From the challenge:
293. The Abandoned (2006, directed by Nacho Cerdà), in which a woman returns to the home of her parents in Russia where she meets her long lost twin brother and, it appears, their undead doppelgangers. This is pretty good. It gets the sense of dread right, and it flourishes it with genuinely frightening ghosts and a touch of Lovecraftian "wrong" geometry, then caps it off with a strikingly bleak ending. A bit more visceral than ghost stories tend to be, too, with a pig scene worthy of Clive Barker. Recommended.
294. The Island of Doctor Moreau (1977, directed by Don Taylor). If I ever knew it, I had forgotten that this version of Wells's anti-vivisectionist rant was produced by Sam Arkoff and AIP. That explains a lot of the film's shortcomings, though it doesn't explain the A-list in 1977 cast. I mean, Arkoff and Burt Lancaster are not names one commonly hears in the same breath. I remember when this came out, my horror-loving friends and I were all over the make-up effects for the "Manimals". The effects haven't aged well. At all. Nor has the film, which has an anonymous 70s-era TV Movie feel thanks to lackluster direction. Still, Lancaster makes a surprisingly effective Moreau, though one misses the impishness of Charles Laughton in the role. And the chant of the Sayer of the Law is still iconic. "Are we not men?"
295. Inside (2007, directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury) is a pure, single-minded shocker. Upon my first viewing, I'm not entirely sure if it has anything to say beyond its shocks--it may or may not offer up a helping of existential dread--but it's hard to tell because the movie is so pummellingly brutal an experience. It wants to reduce its audience to a fetal ball in the corner screaming, "Make it stop!" It's very successful. Part of this is because, unlike some other films intended to shock for the sake of shock, this one is no stranger to creeping menace and mounting tension, either. While I don't want to compare this movie to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it reminds me of that film in so far as I think it is only defensible as a filmmaking tour de force unto itself. This one hurts.
296. The Mist (2007, directed by Frank Darabont) is another variant of Night of the Living Dead/Rio Bravo. This time, a collection of characters is trapped in a supermarket while a mist containing hideous monsters from another dimension rolls in. This is a lot better than I expected it to be, given that I've never been much of a fan of the Stephen King story on which it is based. This is a movie for monster-lovers, because this sucker has some jim-dandy creatures. It has interesting actors, too, though most of them are encouraged to over-act outrageously. One exception to this is Toby Jones, who makes the most of a nerdy supermarket clerk with hidden depths. He makes up for Marcia Gay Hardin's trip to religious looney-ville. The film has an agreeably bleak ending, sure to piss off half the audience, but them's the breaks sometimes.
297. Malefique (2002, directed by Eric Valette) plays more than a bit like a play. You have a limited setting (mostly inside a prison cell) with, basically, four characters. There's an element of a gallic theater of the absurd, too. How else to explain the mix of characters: a very butch transsexual, the cannibal little buddy, the wise wife-killing librarian, the corporate criminal. The plot contrivance--a spellbook hidden in their cell by a hundred-year old serial killer--gives this feeling, too. Like most recent French horror, this has an instinct for the thoroughly nasty visceral image. It has a dumb Twilight Zone-y ending, though. Meh.
298. Mortuary (2005, directed by Tobe Hooper). Oh, Tobe! How could you? And just when I was ready to let you back into the canon...Sigh.
299. After being brutalized by Inside, I put on The Princess Bride (1987, directed by Rob Reiner), which has long been on of my few pieces of cinematic comfort food. It's all in the screenplay with this one, because the direction is kind of dull. Still, I love Wallace Shawn in this movie, and Christopher Guest. Hard to make out most of Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin's dialogue, even after all these years.
I'm going down in flames this year. Pesky vacation. Ah, well. Maybe next year.
Monday, October 27, 2008
From the challenge: