What I'm Watching: Early February, 2011
Taking a break from plotting the first half of adventures for Triskaidekafiles in 2011, rebuilding my computer, and assorted stuff to catch up with all of y'all out there. Let's take a look at the pile of DVDs that have passed my eyeballs in the last few weeks, shall we?
At least this month is all horror, all the time. I grabbed a random DVD when I saw it coming out, called Chain Letter. At first I hoped, I prayed, it was an adaptation of the Christopher Pike novel of the same name. Yeah, no. It's not. Bad things happening to people who don't forward chain letters is nothing new, but an adaptation of that teen horror classic would have been better than this. Which isn't to say there isn't fun to be had here. They take the old tropes of that type of story and drag it kicking and screaminto into the 21st century, using text messages and e-mails. The cast includes genre faves Brad Dourif and Ketih David, and they definitely bring their A games, but the rest of the cast is weird and wooden. The deaths though, are amazing. Holy crap, the blood is great in this. The plot starts out mostly ok and set up well enough, but the whole mystery is very poorly done, and completely falls apart in the half-assed way they try to explain what's going on. There's no emotional hook to what is going on, and since the mystery is never really delved into, the revelations are ultimately meaningless and confusing. The ending manages to redeem some of the movie by being a little clever, but nowhere near enough to save this film. A good bloodfest that just went horribly awry, which is a shame. It's like a rough draft of a story that needed a few more revisions. I enjoyed the campy fun, but it could have been much better. This so would be a full reviewed movie if it had come out 15 years ago.
Also watched Monsters, which is an interesting story, with an interesting reaction from me. It's the tale of the daughter of a wealthy man trying to get out of Mexico, and one of his employees is there to help get her across the border. Along the road trip, they fall in love. Oh, and there's alien creatures that have begun infesting Earth, but the movie wouldn't really be any different if they were there or not. Replace aliens with rebel soldiers, and the story would be functionally unchanged. The movie is well known for doing a lot of CG and replacement of elements on a very low budget, in a very guerilla way, and for what the movie did, how it did it, and how well it did it? On those counts, I love it. I admire the movie for what it accomplished in visual storytelling and effects, but the story being told around them is so bland, so straightforward, and just left me cold. You know they're going to fall in love from the moment they meet, and they do. There's no real obstacle to that growing relationship thrown in their way, so that's pretty uninteresting. And the aliens are only background details of the world, so there's very little interesting there to the story. It could just as easily have been people on safari and watching a lion in the distance. They did some good work with allegory but overall, the story goes from point A to point B in the straightest, least interesting line possible. I look forward to more from the director, since he did an amazing job MAKING the movie, but yeah...
Next up is the Last Exorcism, another movie in the genre that puts you squarely in the film, making the cameraman a character in the movie. Unlike Cloverfield or Blair Witch, this isn't found footage so much as a real documentary, and sold that way. It has a score, it's edited, and it's polished. I think that made this movie all the better. The characters are actors, and this mockumentary is well made. They nailed the feeling of a documentary, and everyone totally sold it. The acting is spot on perfect, the camera work, everything. It's the story of Cotton Marcus, a preacher who has grown disillusioned with the church's policy on exorcisms, and begun making a documentary to show what shams they are. Along the way he encounters a family with a supposedly possessed daughter in the middle of nowhere New Orleans, and he has to determine if she is really possessed, or it's all an act. The movie brilliantly walks that line between is she or isn't she, and you are kept guessing right up until the very last minute of the film. So well done. The ending of the movie has become very divisive. Love it or hate it. Me, I love it. This is one of the best horror films I've seen in awhile, and such a good ride. Definitely seek this out.
Finally, there's Let Me In, the American remake of a foreign movie based on a book. I've not seen Let the Right One In, or read the book, so I can't compare and contrast. I can only speak to what I've seen. And what I've seen is good. Very good. Chloe Moretz is amazing. She has a long career ahead of her in this business, and is a better actress than a large chunk of the Hollywood population. Her costars are equally good, and the performances in this movie really make it. This is a vampire story, a coming of age story, and a love story all at once. It takes common themes and looks at them in whole new ways, and does it so, so well. My only complaint is when Chloe vamps out and becomes a bouncy piece of CGI. The CG has no weight to it, and she bounces around effortlessly. It looks so fake and yanks you right out of the movie. Those moments are so few and far between, that fortunately the rest of the movie being rock solid makes this definitely a great movie. If they dealt more with that side of things, with more of the goofy bouncy vampire, then this movie would suffer from it. But no, that isn't what the movie is about. It needs those moments to get from one story point to another, and then back to amazing acting, storytelling, and cinematography.
A mixed bag, but mostly good. Chain Letter is good for camp, but don't expect a good movie. Monsters you should at least check out since a lot of people love the story. It just wasn't what I wanted. But Exorcism and Let Me In are great, and must see movies.
See you in the theatre!