Movie Reviews: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)

Image


Starring Kevin McCarthy & Dana Wynter.

They want you to go to sleep. The alien pods slowly transform into you, disintegrating your old body, as you dream into death. The new body wakes up emotionless and carries on, wanting to transform the others. Dr. Bennell discovers this in his small community of Santa Mira, CA. He flees with Becky, his life long love. What will happen to that love if one, or both of them is taken? They must stay awake. They must fight it, but who can they trust?

“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is my favorite sci-fi horror film from the 1950’s. The story is like a curtain being slowly pulled back until the realization is made that these things are for real and they want to take over. It’s an intense film filled with a multitude of emotions. Fear, sadness, love, hate. All the things that make us who we are, and are all about to be taken away.

McCarthy is awesome in the lead. First as the mild mannered, suave Dr. Bennell, and later on, a frantic man fighting for his life, and humanity itself. Some of the final scenes where he is chasing down cars on the highway yelling & pleading for help “They’re coming! You’re next!” are fantastic and iconic!

There’s one scene in the final act of the film that may be the single most chilling shot in all of cinema. I won’t spoil it though. You’ll know it when you see it!

“Invasion” has been remade 3 times now. None of the remakes top the original. They just can’t. However, one of them, the 1978 remake is fantastic and may be as good as the original in its own way. I plan on reviewing that next. If you haven’t seen this 1956 version, then make it the priority over all the other “Invasion” remakes. It’s a classic American film.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Sinister” (2012)

Image

Written & Directed by Scott Derrickson.
Starring Ethan Hawk.

(Note: I wrote this review while the film was still in theaters)


Ellison Oswalt is a one hit wonder true crime author. Its been 10 years since his last popular novel and Ellison is starving for another shot at fame. He moves his family into the house where a brutal murder took place so that he can fully research his latest (and hopefully greatest) next book. While putting things away in the new attic, Ellison discovers a box containing several reels of 8mm film and a projector to play them on. Where did the box come from and whats on the film? The answers lead Ellison and his family down a horrifying path.

I enjoyed this! “Sinister” doesn’t mess around. It’s as interesting as it is morbid. There’s no bad CGI or hokey acting in this film to distract from the spookiness. Its a good original horror film. Its also nice to see Ethan Hawk in a bigger budget film again. Welcome back!

Scott Derrickson also directed the successful “Exorcism of Emily Rose.” I think I like “Sinister” a little better. Its shot dark, and practical, and the acting is much better than we’re used to in a film like this. How refreshing it was to see a new horror film in the theater and not be disappointed. Could I call it this year’s “Insidious”? Perhaps, but it’s got a very different feel. I’d like to go see it a few more times to decide if my positive vibes aren’t just based off the fact that I wasn’t disappointed. How sad is that? The state of horror has really gone downhill and for a long time. If more films like “Sinister” come out, then perhaps that trend will change. I hope it does well at the box office.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “The Master” (2012)

Image

Written & Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix & Philip Seymour Hoffman.

“The Master” follows Freddie Quell, a scoundrel, and the result of brutal military service in WW2. He is lost, alone, and while in a drunken fit, finds himself stumbling onto the boat of one Lancaster Dodd, The Master. Lancaster is an author, a leader and a visionary. He takes the broken Freddie under his wing, studies him, loves him, with hopes to reform him, and document it against the naysayers of his work. What results is a gripping, and emotionally dark film.

Writer/Director PTA, has made some of my favorite films including “There Will Be Blood”, “Magnolia”, “Boogie Nights”, & “Punch-Dunk Love.” He works with great actors and knows how to get the very best performances out of them. This film is a shining example of that statement. To watch “The Master” is to be hypnotized by the world it visits upon you. In small moments we can relate to the characters, but mostly they are bizarre strangers that we gaze upon as if attending a carnival. Its raw barbaric emotion can be uncomfortable, but always remains compelling.

I feel like “The Master” is an instant classic, and a clinic on filmmaking. It doesn’t insult the viewers intelligence by filling in all the gaps. It challenges you to understand its motivations and message.

4.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Sound of My Voice” (2011)

Image

Directed by Zal Batmanglij.
Starring Brit Marling, Christopher Denham & Nicole Vicius.
Written by Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij.

Peter, a journalist, and his writer girlfriend Lorna integrate themselves into an underground cult led by Maggie, who claims to come from the year 2054.

Maggie is gentle, hypnotic, detailed, direct and subtly demanding, telling the followers that all the “choices are theirs.” It’s creepy, yet as a viewer, rejecting her openness makes me feel sad. Brit Marling portrayed the futuristic leader perfectly in ways that words can’t do justice. It’s a masterful performance.

This film works on parallel levels. Is she for real? Is she a fraud? What are the consequences of each? How deep will Peter & Lorna allow themselves to get to document this?

“Sound of My Voice” is gorgeously shot and performed, and written with a wide mind. It was a surprise gem with a conclusion that haunts me to this very moment. My brain is still philosophizing the events and rolling over the details. The best films do that to us.

3.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews”The Legend of Boggy Creek” (1972)

Image

Directed by Charles B. Pierce

“The Legend of Boggy Creek” isn’t a fictitious movie, and it isn’t a documentary. It’s somewhere in between. The film features multiple story reenactments of real reported Bigfoot sightings and attacks in southern Arkansas. In most cases the reenactments feature the actual people involved, not actors, and are shot in the locations of the reports. We are treated to audio bytes, interviews, and voice overs from the witnesses themselves. That’s what makes it feel so real. This film also has gorgeous shots of wilderness put to some sweet 70’s folk music.

This is my favorite Bigfoot/Sasquatch flick and its also the creepiest. The film is similar to Pierce’s other flick “The Town That Dreaded Sundown.” It’s a charming, low budget piece of cinema that has influenced the style of TV shows like Monsterquest, and other paranormal programs. It would be neat to see another film like this get made for theaters.

3.0 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “V/H/S” (2012)

Image

Notable Directors: Ti West & Joe Swanberg.

“V/H/S” is an anthology horror film like a “Creepshow” or “Tales from the Hood.” The film consists of 5 stories with a wrap-around story. The styles range from supernatural to slasher etc, all shot home video style with hand held or digital head cams.

I found the main wrap around story about a group of punks stealing an important VHS tape from a mansion uninteresting and kind of annoying. If you can get through the first 15 minutes of setup, then you are in for a creepy ride. The punks watch tape after tape (our tales) hoping to find the one they need.

Each story is unique and interesting in it’s own way. There’s some real horror here, but mostly with little pay off. Half of the tales leave you scratching your head, while others let your mind fill in the ghastly maybes. That can be some the scariest stuff, if the idea of something haunts you.

The effects are fantastic and some of the best I’ve seen. The film does a good job for the most part with maintaining a realistic feel, so that when something bad happens it’s that much more shocking. I just wish that “V/H/S” started off with a bang instead of an annoyance. Some will love this film, and others will think its the worst ever. I can understand both arguments. I am somewhere in the middle. Two of the stories in particular were fantastic and should be praised. I wish they were on their own. Overall, I appreciate the effort/experiment that went into this.

2.5 out of 4.0 stars.

Movie Reviews: “Resident Evil: Damnation” (2012)

Image


This is the 2nd full length animated “Resident Evil” feature film, and it is much better than their previous effort “Degeneration”! Much much better.

For starters, the animation is fantastic, gorgeous, and unbelievably detailed. The action scenes were well crafted, inventive and exciting. “RE: Damnation” actually felt like a horror film with TONS of gore, zombies, lickers, and creepy mutations. It’s what “Resident Evil” should be like. It wasn’t just a lame action film.

Now is “Damnation” perfect? No. The story is pretty generic. We follow Leon Kennedy (from the RE:2 & 4 video games) into an eastern European country where he is fighting the Las Plagas infection among other terrors. One good thing about a generic storyline is that you don’t need to see the other films to understand what’s going on. It’s a stand alone movie. All you need to know is who Leon is. Some of the dialog is cheesy, but not nearly as bad as the last film. I’m okay with it in this.

The final act’s action scenes were just awesome! I was gasping and sitting on the edge of my seat literally. I really enjoyed this! Man, the time it must’ve taken to craft those scenes… “Damnation” is much better than the live action films, and is the best thing to come out of the “RE” universe since “Resident Evil 4” the video game. I recommend this!
3.0 out of 4.0 stars.