Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Appraisal: The Corridor (2010)

Well, you're not shooting blanks ANYMORE!
This movie is different. I wish I could use another descriptor here, but I simply do not have any others to use. It is a very different movie, not at all like anything else I've ever seen. While it has a fairly original premise, it's bogged down by its fairly lofty (I think...) goals. The Corridor consists of too many tonal changes, too many hectic movements without explanation. It simultaneously reminded me of the novel Dreamcatcher by Stephen King and the nonsensical movie Dreamland. It's an odd combination to be sure, and without much true plot to speak of this movie could easily be relegated to the movies to pass right on by.

I can't recommend this movie. I'll say that right now. I need to get that out of the way. I like obscure movies with original plots, but this one was just a little too much even for me. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the movie, but it was like the movie never knew what it wanted to be. Was it a clear and philosophical statement on the ramifications of mental derangement on one's friends? Was it about insanity in general? Visions specifically? Was it about friendship? I don't think so, but the case could be made, I suppose. Was it about horror? Terror? Gross out gore? I still don't know. It's all of those things and none of those things.

I didn't like the movie all that much. It moved too quickly and never really gave me more than a surface feeling of any sort of story or knowledge of what was going on. It wasn't even frustrating because I never really came to care. The characters were wholly paper-thin, with only Tyler coming out as a real human person. The rest just came off as non-characters, caricatures of what real people are. The case could be made that the entire movie was in Tyler's head. Honestly, that's the only way I can interpret it. The signs are all there, with most of the movie being spent trying to figure out what happened to him, why he broke down, and if he killed his mother or not. The premise of the film revolves around his friends becoming as crazy as he once was, each and every one of them in turn. They see what he once saw, but refuse his help. They become worse and worse, eventually succumbing to the insanity. Well, all but one, but Tyler saves him by sacrificing himself.

I have to believe that the whole thing is a speech on the degradation of mental health. Each insanity is different, but they all involve some sort of mantra, something that Tyler once had. Ev is the violent psychopath who eventually takes his own life. Chris is the one left over, the only one there was ever any hope for. He represents a friend, one who cares, one who is taken care of as he has taken care of others. Bobcat and Jim are two sides of the same coin. They are yin and yang to each other. Jim is a coward whose own intelligence feeds the insanity, while Bobcat is taken over by it, consumed by it, and allows the others to abuse him. He becomes the victim just as Jim does.

I'm reading too deeply into this, but I still think some parts are interesting. The idea of the corridor itself is fascinating. It's a conduit to a deeper understanding, the understanding of others, even the insanity inside of others. The movie is almost saying that we are not fit to hold the forbidden knowledge, rather we must understand ourselves before we can ever take a chance in understanding others. I want this movie to have some kind of meaning though, and it's hard to truly and wholly look at this movie as intelligent when so much of the movie is slow plodding through the plot, gore, or terrible special effects. While there are a few good lines, each and every one spoken by Ev, who really is the star of the movie here, very little else stands out. The visuals are nothing really special, just a snowy cabin in the woods. The sounds and music are standard, barely noticeable, background noise. The acting is mediocre, with only James Gilbert as Everett and Stephen Chambers as Tyler really standing out. They both seem to care about the movie and subsequently both give some great performances. Everett is helped by having some great lines, as I said before, while Tyler is helped by his insanity and expressions. The rest are standard horror movie actors, nothing special, just kind of there saying lines.

It had some slightly (and I mean only slightly here) disturbing things, like when Jim's scalp is taken off, but the gore is the really only noticeable creepy mention. It's not much of a horror film besides that. The movie doesn't even look like a horror film should. It's too bright, not enough contrasts. Maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I guess it does have some psychological horror elements to it, but they are so few and far between that it would be difficult to call it a psychological horror movie. It's probably closer to a sci-fi, but branding it that doesn't feel right ether. Because I don't recommend it, I find myself not caring so much about it's labeling. Call ti what you will.

This is basically a very mediocre film with some interesting, but not quite good, ideas to it. I don't think it could have been made better with the same script. The characters were bland, the writing plodding, and I simply did not care in the end. Also, the ending is hilariously bad. I laughed, and it's not meant to be funny.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Sinister (2012)

Well, I'm not sleeping tonight.
Sinister is a terrifyingly horrific movie brought to us from the makers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious. Now, I enjoyed both of those films quite a lot, finding both all kinds of horrifying. I mean, seriously, both are incredible movies, with twists and turns and scares galore. And this one is great as well. It never disappoints, upping the horror with every subsequent scene. I mean, the characters are never brilliant, but in a movie like this it's all about the story, the visuals, the sounds, and the directing. All of those things are topnotch. Scott Derrickson does an amazing job throughout, making this an incredibly directed horror film. The Super 8 footage as well as the long scenes without any real sounds made this movie surrealistic and creepy beyond belief.

Yes, obviously this film was marketed as being terrifying. Yes, as a followup to Insidious I expected a lot. The thing is, the movie delivered. It had an unexpected and brilliant ending. It had a great performance by Ethan Hawke. It had some actually creepy performances by children, which almost never happens. Now, the visuals are not always scary, but if you can get yourself really into the movie, that's where it becomes absolutely terrifying. Just imagining a world where things like this can happen is enough to give one the shakes. And the ambiguous nature of the whole thing makes the movie that much more mysterious and awful to think about. The idea of the film is almost more terrifying than the actual execution. And the execution is plenty terrifying on its own. I wish every horror movie could reach this level of horror. If that were the case horror would be seen as a legitimate form of art in film in no time flat.

Ugh, now I just want more. I want to see more of this horror, more of the terror induced by this movie. I'm a junkie for scares, and this movie delivered enough of them to make me crave more. Seriously, there is a ton of quality here. Sure, there are some missteps and mistakes, but for the most part this movie is the real deal. It is pure horror, derived from a terrifying place in the human soul. It reaches out and creates a feeling of paranoia and real fear. It's after midnight now. I have work in the morning. But I'm not going to sleep anytime soon. If I do, I'm almost certain that every creak from my old house will remind me that anything could happen in this crazy world. If I try to sleep I can just imagine closing my eyes and hearing a whisper at the edge of my ear... or closing my eyes and seeing something staring back at me in the abyss of my eyelids.

The movie was creepy. It followed around a burned out true crime author trying to find his big break. He (and his family) moves into the home of some victims of a fairly grisly murder involving the whole family being hanged except for one of their children who happened to be abducted (or so it seems). Well, he finds some old and creepy home movies showing multiple different murders. All of them seemed to be tied to some Pagan deity or demon and a cult. All of the murders are more closely linked than that though, and the author may have made his biggest mistake in moving into the home of murder victims...

I'm just going to trail off there. He did make a huge mistake. It's a mistake that costs him much more than his life. Well, Ethan Hawke (playing the author) gives us a character we can both relate to and kind of hate. He's a big jerk throughout most of the movie. He lies. He drinks. He shouts a bit. He's annoying and unhappy and a bit apathetic. He seems to care much more about fame and fortune than about the well-being of his family. But he is passionate about a few things. He really wants to figure out the mystery of what happened to the murdered family. He does too- figure it out, I mean- but a little too late, I should think. You kind of feel bad for him at the end of the movie, but you also realize that he's not the only one who figured most of this stuff out. And at least one person knows most of the story, even if it is pretty unbelievable. It's still scary, and the ending still leaves a shiver crawling down my spine, but it's not a movie where the ending is something I absolutely hate. It makes sense and works, even if some might think it invalidates the entire movie. I don't, but I can see some people absolutely hating the ending.

The best parts of the film hands down are the sounds and music. I have to mention those things because they are nearly pitch-perfect. I have never seen a film use sound and music so effectively in its horror. That being said, the visuals never quite stand up them. I kind of wish it looked more- I don't know- horrific? Scary looking? New technology, which is used throughout the film, just simply is not a scary thing. And the bright colors and crisp picture of the non-Super 8 film just kind of shows that a clear and crisp picture does not really beget horror in the best way possible. I mean, there are some films that benefit from a beautiful picture and quality of film. Sinister is not one of those films. It's still good- very good- don't get me wrong, but it could have been better if it were made in a time when everything didn't have to look all shiny and perfect.

For example, sometimes the images of the "antagonist" just looked photoshopped in. And that just seems kind of lazy and awful to me. It doesn't ruin the movie, and it may just be my perception, but I didn't like that. The antagonist- Bughuul- is absolutely unnecessary. The children zombie-ghosts are also absolutely unnecessary. None of them are scary. None of them add any real terror to the film. The scariest parts of the movie are the unknowns things: the Super 8 videos, the ambiguous murders, and having no real reason to do the murders. The children in the "extended endings" of the videos are also brilliant. But showing everything is not brilliant. It takes away from both the premise and the mystery, and it leaves me wishing to excise the elements of the movie I didn't enjoy. But I'm nitpicking. Most of the film is incredibly good, and I recommend it wholeheartedly to any and all fans of horror.

This movie is scary. Did I mention that? I need to mention that again if I did before. Watching it alone late at night is asking to be creeped out and paranoid. It does have some moments of silliness and ridiculousness, but those are far outweighed by the moments of terror. Again, watch this if you want a scare. Yes, there will be moments where you will roll your eyes, but the quality of the horror far outweighs the awful little moments. So, if you enjoyed Insidious, The Blair Witch Project, or Paranormal Activity- or if you just like interesting horror- check this out. It's good in my opinion. It definitely brought the terror and paranoia with it. Check it out if you get the chance. I mean, come on- occult, murder, mystery, crime, and terror? How can you even go wrong?