Two for Tuesday #2

So for this Two for Tuesday I decided to switch things up because after all variety is the spice of life, or so they say. Rather than continuing the Oscar theme, and sparing my DVR, I decided to finally give a few DVDs I picked up over the summer a chance.

Both of them are horror films. One is called Boogeyman and the other is Shutter. As further proof that there’s not that much at all in a name the former is much better than the latter.

Boogeyman

Barry Watson in Boogeyman (Columbia Pictures)

On the surface you may think there’s nothing much to Boogeyman. It’s a tale we’ve all more or less heard, mostly through oral tradition. Some of us horror aficionados have even read Stephen King’s rather brilliant rendition of the legend.

This film does have some surprises in store, however. Not the least of which is the performance of Barry Watson. Now I was not all that familiar with Watson’s work other than his time on 7th Heaven. I came away from this film quite impressed with him indeed. It’s a quiet role that dominates the film and he handles it easily. He is convincingly scared without ever going over the top, much of his dialogue is in whispers but it never gets annoying and he’s the kind of everyman that can really transport you into a horror film.

It can be easy for a horror film to have a really effective teasing scene but it’s far more rare for that scene to have such a direct correlation to the rest of the film but it gets more surprising. The villain, the literal Boogeyman in this case, is hardly ever seen for 80-90% of the film playing into the doubt of his existence and actually amping up how scary this film can be. I mean literally absent not you don’t see its face I mean most of the time you see nothing which is an amazing feat.

Time and space are played with quite effectively, there is also what in another film would be a major twist moved up and not made the center of attention which is refreshing. While not original there is also a play on missing children in this film, which is always an effective angle for a horror film.

The cinematography both in terms of lighting and framing and how it shoots into the edit is brilliant. Kudos to Bobby Bukowski, a name I think I’d like to get better acquainted with.

With all this goodness mounting still there was a niggling doubt building. The question that kept bugging me was: “Why have I never heard of this movie?” I answered that question and much to my chagrin had my speculation confirmed.

Now some, Stephen King, included will cite the revelation of He Who Walks Behind the Rows as the downfall of Children of the Corn, while I can’t argue that the effects are great I still like them in a cheesy 80s kind of way and love the film. Here not so much. After so much that went right the effects totally drop the ball and actually made me giggle a few times which is tragic because there were genuine scares to be had before.

To think with just a halfway decent practical makeup job on the Boogeyman it could’ve been something special.

Shutter

Joshua Jackson and Megumi Okina in Shutter (20th Century Fox)

For everything that Boogeyman did right and then blew in the ending, Shutter pretty much did all those things wrong right off the bat and then compounded with a stupid ending. The giggle factor for me starts right at the beginning shortly after the inciting incident.

While Boogeyman is a quiet and mostly very intelligent film with commendable performances by the cast Shutter is louder, dumber and poorly acted through a lot of it.

Now I can say I’ve seen enough Asian horror to cast aspersions on an entire continent’s approach to a genre but I sure as hell have had enough of our pale imitations both via remake and rip-off. There always ends up being more unintentional comedy than an actual fear factor.

There is a delicate balance in horror films: too much build up or too much action, especially if its repetitive, is likely to bore an audience. This film falls into the latter category. For the longest time we see “spirit photos,” which is an oft-used trick in supernatural films then there is the girl herself and we just see her incessantly and it takes next to forever for her to actually do anything.

As more details unravel about her identity and motivation things just get progressively dumber and uninteresting instead of getting smarter and more engrossing, again the antithesis of the previous film.

I won’t spoil the ending but it’s the kind that if you liked the film you love it because of how it concludes. If you hated it before you’ll loathe it after its through.

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Review- Waiting for ‘Superman’

Geoffrey Canada in Waiting for 'Superman'

Waiting for ‘Superman’ comes out on video today

When I was about 14 years old the film Hoop Dreams came out. At the end of that year Roger Ebert cited it as one of, if not the best movies of the year. This is not an Ebert rant but a point shall be made. At the time being young, naive and having not seen it I didn’t know how that could be possible for a documentary to earn that kind of praise. I have become enlightened since then and this film is proof that it can indeed happen and is likely to stand amongst the best films of the year.

Another reason that anecdote was relayed is that this is a personal film. It is personal in many ways not only in that it focuses on individual children while examining the system as a whole but also because as you watch it you’d be hard pressed not to think back to your public schooling experience and either remember something very reminiscent from your own past or come to some greater understanding of the monstrous machine in which you were raised.

Which brings me to my next point: this film is not propagandist. There are several statistics illustrated and cited (if you look close you can see sources). So there is support for the film’s claim that the system is broken and what a bulk of the information is trying to discover factors that lead to that and what possible solutions are.

It is most jarring especially if you were public schooled but were perhaps not well-versed in the politics of the system and some of the terminology. By highlighting a nauseating systemic issue with the individual struggles of children today in our educational system it does become a very emotional experience indeed.

Not to give much away but there are many issues that will be examined like Tracking, The Lemon Dance, The Rubber Room, Tenure and Union Dysfunction. Hearkening back to an earlier point, aside from humorous and creative use of archival footage there is nothing done in the edit to paint anyone in a worse light than they are painting themselves.

Documentaries are a tough business. You have to go where the facts and the footage take you despite what you set out believing. What Guggenheim does well is not only personalize his subject matter but pick topics for which there is overwhelming statistical data to support his hypothesis.

The film shows you the odds these kids are facing as they are trying to get into a school that will give them a better chance, one that won’t allow them to get lost in the shuffle. They are odds that seem insurmountable and surely the results aren’t always great but the film does allow for a glimmer of hope.

First, it is creating a dialogue much like his previous film An Inconvenient Truth did for global climate change. However, in another great piece of marketing from the folks at Paramount it is allowing people to make a difference, even more than the Pledge to see this film which is similar to the Demand to see Paranormal Activity campaign. Everyone who purchases a ticket gets a $15 voucher to donate to their favorite educational program. Details are available here.

Davis Guggenheim was last in the news for backing out of the Justin Bieber 3D film due to the need to promote this film. It was the right choice. John Chu is more than capable of handling that and this film needs its director supporting and publicizing it much as we need it seen and it needed being made.

10/10