Saturday, November 03, 2007

Horror Movie Roundup 3

One more and then it's time to see serious Fall movies again:

Watching The Descent a second time, I was slightly less enamoured of it. The action and scares are still good, but the problems I had with it before didn't go away - the drama and characterization are still weak, and the movie has a crappy ending which the director apparently prefers to the truncated American-release version. While it's hard for me to begrudge any director their preferred cut, I have to say to Neil Marshall that he should have gotten over himself. Not every movie needs to be a hard-hitting expose of the human soul, and if you can't pull it off, cut your losses and keep it short. I'm not saying The Descent's human arc is an utter failure, but it's not nearly as interesting or as fresh as Marshall thinks it is (he admits on the DVD that the ending is ripped off from Brazil). Still, excellent tension and thrills and the only recent movie set in a cave that is at all well-shot in terms of lighting and geography, so good job.

The Reaping is utter garbage. It's as bad as a studio-produced horror movie can be, which means that there's enough eye candy in terms of visual effects and famous actors to keep you from noticing how rancid the story and subtext are. Hilary Swank, who apparently is cashing in while she can, plays a former minister-turned-miracle-debunker who travels the world to tell people that when they see Jesus in a tortilla, it's actually toxic hallucinogens from the local chemical factory. All well and good, but she needs to learn the error of her ways, so somewhere in Lousisiana a bunch of crap happens that mirrors the Plagues of Egypt. In the end (spoilers!) it turns out that the town are all evil Satan-worshippers and the pretty little girl (surprise!) isn't evil after all, but Hilary should have an abortion to get rid of Satan inside her pregnant belly, both sides of the political spectrum are happy: the Right gets to see Jesus win, and the Left gets to see a town of intolerant hicks get wiped off the face of the Earth. I don't want to discuss this movie any further except to say that it made me wish I was watching Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man (NOT THE BEES!), so there you go.

Finally, I rewatched the original Universal Frankenstein (very good and ground-breaking) and Bride of Frankenstein (one of the absolute best horror movies ever) in the first half of the month, so I caught up on the third in the series, Son of Frankenstein, this week after not having seen it in several years. It's a movie that's hard to take seriously if you've ever seen Young Frankenstein, from which it steals a lot of elements, mainly the false-armed police inspector played by Lionel Atwill in the original and Kenneth Mars in the parody - I mean, Atwill almost does all of the same absurd, jerky-armed things as Mars, lighting cigarettes and playing darts and everything. Son of Frankenstein constantly verges on self-parody in the inspector scenes, and the rest of the time it's tedious, spending more time with Basil Rathbone's over-enunciating Frankenstein spawn than on Boris Karloff's final appearance as the monster. Also the kid playing Rathbone's little boy is intensely obnoxious and awful in a way that we don't see in movies anymore, thankfully. But it still hits all the notes of angry villagers and evil henchmen and so on that I can forgive it, even if it is the Frankenstein movie that finally displays Sequelitis.

I've been thinking of applying ratings to these reviews, so I'd give The Descent 7/10, The Reaping 3/10, and Son of Frankenstein 6/10.


Piper said...

I guess I'm not sure what all the hoopla is about The Descent. I did find it interesting in parts and the scares were there, but I just didn't buy the premise. No way that this group would proceed this far down in the cave. I get the "I want to feel alive so let's do something crazy" premise, but this is a bit extreme. Like too many horror movies, the premise is pushed to set up the horror. And I can't buy the horror because I don't buy the premise.

cjKennedy said...

Ahahahhah. "THE BEES!!"

That will never get old.


Count me among those who liked The Descent. Not a perfect movie, but an effective one and sometimes that's enough. It's more than I'm used to getting anyway.

As for the endings...I'm not a big fan of either one, but I prefer the longer one simply because it made more sense. The American ending felt like a contrived gotcha.

I'm willing to overlook the shakey premise if the movie's internal logic is consistent.

Jeff McMahon said...

I can forgive a movie for doing things that are necessary to get its pieces into the right configuration on the board - the girls are basically tricked into going into this particular cave, which is a contrivance, but since I-the-audience want them to get into the creepy cave as well and to have stuff start to happen to them, and as long as I'm entertained while it's happening, then no problem.