Sunday 22 February 2009

Friday the 13th (2009)...and another rant about remakes...

The sheer volume of remakes is genuinely worrying for a movie fan - especially a fan of the horror genre - it seems that every time you have a glance at Bloody Disgusting online, you'll find a handful of new remakes announced. The biggest problem is, aside from the it being devoid of proper creativity, is that the majority of these remakes are of high-profile flicks, which have gained 20 or 30 (or more) years of cultural significance and following. They were also products of their time, and many viewers discovered them in either a simpler time for filmmaking, or long after the movies had already gotten out there.

Case in point - Last House on the Left - original vs remake. The remake is still yet to come out, but it will absolutely not gain the profile of the original movie - it won't/hasn't had the same production, it doesn't have the back story, it won't have the look, nor the feel, and it won't have the release history - nor the cultural significance and long-standing fan support.

Remakes, especially of genre classics, can never gain the notoriety and cultural standing that the originals have - they won't have the back story of how they came to be, they won't have the same textures as the classics, and in the era of the internet and double disc feature-packed DVDs, there's not a lot of mystique floating around.

How did I first see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? On a fudgy third generation copy on VHS, handed on from a friend during my teenage years ... now I have it on special edition re-mastered DVD ... and it's just not the same. It's still great, but it's not got the mystique anymore. So for horror fans, DVD has been both beneficial and a hindrance. You gain background knowledge and memory-lane-fuelled documentaries and commentaries, but you lose all the mystique and grit that came with a handed-off dubbed/well worn VHS.

Friday the 13th is another genre classic that's been given the remake treatment - and while there are arguments for and against the notion that "these remakes will make people watch the originals again", it's all a bit suspect - it's not about that for the companies behind these remakes - they want the cash, and can't be arsed to invest any sliver cash into some risk for coming up with a new idea (unlike television, where creativity has risen sharply in recent years, even in the wake of an explosion is soul-sapping 'reality' TV).

Also - there's plenty of new fans being recruited into the ranks of the existing fans for the original movies. I was born in 1984, and many of my genre favourites came out before I was even born, or at least when I was not more than a toddler. Yet I have discovered all these original movies off my own back via movie magazines, TV documentaries and word-of-mouth, and loved them immediately - and have in turn, splashed out cash on videos, DVDs, books and so on related to them.

As for the sorts of people who would watch the originals and merely scoff at them, well they're the sort of numptified morons who are best suited to watching whatever bullshit 'reality' TV that MTV is peddling these days like the most jaded of smut peddlers ... the sort of people that find Epic Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and all those utterly atrocious pieces of shit to be worthy of spending time and money on. The sort of people who should be kept from breeding essentially. In other words, pay attention to the fans, not the numpties. The numpties should follow the success of the fans, not the everyday (and hardcore) fans suffering the tide of garbage paid for by morons.

It's putting so much credence in the words and actions of the dribbling minority who'd hand out fistfuls of cash to the promise of magic beans, that has left our current movie culture battered and bruised - the sort of culture where you have to struggle harder and shout far louder to be able to produce something of quality - somewhat ironic considering the explosion of the oft-name checked 'YouTube Generation'.

And you know what - when that quality comes along, it frequently does well - or even stupendously well. The Dark Knight for instance; that flick has brains, but it also pushes the blockbuster buttons for the masses. It appeals to a variety of levels - and raked in a preposterous amount of cash.

And as it's the 'season of the Oscars' at the moment, again - look at those flicks - are they remakes? They're almost never remakes. Instead they're original stories (or original adaptations) with almost always something of substance to say. They capture people's imaginations and get them excited.

When was the last time you saw some shit like Epic Movie at the Oscars? How pieces of shit like that, so frequently derided, can still be made so often is beyond me - except that it's definitely due to morons.

The same morons that demand remake after remake after remake...the same morons who don't "get" that these flicks can never be better than the originals, even if they prove financially beneficial. Instead you could take a shit movie, and remake that - and still make plenty of cash to pay for your money-lined producer pants. For instance, in the horror genre, Drive-In Massacre - it's absolute garbage, but there are seeds for a GOOD remake that would be BETTER than the original, while at the same time pushing various box office buttons.

What I'm saying is, surely remaking all these genre classics - and never making anything better than before - is simply futile. Instead, shit genre movies should be getting remade ... and I'm rather bloody sick of hearing "Batman Begins" being used as an excuse by yet another creatively-dim executive producer of music video director to justify yet another remake/sequel/follow-up/so-called-reboot that they're aborting into the world.

Have you seen the snippets of the Last House on the Left remake? 'They' just simply DON'T get it, do they? They just don't get it.


Now, after that rather long-winded pre-amble, it's probably about time I talked about the Friday 13th remake - which is, you've guessed it, about sex & drug crazed youths getting hacked and/or slashed in the woods by everybody's favourite hockey-mask endorsing nutjob, Jason Vorhees.

For a change though, I figured I'd break this flick down into good points, and bad points - so up first...


Some of the music used - "Sister Christian" makes it feel too much like a movie with a decent budget, rather than a low budget slash-fest like the original - the rap music used in connection to the black guy (after a rather ham-fisted calling up of his skin colour, before returning to pretty stereotypical territory) - Steve Jablonsky's score, while effective for the most part, just sounds like Steve Jablonsky's other scores, particularly those for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake and its follow up - not enough "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" for my liking either ... I do miss Harry Manfredini's scores from the original franchise, especially in the first four movies.

It feels like too much like a movie, and one with a large production and comparatively high budget to the source material. The slasher genre classics all felt somewhat discovered, they had an air of mystery about them, and they felt like they'd been crafted by a small band of dedicated filmmakers (even if many of them were all cashing-in on a popular, and lucrative, trend).

While not known for their character development (or any development, in some of the slashers further down the food chain), the protagonists here feel too under-developed. Yes we want to see attractive young rapscallions who like sex and drugs getting hacked to bits, but particularly the first batch of teens feel far too superfluous to really bother with them at all ... almost.

As is commonly used in this day and age (and a rather lazy technique), there's far too much focus on LOUD NOISES, than genuine creepiness. John Carpenter's The Thing still creeps me out to this day, even after seeing it many times ... just thinking about it wigs me out ... it's about the ideas that back up the gore and the jumps that really makes a horror movie scary. Leap out and yell "boo!" and you're gonna get a scare, but it's cheap, and it wears thin very fast...and nor is it creative.

A key complaint about Friday 13th 2009 is this - it feels far too much like the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the same director, DP, composer and producers. The shadow of TCM2003 looms large over the entire movie, making it feel like a watered down imitation of an imitation.

In general - are all these remakes actually necessary?! It's clearly just a case of "because we can" rather than "because we should" - again relating to the lack of creativity, fresh blood and risk-taking within the film industry at the moment - take note from television right now, take some fucking risks, and come up with some fresh ideas!

Surprisingly (considering the source material), more gore would have been nice - if you're going to have lurid use of sex and drugs, particularly sex, why not go all-out on the violence? The Friday 13th franchise was well known (and loved) for fantastic gore, and inventive - often improvisational - kills by Jason (and his mother, in the first flick). Here there is a distinct lack of improvisational hardcore mayhem from Jason.

The opening 1980-set Friday 13th Part 1 redux is insanely rushed, and the scripting is pretty poor here - especially the dialogue - which is far too blunt in delivering the background information related to Jason's mother (the killer in the first Friday 13th movie). Despite being over-used in only TCM-2003 and Amityville-2005, the faux-newsreel angle would have worked better I think.

Jason keeping a girl alive and chained up doesn't make much sense, nor is it explained - it's probably because she's wearing his mother's necklace though...but still, it's under-written.

The old lady who grumbles her way through telling 'dude who is looking for his sister' that she's dead, because of 'him out there', and 'everybody in the community just ignoring it all' - again, this feels far too TCM2003, and doesn't fit the vibe of the Friday 13th franchise, which never had a "you ain't from 'round 'ere" vibe - it just had the crazy guy on the bike (for two movies anyway).

I'd have liked to have seen a bit more of Camp Crystal Lake, enough to get my bearings anyway.


Right, enough of the downsides (some of which are 'more down' than others), so how about some upsides?



It's hard to fuck up Jason - which is why Friday 13th 7 and 8, Jason Goes To Hell, and Jason X are worth a slasher-fan's time - fortunately the Platinum Dunes remake factory doesn't balls-up one of horror cinema's most loved icons (and indeed my own personal favourite movie serial killer). They even use shots of him running quite sparingly (thankfully) - so there's a nice balance between slow, creepy, silent stalking, and terror-train-on-your-heels charging. To be honest, there were times in the original franchise that Jason's slow pace felt highly unlikely to yield a kill ... ... but running zombies are still fucking stupid. This all said, a slightly longer look at his face would have been nice for the fans - remember Part 7's fantastic mask-off make-up? Exactly, it was awesome - we needed a bit more of that vibe (minus the 'zombie Jason' element of course).

The Asian dude - whose race is thankfully almost entirely ignored as a matter of any importance (unlike with the black guy, in certain ham-fisted dialogue scenes) - is a properly entertaining character, and reminded me of a number of the colourful (no pun intended) protagonists from the original movies.

The dude who is looking for his sister is also a likeable character, and fills out the alpha male hero role well.

Some other characters are serviceable in the entertainment department at least. For example - the dude whose father owns the featured party house is at times a total prick, but at other times quite funny, and occasionally rather well written (in terms of dialogue). Although why his girlfriend doesn't care at all that he cheats on her is beyond me.

There is some top-totty on show (even if some of the bewbage on offer is evidently rather fake), which was always one of the key checklist items from the original franchise.

It pushes simple, cheap-thrill buttons throughout (it's a tight-rope act of course, hence some of my bitchings about other cheap thrills that didn't/don't work). Over-the-piece I was entertained for the evening, with the company of friends, in a dark cinema staring at the silver it is worth the price of admission, and good for a night out.

It kicks the arse of the chunk-blowing festival that was called Freddy VS Jason, which was just dreadful (it's only saving grace was enjoying the sight of Jason lumbering about, and Monica Keena running arout in tight-fitting clothes).

I'd say it's better than Jason X, it's better than Jason Goes To Hell, and it's better than most of Part 8, and quite a bit of Part 7.

It is surprisingly enjoyable, as a Friday 13th franchise fan, to play a game of spotting all the elements which were cherry-picked from the first four movies (some have said first three, but it's definitely the first four - for the most part).


Some examples of that last point, off the top of my head, are as follows:

* The 1980-set portion - obviously that's servicing part one.
* Jason's 'final scare' at the waterside pier/quay after they ditch his body in the lake, which references part one, but also is reminiscent of part six and seven.
* Jason's mother's head - part two.
* Using basic psychology against Jason to stop him in his tracks - part two.
* Sack-head Jason, before he got his famous hockey mask - part two.
* The red barn - part three.
* Gaining his hockey mask - part three.
* Being strung up by the neck in the barn - part three.
* Bunch of kids go to a house in the woods to party, and get slaughtered by a quite crafty Jason - part four primarily I'd say, but indeed also part three and seven.
* Dude looking for his sister - part four.
* Killed in a sleeping bag - part seven, as well as Jason Goes To Hell (if memory serves) and Jason X.
* Crazy old person essentially saying "doomed" - part one and two.


Do I think we need a follow-up? Probably not. Do I think they'll make one? Probably yes.

Now, while TCM2003 was surprisingly quite strong (but nowhere near the same league as TCM1974), TCM: The Beginning was almost entirely unnecessary and didn't even live up to the moderate level of TCM2003. It was 'more of the same, but not done as well' ... ... so this does make me think, because Friday 13th 2009 wasn't on par with TCM2003, would a F13-2009 follow-up be a step up, rather than a step down (like TCM:TB was)?


Obviously, the original Friday 13th pwns the remake...but like I said much earlier, these remakes of genre classics never live up to, let alone beat, the originals.

And the big example of John Carpenters The Thing doesn't quite work as a come-back, because that wasn't a remake of the black and white movie, it was an adaptation of the original source material (the book), much like Batman Begins isn't a remake of Batman 1989 ... but then, The Thing isn't like Batman Begins ... and I'm still sick of people like McG (Terminator 4) using Batman Begins as a one-size-fits-all excuse for exploiting a beloved fan-favourite franchise.


Okay, rant over...and there was chat about Friday 13th 2009 in amongst it all, I swear!

Saturday 21 February 2009

Close Encounters of the Third Kind...

It's one of those films that's just passed me by for years now - never got around to it myself, and it was never shown during my three years of university (Duel, Jaws and ET were all shown) ... so it was when I was skipping around the movie channels recently that I stumbled across the film part-way-through, and liked what I saw.

I knew I'd dig it anyway - it's got not only "that 70's vibe", but it's also got that fresh new blood feel of a filmmaker's early works. Away I scurried and picked up the 30th anniversary ultimate DVD with all three versions, and I finally sat down and watched Close Encounters (after having hummed that five-note tune, and done the hand signals for years since I was a kid being told about it by my Dad).

It's still impressive three decades later - the special effects specifically - which were incredibly hard to pull off with those techniques and with those limitations. But something fantastic was created that holds up to this day, with essentially a simple premise of just using light to it's full, creative effect.

One thing that always bothered me about it though, and still does now that I've finally seen it, is Roy Neary just upping sticks and ditching his family - even if it means he gets to fly around space and see things everyone else could only dream of seeing. That never sat right with me, and it's interesting that Spielberg thinks along similar lines - as he describes, it's the film which dates him (as a person) most of all. It's where he was at long before he became the family man he is today (seven kids, or thereabouts) and as a result it would be a different film if he made it today.

Regardless, it's simply just one of those films which inspires awe - it's a spectacle movie, and a true-hearted one at that - you can almost feel as if you're experiencing the film in the 1970s. You can feel that sense of event, of wonder and slack-jawed interest (much like the men and women who witness the actual third encounter in the final act).

A must-see for any Spielberg fan, or anyone fascinated by alien life (or the prospect of).

Thursday 19 February 2009

DeadShed 2009 Show-Reel now online!

Click the link below to see it:

I actually had this completed about a month ago, but it ended up being a bit of a fuss getting it uploaded onto YouTube - it was a case of video quality, as well as getting it properly into the 16x9 (although mine is actually in 1.85:1 - hence the tiny slivers of black above and below the video image) - it's not a case of me not knowing how, Sony Vegas makes it simple - it was just getting the ideal file type, quality and size to go along with the true widescreen setting.

I had a couple (or three, I think) failed uploads - well, failed in my eyes anyway, because the quality just looked awful - either too low and therefore blocky, or the black was all washed out and looking grey, or the widescreen setting wasn't translating.

Those were mostly all on smaller files - so I ended up rendering it out as a widescreen MPEG-2, which also got rid of two glitches I was experiencing with the lower quality versions, on top of the other aforementioned problems.

So indeed, an MPEG-2 at almost 170mb in size - so for the first time, you can actually watch one of my videos, not only in true widescreen so it fills the YouTube window, but also "High Quality" ... mind you, for the sake of trimming the size by 20 or 30 megabytes, I lowered the resolution to 640x480 instead of the usual 720x576 or whatever - these sizes, in Vegas, getting trimmed vertically - like a butcher might slice off a bit of fat, Vegas just slices off the black bars and only puts out the actual moving picture part.

I know, a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, but thought I'd explain - so anyway, enjoy the updated show-reel, which now features a bunch of new footage from some recent projects ... in fact, this show-reel covers stuff that I've done from 2003 through 2008, so there's five years worth of stuff all crammed into four and a half minutes ... have some of that then. Enjoy.

Blindness (the film)...

Quite possibly the most depressing and harrowing movie I've seen since Requiem For A Dream.

Both have their own visual flairs - the former at times takes on the persona of an 'end of the pier' theme park, while the latter seeks to 'white out' the frame to bewilder the viewer into getting a taste of what it's like for the protagonists, all of whom are going blind.

Kind of like Children of Men - but instead of not being able to have kids anymore, it's not being able to see ... in fact it's almost like a zombie movie, minus the living dead.

Although I'm still struggling to understand why and how on earth the government - as well as the populace - could be so stone-hearted and uncaring to simply bung a bunch of blind people, as if they were lepers, into a completely unadapted and decrepit old sanatorium to basically fend for themselves aside from occasionally getting chucked boxes of food.

It seems too far to suggest that not a single group (such as a charity, or human rights defenders) would bother about the atrocity of essentially throwing victims of a disease onto a squalid trash heap. Not a single person - in hazmat gear of course - even tries to help adapt the building to the victim's disability or anything.

It's actually quite distracting - but then you've soon got people pissing and shitting in the corridors and stepping in it, so you're too busy trying to not grimace yourself into a stupor. Throw in a fury-inducing assumption of power (essentially what you've got in places like Burma, but with a self-proclaimed "King" instead of a military junta) - which dissolves into an absolutely horrifying demand for food to be paid for with "your women".

At this point the film is at its most harrowing and downright depressing, heck - even anger-inducing. It's unfathomable.

This is all merely surface-talk however, the film really has to be seen to be believed ... for lack of a better term. At times it's endlessly sickening as the tale of 'small band of good people versus unbelievable amount of selfish, greedy, uncaring scumbags' gets into full swing. It really is quite shocking.

Towards the end you'll no doubt guess, without even trying, what the ending will be - but bloody nora is it some tough going to get there. Similar to Requiem For A Dream, Blindness is the kind of movie you'll not soon forget - but not soon re-watch either. Why would you need to with such vivid and haunting imagery imprinted on your mind, and with such strong themes swirling around your brain.

Aside from the obvious plot hole you could drive ten trucks through - i.e. why did not a single bugger even attempt to help these inflicted people? - it is a good film, and perhaps even a little bit important. Harrowing, however, would be the one word I'd choose to describe it.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

An update on what's going on with me...

I figured I'd pimp some info in an updatey fashion ... so what's been going on of late?

Well, there's been a lot of script-related goings on - I was re-drafting a short I wrote called Leak, which I intended to submit to a production company that was looking for short scripts, but they provided piss-all information about what they were after (or any boundaries in which you had to work), so I emailed to ask - and I've had fuck all chat back. So that's back in the drawer then...

Also, I've been brainstorming slowly for a horror script that I've talked about a bit in the recent past, it's called From The Inside Out, and I'm just getting my head around it at the moment - then I'll get into writing it.

I'm also helping out at the moment on a script by someone local who is looking to make a short film out of it - it's a black comedy, and should make a nice short film methinks - so that's a project that will develop in the next few months, and of course, more info on that as-and-when.

Then there's a new educational DVD afoot - this time about the environment - in addition to some script consultation-ing at the moment, I've been knee deep in digging out public domain footage to use - similar to how we used such footage with the Sexual Ethics DVD. This project will continue to grow over the next few months, but right now we're just at the relative beginning of it all - so again, more info as-and-when.

Speaking of Sexual Ethics - the official name is Sex & Ethics, and if you gander over to your right, you'll find a link to Ethics Online - that's the official website for the DVD, and it features four video clips - and information (if you're someone in the education field) on how to purchase a copy.

Otherwise it's business as usual so-to-speak ... it's all about looking to make each year bigger, better and more successful than the year before it.

So fingers crossed for 2009.

Sex Drive...

I figured this would be good for a laugh with my mates when I saw the trailer, but wasn't expecting much from it - and while it's not got that little extra something which the likes of American Pie exhibited - Sex Drive is actually pretty good, and it certainly entertains, achieving what it sets out to do.

This is the sort of movie where our geeky-ish lead gets into all manner of embarrassing situations involving jizzy pants, flung johnnies, and big black dildos secretly attached to his giant donut work costume ... Citizen Kane it most definitely isn't - it's mainly gross-out, low-brow yuck-yucks, and it does that well.

Not the best in show, so-to-speak, but far more convincing than other movies in its territory.

Were "teh lulz" had? Yes. It's not the dawn of a new era, and it's not a pile of garbage either - plenty of juicy low-brow moments throughout makes it ideal fodder for a bunch of mates in search of a good old chuckle to distract them from the pressures of modern life.

Friday 6 February 2009


Nixon ... that was a pretty good 'Oliver Stone president movie' - and you know what, it came years-upon-years after the dude himself had left office (or rather been booted out of office).

World Trade Center - Stone's previous effort - it was alright, a bit overly sappy or even ham-fisted at moments ... subtlety wasn't a strong suit for Stone's WTC movie (although the pre-amble to the 'guys under rubble' story was spine-chilling - but anything remotely 9/11 is spine-chilling).

WTC was, ultimately, made too soon - it's still too fresh in people's minds to be dramatised, and nor is it required at this present time. There's an endless myriad of documentaries detailing practically every single facet of the day itself ... although, indeed, there was United 93 - but that was about an aspect of the day which is overshadowed by the main, and most analyised, event of the twin towers being attacked.

United 93 was meticulously put together and researched, and had deft pacing, direction and writing - it felt like it captured the mood of the day itself - and despite being a dramatisation, it felt true and honest - Stone's WTC felt undercooked, and as I've said it was too soon. Back to United 93 for a moment - bloody nora that was an incredible piece of filmmaking, it really was - I was shaken by the end of it, and absolutely gripped right up to the end credits.

Back to Stone and his premature movie making of late - W (Dubya) ... which, ironically, I'm rather late in blogging my thoughts about, but nevertheless, here we are.

W - yep, it came too soon - far too soon of course, as the titular president was still in office when the flick came out. You've gotta leave at least five years, and preferably a whole decade, before you go marching into dramatising such figures - not before they've finished doing their job, for crying out loud!

An equally bitter pill to swallow is that apparently the filmmakers didn't interview any of the key players, or really looked that far into what was really said or really happened - it all feels incredibly hypothetical and extrapolated. Constantly throughout the film I was wondering "can I believe these words were actually said, that this dynamic existed between these two people, that events really played out like this behind the closed doors of 1600".

Another bitter pill comes in the form of the wildly undecided nature of the film itself - is it pro-Bush (highly unlikely), is it anti-Bush (more likely), is it an unbiased examination of the man from a purely neutral position (occasionally it seems that way, but you quickly find yourself thinking otherwise).

What sort of film is it supposed to be? Clearly it's supposed to be a biopic - but it's a rather poor one. We rush around Bush's life in two hours, flicking back and forth between post-9/11 Iraq/Iran chit-chat and various stages in Bush's life...which often feel hypothetical, or at the very least brought to life by dialogue that seems to be completely, one-hundred-percent made-up...superficial would be a way to describe it.

We get hamfist shoe-horning of trailer-friendly 'Bushisms' (the trailer is clearly anti-Bush and paints the man as a fool) - meanwhile the movie is nothing like the trailer, it hasn't got the decisive (mocking) vision the trailer suggested (although an anti-Bush biopic would have been utterly irresponsible). We get talk about Bush being "the decision maker" practically every ten minutes, but the theme is often left swinging in the wind as we shoot off to another topic elsewhere...again, superficial.

It's odd, at times (especially towards the final reels) it feels like the film is quite sympathetic to Bush - and indeed seems to blame the likes of Cheyney most of all, for failing Bush - his team letting him down (an idea echoed somewhat in strange scenes with Bush on a baseball field). Indeed, much like in Nixon, we get to see the big man himself as a privately troubled figure - a far more interesting avenue for exploration, which is unfortunately shoved into the last moments rather than being a driving focus of the entire film (which needed to be longer to do any justice to telling the story of a man who's become enemy number one for countless people).

My thoughts on Bush? I neither worship him, nor despise him - he's done good and bad ... now, Gordon Brown on the other hand, I think he's a complete bastard who's done nothing but destroy Britain along with his violently incompetent government (portrayed by Mr Fantastic momentarily filling the shoes of Tony Blair in a pretty-boy, but completely neglected and pointless role ... perhaps that echoes reality for some, however).

There is good in the film though - Brolin's performance is captivating and should be commended, especially after jumping on board so late in the day (I couldn't believe it when I read that Christian Bale was intended to play Bush originally) - Brolin feels like Bush. The evolving walk and talk, the mannerisms, the attitude and the personality...occasionally we feel the misguided hand of Stone blundering in now and then, but for the vast majority Brolin does a bang-up job of inhabiting the big man himself.

Other performances vary wildly - often descending into either nothing special, or sheer cartoon wack-ness (Newton's version of Rice, for instance).

So ultimately, it's wildly uncontrolled and feels like it has no idea what its purpose is supposed to be - and yes, again, it is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too soon in arriving.

As such, hopefully we'll have a fully unbiased analysis of Bush in a decade - because let us not forget, where is the Clinton biopic?

I just hope we don't have an Obamarama movie before his first term is done, let alone before his presidency is complete, that'd just take the piss - WAIT until the time is right, for crying out loud!

W is worth a look (if only at least for Brolin's terrific performance), but definitely a case of "could do better" (even "a lot better").

Monday 2 February 2009

Quarantine...and a rant about sub-titles...

Yep, I'm late in pimping up my thoughts about this flick, but better late than never, eh?

- that was a pretty good flick wasn't it?

The big 'problem' for American studios though - it's in Spanish - so obviously, they've gotta come along and re-shoot the whole thing in America, with Americans, for Americans. It's a bit of a bitter pill to swallow ... that sort of attitude from studios and distributors.

Admittedly I'm not a big fan in general of sub-titling ... there's a time and a place for it - like prestige pictures where the dialogue isn't fast-paced, nor constant ... but as I'm there to watch the flick, I want to watch it, not read it by concentrating on the bottom 20% of the screen every few seconds. Sub-titling doesn't work - for me anyway - in horror films, or anything with fast-paced action or cutting.

I recently re-watched the Japanese zombie indie movie Stacy, and that's only got the original Japanese language with sub-titles, and at times the text comes a little too fast, and of course, distracts you from the images themselves. The solution - when appropriate of course - is what?

Dubbing, is what - it works well in the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. You don't give a shit that the lips don't sync-up half the time, because you're so invested in watching what's going on inside the frame - enjoying the craft on show and how the filmmakers have seen fit to cover the action.

The Japanese movie Versus is a good example of excellent dubbing - it's pretty hectic and fast-cutting for two solid hours - and in the end, the protagonist's voice is far more fitting in the dubbed version, than in the original language version. The original actor's voice is somewhat soft and quiet, whereas in the dubbed version, the guy behind the microphone puts on a suitably gruff "hero" voice. It works.

'But what about the original performance' - blah-blah-blah ... that's why I said it's a case of the right time and the right place. A prestige picture, or a character piece - for example - are all about the acting ... a flick like Stacy has fuck all to do with acting chops. It's about Asian teenage girls turning into zombies and heads getting split open with rainbow-coloured-chainsaws - it's all about what's on the screen - therefore, don't distract me with subtitles and just give me a dubbed dialogue track so my ears can share the workload.

You don't watch Stacy for the script (which essentially turns to a load of old bollocks by the end of it, ham-fistedly yammering on about "love" and so on), you watch Stacy for the zombie teenage girls chowing down on brains.

A time and a place for sub-titles.

Similarly, I think [Rec.] should have been made available with an English dubbed audio track, so you can at least choose to listen to it - and therefore focus entirely on watching the screen, rather than doing that and trying to read the fast-running dialogue printed roughly on the bottom.

Ugh - roughly printed sub-titles, how I hate them - Kill Bill Vol.1 for example ... in the cinema the sub-titles come up when necessary for the English-speaking audience and are properly placed 'within' the film, in a nice font and don't distract too much.

Along comes the DVD however, and the sub-titles have been replaced by a sub-title track that is either on or off - no in-between. I can hear, as can the majority of people, but I can't speak Japanese - also like the majority of people - so why the fuck do I have to manually switch on the sub-titles, distracting me from the movie, so I can understand what's being said in certain scenes - only for me to have to manually turn them off again when it's back to purely English jibber-jabber?

But that's me digressing seriously off topic, indeed off the topic that has already taken me waaaaaay off the original topic.

Anyway - Quarantine - the all-American remake of the excellent Spanish-horror [Rec.] ... the original film had me gripped, and sufficiently wigged me out at certain moments - that moment in the attic being the big-one, that even to this day I refuse to look directly at - the only problem with [Rec.] was that stupid fucking moment when the cameraman rewinds the tape to re-view something, and we see it - on the one 'uncut' tape 'found' in the camera - that really bugged the crap out of me - that DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Actually, the camera did wiggle around far too much in certain scenes - and the incessantly hyper-active use of the zoom function on the camera pissed me off to no end during action/horror scenes - if I was a cameraman, sure the picture would be shaking around - because I'd be shitting my ass in fear - but I wouldn't find the time, nor inclination, to operate the zoom function!

Yet, despite those annoyances, the movie rocked.

Quarantine, is essentially the exact same movie - but with Jay "the dude from Hostel" Hernandez and Jennifer "the chick from Dexter" Carpenter - who actually both do a bang up job, it has to be said. So fair play to the both of them - especially "the chick from Dexter", who pulls off one of the most convincing portrayals of manic hysteria and fear-of-the-dark that I've seen on screen in a long, long time ... if not ever.

Dare I say it ... she at least equals, if not out-acts the original actress from the original movie. I've gotta be honest, I liked Carpenter in the role better.

This said, you still find yourself thinking "dude from Hostel/chick from Dexter" at times, so in turn the actors have to work twice as hard to convince you - which Carpenter succeeds in doing in spades by the end of the flick. The sheer horror she experiences, inflicted by a malfunctioning camera-light in the final scene, is nothing short of it's a double-edge sword you could say.

Indeed, the rest of the film is mostly occupied by "oh it's that dude/chick from...24/Two And A Half Men/a bunch of stuff I've seen" - so again - everybody has to work doubly hard to make the whole thing click ... ... and colour me shocked to say, it actually works (for the majority of the time anyway).

Gore wise - just as impressive, if not more-so than the original - that said, there is more gore than the original - so it's not quite a level playing field admittedly - but bugger me, that broken leg gag wigged me out. But I do have to say - what is in the attic, was scarier in [Rec.] than in Quarantine. Perhaps it's partly down to having seen the Spanish version first, and perhaps it's also down to the Spanish version just being freaky-ass beyond recognition. It shat-me-up something awful.

There's another double-edged sword between the Spanish version and the American remake - the bio-hazard quarantine aspect. In the Spanish version, we're seeing people who we've never seen before playing the characters - so they are those people - and we're unfamiliar with Spanish society in general (anything from how they'd quarantine a zone, to their emergency service vehicles - it's all a bit different to what we're used to) it's both a help and a hindrance to sucking you into the plot.

Likewise - but somewhat the opposite - in Quarantine we see vehicles, uniforms, suits and procedures we're far more used to, thanks to a seemingly endless slew of bio-hazard-fuelled fiction (such as 24) - not-to-mention that it's also in our native language. We're familiar with it, so the representation on screen is perhaps more convincing - although in the all-American version they again work doubly hard to overcome the familiarity of the actors, by making the quarantine aspect far more visceral (heck, it's the name of the movie itself ... and yes, somewhat less cumbersome than typing "[Rec.]" all the damn time).

Unfortunately for those watching Quarantine, who've already seen [Rec.], there's not a whole lot of new shit going down. I've only seen the Spanish version once thus far, and a while ago, so my memory of it is a bit fuzzy and I'm unable to make a direct scene-by-scene comparison, but there are some new elements to the all-American version in how they cover an idea from the original.

But equally (or probably mostly), it's what you've seen before in practically the same way.

It's somewhat troubling to sum up how I feel about Quarantine ... my problem with all-Americanising anything remotely foreign just perpetuates the spread of those numpties you find on a Vegas street who think "Europe" is a country, as well as the fact that it's mostly what has already been seen before, and that nobody follows through with the briefly-uttered-but-quickly-shot-down idea of everyone locking themselves in their own, separate apartments to try and survive the ordeal.

Actually, that last one really did have me yapping at my screen - rest assured, if I was ever unfortunate enough to find myself in such a situation, I'd be pimping that mode of thinking like a mallfucker and make sure it was followed through on.

This does bring me round to dealing with the virus in the movie itself - and tying it to the convincing portrayal of it being dealt with by the all-American authorities - it's terrifying to see the ruthlessness on display as the authorities desperately try to keep this ghastly outbreak locked down. It's one part harrowing, one part completely understandable. You object to the blunt way the authorities practically blank out the innocent residents of the building, but you can also understand the communications lock down - even if the extent is morally wrong (but it is an excellent button-pusher for a horror flick in the safe realm of fiction).

As I've said before, the balls-out effort from Jennifer Carpenter is nothing short of impressive, the intense gore and violence, and the dedication to illustrating a bio-hazard lock down all make this flick definitely worth seeing.

The original director came back to help produce this version ... and as such it does feel like a re-drafting of the original flick. They've seen what works and they've seen what doesn't, and sought to achieve something better - even if the end result is actually a stalemate with the original ... basically.

I'd probably pop the original up front ahead of the all-American version, simply because it came first, but beyond that I'd be hard-pushed to really decide which one I like better, considering all the things I've talked about at great length here. Both films have flaws, but both films also have huge successes.

In summary then - Quarantine is surprisingly good - you hear "all-American remake" (before the original film was even shown in America too!), and you think "pile of shit-gash" ... and that's exactly what I thought. So colour me dumb-founded when it actually turns out to be pretty darn good.

However - that's NOT an excuse for any old numpty at a studio to greenlight the all-Americanisation of anything not American, nor the greenlighting of modernising anything that was made before the turn of the 21st century. I mean come on already...


It was never going to be Fight Club - if anyone thought otherwise, they're morons.

It would be like expecting 2010 to be as good as or better than 2001 - it's impossible.

Regardless, Choke - the second film to see fruition from the work of Chuck Palahniuk (whose other works are seemingly almost all lined up for movie development at varying stages) - is rather enjoyable, especially due to Sam Rockwell in the lead role.

Choke could have done with a longer running time, a mere 90 minutes or so simply isn't enough to squeeze all the plot threads into an understandable state - side plots are therefore relegated to lip service and not a lot more, while the main drive of the plot (all to do with, of course, Rockwell's Mancini - who may or may not be the son of Jesus). Still though, despite losing a variety of extraneous elements that work better in the book (or perhaps if it was done by the likes of David Fincher), it's fantastic to finally see a new based-on-Palahniuk movie out there, after all it's been almost a decade since Fincher's Fight Club thrust onto the silver screen, with such balls and determination of vision that you do think - no wonder it's taken so long for Choke to get made.

Or indeed any Palahniuk book for that matter - apparently Survivor was in the running after Fight Club did well, but 9/11 firmly stuffed the script into a drawer ... what with it being about a guy delivering his final tell-all autobiography into the flight recorder of an passenger aircraft he's hijacked. Still though - it was a bloody good book.

Hopefully we'll see more Palahniuk adaptations with as much dedication to the source material as we've so far been blessed with ... even if Choke doesn't live up to the lofty standards set by Fight Club, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable film - it isn't a remake, it's not some limp-arsed PG-13 adaptation, Sam Rockwell is awesome in the lead role, and it's an actually interesting story. It's just a shame they didn't flesh it out to a full two hours, which it sorely needed in my view - just to flesh out everything going on in the background, and indeed make a slightly bigger deal of the titular scam.