Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Quick and Dirties: 2007 in Horror


2007 happened to be a pretty diverse year in horror. Here are a few titles that may have flown under your radar. Yes, the first one was actually a UK release from '06, but being the Ugly American that I am, I'm calling '07 since that's when it came out here. Anyhoo, let's movie on...


Severance 
(2007)
Employees of a weapons manufacturer are sent on a weekend retreat to the company's lodge in the woods. There is also a pack of homicidal maniacs in these woods trying desperately to hack them up. The opening is outstanding. We wonder about the dynamic between the characters we see streaking across the screen in a panic. The tension is immediately built and the payoff comes in the form of good ol' bloody slashing. The promise of that scene carries the movie for a little while. Over the first half of the film, the way the characters relate to each other and how they act when alone are also fairly interesting. Some of the kill scenes end with some nice touches for horror fans. Plus, there's Nadia and Olga. Especially Nadia. On the other hand, our bad guys are too faceless. There's far too many of them and they're "just guys." None of them have a speaking line and no attempt is made to give any of them a personality or even make them more menacing. They aren't freakish in any way and you probably wouldn't notice any of them if they weren't trying to kill you. Again, they're "just guys." Every time one of them is killed they just seem to be replaced by "another guy." They have a motive but it's presented like the director thought it up when it was time to shoot the scene which explains it. They also go against the most basic rule of slasher-flicks, they all carry automatic weapons! Now, if you're watching this movie then you probably want and expect buckets of blood to splatter across the screen. Well, the gore promised by the opening scene takes a long time to arrive and there's not really much of it. Finally, the tone of the movie is just awkward. Early on it takes itself real serious. About 3/4 of the way through it seems someone figured that wasn't working they started slipping jokes in. Personally, I think they should've started with the jokes early. That's where the true value in this film lies. Once the humor gets going, the mix of horror and comedy works very well. Gore-fiends may get a little restless waiting on the carnage and disappointed with the tame way much of it is presented, but overall, it's an entertaining if uneven watch.


The Reaping
(2007)
Professor Katherine Winter (Hilary Swank) specializes in finding scientific explanations for events people feel are miracles or punishments sent from God. She comes across a doozy in a swamp town where the locals are blaming a little girl (AnnaSophia Robb) for the seemingly biblical things going on. It forsakes the easy gore, going for a more intriguing and suspenseful feel. It achieves this nicely. At a relatively short 99 minutes, it’s packed tightly and advances its plot in a manner that keeps you interested. In an era when studios are stretching comedies and just about every summer blockbuster out to two-and-a-half hours kiddie-flicks, or about forty-five minutes too long for most comedies and summer blockbusters, a movie that tells its story effectively in under 2 hours is refreshing. As usual, Hilary Swank turns in very good work. She continues to prove she is an excellent actress. Idris Elba is also in the cast. There are a few "gotcha" moments and enough creepy happenings to keep you guessing what the end will be.


1408
(2007)
Author Mike Enslin (John Cusack) makes his living writing about places that are supposedly haunted. After numerous stays in numerous "haunted" locations he's never seen anything remotely supernatural. All of that changes once he checks into room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. Cusack delivers his usual excellent performance. Only this time, he's not the extremely quirky type he normally plays, just a guy who is genuinely freaked out. There aren't many 'gotcha' moments but the tension is amped up from the moment Samuel L. Jackson appears on screen (though he really has a small part) and rarely lets up. Its just well executed with a creepy ending.


Bug
(2007)
Lonely lady Agnes (Ashley Judd) is a chain smokin’, hard drinkin’ coke-snortin’ woman who’s scared of her abusive, fresh out of jail ex-husband. She lives alone and has become a lesbian. Maybe. Her kinda-sorta girlfriend, RC (Lynn Collins) introduces her to Peter (Michael Shannon) who is a bit of a weirdo but seems harmless. Agnes takes him in and falls for him and then they discover a bug infestation in the motel room she uses as an apartment. Bug, directed by William Friedkin, wants to blur the line between sanity and insanity, and maybe make a statement about that but it just comes across as bizarre and a hard movie to watch. Being bizarre isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you use what you have for some sort of graspable metaphor or thoughtful satire. Being bizarre just to be that way is just annoying. Sadly, the excellent work turned in by stars Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon are wasted on horrible material. Having seen it, it’s shocking that this was directed by the same man who directed The French Connection, The Exorcist and, recently, Killer Joe. Then again, he also did Deal of the Century and Jade so I guess it’s not that big a deal. Anyhoo, unless you just have to see what a pudgier version of Ashley Judd looks like naked, don’t bother.



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8 comments:

  1. I actually liked Bug. In fact, I think it was the best thing William Friedkin had done in quite a long time and was really just a warm-up for his ultimate comeback in Killer Joe which was also written by Tracy Letts. The Reaping was just... lame.

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    1. Those are the same two I planned to comment on, and in the exact same way. I thought Bug was really interesting and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I like the development of the paranoia in it, and the build-up of madness between the two characters getting deeper and deeper into a shared psychosis. The best part of The Reaping was the trailer, which made it look interesting and scary instead of predictable and dippy. Great premise, no follow-through. In my head I almost always call it "The Reapening."

      1408 is a solid thriller--good story and it does an excellent job of building and maintaining tension in a very limited space. It's nice and claustrophobic and relies a lot on the atmosphere it creates.

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    2. I am clearly on an island with The Reaping, but I'm ok with that. Didn't hate Bug, just thought it didn't quite deliver.

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  2. I like this idea! Having quick reviews for specific years. Bug is my favorite of these. Great movie and I love Michael Shannon.

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    1. Like a lot of great ideas, this happened completely by accident. Thanks.

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  3. I'm not much for horror, suspense absolutely but full on horror almost never, but I have seen The Reaping out of these. It's nothing I'd watch again but it wasn't bad. It did rely on dread much more than anything else which to me is far more compelling than buckets of blood.

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  4. I thought Bug was great, a real return to form for Friedkin. Although I can see how watching it after Killer Joe (both of which were adapted from stage plays by the great Tracy Letts) could diminish its impact a bit. But I think it's an incredible psychological drama/horror piece, subtle but full of dread, and a terrific adaptation of the stage play.

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