Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Movie Autopsy: Darkness (2003)

Darkness was released in 2003. The movie stars Anna Paquin, as Regina, and provides a unique look into more European horror. Critics did not have good reviews for the film, but there should be some acknowledgment of what did work. There were parts of the movie that were creepy and did make an excellent effect. The movie deserved more recognition than it received.

The most common problems during the film were dialog and inconsistency. The best features of the film were the intensity and the the twists. The photograph found by Regina's father is incredibly unsettling and the creatures that come out are awesome.

The bare bones plot is a family movies from America to an old home in the Spanish countryside. Things begin happening and Regina believes it is the house, but no one will listen to her. She believes the activity is targeting her little brother. One of the twists at the end show that things are not at all what she believes.

I would recommend that horror fans watch this one. This is one film you will either love or hate, depending upon how you like your horror served.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Absurdity Surrounds Poe

I found a particularly fascinating article regarding Edgar Allan Poe. It briefly discusses his life, but never in the way it should, as in most cases. There's even one silly man who has threatened to exhume and move Poe's body to a different state. Why? He passed through there during his life.

Investigate the World of Edgar Allan Poe

If the truth be known, Virginia should be the one for that reburial. Poe lived in Boston until the age of 3, when he was adopted, then raised in Virginia by his adoptive family. So there. He should stay put, but if moved, it should be to his family's land. He's buried in Maryland today. His death is still regarded as mysterious, but most likely occurred due to the simple voting practices of that time. Yes, it's completely boring and far from glamorous, but it's the most probable. It was common for political representatives in some areas to drug voters for their vote. Sometimes the substances used had adverse effects and the voter died.

Poe was a brilliant writer, but perhaps the most slandered in history. Insults have circled him stating he was everything from a necrophiliac to a junkie. He was a drunk. He was psychotic. Truth was, he lived in abject poverty nearly all of his adult life. He had to live with relatives and certainly didn't have money for constant supplies of alcohol or opium. True, his wife was 13, but life expectancy during his era was 45 for a man. Marriage at 13 and 14 was common. She was an accomplished pianist (Poe loved music) and socialite. There's also rumors that she was his cousin. The problem there is that Poe was adopted and, yes, marriage to cousins was fairly common then. He had no biological cousins in his family. Many of these rumors would've been regarded as the worst insults imaginable during his life.

Like most brilliant minds during those times, he was simply brilliant. He was ahead of his time. Like Melville, Dickenson, none of them received the credit they deserved while living.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Television Series Autopsy: Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was a highly successful television series, yet it also explored the paranormal. The series was filmed nearly two decades ago and still maintains a following today. The show is still being played on channels such as Chiller.

So what made this series popular? Why was it such a cult hit? The positive attributes of this series are very similiar to those seen in successful horror movies. It is worthy of consideration to show each element for what it is.

The primary reason for the show's success was its simplicity. The series didn't attempt to alienate viewers. The writers didn't try to gross out the viewer or other absurd tactics of "shock." It had elements, even if very minor, that suited a wide audience.

The characters were unique. They were quirky, bizarre, and completely abnormal. However each character, no matter how bizarre, had an element of likability. BOB, admittedly, is not included in this. Some were far more likeable than others, but there were characters involved the audience could relate to. They could feel a kinship with them. This is not so in many one-dimensional films and novels. When authors or screenwriters try too hard, it shows. An experienced writer will know that even the worst characters have something. They aren't the evil villain tying the young woman to the railroad tracks for the hell of it.

There was always suspense involved every season. By the time the murder of Laura Palmer was solved, a new plot was starting with Windom Earle. The suspense continued.

Unpredictability was also a key in developing the mass appeal of Twin Peaks. The first time you see the series, it's hard to pinpoint a likely culprit. So many characters do have immense flaws and the murder appears to be unsolvable.

It is worth watching the series, at least once, to see what techniques were used to maintain suspense while the show was on.

Horror... A Formula?

Could there be a formula for horror? Many horror films and novels do take on a certain formula after you have read so many. When does the action start? Where does it lead? How quickly does the hero or heroine find themselves in too deep?

Current American Horror films most often go by something like this:

30-45 minutes- character/relationship establishment
15 minutes- action
30 minutes- fear, conflict, resolution, climax, end

A better formula would be:

5-15 minutes- character/relationship establishment
30-45 minuites- action, fear, conflict
15-30 minutes- resolution, climax, end

This gives the viewer no opprotunity to grow bored with the film or the characters.

I am still polishing the numbers, but wanted to update the analysis there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's True...

Nine out of ten corpses agree that Prego tastes better! The dead don't lie.

Movie Autopsy: The Ring

It is only fair in a blog that has no issue with picking apart bad movies, the same scrutiny should apply for movies regarded in a positive light. Yes, I not only enjoyed The Ring, I adored it when it came out. Why? The primary attributes will be capitalized.

First, and foremost, it was ORIGINAL. Even a remake of an Asian film obliterated American movies that year. In the years since its release, few American movies can be compared.

Second, the movie was PLAUSIBLE. It had a very real single-parent household with the very real scenario of the single parent working a lot to make ends meet. There was a believable tension when the screenwriter let the audience know who both parents were.

Third, URGENCY. There was a dark riddle that had to be solved within 7 days. There was no time for rambling, back story, or anything else to slow the pace. We didn't really care who was doing what or who was a villain, there wasn't time, and it was excellent.

Fourth, IMMEDIACY. The action began last week. The movie gives you no time to get bored because the conflict and suspense begin just a few minutes into the movie.

Fifth, it was actually CREEPY. Thank you Gore Verbinski for making this a masterpiece. A movie that actually uses creepy imagery and lighting that ties up the atmosphere nicely. There are giant centipedes, medical equipment, and the like to stir fear in the minds of viewers.

The original movie, titled Ringu, was a blockbuster in Japan. This 1998 film broke expectation and began a quest to explore a seemingly new realm in horror.

Again, what elements made this so popular:

* Originality
* Plausibility
* Urgency
* Immediacy
* Creepy

Monday, December 15, 2008

Movie Autopsy: Pathology

I found the web banner for this flick and thought I'd give it a look-over. Why not? Seemed pretty cool.

I checked out the film and discovered why there really wasn't much more publicity than that given. Sadly, what could've been an astounding film came off as yet another "ho-hum."

First off, the blatant issue was the main character's rapid submission to peer pressure. What's the problem? He's not in middle school. The lead character is supposed to be a brilliant medical superstar who has worked his butt off dazzling the medical community. He arrives at the new medical school and the current superstar doctor is jealous. His entourage gives the newcomer a hard time right off. Just a day or so later, they accept the new kid, and he is like putty in their hands. Suddenly, this drug-free and loyal fellow is a rat junkie, and there was no real "pressure" to push him in that direction.

The main characters in this film are utterly despicable. Ironically, they are exactly like the regular folk they call "vermin" only they are med students. As if that is some justification? They are like regular citizens who oppose capital punishment for heinous crimes. They don't want to pay for housing and feeding serial killers, but don't want them eliminated either. It's a grand conundrum.

The characters are completely unconvincing. The makers obviously attempted to overshadow the lack of suspense with gratuity and it ruined the film.


A few notes on how the movie could've been improved:

* Actual conflict.
* Actual suspense.
* Less gore, more action.
* Less college kid behavior, more diabolical medical behavior.
* Characters you can relate to or sympathize with.
* More substance. Add some meat to those bones.

Don't just take my word for it. Here's an awesome review.

Want another on the same film? Check here.