Thursday, November 15, 2012

It Came From The Cineplex: Sinister, Silent Hill: Revelation, The Man With The Iron Fists

It's Fall at the cineplex, so you know what that means! The summer blockbusters are over and all the big Xmas films are still a couple months away, so it's Mediocre Movie Time!

Things are really busy this month so I'll be as brief as possible with my reviews.

Sinister
A disturbing, but ultimately not very scary horror movie that combines traditional cinematography with the dreaded found footage technique. If you like watching snuff films then this is the movie for you.

The Plot:
A true-crime novelist with the unlikely name of Ellison Oswalt moves his wife and kids into the home of a recently murdered family, hoping to solve the mystery of their deaths and write another best seller. He finds a box of old Super 8 snuff films in the attic, each depicting the graphic and gruesome murder of a different family. Eventually he notices a mysterious figure in the background of each film, which turns out to be an ancient demon called Bughuul (pronounced Bug-Ghoul), who likes to cause children to murder their families and then feed on their souls.

Pros:
• The "found footage" movie clips are very effective, and very disturbing. They're accompanied by some odd music though. I'm assuming the music is there for atmosphere and not actually part of the Super 8 film reels.

• The deputy character was very well written and acted the way you'd expect a normal person to react if they were in a horror movie.

• A surprisingly grim ending that I didn't see coming.

Cons:
• Why, why, WHY did Ellison not contact the police the second he discovered the mysterious box of snuff films in his attic? I get that he was using them as research material for his book and didn't want the police to confiscate them, but he copied them all to his computer. There was no reason not to turn them over to the authorities after that (as a normal human being would). Also by keeping them he was probably guilty of some sort of concealing evidence or obstruction of justice charge.

• Exceeds its quota of "jump scares." Having a door burst open or someone suddenly pop into the frame, accompanied by a loud musical sting, does not scare me. It's a cheap and hackneyed technique that stopped being effective years ago.

• "Bughuul" is probably the dumbest and least effective name for a movie monster ever. Did George Lucas name this character?

• Bughuul looks a LOT like that white-faced puppet thing in all the Saw movies. 

• The "snuff films" were a little too realistic. I kind of felt like I needed to take a shower after the movie was over.

• Somewhat derivative of The Shining. Washed-up author moves his family into a new home, strange happenings occur, writer starts hitting the sauce, audience wonders if the happenings are real or a figment of the author's booze-fueled imagination.

• How do movie families manage to move from one home to another (and back again) as easily as I change my shirt? Has anyone in the real world ever got up in the middle of the night, roused their family and said, "Get in the car! We're moving!" Where's the realtor, the bankers, the inspectors and the six inch high stack of papers that need signed?

A somewhat effective horror film with an unexpectedly unhappy ending (which is a good thing in a horror movie). I give it a C+.

Silent Hill: Revelation 
I used to play the various Silent Hill video games and generally enjoyed them, however the movies are another matter. I didn't much care for the first film and unfortunately this one is no different. They definitely look good, capturing the creepy atmosphere of the games, but plot wise... I couldn't tell you what happened in either one if you held a gun to my head. 

An example of the confusion: At the end of the last movie, Rose and Sharon/Heather were in the same room with Christopher (Sean Bean), and although they could see him, he couldn't see or hear them. I got the impression they were supposed to be ghosts or still trapped in Silent Hill or... something. Then at the start of this movie, Christopher and Sharon/Heather are together and can communicate, while Rose is still trapped in the town. Did I miss something? How'd Sharon/Heather get back into the real world? Did it happen offscreen, or did I doze off?

Carrie-Anne Moss plays the leader of the Silent Hill cult, and is completely unrecognizable.

 Twice in this movie the Pyramid Head character saves Sharon/Heather's life. The second time he does so you can almost feel the director hoping the audience will pump their fists in the air and yell, "YEAHH! AW ROIGHT!!!" I got the impression they were trying to make him into a hero of sorts. He's definitely the most iconic character in the movies; I wonder if they're hoping he becomes the next Jason or Freddy Krueger? 

Another movie with the wretched "3D" in the title. Fortunately I was able to find a 2D showing of it.

The Plot:
Young Sharon/Heather (who escaped from the otherworldly town of Silent Hill) and her father Boromir are living under aliases, hiding from Silent Hill cultists. Boromir is captured and Sharon/Heather goes back to Silent Hill to rescue him. She finds out she's really the good half of a demon girl named Alessa, who rules the other dimensional city or something, and... you know what, forget it. I have no idea what the hell this movie was about.

Pros:
• Very moody and atmospheric. Love the shots of the ash falling on the fog-shrouded streets. They've really captured the look and feel of the game. Too bad they didn't put as much effort into the script.

• The Blind Nurses were very effective, and very creepy. Repulsive and yet somehow alluring at the same time (did I really just type that sentence?).

Cons:
• Convoluted script that doesn't make a lick of sense. After a while I stopped trying to figure it out and just watched the pretty pictures.

• Sean Bean does his best to affect an American accent, with mixed results. It just sounded weird to hear speaking like he was from Jersey.

• Pyramid Head needs to think about finding himself a smaller axe. He acts like it's all he can do to pull it along behind him.

• Another sequel with a "colon-followed-by-a-generic-word" title that doesn't tell me anything about the order in which I should watch them. Just like the Resident Evil movies.

A nice looking, but completely confusing mess of a film. I give it a D. Let's hope they don't try for a trilogy.

The Man With The Iron Fists
A love letter to old school Kung Fu movies, co-written, directed and starred in by RZA (former leader of Wu-Tang Clan).

For the record, Mr. RZA's name is pronounced "rih-za," not R-Z-A. 

There's a ton of exposition and plot in this film, but fortunately it's fairly easy to follow.

The film was shot entirely in China for only $20 million, an incredible achievement in these days of $200 million blockbusters. You'd never know it was made for so little though, as it looks gorgeous. Must be that dollar to RMB exchange rate.

Good: A cameo by Pam Grier! Bad: She looks like someone's grandmother now. Man, time sucks!

The Plot:
In the 19th Century, a former slave makes his way to China and becomes a blacksmith, making deadly weapons for various warring clans. Eventually one of the clan leaders decides to take over the Blacksmith's village. With the help of various locals the Blacksmith fights back, becoming The Man With The Iron Fists in the process.

Pros:
• Great cast, including Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. RZA does an OK job acting wise, but may be a little too sleepy-eyed and laid back to be a Kung Fu hero.

• Bronze Body was an awesome character with a pretty cool armored skin effect. How do you kill a guy who's body turns into metal whenever its touched?

• Lots of cool action and fight scenes, which of course is the reason films such as this exist. And they were filmed coherently for the most part, which is unusual in these days of "shaky cam."

Cons:
• Since RZA is a rapper, I suppose it was inevitable that his music would be featured in the film. Not sure hard core rap works in a Kung Fu movie though.

A fun throwback to Kung Fu films of the past. I give it a B.

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