Monday, October 17, 2011

Silent Hill Review

Confession: I have not played any of the Silent Hill games. I mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating. I was not familiar with the games at all when I watched the movie, either. I was aware of the game's existence and I knew it was foggy, but really and truly when I sat down to watch it, most of what I knew about Silent Hill I had learned from Linkara.

After watching the movie I decided to do some research, because I wanted to know how much of the movie was based on the game and how much of the movie was it's own thing.

My opinion on the movie: It wasn't bad, but it could have been better. It was about a lady named Rose and her daughter, Sharon. Sharon was adopted and has some strange connection to Silent Hill, a connection that's causing illness and sleep walking. Sharon shouts "Silent Hill" during these fits, and Silent Hill is in the same state and general area as the orphanage that found Sharon. Rose decides to haul ass to Silent Hill, without her husband's knowledge, to see if visiting the town would help open up parts of her past, and (as everyone imagines) hijinks ensue. This movie has a plot very similar to the first Silent Hill game, it just changed the name of some of the protagonists.

I didn't walk away from the movie disliking it, and honestly there were some genuinely scary moments. However, the movie definitely has it's issues, and I can see (having done the research) why some Silent Hill fans would be irritated about it. I'm just gonna use numbered points here, because I'll ramble endlessly otherwise.

1: the first transition from the Fog world to the Other world was the best. Shit faded to black for a second, then the little children things attacked. Each subsequent transition added more and more CGI, and it just killed the mood. I have a very long rant stored up about CGI and how it harms more than it helps in a lot of films, but suffice it to say that for a movie that depends on atmosphere, CGI just kills the whole mood.

2: Rose runs away from a cop. This was the first of several things that made me really roll my eyes. Her talking to the cop, maybe explaining that they were looking for information about Silent Hill, the cop talking to the little girl, would not have taken very long. But for some insane reason she pulls over, sees the sign for Silent Hill, and thought "You know what? I'm going to try to outrun the cop in a ghost town that probably has at least one section of the road entirely missing due to sinkholes." It only comes into play for about five minutes, but it's clearly an artifice meant to expand the movie time by about five minutes. It also bothers me because this is a hugely dangerous tactic- Silent Hill is on top of a coal fire (more about that below) and that can cause sinkhole to open up suddenly. The road could end at any moment and she barrels down it. It's implied that Rose did her research, so she knows this. It just comes off as mind-breakingly reckless in more than one way.

3: The husband. Sean Bean plays Rose's husband. He appears to be in this movie, and probably believes he actually is.  In spite of all appearances and beliefs, he's not actually in the movie. He is completely auxiliary to the actual plot and we only cut to him to fill out the movie a little, and it cuts into the actual plot. I read on the IMDB webpage that his character was added because the movie producers were unhappy that the cast was comprised largely of women (aside from a few lackeys) and I do applaud the writer for not making the man save the day, but I do wish this had been handled otherwise. The only thing these scenes do is establish that the Fog world is different from IRL, and I think that would have been more effective if they'd saved it for the end.

4: Centralia. One of the points of the movie is that Silent Hill is sitting on top of a large underground coal fire. If that sounds familiar, that's because a town named Centralia is suffering the same fate. These fires cause a lot of structural problems in the ground, there are huge sinkholes that just open up randomly in Centralia, and it's a very dangerous place to be. Silent Hill is already dangerous, and the coal plot point only comes up once or twice. It's basically scripted reason for why there is falling ash, but it doesn't actually add anything to the plot, and the reason for the coal fire is a little farfetched. Basically, that part could have been left off and caused no changed to the plot whatsoever.

There are other small points, but those are the big ones. I thought for a little while that Rose would die and the cop lady would end up saving the little girl- the scenes with Sean Bean actually kinda hint at this, and it would have made those scenes make more sense. It would have made the movie a lot more interesting, although they would have had to focus a little more on Sharon to make it really interesting- then we wouldn't know if anybody was gonna rescue her, or if she was gonna rescue herself.

I probably would feel more strongly if I were a fan of the games, or had even played any of them, but I am divorced from the source material entirely. I can definitely see why it pissed off some people, but it wasn't a bad way to kill some time. Had some creepy moments, and while there were a few things that bugged me, I dunno. If you twisted my arm I'd say it was a C+, passable with some good moments and a bit of potential, but ultimately nothing special.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Exorcismus

I'm going to review one more Netflix movie, and then I'm gonna switch over to Hulu for a couple of movies, and then back. My plan is to cover cheap and free entertainment

Exorcismus is another movie from the New Arrivals list, and I picked it pretty much because the cover looked vaguely interesting and I thought it might be in a foreign language. It was not, it's a movie starring largely British actors speaking English, but it was originally released in Spain. The more I watched the movie, the less I liked the title. The original title was La posesiĆ³n de Emma Evans, which is Spanish for the Possession of Emma Evans, and is a title I much prefer.

Title quibbles aside, I quite liked this movie. It starts a little slow and there are a couple of places where the dialog could use a little work, but overall I feel it's a solid movie. I'm not as familiar with exorcism movies as I am with other subsets of the horror genre, so I don't know if it's as unique as it seems to be, but I like the way the ending goes. There's a moment, and only a moment, where you root for Satan.

It is about a legitimate Satanic possession. The film plays like it's going to be a little ambiguous at first, but she levitates not too far into the film so that leaves out any "is she crazy? after attention?" questions. The curious part about this film is that the priest who exorcises her is her uncle, which is actually a plot point.

The beginning is a little... well if I were the editor I probably would have left out  some of the flashback scenes, and told the story in as linear a manner as possible. The point of the opening scene is to get across the point that when Emma claims she cut her hand, it was an accident, but I think the actress does this well enough without needing that primary scene where we see her deliberately cut her hand. It felt a little out of place in an otherwise linear movie.

Also, at one point after her daughter has levitated several feet off the ground in front of her very eyes, her mother still seems skeptical that anything unnatural is going on. Le sigh.

My only other real quibble with the movie is that there is a bit of shaky cam going on. Not a whole lot, but it was noticeable and distracting at times

The sound track is minimal, with music only in the background when someone is actually listening to it. Emma's father, downstairs, listening to a record or Emma listening to her MP3 player.

There are a couple of really creepy moments, and there are a couple of moments where you know what's going to happen and dread it. I enjoyed watching it, and I'd watch it again. I think the ending is really well done and makes sense in the context of the movie.

If you've seen the movie and have thoughts on it, or have thoughts on the genre in general, please leave a comment! Also, if there's something you want me to watch, let me know, I am always game for requests. For my next review I'm planning to watch Silent Hill, which is widely regarded to be crap, but as I haven't played the video games I'm curious to see how it stands up as a horror movie.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Strep Sucks and Megan is Missing, Apparently (Movie Review)

Strep sucks.

I think almost everyone knows that, but I thought I'd just get that out there, for the curious. I couldn't eat for a good portion of last week, swallowing was so painful that it was a struggle to get water down. I lacked the ability to worry about food in any context.

Anyway, that's why I missed the beginning of one of my favorite months of the year. Ah, well, life happens. Last year Halloween fell of my radar. I don't know why, a variety of reasons I'm sure, but I'm determined to enjoy my favorite holiday this year. If you follow my twitter, you know I have a tumblr and I've been on Halloween overkill mode. I love fall, and I love Halloween.

In honer of the season, I decided I'd pick a couple of movies off the "New Movie Arrivals" Netflix list that looked vaguely horror-ish (based on the cover) and watch them, just for funzies.

I started with Megan is Missing, a movie that is supposed to be a found footage film about missing teenage girls. It's about a pair of girls, Megan and her best friend Amy. Megan falls in lust with a mysterious internet personality known as "Josh" and agrees to meet him at a diner she frequents, and then goes missing. Amy looks into Megan's disappearance, and then is kidnapped 3 weeks later.

Guess how much of this shows up in the first, oh, 30 minutes of the movie? If you guessed "Almost None", there's a kewpie doll waiting for you by the exit. The film is bloated with excessive material. You could easily hack off the first 30 minutes or so and lose nothing. Worse, the first 30 minutes highlights exactly how much Amy and Megan, who are supposed to be best friends, don't have in common. It leaves you wondering how on earth they're friends, which is a shame because the actresses playing them have really wonderful chemistry when they're on film together, and genuinely seem to be pals. The film should have concentrated on the bond between the two girls instead of needlessly inserting conflict that, in the end, doesn't make a difference.

The main conflict of the film- Megan disappearing, doesn't happen until LITERALLY halfway through the film. At this point we get several scenes that are unnecessary, and just add to the length of the film. One of the scenes serves to introduce cctv clips, but as the film itself is supposed to be a culmination of different clips all that the introduction really requires is a subtitle announcing it. It then repeats the clip three times, outside of the news broadcast. Thanks, saw it the first time.

Probably the most obvious film flaw is that all of the 'found footage' is clearly from the same HD camera, including the cctv clip. While I understand they were under time and budget constraints, the 'found footage' premise hurts the film more than anything else, because it's clearly false. It makes sense that Amy has an expensive camera as a gift from her absent father, but why should Megan's webcam be equally good? It kinda ruins the feel I think they were aiming for.

That being said, there are a few legitimate scares. At one point Amy is talking to her video diary and a shadowy figure steps into the back ground and is clearly watching her. Definitely creepy. In the end, "Josh" brings Amy into the other room and pulls the lid off a blue bucket that's been there the whole time, to reveal Megan's body. The glimpse is brief enough and the makeup creepy enough that it's genuinely freaky.

In other kudos, the makeup towards the end is pretty well done. The last scene, with "Josh" digging a grave while Amy begs him to crack the top of the bucket so she can get some air is pretty fucked up. And it shows the whole thing, him diggin the hole, pushing the bucket in and burying it, as Amy's cries get weaker and weaker.

I don't know if I can recommend the film, but the last 20 minutes of the film are pretty disturbing, which is clearly the intent. There is a rape scene which may trigger some, so this definitely is not a film for everyone.  The film definitely had potential, and a little editing could carry it over the 'potential' threshold.

Edit: this just occurred to me to add, because I forgot, but I pay for my Netflix subscription and have for years. This article was not intended to be an endorsement of Netflix, and was rather about utilizing a service that many people already have.