Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hextuple Bill Mini Musings: November 2010...

Witchfinder General:
I've never seen many, if any before now, British horror movies from the era of Hammer, but I found this - which was at the time a bit of a 'last hurrah' for Brit-horror at the time - to be really quite interesting. The actions of these deluded witch finders writ large across the screen really does pack a punch - you often read about such things as a kid in history class, but to see them painted vividly before Vincent Price's scowl is another thing entirely.

Most interesting of all was the print itself - as shown on BBC4 during the run of Mark Gatiss' History of Horror - which showed in no uncertain detail, exactly which moments of the film's violence had previously been cut out. It's a period of history that's not commonly covered in horror, if at all really, so even coming to it decades after-the-fact, it manages to hold on to the impact it no doubt had upon its original release.

Jennifer's Body:
Following hot on the heels of the just-this-side-of-smug Juno, comes what almost becomes a vehicle for Megan Fox to cock tease the sweaty-palmed teenage male section of the audience. Most of the famed 'Diablo-gue' already feels passe, but certain lines still hold on to the individualism that Juno displayed ("you give me such a wettie", for instance).

The tone of the movie however, is unsure, illustrated best by the fire that acts as the catalyst for the rest of the script. I was left feeling dumbfounded by how off that whole portion felt, and the flick never really gains a strong sense of footage, let alone itself. Perhaps the main problem is two-fold - firstly it's essentially Juno for the horror genre, and secondly because of the insane amount of focus on Megan Fox that surrounded the movie.

In short - it's disappointing. It has some good moments, but the whole feels misguided.

Miss March:
I entered this movie expecting the usual level of direct-to-DVD smut-comedy - thinking it'd be like one of those quite naff "American Pie Presents" flicks - but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot is simplistic, but it's the foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed, wide-eyed half of the central duo that makes for a pleasantly vulgar surprise throughout. Trevor Moore (who also co-wrote the screenplay) really stands out, grabbing his dialogue and performance with both hands, to give a comedic turn that's way above the expected station for this kind of fare. Without his character, his performance, and a handful of appropriately daft running gags (the whole "horsedick.mpeg" moniker, for one) it would be like all the other direct-to-DVD sex comedies, but his gusto lifts it head-and-shoulders above its peers.

Brides of Dracula:
Included in the same week of programming as Witchfinder General, I was quite surprised BBC4 didn't show 1958's Dracula. Instead they showed this, which to be honest wasn't all that great. There's barely any horror, the first half is pretty damn dull, and it never pops when Peter Cushing isn't on-screen ... so aside from some charming production design, I wasn't too interested in this one.

Let The Right One In:
Much was made of this Swedish vampire horror, which isn't really about vampires or horror, when it first came out, but I just never got around to it. Fast forward to May 2010 when it showed on FX and I stuck it onto the Sky+ box ... then fast forward six months to when I finally got around to watching it.

I can see exactly why this got so much praise. As Mark Kermode said, it's a film about childhood that just so happens to feature vampires - and that's exactly why this stands out. More than that though, the Swedish sensibility elevates this further in my opinion - when so many horror flicks are British or American, the perspective of an entirely different nationality comes as a welcome change of pace.

Subtitles wise though, I have a mixed view of them. Sometimes it's entirely appropriate for the film - such as the superior Downfall - but other times, particularly on visually electric flicks like Versus, I feel a dub is better (as long as it's done well, of course). It all depends on the type of film, and I do sometimes struggle to keep up with screeds of dialogue represented in English subtitles, something that's more annoying because I want to experience the visuals (for example a swift paced action flick like District 13). However Let The Right One In has really quite a sparse script in terms of dialogue, and this lends itself to the subtlety of it all. Little needs to be said when so much information is delivered visually with the smooth, almost painterly, direction and cinematography.

The moments of horror come quickly and leave just as swiftly, but their imagination, presentation and execution makes them memorable and entirely worthy of one or two rewinds to get another look-see. It'll be interesting to see what the American's English language remake does, but if Mark Kermode's assessment that it has been turned into a 'vampire movie that just so happens to include children', then it certainly won't beat the original ... but that's so often the case with remakes, be they inspired by age or a foreign language.

Sat on the Sky+ box for a couple of months, all I knew of it was that it was a viral infection flick where the virus is spread via the English language, and that we focus on a small town disc jockey (played superbly by character actor Stephen McHattie). The fact that 99% of the movie takes place within the confines of the radio station is impressive, even more so in that you never want to leave it. The first act gets us gradually into the swing of things with performances, dialogue, editing, direction and sound design that convincingly present us with a truthful depiction of a small town radio station.

The pace is pitch perfect, and the performances (particularly that of McHattie) emphasise the almost-entirely-off-screen action and horror so well that the movie is genuinely creepy. As things take a turn for the worse and it becomes clear that there is an infection spreading through this small Canadian town, which we learn about on-the-hoof, you really do get a sense of this is how things would really play out in an equivalent real-life scenario.

The last ten minutes go a little bit off-the-boil, but other than that this is a properly creepy horror flick with a great script that successfully keeps the all-too-real-feeling horror off screen. Highly recommended.

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