Tagged: Horror

Review – I, Frankenstein (2014)

Director: Stuart Beattie

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney

I, FrankensteinMary Shelley could never have seen this coming when she created one of the horror genre’s iconic characters back in 1818. In I, Frankenstein her creature becomes the latest classic to be reimagined for the screen via the graphic novel.

Having lived in secrecy for 200 years, Frankenstein’s monster, here named Adam, finds himself in the middle of a centuries old battle between demons and gargoyles. When a demon is killed its soul descends to hell and it can only return to Earth if it can find a living body without a soul. So Naberius, the leader of the demons, sees in Adam the secret to reanimating corpses into soulless vessels, and therefore the key to a potentially limitless army.

I, Frankenstein is the latest idea from the mind of Kevin Grevioux, the co-creator of the Underworld. That reasonably successful action/fantasy franchise concerned the ongoing war between vampires and werewolves, so I, Frankenstein is not so much a new idea as a variation on a theme. Between its effects heavy battle scenes, the movie labours through some truly ridiculous dialogue. At times this is the result of some poor writing, but largely it is because the premise of this film is such utter nonsense that when characters are forced to verbalise it they can’t help but sound ridiculous. And therein lies I, Frankenstein’s biggest problem. The film contains no acknowledgement of its ludicrousness, and therefore there is no sense of fun, humour or satire. Instead it takes itself far too seriously and it simply cannot afford to.

Turning Frankenstein’s monster into an action hero requires a stark reimaging of the famous character, so Aaron Eckhart’s monster bears little resemblance to Boris Karloff’s iconic lumbering giant. Eckhart has got himself in impressive shape for the role, so impressive in fact that in one scene in which he removes his shirt the creature even attracts a lustful double-take from Terra, the respected electrophysiologist who had been working for Naberius before she discovered his true identity. This version of the monster also does significantly more talking than any we’ve seen before. It might have made for a more interesting, if less action-packed, film if the monster was more traditional – a helpless innocent caught in the centre of this ongoing battle rather than a bad-ass butt-kicking machine.

The film closes with a voiceover from the creature in which he promises to go on fighting demons and protecting mankind, clearly setting itself up for a franchise. Fortunately I doubt we’ll ever see it. I, Frankenstein is an early contender for worst movie of the year.

Rating: ★

Review by Duncan McLean

Review – Carrie (2013)

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort

CarrieThere have been many movies about high school outsiders that teach us that once you get to know that slightly odd kid you might just find that they actually aren’t all that different to you. But you can depend on Stephen King to borrow that much used set up in order to give us a slightly different moral: If you know someone who is a little bit weird, they are probably even weirder than you thought. Twenty-seven years since Carrie first hit our screens she is back in a remake that unfortunately doesn’t do much more than repeat the previous film and offers precious little new insight.

This time around it is Chloë Grace Moretz who plays the downtrodden teenage girl, Carrie. Victim of an oppressive home environment under her extremist Christian mother and a source of ridicule at her school, Carrie also happens to have telekinetic powers. When she is finally pushed to breaking point the result is a prom night no one will ever forget.

MGM is promoting this film as a re-imagining of Stephen King’s novel, but it really feels like a direct remake of Brian DePalma’s 1976 film. There are a number of scenes and giant slabs of dialogue which are exactly the same. There doesn’t appear to be much re-imagining going on at all. Director Kimberly Peirce is best known for her 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry for which Hillary Swank won an Oscar playing a young gay girl pretending to be a man. Given the success with which that film explored the struggles of a young woman who felt like an outsider and a freak, there was hope that Peirce might bring some new insight to the thematically similar Carrie. So it is disappointing that those hopes were unfounded, with this new version of Carrie failing to venture anywhere new or explore anything different.

Many of the changes from the original version to this one are largely superficial – for example Carrie uses her telekinesis to break a water cooler in the principal’s office rather than an ash tray, she breaks a mirror at school rather than at home – one update which is notable is the acknowledgement of the role that technology and social media now play in schoolyard bullying. Carrie’s initial breakdown, the event which starts the films plot in motion, is captured on a camera phone and posted online.

While DePalma’s film was quite tonally uneven, seeming to swing between horror and John Hughes-esque high school drama, Peirce’s take on the story is a straight teen horror. Some of the characters are a bit overbearing in their lack of subtlety – see teen queen bee Chris Hargensen who is as two-dimensional an evil villain as you will find in any fairy tale – but Carrie’s lack of subtlety is most apparent in its use of special effects. Peirce is not a director who is well practiced at shooting effects heavy scenes and this film seems to indulge too heavily in them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the film’s key set piece, Carrie’s explosion at the prom. In DePalma’s film, despite its impact it was a surprisingly short scene – only about five minutes. This time around it is stretched out to a substantially longer scene – a good 15-20 minutes – without really achieving anything additional in this extra time.

Chloë Grace Moretz is one of the very best young actresses going around at the moment, and she is quite good in this. However, she is a stunning young woman and dressing her down in daggy clothes, frizzing up her hair and getting her to hunch over doesn’t even half disguise that fact. Despite her incredible talent, she doesn’t have the awkward, other-wordly quality that Sissy Spacek brought to the original film which earned her an Oscar nomination.

Were this the first screen adaptation of Carrie it might not be treated so harshly. It is a perfectly acceptable piece of teen horror. But unfortunately this is not the first adaptation and as such it feels completely unnecessary.

Rating – ★★

Review by Duncan McLean

Review – Scary Movie 5 (2013)

Director: Malcolm D. Lee            

Starring: Ashley Tisdale, Simon Rex, Gracie Whitton, Ava Kolker, Lidia Porto, Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan

Scary Movie 5Let’s cut to the chase. Scary Movie 5 is terrible. After an absence of seven years, the Scary Movie franchise was reignited to continue in its quest for the lowest common denominator, and surely this time it has found rock bottom.

With many of the more iconic horror films already having been exhausted, this instalment of series is built primarily around parodies of Paranormal Activity, Mama and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan – an excellent film deserving of a higher class of parody – with nods to Inception, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Fifty Shades of Grey. Through the work of Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles) and the Zucker Brothers (Flying High, Top Secret and The Naked Gun) we know that when done well, genre parody can be very clever and very funny. However where some of the previously mentioned films were incredibly clever and dense, even when revelling in lowbrow humour, Scary Movie 5 is lazy and unimaginative, not realising that even toilet humour needs to be done well in order to get a laugh.

The key creative players in previous instalments, namely the Wayans brothers and actress Anna Farris have all moved on. Even Carmen Electra didn’t come back to be a part of this film. Seriously, if that is not a sign to move on then I don’t know what is. Taking over as the lead we have High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale. While it is common practice for young Disney starlets to seek out roles which will help them shed their innocent child-star persona and transition into a more mature career, Tisdale has certainly chosen a poor way to go about it. Scary Movie 5’s trump card, which says a lot about what is in store, is an opening cameo from Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Lohan, two actors who didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory in 2012, playing themselves preparing to make a sex tape together.

A comedy without laughs and a horror movie without scares, if Scary Movie 5 has one redeeming feature it is that it is mercifully short. That the brief 82min run-time includes over 15mins of credits and bloopers tells you just of how short on material the filmmakers were. A simply horrendous movie.

Rating – ☆

Review by Duncan McLean

Review – Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare

Hansel & Gretel - Witch HuntersIf there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. That’s right, the little boy and girl who got lost in the woods and found themselves in a witches cottage made of candy are all grown up, and armed with an arsenal of medieval machine guns and crossbows they travel the countryside ridding towns of their witches.

The Brothers Grimm’ tale is the latest in a growing number of traditional fairy tales to get Hollywood revisions in recent years. In 2011 we had Red Riding Hood, last year we had a double dose of Snow White with Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, and Jack the Giant Slayer is due to hit our screens in March. In actuality Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters was shot two years ago and Paramount have been waiting for the right moment to let it out. This provides some answers for those people wondering what on earth Jeremy Renner was doing in this after appearing in genuine blockbusters like The Avengers, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Bourne Legacy.

The first time I saw a poster for this movie I shook my head. When I saw the trailer it just made me a bit sad. Surely this had to be one of the most ridiculous premises for a movie yet, I thought. But then I saw it and guess what, it is ridiculous… but it isn’t terrible.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, it is far from being good, but it isn’t terrible. Where it drops the ball is that it doesn’t seem to realise that it is ridiculous. Ridiculousness in itself is not a bad thing. Had the filmmakers embraced the ridiculousness of the notion that Hansel and Gretel might grow up to be arse-kicking supernatural bounty hunters they could have played it up a bit, earned a bit of camp appeal and maybe even gathered a cult following. Instead the movie seems to take itself a bit too seriously, surprising given that Will Ferrel and Adam McKay of Anchorman fame are among its producers.

While most of the movie is pretty inane, there are moments of cleverness. For example, not only did their childhood experience set them on the path to their present day profession, it has also left Hansel a diabetic, suffering from “the sugar sickness” and requiring regular insulin injections.

In a movie that is so predictable that you feel like you know what is around every corner, the one thing that is surprising about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is how schlocky it is. While the premise seems to suggest a very light gothic horror, the movie has a lot of blood, a surprising amount of coarse language and even a little bit of nudity. As a result it has been given an MA15+ rating (R in the USA) which will surely only serve to restrict the access of the primary demographic who might have been persuaded to think Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters sounded like a good idea.

Rating – ★★

Review by Duncan McLean