Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mini Movie Appraisals Part 2: Lifeforce (1985), Eden Log (2007), and The Sixth Sense (1999)

I'd like to do another session of a bunch of extra movies I saw this October that I couldn't necessarily milk long reviews out of. These three movies: Lifeforce, Eden Log, and The Sixth Sense have literally almost nothing in common. Lifeforce is a weird vampire alien sci-fi horror movie from the 1980s. It is both slow-paced and well acted, definitely reminiscent of earlier films of the sci-fi horror genre, particularly the slow-paced 1950s sci-fi horror movies that more often than not involved scientists standing around talking to one another. Eden Log is a heavily stylized, almost avant-garde movie involving a man with amnesia and monstrosities hunting both him and the others in the cave he happens to be in. It is an incredibly different kind of movie, I'll give it that. And The Sixth Sense is The Sixth Sense, but I'll talk about that one quickly too.

Despite the title sounding like a group of cheesy superheroes, Lifeforce is actually very staunchly in the realm of sci-fi horror. Well... I probably should say that I use both of those terms very lightly in this case. Lifeforce is a long and unassuming movie that plays like a much more epic film than it could ever be. The "Lifeforce" in this case is human life energy or soul energy or whatever you'd like to call it, and the villains are space vampires. It's an absolutely ridiculous premise, certainly calling on certain sci-fi drive-in B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s as places to start from.

The whole movie has the feel of a modern-day 1950s sci-fi B-movie, like The Thing From Another World or Them! With an incredibly slow pace and most of the movie spent talking or talking about talking, it can be fairly dry at times (Okay, incredibly dry, even boring might be more accurate). The effects are cheesy, the acting somewhat overdone, but still believable for most characters, and the whole movie mostly feels like an experiment gone wrong. So many scenes make little to no sense that I found large portions of the movie insulting to my intelligence. All the while the movie talked down to me! Despite all of this, the British actors and Tobe Hooper made this movie classy even with the gratuitous amounts of nudity, both male and female.

While I somewhat enjoyed the ridiculousness of this film, it really isn't a great movie. I do enjoy the Britishness of the film though. And the actors were really doing their best to make the plot enjoyable. The space-vampire premise is silly and ridiculous, but when the astronauts find them in the first place it is appropriately weird. I liked the oddity of it all. It's average at best despite some interesting moments. I did find some enjoyment in it though, so if you want to see an odd, 1950s sci-fi paced movie made in the mid-1980s with space-vampires, this may well be the movie for you.

 Eden Log is both beautiful and dark as a movie. I think the visuals and the cinematography are the absolute best parts of the film. When the main character, Tolbiac, wakes up in a dank cave without any memories lying next to a dead man, you almost know the movie is going to be a bit interesting. And it kind of is. With elements of sci-fi horror, and psychological horror, it actually reminds me a great deal of the later Pandorum. While I absolutely love Pandorum with a passion nearly unrivaled by any other film, this one is a great deal more forgettable. Despite the initial promise of the plot, I found the look of the movie to work against itself. It seemed to become less horror as the plot wore on, and a great deal more convoluted and frankly less interesting. The monsters seemed to be hastily done albino creatures and they didn't do to much for me. There never seemed to be any tension when viewing them, unlike Pandorum and that just took me right out of the horror.

As for character, well, none of them are really all that interesting. The plot is a simple one of escape and getting to the surface, but it is accomplished by a minimalist script with very little actual spoken dialogue. I really liked this aspect of the film even if it did make the entire movie drag slowly at times. The scientist that Tolbiac meets up with about halfway or so through the movie is just about the most interesting character. She hold him despite his strength in semi-captivity because... well, the cave complex seems to make people go insane and turn into subhuman monsters. And he kind of is a monster but not a monster at the same time? I have no idea... but she's scared of him a bit. Eventually she runs away when her tent is attacked by the creatures and Tolbiac follows her, and then the best scene in the movie happens as Tolbiac catches up with her in the elevator and simultaneously makes love to her and rapes her. This is incredibly well shot, incredibly and darkly psychological, and appropriately painful for both parties involved. The horror that crosses Tolbiac's face when he realizes what he has done is palpable, as is her hatred for him.

The plot staggers towards the end, becoming far more complex than it should be, making Tolbiac the hero without any real buildup of his character, but most of the movie is a fun ride. The lack of dialogue and actual horror can be seen as a major downside here, but I think parts of the movie work quite well, and although never scary, it does tension fairly well. The psychological aspects of the movie are by far my favorites, and it is a ride of a movie, even if it isn't always a fun or enjoyable one.

I seem to be praising this movie a lot, but despite the artistry and everything else about it that I liked, I found this movie hard to focus on at times. The lack of dialogue, characters, or plot really made this one a much longer movie for me than it should have been. I was more often confused than anything else, and I came out of this film with a bad taste in my mouth. I really wouldn't recommend it unless the premise sounds incredibly fascinating. It's an artistic film, I'll give it that, but for what end? I have no idea.

Look, if you don't know anything about The Sixth Sense, you shouldn't even be reading this blog. It's as near to a classic horror film as the 1990s can offer. Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment are nearly pitch perfect in their roles as respectively a child psychologist and a troubled young boy. I won't spoil this movie on the crazy off-chance you've never heard of it. I have no idea how you wouldn't know about it, but... I'd rather be safe... and it's about as good a twist as a twist can be. I actually saw this movie in theatres back when it was actually in theatres, so I actually experienced the twist first hand.

Anyway, I haven't seen the movie since that time I saw it in the movie theatre. And while I liked it when I was ten, I had no idea what I would think about it at twenty-three. I think I love this movie even more now than I did then. I certainly appreciate it a lot more now. The acting is incredibly solid, easily one of the better performances from every actor in the production that I have ever seen. The plot is consistent and very good all around, and the writing is pretty spot-on. While I think the dialogue is a little clunky at times, and the directing can sometimes be shock-and-awe over consistency if that makes any sense at all, M. Night Shyamalan does a great job all around. This twist made him the master of twists for a time, even if that time didn't last for long. He was a master nonetheless and this movie stands as testament to that mastery over the artform of movie-making.

I don't even know what else to say. I love this movie. Everybody, horror fan or not, should watch it at least once in their lifetimes. It is brilliant and beautiful and needs to be enjoyed by everyone. I wish I could add more, but I think everything about this movie has already been said. I really liked it, and that's all there is.


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