Anorak

Film | Anorak - Part 6

Film Category

Includes cinema reviews and trailers for upcoming films. A digest of the best and worst interviews on movies and cinema.

Through a Glass Darkly: 5 Horror Films and TV Episodes about Mirrors

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THE painter Pablo Picasso once asked who can see the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter.

Popular horror films and television programs have long highlighted all three possibilities, but focused most intently, perhaps, on the mirror.

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Posted: 15th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (3)


The New Noah Is Looking A Bit White – And There’s A Weird Reason For That

From left, New Zealand actor Russell Crowe and Australian actor Hugh Jackman arrive for the UK Premiere of Noah at a central London cinema, London, Monday, March 31, 2014.

From left, New Zealand actor Russell Crowe and Australian actor Hugh Jackman arrive for the UK Premiere of Noah at a central London cinema, London, Monday, March 31, 2014.

 

PEOPLE have long chuckled about America’s insistence that people from the Middle East are white. Apart from present day Middle Eastern people of course. They HATE those guys.

We’re talking about the meme that got out of hand. European artists painted Jesus as a white guy and everyone cleverly ignored the fact that he would have at least been olive-skinned, or even darker. He definitely wasn’t some white guy with fair hair and a neat beard who looked like he might be the road manager for Creedence Clearwater Revival.

So too, the rest of The Bible’s important figures found themselves being whitened, in modern American depictions especially. And so, to Noah, who just happens to be the subject of a new film and, unsurprisingly, he’s played by a white guy; Russell Crowe.

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Posted: 15th, April 2014 | In: Film, Reviews | Comment


I Was G-Man Jerry Cotton: When Hedy Lamarr Performed The First On-Screen Orgasm And Jane Powell Grew Up

SO. ‘What does the music for a 1965 West German movie about a New York FBI agent sound like?’ asks James Lileks? That question to you, special agent Jerry Cotton, hero of Operation 100 Dollar Gang.

Cotton was played by US actor and all-round beefcake George Nader. You may know him from his 1958 melodrama The Female Animal, starring 1940s sex symbol Hedy Lamarr and actress-singer Jane Powell, pictured below taking advantage of the warm California winter to relax at pool side on Jan. 16, 1958.

 

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Posted: 12th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, TV & Radio | Comment


Watch Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Fantastic Audition for The 400 Blows In 1958

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FRENCH cinema’s intense The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups – the French title comes from the idiom, faire les quatre cents coups—“to raise hell”) features a fantastic performance from Jean-Pierre Léaud as the delinquent adolescent Antoine Doinel. For anyone who has not seen this spellbinding 1959 film, here’s an outline of the story from Criterion:

François Truffaut’s first feature is also his most personal. Told through the eyes of Truffaut’s cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), The 400 Blows sensitively re-creates the trials of Truffaut’s own childhood, unsentimentally portraying aloof parents, oppressive teachers, and petty crime. The film marked Truffaut’s passage from leading critic to trailblazing auteur of the French New Wave.

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Posted: 10th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback | Comment


The Five Most Shocking Death Scenes Of The ALIEN Franchise

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FOUR movies strong, and spanning three decades (the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s), the cinematic Alien saga — consisting of Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997) — is renowned for its titular creature, one of the most terrifying silver screen boogeymen of all time.

Given the nature of this franchise’s hostile (and perfect?) monster, it’s no surprise that the death scenes featured throughout the saga are frequently terrifying, bloody, and brilliantly-orchestrated.

Yet the truly memorable death scenes possess another quality as well. They’re shocking. These scenes strike with a combination of terror, disgust, sorrow, and surprise, leaving a permanent imprint on the viewer’s mind.

For a death scene to be considered shocking, it must be one that the audience can’t  see coming.  In other words, we expect that Colonial Marines fighting aliens by the pack are going to die, or that confused convicts running from a monster in a dark corridor will come to a bad end.

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Posted: 10th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


A Vital History of Captain America at the Movies and on TV

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WITH Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) shattering box office records this weekend, it is an opportune time to recall that this iconic Marvel superhero — and symbol of non-ironic Americana — has not always been treated very well by Hollywood.

In particular, the 1970s and 1980s proved a difficult span for the patriotic Cap, who had made a career in his Marvel comic-book of smashing Nazis and communists.

 

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But first, the 1944 Republic serial, Captain America, created a new character and origin for the superhero.

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Posted: 9th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (2)


Eegah! 10 Amazingly Bad Movie Titles

WHAT’S the worst movie title of all time? Freddy Got Fingered (2001) and Stop! Or my Mom will Shoot (1992) are often cited as contenders. One that nearly earned a victory for worst is Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters (2007) – an immensely serious film which very nearly is The Master Debaters. Close but no cigar. The unpronounceable film The Rural Juror could have walked away with an easy victory. Alas, it’s a fictitious film from the TV show 30 Rock. Disqualified.

Perhaps, it’s best to look back a few decades. It may not be possible to scientifically lay out the all-time worst, but we can certainly make like Freddy and Finger a few candidates.

 

10. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

 

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Sometimes a title is just trying to be get our attention by its ridiculousness [i.e. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990). For low budget films without a lot of financial resources for promotion, the best way to lure audiences is via a sensational title. So, I understand the rationale, and am sure it served its purpose; however, the title is still horrible. Functional, but horrible.

 

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Posted: 8th, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


The Goonies Are To Return… Which No-One Really Wants

The house shown in this photo taken May 24, 2001, in Astoria, Ore., was used in the Steven Spielberg film "The Goonies." Nearly 17 years after the 1985 release, the home where the main characters live in Astoria still draws dozens of Goonie fans every week, and hundreds of people per month during the summer from around the world. (AP Photo/Stepanie Firth)

The house shown in this photo taken May 24, 2001, in Astoria, Ore., was used in the Steven Spielberg film “The Goonies.” Nearly 17 years after the 1985 release, the home where the main characters live in Astoria still draws dozens of Goonie fans every week, and hundreds of people per month during the summer from around the world. (AP Photo/Stepanie Firth)

 

NOSTALGIA is a wonderful thing, provided you keep it where it is. 30somethings who have gone back to watch old cartoons they loved as kids are often found sobbing, depressed lumps sat in waterless baths, feeling cheated and hurt, like they’d summoned up a repressed abuse at the hands of school bullies.

Of course, some things stand the test of time, if you don’t pick at it. The Mysterious Cities of Gold is still oddly deep and perfect, but a redux of it would be like taking a great shit on the one meal that reminds you of the glory of your childhood.

And now, the director of The Goonies, Richard Donner, has said a sequel to The Goonies is in the works.

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Posted: 7th, April 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film | Comment


Dear Christians: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Complain About Noah

Russell Crowe arriving for the premiere of the film Noah held at the Odeon Leicester Square, central London.

Russell Crowe arriving for the premiere of the film Noah held at the Odeon Leicester Square, central London.

 

THE new film about Noah, starring Russell Crowe, has been causing a lot of grief among certain religious types. Of course, most religious people have a faith strong enough to brush off some poxy film, but we’re looking at those shrieking mentals who can’t stay calm or, it seems, apply logic to a situation.

The film tells the famous story about Noah and his ark. God gets wrathful and sends a flood which is destined to wipe everything out. Destroying everything in a flood seems a bit snide, but as we all know, God is a vengeful so-and-so. And presumably, floating and water-breathing creatures weren’t at all bothered by this, to which we glean that God has no problem with ducks or fish. They’re the most saintly animals, obviously.

However, there’s a few Christians that are not at all happy with a Biblical tale being shown on the big screen. Instead of being happy that the word of God is being distributed worldwide, coupled with a very famous actor, they are furious.

Why?

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Posted: 3rd, April 2014 | In: Film, Reviews | Comment


5 Sci-Fi Movies That Didn’t Deserve the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Treatment

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TO the delight of virtually everyone, the late, great Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988 – 1999) seems to be experiencing something of a pop culture resurgence these days.

April 1st  of this year saw former Mystery Science Theater 3000 stars Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy return to top form in National Geographic’s Total Riff-Off, and the cable network Retro TV recently announced that it will begin airing MST-3K reruns starting July 5, 2014.

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Posted: 2nd, April 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts, TV & Radio | Comments (13)


1970: Kate O’Mara And Keith Prowse Horror of Frankenstein Playing Cards

YOU can buy Horror of Frankenstein playing cards, reliving the  Hammer House of Horror 1970 blood and babes fest in the comfort of your own game of Patience.

 

 

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There are cards featuring the late Hammer House of Horror sex symbol Kate O’Mara and ‘Green Cross Caode Man’ / ‘Darth Vader’ Keith Prowse.

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Posted: 31st, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback | Comment


Exploring the IMDb Bottom 100: The Worst of The 1960s

WITH nearly 3 million films in their database, it’s quite a dubious accomplishment to be ranked in IMDb’s Bottom 100. That’s the bottom of a very deep barrel – the bottom 0.003% in fact. I’d love to explore all the members of this exclusive club; but, in the interest of time we’ll start with the 1960s.

The 2000s are the most represented decade with over 40 films in the Bottom 100. At the moment there are 12 from the Sixties: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964) and these 9 truly awful films (proceed at your own risk):

 

Monstrosity (1963) AKA The Atomic Brain
IMDb rating = 2.5

 

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An elderly woman hires a mad scientist to transplant her brain into that of a nubile young au pair girl. Somehow this is done without surgery using only the mysteries of radiation. The only way this film could get any worse would be if it starred Adam Sandler.

“Mrs. March had not realized her future body had such a satisfactory shape. Perhaps not as spectacular as the English girl but in excellent taste. She couldn’t help being amused. The stupid girl was not only modeling Mrs. March’s future wardrobe but Mrs. March’s future body: so firm, so nicely round in places men like.”

As luck would have it, some of these films have fallen into public domain, and now you can watch the whole thing for free (the only price you’ll pay is your sanity).

 

 

 

Monster a-Go Go (1965)
IMDb rating = 2.5

 

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The movie begins with the narration: “What you are about to see may not even be possible, within the narrow limits of human understanding.” Oh, how painfully true.

This is the only film in this entire list that defies description because there is literally no plot. It is one random scene after another, with main characters inexplicably leaving midway through the film never to return, and with a twist ending that even M. Night Shyamalan would be ashamed of.

 

 

 

The Starfighters (1964)
IMDb rating = 2.4

 

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There’s a miserable little plot in here somewhere, but this film is basically just stock footage of aircraft lazily pieced together. In fact, there are several – I repeat, SEVERAL – scenes of airplanes refueling… in real time, without edit. It may not have earned the honor of being IMDb’s absolute worst, but it is likely the most boring film in the entire database. When a plane refueling is the highlight of your film, there’s a problem.

For wondrous refueling footage, watch the clip below, but beware of the mind-numbingly infectious “Doo Wah” background music.

 

 

 

Body in the Web (1960) AKA Horrors of Spider Island
IMDb rating = 2.3

 

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“There’s absolutely no reason yet to fear the worst. Until now, we only know that the plane caught fire and we’ve lost radio contact.”

I appreciate his optimism, but that seems like bad news. Indeed, the plane crashes and a troupe of beautiful dancers are stranded on a deserted island. Their routine of skinny-dipping and devising new skimpy outfits is interrupted when a radioactive spider bites their manager and turns him into the dumbest looking monster ever. Recommended for the vision and hearing impaired only.

 

 

 

Eegah (1962)
IMDb rating = 2.1

 

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There’s a serious debate in the film community about whether Arch Hall, Jr. is the worst male lead in the history of cinema. In other words, of the approximately 3,000,000 films in IMDb, the esteemed Arch may officially be counted as the absolute worst. I think Crow from Mystery Science Theater 3000 said it best: “I’ve figured it out. He’s a cyst with teeth and hair.”

 

 

 

Girl in Gold Boots (1968)
IMDb rating = 2.1

 

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A girl with a more than passing resemblance to Angelina Jolie goes from waitress to center-stage go-go dancer. Think Showgirls (1995), but with no gratuitous nudity to redeem it. To quote a reviewer on IMDb: ‘This movie is a big, steaming pile of continuity errors and bad acting.” Truer words were never said.

 

 

 

The Wild World of Batwoman (1966)
IMDb rating = 2.1

 

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The IMDb synopsis pretty much covers it:

A busty Batwoman enlists her beauteous bevy of Batgirls (when they are not dancing the jerk) to help her regain a mad scientist’s invention (an atom bomb made out of a hearing aid) before a costumed ne’er-do-well, Rat Fink, can glom onto it for his own purposes.

 

 

 

Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961)
IMDb rating = 2.0

 

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Again,IMDb explains it best:

A bunch of kids who look like rejects from the Japanese version of ‘Lord of the Flies’ run around while aliens (from Neptune, presumably) blow up stock footage, including a building with a giant mural of Adolf Hitler. After much technobabble and shots of radar displays, they are defeated by a wispy bachelor named Space Chief who has a wobbly flying car.

 

 

 

Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
IMDb rating = 1.9

 

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A family gets lost and winds up staying with this creepy midget, Torgo, and his caped master who worships the deity Manos. Like most people who’ve seen this film, I came by it via Mystery Science Theater 3000. The plot itself is terrible, but what makes this rock bottom is an almost preternaturally awful execution.

 

Posted: 28th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


First look at the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer

Voice actors, from top left, Mikey Kelley, James Arnold Taylor, Nolan North and Mitchell Whitfield pose behind their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters, from left, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello, as they arrive at the premiere of the Warner Bros. feature "TMNT," the latest installment of the Teenage Mutant Turtles saga, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles Saturday, March 17, 2007.

Voice actors, from top left, Mikey Kelley, James Arnold Taylor, Nolan North and Mitchell Whitfield pose behind their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters, from left, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello, as they arrive at the premiere of the Warner Bros. feature “TMNT,” the latest installment of the Teenage Mutant Turtles saga, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles Saturday, March 17, 2007.

 

ONCE upon a time, we had the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles on British TV because on these shores, everyone is far too chicken to use the word ‘ninja’. Mercifully, times have changed and now, we’re all set for a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.

And the new trailer for it has been released.

Of course, there’s only one man childish enough to have fun make a TMNT film, and that’s Michael Bay, who also rummaged through the toybox in his mind to direct the Transformers films.

So how are Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo looking?

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Posted: 27th, March 2014 | In: Film, Reviews | Comment


5 Movie Maniacs From The 1980s That Wanted To Be Freddy Krueger

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THERE’S an old saying that goes: “if you’re going to take a shot at the king, make sure you don’t miss.”

Such words of wisdom also apply to the movie monsters of the 1980s.

Thirty years ago, in 1984, Wes Craven’s “bastard son of a hundred maniacs,” Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) rose up to become the reigning king of the horror film with the theatrical release of A Nightmare on Elm Street.  The Gloved One took New Line — “The House That Freddy Built” — straight to the top with him.

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Posted: 27th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Bread and Circuses at the Movies: The Six Most Savage Games of the Near Dystopian Future

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IN Ancient Rome, the poet Juvenal coined the term “bread and circuses” (panem et circenses), and to his credit, it is one that remains pertinent to this day, especially in our  21st century pop culture and entertainment.

Specifically, the idea of “bread and circuses” involves an artificial means by which the government or ruling class of a nation distracts or appeases “the common man.”  In Rome, for example gladiatorial games in the Colosseum fit the bill, distracting and diverting people from significant issues such as poverty, war, and corruption.

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Posted: 25th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


We Used to Be Friends: Five Reasons Why the Veronica Mars Movie is Much More than “Fan Service”

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HERE’S a challenge for the intrepid researcher: Go to Google and search for five or so reviews of the Veronica Mars (2014) movie from the mainstream press that don’t include the following term: “fan service.”

For the uninitiated in such things, fan service is a descriptor widely understood to mean the act of “giving the fans exactly what they want,” and for some reason, it is being applied to Veronica Mars on a remarkably consistent, nay universal basis.

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Posted: 20th, March 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Pat Robertson’s Fever Dream: Four Times When Horror Movies Met The Devil’s Own Rock-and-Roll Music In The 1980s

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JUST last week, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson spoke out about the hidden scourge of our modern society: those demons from Hell who like to crash your car.

Yes, it turns out that devils can cause really horrible road accidents because — by merely watching horror movies — you have “granted them permission” to do so.

You know who you are…

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Posted: 19th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Three Generations Of Schulz Unite To Create A Peanuts Movie As Disappointing As All The Others


SNOOPY is back. The best cartoon do of them all is to star in a new Peanuts movie, coming to a screen near you on November 6, 2015.

That’s the good news?

Do you flinch a little when you learn that it’s produced by Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz and the screenplay has been co-written by his son Bryan Schulz?

 

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Posted: 18th, March 2014 | In: Film, Key Posts | Comment


The Greatest Voice in Hollywood, Hal Douglas, RIP

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IT doesn’t matter who you are in Hollywood, fact is, you owe something to Hal Douglas.

You may not know who Hal Douglas is. He’s not exactly a household name, and sadly Douglas has just passed away, aged 89. However, we should pay tribute to Hal because he is the most legendary voice-over artist in Hollywood.

Douglas’ distinct delivery featured in thousands of trailers.

 

 

Douglas was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2010 and died with his family by his side. He took with him a remarkable, unmistakable, rich baritone which could go from epic and theatrical, to campy and over the top.

He broke from the booth to star in the trailer, with his face, in the Jerry Seinfeld film The Comedian, where he poked fun at his own work and appeared on-screen for the first time in his 40 year career.

 

 

One of Hollywood’s true, true greats has left us and, should you feel the need to pay your respects to Hal Douglas, you can do so at http://www.ilasting.com/haldouglas.php

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Celebrities, Film | Comment


Their Last Known Photograph: Five Found-Footage Horror Movies That Deserve a Second Look

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THE found-footage horror film genre is one that isn’t often appreciated. The late Roger Ebert himself once wrote that movies of this type often consist of “low quality home video footage,” are “usually under-lit,” are “lacking in pacing” and seem “intentionally hard to comprehend.”

Indeed, there seems to be the pervasive misconception that a found-footage horror movie is somehow easy to shoot and produce. You don’t need a star, for example, or much of a budget either, to make such a film. You don’t even need expensive equipment.

All an intrepid film crew needs is a good concept, and a whole lot of shakin.’

None of this is true.

A good found-footage horror film — while cut-off in large part from the elegance, structure, and language of traditional film grammar — nonetheless has its merits.

For one thing, found-footage films ramp-up the experiential or immersing aspects of the genre. The hand-held camera-work provokes a brand of immediacy and urgency that other horror sub-genres can’t necessarily emulate.

Horror movies in general concern situations that are impossible to escape, set in isolated locations.  The found-footage genre runs with this idea, landing its stars in frightening landscapes and then charting a kind of pressure-cooker intensity as terror boils over.

For another thing, the compositions in found-footage films must appear spontaneous and on-the-fly, all while simultaneously capturing crucial action. This balancing act requires quite a bit of legerdemain.

A unique development of cinema-verite documentary techniques, the found-footage horror film thus requires patient preparation of shots, split-second timing, long takes, and a certain brand of non-theatrical or “naturalistic” performance that not every actor can easily master.

The overt critical dislike and disregard for the found-footage genre reminds me very much of the critical hand-wringing that occurred in the 1980s over the slasher movie formula, or in the mid-2000s over so-called “torture porn.”

Basically, movie critics are always finding some reason to object to horror’s latest trend, even as audiences are ahead of the curve, and excavating reasons to appreciate the new format.

In short, a good found-footage film — such as the genre’s classic, The Blair Witch Project (1999) — isn’t just a case of point-and-run film-making. In The Blair Witch, for instance, artistry can be detected in the escalation of the film’s throat-tightening terror, and there is even a clever sub-text about the camera operating as a “filter” that occludes reality.

The found-footage film genre has many undisputed highs, from [REC] (2007) to Trollhunter (2008), but the five found-footage horror films featured below have generally been dismissed by critics, even though they possess abundant virtues not necessarily associated with this derided sub-genre.

 

 

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1. Apollo 18 (2011)

You know your movie has been poorly received when it is the butt of a joke in another found-footage horror movie (Grave Encounters 2 [2012]).

But reception aside, Apollo 18 boasts a value that found-footage movies aren’t supposed to reflect: excellent production design.

The movie is actually a period piece, set in 1972, during the last days of NASA’s Apollo program.  The film concerns a failed space mission to the moon, and the discovery of terrible creatures on the lunar surface.

In this case, tremendous attention has been paid to making certain that the film’s sets and wardrobes are appropriate and correct to the disco decade epoch.  The film grain is right too, and the result is that Apollo 18 looks very much like footage of a real space program venture.  The retro (low) tech wonders of the film are actually quite remarkable, from the Lunar Lander interior and astronaut spacesuits to the Rover mock-up.  There is no hint in the visuals that this is modern fakery.

Similarly, if the game of the found-footage movie is to find an inhospitable or dangerous terrain, and then chart the mental and physical disintegration of the characters’ trapped there, then Apollo 18 must represent an apotheosis of sorts.  The whole movie is set on Earth’s moon.  The vast, desolate landscape is recreated ably on a low budget, and viewers understand immediately that this is a realm of a million dangers, and virtually no sanctuary whatsoever.

With convincing mock-ups and locations, Apollo 18 asks its audience to dwell, essentially, in an extended moment of fear and isolation, with no genuine hope of escape.  One touching moment involves an astronaut — knowing he shall never see home again — playing a recording of his wife and son over and over; reaching out for something, anything human and comforting.

Again, critics want to tell you the characters in the film are indistinguishable and you never care about them.  But this scene of human longing and separation puts truth to that lie.

 

 

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2. Grave Encounters (2011)

Again, this is a found-footage movie that received largely negative reviews, but a positive audience response.  And again, it boasts an intellectual or aesthetic quality that found-footage movies supposedly don’t possess: satirical insight.

In this case, the filmmakers mercilessly and humorously roast reality-TV conventions, and especially those of the Ghost Hunter-type show variety.  In programs of this type, every little cold spot and door squeak is made into a paranormal event of historical proportions.  Accordingly, Grave Encounters involves a team of reality-star wannabes, led by Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), as these actors investigate a purportedly haunted mental institution.

In short order, the audience sees Lance pay a gardener on the sanitarium grounds twenty-dollars to claim that he’s seen ghosts.  And the group’s psychic, Houston, is worried about possibly missing an important audition.  When Houston goes “big” and suggests that there’s a demonic presence in the asylum, he asks — after the take — if was “too much.”

What Grave Encounters tells audiences is that everything you see on reality TV is phony.

Of course, horror movies must punish those who transgress, and these narcissists in Grave Encounters soon find themselves in a hospital where there is no escape. The asylum seems to rewrite reality itself, and the blasé actors – who have used real life tragedy as the source for their “drama” and stardom – are suddenly faced with a true understanding of madness.

Grave Encounters bucks all the stereotypical criticisms of the found-footage genre, and meaningfully (and scarily…) critiques an aspect of our culture: the quest for fame at all costs.

 

 

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3. Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

The best of the durable Paranormal Activity films, Paranormal Activity 3 is simply a superior scare machine.

It features some of the best jump scares in the franchise, and more than that, does so by generating the rare quality of attention, or patience.  Again, critics of the found-footage format want to convince audiences that these films are slap-dash cash grabs that appeal to the lowest-common denominator.  They’re cheap and gimmicky!

If that’s the case, how does one account for a film like Paranormal Activity 3, which possesses long stretches of silence and stillness, and demands engagement on the part of the viewer? Here is a film that instead of rewarding a short attention span, rewards patience.

So much of this sequel’s running time is devoted to a camera panning back and forth in a room, or the quiet recording of apparently vacant areas of a suburban house. This technique not only generates suspense, it encourages one to look closely at absolutely everything, to make a mental snapshot in your head of what item is where, what light is turned on, and what, if anything, is moving in the frame.

In a way, this very technique mirrors how it feels to wake up, sleepily, in the middle of the night (after hearing a noise) and scanning the environs.  Paranormal Activity 3 is all about the potent idea of sleepy twilight, of being awake at 3:15 in the morning, and not quite having an accurate sense of what is going on.  The world is at slumber — or should be — but something insidious lurks just at the edges of perception.

We’ve all experienced this feeling, and can relate to the characters’ situations.

 

 

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4. V/H/S (2012)

The first found-footage anthology, this omnibus film is a social commentary on the fact that the home video revolution of the 1980s — now thirty years old — has transformed all of us into  directors, actors,  historians, journalists…even porno stars.

Imagine for a moment millions of people possessing home movie tapes, and then imagine what becomes of those tapes after three decades.

In whose hands to they end up? What purpose do they serve? What value do they possess?

V/H/S explore five unsettling genre stories vetted from a first-person perspective, and the wraparound narrative device involves a group of small-time miscreants desperately searching for one particular video tape in the house of a (presumably) dead tape collector.

Several tapes are viewed, and all are recordings of dark, sinister events.  In virtually every situation, the video camera is used to hurt someone: to trick a gullible woman into sex, to record a carefully-plotted murder, to convince a scared girlfriend  not to seek help when something strange starts happening to her, and so forth.

I once called this film “America’s Scariest Home Videos,” but it’s more than that: V/H/S is s chronicle of the weird turn that the home video revolution has taken.

Today, we have cameras on our phones and on our tablets, and we have the capacity to record our entire lives.  But what if we are recording something else too?  What if all the recording technology of the last thirty years is merely creating a tapestry of suffering and inhumanity?  What if we are simply documenting our cruelty?

Again, it’s all too easy to dismiss this film (and its good, 2013 sequel as well…) as a gore-fest, but V/H/S explores – in horrifying fashion – the nexus of modern technology and modern morality.

 

 

 

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5. The Devil’s Pass (2013)

This found-footage effort from Renny Harlin starts out as a meticulous exploration of the (still-unsolved) Dyatlov Pass Incident in Russia.  A group of hikers died under mysterious circumstances in 1959, on the so-called “Mountain of Death.”

A film that seems in danger of being a simple Blair Witch Project knock-off, however, instead showcases something else that found-footage  movies are often accused of lacking: imagination.

Before The Devil’s Pass is over, the movie has devised a (crazy…) solution to the real-life mystery, offered up a unified theory of conspiracies and the paranormal, and even had the grace and literacy to wink at Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.   The movie incorporates Indian cave drawings and the Philadelphia Experiment, and ends with an audacious final twist that will leave your jaw agape.

Sure, the actors aren’t great, and the early scenes are clunky, but The Devil’s Pass’s final act runs on pure, unadulterated, gonzo imagination. The movie goes courageously for broke, breaking out of format conventions and generating a lingering horror that lasts long beyond the end credits.

 

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Each one of the aforementioned films is worth watching, and each one puts truth to the lie that the found footage genre is running on empty.

Apollo 18 is an accomplished period piece, Grave Encounters a satire of reality TV culture and ethos, Paranormal Activity 3 a waking dream that requires active participation on the part of the audience, V/H/S a dedicated critique of  our modern technology, and The Devil’s Pass  is the most imaginative and daring horror film to come down the line in quite a while.

Posted: 14th, March 2014 | In: Film, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


Watch Staircases to Nowhere: Making Kubrick’s The Shining

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STANLEY Kubrick’s The Shining has yet to get a dread sequel. Those film executives seeking to milk the success of the hit movie can watch Staircases to Nowhere, featuring words from the film’s producer Jan Harlan,  Christiane Kubrick and Brian Cook, the First Assistant Director.

 

 

Spotter: Movies.com

Posted: 13th, March 2014 | In: Film | Comment


The Fantastic Mr Fox And Mr Wes Anderson

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THE Fantastic Mr Fox And Mr Anderson:

 

Posted: 12th, March 2014 | In: Film | Comment