Monday, September 29, 2014

Horror Remake Vs. Original: Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th (1980) vs. Friday the 13th (2009)

In The Red Corner: Friday the 13th (1980)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham featuring Adrienne King and Betsy Palmer.

In the Black Corner: The 2009 remake (sequel? reboot? desperate push for greenbacks?)
Directed by Marcus Nispel with Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker

By J.W. Brewer

Let’s Get It On!: The original cash-in slash-in Friday the 13th is in the house to represent against its own parasitic offspring. Ch-Ch-Ch-Ah-Ah-Ah away!

Round 1 – Director: Cunningham’s point and shoot style, mixed with stalking camera work and love of violence, puts up solid points for the original. While not as revolutionary as his contemporaries, Cunningham’s style would be emulated for the next decade by up and coming horror directors. The remake boasts Marcus Nispel, who also tackled the better than it could have been TCM remake. He gives the flick a solid visual style and some interesting shots, but really struggles with pacing, especially in the second act (more on that later).
Round 1 Score: 1980 – 22 / 2009 – 18

Round 2 – Cast: Adrienne King’s Alice is drafted with the quickest of strokes, but that doesn’t stop her from being a solid final girl. Betsy Palmer is great as the deranged / devastated mother, which gives the third act a much needed punch in the intensity level. The rest of the cast (including all seven degrees of Kevin Bacon) are solid if not long lasting. The remake does okay; problem is, most of the characters are making bone-headed moves left, right, and center. Despite some major development problems, Jared Padalecki comes off well. The same can be said for Ms. Panabaker’s literal girl next door. One wonders how she could have such a dick boyfriend. Speaking of that, if there was an Oscar for playing a dick, Travis Van Winkle would get it. I wanna punch that guy!
Round 2 Score: 1980 – 20 / 2013 - 18
Total – The Original’s in charge – 42 to 36.

Round 3 – The script: The original’s script is pretty basic. Its roller-coaster structure is enjoyable and efficient, allowing for much running in the dark and slaughter. The remake doesn’t fair nearly as well. Not only are the characters idiots in the highest degree, they’re making all kinds of dumb moves. What makes the whole thing worse is that the title break occurs 24(!) minutes into the flick. That means we’ve only got an hour with our main characters, so none of them are developed in the least. Even a major twist at the end fails to impress because we don’t know or care about these idiot characters. The quality actors can’t save it.
Round 3 Score: 1980 – 20 / 2009 – 7
Total – The original takes a seemingly insurmountable lead, 62 to 43.

Round 4 – Effects: F13 1980 boasts a slit throat, arrow wounds, axe to the head, and plenty of ugliness. The remake is no slouch either: stabbings, arrows to the head, cooking folks in sleeping bags, and fun with a wood chipper. Despite this, I was really hoping the remake would go further, especially with the recent High Tension and Hatchet on the scene.
Round 4 Score: 1980 – 22 / 2009 – 25
Total – The redux isn’t out of it yet, but is still down, 84 to 68

Round 5 – Fear Factor: With its well-oiled, roller-coaster set up, the original works as a fun slasher flick. It’s not with you after you leave the theater, but it’s scary enough while you’re inside. The remake doesn’t fare quite as well. Scenes are intense, sure; but, a lot of the horror is a bookend, occurring in the first twenty and last twenty. The middle is a kind of a horror-less wasteland.
Round 5 Score: 1980 – 25 / 2009 – 20
Total – The original is laying into the newbie, 109 to 88

Round 6 – Overall Film: Friday the 13th (1980) spawned a dozen other flicks and one of the most financially profitable movie franchises of all time. The remake didn’t manage to get the title card in the right place.
Round 6 Score: 1980 – 28 / 2009 – 10

Final Result: The winner, by knockout, is the original Friday the 13th! Final score: 137 to 98

- J.W. Brewer
Staff Writer

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

After Dark Film Review: The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007)

The Deaths of Ian Stone (2007)
Director: Dario Piana
Writer: Brendan Hood
Stars: Mike Vogel, Jaime Murray, Christina Cole 

Review by Maddy Griep

I will admit, I do some digging before I head to the video store (Yes I still go to those; they exist). And when I saw the reviews for this flick, I was not at all encouraged. It fared better than a few of its partners in the 2nd batch of the After Dark series, but ya know… Anyhow, I think this is one of my favorites in the bunch I have seen so far. Although, I’m not far into my After Dark journey.

The open scene is in the last few precious seconds of a hockey game. Ian has just scored the goal that should have won him the game, but it turns out the clock stopped for him. By the way, you might notice that our gentleman hero is played by Mike Vogel, who is no stranger to the horror world. You would have seen him in Stephen King’s Under the Dome, Bate’s Motel, and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  (I just saved you from pausing to IMDb that; you’re welcome.) But anyway, as Ian leaves after the game, obviously upset, he gets that weird feeling. That feeling that all horror movie characters get right before shit starts to hit the fan. And wouldn’t you know it; he’s right! He ends his night being killed. Bummer.

But never fear; he wakes up the next morning! In a new life, that is.

This would be a tough one to go into detail about without ruining in, but as you can imagine from reading the plot line, this happens a few times to young Ian, with each life getting progressively worse. And then it takes a real turn for the bizarre. I’m talking some Clive Barker level weirdness going on. But that can be taken as originality, so thumbs up on that one!

This is one of those where the start and middle of the movie were entertaining, if not a touch slow to start. But I will say if it had continued, this would have been a pretty solid movie. But a slightly weak reveal and a bit of a dragger for an ending shuffled it down a few slots. That and the terrible CGI. I can forgive the CGI though.

The acting was pretty spot on. Nothing crazy, but it’s great to see some familiar faces in the After Dark franchise. This is one to check out; forgive and remember what it is, and you’ll be just peaches. 

- Maddy Griep 
Staff Writer

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Psychological Thriller Review: Elevator (2011)

Elevator (2011)
Director: Stig Svendsen
Writer: Marc Rosenberg
Stars: Christopher Backus, Anita Briem, John Getz

Review by Peter Browne

Elevator is the story of nine strangers trapped inside an elevator. They are all going to a party for an announcement of the retirement of the CEO, who happens to be on the elevator. It is revealed that one of them has a bomb strapped to her. She is seeking revenge against the CEO. Then she dies. Most of the film is about the characters trying to figure out how to get off the elevator before the bomb goes off.

This could have been an interesting interplay between characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Instead it's an uninteresting, flat story about people stuck in an elevator. In contrast to a film like Devil, (2010, directed by John Erick Dowdle) which is a great suspense story set inside an elevator, this film fails to capitalize on its claustrophobic setting. An interesting cast of characters portrayed by some good actors, never get the chance to break out of stereotypical roles. There is the racist comedian, the rich old white man, and the nice overweight guy.

The storyline of the bomber could have been explored to create more suspense. However, once we learn the bomber's identity, the film loses its momentum. It then turns to gore and blood for shock value. You don't care about any of the people stuck in the elevator, with the exception of the one who is pregnant. You don't feel any sense of doom or urgency with the ticking clock. What could have been a study in themes such as corporate greed, racism, and infidelity, instead fails to be anything more than a boring retread of other movies you've seen before.

There is one reference in the film to Lifeboat (1944, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock). That film also had a group of strangers trapped in a small space with one of them harboring a dark secret. Written by John Steinbeck, it's a great example of a psychological thriller that takes place in one location. See that instead.

- Peter Browne
Staff Writer

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Classic 70s Horror Review: Horror Express (1972)

Horror Express (1972)
Director: Eugenio Martín (as Gene Martin)
Writers: Arnaud d'Usseau (screenplay), Julian Zimet (screenplay)
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Telly Savalas

Review by Rick Austin           

I love John Carpenter's The Thing. Who doesn't? I love the more recent prequel film too, also called The Thing. Who does? Before those, there was the classic The Thing From Another World, and before that, there was the original 1938 novella they were based on. And here we've got... uh... none of those.

We've got 1972's Horror Express, but the plot may sound familiar.

An ancient figure is found frozen in ice. Scientists remove it and it thaws out. The next thing you know, people are getting killed and the creature begins to adapt, absorbing their memories, their personalities, and it can look like anyone. It's an alien creature from the dawn of time, and the only way to tell who's now real and who isn't is to medically check everyone. As paranoia begins to grow amongst the poorly-armed survivors, things are looking bleak as the creature attempts to escape...

Wait, run that by me again?

Yes, the story is almost identical, even if the surroundings are different. Here our alien popsicle is brought aboard a train in 1906, the Trans-Siberian Express. Professor Saxton is proud of his find, boxing it and wrapping up the crate with chains. His rival, Doctor Wells, is keen to sneak a peek and pays someone to drill a hole in the crate and have a good look at what's inside. Naturally, someone gets killed and the body goes missing.

Inspector Mirov then orders the crate opened and the dead man is discovered inside, although the frozen body isn't. Before long, the body count rises and the autopsies are confirming that their knowledge is being drained out of them through their eyes. The prehistoric being is shot and killed, but that's when Saxton and Wells learn that it's only a host body and the creature can become anyone. It's an alien being, and the only way to detect it is for Saxton and Wells to study everybody's eyes. Well, you can probably figure out the rest.

But is Horror Express actually any good? Sadly, you'll also either love this or hate this, depending on what you're after.

If you want an action-packed horror film, this isn't it. If you want nail-biting suspense and jangling paranoia, you'll be disappointed. It's a cheaply-made film with music that sounds more like it belongs in a Western at times, and the story seems to get away from itself. Oh, and the ending is a little disappointing. So knowing that, what are its good points?

First of all, it has two heroes who don't get along with each other. They may be colleagues, but they're competitive, and while it may not be used to its full advantage, it still makes a nice change. Also they're played by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, which boosts the quality of this production and makes it feel like a Hammer horror film. It even has Telly Savalas in it for the last half an hour or so, for good measure. And he's not in Kojak mode, but Maggott from The Dirty Dozen mode.

Some of the moments and images on display are the fuel of classic nightmares too, including the white-eyed stares of every victim as blood pours down their faces. It has a wry sense of humour at times too, in particular when Dr. Wells tries to charm a gorgeous redhead who's too young for him. The train setting may not have the Arctic ambiance of The Thing, but it's a confined space and that means a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Also, remember that means that the creature is constantly drawing nearer... and before long it'll escape into society.

It's a smart take on it. Except the unhurried pace of the film turns what should have been a frantic race against time into a slow ride on a slow train. I know, that was the style of horror movies back then and it does work as a film, but it just feels like a missed opportunity to turn those tension screws a few more times. That being said,  I liked this movie, even if the story is familiar. Lee and Cushing are always a joy to watch

Horror Express isn't an express ride. But it has horror, and the journey is smooth and steady with lots to see. It's worth the price of the ticket, so climb aboard.

- Rick Austin
Staff Writer

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