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Review of Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

14 Nov

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) is a thriller/action/crime film, which is a remake of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

Directed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008), Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 (2008)).

Written by James DeMonaco (Jack (1996), Staten Island (2009)).

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, Ja Rule and others.

The original had a „cold open” of sorts, that set-up the possibility of action in a movie that was more slow-paced, this time we open with a completely frantic scene, with our main character played by Ethan Hawke in an undercover operation, which doesn’t turn out so well. Some time has passed and we see him arriving at a police precinct on the New Year’s Eve, as it is about to close and relocate the personnel.

Then we see a shoot-out in a church, after which Laurence Fishburne is arrested. Soon he has to be transported and the two groups of people who will have to meet at some point are set-up. On the prison bus, there’s four inmates being transported, one of them being John Leguizamo going into his over-the-top neurotic mode. Some shit happens along the way so they have to stay in this half-abandoned police station.

When the new year comes, suddenly everyone’s new year resolution becomes to stay alive, because they get attacked by masked men and the people inside the precinct are left to try to hold them back. They even manage to make them more inhuman by having them be hidden behind thick ski-masks, due to the storm outside. But then they decide to add a decent, yet very unnecessary twist to who the attackers are. I liked the almost supernatural quality they possessed in the original better.

The movie does have some kinetic energy and interesting visuals, like a bunch of lasersights sniping through the windows of the precinct, a cool mexican stand-off, involving like 10 people and almost everyone who dies for some reason gets shot in the head.

Yeah, I know, since the original was in a way a loose remake of Rio Bravo, it is forgivable that they made another remake, but there’s really nothing that the movie brings, that validates its necessity to exist. It’s just pointless, it doesn’t change enough to make it fresh and really interesting and only updating it a bit doesn’t make much sense, because the original wasn’t all that dated.

The score was disappointingly bland, not even worth comparing to Carpenter’s iconic synth-drone theme.

The acting also isn’t that great, to be fair in Carpenter’s version the acting wasn’t the best part either, but it was also a low-budget film, with relative unknowns, who were acting western parts in a modern-day setting. Here we have amazing actors (not all of them, there’s Ja Rule, after all) with huge experience, but the acting is just as unconvincing.

Overall, might be enjoyable, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but even then I don’t think it’s really worth bothering. It’s conventional, some good actors pop up, at times entertaining, but ultimately a waste of time. Not recommended.

PIctured: The most jolly movie rape scene ever.

Review of Splice (2009)

5 Nov

Splice (2009) is a horror/sci-fi/thriller film about gene splicing experiment not going as expected.

Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube (1997), Cypher (2002)).

Written by Vincenzo Natali (Nothing (2003), Elevated (1997 Short)), Doug Taylor (The Carpenter (1988), They Wait (2007)) and Antoinette Terry Bryant.

Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlet, Abigail Chu and others.

We see two scientists, who seem to have created these two CG creatures, which are revealed to be the combination of multiple species into one being. So yes, that’s what you get, you mix various species and get this blob of flesh that doesn’t seem to be very useful other than a scientific curiosity.

But of course it is. The scientists want to apply this gene splicing technology to humans, because it would provide incredible medical breakthroughs, but the corporate heads don’t approve this. It is reverse case of what we usually see in movies that try to push the idea of corporate greed, making the businessmen become reckless with the slightest possibility of profit. Here we have the scientists who are obsessed with their project. Similar to the mad scientist movies we don’t get so often anymore, like Frankenstein or The Fly.

The movie has a very slick visual style, some shots done with the use of such a wide-angle lens that it is almost fish-eye.

Our main characters are a scientist couple, played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody. From the first few minutes they have a great dynamic, are likable and believable. The chemistry is there, both literally and figuratively.  Nowadays there’s an odd lack of scientists in science fiction, which this movie provides in spades.

The couple decide to fuck their sponsors and go ahead with the creation of a humanoid creature. From it’s „birth”, it becomes clear, that things have gone at least slightly wrong. The creature goes through various stages switching from practical effects to CGI, the practical effects are done great, it’s Greg Nicotero after all. Then we settle on a combination of the two, which looks pretty decent.

What is the most interesting part about it, is that as the experiment progresses and the creature evolves and grows, it starts getting kind of disturbing and you can’t help, but question the ethics of things like this. Maybe this message is a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t hammer it all that much, except you start feeling uneasy watching the relationships that are forming between the characters.

And it does get really creepy, the horror element works so well, because by the time a real threat starts forming, you care a lot about the characters and it terrifies you psychologically. It’s not a slasher flick so there’s not a body count running through the movie, it’s more about the build-up, because you just know that something horrible is going to happen eventually. The suspense keeps you interested, while all the exposition and character development is happening.

Both Polley and Brody do really great jobs, but special nod should go to Delphine Chaneac, who portrays the creature in its full-grown form, it’s a very physically demanding role and she delivers. Selling the horrors of parenting, growing up and changing and science gone wrong.

It has been somewhat poorly received by general audience, some people complaining that it was disturbing and offensive. For me it’s one of the better horror films of the recent years, mostly due to it being delightfully disturbing without trying to shock people. Those were shocked? Well, in my opinion they’re pansies, who should do some research on what they’re watching.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, I thought it was gripping, thrilling and twisted. Vincenzo Natali is a sci-fi filmmaker worth looking out for. Recommended.

Starring: Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody as young Professor Snape.

Review of Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

21 Oct

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004) is a Canadian horror/thriller film, that is a prequel to Ginger Snaps and was shot back-to-back with its sequel Ginger Snaps: Unleashed.

Directed by Grant Harvey (Freezer Burn: The Invasion of Laxdale (2008), Held Hostage (2008)).

Written by Christina Ray (The Collector (2004 TV), XIII: The Series (2011 TV)) and Stephen Masicotte (The Dark (2005)).

Starring: Katherine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, JR Bourne, Brendan Fletcher, Hugh Dillon, Adrien Dorval and others.

We’re back with the Fitzgerald sisters. Yes, both of them. And it’s really nice to see Katherine Isabelle back in a leading part, no matter how contrived the reason.

And the way this movie is set-up is really silly, we have the same actresses, basically play the same characters with the same names, just thrown into the 1800s. They even act like they’re from modern times. It is considered a prequel, but it’s less ‘let’s provide a backstory for the whole werewolf thing’ and more ‘let’s put the sisters in this wacky situation’.

So they’re wandering through a forest, Brigitte steps into a beartrap and they run into some native American dude, who takes them to some civil war-camp. The men there seem to be weary of some kind of evil outside the camp, so they’re kind of distraught when these two teenage chicks just waltz in.

Ginger seems more innocent at the beginning here than in the first one, but it doesn’t mean the film takes a very different route with her character, except that she’s a lot more passive this time.

Some other familiar faces from previous films pop-up, but in very small and different roles. I’d rather have liked the allegories about becoming a woman and all to make an appearance. Ginger’s transformation both visually and psychologically is so much less impactful.

I liked the whole ‘holding down the fort’ aspect, which I was expecting from Unleashed. The outpost is being attacked by werewolves and no one is too happy about this, the tension rises even more with the possibility that there could be some danger on the inside of the walls. This leads to an homage to The Thing, where leeches are used as a test if you’ve got the „wolf’s”.

Although it doesn’t even come close to the original, this one, as was the case with Unleashed, does provide more of a tonal consistency and doesn’t feel so broken up into acts. Here we get a spooky atmosphere throughout, but its effectiveness is debatable in the light of how silly the whole thing actually is when you think about it.

What it boils down to, is that this is just the same story as the original, minus the modern-day setting and what made it stand-out. It’s watchable, but not memorable. It probably has almost nothing to offer to those who didn’t see Ginger Snaps, while having almost equally almost nothing to offer to those, who have.

Overall, admittedly this is a bigger waste of time than Unleashed, but I did like this better. However, it’s really not worth watching, not recommended.

“Hey man, you got any weed? I have some serious glaucoma going on.”

Review of Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004)

9 Oct

Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (2004) is a Canadian horror/thriller/drama film, which is the sequel to Ginger Snaps.

Directed by Brett Sullivan (The Chair (2007), The Border (2008 TV)).

Written by Megan Martin (Ninth Street Chronicles (2006 Short), Tangled (2010)).

Starring: Emily Perkins, Eric Johnsons, Brendan Fletcher, Tatiana Maslany, Katherine Isabelle, Janet Kidder, Pascale Hutton and others.

We return to follow Brigitte, the younger of the two Fitzgerald sister from the first movie. She is using the „cure” she developed in the previous film, but there’s a problem – it works only temporarily so she has to take regular injections.

She soon ODs on the stuff and is taken to a hospital/rehabilitation facility. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with the rest. I have to add that there’s only female patients there, which allows there to be the biggest douchebag of a male-nurse ever, even exchanging various drugs for some sexual services. Though it seems that even if he didn’t have anything to offer in return, most of those chicks would jump at him.

This is tonally a very different movie, but themes are somewhat similar. Locked up in the institution, Brigitte starts slowly changing, both physically and psychologically. The humor of the first movie is pretty much gone. What we get instead is some bizarre scenes, like when during a group meditation session, Brigitte starts seeing all the girls in the room start to masturbate, following instructions provided by the doctor. I guess, that’s amusing. More similar to the tone of the original is a group therapy session scene, where Brigitte describes what will happen to her if she doesn’t take her medication and the therapist writes in her notepad „lesbian?”, the ending also is quite humorous, yet very dark.

Soon we learn that the „locked up in hospital, growing fangs” isn’t the only problem and something ominous is going on outside the building and I got a bit excited, I thought it was going to be „holding down the fort” kind of movie, something like Dog Soldiers only set in a hospital instead of a house. But they disappointed me and halfway into the movie Brigitte teams up with this girl who looks like barely 13-14, but apparently drives a car. So they both escape.

The werewolf puppet heads look a lot better than in the first one, but these are actually different werewolves than what we saw in the first one. Also Brigitte’s transformation was a lot more gruesome than Ginger’s, Ginger was a sexy werebitch, Brigitte looks like the Elephant Man.

Emily Perkins as Brigitte convincingly grows up from the previous movie and is able to hold her own here and gives a better performance than before, however, besides her, there’s not really any other stand-out performances. Tatiana Maslany was quite annoying, but she does deserve credit for looking 13, while actually being 18. Katherine Isabelle appears, which was nice, but it felt more like fan service than actually having a reason to be there.

Overall, some people consider this superior to Ginger Snaps, I certainly do not, even though it’s more consistent, it lacks in many departments, but by horror sequel standards it’s pretty decent. If you watched the first one and would like to see what happens to Brigitte, give it a try. Not recommended.

“”You shouldn’t brush so hard! It’s not good for the teeth! Oh, look at me, I’m a dentist!” Let’s see what you have to say about this, you asshole with no medical degree!”

Review of Ginger Snaps (2000)

3 Oct

Ginger Snaps (2000) is a Canadian horror/comedy/drama film, following the Fitzgerald sisters and their collision with the world of lycanthropy.

Directed by John Fawcett (The Boys Club (1997), The Dark (2005)).

Written by Karen Walton (The Listener (2009 TV), Flashpoint (2008 TV))  and John Fawcett (Half Nelson (1992)).

Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, Peter Keleghan, Danielle Hampton and others.

When I started watching this, I wasn’t actually aware that I had seen it before. But I had seen it like some five years ago late at night on TV, just turning it on during the opening titles and missing the title itself. I remembered thinking it was quite decent back then, but it seems I had missed more than just what it’s called.

We follow two teenage sisters, who are social outcasts and mostly just hang out together and have a very close relationship. Ginger (yes, the one who snaps) is somewhat more extrovert than her sister Brigitte. And I have to be honest, I have a thing for redheads, so I find Katherine Isabelle incredibly attractive.

Contributing to their social outcast is the fact that for a school project they take photos of each other portraying them dead in various ways very realistically. I’m not sure what was the project supposed to show from an educational standpoint, but it sure made for an excellent opening title montage.

The hook is that finally (because they’re like 15-16 years old) one of them starts menstruating and one evening a mysterious wolf-like beast attacks the sisters. Soon after that menstruating isn’t the only thing happening to the girl’s body.

The movie has a great deal of dark humor, while not parodying the werewolf genre. The humor is reminiscent of Heathers, even the male „lead” (or closest to it) Kris Lemche resembling young Christian Slater. Sadly, though, when the horror aspects of the movie kick in, the humor takes a step back. There’s still funny moments, but they are only for those with a messed up sense of humor. Thankfully, that’s the one I got.

It’s most interesting aspect and asset is the movie serving as an allegory for young women going through changes,  maturing, discovering their sexuality and the frustration that comes with it. However, one might argue that the film explores these themes not quite to the extent that one might hope or expect. So it might come off more like a sarcastic remark, than actually having something really genuine to say.

Both lead actresses deliver pretty great and convincing performances, embodying their characters. The other stand-out performance is the mother of the sisters, who is just hilariously peppy, oblivious and upbeat in comparison to her morbid daughters.

The movie is of this cycle of post-scream somewhat self-aware horror movies featuring teenagers, similar in both its themes and style to The Faculty, only the horror hook is werewolves instead of aliens.

Of course, the movie has its shortcomings, but I pretty much loved the movie and would definitely place it somewhere in my top 10 werewolf movies of all time. Somehow the transformations have become the main criteria by which to judge a werewolf movie, but here it is excellent in entirely different way, because it’s done gradually, we don’t see a special effects bonanza like in the not less excellent An American Werewolf in London, but it’s horrifying nonetheless, much like in The Fly, although in that case I have to admit The Fly is no less a showing off of special effects than An American Werewolf in London.

What I ultimately want to give the movie credit for is not forcing anything, they don’t force the comedy (tongue-in-cheek or otherwise), the transformation, a happily ever after ending and even the whole puberty/feminist message doesn’t come across as forced.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, I cared for the characters, it had more substance than is common for horror movies and it was suspenseful and entertaining. Definitely recommended, even for people not that into horror. And girls should be especially interesting in checking it out.

“Had they not gone into the whole wolfman business, they could’ve had great portfolio work when looking for a job as special effects artists.”