Saturday, September 26, 2015

Candyman (1992)

Today's film is Candyman.  It is based on an urban legend.  I used to have a book of urban legends which I would stay up all night reading because I was too scared to sleep.  If you look in a mirror and say "Candyman" five times he will appear and kill you with his hook hand.  Or, you can summon Bloody Mary or the Bell Witch the same way.  Do urban legend people have nothing better to do than hang out around mirrors?

 Helen is a college student working on her thesis on urban legends. What on earth is she majoring in?  She is most interested in Candyman because he haunts the Cabrini - Green area, and may be responsible for a few deaths there.  She believes the murders were committed by gang members who are using the legend to frighten people.

She finds out the murderers came in through the wall where the medicine cabinet was. I too have a hole in the wall where a medicine cabinet should be.  It was hidden behind a photo frame when I bought the condo.  Helen also discovers that her apartment was supposed to be housing projects.  Which is hilarious because she is standing in the biggest apartment I have ever seen.

All this attenting to him summons the real Candyman,  who sets out to destroy Helen's life.  Candyman actually enjoys his urban legend status and wants her to join him.  He makes it so she doesn't really have an choice in the matter.  I like this movie because it brings ghost stories into more modern times, has no screaming teenagers and little gore, and acknowledges modern urban legends.  All ghost stories don't have to be in Victorian times.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Changeling (1980)

Today is the first day of Fall!  I am very happy about this.  For the past two months, it's been over 100° every day.  And I have to be outside a lot.  This morning, it actually got down to 84°, but then the sun came up, but there's still hope!

When it gets cold outside (maybe even all the way to 70° people)  I like to stay in and watch horror movies.  So today's film will be The Changeling.  It showcases my most favorite genre which is haunted house horror movies.  Where even the house itself can be considered a character.

It starts off with a man, John Russell (played by George C. Scott) losing his wife and daughter in a car accident.  He moves across the country to start his life anew.  He wants a house to practice his music, and he is offered a chance to rent a historical mansion.  Of course it is haunted!

 I really enjoyed how everyone is rational in this film.  The ghost isn't trying to murder everyone, and Russell and his friends are genuinely concerned with what is happening and do a lot of research. The lady who rented him the mansion, Claire, helps him with the research.  Claire was played by George C. Scott's wife, Trish van Devere.  They found out a child died so they hold a seance.  But what happens surprises everyone!  The child that was hit by a carriage was just a red herring.  The ghost was actually a small boy that we murdered by his own father.  His father found an orphan to replace him so they could get their inheritance money.  This orphan grew up to be the senator.  

After some more research, they find the child's body, or what's left of it. Russell goes to confront the senator.  How is the senator supposed to take this news? That his father, that loved him very much is a murderer?  And that's not really his father?  And that he's not even himself,  just someone else's replacement? 

When I first saw the title, changeling, I thought of fairy lore.  But the reality is more rational.  The senator is the changeling, a replacement for the murdered child.  The ghost shows the senator a vision of his murder,and he collapses.  The ghost also sets the mansion on fire, but lets Russell and Claire escape unharmed.  Now the ghost is free to leave his prison.  This is the best haunted house movie I have ever seen.  Everything was well thought out, and no one did anything extraordinarily stupid like in most horror films. I will give it a 9/10.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Girl who Played with Fire (2009)

Today's film is The Girl who Played with Fire.  It's not as interesting or mysterious as the first film.  It involves Mikael's news investigating a sex trafficking ring.  Then, three people are murdered and the police want Lisbeth. 

It ends up that the man in charge is a Russian spy who also happens to be Lisbeth's father.  Not only that, but the huge blond man who beat up two of her friends and tried to set them on fire, is her brother.  Her German brother who cannot feel pain.  So, to sum this up, she is a Swedish computer hacker with a Russian spy father and a German brother who acts as the father's muscle since he can't register pain.  Can this story get any crazier?  I will give this film a 6/10.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Today's film is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  This film is the original Swedish version.  I have not read the book nor do I intend to. 

I thought Noomi Rapace did an excellent job as Lisbeth.  The movie is slower paced, and the way it starts, you have no idea what to expect next.  A reporter, Mikael, is set up and will be going to jail, but a rich man hires him to search for his missing niece. Shockingly, Lisbeth, who was hired to hack against him begins helping him, maybe out of curiosity or boredom. 

They begin to officially work together on the case.  But what they uncover shocks everyone. They find a pattern of murders.  But not just murders.  Religious ritual racist Nazi murders.  Say that three times fast.  This film is very graphic, with murders, rapes, and torture/injury scenes.  I liked the pace of the movie, but some scenes were far fetched, like when Mikael is saved at the last minute.  Like of course he's not gonna die, he's one of the main characters.   I'm gonna give this film an 8/10.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

O Pagador de Promessas (The Given Word) (1962)

Today's film is O Pagador de Promessas, which translates to "a payment for promises" and has the English title The Given Word.  The film goes to show you how stubborn men can be and the trouble it can cause.

Zé lives on a farm in Brazil.  He has traveled a very long way, 7 leagues in fact, while carrying a heavy cross on his shoulder.  His wife, Rosa, accompanies him on his journey.  They get to the church of Saint Barbara, and Zé intends to leave the cross at her altar in order to fulfill his promise.

Meanwhile, a man called "Handsome" sees them lying on the steps of the church and invites Rosa to his hotel so she can avoid the rain.  However, he is creeping on her the entire time.  I see him as mainly a character to distract her from her husband and create drama.

So, in the morning it's Saint Barbara's festival.  Zé sees the priest and tells him his story about his promise.  However, he has one fatal mistake: He talks way too much!  All he had to do was tell him that he made a promise that if his favorite donkey was healed, he would carry a cross and lay it at her altar.  That's it.  But no, no, he has to run his mouth.  He didn't make the promise in a church, he made it in a house of witchcraft, or macumba (which is an old-fashioned term for early non-Christian religions, kind of how like Santeria is practiced here).  This makes the priest all kinds of angry and he refuses to let Zé into the church.  Thus, the stubbornness stand off begins.

So is Saint Barbara and Iñasã the same person?  Technically yes.  When missionaries went to other countries, they often mixed local customs to make it easier on the people.  The best example is Brigid.  She's a Celtic goddess in Ireland.  The Christians couldn't "get rid" of her, so they declared her a Catholic saint, Saint Brigid.  Is she a real person? No, she's a goddess.  In the same way, people pray to Saint Barbara and her macumba counterpart, Iñasã, mainly against fever and illness.  It is important to know that Barbara was a martyr who died for her beliefs.  So, people like Zé can't tell the difference between them, because there isn't, while a conservative priest certainly can.

Very soon, the media takes over, and starts putting words in Zé's mouth.  The whole thing turns into a media shitstorm circus, just like Dog Day Afternoon.  The only person who sees any sort of reason is Rosa.  She tells him to take the church's offer and stop letting the press get to him, and that they should leave and go home before anything gets worse.  But, Zé is super stubborn and will not take anything for an answer until he gets his cross inside.  But we already know that's not gonna happen!

So they get the cops called on them.  The bystanders in the crowd tell them to run before they are arrested or maybe shot!  Lol, Brazilian cops are just like American cops, shoot first and ask questions later.  However, he can be easily arrested for disturbing the peace, which is what he is doing.  Anyway, cops being cops, they start a massive free for all fight which results in Zé's death.  But, absolutely no one else is hurt in the slightest.  Why?  So, the crowd gathers around him and ties his body to his cross and force their way into the church.  Zé finally did keep his promise to Saint Barbara, but he died for what he believed in.  And all of this for a donkey.  What have we learned from this?  I will give this film a 7/10.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ta'm e guilass (Taste of Cherry) (1997)

Today's film is Taste of Cherry, which was filmed in Iran.  The story focuses on a suicidal man, but what is interesting is how it was made.

 The man wants to kill himself for an unspecified reason.  He wants to be buried under an unspecified certain tree, he just needs someone to throw dirt on his body, and he will pay for it.  He asks three strangers to help him.  The first one is a timid soldier who runs away.  The second one is a seminarian who lectures him on the morals of his choice.  Fjnally, he finds someone who will help him.  This person attempted suicide before and shared his story with him.

So what is unique is how this was filmed.  It was more ad-libbed than scripted. The director would actually sit in either the driver or passenger seat and start up a conversation. Then the film was edited together and it looks like the two actors are talking to each other in the car.

 It ends with the main guy lying down in his makeshift grave and the scene fades to black.  Then, all if a sudden, the filmmakers appear with all their cameras and equipment. Then they film some random soldiers rolling around in the grass.  The ending is like a punch in the face surprise, like Just Kidding! It was a movie the whole time!  I will give this film a 6/10.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Today's film is The Abominable Dr. Phibes.  I love movies with Vincent Price! He can make any movie entertaining.  He knows exactly when to be funny and when to be creepy or scary.  He is everything  that Tim Burton wishes his movies could be. He tries to be cute and creepy and funny at the same time, and it never works.

 There are so many questions unanswered about this movie.  Why did Dr. Phibes use the legendary Egyptian plagues as inspiration for his murder spree? Who exactly  is the beautiful  Vulnavia? She never speaks, and is always there to assist Dr. Phibes.  What is her relationship with the doctor? Did she know his wife personally?
The weirdest part was that clockwork band. Did Dr. Phibes make that? Was he a real medical doctor? I mean he had to be to know how to do blood transfusions.  He also had a degree in art, a PhD in theology, and he was a concert pianist.  Why did it take him four years before he killed anyone, and how did he keep his wife so perfectly preserved?

I like to think of this movie as an early predecessor to Se7en.  Because that guy uses the seven deadly sins to murder people, whereas Dr. Phibes uses the plagues.  However, two of the plagues were replaced with rats and bats for visual reasons. You have to give him credit for being super creative though.

And not only that, he wins.  He always stays two steps ahead of the police, and succeeds in almost everything he sets out to do. I will give this film a 7/10.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

We've been on vacation for a few days to celebrate my daughter Azalea's 5th birthday.  Before we left, we all watched A Nightmare on Elm Street together as a family.  Unfortunately this coincides with the passing on Wes Craven, so we dedicate this review to him.

 So, the plot is really simple. Teenagers fall asleep and Freddy Krueger kills them in their dreams.  As I saw in the realistic documentary The Matrix, if you die in your dram, you die in real life.  My theory about this film is about this film only and does not apply to any sequels, however many there are.

I had a hard time gleaning any information  about Freddy Krueger  from this film.  The explanation from Nancy's mom seemed really quick.  If Freddy kills children, why did he wait until everyone was in high school?

 Here is my theory.  The entire film is Nancy's  dream.  The scenes of reality or dreams are simply various levels of consciousness, including  lucid dreaming near the end.  It's really obvious  when she goes to visit  her friend in jail.  Why else would she be able to see his date at the hands of Freddy and know to go there in the middle of night? Or how did she grab his hat and bring it back to the "real world"?  That's because she didn't,  it's just a dream.  Also, she keeps escaping him but no one else can.  It's apparent that it's the work of one dreamer, not multiple  teenagers doomed to die.  That's why it's called A Nightmare on Elm Street, not Multiple Nightmares by Various People. Anyway, we all enjoyed this film (mainly for all its wonderful 80's special effects), and I will give it a 7/10.