Pet Sematary (1989)

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From one King to another. Upon finding this in a local Big W for $5, my first thoughts were “Is it in widescreen?” and “Is it in 5.1?” to which both of those questions were answered in the affirmative. But surely, a film starring Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) with a feature song by The Ramones (as well as a cameo by Stephen King himself) can’t be too bad, right?

The Creeds have just moved into a new house in the countryside. Their house is perfect, except for two things: the trucks that drive noisily on the road outside, and the mysterious cemetary in the woods behind the house labelled “Pet Sematary”…

I like Stephen King’s work, but I don’t understand, well, what happened: King wrote and published Pet Sematary in 1983, and six years later he sat down to write the screenplay for a movie based on his book. There isn’t anything wrong with the story, dialogue, it’s that scenes, especially earlier on, jump, and some things happen without reason.

The acting, with the exception of Gwynne, is quite poor, laughable in a few situations. Dale Midkiff seems to be in a haze throughout the film, Denise Crosby is actually good, but tries her best with the material she’s been given and ends up looking like she doesn’t know where to go. The kids, are of course, kids, although Miko Hughes, especially later on in the film, is creepy. The direction by Mary Lambert, a female director hovering around horror films should be noted, however she just ended up with a B-grade, at times non-sensical muddle of a movie.

The concept, of having more time with those who have passed on, is of course universal, and something everyone can relate to on one level or another. However, the supernatural aspects surrounding the concept seem half-baked, and we never really get into the head of Louis Creed, the main character played by Midkiff. It is obvious chunks of the book were sliced out to make the book into a movie, however in doing that, the film has actually suffered. Instead of taking the book, and moulding the story into a suitable story for the screen, King has edited the book and given the edit to the actors and crew, at least, is seems like that. Believe you me, I don’t like criticising King but I thought he did a poor job of constructing a screenplay. Add to that middle-of-the-road acting, and a zombie cat (it’s not as awesome as it sounds), Pet Sematary is a poor excuse for a book adaptation, and a poor excuse for a horror movie in general. In fact, it might just be the goofiest horror movie I’ve seen yet. Two skulls.

Audio:
For a cheap DVD, the 5.1 track was quite good. Obviously, the roar of trucks driving past were quite loud, and the laughing of Gage, the son during one of the final sequences, comes out of the rear speakers giving a frightening jolt to the viewer. For a twenty-one year old film, it sounded quite impressive. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
Alas, the video aspect is not as impressive as the audio aspect of the disc. Yes, I understand it’s an old film but my qualms lie with the encoding of the film. Many times I noticed blocking artefacts, taking me out of the film. The rest of the picture was fine, but slightly blurry. It did the job, but it wasn’t the best picture I’ve seen on DVD. Two stars.

Features.
No features are provided on the disc besides subtitles. No skulls.

Overall:
With Pet Sematary, Stephen King proves that while playing a priest at a funeral may be awesome, he should probably stick to writing novels. However, his screenplay is not the only problem. Riddled with mediocre, sometimes laughable acting, and odd horror and cheap non-frightening scares, Pet Sematary is a poor film, but may entertain yourself and some of your friends with it’s B-grade atmosphere. Two skulls.

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It (1990)

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Despite the fact that this blog is named after a Stephen King book, I have not read said book. I am only half-way through Under the Dome, have The Skeleton Crew, Firestarter and Duma Key somewhere, and have only seen Stand by Me, Carrie and The Mist in their entirety (all of which are fantastic films), but I wouldn’t call myself a Stephen King fanatic; a fan, yes, but not a fanatic. I like his work, and the impact he’s had on horror as a genre as well as the general impact in literature itself, but I don’t know every detail about every story he’s written nor every aspect about his life. Add to that a fear of clowns I brought with me when I was born, and It is right up my alley.

The Losers Club, a group of seven children in Derry, Maine, bond together over visions of a demonic clown named Pennywise that is haunting all of them. Together they decide to end it, but it escapes and they make a pact to join back together should it ever return. Thirty years later, it is killing children again, and The Lucky Seven need to band together once more to bring It down.

It isn’t difficult to make clowns scary; they’re inherently frightening to begin with. Tim Curry, however, being put into the shoes of Pennywise the Clown is pure genius. You can hardly tell it’s him – the make-up is astonishing, especially at the end of part one. However, Curry doesn’t play Pennywise as straight-forward monster – there are ideas and reasons behind what he’s doing. His delivery of “Yes, Georgie, they all float.” will send shivers down my spine for years to come.

The performances of all the adults is great – some border on the melodramatic, but that’s fine. However, it’s the children, playing younger versions of the adults’ characters, that truly shine, also adding to the fact that part one is simply better and more engaging than part two, due to this fact. The story somehow works better within the confines of childhood than adulthood – in fact, I would edit out the adult scenes and just leave in the children’s scenes and market it as a horror movie for kids, because children love taking charge within a film or television show.

The film itself is a great piece of two-nighter epic television. Not once did I feel bored, nor did the pace ever feel like it was dragging along at snail-like speed. To supply a great, involving story and frightening imagery in a television program in mid-1990 must have broken down some kind of barriers. It should be required viewing for all horror movie fans!

At three hours and spread across two sides, It is a masterpiece of television production. Having not read the book, I’m in no position whatsoever to say if it was faithful or not to the novel, but in the end that isn’t actually important, as the film needs to stand on its own two feet. With a few instances of melodrama and cheese, It breaks through and delivers a masterful fright and engaging story about friendship and promise. Four skulls.

Audio:
The only audio track supplied is an English 2.0 track. Seeing as this was produced in 1990, and as a television film no less, this is no gripe. The dialogue is clear and the music creepy. There isn’t much to say about the audio, other than it gets the job done. Three skulls.

Video:
It has one of the better DVD presentations I’ve seen in my entire couch-potato career of watching films and television shows. Sure, it’s an old program, and is riddled with quite a lot of film artefacts (as well as a few instances of digital artefacts such as blocking), but it looks pretty good. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a Blu-Ray edition of the film in the future. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Only one major extra is provided, along with a useless “Cast and Crew” listing (isn’t that what the end credits are for?) Three skulls.

  • Audio Commentary
  • with director Tommy Lee Wallace and actors Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter and Richard Thomas is not what is usually my cup of tea. It’s edited together from sessions Wallace held, Thomas held, and a group session of Christopher, Reid and Ritter. However, it’s entertaining thanks to the actors as well as informative thanks to Wallace. Amazingly, I lasted the entire three-hour track with no thoughts about turning it off. It was nice to listen to a few of the people involved in making the film reminisce warmly about making the film as well as talk about the friendships towards one another, whether or not they knew of Stephen King, choices made in regards to setpieces, as well as complimenting their colleagues from people such as Olivia Hussey to all the children actors. A great listen.

Overall:
It just knocked my socks off and came out of the blue. I’ve had the DVD sitting in my collection for a while but never got around to viewing it simply because of time constraints (as well as a freakin’ scary clown on the cover). It’s a wonderful film, and eerie and creepy with a nightmare-inducing performance from Tim Curry. Unfortunately the extras are a bit lacking, but the audio commentary is a great listen for fans of the film and will feel like you’re watching the film with your friends, your friends who starred in it, talking you through the production. I hope a future Blu-Ray release will have the film uncut as one film as well as some retrospective interviews with cast and crew, King’s thoughts on the film and a “In Loving Memory” for John Ritter and Jonathan Brandis, who both passed away in 2003. An exceptional movie with an exceptional cast and great, emotional story. Three-and-a-half skulls.

The Wolfman (2010)

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Remakes and sequels and adaptations are all the rage now, because Hollywood is quickly running out of ideas. However, when a company like Universal, a company known for their classic horror films decides to remake one of the most loved films in its catalogue, chances are it will work, right?

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolf Man brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar winner Benicio del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother… and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

It’s obvious Universal tried to recapture the lightning in the bottle after the success of its Mummy franchise re-ignited by Van Helsing director Stephen Sommers. However, The Wolfman unfortunately is a victim of too much meddling from high up in the food chain at Universal. The stories you can find on the internet about such things like an electronic score and company editing don’t paint a pretty picture about the film.

It’s not actually a bad film, but the original, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. still remains top dog. Benecio del Toro plays Larry Talbot with such pain that it’s almost hard to sympathise with him, he’s a bit in a world of his own, detached from everyone else. Emily Blunt is a beautiful woman and fantastic actor but she seemed to be weepy all the time, with eyes constantly watery or full-on crying, and Anthony Hopkins gives what is quite possibly the worst performance he’s ever given. From the trailers I could tell that he was hiding a big secret, and I knew what that was and I was correct when I view this film – but if you have interest in watching this I won’t ruin it for you. The inclusion of Hugo Weaving’s Aberline makes the whole thing a bit crowded, and I didn’t find his character necessary at all.

Rick Baker’s make-up is top form, as usual, but it still seems to be missing something, and I can’t quite put my finger on what that is. It’s a gory film, and a modern version of the original film despite being set in Victorian England – think Sherlock Holmes with Saw-like bloodbaths.

The extended cut feels a bit slow while the theatrical cut gives no real introduction the characters to get us, the audience, involved. The extended cut should be for those who want to try to get involved with the characters while the theatrical cut should please those who just want to see blood splash across the screen.

If there’s any major problems with this, it’s that the film-makers tried to make The Wolfman more psychological and have more depth than the original 1941 film, but how is it that the original film, while cheesy by today’s standards, remains much more effective? Because less is more. Three skulls.

Audio:
All spoken languages are in Dolby Digital 5.1. A Descriptive Video Service is provided for the visually impaired. A loud track, it gives the film a pumping audio experience. The front side speakers and rear speakers give a good sense of place, providing a good epic, horror soundscape to put the audience in. Quite possibly the best audio I’ve heard on Blu-Ray. Five skulls.

Video:
It’s a bit difficult to judge the video on this disc. It’s a very recent film, and therefore looks good, but it also has a bit of softness to it, especially in close-up shots. I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but more often than not, the video it pretty nice to look at. Four skulls.

Features:
A handful of features accompany The Wolfman on Blu-Ray, and most feel like EPK material. Two-and-a-half skulls.

  • Alternate Endings Two alternate endings are provided, and both are slight variations of one another. The ending is pretty much the same as in the finished film, but what happens to Gwen and Lawrence are the slight changes.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: Lawrence Talks With Gwen, Singh’s Story, Extended Mausoleum Transformation, Extended London Chase, Extended Final Fight To cut a long story short, should these have been integrated back into the film, it would have made it much more convoluted and much more crowded in content.
  • Return of The Wolfman is a twelve minute puff piece with everyone involved speaking in very Freudian terms about the story and pulling it off as if the film has much more meaning that it actually has.
  • The Beast Maker is about Rick Baker and his make-up, along with his love for the Universal Monster Movies that got him into make-up design
  • Transformation Secrets is a featurette about the visual effects. Another piece claiming “we wanted the effects to not overtake the story, but here’s this featurette about how awesome our effects are”.
  • The Wolfman Unleashed is a featurette about the stunts and action scenes in the film.
  • U-Control (on theatrical cut only) is most facts about the Wolfman and its legacy, with a few cut-away videos with people such as Rick Baker talking us through select scenes. I’m not a fan of U-Control, but the cut away videos interrupt the viewing of the film and when the video is finished, you’ve skipped ahead a few minutes in the film.
  • Steelbook casing

Overall:
The Wolfman is disappointing remake, but after the tonne of remakes and adaptations Hollywood has thrown at us, it’s not exactly surprising. It’s a shame the whole father/son relationship bogs down a tragic and romantic story. It’s a decent film, but it’s also a relative non-event. Go buy the original film instead. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (2008)

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I remember hearing a bit about this little Swedish vampire movie called “Let The Right One In” and how it was amazing and fantastic. A love story between two children, one being a vampire, and the world they live in being changed as their characters change. It’s a haunting film, a depressing and painful film, as well as being a beautiful and entrancing film.

Lonely, 12-year-old Oskar is an outsider; bullied, struggling to fit in at school and left alone to fend for himself at home while his mother works nights. One evening he meets the mysterious Eli, a pale young girl, who has moved in next door. Coinciding with her arrival is a series of inexplicable disappearances and murders…

The film is a bit slow, but having watched it twice now, it’s also worth every minute. I picked up things I missed prior, and I was also able to enjoy the film more the second time around. The performances, especially those of the children – all the children, not just the two main leads – is fantastic. But the girl that plays Eli, Lina Leandersson, is quite possibly the best out of all of them. She oozes pain and wisdom and age for such a young person that you genuinely believe she’s been twelve years old for a century or so. All the actors in the film are fantastic, and it’s a shame that the big bucks get spent on actors who can’t act in Hollywood when there’s such talented people all over the world who can do the job a billion times better.

This film is beautifully shot. There are many instances where you go “Wow, that’s cool.” It’s a film that has imagery that will stick in your mind for days after you watch it, imagery that will haunt you in your sleep and in your wake. It’s an absolutely entrancing film and you can’t do anything but be absolutely pulled into this world. It’s almost like a graphic novel – every shot is specific, the camera hardly moves. It’s also a very sterile and cold looking film.

There’s two ways you can view this film, and I’ll try to describe it without ruining anything. You can watch it as a straight up love story between two people, or you can see it as something more sinister happening to the main character, and it’s films that are able to have different perspectives that make them successful, because each person comes out of the cinema with their own interpretation of the story.

This film could, and should, be studied. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on that I still haven’t noticed, but it’s an important film and a film that people should go out of their way to see. This isn’t Twilight, this isn’t Underworld, this is a tragic, haunting love story between a vampire and a boy. And if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Audio:
Let The Right One In is a very quiet movie; a subtle sound mix provides an unnerving experience to accompany the imagery. Rarely is music used as it is in Hollywood horror movies – the scenes of horror linger on the sound effects and screams alone. It’s a clear mix, in Swedish 5.1 (and also in DTS 5.1), with the central speaker doing most of the work. The front two speakers spit out the music while the rear speakers also deal with the music and environmental sound. Four skulls.

Video:
Let The Right One In is a bit of a bleak and depressing looking film, but it’s also one of the better looking ones I have seen on Blu-Ray. There were a lot of instances of grain, but every strand of hair was visible, you’re able to tell what fabric people’s clothes are made out of. It helps the image quality when the film is beautifully photographed, as well. Four-and-a-half skulls.

Extras:
A very tiny amount of extras made up for with an English audio-commentary and all features being in high-definition. Four skulls.

  • Audio Commentary is presented with author and screenwriter John Ajvide Lindqvist, and director Tomas Alfredson, spoken in English, much to my surprise. The commentary is informative and Lindqvist and Alfredson have a great rapport with each other, which shows in the finished film.
  • Deleted Scenes Four deleted scenes are presented. They are simply called “Scene 1”, “Scene 2” etc. Scenes two and four are sweet moments between Oskar and Eli, scene one shows Oskar being bullied and scene three is Virginia rejecting human food and drink.
  • Photo Gallery is a high-definition motion gallery with some beautiful pictures taken during production. It goes for almost four minutes and is worth a watch for budding photographers.
  • UK Trailer
  • Traitor Trailer A forced trailer at the beginning of the disc for the Don Cheadle film Traitor

Overall:
An American remake is on the way for those who are to lazy to read subtitles, but if you’re open minded and don’t mind a film outside of the safety zone of Hollywood, check this out, at least before you see the American remake. I can only rehash what I’ve already said – a bleak and beautiful film with fantastic performances, especially from Andersson. Four skulls.

The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe (2008)

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While many people wanted a sequel to The Lost Boys when that original film was released, as well as producer Richard Donner and director Joel Schumacher thinking up ideas such as vampire politicians and “Lost Girls”, it seemed most fans cried foul when The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe was announced, and cried even more foul when the trailer was released, and then lambasted it when it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. They were right and wrong, but let me get to why that is.

This sequel takes us to the shady surf city of Luna Bay, California, where vampire surfers quickly dispatch anyone who crosses their path. Into this dark world arrive moody Chris Emerson and his shy sister, Nicole. Having lost their parents in a car accident, the siblings move in with their eccentric aunt Jillian and become new prey for the local surfers. When Nicole unwittingly drinks the blood of a vampire, Chris must locate and destroy the gang’s head vampire before his sister’s transformation is complete.

The problem this sequel has is that it’s grittier and more serious than its predecessor, and loses the fun and innocence the original film had and uses the mythology set up in the first film to make generic horror movie. Where there was hardly any blood in the first film, whereas it’s an absolute bloodbath in this film. It’s an absolute step away from the tone of the original film, which is why many cried foul, but it’s also a decent direct-to-video film if you have an open mind.

The performances in this film aren’t anything special, but the film has pretty decent production values. The sales of the disc obviously helped make the film’s budget back to warrant a third film, entitled Lost Boys: The Thirst which I’ll be looking forward to. Call me generous but I didn’t think this was that bad, it just wasn’t The Lost Boys we know and love. Three skulls.

Audio:
The audio is pretty pumping on the disc, however there is only one track in English. No TrueHD or PCM, just English Dolby Digital 5.1. I didn’t notice much sound coming from the rear speakers. When music was played, however, it sounded pretty sweet. Three skulls.

Video:
Much to my surprise, The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe is a lot more grainy compared to its predecessor. Especially in darker scenes and on darker colours of walls clothes. The grain adds to the gritty feeling the film-makers were obviously going with this sequel, but the image itself is crisp, however the colours are a bit dull, again obviously being intentional for the feel of the film. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Only a few features are presented for The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe, and all are pretty short, and not really worth it besides the alternate endings. Two-and-a-half skulls.

  • Lost Boys: The Tribe: Action Junkies is a very short featurette about the stunts in the film.
  • Edgar Frog’s Guide to Coming Back Alive is a short featurette with Corey Feldman in character as Edgar Frog teaching the audience what methods and weapons to use against a vampire.
  • Alternate Endings are interesting – they are both pretty much the same, with slight variations in the editing and lines, and obviously setting up the third film.
  • Cry Little Sister Remix Video – the less said about this the better. It completely rapes the original song.
  • Downfall, Hell is Full, It’s Over Now music videos by Yeah Whatever – not my cup of tea, and with these music videos and tone of the film it’s obvious the makers were targeting a goth/supernatural audience for the film.

Overall:
A giant step away from the charms that made the original film so much fun and so enjoyable turns this sequel into a generic horror movie complete with gore galore as well as the obligatory boob shots and lesbian kissing shots. It’s an alright movie, but the original is far better. Let’s hope the third film, entitled The Thirst improves upon this sequel and goes back to its roots. Three skulls.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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Vampires are currently on top of the world, but have been existing in cinema since its inception. The Lost Boys, a film by Joel Schumacher made in 1987, is arguably a cult classic twenty-three years later with a large fanbase, and with good reason. It’s a fun film with great metaphors and very cool imagery.

Sam and his older brother Michael are all-American teens with all-American interests. But after they move with their mother to peaceful Santa Carla, California, things mysteriously begin to change. Michael’s not himself lately. And Mum’s not going to like what he’s turning into.

It’s hard to take this film seriously, especially nowadays with 80s hairstyles and clothing, but it’s also intentionally funny, it’s not set out to sweep the Oscars, but at the same time it’s antagonists, The Lost Boys, are forbidden – the group that everyone wants to be apart of but they know they really shouldn’t.

I’m not a giant fan on Keifer Sutherland but he obviously relishes the role of David, the leader of the Boys, and turns what could have been a very cardboard cut-out of a character into a manipulative and sly bad guy. Jason Patric, as the main character Michael has fun with his on-screen younger brother, Corey Haim (rest in peace), and makes his character likeable and vulnerable. Of course, all the fun comes from Haim as the young brother Sam, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as the Frog Brothers, taking the job of killing vampires too seriously for their own good.

Produced by Richard Donner, who also directed The Goonies, and directed by Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys is a great entertainment that should satisfy anyone of any age, whether they like horror films or not – this is not a straight-up horror film either, it has humour and is more fun than your usual vampire movie. It has scares, laughs, romance, action and death by stereo. One of my favourite films in glorious high definition! Four skulls.

Audio:
There’s many Dolby 5.1 tracks presented on the disc in many languages, but there is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track presented as well, but I didn’t notice much difference between the two English tracks besides the TrueHD track being slightly louder. The soundtrack seemed quite front-heavy with most sound playing in the center and front left and right speakers, with music in the rear right speaker and ambience/environment sounds in the left rear speaker. A bit disappointing, but it gets the job done. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
For a film that’s almost a quarter of a century old, it looks pretty freakin’ good. Sure, it’s not as clean as modern films out on Blu-Ray, and there were quite a few instances of film artefacts, but it’s a significant improvement over the DVD version, and makes the movie even more tantalising to watch. Some scenes, however, do have quite a large amount of film grain – but that’s up to the viewer to decide whether that’s a good thing or not. Four skulls.

Features:
There are quite a few features presented on the disc, but most are quite short and to-the-point. Three skulls.

  • Commentary by Joel Schumacher is a bit of a dry track, and Schumacher talks more like a fan than a director, sometimes resorting to describing what’s on the screen with a few silent spots. It’s informative, and he is constantly thankful for the actors he got and constantly praising what’s on screen from the art direction, to production design, costume design to performances.
  • The Lost Boys: A Retrospective is a half-hour mixture between a retrospective and a making-of. Somewhat generic but interesting nonetheless.
  • Inside The Vampires’ Cave: A Four-Part Making Of is just under twenty minutes with cast and crew talking about Joel Schumacher’s vision, the concept of doing the film as a horror-comedy, recreating vampires for this film as well as talk of a sequel ranging from “The Lost Girls” to “Vampire Politicians” (this featurette was made prior to The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe).
  • Vamping Out: The Undead Creations of Greg Cannom is arguably the best featurette on the disc, showing Cannom’s work as make-up and prosthetics designer as well as telling stories from production like how uncomfortable the vampiric contacts were.
  • Haimster and Feldog: The Story of the Two Coreys is a five minute piece exploring the two Corey’s relationship and how they were met on The Lost Boys and became very close friends, working together on many films.
  • Multi-Angle Commentary with Corey Feldman, Corey Haim and Jamison Newlander is just under twenty minutes with a standard definition presentation and multi-angled videos of the commentators. They were recorded separately and have a light time watching the film, with such comments like Feldman querying why he didn’t get an Oscar nomination.
  • The Lost Scenes: Deleted Scenes is comprised of mostly character pieces before Michael (Jason Patric) falls in with the Lost Boys, showing the family moving into their grandfather’s house in Santa Carla, with a few hints foreshadowing the ending of the film.
  • The Vampires’ Photo Gallery is presented in high-definition, and contains pictures of all actors who played vampires in various incarnations of their make-up.
  • The World of Vampires: An Interactive Map is merely a sub-menu where you can click options to find out about vampire legends from all over the world. It seemed to be made especially for the release of The Lost Boys on DVD, but it’s too creepy and seems out of place but is interesting nonetheless.
  • Lost in the Shadows music video by Lou Gramm is a promo music video to advertise the film, and is great for those who like 80s music videos (like me)
  • Theatrical Trailer

Overall:
The Lost Boys is a staple of vampire films and should last a long time to come. It’s fun, scary, very cool and very silly. Thirteen-year-old Rambos against vampires never loses its awesomeness. Highly recommended to all. Four skulls.

Vacancy (2007)

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From one crazy hotel to another, Nimrod Antal’s 2007 film Vacancy throws out any and all originality in favour of hackneyed and tired characters and a story that provides no real scares or surprises. It’s not that film is awful, it’s just nothing new.

When David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox’s (Kate Beckinsale) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to spend the night at the only motel around, with only the TV to entertain them… until they discover that the low-budget slasher videos they find in their room were all filmed in the very room they’re sitting in. With hidden cameras now aimed at them… trapping them in rooms, crawlspaces, underground tunnels… and filming their every move, David and Amy must struggle to get out alive before they end up the next victims on tape.

What begins (and ends) with heist movie-like credits and a very slow beginning, Vacancy goes for a cat-and-mouse game between the protagonists (despite the fact that ever since the film begins, they’re fighting each other making it difficult to relate or sympathise with them) and motel-owner antagonist (portrayed well but not-creepy-enough by Frank Whaley) as well as a few masked minions of Mason’s over a story that could have been ripe commentary on horror and slasher movies and the audiences that go to see them, but ends up being nothing more than your traditional horror movie.

The film reminded me a lot of Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers, a much more successful film that isn’t bogged down by half-baked characters or plot, for one thing, the protagonists in The Strangers, despite also being introduced after a fight, manage to garner sympathy, and despite the fact they’re teetering on the edge of breaking up, still love each other and make the cat-and-mouse game between them and The Strangers all the more effective, whereas Vacancy makes unlikeable protagonists face off against bad guys that just seem like they’re taken out of the “How To Write A Horror Movie” handbook.

The entire idea of the snuff films, which begins the cat-and-mouse game pretty much falls by the wayside as we go to focus on the two main characters trying not to end up on a snuff film of their own. Again, a lost opportunity. It almost feels like two different horror movies: a movie about a married couple going to get divorced finding a stash of videos showing patrons of the motel they’re staying in getting killed and: a movie about a married couple going to get divorced being chased around a motel by a Norman Bates-wannabe and his posse. This film also proves my theory that if a character calls the emergency line (911 in America), if a man answers it, it’s the bad guy, if a woman answers it, it’s a genuine emergency line receptionist who wants to help the main character(s).

In the end, it’s not an awful movie, it’s just not very good or groundbreaking. Luke Wilson should probably stick to comedies, and Kate Beckinsale has lost a certain something that made her shine in the Underworld films, but I blame that entirely on the script. Heist movie opening and closing titles tacked onto the start and end of an unoriginal film that’s worthy of a rental at best, unless you can find it cheaper than $15 make Vacancy barely earn its three skulls.

Audio:
The traditional quiet sound mix with loud scares accompanies the film, providing an adequate 5.1 mix to go with the adequate movie. There’s really not much to say other than it was a clear and concise mix, but delved into the horror movie tradition of “everything in the soundtrack is quiet compared to the loud, booming scares we provide”. Three skulls.

Video:
Presented in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio, the film did look good. A wise decision to pump the film with warm colours makes the picture easy on the eye, with glowing yellows and orange walls and sickly coloured motel rooms making the film stand out above other, cold and sterile-looking horror movies, and for this I applaud it. I don’t remember noticing any film or digital artefacts, and the picture was crisp and clean and highly detailed. Four-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Vacancy has only a few features, and not many of them are particularly worth watching. Two stars.

  • The Alternate Opening Sequence is an ambitious opening shot setting up the events we will be watching in the film. I thought it was pretty cool, but who knows why the film-makers took it out?
  • Checking In: The Cast and Crew of Vacancy is a by-the-books half-hour making-of with the cast and crew, especially producers, talking about the film as if it’s the second coming of horror movies making it sound a lot deeper than it actually is, and providing little insight into the actual making of the film.
  • Mason’s Video Picks: Extended Snuff Films are exactly what the title suggests. Why these were put on here, God knows, but I didn’t bother watching more than a minute of it. Only for those who are off-the-wall obsessed with fake snuff movies, and let’s be honest: who is?
  • Raccoon Encounter: Never Before Seen Deleted Scene is a scene that shouldn’t even have made it onto the disc. It’s stupid and one of the cheapest scared ever imaginable.

Overall:
A film that tries to stand on its own two feet but constantly falls over unoriginal plotting and character work makes Vacancy a movie for a horror buff to watch on a rainy day. Not worth a full price, and only worth it on special should you like the film more than I do. Three skulls.