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Review: The Thing (2011)

This prequel to John Carpenter’s classic science fiction horror film The Thing has confusingly adopted the same name as Carpenter’s film. It got a bit of a mixed reception when it came out and so I waited for the Bluray release to see it at home. This prequel really pays a lot of respect to the original film while still telling its own story. The film-makers have gone to some trouble make sure that the events in this film match up with what they discovered at the Norwegian camp in the original. If you are familiar with e original then there is very little that is new here but I still found it very enjoyable.

In Antarctica three Norwegians are driving their Snowcat across the ice searching for a strange signal they have detected back at their base camp. They stop at the location where the signal is strongest when suddenly the ice cracks and gives away beneath them and the Snowcat plunges down into the crack until it comes to a top, wedged tight in the crack. The men inside look down into the darkness and see a massive spaceship buried in the ice.

Next we get introduced to our main character Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is a palaeontologist. Her associate Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) introduces her to Dr Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) who is the head of the Norwegian research base in Antarctica  and he needs her help but of course he doesn’t tell her there and then why. It isn’t until they get to Antarctica that Halvorson shows them the enormous space craft then eventually shows them the alien they found frozen the ice a small distance away from the ship. Time is critical because there is a storm approaching in a couple of days and the pilot of the helicopter Sam Carter (Joel Edgerton) wants away before it hits so they cut out a block of ice containing the creature and take it back to their base. Halvorson wants a tissue sample and ignores Kate’s warning that it might contaminate the sample. Drilling into the bock to take the sample cracks the ice and weakens it.

They all go back to the mess hall and celebrate the discovery in typical Norwegian fashion by drinking lots of booze and singing and dancing to Norwegian folk songs. Carter’s co-pilot Jameson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) takes a break from the boozing and goes for a stroll down to look at the alien and we see that the ice is melting rapidly. The creature suddenly explodes out of the ice, breaks through the ceiling and escapes. We don’t get a good look at it but it looked vaguely like the xenomorph from Alien.

Halvorson wants the creature captured so he organises everyone into pairs to search for it. The unfortunate pair Peder and Olav who find the creature get attacked and the creature swallows Peder whole into its massive maw. Everyone else arrives and there is general panic as some want the creature killed and Halvorson doesn’t. Finally they bring out the flame thrower and burn the thing to death.

The smouldering remains are carried into the lab with Peder’s legs still poking out of the mouth. Halvorson starts cutting the creature open much to everyone else’s disgust, not so much at the autopsy but at his casual attitude to their dead colleague. Kate reluctantly assists him and they cut Peder’s body out of the rubbery tissue enclosing him. Kate notices a strange translucent quality to the man’s skin and is puzzled to find a metal orthopaedic plate lying next to the body. His colleagues confirm that he had a compound fracture in his arm which does not explain why it’s now outside his body.

They now turn their attention to Olav who was injured in the attack. He needs medical treatment so Sam, Jameson and Grimes agree to take him in the helicopter to McMurdo Sound. Meanwhile Kate is examining tissue from the creature and Peder under a microscope and sees the alien cells consuming then imitating the human cells. She shows it to Adam who isn’t sure about her conclusion first that the alien tissue is still alive then that it is imitating what it consumes. When she goes to the bathroom she finds metal tooth fillings lying on the floor and a shower full of blood. She hears the helicopter starting up and quickly realises that they can’t let the helicopter leave. She rushes out and waves frantically at Carter who has just taken off. Carter decides to land and that’s when the creature in the back of the helicopter bursts out of it human shell and attacks. The helicopter goes out of control and crashes in the distance.

Everyone is upset about the helicopter crashing, especially as it’s their only transport away from the base (apart from the Snowcats). Kate tries to tell them that alien consumes animals (including humans) and then imitates them but Halvarson doesn’t listen and Adam doesn’t back her up. It soon becomes academic as they realise Kate is correct very quickly and they have no idea who they can trust since anyone can be an alien creature.

As someone who is a fan of the original film I thought this did a great job creating this prequel and I appreciated the effort they went to. The special effects are a quite a nice combination of physical models and CG and they take it step further than the original one did.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: They Live

This lesser known John Carpenter science fiction film is well-liked among those who know do it. It is famous on YouTube thanks to a scene involving one of the most prolonged fight scenes I can remember in a film, probably included to showcase the wrestling skills of the star of the film Roddy Piper. If that is all you know about the film then you are missing a nice paranoid action thriller

America is in the grip of a recession and unemployed drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) arrives in Los Angeles looking for work on a building site. At the end of the day’s work he has nowhere to stay. One of the other workers on the site Frank (Keith David) takes him back to shanty town where he stays and Nada can get food and shelter from a charity group working out of the local church.

As Nada settles in he sees some old guys watching a TV set showing aspirational programmes in a tent and adverts for extravagant luxuries while they are sitting with nothing. A pirate broadcast interrupts with a strange message from some radical political group. Nada notices a blind street preacher standing nearby mouthing the exact words from the speech being given on the broadcast and starts to think that something strange is going on. He keeps an eye on the church and the following day he sneaks inside. The sound of a choir singing turns out to be a tape playing. He sees that there is a meeting including the guy from the pirate broadcast and the people working in the church they are talking about their need to recruit more people to spread their message.That night the police raid the church and then they bulldoze the shanty town brutally beating anyone resisting. Nada finds the police beating the crap out of the street preacher and the pirate radio guy round the back of the church.

In the aftermath of the raid everyone is looking for any of their belongings that they can salvage. Nada goes into the church and opens a secret panel he had found on his last visit and grabs a box hidden in there. Out in an alley in private he has a look inside is puzzled to find it is full of sunglasses. He takes a pair and hides the box in a bin. Once out in the street he put the glasses on and sees the world in a new way. Everything is bleak monochrome with brutal modernist architecture and advertising hoardings contain giant propaganda slogans like Obey, Reproduce, and Don’t Question Authority. Without the glasses everything seems normal again. Nada goes to a news stand and sees the magazines are the same slogans over and over again

A businessman comes to the news stand to buy a paper. Nada puts the glasses on a sees a nightmare instead a face, with big silver eyes and transparent skin. He looks around and sees most people look the same with glasses on but a number of people have the same nightmare faces Nada goes into a supermarket and confronts one of the aliens saying “You know, you look like your head fell in the cheese dip back in 1957.” They aliens realise he can see them and the woman talks to communicator disguised as an expensive watch to report him

Nada goes out outside and puts what he’s seeing together with what he’s overheard from the group back at the church. Two cops arrive, both aliens. One of them tries to offer him a deal but he’s having none of it and manages to get one of their guns and shoots both of them dead. He gets the other guns from the police, including a shotgun in their car, and shoots a floating robot camera visible only with the glasses on.

More police are on the way so ducks into building to get away from them and discovers he’s walked into a bank with armed guards and several aliens. He quickly recovers his composure, cocks the shotgun and says “I have come to here to chew bubblegum and kick ass … and I’m all out of bubble gum,” then starts gunning down as many aliens as he can. He sees one alien touch his watch then disappear right in front of him. The cops arrive and Nada has to shoot his way out.

Nada gets to a car park with the authorities not far behind. He’s see a woman Holly (Meg Foster) getting to her car and takes her hostage, forcing her to drive him to her house, a large expensive place overlooking the valley Holly works at the local TV station as assistant programme director. She acts cold towards Nada passively co-operating but nothing more. Nada tries to explain and apologise but Holly makes it clear he’s in charge because he has a gun and nothing more. Nada tries to get her to put on the glasses but she tells him it’s no use since she’ll just say she sees what he wants her to see. Nada is tired from wearing the glasses, he is feeling high and his head hurts. He needs to rest but can’t trust Holly. Holly finally agrees to help Nada but instead pushes through her window.

Nada is on the run so he heads to the building site and tries to get Frank to help him but thinks Nada’s gone crazy, since to everyone else it looks like he just went psycho with a gun. Frank gets him some food and tells him to go away. Nada goes to alley where he left the box of sunglasses and retrieves them just before a garbage truck takes them away. He meets up with Frank again tells him to try on the glasses. Frank thinks Nada really is crazy and refuses but Nada does not take not for an answer. The two men fight and fight and really pound the crap out of each other. Frank manages to beat Nada down several times but Nada gets up each time and just starts again ”Put on the glasses”. It’s very long scene and is clearly just a pure indulgence for wrestling fans. It ends with Nada putting the glasses on the barely conscious Frank but finally he can see it too, the real world under the aliens.

Nada and Frank get in touch with the church group and learn that they are having a meeting at a community hall to discuss what they know and plan what they are going to do about it. Some want to carry on with giving out glasses and contact lenses. Others want to try to go for the source of the signal the aliens are using to hide their presence and influence from the human population. They know it is being transmitted with the TV broadcast signal. That’s when Holly chips in with information that the signal leaves the studio clean.

Nada goes to talk to Holly about how she got there but just at that moment armed police raid the building shooting at people indiscriminately. Frank and Nada struggle with one alien cop and manage to get his watch from him. They kill the cop an activate some switch that open a trap door to an underground network of tunnels. Once safely in the tunnels no-one questions their presence they are free to explore the place, including a teleporter that lets the aliens travel the millions of light years to their home world.

One of the old men from the shanty town is there and thinking Nada and Franks have joined up with the aliens like he has he gives them a guided tour of the place. Showing off he takes them into the TV studio. He’s pretty shocked when they start shooting equipment and aliens. They discover that the signal is being broadcast from the roof and as they make their way up there they meet Holly who comes with them.

Nada heads up to the roof first and finds te alien signal device. He thinks that Holly and Frank are just behind him but that traitor Holly has already shot Frank dead and now tries to kill Nada before he can destroy the device but Nada manages destroy it before he dies. The whole world wakes up in shock to discover the hideous alien creatures living amongst us.

I know this film can be a bit cheesy sometimes but it has a great story and it does not try to what Carpenter is saying abou the world at the time that this was made, that the rich are parasites who feed on poverty and are so divorced from the way the poor live they are like aliens living in different world. It fit the politics of 80s perfectly and as the world has swung back into another recession it still resonates. I really liked contrast of the bleak world seen through the glasses with the apparently normal world. If you haven’t seen it I really recommend that you do

Rating 8/10

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness is a film that I only came across relatively recently on DVD and it seems to be pretty obscure. I have since learned that is part of what has been referred to as the Apocalypse trilogy, three films directed by John Carpenter that have open downbeat potentially apocalyptic endings, the other two being The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness. This a strange patchy film and the acting leaves a lot to be desired but it’s also a film with some very big ideas and even if the execution is flawed it does manage to creep you out the more you think about it, something it has in common with the other two films of the “trilogy”.

The last member of an obscure order of the Catholic church The Brotherhood of Sleep dies and the secrets held by the order for centuries are passed to a priest (Donald Pleasance). These include a large ancient glass cylinder containing a constantly swirling green goo and an equally ancient book.

The priest asks for the help of physics professor Howard Birack (Victor Wong) to discover more about the object and the book. Birack offers his students the chance to help as a an exercise that will count towards their grade. They assemble at an old church, mostly science students from various disciplines, mainly Professor Birack’s students but also others who are students of Dr Leahy (Peter Jason). Birack’s students include Brian (Jameson Parker) with a porn moustache, Catherine (Lisa Blount) who slept with Brian, Walter (Dennis Dun) a gay Asian/American. There’s also Lisa (Ann Yen) a linguist and theology student who works on translating the book using a computer. I could barely remember the others because there seemed to be so many and you learn very little about them.

Gradually as the book is translated the Priest and Birack discuss the findings. The green goo is Satan, the Prince of Darkness. The goo is the offspring of the anti-God, some sort of being of anti-matter and anti-energy who wishes to destroy creation but has been banished to another dimension by advanced aliens. One of the aliens, Jesus Christ came to Earth to warn people about the anti-god but the primitive humans of the time couldn’t understand him and he was killed but his warning was preserved even while others built a church of lies around him.

None of this is actually shown at the point of it being discovered, such as when Lisa translates the passages but it is relayed to us during philosophical discussions between the Birack and the priest. In fact Lisa is the only student you see actually doing any work. The others seem to just set up their instruments and equipment yet are rarely seen using it. One thing they do discover is that the complicated lock on the top of the cylinderr can only be unlocked from the inside, which of course means that Satan is not imprisoned in the container.

Outside the church the homeless, the drunk and the insane are gathering, often just standing in groups staring at the church. One of the main one of these is Alice Cooper. They barely pay attention to them even though the priest does tell them that the evil in the cylinder affects the weak-minded strongest. One student Etchinson leaves for the night. Everyone else is staying in the church and camp beds have been set up for them. Etchinson gets outside and he senses that the crowd gathered outside are not just harmless and passive. He goes to get his bicycle but Alice Cooper is standing there holding it. When Etchinson approaches him he removes part of the bicycle frame and sticks it right through Etchinson’s body, killing him

Inside they are having their own troubles. No-one has seen the liquid Satan dripping out of the cylinder and pooling upwards on the ceiling. One student Susan goes into the room and she gets a jet of Satan juice right down her throat, turning her into Satan’s bitch. Later a lardy slaphead called Mullens is looking for her in the cylinder room She comes up behind him and snaps his neck and leaves his body lying there with green goo dripping into his mouth. Wyndham, one of Leahy’s students, wants to leave even though not much seems to have happened. He goes outside and gets attacked by a tramp with pair of scissors who stabs him in the neck and he’s also attacked by a swarm of beetles. The only person in the church who sees this is Susan

Walter goes for a nap and he has a very disturbing dream of the front the church and some half-hidden figure emerging from the doorway while a voice says “This is not a dream… not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine…” The dream is interrupted by Brian shaking Walter awake to tell him that Mullens is missing and they are having meeting to talk about what they are planning to do

Birack wakes up and the priest asks him if he was dreaming. The priest tells him that everyone dreams that same dream when they sleep next to the goo. I’m not sure if it was here but the at some point Birack mentions tachyons being used for communication because they go backwards in time and since no-one’s ever found any yet you can’t say any different and anyway, mathematics, so shut up.

Lisa goes for some well-earned rest on one of the camp beds but doesn’t see Susan lurking in shadows. Susan straddles her and spews a jets of the green liquid from her mouth into Lisa’s. Gradually the students are being taken over. There’s a really nice scene where Lisa sits at her computer typing “I live” over and over and then when one of the others sees what she’s typing she writes “You will not be saved by the holy ghost. You will not be saved by the god Plutonium. In fact, YOU WILL NOT BE SAVED! ” I think it’s here that they hear Wyndham’s voice calling from outside. He’s just standing there and his voice is strange and warbly. He has something to tell them. “Pray for death,” he says then his head falls off and he falls apart because he’s made of insects

Kelly has been marked for special fate. Earlier she burned herself on the cylinder and was left with a burn shaped like the Blue Oyster Cult symbol. She gets the whole cylinder full of liquid down her throat while Walter has to watch from a side room where he is trapped for hours by Lisa just standing there staring at the door, just watching Kelly and giving the others a running commentary of what he sees while the other non-possessed people try to smash a hole in the hole in the wall to let him escape.

Eventually Satan is fully absorbed into Kelly’s body which starts deteriorating. She starts breaking into the room where Walter is hiding with blasts of telekinetic force but the others manage to break through the wall and rescue him. She gets up and find a small compact mirror. She pushes her hand into the mirror but it is too small to bring the Anti-god out

The possessed start attacking the others while Kelly makes her way to a larger mirror. Satan calls to its father and reaches into the mirror where there is a realm of darkness and the Anti-god who starts coming through the mirror. Catherine sees this and in desperation she dives at Kelly and both of them fall into the mirror. The priest who was waiting nearby with an axe smashes the mirror. The possessed all fall down dead and the crowd outside all wander off.

They think it’s all over but that night Brian has the dream again this time without interruptions. The voice says “This is not a dream… not a dream. We are using your brain’s electrical system as a receiver. We are unable to transmit through conscious neural interference. You are receiving this broadcast as a dream. We are transmitting from the year one, nine, nine, nine. You are receiving this broadcast in order to alter the events you are seeing. Our technology has not developed a transmitter strong enough to reach your conscious state of awareness, but this is not a dream. You are seeing what is actually occurring for the purpose of causality violation.” The figure in doorway emerges fully and its Catherine. Brian wakes from the dream to find Catherine, her flesh rotten and broken, lying beside him. Then Brian wakes up again. He goes to the toilet and approaches the mirror, reaching out to touch it and the film ends just before his finger touches the surface, leaving it uncertain if they really did stop the anti-God

Even though I do like the film the acting is pretty poor, the characterisation almost non-existent and the story doesn’t flow very well. It seems more driven by ideas than by action or character and no matter how good the ideas are they can’t really carry the film which seems burdened by a slow pace and a lot of heavy portentous dialogue. I think this will be more for John Carpenter fans than general viewers

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in Film

 

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Review: In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter really makes some creepy horror films and I think this one gets up there with some of the best that he’s made. The story has some H P Lovecraft influence but I think it resembles the writing of Stephen King a lot too.

We are introduced to John Trent (Sam Neill) reluctantly being admitted to a psychiatric hospital putting up a bit of a struggle as the staff put him into a padded cell. It was a funny scene that he’s sitting in his room and they start piping The CarpentersWe’ve Only Just Begun and there’s an insane chorus of inmates singing along to it. (I think the same music is played on the radio in the film 1408 too). Later Trent gets a visit from Dr Wrenn (David Warner) and he tells Wren his story

Trent is an insurance fraud investigator who looks into big claims for his boss at an insurance company. He is intelligent but deeply cynical, always believing people are pulling some sort of scam if they have the opportunity. Trent gets asked to look into the case of claim from a publishing company whose best-selling horror writer Sutter Cane has gone missing. He is sitting having lunch with his boss who is telling him the details when a madman with crazy eyes (and really mean crazy eyes) smashes through the window next to them asks Trent “Do you read Sutter Cane?” before raising the axe he’s carrying and getting shot dead by cops before he can kill Trent with it.

At the publishersTrent talks with Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston). Trent smells something is going on and suspects they are faking it for a publicity stunt but Harglow insist he wants to know what’s going on just as much as Trent does. He introduces Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), an editor who worked on all Cane’s books. Styles tells him that they never had any direct contact with Cane, only through his agent. Trent asks about the agent and is told that he was the axe-crazy man he saw shot dead. Trent is not all that impressed by Cane dismissing his writing based on what he’s heard about it. Styles recommends Trent tries reading it for himself.

On the news there have been stories of riots in bookshops everywhere with fans of Sutter Cane wanting his latest book. Trent goes to a bookshop to buy all of Sutter Cane’s books and the place has been wrecked. A young fan of Cane’s has got crazy eyes. Earlier Styles had told Trent that Cane’s writing has been found to an effect on his less mentally stable readers. Trent goes home and speed reads through the Sutter Cane books. He nods off and has a terrible nightmare. He suddenly notices something on the covers of all the books, red lines, When he cuts through the red lines the pieces of the cover fit together to form a map of New Hampshire, with the location of the fictional town of Hobb’s End marked on the map.

Trent takes his discovery to Harglow and Styles, sure that he’s uncovered part of their plot but Harglow denies it. Trent is going New Hampshire to look for Hobb’s End and find Sutter Cane so Harglow decides to send Styles along with him. They are driving through New Hampshire all day with no sign of Hobb’s End, with Styles insisting it’s because the place doesn’t exist. She brings up the idea of what reality is and says that if most believe in Cane’s reality then it would be those who are sane that would be the crazy ones

At night Styles takes over the driving while Trent gets some sleep. They pass Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) riding his bike. A bit further on Styles is startled by an old man cycling towards her and she hits him. When she gets out to help him he has a boy’s voice and is dressed the same and has the same bike as the boy she saw earlier. The man/boy gets up and cycles off again apparently unhurt so they get back in their car and Styles drives on. It is pitch back but the sound of the road seems to stop yet they are still moving. She looks out and it looks like they are flying through the airabove the clouds. After a few moments noise erupts as the wheels land on a covered wooden bridge and the darkness is broken up by flashe of sunshine through the wooden planks of the bridge. They get to the other side in broad daylight and Styles stops next to a “Welcome to Hobb’s End” sign. Trent wakes up then and congratulates Styles on finding the place. Styles just gives him a look then says “You can drive,”

They drive around the town of Hobbs End which is pretty quiet. The only activity seems top a bunch of young kids chasing a dog. They check into the hotel and Styles gets creepy feeling of familiarity. Everything she has seen is like it has come of Sutter Cane’s books, especially the hotel. In their room she tries to convince Trent but he’s cynical as you’d expect. To try to prove his point he reads a description of a black church that should be visible from the window and it isn’t. Styles goes to the other window and points to the church, visible exactly as described in the book. They go to the church and see several townspeople driving up armed and angry, with Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2 (Wilhelm von Homburg) demanding the return of his son. Cane (Jürgen Prochnow) appears in the doorway with the boy but the door closes before the man can get his son and a pack of viscious dobermans chases everyone away.

Trent is sure it’s all a performance but Styles insist that it isn’t. She confirms that the disappearance was a stunt arranged by the publishing company for publicity but insists that Hobbs End is not real. Trent says he doesn’t remember evil children and dogs but Styles says that’s because it’s from the new book. Trent wants to just go back to confront Harglow but Styles steals the car keys and makes her way back to the black church. Cane tells her about dark creatures, eldritch abominations from other dimensions htat had been guiding his writing and have given him the power to make what he writes reality so that he can write them an entrance into the real world. Cane lets her read the finished book, the new bible that will start the change.

Trent goes to the bar and the man from earlier at the church warns him to get out of town before the evil infects him too. Outside Trent gets chased by a mutated mob of townspeople and he runs back the hotel. Styles is there and she’s mutating too. The old lady running the hotel has transformed into a tentacled monster. Trent gets in his car and tries to get away but every road leads him back to the mob at the centre of town. He decides to drive through the mob and Styles appears in the road in front of him, forcing him to swerve and crash.

Went Trent come round he finds himself in a confessional booth inside the church. Cane tells Trent that he’s a character written by Cane with task of taking the manuscript into the outside world. Trent refuses to believe this but Cane insists it is true. Cane rips his face open like a paper and it opens a portal and the dark ones chase Trent down a long tunnel.

Suddenly Trent is lying at the side of a road with no sign of Hobb’s End or its residents. The manuscript keeps following him on his way back to the city despite his several attempt to destroy it. Back at Harglow’s office Trent apologises for no managing to get the manuscript, but Harglow doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Trent delivered the book months ago and the film version was due to be released soon. He also doesn’t know anything about Styles.

Trent is losing it and he goes to a bookshop full of other people who are losing it too. He kills a young man with crazy eyes outside the bookshop and this leads to his admission to the psychiatric hospital and back to Trent telling his story to Dr Wrenn.

After Wrenn leaves the power goes out in th hospital and Trent sees strange shadows and hears terrible screams, some of them human. Next day his cell door has been ripped open, the hospital is wrecked and lifeless. Trent leaves the building and outside it looks like an abandoned battle zone. He makes his way into the city and sees a cinema screening the new Sutter Cane novel “In the Mouth of Madness” starring John Trent and directed by John Carpenter. He sits down and watches the same film we have and he laughs hysterically at the film, the hysteria edging gradually into despair and the film ends.

You know what hate most about this film? That I’m stuck with a video of this film instead getting it on a decent quality DVD with a John Carpenter commentary. The self-referential nature of the story is nicely done. Some of the effects are better than others but I think this a really entertaining film.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Ward

A new John Carpenter was something I was mildly excited about but it was edged with note of caution because I had not heard much praise for this film

A young woman Kirsten (Amber Heard) is picked up by police next to an abandoned farm-house she has set fire to. Kristen gets taken to the North Bend psychiatric hospital and placed in the care of Dr Stringer (Jared Harris) assisted by Nurse Lundt (Susanna Burney) and two men Roy (D.R. Anderson) and Jimmy (Sean Cook) I’m not sure what the two men’s official job title is but they definitely seem to do the jobs reserved in real hospitals for nurses but in Hollywood they seem to get called orderlies who do not do the things these guys do. You can tell the way this is going to go.

Kristen meets the other patients on the ward, the studious artistic Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), condescending and flirtatious Sarah (Danielle Panabaker), aggressive Emily (Mamie Gummer) and shy, infantile Zoey (Laura-Leigh).

Kristen insists that there is nothing wrong with her with her but seems confused about why she is there and she gets angry when Dr Stringer asks her try to remember why she burnt down that particular house.

Kristen notices strange things happening at night and is attacked by a dead woman in the showers. She learns that the ward is haunted by another patient Alice and sees signs that she has already killed a patient Tammy who occupied the same room as she does.

I really should stop saying anything more about the story until after the break about the plot because there is a twist to story and those who have never seen story about people with psychiatric condition may well be surprised by it. For everyone one else it will be one of long line of movie scripts that seems have an inaccurate grasp of psychiatry that allows the script to play games with the audience. John Carpenter‘s direction is great but I fear even ho could not do much raise this above the level of an unoriginal script.

Rating 6/10

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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Film

 

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Review : The Fog (1980)

Mr Machen (John Houseman),  an old fisherman, sits on a beach next to a camp-fire with group of children telling them spooky stories to take them up to midnight. He tells the story of a tragic shipwreck that was involved in the founding of their town of Antonio Bay exactly 100 years before A clipper ship, the Elizabeth Dane, was offshore in thick fog and they saw a light on the shore and headed for it, thinking it was a safe dock, but instead it was camp fire light on the beach and the ship was wrecked on the rocks out by Spivey Point. At midnight on the anniversary of the wreck the fog returns and so does the dead crew , looking for who lit the fire on the beach, the fire just like theirs, wooo!  It’s a nice scene and apart from a couple of important details it summarises the film

At midnight the old church bell tolls out the time.  In the church John Carpenter is moonlighting as a workman and he finishes up then he tells the priest Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) that he’ll be back the following day. It took years for me to notice that little cameo part but I wasn’t very familiar with what Carpenter looked like when I first saw it on VHS. Next time I’m going to see if I can spot Debra Hill, his co-writer and producer without their commentary. .

Midnight is the signal for things around town to just go crazy. Lights and TV and radios come on by themselves, objects vibrate petrol pumps start pumping by themselves, car alarms go off and dogs bark wildly at nothing. In the Church it some masonry fell loose revealing a cavity in which Malone finds a journal written by his ancestor, one of the town’s founders

Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) owns and operates the town’s only radio station on her own from a lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the whole Antonio Bay area. She gets a call from the local weatherman, Dan O’Bannon (Charles Cyphers) who asks her to alert a fishing trawler called the Sea Grass about a fog bank heading their way.

Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) is driving down the road in his truck when he sees a woman (Jamie Lee Curtis) hitch-hiking and he picks her up. As they drive along the midnight craziness hits his truck which stops and all the windows break.

Out at sea on the Sea Grass the three fishermen are getting drunk when they hear Stevie’s warning on the radio and decide it’s about time they went ashore anyway. At first they don’t see any fog then it comes at them fast. Two of the men go up on deck and they see a huge three-masted sailing ship right to them mostly obscured by the thick glowing fog. A group of figures appear on the deck of the Sea Grass mostly in shadow but backlit from below by the glowing fog but their boat hooks and swords are easy to see.They slaughter the two fisherman and then another spectral figure kills the third man Dick Baxter in the control room.

Nick and his hitch-hiker are in Nick’s bed, recovering from the broken windows. The hitch-hiker introduces herself as Elizabeth Solley, a rich girl who has decided to slut across America. There’s violent knocking on the door and Nick goes to answer it. We can see the glowing fog out of the windows and it really creepy and it is probably a ghost with a hook at the door but then the clock strikes one o’clock and the ghost and fog disappear just as Nick opens the door.

Next day Stevie’s young son Andy is out on the rocks by the sea with his fishing rod. He sees a large gold coin in the water just where the tide breaks and bends to pick it up but its is gone and in its place is a lump of driftwood. He picks up and sees carved into it the letters DANE, obviously a piece of the Elizabeth Dane that Mr Machen told them about the night before. He takes it back home and shows it to his mother. Andy wants to go back to beach to see if he if he can find the coin, but Stevie has to leave for work and Mrs Kobritz is coming to take care of Andy.

Mrs Williams (Janet Leigh) is chair of the organising committee for the town’s centenary celebrations with her snarky assistant Sandy (Nancy Kyes). She is also the wife of the fishermen on the Sea Grass and she’s worried that he isn’t back. Nick is also worried about not hearing from the Sea Grass, He would have been with them on the ship if he didn’t have something else to do. He goes down to the dock with Elizabeth. From this point just assume that if Nick goes anywhere Elizabeth will be with him.

At the dock Nick finds out harbour patrol have spotted the Sea Grass adrift and they are going out to check on what happened. Nick (and Elizabeth) go with them. The find the ship is a mess. It is dry on deck but the engine is flooded and the ship looks like it has been underwater. They also find Dick Baxter’s corpse

Mrs Williams and Sandy go to the church to check if Father Malone will giving a benediction at the centenary celebrations. Malone has been up all night reading the journal and drinking. He tells the women what has found out. The six men who founded Antonio Bay conspired to wreck the Elizabeth Dane, killing everyone on board and stealing their gold. He says that they are cursed and they are celebrating murderers. Mrs Williams is unmoved and merely satisfied to cross Malone off her list of things to organise for the centenary night.

Stevie gets up to the lighthouse and the scenery is spectacular and I am jealous of anyone who lives and works in that amazing place. She has that bit of driftwood that Andy found and sets it down next to a tape recorder playing station idents. She turns away for second and water starts leaking out of the wood into the tape recorder which goes crazy and then spooky voice can be heard “Something that one lives with like an albatross round the neck. No, more like a millstone. A plumbing stone, by God! Damn them all!”

As night returns so does the fog. It is surprising how much atmosphere can be created with bit of mist and couple of lamps. I really liked the part where Stevie uses the radio to beg for someone to save Andy from the fog and uses her viewpoint to let people about the best routes for avoiding it.

At the time this came out it seemed tame and a bit old-fashioned. Many scenes were added under pressure from the studio to try to appeal to the then current taste for gore but Carpenter himself was unhappy with the first cut and he too added in several scenes. I do really enjoy this film and the climax has good deal of angst and tension

Rating  8/10

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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