Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: The storyline intertwines the grim reality of a circa-1940s fascist Spain with the ethereal and creepy disreality of a labyrinth hidden in a forest and inhabited by a faun. A young girl is sent with her mother to move in with her new stepfather who is a brutal evil captain in the Spanish army. When she wanders off one night, following the trail of a strange bug, she finds herself facing a creepy faun who tells her that she is a princess reborn, and that if she wants to find eternal life, all she needs to do is complete three tasks and she will live forever as royalty.

Scariness factor: This movie is creepy and delightful. It is like re-experiencing the frightfulness of being a child huddled under covers in the dark, trapped by one's own imagination. The characters are also very much like the imaginings of children as well--horrific and yet terrifyingly wonderful.

Gross-Out Factor: I was really quite surprised at how violent a handful of scenes in the movie are. The most violent of them all is a scene in which the evil Captain beats someone's nose back into their face, killing them. Seriously brutal stuff.

Complaints: Nada nada limonada.

High Points: Seriously, there are so many good things to say about this movie. It is seriously one of the more delightfully creepy and weirdly childlike imaginings I've ever seen transferred to the screen. The characters are truly something that comes straight from childhood nightmares. They are wonderful and yet horribly horribly terrifying. And yet, what I really adored about the movie was that the little girl who is the main character in the movie never seems to even bat an eyelash at their weirdness. She in particular is a fantastic little actress. And all the other acting in the movie is wonderful as well. Visually, the movie is stunning--swirls of shadow and light are played with in breathtaking ways. The strange characters that inhabit the movie are creepy and awesomely imaginative--I just wanted to keep staring at them and never stop. The movie is very smart, intertwining historical fiction of post-Civil War Spain, with ethereal fairy-tales of a young girl. Reality and disreality clash in terrifying ways, leaving you wondering which is scarier--the man with eyes in his hands, or the Captain himself. And that is another fantastic aspect of this movie--it is creepy and horrifying on many different levels--the strange characters that inhabit the fairy-tale part of the movie are fierce and spooky, but the Captain and the reality of his interaction with rebel troops is just as terrifying. And the ending is perfect. Seriously seriously perfect. I actually teared up.

Overall: Rent it. It's like nothing you've ever seen. Don't expect jump-in-your-seat nightmarish adventures of Freddy Kreuger. Expect something WAY more creepy and delightful, like stepping back into your childhood nightmares.

Grade: A+

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Number 23

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Walter Sparrow receives a book called The Number 23 on his birthday, and as he begins to read it, he finds that it parallels his own life in strange ways. He quickly becomes obsessed with figuring out whether it's about him and why everything in his life comes back to the number 23.

Scariness factor: It's more a movie about paranoia, so it's not so much a jump-in-your-seat kind of film.

Gross-Out Factor: A couple slit throats, but that's it I think...

Complaints: I actually like Jim Carrey quite a bit in serious roles (he's fantastic in Eternal Sunshine), but man alive can he not pull off being a bad-ass kind of character. The "detective" version of himself in this movie is really hard to swallow--with his large tattoos and over-done fierceness. I just don't buy it, Jim Carrey. That aside, the movie is *way* too farfetched to really suck me in as much as it could have. Don't get me wrong, I *was* intrigued and spent the whole time trying to figure out what was going on, but I found it hard to believe that anyone would HUMOR this man enough to stage a sting operation and also take him to a maximum security prison to visit a murderer. At that point, the average human being would be like "therapist-time, buddy." I also like Joel Schumaker quite a bit, but this was definitely not one of his best moments. It feels nice and creepy every once in a while, but overall, it was a bit too much.

High Points: As much as I hate twist-endings, I found this one at least interesting. Far-fetched yet again. But at least interesting. And I find the number 23 stuff to be interesting, independent of the movie (and not in a goth high-school way, I swear to god, Patrick), so THAT was at least SORT of interesting. What would've made this movie REALLY good is if Polanski had done it--I still think he is one of the great masters of paranoia (see my review on The Tenant)--Schumaker just wasn't quite so ballsy and heart-wrenching with it as he could've been. Oh, yeah--and I kinda liked the dog bit.

Overall: It's fluff, and not all that well-done of fluff--entertaining, but you won't have wasted your life if you don't even see it.

Grade: C


Black Christmas (2006)

--Reviewed by Lindy Loo

Plotline: Every Christmas, the sisters at Alpha Kappa Gamma Sorority wrap a gift up for Billy Lenz, an insane murderer who killed his mom and step father in their sorority house on Christmas day. It's a token offering, to keep the evil spirits at peace. But this year, it's apparently not doing much good, as the sorority girls find out when their sisters begin showing up dead.

Scariness factor: Alas, no good jump-in-your-seat-type moments.

Gross-Out Factor: High on the gross-out scale. The worst moment being when Billy bakes his mothers flesh into X-mas cookies and is dipping them into a glass of milk and chewing on them when the police come. I actually felt my stomach turn on that one.

Complaints: I would like to say that if you could get beyond the fact that the female villain sounded exactly like Chris Farley playing the Gap Girl, you might enjoy this movie. But alas, I cannot. The movie is lame. The acting is lame. It's not scary. It's not campy. It's just excessively gross, and I didn't really care about the sorority girls getting picked off one by one.

High Points: Short of the feelings of nostalgia for Christmas, and the warm memories of Chris Farley that were merely incidental, there's not much I can add to this category.

Overall: Although I'm still interested in seeing the original to compare, I can reassure you that if you go through the rest of your life never having seen this movie, you'll probably be much better off.

Grade: D-