If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
We've added one more review!
Since they shaved a day off of the schedule at November’s American Film Market, my last movie day in Santa Monica is jam-packed. When all is said and done, I’ll have seen 25 new independent and foreign films in six consecutive days. Quite a haul, huh? You can read part one of my movie orgy here and the second chapter here.
KIDNAPPED: A big prize-winner at September’s Fantastic Fest (voted best film and best director for Miguel Ángel Vivas) and picked up for U.S. release by IFC, this Spanish-language film (a.k.a. SECUESTRADOS) follows in the uncompromising, gritty footsteps of ’70s horror films like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and recent throwback THE STRANGERS. A couple and their mildly rebellious teen daughter move into a luxurious new Madrid home, but before they can finish unpacking, three violent, hooded robbers raid the place and hold the family hostage. Mother and child fare the worst (I wonder if the filmmakers drew inspiration from that recent, horrific home-invasion case in Connecticut?), and those unlucky to ring the doorbell during the crisis serve as further collateral damage. Vivas and co-writer Javier García pull no punches in terrorizing the poor family, and increase the tension and suspense with a constantly moving camera, split screens and a minimum of shots. You’ll be on the edge of your seat until the horrifying end.
F: Familiar British character actor David Schofield (THE WOLFMAN, VALKYRIE, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films) gets the lead role in this derivative UK thriller. He’s a boozy schoolteacher experiencing a particularly bad day: First, he’s on probation for drinking on the job and being too strict with his students; next, his own daughter acts up in his classroom; and then, after hours, a gang of (here we go again) hooded punks invade the cavernous school and begin slaying those unfortunates working late. Writer/director Johannes Roberts shamelessly rips off ILS (a.k.a. THEM) here, providing no rhyme or reason for the bloodshed while we never see the perpetrators’ faces. Biggest offense: at about the 75-minute mark, the film just ends, almost as if the final reel got stuck in the projector. Gorehounds will dig some of the splatter on display, and Schofield makes for an unusual (and sympathetic) hero, but there’s not enough going on here to give F more than a barely passing grade.
CHATROOM: RINGU/DARK WATER director Hideo Nakata helmed this dark psychological drama about a group of young people who bond in an Internet chatroom. Their disturbed moderator, played by KICK-ASS’ Aaron Johnson, begins to exert an unhealthy influence over the quintet, encouraging increasingly antisocial behavior and preying on the weak mind of the suicidal Jim (Matthew Beard) in particular. Since no one would want to watch kids type away at their keyboards for 90-plus minutes, Nakata innovatively presents the chatroom like it’s an actual place where the five strangers go to hang out and converse. The visually interesting gambit succeeds, as does CHATROOM’s depiction of various on-line perils (more topical than ever, thanks to recent cyberbullying tragedies) that exploit every concerned parent’s worst fears. The young performers contribute fine work, especially the unhinged Johnson and Imogen Poots (of CENTURION, 28 WEEKS LATER and the upcoming FRIGHT NIGHT remake). Unfortunately, much of CHATROOM, is, well, chat, as the teens talk nonstop amongst themselves. The screenplay by Enda Walsh (adapting her own play, which explains the movie’s wordiness and staginess) reveals the various insecurities and weaknesses of the five teens, but a couple come up a bit sketchy and ill-defined. It’s hard to say where CHATROOM will find its audience (the movie opens in its native UK December 22), though the target demo will likely prefer watching the film on their iPhones.
COLD PREY III: Norway’s ongoing contribution to the slasher genre gets a prequel with COLD PREY III (a.k.a. COLD PREY: THE BEGINNING), which takes us back to the evolution of the maniac we saw in the previous (and superior) COLD PREY flicks. The new story opens in 1976 at a failing mountain hotel, where an abused boy murders his cruel parents and is feared lost in the wilderness. Ten years later, a cop and six travelers head to the area, where the now-grown killer begins picking off the young people in standard fashion. Unlike Roar Uthhaug’s first COLD PREY (released by Anchor Bay), which benefitted from the remoteness of its great snowy mountain setting, the third episode unfolds in the sunny woods, which we’ve seen countless times before. Ditto the stock characters and ho-hum kill scenes. Newbie director Mikkel Brænne Sandemose generates a modicum of suspense, but you’ll be praying for THE BEGINNING to end.
DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT (also pictured above): Expectations ran really high for this one. DYLAN DOG derives from a hugely popular comic book in Italy, created by Tiziano Sclavi (who also penned the novel DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE that inspired the film a.k.a. CEMETERY MAN); and as the titular supernatural private eye, the film stars Brandon Routh, who impressed many with his underrated heroic turn in SUPERMAN RETURNS. Why, then, does the film rank as a huge disappointment? Let me count the ways… DYLAN DOG takes place in modern-day New Orleans, where Routh’s detective specializes in cases involving monsters (“No pulse, no problem,” reads his card). When called to solve the mystery of a murdered rich guy and track down some supernatural trinket, he tangles with vampire and werewolf kingpins (Taye Diggs and Peter Stormare, respectively), zombies, etc. Dylan Dog narrates the action in traditional film noir style, though none of it comes across as authentic or clever (HBO did this a thousand times better with 1991’s CAST A DEADLY SPELL). TMNT director Kevin Munroe has no feel for the material, and much of DYLAN DOG plays like a busted TV pilot or an off episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Routh looks the part, right down to his costume (matching the comic to a T), but his character never comes alive due to the lack of authenticity hanging over the whole affair. The filmmakers seem unable to create a believable universe for their story and colorful characters to exist in, and even squander New Orleans, which should have been an atmosphere-drenched setting. This movie needed a Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro or even a Timur Bekmambetov to make the yarn soar. Sadly, as a potential franchise, DYLAN DOG: DEAD OF NIGHT comes to us Dead On Arrival.
THE TROLL HUNTER: Kudos once more to Magnolia’s acquisitions chief Tom Quinn, who really knows how to pick ’em (previous winners: THE HOST, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, MONSTERS…). His latest find, Norway’s THE TROLL HUNTER, unspools like a cross between THIS IS SPINAL TAP and CLOVERFIELD. The mockumentary follows a group of film students trailing the titular character (Otto Jespersen) around the Norwegian wilderness, as we learn everything you always wanted to know about trolls (but were afraid to ask). Government-sanctioned, the Troll Hunter works to keep the King Kong-sized mythical creatures in line, as they hide in the scenic mountains and feed on the occasional goats or cattle when they stray into civilization. Writer/director André Øvredal infuses THE TROLL HUNTER with a droll sense of humor, but there’s nothing cute about the ancient-looking creatures; they can pulverize you with a swing of their mighty hands. The film’s superb CGI FX can compete with any megabudget U.S. production, and the towering monsters invoke a scary sense of wonder. TROLL HUNTER’s government-conspiracy stuff seems a little tired, as does the abrupt finale, but this movie will plant a smile on your face from beginning to end. It’s sleepers like THE TROLL HUNTER that keep me comin’ back to the American Film Market year after year.
A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE: The matchup of director Adam Wingard (HOME SICK and POP SKULL) and screenwriter Simon Barrett (DEAD BIRDS, FRANKENFISH, RED SANDS) proves to be a fruitful collaboration in this semi-avant-garde serial-killer film. AJ Bowen (of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and THE SIGNAL) stars as a convicted murderer on his way to prison who escapes and seeks to “reunite” with his former girlfriend (BITTER FEAST’s Amy Seimetz), who turned him in. The shellshocked woman has relocated to a new town and changed her identity, but it doesn’t take long for her ex to track her down. The story’s focus shifts from past to present and back throughout the leisurely-paced movie, keeping us on edge as we put the pieces of the puzzle together. The two leads turn in strong work, especially Bowen as the even-keeled but determined maniac. The surprise ending comes across as a mite implausible, to say the least, but A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE clicks as a good, low-key indie sleeper.
Bloody Blogs -
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment