Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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Twilight by Stephenie MeyerBefore I get into the meat-and-potatoes of this review, I would like to begin by providing a small back story this writer went through up until purchasing all four Twilight books earlier this week.

I remember seeing the trailers for Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of Twilight, and was coloured slightly intrigued, despite saying off-hand that vampires were out in the day and flew around like Superman, I let it slide because, come on – this is Catherine Hardwicke! A great director and a great female role model for all creative women out there (I am of the opinion more women need to be in the film industry). I never went to see Twilight in cinemas because there just never was a chance. I picked the Blu-Ray disc up when it was released and watched it with interest, ending up with the whole “Well, it was good, but it’s highly over-rated” opinion.

Then the trailer for the Hardwicke-shafted New Moon appeared on the internet, and I immediately went “Woah. That was cool.” to Jacob transforming into a wolf. It was pretty much then on that, despite my reluctance to admit it, I became a Twi-hard. I still haven’t seen any films in the saga at the cinema (screaming females for two hours isn’t my idea of relaxation) so I’ve bought or received all films on Blu-Ray, and look forward to seeing both parts in the Breaking Dawn saga, slated to hit cinemas this and next November, respectively.

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerising voice and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

I, too, along with many others, cried foul at Stephenie Meyer’s version of vampirism. My only problem with the sparkling vampire aspect of Twilight is that is doesn’t serve a plot purpose besides visualising how beautiful Edward is (which happens so many times in this book – I dare people to have a drinking game whenever Bella says Edward is beautiful and finish the book in one go). I can believe a great many things in a story, be it a novel, film or television, as long as it serves a plot purpose, which sparkling vampires does not (although was used cleverly in the Eclipse film adaptation, showing vampire’s insides as white crystal).

My main problem, having bought the film tie-in edition ages ago was Meyer’s writing. It’s criminally elementary – and I’m pretty sure the concept of a thesaurus doesn’t exist in the Meyer household. Besides her writing “style” (if you want to call it that), Twilight is safe, harmless romantic fun. There is actually a point where Bella stops being this whiny, ungrateful, admittedly nasty person (which is who she is until about chapter ten, “Interrogations”, 172 pages in). However, she goes from being a whiny, ungrateful, admittedly nasty person to being a girl with a one-track mind about how beautiful Edward is.

Things drag on for a while (there is a lot of talking about the logistics behind being a Meyer-vampire) until a vampire baseball game (in the movie, I too, went “What?!”) where three vampire nomads rock up to ruffle some feathers. It is here Bella becomes more of a character, thinking for herself and arguing with the Cullens about hers and her father’s safety. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last for very long. Chapter twenty-four is almost entirely Bella telling Edward how much she loves him after being attacked by the main antagonist, James.

This is also a rare occasion where the film and book on which it is based sit comfortably side-by-side. Books, adapted 100% word-for-word never work because novels and films are two completely different beasts. However, despite a one or two small concepts (like where Alice came from), the film did a good job of staying faithful to the source material while being its own creature. Thankfully in the film the antagonists are introduced earlier and we have none of the pathetic Bella internal monologue.

Stephenie Meyer’s writing does have an advantage, however: one is able to glide through the book at a break-neck pace (I rarely finish books, if at all), so that is one small advantage to the book, however it still doesn’t excuse Meyer from being a poor writer. Plot points don’t necessarily mesh well, exposition is handled sloppily and girl seriously needs a thesaurus. However, if you have seen the film and wish to read the book on which it is based, take your expectations of or your reaction to the film and apply it to the book – both are similar, so if you see the film and not read the book, you’re not missing out on much. I still have three sequels (and a spin-off novella) to plough through, though…

Three-and-a-half 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.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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Happy Valentines Day!

I had never heard of My Bloody Valentine until I had seen the trailer of the 3D remake, and even then, it wasn’t until a week prior to the film’s release did I actually see the original film, but it blew my socks off.

In the tight-knit mining town of Valentine’s Bluff, everyone is getting ready for its first Valentine’s Day dance in many, many years. However, a local loon, who is also the bartender, warns the teens about a legend, many years ago, where the sole survivor of a mine explosion came back after recovery and went on a ravenous rampage of revenge on the town of Valentine’s Bluff. The teens however, choose to disbelieve this legend, and it will be their undoing, as more and more people are turning up dead on the day where love should be all around…

When you view the original My Bloody Valentine, one thing immediately strikes you: this isn’t your by-the-books slasher movie; it has something, that famous je ne sais quoi that you can’t really put your finger on, no matter how much you try…until you watch the deleted footage.

This effective Canadian gem came out in at the height of the slasher boom of the early eighties, following in the path of the classic Halloween. However, out of all imitators, My Bloody Valentine stands out above all the rest, but, of course, it’s one of those that never grew into a never-ending franchise that has that one film that alludes to the ending of a slasher character, but perhaps that was for the best?

There’s hardly anything wrong with this, and I will go so far to say that if John Carpenter’s Halloween didn’t exist, George Mihalka would be a far better known name for his Valentine’s Day slasher masterpiece.

The Blu-Ray, released by Lionsgate (having bought DVD rights from Paramount) have released the film with the much-awaited deleted footage that has hardly seen the light of day, and while Lionsgate can toot their horn about the inclusion of the sought-after footage, it dramatically changes the way you watch the film, and it’s quite bizarre how a few more minutes of footage can morph the film into something completey different.

The footage, despite what people are saying, is crystal clear. It’s just old. The deleted footage has wear and tear of being mistreated or general storage and at first watching I loved it. It gave the film a true grindhouse kind of quality. However, watching the footage again, on its own, I think the film without the deleted footage works a lot better, whereas if you watch the film with the deleted footage integrated into it, not only does it look like a grindhouse movie, but it also feels like a grindhouse movie. The violence, make-up and gore is in true exploitation fashion, and did, in fact, remind me of the inferior Friday the 13th’s and their respective out-there and consistent, violent kills, effectively giving you two very different versions of the film.

Two other extras, besides a theatrical trailer for My Bloody Valentine and preview for other Lionsgate titles, are presented. First is Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film, gives a short and, at first, entertaining look at the slasher films post-Halloween, involving interviews from some cast and crew of this slasher classic, but then takes a right-turn into a full-blown advertisement for Lionsgate’s 3D remake, which I didn’t like – not one bit (it’s pathetic, really).  The second extra is called Bloodlines: An “Interactive” Horror Film History. It is, in fact, called that, but interactive is in inverted commas because it seems like it was taken from an early-90s webpage. There’s nothing interactive about it at all. It’s simply right arrow, left arrow, enter button. It’s a text history, and, whilst comprehensive, unless you’re sitting right up in front of your television, it should prove to be a difficult read.

Watch the original version first, without the deleted scenes, it’s a classic of the genre. Harry Warden is one of my favourite slashers, but Lionsgate haven’t treated him like they should have with a passable but could-have-been-better Blu-Ray presentation. Also, at the end of the day, when you pop the disc into your player, what version do you want to watch? The version that most of us have fallen in love with, that has that je ne sais quoi that most slashers don’t have, or the traditional, by-the-slasher-books version? Three-and-a-half for the whole thing. Too bad the film is tarnished by a sub-par Blu-Ray presentation.

“Jennifer’s Body” by Rick Spears

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Just to make it clear: I have not yet seen Jennifer’s Body. I was super-psyched to see it until it “bombed” at the box office, and like usual, if it bombs in the States, it’s not worth releasing anywhere else; i.e. Australia. Here I am patiently waiting until late February when Amazon.co.uk has Jennifer’s Body on Blu-Ray so I can finally see the film I was expecting to see last December (the US Blu-Ray is region-locked to Region A, I’m Region B).

This graphic novel (not comic book) delves deeper into the world revolving around Jennifer’s Body, a film written by Diablo Cody of Juno-fame, starring Megan Fox and directed by Karyn Kasuma (Aeon Flux) but the book probably works better if you’ve actually seen the film on which it’s based. Now, I will admit I’ve read the script. Don’t ask me where I got it; I can’t remember. It was hella funny. It was twisted and clever writing, but hardly scary. If anything has changed from this draft (dated 2007; prior to Juno‘s release), it’s that they’ve added more of the horror element, judging from the trailers. However, compared to the original script, this, too, has a more horrific element.

This book is split into four chapters detailing one boy’s journey to being digested in Jennifer’s body, as well as a prologue and an epilogue. I’ll review each chapter.

Chapter one focuses on Jennifer’s first victim, a jock named Jonas who’s having a few problems on the football team, mainly, his balls are shrinking from steroid use. Add to that his girlfriend is bumping uglies with his best friend, Craig. In a fit of rage, he fights Craig, then goes home, depressed. Next day, he finds out Craig has died in a bar fire. Bereaved, Jonas seems distant, even his walnut-sized brain can comprehend emotion and sadness and loss. Enter Jennifer Check, who seemed like she was going to comfort him, only to find a nasty surprise.

Chapter one’s style is not one you’d see in a graphic novel. Perhaps in a children’s comic book you can buy at your local newsagency, but not one you’d see in a – somewhat – sophisticated graphic novel. It’s all harsh edges and vivid, sometimes garish, colours, with some interesting composition. It suits the character of Jonas, implying simplicity in Jonas’ life, since he’s a dumb football jock, but there is something brewing under the surface – SHOCK! – jocks have feelings! I enjoyed this chapter, because Jonas’ priorities are amazingly out of whack, plus it was just fun to look at.

Chapter two focuses on Colin, seen in the trailers for the film, a so-far-in-touch-with-his-emotions-they-take-contol-of-him guy that goes all goth after his favourite record store closes, who has a secret crush on the hottest girl in school, Jennifer Check. He never took the chance at that one summer camp to talk to her, but after he hears her in chemistry, they’re lab partners, you see, she’s listening to Colin’s favourite band, the Dwarves. It is here they hit it off as friends, finding more and more in common with each other. When he asks her out to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Bijou Theatre on a date (with Jennifer thinking he’s talking about Rocky, claiming she “doesn’t like boxing movies”), she gives him a second chance and invites him to watch a film he’s never heard of called Aquamarine at Jennifer’s house, to which Colin agrees. However, he’s not meeting her at her house. And there’s no mermaid chick-under-twelve-flick to be seen…

This chapter was a bit odd. Rick Spears, who wrote all the chapters, prologue and epilogue as well, really got in touch with Colin’s emotions, helping him become even more realistic, however, he looks nothing like he does in the actual film, even after he goes all goth. The ending is abrupt and too short for my liking, and differs from the clip released prior to the film’s release. I enjoyed the backstory of how he dug Jennifer Check at a younger age and never had the guts to talk to her (can anyone say, “Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!”? I know I can…), but it just seemed, I don’t know. It wasn’t the one I felt was the best visually, either. It was sort of mediocre, it didn’t stand out above the crowd.

Chapter three focuses on Ahmet from India, a character I found hilarious in the script. It chronicles his journey from India to the hole that is Devil’s Kettle for a student-exchange program, where, after a lonely two months, he joins the baseball team after a killer pitch. After the game, however, his team-mates check out his johnson, and from then on, he was called stuff like “Squid”, with his classmates saying “We want a pitcher to throw the ball, not a tentacle”, stupid stuff like that kids actually say. Sad, Ahmet from India decides to go to a local club to listen to a band named Low Shoulder. Their music ignites a passion in him, reminding him of Bollywood, so much so he gets up and dances, with everyone joining in, until something catches light in the club, and the bar goes up in flames. Luckily escaping, Ahmet from India wanders around the streets of Devil’s Kettle, until he sees another survivor, the gorgeous Jennifer Check. “Come with me. We’ll find help.” she claims. “We’ll sort this out.”

This one was interesting, giving a different viewpoint of America through the eyes of a foreigner, going so far as to say “America is horrible.” This is the most depressing chapter in the book, because it seems Ahmet from India is so out-of-place, and so lonely, and homesick, it’s almost alienating just reading it, let alone looking at the images. It does hit a high-point, however, when it goes all Bollywood on us, but when Jennifer actually sets down and begins chowing Ahmet from India up, he takes it, putting his energy into reincarnation. Not resisting, not even surprised that this is happening to him. It’s quite sad, when you think about it.

The last chapter deals with Chip, the boyfriend of Needy (who is the best friend of Jennifer). This chapter chronicles Chip’s depressing existence as boyfriend of the beautiful Needy, but getting caught jerking off by his mum, and then, the next day, caught evacuating the seamen from the Red October during class. Chip is then dumped by Needy, for his own protection, until the night of the school dance, where he bumps into Jennifer, who proclaims her love for him and tells him Needy’s been bumping uglies with Colin, a goth at school, up until he died. Then it goes into an abridged version of events depicted in the film.

This chapter was pretty good, humourous. The artwork was soft, and easy on the eyes. This chapter, like Colin’s chapter, had a too-abrupt-ending for my tastes. The ending leads into the epilogue, which shows Jennifer storming off, supposedly going home to where she’ll meet up with Needy in her shocker of an opening to the movie.

The prologue and epilogue are two, three pages, and are just book-ends for the four chapters.

All in all, I did enjoy this read, but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. My favourite art was in the first chapter, depicting the simple world of Jonas the football jock, and in each chapter, there was at least one one-page-one-panel piece of art that was pretty cool, be it Jennifer bearing her gnashers, Ahmet from India leading the Low Shoulder Bollywood dance, or something like Needy and Jennifer in a hot fantasy shower, all naked and whatnot. I assume for those that dug the film, this would be a welcome addition to their Jennifer’s Body experience, but those that either have not seen the film (and intend to) or didn’t like the film, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. It has some cool art, some humourous writing and some good nods to the film (or at least, the script) that it should make fans of the film happy. I didn’t dig it as much as I thought I would, but I might dig it more after I finally see the movie. Three-and-a-half skulls.

The Strangers (2008)

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802775Lock your doors. Pretend you’re safe. Newcomer Bryan Bertino delivers a very solid, although not flawless, debut film.

Kristen McKay and James Hoyt arrive at James’ family’s summer home after a wedding reception and a not-as-planned wedding proposal. They arrive, take a bath, have some ice cream. Everything’s a bit tense. They begin caressing each other passionately when: KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. Someone’s at the door asking for Tamara. No, she’s not here.

Are you sure?

What proceeds after this stray visitor is a vicious mind game, using the summer home as Kristen and James’ prison.

There’s no doubt that this will have “traditional” horror fans angry with its silence, and hardly any gore whatsoever (there is a bit of blood at the end, only staining clothes and on skin, nothing too grotesque). It focuses on these two characters, Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, two people who love each other but have just hit a hump on their relationship road, with Kristen not feeling ready for marriage just yet.

These aren’t traditional, well, let’s just use it for argument’s sake: slashers. These “strangers” don’t go around killing teenagers. They’re playing games with this couple, and it’s a frightening prospect, even if you don’t jump at any “scare” moments.

Bertino has handled the story with grace, making sure his film is not influenced by goregasm movies that plague cinemas and TV screens these days. As much fun as those are, this is a much more psychological horror film, if you call it horror at all.

I mentioned earlier that all is not well in terms of a debut film (as far as debut films go). Though the film isn’t horrible as a whole, there were some parts of the film I felt seemed too stretched out, just to pursue a 90-minute running time.

The Strangers are creepy people, and their motives are never explained in detail or why exactly they do what they do. It’s a concept that works quite well, if not 100%, by connecting the audience with the two main characters that makes the experience more frightening than someone jumping out of the shadows and stabbing the character with a knife.

The Strangers aren’t ones for hiding (unless it serves what they want to do). They make themselves very aware and wander around the house in a very eerie fashion, looking left to right, taking in everything, even sitting down for a rest.

The film, actually, doesn’t, in any way, feel like a recent film, in the way its shot and the story is handled. It feels, very much, like a film from the 70s, albeit a more classy and more sophisticated 70s film. Whilst the characters do use mobile phones in the film, I standby my observation purely because the way the film looks and the way the entire film plays out, so that scores two thumbs up from me.

Visually speaking, the Blu-Ray disc is clear, although it’s the first one I’ve noticed that has quite a few events of digital artefacts within the film. It doesn’t ruin the image, it’s not a horrible picture, as I said, it’s very clear and crisp image, but there was one aspect of blur in the film and a few aspects of bleeding of colours (well, bleeding of black, blurring the distinguishing lines between, say, a face and the very dark wall behind that face). It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the film looks quite nice on the old LCD, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use this as a demo disc. The sound is even, despite the fact the dialogue is quite quiet and there are loud scare moments, but it is in fact a very even soundtrack and makes scare moments work well.

There are two features (excluding BD-Live) offered on the disc: unnecessary deleted scenes, and a very by-the-books featurette that you might see on Showtime or some movie channel in-between movies. Very short, not very sweet in a mundane presentation.

The film is a fantastic debut and I look forward to seeing more work from Bryan Bertino. I recommend this disc to anyone who may want a little something more out of their horror movies. Three-and-a-half skulls.

3.5

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

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792803Beauty and the beast.

Two Americans are hitch-hiking through England and end up at a pub called “The Slaughtered Lamb”. They notice that a pentagram is carved into the wall and the folk in that pub aren’t the nicest of people.

After leaving the pub, both guys are attacked by something unseen. Perhaps a wolf? Three weeks later, one wakes up in hospital to hear that his friend has died. Only, he hasn’t…Jack appears to David telling him to kill himself to let all those David has killed while he is a werewolf rest in peace.

This film is an odd little gem that may have aged over the years with some ideas being lost over time. John Landis, in one of the features, says he doesn’t classify this as a comedy despite hoping people find it funny, and I think the horror element has been lost in time and it’s more of a comedy than horror. What the horror element has been replaced with is the cool element, as most horror elements are moments showing David either transforming into a werewolf or David as a werewolf, all of which are magnificently awesome, despite not actually being frightening in the least.

The story is a classic story, as Landis says, and in the final scene, with Alex Price running to the werewolf David, I leant over to my brother, who I was watching the film with, and said “King Kong.” It has elements of that, and in this, beauty definitely gets the beast killed.

It’s not unenjoyable, nor is it one you would immediately head towards if you’re after a werewolf movie, but it’s certainly not a horrible film seeing as it has some delicious comedy moments to relish throughout the film, like a scene taking place around a zoo involving bare skin, balloons and a woman’s jacket.

The effects are outstanding for the time, and even I asked myself during the Piccadilly Circus sequence “How the hell did they do that?!” The porno theatre sequence, as well, is fantastic and absolutely hilarious, and ranks in one of my favourite scenes in any movie ever made ever.

Elements of the film are stupid, but elements are also very cool and the entire film ends up being an enjoyable horror-comedy heavily influenced by the original Wolfman in 1940 (setting in England, werewolfism, etc). The scenes in which Jack appears, with each appearance being more decomposed, breathe a great aspect of life into the film and lift those scenes above a lot of other scenes.

The HD DVD disc shows a good, albeit very aged, image with decent sound. The extras, I’ll admit, I haven’t watched all of them. Of the ones I have watched are very generic; the “Interview With john Landis” shows him to be a bit of an eccentric but spritely fellow and providing some insight into how the story was created and stories from behind the scenes. I found “Rick Baker of American Werewolf In London” featurette much more informative and entertaining purely because of the explanations of how the did the effects, and went into deep detail about one of my favourite scenes in the film: the elevator scene. The original featurette provided shows an interesting and bland view of how films were advertised upon their original release and provides an interesting insight into the past.

Commentary with the two Americans of the film, David Naughton and Griffin Dunne (who played David and Jack respectively), with a featurette entitled “Casting of The Hand”, Outtakes, Storyboards and photograph montage are also offered on the disc.

The film is fun and silly and hasn’t really aged well, but is a very enjoyable and silly film to watch with a few horror-fanatic friends of yours to do a Mystery Science Theatre 3000-type screening at your house. It’s silly, funny, and quite self-aware, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Three-and-a-half skulls.

3.5

A new Blu-Ray release entitled the “Full Moon Edition” has recently been released with three new features from Universal.