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Plenty of spooky, scary, unsettling, disturbing, gut-burstingly fascinating reviews here.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

 

With: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

 

For some reason ,when that film came out, it was seen as a big deal. It was talked about so much that people started to expect some sort of masterpiece, or a new Evil Dead, no wonder they were all deeply disappointed. The film introduces a clever concept: we are told at the start that 3 young people got lost in the woods and disappeared, and that the film is in fact their own footage that was found years later. It’s all false, obviously, but the horror film is given a realist and documentary look that makes the film original and intriguing. The story is simplicity itself: 3 young Americans, who are doing a documentary on the Blair witch, a mythical being that may or may not be real and that might have captured and killed several people years and years ago, go to the woods where it all supposedly happened to get some footage. They obviously get lost and start panicking, especially when they start hearing terrifying noises during the night. It’s all shot with hand held cameras which gives the film a more “realistic” look but it’s also unnecessarily very jerky and can be quite frustrating. One good thing the film has though is humour, the documentary parts of the film at the beginning are surprisingly enjoyable. The acting is actually pretty good all round and this brings the film some quality. As a horror film it doesn’t really work and is fatally flawed by the lack of any real scares. In a film where nothing is visually impressive, where everything relies solely on a good story and script, the fact that it’s not even scary makes it all ultimately very disappointing. The only “good” moments come right at the end, in the last scene, which is a bit late don’t you think? Obviously, it was made for only a few thousand dollars and made a humongous profit so I don’t think those who made the film care much if it is below average. It’s mildly funny and entertaining but it’s too jerky, it’s just not scary and leaves you thinking: “What the hell was all the fuss about!”. It had a cool concept but the film failed to live up to its premise and is, consequently, a wasted opportunity.

 

Overall: **/5

 
The Ring (2002)

 

With: Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, Brian Cox

           

This remake of the classic Japanese horror film was a huge hit everywhere when it came out, unsurprisingly. The action is obviously transposed from Japan to the US. Do I really need to tell you what it’s about? Nah, you’ll just have to read my review of the original on this same page. Anyway, this pretty successful remake has Naomi Watts in the main role and the director Gore Verbinski has tried to include elements from Ring 2, the Japanese sequel, in the film. It is very stylish and visually much more impressive than the original. The camera is very slick and every shot is meticulously planned. Also, it has to be said that the special effects are superior, even the make up effects. So, as we’ve seen so far, this remake has plenty going for it. Brian Cox is brilliantly creepy (after all, he did play Hannibal Lecter once) but has a small part, which is a shame. All this is well and good but The Ring is far from perfect, trust me. Compared to the original, it certainly looks better but it feels artificial. The performances all feel very forced (apart from Cox’s obviously), notably those of the kid, the girls in the opening scene and the terribly miscast Martin Henderson (who all seem to be begging for a spoofing). Whereas the original’s atmosphere was constantly tense and creepy, the remake’s seems strangely light. Watts’ character seems to be taking the whole thing pretty well and even smiles from time to time unlike the woman in the original who was traumatised by the terrifying events taking place. Some things are also pretty distracting such as the odd cameo from actors whom we see in shows like the O.C., the fact that we see Samara’s face (which is a major flaw) and some unexpected (and unintentionally hilarious) slapstick moments. All the characters in the original seemed weary, creepy and dark but those in The Ring almost look like they’re having a good time! Having said all that, on its own, as an American horror film, it works very well and there are enough disturbing and scary moments to satisfy, but as a remake it just lacks any real tension and feels overacted in a film where underacting was the key.

 

Overall: ***1/2 /5

 

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)
 
with: Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck
 
                                 Jeepers Creepers 2
 The Creeper sets his sights on a busload of teenagers in this above-average horror sequel.                           
 Superior to the original in almost every way: it's scarier and more entertaining. Unfortunately, some cliches (pursuit in corn fields, scarecrow etc...) makes this film enjoyable but forgettable.
 
Overall: ***/5

The Grudge (2004)

With: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Bill Pullman, Ted Raimi

An interesting film this. Recently we saw Hideo Nakata remake his own film Ring 2 for the Americans. Well, here it’s Shimizu’s turn to adapt his own film for the Americans. The original Ju-On: The Grudge was entertaining, spooky and fun but…I never thought I’d say this…the American remake is better! Yes, that’s scary in itself isn’t it? It’s basically a haunted house film based on an original idea: we are told at the start that when someone dies of a powerful rage, it remains and the grudge stays with whoever comes in contact with it. We follow 2 stories, one begins at the end and goes backwards and the other goes forwards: both stories complete each other. When some people who went to the house start disappearing, the Japanese police investigate the case. Meanwhile, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy), who went to the house and survived, tries to find out the truth by herself. In the house, there’s a creepy Japanese kid called Toshio with a black cat who is spookier than any kid you’re likely to see in any horror film that came out recently. As if that weren’t enough, we also have a strange woman who is not unlike Sadako in Ringu hanging around. Nakata took the opportunity, when remaking Ring Two, to tell a practically totally different story. Shimizu, however, wisely simplified his own film and eradicated most of the "wrongs" of the original in order to improve it. The final result is a superior film that’s low on special effects but high on scares. The acting, unlike in The Ring, isn’t overdone and the fear that’s consuming each character adds to the creation of a pretty spooky atmosphere. For me, it may not look quite as good as The Ring but it’s a better, more effective horror film. Overall, The Grudge is widely underrated and, even though it contains some similarities to Ringu, it still feels original and the scares can be quite surprising.

Overall: ****/5

White Noise (2005)

 

With: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice

Michael Keaton (aka Batman, Beetlejuice) is back! After about 10 years of absence, one of Cablo Gula’s favourite actors has come out of hiding and has returned! Granted, White Noise has a bad title and a story that may seem silly at first due to its ressemblance to ideas brought up in The Ring and the Sixth Sense. And yet, this is one of the most decent American horror films of the year. Michael Keaton plays an architect whose pregnant wife dies in a suspicious car accident but when a man tells him she’s been contacting him from the other side, things get tricky. Apparently, you can contact the Dead by recording the white noise from the radio or your television and playing it back. At first, Keaton’s character finds that preposterous, understandably but when he hears his wife’s voice calling him into the white noise he starts to change his mind. As with almost all horror films, there are some minor flaws, and White Noise is no exception: the script can seem a bit too light, too much time is spent on Keaton’s grief and some opportunities for good scares are sometimes lost. Having said that, even though the scary moments don’t come by thousands, when they do come, they’re not a disappointment. The film’s creepy atmosphere is well achieved and the direction is slick. As for Michael Keaton, he doesn’t seem to have lost his talents and it’s great to see him back. Overall, a good little horror film that may be low on big scares but is effective on suspense.

 

Overall:***/5

 

Constantine (2005)

 

With: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz

 

 

Fans of the comic-book Hellblazer were famously and unsurprisingly outraged when Keanu was the chosen One (hehehe) to play John Constantine, a character who’s supposed to be blonde and British. But I never cared much for these comics (don’t like the artwork), so for me it was, like, what-ever and I think many other people felt the same way. Anyway, John Constantine is basically a demon-slayer/exorcist who chain smokes like a billion cigarettes a day and therefore suffers from lung cancer (we see him coughing and spitting blood occasionally). He does this “job” in order to get a place in Heaven because he committed suicide a while ago (but survived) and is technically the Devil’s property. Constantine may be a chain-smoking sulking loner but he does kick major demon butt! Keanu’s acting is, as usual, as wooden as…a freakin’ tree but his dark character doesn’t really require a very dramatic and theatrical performance anyway. Keanu is charismatic, looks very cool and delivers some pretty good one-liners and in a more subtle way than The Govnor. The film’s plot is pretty confusing and maybe makes more sense if you are a Hellblazer comics reader. But still, that’s not very important because the film looks great and contains some awesome scenes and the CGI special-effects aren’t piled on (cough, Van Helsing, anyone?) mindlessly: the action sequences are short, sharp and very enjoyable. Constantine does suffer a bit from some average acting and a slightly uneven script but it looks so good and is so entertaining that you’ll barely notice it. It’s all very original and some scenes are just brilliant: there’s an amazing fight towards the end that takes place under a rain of holy water and the Hell that John visits at one point is very impressive. Overall, it’s not for everyone and some might find the demons a bit silly at times. But I personally loved it and found it terrifically entertaining, cool and just very very good fun to watch. To sum up: it isn’t very deep but still kicks major demon ass.

 

Overall: ***1/2 /5

 

Dark Water (2005)

 

With: Jennifer Connelly, Ariel Gade, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Pete Postlethwaite

 

Earlier this year we saw Hideo Nakata remake his own film Ring 2 for the Americans, the result was enjoyable but far from perfect. Prior to that, Ringu and Ju On: The Grudge were remade as well, more successfully. And now, Nakata’s creepy thriller Dark Water gets the Hollywood treatment. The story is pretty simple, Dahlia Williams, a rather fragile woman is going through a tough battle with her ex-husband for the custody of their daughter Ceci. In order to prove that she is mentally fit to look after her young daughter, she buys a small apartment in a tall, eerie building not far from New York City. As Dahlia and Ceci move in and the latter starts to go to her new school, some odd things occur around them: the apartment above theirs is constantly flooded, Ceci finds an imaginary (?) friend and a strange bag keeps appearing and disappearing. Walter Salles, director of The Motorcycle Diaries was certainly a really weird choice for this film: not only is this his first North American film but he is not essentially a horror film director. Admittedly he does a good job here, the relationship between the troubled mother and her young daughter is just as powerful as in the original. Also, he managed to get some terrific performances from his strong cast, John C. Reilly is especially good as the patronizing, sleazy landlord and Pete Postlethwaite is excellent as the creepy caretaker who likes to say “what do I know?” for some reason. Jennifer Connelly is unsurprisingly perfect as the quietly stressed-out Dahlia and Tim Roth is also very good as her messy but effective lawyer. The human drama in the film and the film itself is really admirable, Salles cares and makes us care about all his characters. Unfortunately the ending is disappointingly flat when compared to the bone-chilling third act of the original. Also, the film is sadly a little low on scares even though there are some spooky bits here and there. But Dark Water is not a slasher flick, or a popcorn movie anyway, it is essentially a supernatural thriller with an important dramatic mother-daughter relationship at its heart. Overall, the Dark Water remake is a faster-paced, more “entertaining” film than the original but if you’re looking for a more distressing, nerve-jangling thriller with a more Ring-esque feel to it then I recommend the superior Nakata version. Having said that, the remake is a good, entertaining, creepy film that’s definitely worth a look.

 

Overall: ***1/2 /5

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