Archive for April, 2010

The Descent Part 2 – The beasts below are back!

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

descent2posterSpelunking is defined as the hobby or practice of exploring caves; any additional scraps with ungodly creatures from the pits of hell are not usually included with said pastime.

That is, of course, unless you happen to fancy a trip down the holes under the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

The original Descent saw director Neil Marshall produce a tense British horror that generated widespread acclaim. Whilst this film was indeed scary, well shot and a lot of fun, it has to be said that Neil Marshall’s ability to write dialogue for women is somewhat akin to a dog’s ability to play hopscotch.

Considering that the whole cast was female, this was a bit of a problem; however, The Descent was not a dialogue-driven piece, and thus it escaped unscathed and turned out to be a very enjoyable movie.

We were excited about the prospect of a follow-up (although what we really wanted was a sequel to Marshall’s awesome directorial debut Dog Soldiers). The end of The Descent saw Shauna MacDonald’s sole surviving character, Sarah, believe that she had escaped the hellish cave, only to wake up realising she was still stuck down there. The deliberately ambiguous ending was brave, and worked well.

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2012 – The end is nigh

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

2012_poster2The Mesoamerican civilization of the Mayans, those crazy chaps from Apocalypto, used a non-repeating calendar to measure and record time. This basically means that they viewed the world exclusively in separate, differing cycles. Brushing past the details of the complicated and ingenious system these guys used, the most relevant piece of information is that the Mayans ‘may’ have thought that 2012 would bring about a new cycle.

A global Chinese whisper ensued, rendering 2012 as a potential doomsday date, something akin to January 1st, 2000. The media, and people in general, love a good panic, as was demonstrated so succinctly by the Y2K bug that didn’t happen…

There we were, horribly inebriated on New Year’s Eve and counting down (or up, depending on alcoholic consumption); patiently waiting for the nearest cash machine to suddenly liberate itself from the brick and mortar confines of a bank wall, and demonstrate its newfound status as head species by beating us and ironically stabbing us in the face with our own credit cards.

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon – Teens and Teeth

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

twilight-new-moon-poster11The Twilight Saga: New Moon sees vampire wannabe Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) return for a second bite of the Twilight cherry, as ever-thoughtful-looking Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) decides to do a runner in the interests of her safety.

Bella hits 18, and becomes increasingly concerned about the potential age gap that will inevitably exist between her and Edward. He is Bella’s eternally youthful lover and saviour from Twilight, and a morally-astute vampire, with an equally ethical vampiric family (aside from the odd moment of human-bloodlust). Bella repeatedly requests a good chomp on the neck from Edward, so that she can become part of his undead, flying, fang-family.

Naturally, Edward is opposed; he believes that the life of a vampire is a curse, and cannot bring himself to turn Bella, no matter how intensely she desires the twisted transformation. On Bella’s 18th birthday, a slight paper cut to her tender human skin ignites the fire in Edward’s brother, resulting in a minor scrap, and some Matrix-style jumping around.

Whilst Bella is essentially unharmed, Edward believes that their relationship is a danger to her safety. Cue a break-up in a forest (how, er, romantic?), and one devastated teenager. After all the hullaballoo in the first film, Edward bizarrely calls it a day and his family disappear with him to an unknown destination.

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The Box – There are always consequences…

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

the_box_poster_2A man sporting a horrible disfigurement turns up at your door with an offer. He tells you that your money worries could be over; you can have one million dollars in cash, but you have to press a button that will initiate the death of someone that you do not know. What would you do?

The Box introduces us to happily married couple Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) Lewis living their lives in a quiet suburban area in the late 70s. Arthur works for NASA and is awaiting approval to enter the astronaut program, whilst Norma is a school teacher.

She has a disfigurement relating to her foot that hinders her ability to walk, but her loving husband is secretly working on some technology that could permanently fix this. Their touching relationship is magnified by the presence of their bright and happy young son, Walter.

Norma’s school tells her that the staff discount she receives for her own son’s tuition is to be scrapped. This is coupled with further bad news; Arthur is turned down for the astronaut program despite his absolute confidence that he strolled through every test without any problems.

The couple turn to each other, vowing to soldier on in the face of adversity. But a peculiar box, containing a red button within a locked dome, is delivered to their door in the early hours, and an accompanying note states that Arlington Stewart (Frank Langella) will be visiting the next day at 5pm. True to the words of the note, burn-victim Arlington Stewart knocks at the door and presents his bizarre and morally questionable offer. Norma and Arthur can use the key to open the dome and press the red button, leaving themselves one million dollars richer. But someone, somewhere, whom they do not know, will die. They have 24 hours to decide, and once that time has elapsed Arlington Stewart will return and reclaim the box.

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Thirst – a Korean film with bite

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

thirst_poster2

Vampires are everywhere in mainstream cinema these days. Once upon a time they were relegated to the catacombs of Hammer Horror land, but they’ve since spread from the vaults to nearly all corners of the world.

The vampire movie is no longer a subsidiary of horror cinema; it is now a genre unto itself, with countless subdivisions appealing to a wide demographic including those uninterested in pointy canines.

Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels, and their subsequent cinematic counterparts, have developed vampirism for the emo generation, heavily romanticising the characters whilst holding back on any neck-biting that doesn’t take place in the bedroom.

From Dusk Till Dawn and Near Dark developed the idea of road-movie bloodsucking, and Blade gave us the futuristic, sword-wielding vampire that fights on our side as he tries to battle his own bloodlust.

Recent Ethan Hawke vehicle Daybreakers has a crack at the vampire-apocalypse; a world populated by vampires, where the number of humans, and therefore the supply of blood, is drastically dwindling. The new rulers of the world find themselves in a desperate search for a blood substitute.

As vampire films are produced at a bloodcurdling rate, filmmakers are constantly searching for innovative ways to tell an interesting and exciting new story that is not just a retread of old ground/flight paths.

With his first taste of Western financing, Park Chan-wook has tried his hand at the task.  Those familiar with Park Chan-wook will have seen his critically acclaimed ‘revenge’ trilogy, which includes the brilliant and brutal Oldboy. His most recent effort is similar in its blunt exploration of love and violence; the twisting and contorting lives lead by everyday people who find themselves faced with intense questions of morality.

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