The Good, The Bad and The Weird

Nope, this isn’t a review of the Korean cowboy film, that isn’t out on DVD until next month, but instead it is a good summation of my last three rentals from Lovefilm. All of them could be classified under the “Horror” banner, at least 2 of them were shown at Frightfest in past years, but they were certainly not similar in tone and the quality was somewhat varied.

First off I watched “Skinwalkers”, a film that promised a modern werewolf story with a western feel but which turned out to have very little of either.  It’s based around a Native American story of two rival werewolf packs, one who embrace the wolfy life and happily chomp down on innocent humans whenever there’s a full moon, and another group who desperately want to be “cured” of their affliction and chain themselves up for a few days a month to avoid giving in to their animal urges. Legend says that a boy will appear who can save them all when he reaches the age of 13 and so when the nasty werewolves discover that the nice werewolves have found the lad they set out to kill the poor little chap before he can reach puberty.  The rest of the film is basically a chase across some lovely Canadian countryside with the 4 evil lycanthropes (good looking leader, evil looking henchman, really weird looking psycho and hot babe) pursuing the 4 friendly ones (wise older guy, brash younger guy, pretty young girl and token black man) with the small boy and his Mum (Lara Croft) in tow.  All in all it was pretty disappointing.  Considering all the creature effects were done by Stan Winston, who says on one of the extras that he was the driving forces behind getting the film made, the werewolves were pretty shoddy.  I applaud any filmmaker who decides to go for prosthetics and make-up over CGI monsters, but Michael Jackson at the beginning of the Thriller video is a much more convincing wolf than these guys.   It’s not just the effects either, when the two werewolf clans finally do face off in the finale they are reminiscent of Michael J. Fox in “Teen Wolf”.  Gluing a bit of fur to your face and affecting a loping gait does not make you a wolf in my book, especially when you’ve got a load of B and C-list actors in the costumes.  I suppose it could be counted as a blessing that they are hardly in the film, but a werewolf film without werewolfs makes for a pretty dull film!  In summary, shoddy acting, poor effects, a daft plot and characters you don’t really care about.  2 out of 5.

Next up was “Feast”.  This was a film I had never heard of until a couple of weeks ago but then I saw a trailer for it on another Frightfest film (“The Signal”).  The promo had such a great “bit” in it that it inspired me to watch the whole film, which I guess is the point of trailers. Anyway, I won’t spoil it for you, but it happens right at the beginning of the film and pretty much sets the tone for the rest of its 80 minute running time. The premise of this one is that a load of mismatched people are trapped in a bar in the middle of nowhere with some crazy monsters desperately trying to get in to eat them.  Like the previous film, they’re all B-list and C-list actors (Henry Rollins, Jason Mewes, Balthazar Getty, some women who was in Baywatch, a couple of TV actors etc.) but the difference here is that they’re not taking themselves seriously and as a result I actually ended up rooting for the characters in this one.  The effects are also pretty good for what is obviously a low budget affair and they manage to successfully switch between early Peter Jackson, completely over-the-top, hilarious, gross-out special effects and a pretty terrifying monster. It’s certainly not high art but it was extremely entertaining and on several occasions managed to take a completely different direction to the one I was expecting, proving that horror films don’t have to be predictable and derivative.  So definitely one to watch if you like that sort of thing, but I think I’ll probably steer clear of the 2 straight-to-DVD sequels.  3.5 out of 5

The final film in my horror triple-bill was “Eden Lake” which Bob has written a review for in-between me starting and finishing this one, but never mind.  It is a very good film and, like Bob said, I think the reason it is so effective is that the situation portrayed in it is one that we’ve all either found ourselves in before, albeit taken to the next level, or at least been scared that we might end up being in.  In this case the plot centers around a youngish couple going camping at a secluded lake only to discover that it’s a popular hangout for a group of local teenagers who, with their abrasive attitudes, scary dog and obtrusive music, would not be out of place in Croydon town centre (how old do I sound?!?).  The male half of the couple, played by soon-to-be-huge Michael Fassbender, makes the mistake of confronting them and before you can say “ASBO” the locals are taking their revenge on the outsiders in a series of increasingly nasty pranks. As events in the film started to spiral out of control I tried telling myself that it was all completely ridiculous and that it would never really go that far, but a nagging voice in my head kept telling me that I was just deluding myself. After all, suicidal terrorists, serial killers and genocidal megalomaniacs all exist in real life, and they were all teenagers once.  Perhaps the scariest thing of all about the film is the spot-on portrayal of the role of parents in moulding their children.  I can’t help wondering how many people might watch this film and actually agree with the actions of the adults, and that terrifies me.  In summary, like Bob says, it’s a pretty hard film to watch and not ideal Saturday night after-dinner entertainment, but it’s a very well made, though-provoking film with some great performances.  4 out of 5.

My next two Lovefilm rentals are the rather more cheery “Foot-Fist Way” and “Burn After Reading” which will make a nice change after that lot.  Look out for my review coming soon.

Posted by Si

Published in: on 21/05/2009 at 6:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Film Review – Eden Lake

Harrowing.  If i had to sum this up in a word, it’s “harrowing”.  I reckon it’s probably because some of it feels close to home.  For me, it raises all sorts of questions about self-defence, peer pressure, uncontrollable youth, bad parenting, and where to go away for a weekend break.  These things made this film feel particularly uncomfortable.

I’m not going to get into a rant about the state of the world today, or tut about kids, because i think it’s more just about general feelings of helplessness.  About people being caught up in the wake of strong spirited bullies.  About the lengths kids can go to just feel like they belong.  About how children can so easily become their parents. 

If this sounds like i had a spiritual experience with this film, don’t worry, i didn’t.  I just felt that inbetween the standard horror fayre of people being stabbed, burnt alive, and generally terrorised, there was something spookily familiar.  Maybe it’s that parts of the woodland settings reminded me of Spring Park woods.  Or maybe it felt like it had leapt straight out of the Daily Mail letters page.  Either way it helped make it quite spooky and horribly compelling.

I liked most of the characters, from the plucky and unlucky female lead, to the easily intimidated hangers-on in the gang.  Some of the non-victim adults seemed a little cliched, and i felt that some of the trauma’s that befell the main character were a little too inconvenient.  Other than that it may leave you feeling a bit traumatised – bit like another equally harrowing English horror, “Dead Man’s Shoes” – but i think if you can stomach it, there’s a lot to take from it.  (I think the word “enjoy” would be just inappropriate, but i would say that i’m glad i saw it.)

Posted by Bob

Published in: on 19/05/2009 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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