Dario Argento

March 13, 2014

Grand Piano

IMITATE
Grand Piano – Imitate
I often imagine myself in pitch meetings for films. A bunch of guys, or gals, who think they are the smartest person in the room that has the next best ideas. These are the same meetings where we got bat nipples, thinking Superman can lift an entire Kryptonite island, and a fifth Paranormal Activity would be a great idea. With “Grand Piano”, I’m sure the idea was, “hey, let’s make a version of Phone Booth without the booth and put it in a music hall where the kid from North plays the piano.” As sarcastic as I might sound, I would have said “…..tell me more.” Unfortunately, despite the Hitchcock and Argento influence, “Piano” is much happier trying to imitate their style as opposed to creating a truly suspenseful experience.  However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough suspense to keep you interested.

“Piano” is the tale of Tom Selznick, played by Elijah Wood, a stage fright piano virtuoso still trying to live down one of his greatest failures.  With the help and encouragement of his movie star wife Emma, played by Kerry Bishé, Tom is ready to redeem himself in front of a packed house while playing the iconic piano of his mentor, Patrick Godureaux.  Little does Tom know that he is a pawn in a much bigger game and one wrong note could cost him his life.  I love to get a little melodramatic sometimes.

Overall, the premise of “Piano” is actually quite interesting.  It takes the best parts of films like “Opera,” “Speed,” and “Nick of Time” and gives it the sense of dread that you would feel in, as I mentioned before, an Argento or Hitchcock film.  There are several long shots throughout the film that add to the tension and add scope to the size of the performance that Tom is about to put on; and this brings me to the piano playing scenes, which are excellent.  Apparently Wood has a piano playing background, but I would assume that combining that with his acting ability, and perhaps a little CG and camera trickery made him look like the piano prodigy that he is in the film.

Outside of the look and feel of “Piano” that is where the film takes a bit of a nosedive.  Once the film gets underway there is a certain lack of suspense, and while I really do enjoy the performance of Wood, I never really felt that his life was at risk, and the film turns into a formulaic slasher film once a few people end up getting killed.

My other issue was “the voice.”  For sake of spoilers I won’t disseminate who’s behind “the voice” but for one it’s not Keifer Sutherland (by God I wish it was Jack Bauer on the other line) but the pay-off, again, is lackluster and doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the reveal might have had in the early 90s.

What has surprised me lately are the roles that Wood is continuing to take; he’s become less and less Hollywood and more and more of an Indie Horror Hero.  Since his turn as Kevin in “Sin City” (and that little cameo in “The Hobbit”) Wood has elected to stay away from the harsh light of Hollywood and star in quirkier fare, including the starring role in the underrated remake of “Maniac.”  While I don’t really buy Wood as a piano genius, his performance is still relatively strong and he is starting to remind me more and more of a modern day Peter Lorre.

While “Grand Piano” isn’t perfect, it does create enough tension throughout to hold one’s attention, but at the end of the day, it does a better job imitating then setting itself apart from those that wish to be Hitchcock, and the man who WAS Hitchcock.  Nonetheless, still worth a watch if you’re a fan of the technical merits of filmmaking.  Also, as an aside, kudos to Magnet Releasing for continuing to release interesting thiller/horror/bizarro films that take chances.

Fun Fact: A “custom” Bösendorfer is the piano used in the film, an Austrian manufacturer founded in 1828.

May 8, 2013

The Lords of Salem

GROWTH

The Lords of Salem – Growth

There are certain people that like to co-opt the horror genre and whore it out for their own needs (Michael Bay, I’m looking at you) and others that have a feeling for the genre and try to pay homage while trying to create something new that either hasn’t been done before, or hasn’t been done for decades.  Rob Zombie is a little bit of both.  Overall, I like Zombie.  White Zombie was a kick ass band, his solo efforts were solid, even if they were a little more on the industrial rock side, but when I first heard he was getting into the horror movie making business I thought about films like “Monster Dog” “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein” and other assorted crappy movies that happened to have musicians associated with them.  Out comes “House of 1000 Corpses” while not perfect, was still entertaining and was instant nostalgia.  Fast forward 10 years and we have Zombie’s newest, and most mature effort, with “The Lords of Salem,” once again starring Sheri Moon Zombie’s ass.

“Lords” plot revolves around a Salem disc jockey, played by Moon Zombie, a recovering drug addict who begins to have strange, demonic visions.  After listening to a mysterious record from a new band ironically-called “The Lords” her visions begin to intensify complete with giant hairy monsters, bleeding walls, and perverted priests (well, the last one very well could have been real).  Complete with witches and a town conspiracy, “Lords” is a modern day Dario Argento film, very similar to “Suspiria” or “Deep Red.”

There’s no doubt that director Zombie has an eye for film.  His shot compositions are put together very well in “Lords,” he knows just how long to linger on a shot, and I commend him for being very practical with his special effects, I have a hard time forgiving him for his “fake blood and bullet hits” in “The Devil’s Rejects” but it looks like he has finally moved beyond that and gone back to basics.

The acting is still a struggle, as it usually is in his movies.  There is overacting, underacting, and everything in-between   I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s the best acting in a Zombie film so far, which isn’t saying a lot, but it’s not as bad as “Halloween 2.”  While I understand it, I don’t think Sheri Moon Zombie is a leading lady.  She’s a scream queen at this point, and always will be, but I don’t think she is strong enough to hold together an entire picture, but she does a decent job as the disturbed lead, Heidi Hawthrone.  As is normal for a Zombie film, you get plenty of cameos by some great genre actors, namely Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, and the almost unrecognizable Meg Foster from “They Live.”  It’s almost like she was channeling Grima Wormtongue from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Overall, if you like Rob Zombie, you won’t be let down by his latest effort.  Like I said, it’s his strongest since “1000 Corpses,” but don’t go in expecting blood and guts all over the wall.  While there is gore, it’s more nuanced and the film relies on sense of dread instead of buckets of blood.  Also, as a warning, if you are bothered by excessive amounts of weirdness and hate music videos, you might want to skip the end of the film…..it gets……odd, to say the least.

Fun Fact:  During the Salem Witch Trials, which lasted from 1692-1693, 27 people were killed by the means of hanging, pressing, and while detained in prison.

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top