April 2008 Archives

Review: Rosemary's Baby (1968)

There aren't many classic horror movies that can actually survive the test of time.  Either the content itself becomes so outdated as to no longer be relevant to today's audience, the actors have faded into obscurity, or (worst of all) the effects are of such an antique nature that you can't really watch them without laughing.
Rosemary's Baby doesn't really suffer from any of these, and while it's still a great movie, it's not THE great movie that I thought it was.  And yes, I really did just see it for the first time a few days ago. 
Technically, it's an absolutely beautiful movie.  It's perfectly directed, well-acted, and the cinematography is gorgeous.  The slow burn of the movie pays off perfectly, and this is the type of movie that Joshua could only wish to be.
It could be that the themes of the movie are simply so passe in the realm of cinema by this point in time, 40 years after its original release.  We all know the basic story - woman gets pregnant, believes it to be the son of the devil, and it turns out to be true.  And it's really not the basic story that drives the film - it's the performance by Mia Farrow that really locks this in as a great film.
All of the necessary plot points are there - the old building with a questionable history, the mysterious neighbors who are too nosy and too knowing, the strange behavior of loved ones experiencing unexplained boons in their career, the strange doctor telling you to "trust no one", and finally the close friend who pays for his compassion with his life.
So why doesn't this film stand the test of time?  Well, it's really not scary anymore, at least not to me.  Perhaps there's a certain level of desensitization that's set in (and I'll openly admit that's probably part of it), but it seems like the idea that a woman could be impregnated by the Devil and give birth to the Antichrist is such a part of our cultural mythos at this point (and we've seen so many variations based on this theme over the past 40 years), that it just doesn't have the emotional impact that it did back in 1968.
I know that Bravo ranked the Satanic rape scene at #23 in it's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, but after watching it the scariest part of it was seeing all the old people naked!  It's still a great scene, but there were a lot of moments higher up in the list that I would have put far above this particular scene.
All in all, the film is definitely one for posterity.  It captures a feeling pervasive to the late 60s and casts it in a manner which encompasses all of the fears of that time into a compelling narrative.  Perhaps the most upsetting scene in the entire film is at the very end, after Rosemary is faced with the fact that she has given birth to the son of the Devil.  She makes a choice, and it is that choice that is perhaps the most haunting in all the movie.

Next-Gen Gaming, Here I Am!

So...finally got my X-Box 360, as a "paid off my credit debt" present to myself.  And, of course, I couldn't just get the machine for the four games I already had.  Noooooo!  I had to get Guitar Hero 3 (with the wireless guitar) and Rock Band as well.  Plus three more games.  So that puts me up to the following list of options:

Soon enough, I'll be posting some initial reactions and more detailed reviews of some (if not all) of these games.  But for now I'm just psyched to finally have my next-gen console!

New Novelty Site - www.Bitch20.com

So I was bored last week during my time waiting for jury duty, so I concocted this site pretty much in about an hour or so.  Pretty simple and straightforward, learned a big about jquery and am happy with the end product.

Check it out if you want - http://www.bitch20.com

Review: Saw 4 (2007

D: Darren Lynn Bousman
S: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Lyriq Bent

The latest installment of the Saw franchise picks up where the last left off, almost immediately in fact.  Jigsaw is dead (sorry for the spoiler), but his games are not over.  During the autopsy of Jigsaw, a cassette tape is found in his stomach that begins the process of a new, posthumous game of cat and mouse, life and death.  The players this time are the police officers who have been spending the last years of their career tracking down the serial killer.  Sergeant Rigg is the primary actor, and it is his inability to allow others make their own choices and decisions that has driven his choice as the latest victim of Jigsaw.

What makes this perhaps the most interesting, unique, and intense of the series is the manner in which all of the history of Jigsaw is intertwined with the current story being told.  We find out a lot more about what drove Jigsaw to start his murderous games, while at the same time being presented with different views of the events of the "present" and the events of Saw 3.  It's a little distracting at first, and it takes a few inter-takes to really "get" what is going on.  By the end, you not only see the results of Jigsaw's latest test, but you understand exactly how it ties in with prior events.  The time shifting in this film is perhaps not only the most effective that I've seen in many years, but the payoff at the end is quite impressive.

As with the other Saw movies, there's not much detail you can dive into without ruining the basic storyline of the movie.  Plus, much of the drama and intensity is visual - the traps, the games, and the sequences that Jigsaw's victims must work through are difficult to distill down to mere words.  And, as with each outing in the series, the violence and gore are amped up yet again for this outing.  The traps are more vicious, more devious, and definitely more dangerous in this latest installment.  It is definitely a worthy installment in this series, and it leaves the door open to the next one, which will undoubtedly wind up hitting us around Halloween of 2008.

Review: Saw 3 (2006)

D: Darren Lynn Bousman
S: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFadyen, Bahar Soomekh

Saw 3 sees Jigsaw's endgame come to fruition.  Bedridden and near death due to the cancer that has ravaged his body, Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor with the intention of using her skills to keep him alive long enough to see what should be his final game come to fruition.  While many of the other movies in the series focused on a single character or set of characters, working through a single game to determine whether or not they are worthy of life, Saw 3 shows just how devious Jigsaw truly is, intertwining three "tests" into a single penultimate game.  True to form, the violence is amped up from either of the previous installments, and the blood and gore flies rather freely.

The different levels in this movie are what really separate it from the prior installments, and what makes this truly a more significant and impressive outing than Saw 2 (which was, I think, the worst so far).  It focuses more on the psychological terror that Jigsaw uses against his victims.  Certainly, the machinations are important, but it's always the "game" that drives the plot, not just the gruesome deaths.  Here, we see the history behind the first movie, the interactions that Amanda had with the victims from the first film.  However, we find out that she has broken Jigsaw's rules, and this is a key to the story - though she doesn't realize it, this set of tests is as much about her as it is the other participants.

The primary story, however, focuses on Jeff, a depressed father whose son was killed by a drunk driver.  He watched as the justice system did nothing, and felt impotent and helpless, while fantasizing about revenge, killing the drunk driver himself among other things.  He is given the opportunity to learn the power of forgiveness and redemption, and is presented with three people crucial in the events that led to his son's death: the bystander who did nothing to save him, the judge whose leniency let the driver off with little consequence, and ultimately the drunk driver himself.  Finally, he comes upon Jigsaw himself, and it is this moment that turns everyone's world around.

There's enough new in this installment that it doesn't suffer from the usual dilution that many movie series such as this sometimes do.  There's also enough insight into the mind of Jigsaw that it pushes things forward on multiple levels, not just the few moments of clarity that result in the prior movies.  There's really not a lot to say about this particular installment - it's another in a series of perhaps the most consistent, bloody, and intense movies that has ever been made.  It delivers on the promise of the prior films, and expands the "mythology" that binds all of the films together.  If you are a fan of the Saw series, I suppose you've probably already seen this, but if you're not, it would be highly recommended, particularly if you were turned off somewhat by the "slasher-film" feel of the second movie.

Review: Joshua (2007)

D: George Ratcliff
S: Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga, Jacob Kogan

I had really high hopes for this movie, making the mistake again of listening to some of the reviews on Ain't It Cool News.  I was expecting a deep psychological thriller, where you're never sure whether the title character is truly evil, or if he's just in the wrong place at the wrong times.  I was hoping for something bringing back memories of Let's Scare Jessica to Death, or perhaps the original The Omen.  Unfortunately, what this movie delivers is more along the lines of a bad made-for-cable movie.  It's hack work, that wastes not only a great premise, but a decent cast as well.

The premise is simple - young Joshua is a brilliant and gifted boy, whose family is changed by the arrival of a new baby.  His mother suffered from severe post-partum depression when Joshua was born, to the point of hospitalization, and it is everyone's fear that she may succumb to it a second time, with the arrival of her new child.  His father is a successful stockbroker whose job takes more of his life than his family.  And Joshua himself is a challenge, a young man with abilities, knowledge, and reasoning that far outstrip not only his age, but the abilities of those around him as well. 

Were this the movie it should have been, the family would slowly deteriorate, as hints are laid to the mother's descent into what we are led to assume to be a second bout of post-partum depression.   His father would seem overwrought and overstretched by trying to balance the work that pays for their lifestyle and the increasing demands of his home life as the mother's sanity seems to slip.  The other characters would be placed in situations that are ambiguous, where it's never entirely clear what happened, what the causes were, or even what some of the long-term effects are.  Joshua would be present, but never definitively an actor.  Unfortunately, this is not that movie.

Instead, we're presented with what can only really be described as a character study of a youthful sociopath.  Young Joshua is clearly and plainly the cause of much of the strife and danger in this movie, and as such it fails completely to be intriguing, interesting, or compelling.  This is really a lifeless movie, and when the final "reveal" takes place as to the motives that have driven the events of the movie, it's more a relief that it's all over than it is anything remarkable or insightful.  It's really a shame, since the premise shows so much promise...but the execution is rather pathetic.

Review: Horrors of War (2006)

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I rented this one.  Actually, I'm 100% sure what I was thinking - Nazis + Zombies?  What could go wrong with THAT combination?  Turns out...plenty.
First, it's not really zombies.  More like vampires.  But not really.  I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what these creatures that the Nazis are creating behind enemy lines are supposed to be, really.  And unfortunately, I really couldn't care less.
I suppose there's a certain level of quality you should expect from the people responsible for...well, nothing that anyone has ever heard of.  And I will admit that the first half or so of the movie has a certain B-movie charm around it.  However, by the time the movie is over, you're thankful that the credits start to roll.
The basic gist, as near as I could follow, is that a group of soldiers find themselves behind enemy lines, and uncover a secret Nazi experiment that's creating vampire-zombies out of dead Nazi soldiers.  The group is pretty much eliminated by this new threat, but one person survives to make it back to the front.  Of course, the US Army can't sit back and let the Krauts create some kind of super-soldier, so they send a new team in to find the scientist responsible and (if possible) convince him to betray his Nazi overlords and bring his secrets ot the US of A.
Sounds good, huh?  Well, imagine sitting down to watch Aliens, only instead of seeing all the creepy-crawly face-huggers, they're dragging along stuffed animals from Valve's Half-Life 2 store.  And when the Big Bad Bitch comes out to face down Ripley in the cargo hold...you can see the rubber gleaming and count the number of stitches in the head.
Yep, folks - this is one of the worst effects movies I've seen since the 80s.  By the end, it's just a bunch of guys in crappy masks trying to pretend to hit each other.  If it were a parody, it would be up there with Date Movie and Epic Movie (well, if you consider that "up").  But it's not - it's played seriously.  And it stinks.
Still, not the absolute worst movie I've ever seen (Haunted Highway again), but it's pretty bad and not even worth a slot on your Blockbuster or Netflix queue.