Archive for November, 2007
Director: David Slade
I’ve never read the original ’30 Days of Night’ comic, but the main hook is brilliant: what happens when vampires invade a small northern town just as a month of wintry darkness and isolation descends? This is a story that was made for film. Director David Slade (working with Steve Niles, the comic’s writer) has crafted an interesting, tense, and claustrophobic horror film filled with strong performances and some good shock and gore.
Slade takes his time with the set-up of the film, different narrative elements gradually building together piece by piece, helping to develop the characters and establish the setting. When the main thrust of the action does begin, it seems inevitable and inescapable. This film reminded me a lot of John Carpenter’s The Thing: both concern remote frozen settlements under attack by otherworldly beings and both deal with isolation and claustrophobia. However, The Thing deals mostly with paranoia (never knowing if the man standing next to you is really human), whereas 30 Days deals more with interpersonal relations under strain.
Technically, the film looks really interesting. Slade has an excellent eye for visuals and he crafts several genuinely frightening and tense sequences. The film’s (relatively) low budget lets it down at certain points, however: some of the establishing shots of the town are a littlle amateurish and there is obvious use of CG and miniatures. Those are minor quibbles, however, and generally the visuals are quite good. There are several continuity holes, however, perhaps remnants of deleted scenes or altered sequences. They aren’t really noticeable and actually help add to the disorientation created during the attack on the town.
The performances are all above average, with Josh Hartnett settling nicely into his new position of leading man. As well, following from his previous work in Hostage, Ben Foster seems eager to establish himself as the go-to guy for playing crazy bastards. His characterisation in 30 Days is borderline over-the-top but it seems to work.
It’s nice to see a straight-forward vampire film that manages to bring a fresh approach to an often tired genre. I’m not sure if the types of vampires seen in 30 Days are as revolutionary as everyone seems to believe, but I personally enjoyed them, all black eyes and gaping teeth, practically shark-like.
30 Days of Night shows that interesting films can be made from interesting comics and that horror films are made all the better by good writing and excellent direction.Colin Le Sueur
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
What can I say about a film that was marketed around seeing Paris Hilton killed? Dark Castle Entertainment have a very spotty track record; they’ve made some slightly entertaining films and they’ve made some rubbish films. House of Wax is a slightly entertaining rubbish film.
First of all, the characters seem to possess almost zero logic. Granted, most horror films operate with a reduced level of logic, but the characters in this film seem to be borderline retarded. There’s no continuity of behaviour, either. Characters act totally differently in varying scenes.
One element that separates this film from most of the other Hollywood horror fare is the level of violence. House of Wax doesn’t hesitate in mutilating its main characters, something which doesn’t usually happen in typical mainstream horror. This helps give the film a little more edge, though everything else is strictly by the numbers. Perhaps if the writers and director had taken more chances, the film wouldn’t be so formulaic.
While I’ve certainly seen worse films from Dark Castle (fear dot com and Gothika, for instance), this films does little to differentiate itself from recent horror films and is therefore instantly forgettable.Colin Le Sueur
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes
During my screening of Mean Creek, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if I was in the same situation as the teenagers in the film. I kept thinking of what my options would be, what the risks were. In other words, I found myself drawn into the narrative of the film so completely I began thinking like the characters. This is quite an engrossing little film.
Part of the film’s strength is its realism: the characters and settings seem wholly authentic. Very rarely do films accurately portray the demeanor and language of teenagers, but Mean Creek is spot-on. The performances are amazing and naturalistic; no-one comes off as an actor. The weakest of the bunch, however, is Josh Peck as George: his performance, though good, never really rings as true as those of the other principles.
The writer/director creates a tense, streamlined story with little affect and embellishment. We’re shown exactly what we need to see; no more, no less. It’s refreshing to see such efficient filmmaking.
Mean Creek asks hard questions and doesn’t offer easy solutions for the characters or the viewer.Colin Le Sueur
Director: John Maybury
There are some films that left such a lasting impact on me that I will always remember the circumstances of the viewing: how I felt and where I was. On the other hand, there are some films so immediately forgettable and utterly pointless I wonder why I bothered watching them at all. The Jacket falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t horrible; it’s actually very well-made. The acting is, on the whole, quite good (Keira Knightley is a surprising standout and Daniel Craig hams it up). The story is interesting, though not as complex as it first appears (there are also some plot elements that seem rushed; rather than things developing organically, events happen in the film because the film needs them to happen). The problem lies in the familiarity of the film; we’ve seen elements from The Jacket time and again in better projects over the past ten years.
This film also suffers from a muddled script. Granted, given the nature of the film, some complexity is to be expected. However, some story elements are left vague and undeveloped while others seem contrived and simplistic. A tighter script would have made for a much more interesting film.
The Jacket seems like the shadow of a greater film, something that, with a few more tweaks here and there, could’ve been great rather than just average.Colin Le Sueur