Day 3 (11/04)
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Nothing short of an excellent little film raising great issues. Director Alex Rivera paints a very plausible image of a not-too-distant, possible future. Set in Mexico, it also offers a significant cultural reference frame. Memo is a young dreamer who lives in a village where a governmental organization is privitazing their ground, including the natural water supply. When satellite surveillances mistakingly identify him as a terrorist, the result is an air-strike with disastrous consequences for his family. Left with nothing, he decides to travel to Tijuana, hoping for a better future, aiming to do virtual work on a worldwide digital network. There’s a lot going on in Sleep Dealer and several aspects of the plot cover many grounds. A great surprise to see Rivera‘s solid visions come together on a rather modest budget. The plot wisely manages to not be overly complex, and some more mainstream elements – like a romance and the protagonist’s battle of his own conscience – are integrated to make the film more accessible and humain. Recommended if you want to see a sci-fi/thriller/drama done right, accomplished far away from all too comfortable Hollywood studios.
IN LOVE WITH THE DEAD
Another proof that the Pang brothers should keep on making films in the Hong Kong industry, instead of letting American producers try and meddle with their visions (The Messengers, anyone?). This time it’s Danny Pang sitting in the director’s chair, and he brings us an ill-fated story of romance and (very) disturbing drama. Young woman Wai is diagnosed with stomach cancer. In agreement with her loving huband, Ming, she decides to quit her job and make the best of the life time she still has left. But when Fong, a love from Ming’s past, comes along, things get complicated. A doomed love-triangle ensues. While Pang does offer a well-balanced plot of romance and drama during the first half of the film, you can rest assured: Things do get disturbing, creepy and inevitably completely messed up near the end. A fairly straight-forward plot that doesn’t really want you to solve any mysteries (there’s very little mystery to it, really) but more persuades you to willingly step into the downward spiral the characters are in. Everything about this film is more than decent. Its ways are subtle and fragile, while ultimately descending into more disturbing subject matter.
A downright solid, gritty and original serial killer movie. Fast-paced, exciting, clever and suspenseful. Jung-ho is an ex-cop turned pimp. But lately, some of his girls went missing. One night, he sends Mi-jin on a job. But when he’s not able to contact her anymore, Jung-ho becomes suspicious. While trying to track her down, he bumps into Young-min. Convinced he has something to do with Mi-jin’s disappearance, Jung-ho starts to chase him. Little does he know he’s trying to hunt down a serial killer who tortured Mi-jin and left her to die somewhere in the city. Needless to say, time’s not on Jung-ho’s side. The Chaser is a hard-boiled thriller, filled with bursts of adrenaline and a couple of shocking twists. It’s even injected with very cynical satire at times (especially the South Korean police system is portrayed as highly incompetent throughout the film). Go see it. It’s an astonishing debut film and I can’t imagine being disappointed after this ride.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE
About the only satisfying things this re-make of the 80′s Canadian slasher favorite with the same title does deliver, are some nice bits of gore & bloodshed and a great supporting role by cult actor Tom Atkins (so nice to see him on a screen again!). Sure, it looks good and is made in a decent fashion, but the clichéd driven plot doesn’t even attempt to try anything remotely original. The mine setting in certain scenes is a good asset, but that it already was in ’81. It was fun to see Jensen Ackles (from the fine “Supernatural” TV series) taking on the leading role, but admit it: The man’s just not a great actor, his cool looks aside. Seasoned with some gratuitous female nudity and some attempt at a surprise twist near the end, this glossy re-make does actually deliver what the target audience wants. So yes, it’s a slasher you shouldn’t mind. But the gore still looks cooler in the uncut 80′s version (read Anna’s review for it here). Let’s just call this re-make a worthy update.
By now, Splinter has already gained a fine reputation amongst genre fans, admittedly for all the right reasons even. What we have here is a creature feature that actually gives us a fairly original creature concept, as well in design as its modus operandi. But my main gripe with Splinter is, that you can feel a bit of missed potential here and there. We have four characters (a loving couple and two criminals) trapped in a gass station, under attack by a creature that mutates and combines human bodies. There’s a fair amount of tension and excitment, while the creature relentlessly attacks the gass station, and I can even understand why we don’t actually see that much of the fine creature effects (fast editing, due to budgetary restrictions). It’s not so much the execution, but more like the script that has its share of flaws. For one thing, we don’t learn anything about this creature, nor its origins, while with such a cool being, you actually do want to know a bit more about it. Also, throughout the decades, we’ve already had quite some good films handling people trapped in one location (like the classic Night Of The Living Dead, Carpenter‘s The Thing and even recently Alien Raiders), but all the actions by the characters in Splinter are just too predictable. Nothing really surprising ever happens. So, we’re left with a great concept and a cool, new kind of monster in a well-made little film with no real substance. Like I said, Splinter is being praised by genre fans for the right reasons, but they do seem to ignore its flaws. All-in-all, worth a watch.
Another film – from Norway this time – that’s getting wild reviews from horror fans. Let me tell you that the first 30 minutes of the film, really had me fearing the worst. It introduces a set of clichéd, teenage student characters out on a holiday in the snow-covered mountains. All they think about at their cabin is messing around in the snow, drink alcohol and hopefully have sex. The type of thing you’ve seen a zillion times before, and this time I didn’t even find it amusing in any way. But then the nazi-zombies, burried in these mountains for ages, awaken. You did know this film is about nazi-zombies raising hell, right? Well, from that point onward, Dead Snow becomes an insane splatter-fest. Almost to such an extent, it becomes too much too handle. The gore and bloodshed is outrageous and the demented humor goes laughably over the top. And best of all, it never really slows down in pace. Just one crazy situation after the other. Hack, slash, splash, squirt and onto the next scene. If you like splatter horror/comedy in the good old Peter Jackson tradition, then Dead Snow is one not to miss out on.
DEAD AND GONE
What the hell…! The synopsis did sound interesting. The trailer makes this film even look like it could be a cool indie-horror gem, but what the hell kind of pointless rubbish was this! Jack, a writer down on his luck, moves into this remote shack near the woods with his wife (who’s in a coma, by the way, and the previous family, who inhabited the shack, was slaughtered). Things get bizarre from then on, as Jack starts to loose his marbles. “Is Jack’s wife some sort of monster, is the shack haunted, has Jack gone mad or is it a mixture of all of this?”. Honestly, I can’t really answer these questions, as the film itself doesn’t have a clue what it’s doing. Things – or should I say, the supposedly crazy, disturbing and repulsive events – become all too repetitive and tedious. Every new possible angle on which some light seems to be shed, quickly proves to be irrelevant. Nothing makes sense in this film, the (pretty horrible) acting and characters left me stone cold, the special make-up effects are lacking punch and the whole film’s lacking an actual punch-line. Or maybe it has twenty of those. I couldn’t tell. It’s a pointless film. Amazing how I managed to sit through this at about 6am in the morning, after having watched 7 other films previously that day, without dozing off once.
Onward to Day 4 (12/04).
Mini-reviews by Vomitron.