Month: October 2012

October 5, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, Let Me In

CRAFTY

Okay, listen.  I mean the following statement in the most uncreepy way possible.  And that statement is….I absolutely adore Chloe Grace Moretz.  If someone asked me who I think will be the next great female actress, I’d quickly and easily point to Moretz.  Most know her as Hit-Girl from the amazing film Kick-Ass.  And though it is her signature role, Moretz has proven in all her roles to have the one thing child actors rarely have. The same thing Natalie Portman possessed at 13 when I first saw her in Leon The Professional.  That thing is range.  The distinct ability to perform an array of human traits and emotions convincingly.  Most people thought that Dakota Fanning was an amazing child star because she was a little girl talking like an adult.  However, that is pretty much all she could do.  She didn’t have anywhere near the range of Moretz or even her younger sister Elle.  Moretz can play a believable (BRITISH!) girly girl as she did in Hugo.  She can play a dry witted, mature for her age tomboy as she did in 500 Days Of Summer.  She can play a manipulative con artist as she did on 30 Rock.  And as we watch her…we believe every moment.  What makes her performance as Hit-Girl so great is that we can see the little girl in there.  She knows you can see it and uses that to her advantage.  But she can also switch on a dime to a badass and we believe that too.  She recognizes the different subtleties of human behavior.  And she’s recognized it before one note actors twice her age.  Legally I’m not allowed to gush over her anymore, but suffice to say Chloe Grace Moretz is the sh*t. (I’m sooo getting served a restraining order)  So allow me to talk about one of the few films I hadn’t seen her in.  The 2010 film Let Me In.

Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In.  Writer/Director Matt Reeves follows the blueprint in making a classic horror film perfectly while still presenting something new and fresh.  Blood?  Yes.  Gore?  Yes.  But Reeves doesn’t throw it in your face like most horror films do now a days.  He hides and obscures the gore in some instances and lets the viewers imagination fill in the blanks.  But I don’t see this as just a basic horror film.  And that is where its CRAFTY.  Let Me In is a touching…truly touching…adolescent love story that just so happens to be between a boy and a vampire.  Chloe’s character Abby could have been an alien or an angel or a ghost and the story between them could have played out pretty much the same.  A relationship solely based on trust.  Reeves takes his time and lets you see their relationship grow.  For the climax of the film to seem believable, you really have to feel and see that happen.  It is something that modern slasher/horror films would have quickly rushed through.

Chloe is, once again, marvelous.  However, the performance of Kodi Smit-Mcphee should be applauded.  His chemistry with Chloe feels entirely genuine and the range he shows…there goes that magic word again…throughout the film is great.  The expression on his face while examining an old photo strip in Abby’s apartment stands out to me.  We can see him realize he’s staring at his possible future.  A small but solid performance is also given by the always interesting Richard Jenkins.

If Chloe Grace Moretz is my favorite actress of the future, Michael Giacchino is probably my favorite composer of the present.  The man has done a litany of iconic scores in his career that differ wildly, yet still are all reminiscent of each other.  He should be mentioned with Elfman and Zimmer and Williams. His score in Let Me In not only sets the mood of the piece, but tells so much of the story as well.   Giacchino turns a very gruesome scene on a hospital balcony into probably the most moving moment in the film.  You learn everything about the relationship of those two people on that balcony, and only four words are spoken.  Giacchino did a lot of that.

Of the three of us here at Simplistic Reviews, I’m probably the least big a fan of the horror genre. Possibly because I’m a gigantic fraidy cat.  Possibly because the majority of horror films tend to be the most clichéd and stereotypical of any other genre.  So when I find a film that is smart and different and well crafted while still containing the elements of horror, I go out of my way to praise and recommend it.  Let Me In is worthy of that distinction.  Turn the lights out…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

October 5, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, V/H/S

V/H/S – Dizzy

Between you and me, I’m sick of found footage films. It all started with “The Blair Witch Project,” which, yes, was a very cool idea, and the fact that everyone bought into the fact that this really happened to three kids in the woods was amazingly effective, and in turn it still stands as one of the most successful independent films of all time.  We’ve come a long (annoying) way from 1999, where it’s now chic to make every film, and even TV (see the failed ABC experiment “The River”), another found footage vehicle.  First we had the torture porn phase, and we have transitioned to everything found footage, and horror auteurs wonder why people won’t take the genre seriously anymore.  I know, this seems like a rant, well I’m done, but I do believe in the thought that if you’re going to do something that everyone else is doing you might as well make it good (sorry “Paranormal Activity” you’ve run your course).  This brings me to 2012’s “V/H/S” and a slight ray of hope for the horror genre.

The premise is simple; five stories and one wrap-around that runs the gamut of zombies, haunted houses, aliens, and psycho killers.  But I will admit, within the first three minutes, I was feeling dizzy.  The camera just moves and moves and moves and moves.  Warning to any viewer who might be sensitive to motion sickness, this film will mess you up. 

Aside from the camera work, the stories are actually well constructed and fairly original.  The highlights to me include the first story “Amateur Night” where some raucous party-goers looking for the old “in-out, in-out” run into the proverbial “quiet girl,” and the last tale “October 31, 1998,” directed by the film collective Radio Silence, create a haunted house tale with a twist.  I can find something I liked in all the stories, but these two were the standouts.

Is “V/H/S” re-inventing the wheel….no, but it is a fresh look on the found footage genre that has been bogging down horror movies for the past few years.  I’m all for independent spirit, especially when it comes to horror films, and the guys behind “V/H/S” have a bright future as long as they build on their success with “V/H/S,” buck the found footage trend, and lead the genre into a renaissance.

Fun Fact:  VHS,short for “Video Home System,” was created in 1971 in Japan.

October 4, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Audition

Audition – Kiri

Asians, specifically Japanese folk, have given us plenty to be happy about.  Playstation, Nintendo, Karaoke, Anime, Godzilla, and of course giggling Japanese school girls.  But the hell with that!  I’m talking about hardcore, blood-soaked, WTF, mind imprinting moments of sheer horror, and one person has been giving Westerners nightmares for quite sometime; give a round of applause for Mr. Takashi Miike-san and his magnum opus, 1999’s “Audition.”

Apparently love stories in Japan are totally fu*cked, but on the surface “Audition” is a classic, where a lonely widower is looking for love in what ends up to be all the wrong places.  The lesson(s) to be learned from this film would be to never trust an overzealous friend who encourages you to meet women by way of a fake TV/film audition and choosing the one girl who A) was a former dancer B) waits by the phone for your call C) worked in a bar where people go missing and D) has an acupuncture/piano wire fetish and loves to whisper “kiri, kiri, kiri“.  These are the A,B,C (and D’s) of leading a happy, productive, and not-missing-your-feet life in Japan.

“Audition” is well paced, and has a solid narrative throughout, with good acting (I’m sure it would be better if I understood Japanese). The final, grueling, 30 minutes is an exercise in horror, suspense, and mind-fuckery at its very best.  Miike knows how to pull out all the stops and create an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness where the audience doesn’t know where, or when, he will stop and give a breather.  It’s an art that is lost upon the modern horror director and in my opinion hasn’t really been seen since Alfred Hitchcock.

So if you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, or maybe are about to go out on the town with your finest Affliction glitter-tee, destroyed denim, and are going to fist-pump your way into the heart of the girl at the bar drinking the cranberry juice who volunteered as the designated driver, think about this;  you might be the one in the burlap sack slurping up vomit from a dog bowl.  Do yourself a favor, check out “Audition.”

Fun Fact:  Takashi Miike made a cameo appearance in torture porn pioneer Eli Roth’s film “Hostel.”  He’s credited as “Miike Takashi.” 

October 3, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Joy Ride

Joy Ride – Fun

Now for something completely different.  Some people say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and when it works, it works really well (I made up the last part, but you get the point).  Let’s face it as well, the horror genre really hasn’t had an original idea in years, and don’t give me “torture porn” as an example, or any of this “Paranormal Activity” bullshit.  And while I do enjoy a bloody gore fest, I also appreciate something with a little more subtlety, and that could be the reason why I enjoy “Joy Ride” from 2001 so much.

I’ll say this about “Joy Ride” before i get started; the movie takes a lot from other movies.  It has bits of “Duel,” “The Hitcher,” and hints of classic road movies like “Midnight Run” perhaps, but even with all of those homages, the film works and doesn’t feel stale.

“Joy Ride” stars Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, and Leelee Sobieski as three friends on a road trip before they meet the ire of a spurned trucker out for blood.  The premise is simple, but the fact that there is real acting in the film helps, not to mention the chemistry between Walker and Zahn is fun to watch.  Sobieski is fine as essentially the damsel in distress (and a great Helen Hunt look-a-like), and the eerie voice of Ted Levine as “Rusty Nail” really works, mainly because you can’t help thinking about this.

The direction is atmospheric by John Dahl, and the writing by J.J. Abrams, pre-Lost, is well-crafted and doesn’t feel forced or awkward, as is a symptom in genre films.

Overall, it’s worth buying the ticket for this “Joy Ride” as there is plenty of suspense, horror, and a lot of fun.

Fun Fact:  The “CB” in the CB Radio stands for Citizens Band.

October 3, 2012

Simplistic Reviews Presents: Music Matters

Does the music you hear along with the film trailers you watch really effect your opinion of them? They boys at Simplistic Reviews put that question to the test in a new segment for the upcoming podcast called Music Matters.

October 2, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Creepshow

Creepshow – Effective

*Let me preface before I get into the actual review.  The next 31 reviews will not be in any discernible order, they will simply be 31 horror/suspense/thriller movies that I enjoy and I think deserve to be reviewed.*

October is here and that means horror, horror, and more horror, and no Marlo Brando isn’t invited.  As a kid growing up I always looked forward to October for all the horror movie marathons and the “money shot(s)” at the end was Halloween, free candy, go home and sort the candy, eat some candy, and watch more horror movies.  One of the earliest horror movies I remember, and remember scaring the living shit out of me, was the Stephen King/George Romero collaboration from 1982, “Creepshow.”

Before “Creepshow” there were several horror anthologies including “Tales From the Crypt” (not that one, this one), “The House that Dripped Blood” in 1970 and “Trilogy of Terror” in 1975.  While these were all well and good, they lacked the blood-spilling, gut-wrenching horror that I desired, that is why “Creepshow” holds such a special place in my heart.

As with many anthologies, the premise is simple; there are anywhere from three to five stories with a wrap around that either begins and ends the film, and/or is used as a buffer in-between each story.  “Creepshow” features five stories ranging from zombies, plant growth that takes over the world, a monster in a crate, and of course, roaches.  There are highs and lows in the storytelling with the third story “Something to Tide You Over” being the weakest and the fourth story, “The Crate” being the standout, not just from a gore perspective, but also having the strongest characters/actors, including Adrienne Barbeau as a nagging drunk of a wife and Hal Holbrook as her long suffering husband.  The premise is simple, yet effective, just like the entire movie.

Other standouts include the creature effects, all done by Tom Savini.  You might know him from a few things, as well as the score by John Harrison, which is tits, the highlight being the main theme for “The Crate” segment.

I might be as bold as calling “Creepshow” one of my favorite horror movies of all time because it made such an impression on me as a kid, and its an old standby that I keep coming back to every Halloween season.

Fun Fact:  Billy, the son in the wrap-around story is actually Joe King, Stephen King’s son.

October 1, 2012

MONTH IN REVIEW

FAV of the month
The Master 

Review

SoSo of the month
Cosmopolis
Review

HATE of the month
Underworld:Awakening

Review

TV SHOW of the month
The Wire
Review

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