Posts Tagged ‘low budget horror films’

The Lodger: Director David Ondaatje‘s debut is loosely adapted from Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film about a ‘Jack The Ripper’ copycat killer. Ondaatje gives The Lodger a routinely modern twist by throws plenty of false climaxes, both run-of-the-mill and unexpected, at us. The visual elements are also far grittier than these types of films normally lend themselves to, thanks to nifty cinematography from David Armstrong. Actress Hope Davis (with whom I’m having a cinematic affair) as the hapless patron of the lodge and Alfred Molina as the obsessive detective deliver on so many levels that we can ignore Simon Baker‘s ineffectual brooding as the title character. Two other things that didn’t quite work for me – Philip Baker Hall darting in and out as the generic Captain Smith, grimacing perhaps a tad too unnaturally, and the predictable ending. Everything else deserves a thumbs-up in this suitably atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller.

Pig Hunt: I have the softest corner in my mind for low-budget horror films that scream bloody murder. It is adorable how they make us curl into a foetal position, letting our mind escape from recurring group hugs that define our lives, careers and breaks in sobriety. It is also heart-warming that there are film-lovers out there scraping together money and questionable talent to scare the shit out of other people. Like many other gory backwoods thrillers turn out to be, James Isaac’s Pig Hunt could be an extended metaphor for the socio-political hierarchies that govern every aspect of our world; so if you’re into that sort of thing, you may find sly references to misogyny, established religion and if you’re drunk, oedipal complexes too. Mutilated emus, a machete-wielding maniac, nymphomaniacal pot cultivators, and a monstrous wild boar that makes Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback look like Babe lost and hogtied in the city? The show goes on. And how.

Greenberg: These comedians have become infatuated with playing caricatures of their publicized persona – Adam Sandler in Funny People, Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, and that creepy guy, to an ostensibly lesser extent, in Pauly Shore Is Dead. Even crappy action stars have embraced it (spoiler: this intro is a waste of time) and gone on to make fun of themselves (JCVD and My Name Is Bruce). I assume Ben Stiller was going for something similar in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, but I could be wrong. Actually, Roger Greenberg isn’t very different from characters that we’ve come to associate Stiller with. Domesticated, empathetic, dorky and infatuated with delusions of grandeur – traits that don’t mesh very well with the character’s existential despair in this film. Sort of like Chris Cornell’s Scream album that toyed with hip-hop. I can appreciate the deviance from normalcy but uh uh no thanks…it’s just too weird. Thankfully, the film’s zanier and more admirable bouts of melancholia lie in Rhys Ifans‘ droopiness and Greta Gerwig‘s gut-wrenching facial expressions, both of which, are spectacular as is the soundtrack provided by James Murphy (front man, LCD Soundsystem). Now go watch Oswalt set the bar incredibly high in Big Fan.

The Losers: Sylvain White is the genius behind I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. We definitely know what he did the summer of 2010. He made an abortion of an action flick.

American Splendor: Harvey Pekar died last week, so let’s spend a minute in obligatory silence as I pray to the distraught geeks in the sky for his soul to keep. In case you don’t already know, he was a iconic comic book writer and legendary cultural nihilist. His autobiographical comic series detailed the tortuously funny bits of his life as a file clerk at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Cleveland. In Berman and Pulcini’s biopic, Paul Giamatti is very believable as Pekar. It is evident that someone has done proper research. One of the details I really enjoyed was the way Giamatti lets his eyebrows do most of the talking as did Pekar in so many of his interviews, especially on Dave Letterman. In addition, a special mention to the cameos from his real-life friends and their splendidly spaced-out, interstellar stares; with friends like these who needs copies of Hitch Hiker’s Guide. All said and done, a notch below the utterly cool crankiness of Terry Zwigoff’s documentary on Robert Crumb, but a tremendous water pistol salute to the man nevertheless.

Splintered: Vincenzo Natali‘s extended love letter to Spielberg’s epically bad film about cute aliens is no longer the odds-on favourite to win my ‘wasted storyline potential’ trophy for 2010. Director Simeon Halligan could have gone about a million other ways with Splintered‘s storyline and still had me thoroughly engaged. While the first 15 minutes promises vicious creatures of the night, creative dismemberment and a wee Welsh lassie’s descent into hyper-realistic madness, the rest of the film has some of the flimsiest excuses for bloodshed. He mucks things up further by paying zero attention to group psychology during moments of crisis. At times, I wasn’t sure if the guys were being stalked and attacked by unseen evil or frantically seduced by their pregnant cousins; a strange mix of disgust, euphoria and fear. Some of dialogues are so absurd that we might soon have a ‘Godzilla vs Splintered’s Script’ straight-to-DVD classic on our hands. Holly Weston‘s passive hysteria in the last frame as she walks towards a close-up angle is a thing of beauty, but everything is such a chore to endure.

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moon-duncan jones

Moon: Cinema has a sense of irony that has recently become predictable. It is simple mathematics, really. For example, Al Pacino x Robert Deniro = enough proof method acting does not age with grace or Catherine Zeta Jones + human/animal/plant/heavy machinery = awful. Thankfully, not all make you want to puke. One particularly gratifying arithmetic I figured out was that low budget science fiction = awesome. Now, I normally don’t fancy sci fi films. Most of them are a fruity lot, with their deliberate attempts at raising oohs and ahhs through CGI effects and elaborately silly plots. Cascading orchestral music, bullshit theories, unreasonable plot twists and so on. Somehow low budget sci fi movies such as Primer, Pi and Cube seem to rise above that shit and instead present spectacular situations that are wonderful and scary to imagine only because they could happen…uhmmm tomorrow.sam_rockwell_moon_movie

Duncan Jones’ Moon is probably the second best of its kind I have seen (Shane Carruth’s Primer is a few inches ahead). It tells a tale of an astronaut – Sam Bell – getting ready to head back to earth after spending nearly three years on the moon, servicing equipment for a multi-national energy company. Sam Rockwell tunes in a riveting one-man show. His character’s slow descent into mental and physical deterioration could pass for a long-ass music video of Eels’ Electro Shock Blues album. Quirky, lonely and melancholic. Kevin Spacey is delightfully inconspicuous as Gerty – the robot; a strange mix between Marvin the Paranoid Android and Mother Goose.

duncan-jonesClint Mansell’s original score and Gary Shaw’s cinematography are intoxicating; the combination of both dam near drove me into a hallucinatory state an hour into the film. As for the twist, well…there is a semblance of one. Matter of fact, director Duncan Jones could have saved the twist for the climax and the movie would have still been pretty darn great. The fact that he gives it away in the middle and still keeps our minds itching with pleasure until the end is a testament to just how fucking great Moon turned out anyway.


Juice: As far as I can tell, John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood brought hyper-realistic violence to the blaxploitation genre. The early Nineties spawned a bunch of films about kids trying to get out of the muck of poverty and gang-related violence. I’m sure most of them had perfectly decent intentions of bringing to light America’s most awkward misnomer – their country’s perception of the black man. What they ended up doing (at least to a brown-skinned boy sitting in front of the tele) instead is furthering the caricature. While it isn’t as bad as Menace To Sobriety (yes I hated it), it still is a far cry from Boyz N The Hood. Juice sometimes works, but only because of Tupac Shakur’s crazed antics and Eric B and Rakim’s fantastic title song Juice (Know The Ledge). Also, check out Singleton’s Higher Learning. Much much better.plaguetown

Plague Town: This is David Gregory’s first full-length feature film and hopefully will be the last one until he gets a bigger budget. A lot of horror films have been wonderfully executed on shoestring budgets, but Plague Town isn’t one of them. The girl with the pale white mask gets the creep factor going for awhile, but soon you realize that she looks like a brooding Slipknot fan.The ending is lame too. Give this one a miss, but for Romero’s sake, don’t give up on indie horror.

Quick realization

King Crimson’s Moonchild

Ilayaraja’s Pillai Nila

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