Thursday, May 22, 2014

Black Spot - the 2D version

A few months ago, independent film maker Luther Bhogal-Jones, who directed the entertaining independent short film Creak, sent me an e-mail during my hiatus about his new short film Black Spot. Having reviewed Creak in the previous iteration of the blog and rather enjoying it, I figured I'd check out this new film Mr. Jones had done.

Meant as a test in his abilities in filming a short in 3D and deliberately going for a very simplistic and trashy 70's feel (as stated by the films description included with the film). I knew it'll be right up my alley as I love these types of horror films, as I find simplicity tends to have a special charm to it in horror. Unfortunately, I had to view the film in 2D instead of the intended 3D format, as it takes the red and blue 3D glasses, which I don't have.

The story of this short film (which has a running length of around five and a half minutes) revolves an un-named man whose car had broken down and is forced to walk to find someone who can help. It had just recently been raining and, as chance (or fate) would have it, he is out in the middle of nowhere. After an undetermined amount of time, he stumbles upon another car which, by the look of things, is also broken down. As he looks inside, he sees that there is a dead body in the back seat.

I will go no further into the plot, as I'll be providing a link to the film at the end of my review for those of you who are reading and will like to see the film for yourselves.

Store-wise, the film is very simplistic and while it feels almost familiar, I believe that the story is not the key point of this film. It's more about atmosphere and build up, and as stated before, meant as a venture into 3D film making.

One thing that I noticed about this film almost right off, is that other than a single line of dialog, there was not a single word uttered in the film. Whether it be typical "oh my god!!" type of line, to a series of obscenities typically associated with the horror genre. I liked this aspect of the film and thought it was a nice touch. I'm not sure Mr. Jones intended the film to have no dialog for the purpose of purely focusing on the 3D, to create a certain atmosphere, or both; either way it worked here.

I loved the gloomy tone of isolation this film had. If it's one thing Mr. Jones can pull off, it's definitely having a great atmosphere that this particular darkling can enjoy. I loved the freshly rained out look the entire film had and couldn't help but to enjoy the filming from beginning to end, even if I couldn't see the actual 3D.

I also loved the choice of actors as well. Everybody played their parts fantastically. While parts felt as though they were overacted, I think for a film such as this, which felt as though it was harking back to the silent film era (which I believe was a great period for horror), the overacting achieved what is set out to do and didn't feel completely goofy or forced. The acting was spot on, and only helped us understanding the emotions without trudging through dialog for the sake of conversation.

I strongly recommend viewing this film, even if it's in 2D as I have. Watch the film, turn out the lights and just absorb it, it's well worth the five and a half minutes. If you would like to see it, check the following links:

For the 2D version, click HERE

For the 3D version (which, as stated before, require the classic red and blue 3D glasses), click HERE

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My take on being of the darlky inclined mindset

Over the past number of months of my absence from the web, I couldn't help but to think about how much I missed writing. I wanted to get back to it, only to have all my concentration have a laser focus on moving myself towards productive future that unfortunately forced me to have little, to no, internet presence. Other to check important, job related email, I rarely got on the net.

However, one thing that has never ceased is my love of the dark and dreary. Ever since I was young, I've always had the mindset of taking comfort in the growing gloom of Autumn, and the cold, wet days of Winter/Spring. I've always had a love of the dark atmospherics growing up. Not only were those interests tied up in the weather, but also in my artistic interests such as film, music, and literature as this blog exemplifies, to the point where I believe I can easily consider myself as a member of the Gothic subculture because of it (even though I don't really consider this blog a 'goth' blog, as I review things that aren't typically 'goth').

Now, what exactly draws me to being drawn to such things? In a way, the answer is somewhat abstract, but I'll try and answer that question the best way I possibly can, from my own perspective. The easiest way to explain it is that not only does the dark and dreary always seemed to contain a sense of mystery to it, but the strange and weird always seemed fascinating. An interest in which is unknown to us is ultimately the central part of it. Interest in what our eyes can't see, as well as what we can see.

Finding beauty and an enduring interest in what people typically find odd and a bit macabre, embracing and enjoying it. Take The Addams Family, for example (ok, maybe an over used example, but over used for a reason), which shows that it's ok to love the macabre and strange, and just because you do, doesn't mean you're a bad person. Sure, the characters were considered odd and rather scary, but they were ultimately good people who just loved things that were different. They never went around wishing pain, suffering and death to others, or moped around about how much they'redepressed, they just enjoyed the oddities and mysteries hidden in darkness.

I'll use the film Dark City (which I previously reviewed, as you can read here) to help explain this. Throughout the film, the main character, John Murdoch, is exploring a city that is stuck in eternal night, and he is searching for a place called Shell Beach. Whenever Murdoch asks for directions, people seem remember being there, but are completely unable to remember how to get there, and every time Shell Beach seems to be within grasp, we only find that the darkness has once again hidden our path towards the truth.

What makes us want to continue watching is the fact that the seemingly further we get from Shell Beach, the more intriguing this place becomes. The more the shadows overwhelm the plights of our main character, the more we want to learn what is happening and what's causing this. The more we see of the sadness that seems to overwhelm the people around Murdoch, the more we want to know how they became that way. And we may not entirely get all of the answers, leaving some aspects of the story to our own imaginations.

And that's why I love things that are of the darker persuasion, the beauty in what lies behind the grey clouds and and within the shadows. Taking comfort in a world that is filled with things we don't know, and the wanting to pursue them. Finding things that are uniquely strange to be captivating and beautiful.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Here's a New Nightmare

Ok, so here I am, realizing that the last blog of new content came out about a month and a half ago and I'm thinking to myself, I really need to get something new out. I've had plenty of things getting in the way the past month and half, two months that they just threw me off my writing track.

But to get back into the swing of things, I'm going to bring you a New Nightmare, which I promise, is not meant as a bad pun. I'm actually going to review Wes Cravin's New Nightmare, an interesting film featuring Freddy Krueger, and the next to last featuring Robert Englund.

Personally, I find this to be the last official Nightmare film, simply because I felt that Freddy vs Jason was just a cheap cash in and kicked off what I thought was going to be an endless series of lame "versus" films (it came out only a year before Alien vs Predator. Thankfully, that trend quickly faded, I almost thought we were going to get a film version of this), and while I didn't necessarily dislike the re-boot of the A Nightmare series, I didn't necessarily think it was awesome, either. And I'll admit right now, even though I own Freddy vs. Jason, I haven't been able to force myself to view it, simply because it was a "Versus" film.

Released in 1994, New Nightmare was written and directed by series creator Wes Craven (which is possibly why the official title of the film is Wes Craven's New Nightmare, but you'll just see me referring to it as simply New Nightmare). This film tries to add something new, by setting the film in the "real world" where all of the A Nightmare on Elm Street films were nothing more than a successful horror film franchise. Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Robert Shaye (the producer of the series, hell I think he's the producer of ALL of the movies New Line Cinema put out) and Robert Englund all play themselves, albeit fictionalized versions.

I know this is from part 1,
but it's the best I could find

The plot centers around a demon, taking the form of Mr. Krueger, haunting the people responsible in making the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, specifically Heather Langenkamp. This demon is attracted to her specifically because it sees her as it's "arch nemesis," as she not only helped in defeating Freddy more than once, but she was also the first teenager to do so. It's later revealed in the film that the reason there have been numerous sequels in the franchise is because the demon has been locked away in the films as a form of purgatory, and as long as the films get made, no real people have to die, therefore the Freddy we see in the films is really this demon.

Honestly, I can say I enjoyed New Nightmare. I almost expected this one to be the "series killer" for me (come on, I actually liked Nightmare 5: The Dream Child, and even enjoyed Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, and people hated those). Before viewing the film, I expected the move to the "real world" was just going to have an all around negative effect on me and taint my views on the series as a whole, and take away my suspension of belief while viewing the earlier entries in the series.

But really, if anything, this film really celebrates the series. To me, it doesn't feel forced and it's purely meant to be a fun experience, all the while giving you some scares while doing so. Now saying that, does that mean I should actually go and watch Freddy vs. Jason, especially since it's been sitting in my collection literally unwatched and untouched for the past number of years? Pfft, please, I'd rather sit and watch Freddy's Dead with a bowl of popcorn laughing at the powerglove cameo.

So if you're in the mode as I was in regarding this film, curious but not wanting to taint your vision of the series, just watch it. It's interesting and a fun film, especially for fans of the series. And therein I think is the key of this movie. You need to be, without a shadow of a doubt, a fan of the series, and with that, I think you'd enjoy this one.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Stories to Haunt By

Usually, I find it hard to review a TV show, especially one where each episode builds on the episode just before it. Reason being that sometimes, it's hard to pick out episodes that easily represent the series as a whole, and you can't really talk about any one episode in general without discussing the preceding episodes.

So, when I talk about American Horror Story, I'll try and be as spoiler free as possible, all the while giving it an honest review.

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (both of Glee fame), the series debuted on FX in late 2011. Described as an horror themed anthology series, what makes this series different than other anthology's, such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, is that each season tells a single, self contained story instead of a new story every episode. The story being told in season 1 is officially over at the end of the season finale, and season 2 starts anew telling a brand new horror story with a new set of characters and a new setting, and so on.

I like this idea, it helps to expand on the characters and the trials they go through, all the while breathing new life into the show with each new season. While at times, this could be a bit jarring because who knows how much you may or may not like a character by the end of a season, it makes for some new surprises every time a new season starts.

But, despite liking this idea, I'm going to say something that may be going against the regular horror loving crowd. Based of the five episodes I watched, I didn't like it and couldn't go any further into the season. Should I have finished the entire season? Possibly, but could I? No, not really.

Reason being that I couldn't really feel for any of the characters or care for the story being told, even though you're obviously meant to feel for these people. We have the husband that cheated on his wife, using her unwillingness to have sex after a miscarriage as an excuse. The wife seemed to just be "there" for the sake of the plot, and at times, seemed to be a little too forgiving. There's the daughter, who seems to hate everyone but her boyfriend that she just met the day before. And then we had the assortment of ghosts that used the weaknesses of the family against them.

I'm all for having a show full of "bad guy" or "realistic" characters, as long as there's a point behind it. Breaking Bad is an amazing show because while Walter White gets involved and takes part in some pretty terrifying events, you understand exactly why he does them and that theses actions are ultimately done for a better cause. Even shows like Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy, both of which were full of vicious characters fueled by greed, featured characters that wanted something better from their lives and you truly wanted to see them succeed, but you also see that they were trapped in a life they couldn't escape from.

However, in the case of American Horror Story, you're meant to feel for characters that have little to no redeeming factors. The husband gets himself wound up in a web of lies that makes his life only worse and the only person who seemed like they weren't going to have it was the daughter. While I can understand the wife wanting to be the better person and forgive, I saw her mostly just being "there" in the show and not really helping the plot move forward.

The show had some great atmosphere, though. I must admit that the filming, and even the title sequence, were pretty well done and showed that this season had a lot of potential.

Ultimately, I felt what the show came down to was characters I cared nothing for in plot didn't do anything for me. I wanted to like this show, I truly did. I went in with an open mind, purposefully going into the show knowing next to nothing other than it was a horror based show with a "anthology" concept, and ended up being completely underwhelmed with the plot and characters.

In saying that, however, if you're a fan of horror, give this show a viewing. You may enjoy this show more than I did, who knows, you may find some compelling and redeeming features of the show that I just seemed to overlook for whatever reason. In my opinion, it wasn't good enough to warrant a full viewing, but it seems to be popular enough in the rest of the horror loving crowd that I seem to be in minority in this viewpoint. The series seemed to have plenty of potential, but just fell flat and couldn't keep me engaged in what was going on. Here's hoping that possibly season 2 could do something for me more than the first season did.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stephen King's The Langoliers

Being a fan of Stephen King's stories (though I must admit, I'm a bigger fan of his stories than I am of his writing style, although I did think that It and The Stand were well written, even if they did drag a bit), I figured it's about time that I actually brought up one of the films based off his work.

The film this time around is going to be a lesser talked about film, The Langoliers, a three hour long miniseries that premiered in 1995. This is one of many in the string of miniseries that was adapted from a King story, the two most famous possibly being It and The Stand.

Sure, the production value of these types of movies may not be as high as your typical big budget blockbuster, and sure, you won't see the typical rape or dismemberment scenes from the books, and at times the acting can be quite a bit shoddy (The Langoliers is probably the worst offender). But really, there's a certain charm to these films that seem to draw me in. I just can't seem to resist the call of these sorts of low budget  horror/suspense movies, and not have a good time while watching.

This film is based off the short story of the same name that appeared in Four Past Midnight, a collection of four short stories that was published in 1990. The story focuses on an airplane heading to Boston from Los Angeles. Half way through the flight, ten people find themselves being the only ones left on this once fully packed flight. We also soon find that each of these people had just woken up from a deep sleep.

Thinking that they possibly slept through a lay over and the other passengers got off, one of the passengers who happens to be an off duty pilot, tries going to the cockpit to talk with the pilots. After having to beat down the door leading to the cockpit, we find that even the pilots are gone and the flight is going by itself.

After making an emergency landing at the Bangor International Airport, we soon find that not only were the other passengers of the plane missing, but so was everyone else in the world.

Although I enjoyed The Langoliers, it's quite possibly the worst of all these made-for-tv type movies based off King's work that I've seen. The production is very low, even by 1995 TV standards. You can tell that the film had a rather low budget, down to just how fake and CG looking the monsters at the end looked. Though, I must say that despite this super low budget, it just added to the fun of the movie.

Another thing to point out is the films acting. I actually rather liked Dean Stockwell, and in fact, I even liked David Morse and Bronson Pinchot (the guy is so crazy here, it's hard not to like him). But as for the rest of the major cast, if it wasn't one thing bad about their acting, it was another. The guy who played the British secret agent tried way too hard to be charming that it came off as fake, and the clarinetist and the "punker" girl ( I guess that's what they were trying to go for) both seemed like they had no idea what they were doing. Plus I found it sad that the one guy whose only purpose was to wander around looking for a sandwich and a beer felt more believable than the teacher and blind girl.

The story was something I very much enjoyed though, as I do with much of King's stories. The forced isolation of a small group of people, with seemingly no way to improve their predicament but are still trying to set things right, even if it seemed pointless is a great concept. I very much liked the sense of emptiness in this movie, which is sort of why I feel the low budget added to it. It's supposed to feel sparse, music included, and in some areas, it just felt right,

Maybe I'm just a sucker for low budget films, but I enjoyed this one. Like I've said, it is in fact the worst of all the miniseries' based off Stephen King that I've seen, but by no means is it "unwatchable," even with it's hammy acting and poor monster design. It's a fun movie and a worth a viewing if you're into b-grade films and have three hours to kill. For those of you who have Netflix, it is available on the watch now service, for those you who do not, you can find it bundled together with a couple other King films for cheap at stores like Wal-mart and I think even at Target.

Side note: The collection Four Past Midnight also included Secret Window, Secret Garden, which was later adapted to the silver screen, which many may know as simply Secret Window, with Johnny Depp as the lead.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Silent Hill Revelation

Since how I just recently reviewed the first Silent Hill film, I feel that a good way to wrap things up on the Silent Hill front to do the films sequel, Silent Hill Revelation. Currently, I have no plans to write on any of the other games in the series. Simply because, like I stated in my previous post, gaming has started to dwindle out of my entertainment needs, therefore I feel as though they wouldn't be getting a fair and honest review if I do so.

Revelation was released on October 26th 2012, just in time for Halloween. The film was written and directed by British director Michael J. Bassett, and stars Adelaid Clemens, Kit Harington, Carrie-Ann
Moss, and Sean Bean, with minor appearances by Malcolm McDowell and Radha Mitchell. The music was by Jeff Danna, who this time around composed some original pieces in addition to some of Akira Yamaoka's work from the game series.

The plot follows an older Sharon Da Silva, who while still at a young age, was able to be released from the netherworld that she and her mother were trapped in at the end of the first film. We learn that Rose was able to send Sharon through to our reality using a piece of a medallion called the Seal of Metatron. However, since it was only a piece of this medallion, Rose was forced to stay behind in the netherworld, leaving Sharon in the care of solely her father, Chris.

On the eve of her eighteenth birthday, we learn that Sharon and Chris have been living under assumed names of Heather and Harry Mason, and been moving from town to town to prevent any remaining cult members from finding them.

However, due to a detective hired to find Sharon, the cult was able to track the both of them down. The cult then abducts Chris with the hopes of Sharon following and entering the town by her own free will.

I'll admit that I am in the minority for enjoying this film. Many people felt this movie was terrible, either from the idea of plot was lacking, or they thought the acting was unbearable. While yes, there were some changes to some plot elements, personally, I didn't mind these changes and I honestly felt that they worked here. And truthfully, I even enjoyed the acting, especially that of Adelaid Clemens.

One change made in the film, which was the most prominent, were motivations of the cult. In my Silent Hill review, I stated that the cult was comprised of nothing more than witch burning puritans who killed Alessa, and then eventually tried killing Sharon, in order to "cleanse" the world of her wickedness. Revelation built on that, stating that cleansing the world of Alessa and her "evilness" through fire would give birth to their God, and bring forth a new world. I felt that this felt a slight more depth than just the typical story of witch burners that everyone grew up learning about in school.

In a lot of ways, I prefer this film over the first. I rather enjoyed the plot, and found it to be a great adaption of the third game in the series. Much like the first film, not once did it ever feel as though it was a persons play through, however there are many elements (and even a few Easter eggs) that appear in this film that would be instantly recognized by a fan of the games. I even liked the slight change in tone over the first, this one having a slight bit more grittiness to it over the original.

I was also happy with the music appearing in this film. I was pleased to hear the new pieces of music fit in perfectly with the film, and to hear them interlaced with the pieces from the game. Jeff Danna did a great job at creating a atmospheric blend of sounds to create an awesome soundtrack.

In closing, this is one that I would suggest to anyone who is into horror. I know that the film was not well received by critics and fans, but honestly it wasn't half bad at all. Like the original film, there is plenty of blood and gore, but here it actually works. This may not be for the Paranormal Activity crowd out there, but the Evil Dead or Hellraiser fans may be more inclined to give this one a go.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A random thought

As I'm sitting here, adding the final touches to my Silent Hill Revelation post, I find myself compelled to write something that is not review related. Not about anything in particular really, other than the fact that I want to write some and not have to worry too much about why I did or didn't like something.

In the past few weeks, I found myself in somewhat of a mental position that may cause a rather slight shift in how I'll be planning on what I'll review in the coming weeks and months. That is, I find myself playing video games far less than before. Before, video games, in addition to my love of music and film, were a typical form of entertainment for me. However, now I find myself shifting away from that due to nothing more than just a general lack of interest in the medium of video games.

Because of this, you will see less reviews on video games (not that I had to any other than my review on the original Silent Hill). Instead of seeing a review on Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, for example, you may get a review (a legitimate one, at that) of Resident Evil Apocalypse.

Another random thought: I am ready for summer to be done with. I have a rather low tolerance for heat, but that may have been said by every other person who, like me, chooses black as their preferred color of head-to-toe clothing. I am not your typical Californian, as in I am not a beach goer and I don't like being fried in the sun. Rather, I am a person who enjoys a cool day, watching the gray clouds absorb the sky, all the while enjoying a good horror or dark thriller novel or film.

I know this sort of post is almost routine for me now. Last October, I had a post praising the end of summer and looking forward to the coming of fall, which I may even do this year, who knows.

Anyways, I plan on having the post on Silent Hill Revelation finished and posted in the next day or two. After that, I may not be doing that many Silent Hill related posts unless I find that a third film is in production or in the very off chance I decide to review the second and third games (but don't hold your breath, sorry guys).