Monday, February 27, 2006

Three Extremes (Saam Gaang Yi)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A collection of three short horror films by three different Asian directors. I will discuss each individually and then discuss them as a whole. My suggestion is to go into this film WITHOUT knowing what the three movies are about (in other words, don't read the plotlines below)--it'll be much more fun. But if you just can't bear it, I've described what they're about as well.

1. Dumplings

Plotline: A middle-aged woman comes to visit a "chef" notorious for her age-defying dumplings, hoping that she can woo back her husband by recharging the looks of her youth. You will never look at a Chinese woman eating dumplings innocently again.

Scariness factor: This short film has a much higher uncomfortability and gross-out factor than scare factor, but it definitely is a creepy one.

Gross-Out Factor: Let me just say, I sure was glad that we feasted on sushi and udon BEFORE this movie. I am a mildly-squeamish person, but I can watch a lot without being grossed out. However, when the crux of the movie rests on the palate, apparently it's a much different story. You can remind yourself over and over that it's JUST A MOVIE, but it will be difficult to keep your stomach from churning despite that fact. I honestly was a bit burpy afterwards, and not in a good way. Translation: a high high high gross-out factor; very graphic.

Complaints: As I've discussed with several folks on various occasions, I'm a fan of subtlety when it comes to horror flicks. I'd much rather sit through a movie that scares me than one that just grosses me out the whole time. I am also more of a fan of the supernatural horror movie, rather than the horror movie which focuses on the horror that is twisted human nature. This movie fits into the latter of the two categories. The graphicness is INTENSE. And the movie is not so much scary as uncomfortable and creepy and unsettling.

High Points: That being said, I did in fact like this short film. Gross-out factor was high, and I'm not a big fan. But this short would've failed miserably without it. The key was the intense visceral reaction that it evokes in you. And it does a good job with this. I also left the movie thinking that this was a very well-constructed short. I am not quite sure why, but I felt like they did a very solid, good job with this segment. The acting was very good. It was very believable. And it had a hint of strange folklorishness akin to some of the creepy stuff I used to like reading when I was little.

Overall: This is really a visceral and nauseating short, but it is well-done despite its high gross-out factor. If you are squeamish though, stear clear.

Grade: A-

2. Cut

Plotline: A movie-director returns home from a day on-set to find an intruder in his home. He is attacked and awakes from unconsiousness on the set of his movie, his wife strung up near the piano, and a pressing deadline: he must either choke to death a child tied up nearby or every ten minutes one of his wife's fingers will be chopped off.

Scariness factor: Again, this short film is not so much scary as demented and creepy. But as dementedness goes, it is definitely high. And it has the added benefit of being funny in parts, which also will creep you out because YOU'LL feel demented for finding humor in such fucked up events.

Gross-Out Factor: Fairly high, given the chopping off of fingers and the end of the short. Expect no shortage on blood.

Complaints: I am having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that failed to impress me about this short, but *something* did. Perhaps it was the torture sheerly for the sake of torture. I dunno. Like I said, I'm not a big fan of the torture film. And although there are a good variety of horror flicks that I like whose focus is the revelation of the horror that is human nature (or a deviation from the norm of human nature), they tend to interest me less than other types of horror films. I know people are fucked up and creepy. It is unsettling to be reminded of that. Which is both good and bad, I suppose.

High Points: The humor in this short is definitely its high-point. I found myself laughing throughout, and I felt uncomfortable laughing, but it was downright FUNNY in parts. The intruder/torturer is fantastic in this short--he is both wildly funny and creepy, and damn good playing both. This short also was good in the department of the absurd, which ties into the humor I suppose. But the absurdity of it was fun.

Overall: I wasn't bowled over by this short, but its humor was definitely something different, and it's worth watching for that alone, I suppose.

Grade: C+/B-

3. The Box

Plotline: A woman has a recurring dream in which she is suffocated in plastic, placed in a small box, and buried in the ground. The mystery behind this recurring dream is slowly revealed.

Scariness factor: Unlike the other two shorts which focused more on violence and calling up a visceral reaction in their viewers, this short is more typically what I'd consider my cup of tea: it is subtle and creepy and relies more on atmosphere and spookiness than it does graphic bloodiness.

Gross-Out Factor: Low. The more violent events are understated and nothing that you'll need to squinch your eyes shut during.

Complaints: I didn't get it. And by that, I mean I didn't really understand the end of the movie or what the hell it meant. And in having it explained to me (by someone else who wasn't QUITE clear about it either but seemed to understand it more than me), if they are correct, I still didn't really understand it or get it. The ending, while visually interesting, was disappointing. (I just read through an explanation of the ending of this movie HERE which has made me rethink the ending--I actually really find it quite interesting now, and not at all disappointing.)

High Points: This short is beautifully filmed. Much of the short has that blue early-morning/dusk coloring to it that is beautiful and yet unsettling. And the scenes in the snow are beautiful. The story-line was also entertaining and interesting (up until the end, perhaps) and the shots concerning the twin sisters are really fantastic as well. This short was definitely the best of the three visually.

Overall: I really liked this one, especially now that I've read more about the ending. It is beautifully surreal and interesting, and definitely worth checking out.

Grade: A/A-

Overall Rating for All Three Shorts: B; Dumplings and The Box are on very opposite ends of the spectrum in film-style, content, etc. but both are really quite good and worth watching.


The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A strange thriller about a little girl (played by a little Jodie Foster) who lives with her father in a small town. Suspicion begins to grow in adult visitors when her father never happens to be around or is always "working in his study" when they drop by. A pervy child molester (Martin Sheen) quickly gets interested in the young girl when he realizes that perhaps she DOESN'T in fact have parents around, and things begin to get out of hand.

Scariness factor: I am hard-pressed to call this a horror movie, but since so many people consider it one (HERE, HERE, HERE, etc.), I figured I might as well review it. That being said, this movie is not scary at all. I'd argue (and heatedly, I might add), that it would more aptly fall under the "thriller" category and that calling it a horror movie (and its movie poster which plays it up as such) is misleading. So expect to go in being "thrilled" but not so much "scared" or "horror-fied."

Gross-Out Factor: There is nothing gross about this movie except a little bit of trickling bright-red blood.

Complaints: My major complaint is that this is NOT a horror movie and it will neither scare you nor entertain you as a horror movie. It is also fairly slow as well for a thriller. It was entertaining, but definitely definitely slow.

High Points: Martin Sheen plays a fantastically creepy and uncomfortable perv. Jodie Foster is pretty damn good as usual. What I most enjoyed about this movie though was its mega-1970's feel. The talk about smoking pot, the casual sex that Jodie Foster (who's supposed to be like 13) has, the music, etc. etc. all made it campily entertaining.

Overall: Don't go in expecting horror. That's all I can say. Not a bad movie, but definitely not anything that will creep you out or scare you.

Grade: As a horror film -- D, As a thriller -- B-

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006


--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A videotape has begun to circulate, full of bizarre images and haunting music--when it ends, the phone rings and someone tells you you only have a week more to live. A week later, you're dead. A journalist hears about this urban legend and, upon the death of her niece and her niece's friends, starts delving into its reality, getting herself caught up in its death wish by watching the tape herself. She must find a way to save herself, her ex-husband, and her son from the curse.

Scariness factor: I love this movie. It will scare your pants off. I like the American version as well, but it pales in comparison to this Japanese original. It is moreso creepy (in ambience) than actually scary like Ringu. The imagery and the story-line throughout Ringu is fantastically creepy and terrifying. While Americans continue to mass-produce Hollywood horror cheese (aka. The Amityville Horror, House of Wax, etc.), Asian filmmakers are busy rocking the house out with some damn good creepfests like The Eye and Ringu. And I thank god for it.

Gross-Out Factor: This movie is quite tame on this front. The images it leaves burned on the retina are images that are scary rather than gory--the after-effects of people being scared to death.

Complaints: I really have few with regard to this movie. There are some obvious inconsistencies and plot holes in it, but when a horror flick offers up a barrage of high-quality scares, I am more than happy to overlook its minor flaws.

High Points: Again, this movie is creepy and well-done. It is visually interesting to watch. Its frightening moments will truly scare you. And unlike the American version, it offers up a feasible (though supernatural) explanation for the existence of the video and the occurences taking place in the film. The American version tries too hard to explain it, and in doing so opens up vast wealths of inconsistencies and illogicalities. I found myself going, "But what? Wait? Huh? That doesn't really make sense. I don't get it exactly" with the American version. The Japanese version doesn't try quite so hard, and in doing so, makes the explanation *far* more convincing and *far* more interesting, in fact. The explanation is strange and supernatural, but I am willing to swallow it and suspend my disbelief.

Overall: I highly recommend this flick. If you're not a fan of subtitles, deal. It'll be well worth your while. And if you're already smitten with the American version, then for god's sake, rent this one as well, because I guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Grade: A


Monday, February 06, 2006

Scary Movie

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Basically that of Scream, but in parody form.

Scariness factor: It's a spoof, so it's pretty much as low as it gets.

Gross-Out Factor: Again, it's a spoof, so not much in the gross-out category.

Complaints: Basically, the movie just sticks to spoofing Scream for 90% of the plot, with a heavy nod to I Know What You Did Last Summer and some 2-second smaller nods to The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, and The Matrix thrown in for good measure. (Maybe it's just me, but has anyone here really ever thought of The Matrix as a *horror* film? I mean, wtf?) This is really what made it drag so much. I might as well just watch Scream myself and make fun of it, seeing as that's all this movie does. And it's not even really FUNNY at all. I mean, it makes fun of the stupidity of some of the events in Scream, but not in any sort of interesting, pointed kind of way like parodies usually do. And man alive, how boring is it to parody just *one* movie?? I mean, I was expecting lots of horror flicks to be referenced, but they sure as hell weren't.

High Points: Pretty much nothing. I'm all about comedies and stuff (even fart-joke ones, once in a while), but this one pretty much failed to be entertaining and failed to be funny.

Overall: I dunno. I was just bored with this movie. It was lame and pretty dumb, and really didn't offer up any kind of fun parody at all, of horror movies in general or of Scream in specific. If you want a good horror movie parody, go rent Shaun of the Dead instead--it's entertaining and actually succeeds at being funny. Or just rent yourself some good campy horror flicks and sit around and Mystery Science Theater them yourselves--you'll have MUCH more fun.

Grade: F


House of Wax

As promised, I sucked it up and watched not one but *two* horror movies this weekend for you, my lovely readers. You best appreciate it, or you're going down.

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: A group of teens heads off on a road-trip, aiming to hit some football game that they're geeked up about attending. They decide to camp out in the middle of the boonies, waking up to find that one of their cars won't start. Two of the teens head off into a nearby town that houses a wax museum. Strange and murderous things start to happen to the teens one by one as they each wander into town...

Scariness factor: I have to admit, I was tense a few times during the movie. It sort of alternates between horribly lame and occasionally high-tension.

Gross-Out Factor: High high high. I had a coworker tell me he had to walk out in the middle of the movie because he found it too gory. I mean, people are coated with hot wax on their skin, so you've gotta expect a little bit of gore.

Complaints: I always wonder how it is that dozens and dozens of people can up and vanish in the same area constantly, and yet no one ever manages to snoop around nearby towns for clues (House of 1000 Corpses also suffered from this nonsensicalness). I also find it fishy that *POTENTIAL SPOILER* a huge house composed strictly of wax will go up so quickly in a fire. I understand it MELTING. But wax doesn't itself catch fire, correct? So why in god's name does the House of Wax burn like no tomorrow, flames billowing up from floors made of wax? Wax melts, yes. But I didn't think it actually catches FIRE, otherwise we'd be burning down our houses whenever we use candles, no? /END SPOILER Also, as in most teeny bopper flicks, the music is horrible. And, although the plot is not too full of holes, it is kind of lame--the movie had lots of camp potential--I mean, it's about a fricking house of wax (perhaps the original one played this up more), but it never indulges in it... And finally, *MINOR SPOILER* the main character gets her finger CHOPPED OFF in the first 1/2 hour of the film, spurting blood EVERYWHERE, and yet throughout the rest of the movie, the blood-loss and the fact that she's missing most of her finger never seems to phase her. And at the end, she's sitting in an ambulance, and NONE OF THE PARAMEDICS ARE DOING ANYTHING FOR HER. Apparently this amputation was intended for early gross-out fx, but basically drops out of the story for convenience's sake after that's been achieved. /END SPOILER

High Points: Twin brother of main female character is *hot*. Also, the notion of an all-wax house was pretty cool to me (if not very realistic). And, as I stated earlier, there are some good tense scenes.

Overall: I was surprised because I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to (although that's probably just because I was expecting it to SUCK like an anteater vacuuming while drinking ants through a straw). It's no Exorcist or Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but it's at least mildly entertaining.

Grade: C


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On the 6th Day of the 6th Month of the 6th Year when I'll probably get around to posting again, I'm that lazy.

Really, I've just been super-busy in the evenings and haven't had a wit of time to watch a horror flick. But excuses excuses--perhaps this Friday if I can get my hands on something good.

In the meantime, while flipping through channels on the weekend, I caught word that they were remaking The Omen, and I of course found myself wondering why they can't ever let a good thing alone*.

But since they apparently can't, here's all the info for you lovers of unnecessary remakes:



The new Damien:
Creepy? Or just belongs
in a Welch's grapejuice

*I mean, did you know that in the original movie, the spooky little grin from Damien at the very end was IMPROVISED by the little boy who played Damien??? And that's like one of the most chilling parts of the movie! I mean, if that's not fucked up and wicked cool, then I don't know what is. Anyways, you can read more cool trivia on the original flick HERE.

**The only props I'm giving them is for being silly and smart enough to release the movie on June 6 of this year (6/6/6).