The Woman in Black (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Woman in Black (2012)

Film: Any horror fan worth his mettle knows of the famed English studio Hammer films. Over many years Hammer entertained the world with Gothic tales of terror and fright, and gave us brilliant performances from the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They also introduced the world to many a blushing busty English rose. Great things don’t last forever though, and as a new generation of horror came to light in the 70s and 80s, Hammer disappeared. But not forever.

Recently, Hammer have re-emerged with a few new films: the English language remake of Let the Right One In called Let Me In and this, a retooling of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, filmed once before in 1989. This version has been adapted by Jane Goldman, who scripted Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and is directed by James Watkins, who previously helmed Eden Lake.

A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is on his last legs at his job. It has been several years since his young wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during childbirth and he has never gotten over it, bringing up their son Joseph (Misha Handley) with only the assistance of a nanny (Jessica Raine).

As the final chance to save his job, Kipps’ boss has given him the challenge of travelling to the town of Cryphin Gifford to make sure that the final will and testament of the recently deceased owner of the secluded property Eel Marsh, Mrs Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) is correct, by checking through any and all documents at her estate. What Kipps finds there though is a hate filled spirit of a woman in black, but why is she so filled with loathing, and can Kipps do anything to appease her torment of the town and it’s children?

The Woman in Black looks quite beautiful, and has a mood that perfectly matches that of the main character. The township of Cryphin Gifford is so dank that one feels the cold, wet and clamminess as if it is present in the room in which you are watching the film.

The performances are all solid. Still quite young, Daniel Radcliffe plays his Peter Cushing styled character with the intensity of a man well beyond his years, or an emo on depressants. The addition of the wonderful Ciarin Hinds as his ally within the town is excellent, and Hinds has a weight and subtlety in his performance as a man haunted by the death of a young son, and whose wife has never recovered from it.

The script also tells a grand ghost story, but here lies its biggest problem. Ghost stories in cinema have a language of their own and they can fall into a trap. That trap is they either do something out of the norm and have audiences not ‘get’ it, or they stick to the generic ghost story devices such as a creaky house and creepy toys et cetera, and even though they are speaking a cinematic language that your average cinema goer will comprehend, the story just doesn’t stand out.

Unfortunately, The Woman in Black is guilty of the latter. Even though there was some impressive imagery (Eel Marsh itself is simply amazing) the story just feels as though it is telling a tale we’ve all heard many times over. It seems to me that the makers of The Woman in Black tried to ignore the fact that the tastes of horror fans have moved on, and that perhaps this type of film isn’t relevant any more. I know whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel like I was watching a classic horror film, but someone who was trying to emulate one.

So Hammer are back, baby! The pure gothic tales of fright they have given us have returned with them, but, I’m afraid their time may have passed. The acting is generally of a high standard and the movie boasts some amazing gothic horror visuals, but it seems to miss that ‘classic’ horror mood. Perhaps this is due to the main elements of that “classic horror mood” being Cushing and Lee, who would have kicked arse as Kipps and Daily respectively, but without them, this whole event just feels a little ordinary.

Spooky toys, a creaky house, ghostly children, mysterious rocking chairs, generic, generic generic. The Woman in Black is a great looking film that ticks all the ‘spooky’ boxes and has some fine performances, but it fails to deliver any real scares and never tries to rise above the regular ‘ghost story’ trappings.

Score: **

Format: This film is presented in a pristine 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I have to say, due to the colour palette of the film, works much better is pitch darkness, If your lounge room has even the slightest bit of light in it, you won’t get the full benefit of deep blacks and immaculate shadow detail The soundscape matches the visuals in excellence, and like it, works best in the dark, and is presented in DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Lockout, Magic Mike and Killer Joe before taking us to the menu.

There are only two, quite short, extras on this disc:

No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps is a brief exploration of Radcliffe’s performance as Kipps, with comments from other cast and crew as to why he was good for the role.

Inside the Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black, obviously, looks at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Score: 2

WISIA: It’s highly unlikely that I’d ever waste anymore of my precious time on this film.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Film: Are you a fan of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Eaten Alive, and sleazy 70s grindhouse? Well I’ve got a delectable feast of delights for you! A tale where Life and Death are Meaningless…and Pain is God!!

October 30, 1977, Ruggsville, four twenty something’s on a road trip across the USA (Chris Hardwick, Jennifer Jostyn, Erin Daniels and Rainn Wilson) stop at Captain Spaulding’s (Sid Haig) Museum of Monsters and Mayhem, a gas station/ fried chicken hut with a Ripley’s Believe It or Not styled freak show, whose main attraction is the bizarre ‘Murder Ride’. In the ride, the travellers are told about a local psycho, Dr Satan, who was hanged out in the woods by Ruggsville townsfolk, and whose body mysteriously disappeared the next day. The four decide to visit the tree on which he was hanged, and on the way pick up a hitchhiker, Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon). Soon one of their tyres is shot out and the four have to stop in at Baby’s House, where they are introduced to the murderous Firefly family (Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Robert Mukes, Matthew McGrory and Dennis Fimple). The succeeding story will shock, terrify and haunt the viewer…FOREVER!!!

Filmed in 2000, but not released until 2003, due to Universal’s cowardice towards an NC-17 rating, but eventually picked up by Lion’s Gate Films, Rob Zombie has created a visual trip that has more genre homage’s than you can poke a stick at. House of 1000 Corpses received Best Special Effects for Wayne Toth and Michael O’Brien at Fantasporto in 2004 where it was also nominated for Best International Fantasy Film, not to mention it was nominated for Choice Movie- Horror/Thriller at the Teen Choice Awards 2003.

Zombie obviously has great affection for everything that we Horror fans and Gore fiends love. Being a collector of the macabre and trash culture himself, not to mention a Marx Brothers aficionado (to which some of the characters are named after: Otis Driftwood, Rufus Firefly and Ravelli). To a layman, this film might seem a rip-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there is no doubt that there are many comparisons, but there are levels to this film that make it so much more than that. To go into those levels would be to reveal far too much of the film itself, and lose some of its journey for the genre fan. Unfortunately this film has been heavily cut, when played at the Mar del Plata Film festival, it ran at 105 minutes but the eventual release plays at a mere 88 minutes. Don’t worry though; there is still plenty of carnage to enjoy.

The filming of this movie is great, sometimes Hollywood gloss, sometimes gritty and grainy, which gives the viewer an impression this was actually made in the seventies, and also has some quick MTV style cuts for dream sequences and such.

I absolutely love this movie. It’s never going to be known as a breakthrough of originality and top shelf acting, but isn’t entertainment what cinema is all about, something that this film delivers by the bloody bucket load. Zombie knows his genre stuff and has collected a cast from movies such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Spider Baby, Trilogy of Terror and others, to deliver ‘the Most Shocking Tale of Carnage ever Seen’. Have fun!!

Score: *****

Format: Always crisp and sharp, the 16×9 anamorphic widescreen is impressive, the only time this movie sinks to grit and grain is in its segues, where it is obviously deliberate. The audio is presented in an immaculate DTS-HD 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Unfortunately, this Bluray release is missing the spectacular menus from the initial DVD release. Those menus, hosted by Baby, Otis and particularly Captain Spaulding were fantastic, powered by Mojo DVD navigation; those menus had these three characters commenting on everything from what the special features contain, to your very own sassy hairdos.

Directors commentary is as you would expect from someone like from Rob Zombie. He talks all way through, rarely taking a break and revealing some interesting aspects of this film, including how much of it was filmed in the basement of his own house. Sometimes commentaries from only one person have long breaks or pauses, but Zombie has a short story for every scene that plays. The amount of extra bits and pieces he points out are incredible, even down to continuity faults.

The Making of featurette is a 4:14 minute summary of the film as told by the actors playing the leads, and a couple of sound bytes from Zombie about the making of the movie, but not very special or informative.

Casting is audition footage of Dennis Fimple (King Kong) who played Grandpa, which is pretty funny.

Rehearsal footage show some of the cast in their rehearsals for some particular scenes in the film.

The Interviews section has Q & A’s with Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon and Wayne Toth (special make-up effects). Fairly standard fare, but interesting never the less.

Interview with William Bassett is a new interview from Umbrella Entertainment with William Bassett from The Towering Inferno and The Karate Kid.

Theatrical Trailers are fairly self explanatory.

Score: ***

WISIA: I love this film so its a regular rewatcher for me!

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Podcast Transcript – Episode 3

Welcome back, terrorphiles, to The To Watch Pile After Dark Podcast. My name is Justin McNamara and we are counting down my top 50 favourite horror movies.

You’ll find in this list that there is a lot of 70s and 80s films, and that’s because my opinion is that the best films came out in this period, and certainly the ‘horror franchise’, a pop culture trend that I love, was at its height towards the end of the 80s. This film WAS a one off, but the 2010 remake, and its sequels, were so successful that they eventually spawned a sequel to the original in 2019, which feels like Déjà Vu…

(Play trailer)

I Spit on your Grave aka The Day of the Woman tells the story of writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) who retreats to the countryside of Connecticut from New York to work on her latest novel. At a service station near her house she meets a bunch of ne’er do wells who act in a lecherous manner towards her, and her casual way is taken by them as flirting.

She goes to her country house and has some groceries delivered, which is done by mildly mentally disabled man Matthew (Richard Pace), goes tells his friends, the same ones at the service station, included ringleader Johnny (Erin Tabor) that she had been VERY nice to him and shown him her boobs, which they take an an invitation.

They descend upon her house and tell Matthew that he should rape her and that they are helping him to lose his virginity, but we he declines, the other men repeatedly violate her, beating and raping her, until Matthew, under the influence of alcohol decides to join in. This torture lasts for hours and they finally leave her for dead…

… but she’s not dead…

She carefully creates plans to exact her revenge on the men, and does so one-by-one, taking no prisoners, and doing so in grisly, violent ways.

This film was written and directed by Mier Zarchi after he and a friends found a naked woman who had been beaten and raped, and took her to the police. Zarchi claims the police officer was extraordinarily cavalier in his behaviour towards the woman, even insisting that she answer questions even though her jaw was obviously broken. Zarchi was offered a reward by the woman’s father, which he declined, but the experience stayed with him and he eventually wrote the film whilst on his commute to work.

As a writer and director, Zarchi isn’t really know for many other films, other than 2019’s sequel, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu and the terrible ‘Don’t Mess With My Sister’ whose title offers some sense of dread, but never actually gets to the levels of this film.

This film, depending on the version you get your hands on as it’s received many cuts over the years, and was even one of the UK’s ‘Video Nasties’, goes for between 93 and 101 minutes, which is a standard movie length of its era, but what is unusual is the length of the gruelling rape scene which sits at around the 25 minute mark in the full uncut version, and Keaton spends all that time totally naked, a brave, potentially career killing choice in that day and age.

Rumour has it that the rape scene was so emotionally difficult to film that two crew members quit, one being a make up artist who was struggling with her own demons after experiencing a gang rape.

Zarchi skills as a director aren’t great and this shows in the average performances and dialogue delivery of his male cast, but his ability to direct an assault scene is amazing, and the scenes of Jennifer’s rape are gruelling, so gruelling in fact that by the time you get to the ‘revenge’ part of this ‘rape revenge’ film, you feel the men are actually let off lightly in comparison. The remake shows the Jennifer character, this time played by Sarah Butler, offer the men far more ‘torture porn’ styled punishments, which is to be expected in a post-Saw version of the film.

I Spit on your Grave was originally released as The Day of the Woman in 1978 and wasn’t received very well, but Jerry Gross renamed it I Spit On Your Grave and redistributed it in 1978 to a bit more of a response, though film critics Siskel and Ebert hated not just it, but the audiences response to it. In the UK it was labelled a Video Nasty and feminist Julie Bindel protested against its release, though she later claimed it was actually a feminist film.

I think many people protested this film initially without taking into account, described best in the 1986 book The Encylcopedia of Horror by Tom Milne and Paul Willeman, that ‘the men are so grossly unattractive and the rapes so harrowing, long drawn-out and starkly presented that it’s hard to imagine most male spectators identifying with the perpetrators’. I don’t think this quote means the men are physically unattractive, but instead psychologically unattractive with their attitudes which manifests initially as leering lust before escalating into so much worst.

Keaton’s performance in the ‘revenge’ part of the film has been criticised as well as being flat and almost catatonic, but I think that the assault causes her to be stripped back to an almost avenging angel figure, and that perhaps she has actually lost some of who SHE was.

The reason this film is in my top 50 is it is a film that effects me. As a married man with a daughter and mostly female friends, I find the film difficult to watch, and isn’t that what horror is supposed to be? It effects you in a way that I haven’t seen in many films, and this is all due to Keaton’s performance: her fear of her solitude being invaded, the response to every part of the rape, the dead-eyed horror of being stripped back to nothing more than a thing to be abused by bad men, and rebirth as an angel of vengeance with a cold heart.

I have to admit to being a latecomer to this film, and was surprised by how violent it was for the era it was from, and I have wrote at length about it, even to the point that the current release on DVD and Bluray in Australia has a quote from my review from my days as a film reviewer for now-defunct website Digital Retribution.

Thank you all for listening! At my website The To Watch Pile, (www.towatchpile.com) you can find movie reviews and a transcript of this episode of the To Watch Pile After Dark, and please, give a 5 star review on your listening program, hit the subscribe and even drop a few works of support: it heaps a great deal if you do.

You can also find me on Twitter at @thetowatchpile or on Instagram, seeing as I am part of the Nerds of Oz network, @thenerdsofoz. Also please check out our comic and nerd-related podcast Nerds of Oz, available where all good podcasts can be found.

See you on the next episode…

Piranha 3D (2010)

One from the rewatch pile…

Piranha 3D (2010)

Film: The remake debate of today is as boring as the sequel debate of 80s and 90s. It is said it shows that Hollywood has run out of ideas and needs fresh blood, and this review will not enter into it other than to comment that this film, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha is a remake of the legendary Joe Dante film Piranha from 1978 albeit with a lot of changes.

A lot of sexy changes.

Unfortunately, I was unable to review this film in 3D, due to the fact that I don’t have the equipment, but what I do have is a decent Bluray Player and a nice big TV so I can at least review the film in 2D. While I am not a huge fan of 3D anyway, I admit I was disappointed to not see naked chicks, eyeballs and vomit in the third dimension.

Piranha tells this tale…

A subterranean quake causes a fissure to open beneath the waters of Lake Victoria, a quiet town that becomes are Mecca for drunken, carnal pleasures (aka fun) during American spring break. Problem is though the fissure has released prehistoric piranha into the otherwise calm waters. Our story follows several of the townsfolk and a few of the spring break visitors and how they survive – or don’t survive – the attack of these flesh eating beasts.

Elizabeth Shue plays Sheriff Julie Forester, a member of the local constabulary who has never really had to face more in the town than drunk and disorderly charges, but who has to rise to the occasion when her town and family is threatened. After the quake she escorts scientist type Novak (Adam Scott) and his assistants (played by genre stalwart Dina Meyer and Ricardo Chavira) to explore the crack but after two of the team are eaten, they realise the entire occupants of the lake are in danger, and need to clear it immediately.

Steve McQueen’s grandson, and Vampire Diaries actor Steven R. McQueen plays Julie’s son, Jake, who is supposed to be babysitting his brother and sister (played by Brooklynn Proulx and Sage Ryan) but instead decides to play tour guide on the lake to Girls Gone Wild wannabe director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell, his assistant (Paul Scheer) and his two stars (played by super hot duo Kelly Brooke and Riley Steele) so they can film heaps of titty shots in beautiful locales. His NOT-girlfriend Kelly (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr) tags along which spoils Jake’s plans of porking a hottie, but she finds perhaps she could be one of these types of girls herself.

Of course, like everyone in the water, they run foul of the fish, and need to be rescued. Mucho bloodshed ensues…

Like all 3D films watched in 2D, a visual problem is revealed. When in 3D, one manages to overlook any dodgy effects as you are apparently dumb-founded by the visuals, but some of the effects in this film are deplorable, and while they are supposed to ‘pop’ in 3D, they just look out of place and tacked on in 2D. Haters of CGI will feel justified in their loathing with how poor some of the fish effects are.

In the August 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, James Cameron said that films like this “cheapen the medium and reminds you of bad 3D horror films of the 70s and 80s”. Now while I think that Cameron can pull his head in for casting hate towards films from the 70s and 80s, I think that this would have been a much better film if it had not been in 3D as more of the budget could have been spent on the actual effects instead of the 3D gag. The ultimate scene of carnage was one of the bloodiest of its type and probably couldn’t have been much better, but some of the more quiet scenes, like our first proper look at one of the piranha in a fish tank, were terrible. All of this is quite a shame as Aja’s abilities as a director are spectacular, and the cinematography, especially of some of the landscapes are beautiful.

One last note I should make is that horror fans need to look hard at this film as there are cameos aplenty, some more obvious than others, and the name of Richard Dreyfuss’ beer is a classic.

Boobs, blood and a collection of movies ‘legends’ make for an enjoyable experience, but not the greatest horror film ever made. As a tribute to eighties horror flicks, it is a fun distraction, but not a great rewatcher, and certainly not a classic of the horror genre. After Aja’s previous output, including impressive remakes of both The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, I expected more.

Score: ***

Format: The film is presented in 2.40:1 1080p widescreen and is fantastic. I don’t think I have ever seen a horror film set in such a bright daylight setting, and the colors are fantastic. Boobs in hi-def are a blessing from the home entertainment gods as well! The sound is presented in DTS HD 5.1 Dolby Digital and is loud and aggressive.

Score: ****

Extras: This Bluray has four extras on it:

The Making of Piranha Documentary is an extraordinary complete and interesting doco, and all involved talk of all aspects of making the film, even the legalities of location filming.

Deleted Scenes: Usually deleted scenes don’t add much extra, and essentially these don’t either, but they do complete some of the stories of which you only saw a part, like the male and female leads relationship, and there are additional scenes of boob manipulation, so winners all round.

Theatrical 3D Trailer: My favourites of all extras are trailers of the film. After one has watched a film it is interesting to see how it was marketed.

Audio Commentary with Director Alexandre Aja: The commentary is actually by Alexandre Aja, and producers Gregory Levasseur and Alix Taylor. It is a really nice commentary that is wholly informative.

Score: ***

WISIA: Like I said in the body of the review, it’s not a great rewatcher, but it does however, have a couple of good points that make it worthwhile… and I’m not talking about the ones on pornstar Gianna Michael’s chest either… so I have to admit to multiple watches.

The Innkeepers (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Innkeepers (2011)

Film: Vegemite and I have an interesting relationship. There are some days when I just can’t get enough of it, but on other days I think it is just the most revolting food ever. To me, it seems that that is an interesting look at just how taste can constantly change.

To write this review, I have watched The Innkeepers more than any other film that I have ever reviewed. Why? Well like Vegemite, every time I watch it, I have a different opinion of it. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes it’s like watching Big Brother: just a few people wandering around talking and doing stuff.

The Innkeepers tells of the last opening weekend of a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn and the people that work there, Claire (played by a totally surprising and against type Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). Luke runs a website about the Inn, and the apparent haunting that infects it, which Claire, who plays along with his investigations, has totally bought into. On this final weekend though, they have a few strange happenings, and as the weekend goes on, especially after the suicide of one of the guests, Claire becomes more and more uneasy. Actually borderline hysterical.

And then, the ‘terror’ begins….

Director Ti West has crafted a visually stunning film. He captures the quaintness of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is a real Inn I might point out, and creates tension throughout the entire film using all the usual horror tricks like sudden scares and low bass audio to produce that feeling of anxiety in the viewers chest, but he stops it just in time so the scare is even more jumpy!

West’s ability to inspire some great performances from the actors is notable as well. Sara Paxton, who normally plays the beautiful mean girl in films like Sydney White (yeah, I watch stuff other than horror and sci fi) or bland shark bait in Shark Night, plays this role with natural dorkiness ,and has even geeked herself up visually to complete the picture. It’s hard to believe she has played bitches in some other films she is so in tune with this dorky character. Pay Healy is also excellent, playing the computer nerd with such aplomb that I almost believe he must either be the greatest actor in the world, or he is really like his character. There are also some amazing performances from the unrecognisable from Top Gun Kelly McGillis and George Riddle along with a brief appearance from Sesame Street’s Alison Bartlett, whom I only mention as I have always had somewhat of a thing for her.

Fans of horror films and of haunted house films might find The Innkeepers a little on the lame side though, as it feels for the longest time like nothing happens. And it doesn’t. People who like films such as Ghost World or Art School Confidential will probably love The Innkeepers as it is one of those films that is more character driven than story driven, which to me seems to also be its failing, and this is where my dissatisfaction lies.

Whilst I completely enjoy the performances and the dialogue the actually story itself just doesn’t wash. The whole time I watched this film, I felt like I was watching a well acted and scripted final episode of a soap opera.

To me, this film is cinematic Vegemite. I wanted to like The Innkeepers, but it just hovered around mediocrity without doing a whole lot to actually entertain the viewer.It is well scripted, but at times it just feels like you are wandering around with no clear destination, and it’s just a disappointment.

Score: **

Format: Accent’s disc features a pristine and very natural looking 2.40:1 transfer. Like the image, the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is exceptional, using all available channels to subtly produce a feeling of unease on occasions.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Accent releases including Norman, Absentia, Forks Over Knives and Chasing Madoff, and one for this film, The Innkeepers.

The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes is a fluff piece that tells an abbreviated version of the commentary information, which is the better option if you are interested in that sort of thing.

There are two commentaries, one with writer/ director/ editor Ti West, Producer Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and 2nd Unit Director/ sound designer Graham Reznik, while the other features West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.The first commentary is an interest one that focuses on the making on the film, whereas the second one wis funny, but features people who are a tad conceited… typical actors.

Score: ***

WISIA: No. Never again.

Kill Bill Volume 1

One from the rewatch pile…

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Film: Quentin Tarantino is one of those writer/ directors whose films are either loved or loathed. QT is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal on one hand, and on the other hand, he almost single handed lay brought back the popularity of some exploitation and international films into the limelight. It is unfair to call QT a plagiarist, as he freely acknowledges his influences, and ha always worn them on his sleeve. This film, Kill Bill Volume 1, was conceived during the filming of Pulp Fiction, where GT could see a potential in Uma Thurman to be a great female action lead, and decided to write an entire film around her.

As the title suggests, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the first part of a revenge tale. ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) was thought to have been murdered by a squad of killers she was once a part of, The Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, a group led by the mysterious Bill (David Carradine). She cuts a swath of violence in this film to get to her intended victims: O-ren Iishi (Lucy Lui) , Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), but will she get to them all? Will she survive countless battles so that she can finally Kill Bill? Mmmm…I guess you shall have to watch Volume 2.

So, what is your pleasure? Wuxia? Got it! Exploitation? Yeah, got that too. What about gangster flicks? Yep, there’s a little of that as well. We even have a little bit of anime!! Some of the dialogue in this film suffers from ‘Lucas’ Romantic Scene Disorder’, where the lines seem to have trouble coming out of the actors mouths, and feel as awkward as a contestant on Young Talent Time. Tarantino’s plotting talents however should keep you interested enough that it is only a minor bother.

As usual, QT’s supporting characters are just as interesting as the main cast, and the plot, disjointed though it may be (like Pulp Fiction), moves along at a great pace. A fan of the type of cinema QT has interests in could really spend hours with a group of like-minded friends spotting the massive amounts of nods to other films.

With influences ranging from Tobe Hooper to the Shaw Brothers, and even sometimes borrowing from his own films, Kill Bill Volume 1 could have easily been takeaway crap, but instead it is a fresh dine-in meal with all the trimming… though the dessert has been saved for a Kill Bill Volume 2.

Score: ****

Format: Kill Bill Volume 1 was reviewed with the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen which is clean and perfect. The reds are SO red, the yellows are SO yellow and the black and white is… well, contrasting! This film is in Dolby 5.1 and is a kick ass track. The sounds of blood spraying and swords clanging together will ring in your lounge room long after the film has finished. There is some great use of musical cues that really make full use of the 5.1 sound stage as well.

Score: ****

Extras: The Making of Kill Bill should have been a three hour extravaganza where QT goes through everything that influenced this film and his career, but instead we get a 22 minute fluff piece that admittedly has a lot of interviews but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

There are two music clips from the 5,6,7,8’s, ‘Walk like Jayne Mansfield’ and “I’m Blue’. Is it surf music, is it pink? Who cares, it’s awesome!

There is also two trailers for Kill Bill Volume 1: a teaser trailer and a‘ bootleg’ trailer, which weirdly contains some footage from Volume 2!

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Oh HELL yeah I’ll watch this again!

We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!

Sin City (2005)

One from the rewatch pile…

Sin City (2005)

Film: Before these wonderful days of comic to movie blockbusters, in general, comic movies were a curio at best, and the entire history of comics to movies is littered with some absolute crap, and occasional highlights. Prior to the release of Sin City, the highs had been things like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, and there had been lows, like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. It used to be that to have a successful comic movie you had to satisfy the comic fans, which the more recent Marvel films have changed, by turning almost everyone into a comic film fan, but by staying true to the character or the aesthetic of a film, you could have a winner… and director Robert Rodriguez is well aware of that.

He also knows that comic creator Frank Miller, the mind behind the world of Sin City, has been through the Hollywood machine, and did not enjoy it. Rodriguez did not want to do this movie without Frank Miller on board, and so pursued Miller, including making a short film called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ to convince him that the look of the comic could be done. Using the actual graphic novels as script and storyboards, the duo created a movie that is literally every comic panel come alive, albeit with a few small trims. Every angle, every effect is all done exactly to the comic’s specifications, which, at first may not seem that spectacular, but when you consider it is a black and white comic, with an occasional splash of color, it is incredible. The monochromic look was achieved by having all performances done in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. This way, Rodriguez’s digital prowess could accurately create the unique look which is exactly what something based on Millar’s vision required.

One thing that I will point out that Rodriguez did here that pretty much NO other filmmaker has done when adapting a comic is keeping accurate to the source material. It seems every Hollywood director and writer and designer needs to put THEIR own stamp on the films they make, but here, Rodriguez realised the source material was solid, and didn’t need to have his personality and ideas littering it up like the Marvel and DC films have had. There was a few colour choices that were made but they were more to define comics ideas that don’t work outside of the pages of a graphic novel.

Also, in the comics, Nancy’s dance sequences were all topless, but either Jessica Alba didn’t want to do it or they wanted to avoid a higher rating, her boobs are covered.

Just as a quick side note, Miller is a big fan of the work of Will Eisner, specifically the character The Spirit, a character he himself made a… well, not very good film of, and the noirish, city-as-a-character theme plays highly in his stories.i like Miller’s writing, but his art style usually isn’t my bag, like his sketchy style used in`his 80s run of Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns and 300, but I loved his treatment of chiaroscuro in his Sin City books, originally published by Dark Horse under their ‘Legend’ imprint, which is also where Hellboy came from.

The story is about Sin City…a town of roughnecks, hookers, maniacs and corrupt cops. Follow stories of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight (Clive Owen) as they cut violent paths of collateral damage through the denizens of the town to achieve their goals.

This edition of the Australian Bluray of the films comes with 2 versions of the film… well, kinda-sorta. The individual tales that are mixed up within the movie have been recut and watched as four separate mini-features… like novellas… titled That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Always Right, The Hard Goodbye and The Big Fat Kill. It’s a cool and interesting way to split up the stories.

Featuring a massive ensemble cast of movie stars, including Rutgers Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Benicia Del Toro and many others… including Frank Miller himself, and an entire scene directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Welcome to Sin City: don’t forget to buckle up!

Score: ****

Format: This film is presented in a stunning 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty cool bunch of extra in this package.

Disc one has the main release of the film on it, but in addition, a branching version of the film where special effects details can be seen whilst watching the film, and there are three commentary tracks, the first is with Rodriguez and. Idler, the second is with Rodriguez and Tarantino and the final one has the audience reaction to the film at an early screening. The two commentaries are fascinating and each cover different sides of the making of films in general.

Kill ‘Em Good: Interactive Comic Book which is essential a pretty cheap, Bluray based video game similar to something like Dragon’s Lair where being quick with the buttons is the way to win.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film looks at what Rodriguez did to convince Miller to allow him to make the film.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino looks at the relationship between Tarantino and Rodriguez and how they came to work together in this project.

Hard Top with a Decent Engine: the Cars of Sin City has us see the amazing vehicles used for the citizens of Sin City to drive. Car fans would love this.

Booze, Braids and Guns: The Props of Sin City looks at the cool amount of props collected for the film and the dedication to getting comic accuracy.

Making the Monsters: The Special Effects Make Uo is always my favourite part of any ‘extras’ section of a film, and this didn’t disappoint, especially considering most of it was done by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead.

Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City looks at the outfits and costume design of the film.

There’s also a teaser and a trail for the film… and then we get into the real fun part: The Rodriguez Special Features, which include:

15 Minute Flic School is an occasional series where Rodriguez shows tricks of the filmmaking trade.

The All Green Screen version is the entire film all played without any off the special effects, sped up about 800 times and it’s interesting what they were able to accomplish!

The Long Take looks at the way Quentin Tarantino directed Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the scene he filmed and because it was shot on digital they could continuously shoot so you see al the direction and discussion.

Sin City: Live in Concert is footage from a concert with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators, and Rodriguez’s band Chingon.

10 Minute Cooking School is another staple/ irregular series that Rodriguez does, this time its the recipe for Sin City Breakfast Tacos!

Score: *****

WISIA: One of the best comic to film productions ever, AND a kick ass gangster film in its own right. You’ll watch it agin and again and again.

Slender Man (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slender Man (2018)

Film: One of the things I love about DVD and Bluray covers, are the blurbs lifted from reviews to and add hype to a movie’s home video release. This blurb is also a poker-styled ‘tell’ of what reviewers I can trust, and those I can’t. This film, Slender Man, has a comment by a fellow human that this film is ‘Scary, chilling and thrilling’.

Sure, a provocative note like this could inspire people to buy the home video release, but what eventually happens is the viewer realises that the reviewer quoted may have been misquoted or has NEVER seen another film in their life, and possibly spent their entire life in a movie and TV-less existence.

Slender Man is based on the supernatural character created as a meme by Victor Surge, aka Eric Knudsen in 2009, which spawned video games, YouTube videos, influenced Minecraft with its ‘Enderman’ character and tragically, resulted in some real-life violence. The character has also appeared in all sorts of other media, from My Little Pony to Big Mouth.

It would appear that the makers of this film like nothing more that jumping into a phase that pop culture was going through far too late, and 2018 gave us this movie, Slender Man, written by David Birke (13 Sins, Gacy) and directed by Sylvain White, who also directed comic-book movie, The Losers, and the sequel I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.

The story follows four teenage girls, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julie Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair and Katie (Annalise Basso) who decide one night to do some research into an urban legend known as ‘Slender Man’. Eventually they find a video that claims that after you’ve watched it, and heard the three bells, the Slender Man will come for you.

Of course, the girls watch it and within a day, Katie goes missing, but what happened to her? The other girls start an investigation into where she went, but slowly they discover that the creature is pursuing them, and the friendship begins to fall apart…

One thing you’ll immediately notice from that synopsis is the blatant rip-off… I’m sorry, ‘homage’… of the film The Ring, with a peppering of Candyman sprinkled over the top. These sorts of things happen in horror all the time, and in actual fact the entire genre is built upon ‘borrowing’ good ideas and this is not the main problem with the film.

White’s direction of most of the action is pretty good itself, but it didn’t need to be so dark.

No, the main problem with the film is the casting. Outside of the cast of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I don’t think I’ve ever been presented with such a bunch of unlikable characters in my life. I’m not sure if it was White’s intention to present these kids as bored and disinterested, but they barely seem concerned for either their own or their friend’s wellbeing, which of course makes it impossible for the viewer to give a flying fandango as to whether they survive or not. This of course is a major issue because if you don’t care for the protagonist, you have no investment in the film.

…and honestly, I wish NO ONE had invested in this film.

I really can’t stress enough how much one should avoid this film. I own a lawn vacuum that doesn’t suck and blow as much as this film does.

Score: 1/2

Format: I found the image of this film to be SO dark that it can ONLY be watched in a room that has absolutely NO light source coming from anywhere at all, and had to adjust the contract a little even to watch it at night. The film is apparently presented in 2.39:1 image, but you can hardly tell. The audio is really good though and is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for Insidious: The Last Key, which is perfect for this film as it also, is made for mainstream kids, boring as batshit, by the numbers horror. This trailer is also accessible from the Extras menu… if for some reason you felt the need to watch it again.

The only other extra is called Summoning Slender Man: Meet the Cast is exactly what the title would suggest. It’s interviews with the young cast and the director as they desperately try to sell a turd and pretend it’s a piece of gold.

Score: *

WISIA: Nope.