Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chill #5: Final Destination

The odds of dying in a similar fashion to any of the Final Destination
charachters are extremely unlikely.
The premise of Final Destination is pretty familiar to most of us by now. The idea that no one really ever cheats death has been the stuff of philosophers since the dawn of time. In Grecian mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to push a boulder up hill for all eternity, because he had fancied himself clever enough to cheat Hades. And like the fate encountered by our Greek friend, the idea of of cheating death in the Final Destination series is an act of utter futility.

I'll just be focusing on the first movie in the series here. For those not familiar, I'll give a reader's digest version of the storyline. The plot surrounds teenaged Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), and his classmates on a school trip to France. After boarding Flight 180 Alex has a vision of the plane exploding and goes into a panic. Alex and six other classmates get off the plane, and to the surprise of everyone except Alex, the plane does indeed suffer an explosion. One by one, however, the number of survivors of flight 180 begins to dwindle. It is up to Alex and the only person who believes him, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, and yes, that is the characters actual name) to unravel Death's plan, who has come back for those who should have died on that fateful flight.

The movie is a new twist on an old story, and was at least a welcome and fresh twist. The funny thing is, it's virtually the exact same story in all the sequals. And it still doesn't seem to get old. Deadly vision, people are saved, death comes back to take these people, and it's pretty gruesome. But the original film is the best, because that's where the morality tale about cheating death and second chances comes into play best. Afterwards, it was about coming up with more creative, unlikely, and gruesome deaths.


STORY: A cautionary tale for our times, and clever from the outset.

My Rating: Seven pages (out of ten)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Not bad, big explosions, highly unlikely scenario set up. One of the best pieces of cinematography I've ever seen was the setting up of Tod's bathroom death, with the trail of water on the floor literally "following" Tod, and then receding back again after his demise. It doesn't look like much, but it can make all difference.

My Rating: Six point five fireworks (out of ten)

GORE: Not as much as in the other movies, but it has it's moments all the same.

My Rating: Seven feet of intestines (out of ten)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chill #4 and 4.5: Hellraiser and Hellraiser II

The Leader of theCenobites, Pinhead.
Okay, we all remember the eighties, right? Even french philosopher Michel Foucault experimented with sadomasochism during this era. And that's where Hellraiser comes in. To some, angels, to others, demons, the Cenobites can offer all the pleasures of heaven, and the pains of hell - simultaneously.

Young Kirsty Cotton's (Ashley Laurence) family had just moved into a new home, albeit previously used by her late uncle Frank Cotton and more than a little run down. However, the house holds it's own secret: Uncle Frank is not really dead. but trapped between two realms, a realm of indivisible pain and pleasure, and earth. He feeds on blood spilled in the attic to come back to earth. In order to stop him, Kirsty must team up with the Cenobites - a group of "explorers from the furthest regions of experience" - who cannot let anyone escape once they have been summoned.

In the second flick, Kirsty's stepmother (Clare Higgins) is brought back to life - in the same manner Frank was in the first - with the help of a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist who is also treating Kristy at the hospital. Kirsty teams together with Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), another trauma patient at the hospital, to enter the Cenobite's region of Hell - the labrynth - with the hopes of stopping her stepmother and saving her father.

Clive Barker directed this adaptation of his novella "The Hellbound Heart" After other projects based on his works were somewhat dissatisfactory. And he's been involved in one way or another ever since. He's even producing the remake.


STORY: Not bad. The two of them in tandem makes a pretty good saga. Just wish the other six movies could have been as great as these first two.

My rating: seven point five pages (out of ten)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Given the budget, I was clearly impressed, although rumour has it that some of them were hand drawn onto the frames.
"Jesus Wept"
My rating: six fireworks (out of ten)

MUSIC: Typical slasher music.

My Rating: Five bars (out of ten)

GORE: A guy with no skin? Plus the scene where we see the creation of Pinhead was pretty cool too, and there's more!

My Rating: nine feet of intestines (out of ten)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chill #3: Repo! The Genetic Opera

This is one heck of a rock opera. And when I say opera, I mean that. Almost every line is sung, unlike other musicals that have been transferred over to film and it's really a normal movie with the occassional song. And yes, Repo! was originally a stage production before this movie came out.

This limited release film had a near immediate cult following, staring such talented actors as Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), Anthony Stewart Head (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and even singer Sarah Brightman. And all these big names came in at a surprisingly low budget. I have no clue how director Darren Lynn Boussman pulls it off, but he does. This movie is like magic.

The best way I can describe this is to think of Rent. Then make three quarters of the songs loud heavy-metal/punk rock and crank up the volume. Finally bake at 425 degrees for 97 minutes in a pile of gore and blood. Yes, it's that good - if gore porn is your thing.

The story surrounds seventeen year old Shilo Wallace (Vega), as she survives having a blood condition in a futuristic world where you could put your virginity on layaway. That is to say that surgeries are performed quite frequently after a plaque of organ failures. Now everyone is healthy but the surgeries continue because pharmaceutical company GeneCo provides quite reasonable payment plans. The downside? GeneCo owner/founder successfully lobbied to make organ reposession legal. Hence you could put your virginity on layaway, but you could lose it again just as easily.

Back to Shilo, who is hidden away from the world by her father (Head) for fear that if she might ever need a GeneCo surgery, the Repoman might eventually be called to collect. And this man is vicious. Meanwhile, a side story surrounds Largo's imminent and incurable death and which of his three kids will become the heir of the GeneCo legacy.

That is an 18" scalpal in his pocke tand yes, he is very happy to see you
The film atmosphere is very dark, unless blood is involved, and almost plays out like a singing comic book. The music is excellent, although the singing isn't always. Alexa Vega can belt out some pretty wicked punk rock tunes, but her vocals fall short elsewhere. For those who watched the all-musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it should come as no surprise just how talented Anthony Stewart Head is. And of Course, Sarah Brightman shines as the Blind Mag, the voice of GeneCo and Shilo's godmother.


STORY: Basically the same story as Repo Men, except this movie (and the play) was out a few years earlier. But this is much better, and definately not boring.

My Rating: Nine pages (out of ten)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Awesome. An amazing futuristic vision was realised here, despite the arthouse-budget constraints.

My Rating: Eight fireworks (out of ten)

MUSIC/SCORE: I did mention this is a shock/punk rock musical, right?

My Rating: Nine and a half bars (out of ten)
GORE: Ironically, I use intestines as my measuring staff, and there is a scene where the Repoman rips out the intestines of a gentleman. He also rips out hearts, stomachs, spines, or whatnot from several others. Goriest. Musical. Ever. Period.

My Rating: Ten feet of intestines (out of ten), as well as two hearts and one brain. Mark it up.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chill #2: Triangle

Who's that behind Melissa George?
Remember the movie Groundhog's Day? Imagine if your life was to relive the same day over and over again. Now, add a good dose of people dying. Congratulations, you're in the twilight zone. Okay, you're not really in an episode of The Twilight Zone. You're in Triangle.

The story revolves - almost literally - around Jess (Melissa George) as a group of friends she is sailing with stumble upon an old ocean liner after their ship capsizes. But as everyone around Jess starts to die, it becomes very clear that Jess holds all the answers. As time starts looping around Jess and all of these events begin to occur around her repeatedly, she has to find any way possible to get off this ship and back to her autistic son. As she puts it "My life is waiting for me to pick him up from school".

The pace is slow, but the final twist is well worth it, the point where nothing is explained, yet the audience can still feel that everything is resolved somehow. An echo of the myth of Sisyphus - with a dose of hubris and karma for good measure - help to place this morality tale about futility, gratitude, and second chances in our minds.


STORY: Slow, but enjoyable. The slow pace actually helps reinforce the seriousness of the Jess' situation. Besides, this is one movie that messes with your brain as is.

Rating: Seven pages (out of ten)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Nothing too spectacular, which is good because the movie doesn't need it.

Rating: Five fireworks (out of ten)

GORE: Not much. Great for those who aren't too squeemish.

Rating: Two feet of intestines (out of ten)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chill #1: Event Horizon

Possibly the scariest science fiction movie since Alien. It does have a slow start, but after trudging my way through forty minutes of techno-babble, the payoff was well worth it. For fans of "splatter" films, this movie puts director Paul W.S. Anderson right there with the rest of the 'Splat Pack.' Technically, he's not a member, but he really should be (remember that hallway scene in Resident Evil, anyone?). Anyways, as far as pre-Saw era movies go, this had a decent amount of gore. So be warned, this movie is not for the incredibly squeemish.

The story surrounds the crew of USAC 'Lewis and Clark' on a rescue and recon mission to retrieve the ship of the film's namesake 'Event Horizon.' Accompanying the crew is the inventor of Horizon's engine, Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill). And of course, Captain Miller of the Lewis and Clark (Laurence Fishburne) is not happy with anything that is happening - particularly because this unusual mission is interrupting an extended leave for his crew - and he takes everything out on Dr. Weir. Hey, We have to set up the scene somehow so Laurence Fishburne can really kick ass later.

It turns out that the reason Dr. Weir is attending this mission is that Horizon's special engine can create a black hole, and bend space to travel anywhere within seconds. And my, the places she has been in the seven years since it's disappearance leaves one with chills. After decoding and filtering the captains log, some members of Miller's crew can't watch - and neither could some members of the film's audience, I'm sure. No details here, just watch the movie and see for yourself.

Oh yeah, and wherever the engine took the Event Horizon, it came back alive... and pissed.

My Rankings

STORY: A little bit slow of the start, but if you enjoy science fiction than you should be able to understand the techno-babble. Nothing too exciting for horror fans until about the forty minute mark.

Rating: 6.5 pages (out of ten)

MUSIC: Suitable to the atmosphere, and helps keep the audience on their toes for the previously mentioned first forty minutes.

Rating: 10 bars (out of ten)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Deep space liquid? Fire in zero-G? And not to mention Sam Neill with cuts all over his face...

Rating: 8 Fireworks (out of ten)

GORE: Burning bodies that walk and talk, dudes plucking their own eyes out, and a few things even more sinister that I dare not mention here, because I can't spoil your fun.

Rating: 9.5 feet of intestines (out of ten)


Tell me this isn't awesome???

Paul W.S. Anderson agreed to do this movie as he had high hopes of directing an R rated feature after his first film Mortal Kombat was adjusted and edited to a PG-13 rating. While making this film, there was about 30 minutes that had to be edited out due to battles with MPAA and studio producers, because they had been deemed too graphic. Watching some of the scenes that did make the final movie makes me wonder what was left on the cutting room floor.