Archive for July, 2010

Pontypool (2009)

Posted in Pontypool (2009) [Robert A. Newberry] on 24/07/2010 by Dave J. Wilson

Pontypool is a Canadian independent film shot on location in Pontypool, Ontario, directed by Bruce McDonald, who previously made the Ellen Page vehicle The Tracey Fragments, which I did not enjoy in the least. It was adapted by Tony Burgess from his novel Pontypool Changes Everything. The screenplay was supposedly written in a mere 48 hours, which is impressive to me given that it is almost solely dialogue driven. It was inspired by Orson Wells’ infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. Pontypool is a killer virus movie, or depending on what your definition of a zombie is, a zombie apocalypse film. It is, in my opinion, a far more effective horror film than 28 Days Later. It’s very well acted, directed, and intelligently written, so I think it would have a much broader appeal than a movie like 28 Days Later. Before I get to that though, here is the plot.

Grant Mazzie (Stephen McHattie), a once big time radio broadcaster who lost his job, has found employment in the small town of Pontypool, working for the local radio station, broadcasting from the basement of a church. On his way to work, he comes across a woman, out in the cold, dark, snowy early morning hour. She babbles incoherently for a few seconds and then disappears into the nothingness. This is the start of the greatest day in his life as a broadcaster. Finally, at work, he is faced with the utter banality of his new life with weather reports and school closings. He tries to shake things up by angering the listeners, which is how he feels it is done, in a desperate attempt to give his life new meaning, but is confronted by station manager, Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle), who tells him to stick to things the listeners care about. Also working at the station is Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly), the assistant who has just returned home from a tour in Afghanistan.

It’s just another dull day until their field reporter, Ken Loney (Rick Roberts), calls in from the “sunshine chopper”, which is actually his Dodge Dart parked on a hill, when he witnesses a mob at Dr. Mendez’s office (Hrant Alianak), which turns violent, resulting in casualties and death. From then on things spin wildly out of control, and eventually the good Doctor finds his way to the station for refuge, and explains to them that there is a virus transmitted by using the English language. More specifically than that, certain words such as terms of endearment only exacerbates the situation, seeing as how it’s Valentine’s Day. Virus movies are nothing new to be sure, but I am not aware of any other one that involves language. Trust me; it is executed much better than it sounds.

This movie takes place entirely within the radio station. None of the action going on outside is ever seen. While there is enough going on in the station to satisfy the conversationally impaired, it does involve much talking. I’ve always said that if the dialogue is good enough, I’d be more than happy to watch a movie that involves nothing more than two people sitting at a table and having a conversation. Well, that’s what this movie consists of primarily, but it is written so well that I could not stop watching, and the tension builds very quickly, which is a testament to how good the script is. Stephen McHattie carries the movie on his shoulders, as he spends the majority of the film delivering one quick-witted monologue after another. Grant is a guy that I’d want to listen to on my radio station, and he comes off as someone who doesn’t take any shit, but has a good heart at the same time. Lisa Houle also delivers a good performance, balancing her no-nonsense attitude with just wanting to survive and see her children again. Not for one second did I want to go to any other location. Staying inside the radio station gave me a palpable feeling of claustrophobia, like any good snow-bound movie such as The Shining or The Thing, even though they weren’t necessarily snow-bound in this one.

Independent and foreign films are where it’s at these days. For me it’s both. I wish the suits in Hollywood would take the time out to watch these great, low budget films and analyze them carefully. You just don’t need $30 million dollars to make a quality horror film, and maybe their reliance on CGI and intricate set design is what’s killing them, because they forget about things like plot, characters and dialogue. They’ve also forgotten how to tell a simple story, and over complicate things making them excessively convoluted. I want more movies like Pontypool, and I hope this writer and director team get together again for an entirely new story. This time the score is a no-brainer – A perfect 4. One of my favorite movies to come out in a few years, although I must say that list is getting longer and longer lately.

Robert A. Newberry

out of

©2010 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

Posted in The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) [Dave J. Wilson] on 23/07/2010 by Dave J. Wilson

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The Final Destination (2009)

Posted in The Final Destination (2009) [Robert A. Newberry] on 21/07/2010 by Dave J. Wilson

The Final Destination supposedly the final Final Destination movie, was something I didn’t buy for a second. Hollywood might not be full of the sharpest tools in the shed, but they aren’t dumb enough to discard a huge money making franchise like this one. I am fond of this series. Plot? Don’t bother please. Character development? Completely unnecessary in this case. Performances? A pretty face will do just fine. A screenwriter doesn’t have to be a Charlie Kaufman with these films. However, an imagination good enough to come up with some of the more inventive kills in the horror genre is a requirement. The first movie showed promise, and the second is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the franchise – death by exploding grill was particularly entertaining. The third film showed a decline in the inventiveness, and the fourth? Read on fellow horror fanatic and grue lover.

Before I get to the plot, which I can sum up in one sentence, I should explain how I see these movies. Of course plot, character development, performances, and dialogue are very important to me. Sometimes though those things can only get in the way of a good time. Take the Saw franchise for instance. I’ve always felt that they were trying to be too clever and complex for their own good, and this ultimately made the series way too convoluted to bother trying to follow anymore. Sometimes, I just want to watch people die in as much a grisly way as possible. This is where The Final Destination films shine. Check your brain at the door and watch the blood and body parts fly. In the case of The Final Destination it was right in your lap in 3D, and now you can go to Best Buy and pick up a 3D TV and a pair of $150 3D glasses, and relive the theatre experience in your home.

A person has a premonition of them and their friends dying in some horrible accident, and cheats death by escaping from the situation and saving everyone, which doesn’t sit too well with the Grim Reaper, so in the order they were supposed to die originally they are killed off one by one, while the others try to thwart his plans. OK, I cheated. That was a run-on, but that’s about all there is to it. The latest installment begins with a day at an unspecified Nascar race. I was a big fan of Nascar until Dale Earnhardt passed away. It wasn’t the same after that and his son drives like a girl. Nick (Bobby Campo), Lori (Shantel VanSanten), Hunt (Nick Zano), and Janet (Haley Webb) – are good friends enjoying the noise of the engines and looking forward to a good crash. Nick witnesses just that as one of the cars gets its tire ripped to shreds by debris. This causes a major accident, which includes engines, an entire car being thrown into the stands, and the subsequent collapsing of the roof of those stands – killing everyone around him. Nick recovers from the vision and begins to see those events being repeated in reality. He tells his friends that they’re all about to die, which causes quite a stir and they escape along with a few other people just before it gets ugly.

Confused, the four friends along with the racist red-neck Carter (Justin Welborn), security guard George (Mykelti Williamson), mechanic Andy (Andrew Fiscella), and mother (Krista Allen), and her husband and two sons, stand and watch as the stands erupt into flames and come crashing down, killing some 50 people. Safely at home, or so they think, Nick begins to have visions again – bits and pieces of things that he does not understand, but he knows they are clues about the ways in which this merry band of survivors are going to die one by one.

The rest of the movie is about the kills and the two leads, Nick and Lori, trying in vain to come up with a way to break the chain. The opening scene is pretty impressive to watch with a number of spectacular deaths. The opening scenes to all of these films are just about the most enjoyable parts of this series. After that there are individual death sequences. These include here: burned alive, exploding into little pieces, projectile shot from lawnmower through the eye, gas tank through the chest, sucked alive into a pool drain, crushing by bath tub, run over by van, impalement from object thrown by explosion in a movie theatre, and finally getting run over by a semi truck while drinking coffee.

This movie written by Eric Bress and directed by David R. Ellis, packs the least amount of punch in the inventiveness department out of all the FD films. There are some nicely done kills for sure, but overall they are rather ho-hum, and seeing as how that’s all there is to see in these movies leaves them just watchable, but hardly memorable.  The FX all done with CGI looks pretty bad. I can only imagine how incredible a Final Destination film would be if they were all done practically.  What’s Tom Savini up to these days?  It’s not the worst way to spend two hours really, but it should have been so much better.  Particularly if they were seriously thinking it was going to be the last installment. Hopefully, Eric Heisserer gets it writing the next movie. How hard can it be? This is not the worst film I’ve ever seen though.

Robert A. Newberry

out of

©2010 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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Prom Night (1980)

Posted in Prom Night (1980) [Robert A. Newberry] on 19/07/2010 by Dave J. Wilson

I haven’t watched Prom Night in at least 20 years. For the life of me I could not remember a single thing about it, or whether or not I liked it, which is usually not a good sign. I went in with some trepidation, because in my old age I find myself getting crankier and crankier about the current state of horror films, and I seem to be mostly let down by the big budget Hollywood productions. I fear one day I’ll get so disillusioned, that I’ll start enjoying modern comedies; oh the horror. I honestly had little hope that this cheap rip-off/cash-in of Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Carrie, would do much to endear itself to me. But wait, is that character development I see?  Not only that, but an interesting plot in the vein of any good whodunit mystery/suspense film. Yes, by God it is.

The movie opens in 1974 at an abandoned, and sufficiently creepy convent. Four children: Nick, Wendy, Jude, and Kelly, are playing their own version of hide-and-go-seek, called “killer”. Three more kids approach the convent from the road: Robin, Kim, and Alex, who notice the kids playing. Robin decides to join in and leaves her siblings who run off towards home. Once upstairs, the other kids led by their ringleader Wendy, find her and start to bully and terrorize her. Backed into a corner, Robin has nowhere to go, but the other kids are relentless, and finally Robin falls out of a window to the ground below, where a window falls after cutting her throat. The kids peer down and begin to panic about the fact that they are going to be sent to jail for murder. Wendy takes control and makes each of them vow never tell anyone, so they agree and flee the scene of the crime. They were not alone, as a shadow appears over the little girl’s dead body.

Flash forward six years later to the morning of the Prom 1980, and now all of the potential killers and their motives are introduced, and it is a pretty healthy list suitable even for a good game of Clue. Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis), sister of Robin, is the center of attention, soon to be crowned Prom Queen. Wendy (Eddie Benton) has grown to be a most beautiful woman, but she retains the mean streak she had as a little girl.  She is not happy with Kim at all, because her boyfriend, the now grown up Alex (Casey Stevens), has ditched her to be with Kim as her Prom King. He is not the only suitor for Kim though, as the school bad seed Lou (David Mucci), is also vying for her attention only to get rejected. Lou, frustrated by this, gets a bit violent and is suspended from school indefinitely. He’s none too happy about that, and joins forces with Wendy in a plot of revenge. At the same time, Lt. McBride (George Tulinatos), is busy trying to capture the man who was convicted of Robin’s death, Leonard Merch, who has just escaped from the institution where he was being held, and has been seen in the area.  Finally, there’s the janitor suspected of peeping in on the girls while they shower and dress, who always seems to show up when anything odd happens; Sykes, played by genre perennial and Cronenberg favorite Robert Silverman.

With this story, conceived by Robert Guza and screenplay written by William Gray, there’s just no quick way to describe the plot and major characters of Prom Night, as it is surprisingly quite complex and deep for a slasher flick. I appreciated the character development, which is the majority of the run time. It is a fairly suspenseful movie as well, which kept me waiting and trying to anticipate the first kill, which director Paul Lynch doesn’t allow to happen until very late in the movie. The kills, a couple by glass shard and then a couple by axe, including a decapitation, aren’t shown on screen. They only show the aftermath. This I’m sure, was due to the limited budget constraints of the movie. Jamie Lee Curtis really shines in her role as usual. Her characters always seem to be the most intelligent and mature in all her movies. If nothing else, it’s always enjoyable to see Jamie grace the screen. I was also surprised by how much I liked the ending. I honestly couldn’t figure out who was doing the killing. My biggest gripes with the film were first the voice-over narration of Lt. McBride, as he’s tracking the psychopath. I’m just not very fond of VO, as I would rather have seen it explained with a conversation, or with me just figuring out, as it was pretty obvious anyway. The other major complaint I have, could just be an issue with the particular transfer I saw, which was very dark, and at times it was hard to see as if I had lost my peripheral vision.

All in all, I’m glad I decided to watch this movie again. It really is much better than I expected. The score however, is not so easy. I could give a 3 based on the fact that it is far better than it really should have been. I could even argue a 4, since it really wouldn’t be out of place to discuss this movie along with Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Carrie. I won’t do that though, because for all its got going for it, it’s kind of average due to the fact that it comes off as though even when they were making it, they didn’t intend on it being any kind of a classic someday. I’ll give it a 2 out of 4, and I plan on watching it again in another 10 years or so.

Robert A. Newberry

out of

©2010 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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Dark Ride (2006)

Posted in Dark Ride (2006) [Dave J. Wilson] on 13/07/2010 by Dave J. Wilson

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