Tag Archives: horror

Dagon

Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon returns to literary horror with Dagon, another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that takes his trademark grisliness to Spain for a real fish-out-of-water yarn having to do with love, sex and demon worship.

OK. Despite the Lovecraftian pedigree, what we really have here is a cheap horror potboiler: Stuart Gordon’s Attack of the Fish People. I swear that’s not a bad thing. Dagon never works up the impressive head of steam that’s required to make this sort of picture really shine – and the CGI work ranges from bad to worse – but Gordon’s affection for his actors remains in welcome evidence, and for the first time in many years, he manages to deliver the shocks, if not the scares.

The film starts out at sea, with irritating yuppie Paul (Ezra Godden) and his feisty wife Bárbara (Raquel Meroño) on some kind of yacht holiday. A freak storm off an old Spanish shoreline runs them aground, and when Paul heads into a nearby fishing village, Imboca, for help, creepiness ensues. The men in town have webbed fingers and seem startled by his presence. Scary dudes shuffle down alleyways like refugees from a Romero zombie movie. The hotel room seems not to have been occupied in years, and the desk clerk, well, the desk clerk has gills. And, hey, where the hell has Barbara disappeared to, anyway?

After this splendid set-up, Dagon suffers mainly from a distended second act that bears the hefty burden of exposition. (Yes, backstory is important, but let’s have no more of it delivered in lengthy flashbacks narrated by the friendly old man conveniently located by the protagonist, OK?) With the history of Imboca firmly established – and once Paul stumbles across a woman there (the big-eyed Macarena Gomez is a find) who has haunted his dreams – the story moves forward to its nasty conclusion.

Given the downright conservative tone of most horror films lately, the ripping and raping that caps Dagon‘s leisurely build is itself startling. Replete with gore and nudity, the final reels make it to giddy exploitation territory. In one scene, the hero starts reciting the Lord’s Prayer as a ritualistic murder takes place before his eyes, but his words are choked off as the bloody spectacle escalates. It’s a knowing B-movie flourish in a film that’s full of them.

FEARDOTCOM

Imagine that the Web draws energy, spiritual and otherwise, from the material world. Further imagine that if someone’s death were streamed over the Web, that person’s unquiet ghost could haunt the wires, going so far as to create an elaborate Flash-enabled site that kills everyone who visits it in precisely 48 hours — unless they manage to unravel the murder mystery.

Spoooooooky.

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Demons of the Mind

Watched the new Anchor Bay DVD of Demons of the Mind — a minor Hammer horror film with lots of nudity and violence. This wacky baron lives in a mansion where he keeps his son and daughter — who seem to share an, er, unwholesome attraction to one another — locked up in separate rooms. A series of sex murders has been taking place in the nearby village, and of course they’re somehow related to this creepy family. There are a few really effective scenes in here, particularly the one depicting the bleeding of young Elizabeth, and some OK performances. The director went on to make To the Devil … a Daughter, which was a staple of late-night TV viewing during my formative years. Anyway, this is probably most interesting for charting Hammer’s increasing flirtation, in its waning years, with lurid subject matter.

Trouble Every Day

728_TED.jpgVincent Gallo — his face angular, perpetually scruffy, and with a piercing, insistently crazy gaze — is the fulcrum on which Trouble Every Day, a seat-clearing sexual-vampire movie from impeccable French stylist Claire Denis, turns. As usual, he looks intelligent, handsome and scary in equal measure. It’s no wonder recent gossip links him romantically with PJ Harvey. He’s that weird.

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Audition

Audition

The best way to see Takashi Miike’s Audition might be to have it handed to you on an unmarked videotape by a friend who knows exactly what freaks you out. So you tabula-rasa types should check out of this review right now. For those of you still here, I’ll aver that Audition is the real deal–a masterful exercise in the manipulation of moods that gradually takes on the tonal quality and ambiguities of a nightmare.

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Funny Games

An upper middle class family — mother, father, young son, and dog — travel to their country home, boat in tow. Soon after they arrive, their household is invaded by a pair of young men in tennis whites who hold them hostage and torture and degrade them, both physically and psychologically. Relentless in its vision of brutality, the film questions the sanity and sensibility of the audience that pays to sit through such a display of human crudity and baseness.

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John Carpenter’s The Thing

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In his cultural history of the horror genre, The Monster Show, writer David J. Skal compares Francis Bacon’s famous 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion to equally disturbing special effects work in John Carpenter’s The Thing. The surrealistic imagery conjured by Rob Bottin to depict the

transformation of a human being into a shape-changing thing from

another world is nearly unimaginable, and Bacon is one of its few

precedents. It must be seen to be believed, and it represents a kind of

high-water mark for fevered creativity in the horror film. [Ed. note, 2008: This review references a DVD edition of the film that hasn’t been available for years. Current editions represent a significant improvement in picture quality.]

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Urban Legend

“The idea of an urban legend serial killer? That’s kind of a stretch,” notes one of the characters in this Scream derivative, which may be a self-reflexive way to absolve the filmmakers of blame for the concept. Actually, it’s not a bad concept in that serial killers are the stuff of urban legends. Further, a good horror movie can be even more effective than an urban legend in propagating a cautionary tale about the stuff lurking in the shadows. If Scream and Scream 2 hadn’t milked that post-modern angle first, it might seem like a novel idea, too. Continue reading