The October Horror Movie Gauntlet 2009:
The Next Five Days
Oct. 10 - The Signal (2007)* - With a plot pretty much hijacked from Stephen King's Cell (although they may have been written around the same time), The Signal is a halfway decent coming out party for newcomers Dan Bush and David Bruckner. The story revolves around a search for a missing girl in a world that has been thrown completely into chaos as the result of a telecommunications signal. The actors do a fine job in convincing us they are strattling the line between sanity and murderous lunacy and the story progresses fairly well as the directors employ a time manipulation technique similar to Pulp Fiction to advance the plot. It would have been nice to see the bigger picture here. I wanted to know whether this one a confined phenomenon (doubtful) or if the whole world had gone mad? And, if so, let's see some large scale violence! Of course, budget constraints may play a role in not being able to show such grandiose bloodletting, but it would have definitely kept me more interested than the leads incessantly going on about "Mya" (the lost girl). It's a fun movie, with lots of great gags and some fantastic grue and a possibly lifted plot. What else do you want from it? 6/10
Oct. 9 - Paranormal Activity (2007)* - I'm a little torn when it comes to the phenomenon that is Paranormal Activity. I went and watched it in a packed house in Dallas, the place was sold completely out. The most interesting thing about the film is how it is has become such a phenomenon, coming from out of nowhere with a grass roots, internet viral-marketing campaign to become the most talked about film of the season - that's no small feat! Of course, as is usually the case with films that have done the "found footage - true story" thing (Blair Witch, Cannibal Holocaust), the marketing behind it is better, and more interesting, than the film itself. That's not to say Paranormal Activity is a bad movie, it's not, it's jut not a terrific film. There is a rather engrossing story (once it builds steam), the effects are effective, if cheap, and there is a very tense atmosphere sustained throughout. On the other hand, the first twenty minutes are fairly boring, the story, while it works, is trite, the scares are easy and too sparse, and the ending is a bit of a let down. Overall the experience of Paranormal Activity (and being part of the phenomenon) overshadows the film itself, but the film alone still has enough merit to make it requisite viewing material for anyone looking for theatrical horror this year. But, if you want to check out a similar type of film that is truly great, watch Spain's [rec] as soon as you can. 6.5/10
Oct. 8 - Them (Ils) (2006)* - Them presents an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand the major problem with Them is common with most horror films, at least in those films that attempt to evoke empathy from the audience, you just don't care. This is almost inherent in movies of this nature because of the constraints in time. With horror you have to deliver the goods in a timely manner that constitutes the majority of the run time. So what gets short shrift? Character development and exposition. Now sometimes we are able to see an arc of a character through growth which is perpetuated by the trauma, but this is rare. On the other hand directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud are able to maintain a very palpable sense of tension throughout their film, in spite of or because of this fact. Perhaps it is easier to transpose ourselves onto the characters and vicariously experience the events of the film if they are fairly faceless and therefore it's easy to replace them with us. This may be less a review, and more a commentary, but it is an interesting aspect to horror film making. In all truth, Them is an easy film to make. It's effective for what it is, but never attempts to reach beyond the limitations that hinder it. 6/10
Oct. 7 - Prom Night (2008) * - I knew this one would be pretty bad when it started out with a terrible cover of The Zombies "Time of the Season". This movie is pretty much a waste of time. Saccharin scares, bad acting, recycled (though not necessarily from Prom Night) plot, and forgettable characters all kind of add up to a muddled mess of a movie. The whole thing feels obscenely rushed. And I know that it was PG-13, but I watched the unrated cut and there was nary any flesh to be seen! A fatal flaw with all the nubile young "talent" that was in this train wreck. That leads me to problem number two; if you aren't going to have a story at least show us some grue! But this film is nigh bloodless. The story is something about an obsessed teacher who kills his students family after she becomes the object of his affection, gets caught, breaks out, and finds her all over again. Not exactly treading any new ground here, but it is interesting for a remake to completely ignore the plot of its source material. No big loss there, I'm not too big on the first one anyway. Now Prom Night 2: Hello Mary Lou is another story. 2/10
Oct. 6 - Missed this day due to a work function. Will watch two on another day to make up for it.
* denotes first time viewing