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Magic (1978)

Magic is a 1978 psychological suspense film directed by Richard Attenborough. Since its release, the picture has become a forgotten gem that contains plenty of scares, surprises, and tension to keep you on the edge of your seat. But, beneath the typical look of a psychological thriller lies a deeply unsettling dramatic horror film.

From the cover art, it looks like another one of those supernatural killer doll movies, but it’s not. It’s the story of a man losing his sanity and not being able to control his conscience. The film is about a killer mind rather than a killer doll.

In the opening scene, a magician named Corky is shown through flashbacks doing his magic routine in front of an audience that could care less. Frustrated with the audience’s disrespectfulness, Corky loses his cool and begins yelling at the audience. With this, we are able to establish that Corky is a failed magician desperate for success.

The next scene takes place in the near future, and Corky is shown climbing his way to the top as a magician. We are then introduced to Ben Greene (a talent agent who’s interested in Corky) waiting for Corky’s act. Corky begins his act, an act that looks like a typical magic show until Corky introduces the audience to Fats, the effervescent, vulgar-mouthed puppet that quickly becomes the corner stone of Corky’s show.

The talent agent, Ben Greene, gets in touch with Corky and tells him about his interest in Corky’s act. The two get together and discuss plans of what look like sure-to-be plans of a successful future for Corky on television. But, Corky becomes overwhelmed with the thought of failing the required physical and is sent in panic.

He flees the city to stay in a resort far away from home. The resort happens to be run by his former love, a married woman named Peggy Ann Snow. A few days after the two confront each other, they fall back in love. Peggy says that she is no longer in love with her husband, and she agrees to run away with Corky. As this happens, we are able to see that Corky has two personalities. His mental stability grows weaker and weaker as he is shown having conversations with Fats, his dummy.

The film gradually evolves from a love story into a tale of madness, murder, and insanity. Greene, Corky’s talent agent eventually finds out where Corky is staying. As he approaches Corky’s room in order to confront him, he sees Corky yelling at his doll. Already convinced of Corky’s insanity, Greene threatens to find mental help for Corky. In a fit of rage, Corky attacks Greene, killing him. He then dumps the body in the lake next to the resort.

The next day, Peggy’s husband, Duke, returns to the resort. Duke arrives with strong suspicions of Peggy’s affair with Corky. Duke asks Corky to go fishing with him in the lake next to the resort. Corky accepts. When they are both on the boat, Duke makes a teary confession that he’s losing his marriage and he wants his wife to love him again. This is sidetracked when Duke sees what looks to be a body washed up on the shore.

In addition to a riveting murder story, the picture contains an atmospherically creepy soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith and impressive direction from Richard Attenborough. But, the shining light of the picture is Anthony Hopkins, who portrays Corky fantastically. Magic isn’t a typical scare film; it packs plenty of genuinely suspenseful moments and a surprising abundance of emotional connection to the main character.
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I think this film has scared more people that I know, than any other horror film. It's a very creepy film. I know people who's unease with/fear of dolls is a direct result of seeing this film.



Nightmare Alley (1947)

Nightmare Alley is one of those pictures that I wish had more of a reputation. It is one of those overlooked masterpieces that I’m more than proud to call a personal favorite. If you haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favor by running out and buying it. It’s that good, and nothing that I’m going to write in this review will truly do it justice.

Nightmare Alley is also one of those horror flicks that rely almost solely on thought to provide anything remotely close to a scare. But, when one does stop to think about this film, it can be one of the most harrowing pieces of cinema ever made. It’s about the rise and fall of a selfish man that we, the audience, cannot help but like. It tells the story of a character that lacks the notable traits of any normal protagonist, but is still one that we cannot help but sympathize with.

It’s about a man named Stan Carlisle, a carnie. At the circus, Carlisle works with a fake mind reader named Zeena, and Carlisle sees a way out of the crummy lifestyle that he’s living. His plan: to present a different sort of phony mind reading act where it’s liable to get realized, but he needs Zeena in order to do that. Unfortunately, Zeena is far too attached to her alcoholic husband Pete to leave him behind for what may be a path to success.

After an unlikely and completely accidental occurrence, Pete winds up dead, and Stan Carlisle is at fault. Fortunately for Stan, no one knows that he is to blame for the accident, and Stan doesn’t want anyone to know; it would be sure to foil the plans he has with Zeena. At this point we are given a hint of Stan’s somewhat selfish ways, but we empathize with his situation, and the rest of the film makes him out to be the good guy.

Zeena and Stan end up having a quarrel that costs them their friendship. But before that happens, Stan and another circus girl named Molly end up learning a new sort of phony mind-reading trick from Zeena. A new sort of mind-reading trick that is sure to make them a helluva lot of money if it is used correctly. So, Stan runs off with Molly in high hopes of using the trick for their own success.

A little later down the line, Stan is shown gradually rising to the top with his mind reading act. He makes his act a very popular one, and this marks the rise of Stan Carlisle. But the film is about the rise and fall of Stan Carlisle, and there is much more to it than what I just described. Carlisle ends up setting his ambitions too high, and they end up burning him. Tyrone Power plays Carlisle, and his performance is riveting.

Like I stated beforehand, Nightmare Alley is somewhat of a horror film, but it’s also a powerful drama laced with an incredibly dark film-noir feeling, and it would be a challenge to find a film from the 1940’s that’s as dark as Nightmare Alley. It’s not the setting or characters that make it so grim though. The honors for providing the picture with such unrelenting darkness would go to the tone, the noir, and the haunting story of a man’s downfall. Once it is watched, it is not soon forgotten.
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\m/ Fade To Black \m/
I have been enjoying reading your reviews mate keep them coming
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N3wt's Movie Reviews New DVD Thread Top-100



Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a very well-known and highly esteemed story whether it is in film or literature. I assume that most of you reading this already know the basic plot line; a scientist develops a formula that splits his personality in two, creating a good and an evil side of him; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

To me, the 1930’s are not only the best years that the horror genre has seen, but some of the best that cinema in general has seen. For me to say that the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the decades best is saying a lot. This film is about expressing one’s impulses, guilty as they may be. It’s about the duality of a man’s mind, and the battle that he has fighting his evil side with his good.

This version is often thought to be the best adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic short novel. It’s strange that the version that is so often thought to be the best is beginning to turn into an obscure film, especially when its title is as famous as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” This semi-obscure masterpiece certainly does deserve much more recognition than it currently receives.

At the beginning of the picture, we are shown the famous scientist named Dr. Jekyll giving a speech about how he believes that the soul may actually carry two personalities; a man’s good side and a man’s bad side. Following his speech, he gets looked down upon for making such foolish remarks. But, Jekyll is persistent, and he is determined to prove everyone else wrong.

As the story goes, Jekyll develops a strange fluid that is proof itself that what he said in his previous speech is true. When he drinks the fluid, he turns into a different person, a person that’s not entirely human, Mr. Hyde.

Before he drinks the fluid for the first time, we are made aware of Jekyll’s seriousness when he hesitates and then stops to write a death note. With this, we are also made aware of Jekyll’s strong dedication of his work; we are shown that he’s willing to die in order to test his theory. What seems to be dedication early on turns into a vice later.

The whole sequence leading up to him drinking the fluid is shot from Jekyll’s point of view. During the transformation, Jekyll’s face turns unusually pale, and it’s just a taste of how creepy the film soon gets. We are then shown a significantly harrowing nightmare style sequence. When he awakes as Hyde, the camera is still in first person view, not immediately showing the audience the radical changes that Jekyll has gone through. When the camera that is serving as Jekyll/Hyde’s eyes begins to move towards a mirror, our nerves are already worked up from the nightmare sequence. So, when Hyde’s face abruptly appears before the mirror, we are supposed to feel extremely startled.

The second transformation is shown in full detail, and though the effects that were used are dated now, the sequence still can leave a memorable impact.

After his second transformation, Hyde goes wandering around the streets of foggy old nighttime 18th century London. Hyde prowls the streets and causes trouble wherever he can. A young woman then catches his eye, and he seeks out the young woman with a plan of terrorizing her. The woman happens to be someone that he had briefly encountered earlier as Jekyll.

At first glance the woman is shy of Hyde’s bizarre looks and she attempts to leave, but Hyde shows his dominance by not allowing it. Hyde and the girls confrontation becomes a vital part of the storyline later on in the picture.

Even though Hyde looks like some sort of ridiculously strange type of ape in the picture, he still manages to frighten. Hyde would probably be unintentionally silly with his over the top make up if his portrayal weren’t so disturbing. Fredric March plays Jekyll and Hyde, and he gives a great leading performance, a performance that got him in a tie for best actor at the Academy Awards that year.

This film is often recognized as one of the horror genre’s all-time greats. It’s a must see for any serious horror fan or anyone exploring the best of what the genre has to offer. When Mr. Hyde is doing his intimidating act in one scene of the film, he says “I’ll show you what horror means.” This film does exactly that.




The Time of Their Lives (1946)

In their careers together, Abbot and Costello made around 35 films. As a big A&C fan myself, I can confidently say that none of them were as great as The Time of Their Lives; one of the most charming, original, funny, and erroneously overlooked films of all time.

It’s about two people wrongly accused of being traitors during the revolutionary war. Their names are Horatio Prim and Melody Allen, and they were both shot, killed, and dumped at the bottom of a well after facing the unjust accusation of being traitors.

Soon after, the two wake up near the well and discover that they’ve become ghosts condemned to spend an eternity around the place they were killed. Horatio, one of the ghosts, has proof that he is not a traitor. The proof is a letter written by George Washington himself, and the letter is hidden somewhere in the house next to the well that Horatio and Melody have been condemned to. Their plan to go in and retrieve the letter is then tarnished when the house ends up being burned down.

Years go by and the two still find themselves condemned and wrongly labeled as traitors. That is until the house next to the well gets rebuilt and has everything that was previously burned down in the fire refurbished; and now that the house is up again, the two ghosts plan to go in and look for the letter and prove their innocence.

On the way to finding the note, creativity kicks in. A couple that are planning to move into the house decide to stay in it a night and test it out. Later, when they are convinced that there could be a ghostly presence, they decide to stay a little longer in order to investigate. The real fun begins when the people in the house begin to understand that the ghosts are in need of their help.

Strangely enough, Abbott and Costello don’t have much screen time together in this film, but the sequences that do feature the two together are hilarious.

Forget everything else that you’ve seen from the famous comedic duo for a minute (if you have seen anything from them), because it would be a mistake to compare this picture to anything else that they’ve appeared in. Forget the fact that the guy who directed it filmed eight Abbott and Costello films following this one; because The Time of Their Lives is not your run of the mill A&C comedy. It’s an example of storytelling and filmmaking at its finest, and it’s something that fans and non-fans of A&C should be able to equally enjoy.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
The Time of Their Lives is one of my two fave A&C flicks, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It's not as manic as most of their films, but it does have a solid plot, good production values and unique special effects.

I enjoy reading this thread because it reminds me of some good films I haven't seen for years. (I've got Nightmare Alley and Magic at the top of my queue.) Too bad it appears that people pay less attention to the reviews of the older films. I was wondering though about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I own that DVD in a two-disc pack which also comes with the 1941 Spencer Tracy version. I was wondering if you've seen that one and what you think of it, especially that scene where what appears to be naked Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman are the horses pulling Mr. Hyde's "chariot".

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The Time of Their Lives is one of my two fave A&C flicks, along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It's not as manic as most of their films, but it does have a solid plot, good production values and unique special effects.

I enjoy reading this thread because it reminds me of some good films I haven't seen for years. (I've got Nightmare Alley and Magic at the top of my queue.) Too bad it appears that people pay less attention to the reviews of the older films. I was wondering though about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I own that DVD in a two-disc pack which also comes with the 1941 Spencer Tracy version. I was wondering if you've seen that one and what you think of it, especially that scene where what appears to be naked Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman are the horses pulling Mr. Hyde's "chariot".
Meet Frankenstein was my favorite A&C flick for the longest time, and it's probably the most common choice among fans for best. I think it's a great contender for the greatest scare-comedy ever made as well.

The Tracy version would be my favorite Jekyll and Hyde picture behind the '31 version. Even though I think it starts out a tad slow, when the intensity kicks in, the film showcases an impressive lead performance and some nice cinematography. The sequence you posted above is actually where I thought the intensity started to pick up.

... and thanks for the compliment.



The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s first great film, The Lodger is something of a landmark for the crime thriller breed, and it carries an extra dose of Gothic noir and horror. It has since been remade four times and has inspired countless other films in its genre.

It tells the story of serial killer infamously labeled as “The Avenger.” The film isn’t really about the serial killer himself, but the impact he has on those that live around his murders, and the paranoia that his murders bring to London’s citizens. The picture opens with a scene of murder, and it is brought to our attention that the murderer shields half of his face with a scarf to keep his identity unknown.

In the proceeding scene, a peculiar young man arrives at the front door of Mr. and Mrs. Buntings’ house with the request of renting a room. After assuring his stay by paying a month’s rent in advance, the lodger shows just how peculiar he can be. He turns over pictures that the Buntings hung on their walls claiming that he doesn’t like them, he goes out in the middle of the night careful not to make any noise, and he acts in an extremely peculiar way that gives the landlady and her husband terrible suspicions of the young man.

The Lodger becomes attracted to the Buntings’ daughter, but with the Buntings’ new heightened suspicions, they will see to it that their daughter doesn’t become involved with the man. This proves to be a vital part of the story later on.

The Lodger is a great film, but it does have a few flaws. The most discernible thing that the picture could do without is the ending. Instead of giving the audience what they have been expecting for the entire film, the ending offers a cheap and predictable twist that disappoints. Fortunately, the rest of the film easily makes up for the minor letdown.

The picture is very atmospheric. Even for a film released in 1927, the streets of London carry a haunting aura with them, and the ghastly mood is just tuned finer with the knowledge that there is a killer walking freely among the streets.

This is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest films, and his involvement isn’t too apparent. The master of suspense works on the audiences suspicions in this one, and the intent of the film is to frighten, as well as to work the viewer’s nerves, but the true suspense in the film is absent until the ending. The murders are not shown in detail and the fright comes primarily from the viewer’s thought.

The leading performance stands out among the rest bringing a classic villain to the screen, and the rest of the characters are ones that succeed in making you care for them; even the main character, the one that is thought to be the murderer, is likable. The Lodger is as thought provoking as mysteries get, as spooky as psychological chillers get, and as good as movies get.
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Good review, Re93.

It's been ages since I saw The Lodger, but I think that I'd agree with everything you said about it. The only thing I'd add is that the ending was the studios' idea. Hitchcock's original intent was the leave it open to the viewer as to whether the lodger was the killer or not.



Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

Part crime film, part thriller, and part psychological drama, Séance on a Wet Afternoon could easily be ranked among the best of any of its genres. It’s a film that’s as haunting as it is suspenseful and powerful as it is psychologically thrilling.

In the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Myra Savage, a supposed psychic that lives in London; a very nice woman that has plans to get her and her husband rich. Her plans are to have her husband kidnap a child with wealthy parents. Once they do that, she is going to demand a large amount of money from the parents for the return of the child.

There is one preeminently intriguing thing about this picture and it’s not the kidnapping, but the two main characters. Myra Savage remains amicable, collected, and confident throughout most of the film while her husband, Billy Savage, seems too worked up on his nerves to go through with the plan most of the time. The reason he does go through with it is not for any amount of money, but for the sole reason of pleasing his wife.

The most chilling thing about Myra Savage is her overwhelming calmness, even when her plan goes awry. She presents her morbid thoughts to her husband with such tranquility that it’s difficult for the viewer not to feel a chill up his or her spine while watching it.

Kim Stanley plays Myra Savage in a performance that received an Academy Award nomination. Richard Attenborough is equally as good as her paranoid, nervous, and apprehensive husband. On top of those two fantastic performances the film has a soundtrack composed by John Barry that is able to bring suspense to the screen as well as it’s able to darken the tone of the picture.

Séance on a Wet Afternoon is relatively unknown among most movie-goers, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from seeing it. It’s not only one of the best films ever made, but a fantastic, dark, and gripping tale of composed human insanity, drama, and suspense.



Bedlam (1946)

Bedlam is one of the capital motion pictures of 1940’s horror, and one of the best examples of what one can achieve by combining the horror genre with film-noir to make something spooky yet poignant.

It’s about a young woman named Nell Bowen that expresses interest in finding out how the St. Mary’s of Bethlehem Insane Asylum (Bedlam) is run. When she sees that Master George Sims treats the patients like animals, her disgust encourages her to take a stand against the atrocious way that the patients are treated.

But, what she isn’t aware of is how cruel Master Sims can actually be. Her stand against his ways of running the asylum proves to be a mistake once he has her declared insane and thrown in the asylum with all the rest of the patients.

To Master Sims’ abhorrence, Nell Bowen refuses to be intimidated by the deranged mental patients and surprisingly attempts to aid them. The more she attempts to oppose Sims’ ways, the more Sims’ aversion of her increases, and Sims’ antipathy just becomes worse and increasingly harsh as the minutes add up.

The first half of the picture isn’t the best it could be, but it does successfully tell a story that only strengthens in a remarkable second half. The second half of the film is where the spooky atmosphere really kicks in, and when that happens the entire picture becomes incredibly morbid, and the morbidity helps a great deal by creating a surprisingly tragic and sympathetic ending.

It stars one of the genres most notable luminaries, Boris Karloff, in a villainous role that is likely one of the most sinister characters he has ever portrayed. If that bit of info won’t attract any classic horror fans, the fact that it was written and produced by the legendary Val Lewton surely will.



The Taking of Pelham 123(2009)

How typical does the trailer or poster of “The Taking of Pelham 123” look? Don’t let it fool you. At first sight, the movie could easily be called average or typical, but no mere average film carries suspense, action, and hostility as finely tuned as this one does. The review I’m about to write is predominantly about the new version, but I’m gonna spend a lot of time writing comparisons to the original.

For those who aren’t aware, “The Taking of Pelham 123” is a film about four heavily armed men seizing a New York Subway train, demanding a ransom of 10 million dollars. If they don’t get their wish inside an hour, they will begin to kill hostages. Each minute the ransom is late, a hostage dies.

The film is based both on a 1974 film and a novel of the same title. Perhaps the most obvious omission of the plot from this version that is included in the novel and classic film is the effect and mental stress that the train robbing has on people and police that are both involved and uninvolved with the robbery, but the film works with little left out details like that, and it works greatly.

There’s nothing wrong with the performances in the picture. John Travolta (who plays the lead villain “Ryder”) seems to be receiving quite a bit of criticism for his act; criticism that baffles me. When comparing his performance (even his character) to the original part played by Robert Shaw, it looks completely different. The main villain plays the most vital part in both films. The tone of the film is based on his actions, and while Shaw brought a calm and collect (while still thrilling) feeling to the first, Travolta brought an edgy character (and feeling) that is extremely convincing in letting the viewer know that he means business. The audience is meant to feel a sense of tension from Ryder, because he gives the feeling that he’s gonna blow his top any second, and when he does, it isn’t gonna be pretty.

The music, for the most part, sounds like a shoddy collaboration of lost beats from a hip-hop song with a few doses of hard rock music thrown in, but at times it blends in perfectly with the heightened awareness of the films characters to make a truly menacing tone that at times almost feels like it came out of The Shining. When Ryder does finally lose his cool in a few key points throughout the film, the aiding sound and music couldn’t be better, and you can cut the tension with a knife.

Denzel Washington turns in another one of the film’s fine performances, and he does well in convincing the audience that a seemingly average Joe can do something as unbelievable as take off in a high speed pursuit car-chase when the film is entering its ending. He plays a peaceful man, tied up in a messy situation, and brings a hero to the screen with his performance.

One thing that this film contains that your average thriller lacks is authenticity, or at least a feeling of it. Scott’s direction helps make the film feel more real than ever, with an extremely fast-paced attitude. Even car chases, crashes and gunfights seem realistic, which they so rarely do in Hollywood action films.

The film isn’t perfect though (and no one should expect it to be), it does have its share of flaws. It contains enough cheesy one-liners and annoying camera movement to look bad at points, but is easily made up with everything mentioned in the above paragraphs. Some instances lack decent script-writing and it shows, while at other times, the script seems absolutely fine bringing the film to a different level than its predecessor.

Some of the dialogue in the film seems all too contrived, taking away a little bit of the gritty realism that is brought to the screen so well at other points. It also differs greatly from both the original film and the novel in many points; a thing that doesn’t work very often, but works at building a sense of originality here.

The movie succeeds in creating its own mood instead of copying the tone of the original (something more remakes should concentrate on doing). The film is paced as fast as a machine gun; much of the style used wouldn’t work in the original, and vice-versa. Without seeming ridiculous, it adapts coherently to the story while bringing modern technological advances into the mix.

It’s hard to truly compare the two most famous adaptions of “Pelham 123” (1974 and 2009) because they are very different. The new version is a film that strays from both of its sources, while managing to stay faithful to them in the process, and is a great new adaption of John Godey’s novel as well as a great remake of Joseph Sargent’s original film. The original film brings a much more fun (yet suspenseful) adaption to the screen, while the tone of the remake seems so black it may stain your eyes.



I must have missed this thread. Great review of a cracking psychological horror film. True to what Mark said, this along with 'that' scene in Poltergeist has given me something of a phobia of dolls.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Have you seen one of the greatest British horror flicks ever (aside from The Innocents), and by that I mean Dead of Night? That one just might tip you over the edge... even now...



No, but I know there's a ventriloquist's dummy in that one too. My mum used to harp on about how creepy it was when I was a kid. I'll have to try and check it out. This why I didn't contribute to the '100 Horror Films' list; I just haven't seen enough of the old classics.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
No, but you've seen enough of the alternative classics, so I say "Try to send in some more of your great flicks!" and don't sweat whether they're "weak". We're dealing with horror here. There are no weak answers, just some which very few people know about and SHOULD NOT keep them secret.



So, I've decided to dust this place off a bit and reclaim my review thread. Anyway, I don't know how long it'll be before I write another analysis, but I just wanted to show that I haven't completely abandoned this thread. And I do have one for the meantime:

Cure (1997)


Out of all the psychological horror films you would want to invest your time in, Cure is likely one of your best choices. Psychologically, it’s a harrowing film of the highest order, and it’s assuredly for those that want to be afraid of what a film implies rather than outright portrays.

It’s about a string of murders taking place in urban Japan. As it turns out, the murders all share the same mark, but have different perpetrators. Perpetrators that can’t recollect any incentive they may have had for murder. The plot thickens when Kenichi Takabe is assigned to the case. Takabe is the same depressed, somber detective you’ve probably seen a hundred times, but his bleak subtlety is rather a mask for his repressed anger and confusion, and the film conveys his conflicted personality well.

The cacophonic city incites an all-too similar atmosphere that resembles most cop thrillers of the 90’s, and Cure is most likely one of the flicks that was made to capitalize on the popularity of then recent films such as The Silence of the Lambs and Se7en (which has a very similar bleak style), but even with all of the typical detective thriller characteristics, it’s one of the most original serial killer films out there.

The atmosphere seems like an amalgam of Se7en and Eraserhead (without the weirdness). So, suffice it to say, the mood is an integral part of the film (maybe the most integral part of the film). In its own unorthodox way, this film is a masterpiece of atmosphere. The tone is exemplary of what a dark aura should feel, look and sound like, and it’s rarely crafted as superbly as it is here.

Something that may turn-off some viewers is that Cure constantly creates more questions as it plays along. More questions than answers as far as the psychological aspect of the picture is concerned. But it doesn’t attempt to explain itself much of the time. It’s not easily assimilated, but that’s where the originality is most apparent. In conclusion, all of the film’s questions merge, creating a vast sense of ambiguity. By the ending, the film seems like a riddle left for the audience to solve. And somehow it does this without seeming overtly confusing or surreal.

I don’t want this review to come across as misleading though. Cure isn’t the greatest film of its kind. I’d hesitate to even call the overall result “great.” But for those that appreciate similar slow-paced exercises in genre filmmaking, Cure can be one hell of an entertaining movie.

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Dust Devil (1992)


Dust Devil is a film that might’ve been too complex for its own good when it was released. It’s a spiritual film that conveys its messages roughly through a creature feature, which is probably why most people that saw it upon release overlooked its undertones. Also because underneath all of its blood and tension, the film’s deeper meaning is too difficult to decipher, but either way you look at it, it can turn out to be a great experience.

It wasn’t very well-known when it was released, and it continues to fade into obscurity as the years fly by. But, it’s a film that, if more widely regarded, would most likely draw in quite a cult following.

It’s a horror film to be blunt, but it’s also quite a genre-bender when you take into account all of the faint little textures it weaves. Take the Morricone-esque score, for instance, filmed with a similar Leone-esque style and you have a classic homage to the spaghetti western. That combined with the arrangement of drama, detective mystery, and Lynchian surrealism gives you a film that defies any true classification.

It’s about a woman, who decides to flee her husband in an attempt to escape a life that she can’t tolerate anymore. While on the road, she picks up an equivocal hitch-hiker. As it turns out, the hitch-hiker is actually a soul-sucking demon that enjoys decimating hopeless beings and practicing witchcraft in his spare time. Even as over-the-top as it may sound, when spread over 100 or so minutes, it becomes a strong point. Also, with a unique execution, the plot easily transcends any given impression by a brief synopsis.

The film is set in the desert of Africa, and the setting’s beauty radiates as much as feasible within a camera lens. The setting at night, combined with some stunning cinematography, conjure up a dreamlike quality for the film, and make for some unforgettably nightmarish sequences.

The only two recognizable low-points lie in the dialogue and acting, and they’re both mixed bags anyway. The dialogue is beautifully written in some sequences (namely the narration), while laughable in others. And overall, the acting is sub-standard at best, with high and low points throughout. Still, when you consider how easy it is to get lost in the direction of the movie, those two gripes are easily overlooked.

Dust Devil may be an acquired taste, but if you can watch it with the right mindset, it’s easy to see it as one of the most erroneously underrated and overlooked films of the 90’s (perhaps even transcendent of that label). Dust Devil stands out among a rare breed: the artful horror film; and if that label sounds appealing, I recommend this film highly. And on a slightly different note: The final cut is the best version of this film.





The Wolfman (2010)

It puts its own style over substance to be sure, but when the style is crafted as beautifully as it is here, it’s enough to suffice. The plot isn’t the best it could have been, but if you’re aware enough of the type of film you’re watching, it can provide a tremendous amount of entertainment in its two hour run-time.

Tony Hopkins gives the best performance in the film, but the rest of the cast fulfils their duty in bringing solid characters to the screen (there’s even a nice little cameo from Max Von Sydow, depending on which version you watch). Add a booming, orchestral score composed by Danny Elfman, remarkable cinematography, and impressive set design, and the film’s technical grandeur becomes apparent.

It does get over-played at times, but that’s to be expected. The film features top of the line make-up effects, yet it’s still smothered with unnecessary and ineffective CGI, and could’ve turned into a typical effects splattered creature feature if not for its other peaks.

The suspense is competently done most of the time, but it does get too hectic at times, and when it does, the focus of the action goes ballistic (namely in the out-of-place ending fight scene), and the tension slips in the process. Nonetheless, some of the film’s splendor does lie in its suspense.

Even though its roots lie in classic horror, its direction is actually more reminiscent of the 90’s. It’s overly melodramatic, but if you don’t let the sappy predictability become too bothersome, it’s not only visually enthralling, but a genuinely good movie.

Of course, the film isn’t for everyone. I’ve actually read more negative criticism on it than positive, but if you liked the look of the ads, or if you’re a fan of gothic horror, this should be more than satisfying. Don’t let my gripes fool you, I loved it.

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