.  I won’t ruin any of the  surprise, but think along the lines of The Thing and the monsters from the recently released video game Dead Space and your on the right track.  Toby Wilkins fast editing and mild shaky camera manage to strike a balance between showing off the almost CGI less creature, and creating tension and panic visually.  I usually hate shaky cam, but it really works well here.  Sound is also very crisp and can be piercing at the right moments.  In tandem with the visual style, the technical package delivered here is very robust and professional.

Lastly, I MUST congratulate the writers, Kai Berry, Ian Shorr, and Toby Wilkins.  Not only did they manage to include some clever nods to the films that obviously inspired them (The hand gag from Evil Dead 2 makes a not-so-funny appearance here) but also have written some of the most likable and realistic characters I’ve seen in horror in quite some time.  Never do the characters do the classic “dumb” thing and get themselves killed, and the dialogue is too the point and refreshing, all the while never insulting my intelligence.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been broken away from the mood by some teenage jerk in horror flicks talking about a girls boobs while their best friend gets his guts spilled out by a monster.

Splinter is about as lean, mean, and streamlined as modern horror is going to get.  It wastes little time, keeps you involved with refreshingly smart heroes and villains, and is presented with so much piss and vigor, it’s really difficult not to fall in love with something in this movie.

Get Splintered today.

01
Oct
08

Feast starring Henry Rollins

Feast

Feast

Feast is a horror comedy which has bar patrons trapped inside the bar while ferocious creatures (outside) are trying to have them as lunch.

The movie starts by introducing us to each of the main characters not by using story but by flashing up some humerous text (see screen below). While not exactly a ground breaking technique, at least it stops us from sitting through thirty minutes of character stories.

Introducing

Introducing 'Hot Wheels' the cripple.

With character names like ‘Hot Wheels’ (for a guy in a wheel chair) and ‘Honey Pie’, you know from the get go that this movie wants to be politically incorrect and isn’t take itself seriously.

A hero bursts in to the bar and informs the lazy bar goers that there are evil monsters coming, all done in true drama-queen fashion. He is dispatched in a depitation scene, then a female heroine appears. One by one, each patron has a close encounter or is bumped off in a gory fashion.

It’s not all humour as there is also a fair bit of action in the movie too. It wasn’t exactly a demanding part, but I did like Henry Rollins’s (intentional?) self parody, trying to give a team-talk (below) while characters are being butchered.

Henry Rollins (Coach) gives a fine (but utterly hopeless) team talk...

Henry Rollins (Coach) gives a fine (but utterly hopeless) team talk...

The story has few nice twists in it, nothing earth shattering, but still adds some meat to the bones of the story, and also telling us more about the characters.

If a fun movie is what you want then Feast will fit the bill, it’s the kind of movie you used to only get in the 80s, where you could sit, watch some gore, see a cool monster, and have a laugh. A rarity now a days. I’m not sure how popular Feast was on it’s initial release but I know Feast II will be released soon.

that is indeed a monsters tackle, jammed in a door. I even enhanced the brightness of the screenshot for your viewing pleasure. You can thank me later...

that is indeed a monsters tackle, jammed in a door. I even enhanced the brightness of the screen shot for your viewing pleasure. You can thank me later...

Favourite Quote: There’s a monster cock stuck in the door! (above)