Rewind Review – Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife

Resident Evil 3D: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively) none of them lead me to believe this was in the cards.

As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.

There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.

The characters, for the most part, are short-hand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.

Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Screen Gems)

Bad is one thing but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to as Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.

There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot.

1/10

Free Movie Friday: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Last week I finally began a theme I meant to kick-off at the beginning of the year, which is to feature public domain films that you can find easily online. This week will continue a horror theme, the genre does have its fair share of public domain films that are newer than most. Today is the film that redefined the zombie genre forever, which you should have seen by now Night of the Living Dead.

61 Days of Halloween: Zombieland

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The facile comparison, and also the attention-grabber, when discussing Zombieland is to try and compare it to Shaun of the Dead. The impulse is understandable but an errant one. There is a major but subtle difference between the two, Shaun of the Dead, like the subsequent Wright/Pegg project, Hot Fuzz, is a spoof which about midway through metamorphoses into the genre spoofed. Meanwhile, Zombieland is a tongue-in-cheek zombie story which is much less self-conscious.

The most self-conscious aspect of it serves a very valuable function, which is the list of rules for survival which the protagonist, referred to as Columbus, develops. The rules serve very good comedic effect, if at times becoming too prominent a part of the story by appearing on screen as a graphic, but at the very least the filmmakers have fun with it.

What is most surprising about Zombieland is that in being consistently funny, and remaining myopically focused on four central characters, it manages to become a more complete experience than most zombie films can be. There are actually a few real scares including Columbus’s first encounter with the undead, and what’s impressive is that it tries less often than a traditional horror film but succeeds more frequently.

Conversely, the rare dramatic/serious scenes also work quite well, again because the characters are well established, their conundrum is easily recognizable and we can identify with their plight, as surreal as it may seem.

What Zombieland proves is that when well done, people are always ready for a new twist on an old hat genre. The zombie is undoubtedly the hot commodity in the horror genre, sorry vampires. The reason for this is because they offer the perfect vehicle for social commentary, even when you’re not trying very hard. Even though Zombieland tries a little too hard at the end; it’s forgivable. Just having the living dead roaming about makes reference to both our humanity and inhumanity; either we are walking through the world in a daze or we are savagely mistreating people and killing off our own kind; any attempts to expound on this imagery only furthers the concept.

Zombieland always stays, first and foremost, a comedy with very funny dialogue and hilarious performances by all those involved. Perhaps the funniest being a very unexpected but welcome “as himself” appearance towards the end, which will be left as a surprise.

The film moves briskly, with great fun and has some of the creative and artistic use of slow-motion that has been seen in some time. The narration, while ever present, never seems to get in the way even though you never learn what causes such omniscience you laugh anyway at things like the cutaway to the Zombie Kill of the Week.

In the landscape of the horror genre that is so full of sludge that people latch on to anything halfway decent as if it’s gold, it’s great to see a film come along, even though mostly comedic, that both doesn’t misrepresent the genre but enhances it. The makeup is very good and these zombies didn’t try to re-invent the wheel like the first fast ones a few years ago did.

It is a very enjoyable movie-going experience that you’ll likely want to see again.

9/10

61 Days of Halloween: The Children (1980)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Children may be the best way to introduce oneself to Troma Entertainment, this is a film that I first came upon at Monster-Mania Con and chose it as my first full-fledged introduction to the indie film giant. One could hardly hope for a better introduction to their work than this film, having seen The Toxic Avenger since and Tromeo and Juliet previously this is the truth: this film is basically funny only when it intends to be and can be very effective.

This is a film whose print was lost for all intents and purposes for about two decades. Even the remastered version presented on this DVD is missing a second or two from one scene creating a grindhouse-like artificial jump cut. However, this Cameron J. Albright scripted and produced project does have its redeeming qualities not belying the tongue-in-cheek intro to the film hosted by Troma president Lloyd Kaufman.

The film takes a very typical 1980s model for a terror tale, a disaster at a nuclear power plant, and makes it simple and accessible. This very time-specific fear is counterbalanced by the exploitation of a parent’s worst nightmare: finding their children are missing. Even though the parental figures displayed in this film are typically aloof and unaffected it does feed on the audience’s fear. The sum of fears is simple and the concept is simple: once exposed to the radiation they become mindless destroyers seeking to burn all they touch. Having children, the epitome of innocence to most, turn bad is of course commonplace in horror, but this film turns the simple gesture of a hug into something that should be feared and loathed. One of the most effective moments in the film is a very quickly taken hug by an unaffected child. It is one of the most frightening moments of the film because we already expect the worst.

The make-up effects, which are crucial to this particular tale, are quite good and likely were an influence on the later films cited in the introduction. Even with the phases of burning being introduced with dissolves most of the times and not cuts the shock of the first incident is still rather good and it is another case of how going into a film as a virtually blank slate can be a very good thing indeed.

What’s also refreshing, in essentially what ends up being a zombie film, is that our heroes aren’t too slow on the uptake and only waste a few rounds of ammo before figuring out how to best dispose of these creatures.

There is some very good POV camerawork building the suspense in the first inspection of the empty bus. The acting is not nearly as forced and as hackneyed as one might expect from a Troma picture and some performances and scenes even stand out as being decent and well-done, the bottom line is it’s never painful which even some good horror films are guilty of.

The first impression this film leaves is much stronger than it leaves after a second viewing so Netflix might be the best option for those uninitiated to the Troma style. Fans will certainly want to purchase it. However, it is still well worth your time and I most definitely wanted to and did see it twice. It comes recommended so a score is practically irrelevant, but if pressed it’s an 8/10.

Mini-Review Round-Up: July 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases will get full reviews.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Theatre Bizarre

Recently I’ve been seeing quite a few horror anthologies. Part of the reason behind that is just to familiarize myself with a few more of them and the voices involved in creating them. The second reason, to be perfectly honest, is that due to their episodic nature they are conducive to fractured viewing, which makes them easier to schedule. However, I did see The Theatre Bizarre all the way through in one sitting.

This one, like many horror anthologies, is a bit inconsistent in its quality, which is to be expected when different directors handle each segment. In my estimation, the highs are rather high and the lows are rather low. There are some interesting and at times daring attempts. It’s always hard to gauge them as a whole because this see-sawing in quality is not unusual at all. However, for fans of the genre I do think it’s one worth checking out, your feelings on the whole piece or a particular segment may be greatly different than my own. In the end, I really liked more of the installments than I disliked so it’s worth a watch.

6/10

Cold Sweat

One thing I thought was particularly interesting an effective about Cold Sweat was the implementation of antagonists who just could not let go of the past in a very villainous way. At the start of Cold Sweat there is archival footage that gives you a brief overview of the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary factions at play in Argentina in the 1970s, then you get a very specific incident chronicled. You know this will all come back into play, you just don’t know how. Now, using overt political symbols in horror has been done, most commonly with Nazis in all likelihood. However, the circumstances and players of each countries political past (and seedy underbelly) are all somewhat different, and the refracted ideologies, and reverberations thereof, can still be felt at current, in one way or another. So it is rather fascinating to find this angle in this film because it lends a specificity to the film and a voice; a stamp of a national cinema. Coincidentally, I saw another Argentinian (co-produced with Spain) horror film soon after this one that implemented many similar threads. The horror setpieces and manipulation of given tropes in this film is quite effective, but it its this backdrop of sociopolitical commentary, past and present, combined with the narrative that makes this such an intriguing film.

8/10

Hiding

Hiding in some ways reminded me of Beautiful Wave in as much as we see a teenage girl do a lot of brooding with minimal backstory given to the audience so it becomes tiresome. The good news is that this film is quite a bit better than Beautiful Wave. The bad news is that it still doesn’t end up being good. It concerns this brooding girl (Ana Villafañe) who is in witness protection and there’s a given that she’ll be found and there’ll be this dramatic showdown. What really matters is how do you get to that point and sadly much of it seems like they’re just trying to fill time. She is interested in two guys at her new school and has similar, nearly mirrored scenes with them, at times. There’s a psycho jealous cheerleader (Kelcie Stranahan) who does a lot of digging into her on a delusional whim, there are flashbacks some of consequence and some not; all with an an annoyingly unnecessary excess of jiggling. Many characters make really bad or dumb decisions and we don’t necessary have enough affection or interest to let that slide. The best part of the film is unquestionably Jeremy Sumpter‘s supporting turn. He remains a heinously under-utilized and under-valued talent.

4/10

Goon

For my thoughts on this film please go here.
10/10

Absentia

As per usual, and as I say quite frequently, I went into Absentia knowing very little and that’s the way I prefer it. I knew it was was a low-budget horror film and what the basic synopsis was from Netflix. That’s about it. Only later on did I learn more details like the budget was purportedly $70,000 and funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign.

All that stuff is great to know after the fact. Knowing it before you see something can be a double-edged sword. Essentially, either the movie works or it doesn’t. What the budget is, whether exorbitantly high or incredibly low, does not make it immune from, or more deserving of, criticism.

As for the film I really enjoyed it a great deal. It tells a tight-knit simple horror story that gives you just enough information to keep things going but never gets ahead of itself, and the idea is a low-concept production of a rather high-concept idea at the bottom of it. However, the curtain is only barely raised on the horrors being uncovered by these characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was shot rather in continuity because it certainly was doable and the performances across the board got much stronger as the film progressed, and even rather impressive at times. The score is really good and there are good twists to it. This is definitely a Netflix gamble worth taking.

8/10

Exit Humanity

Exit Humanity is a horror film that has a rather interesting take on the zombie subgenre. With the proliferation of such a genre one must contend with both fatigue and differentiating one’s own story from the crowd. In these aspects is where the film is most successful, and that’s without including the fact that this is an alternate history tale of the postbellum south. The story is an introspective one that is more concerned about those left behind after a plague of zombieism, and isn’t so concerned with making the walking dead of this tale a metaphor. Yes, there is a somewhat different spin to the cause and the history, but that ends up being more a narrative necessity than a focus.

With a fairly original take the film is setup to succeed and does, but only barely. Where the film struggles most is in terms of balance. The score is really good but at times only in isolation, at times it’s too intrusive and too intense. There is some wonderfully florid voice-over, but at times it’s too much, and at other times the scene would’ve been better demonstrated visually than through monologue. The film does have its twists and turns that are rather surprising, but after some of those unusual decisions some quickening of pace is needed so that it doesn’t feel aimless.

The film never really lost me as a viewer, however, it had me reeled in at times and let go just a little bit due to some of these inconsistencies. I don’t want to over-accentuate them because I do still like the film, but feel it easily could’ve been something truly special had certain edits been made. It’s worth watching for fans of the genre for sure. I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if some professed greater admiration for it than I do, especially considering some of the touches it employs such as animation, colored shots and top notch make-up effects.

7/10

Franchises Which Could Use a Reboot

While I am no proponent of the rebooting trend there comes a point where screaming protestations does become tiresome, when even the biggest purist has to sit back and say “You know what? If this is the trend it may as well serve some kind of a purpose.” To that end here is a list of 10 film series that should be rebooted for one reason or another.

Rex Harrison in Dr. Doolittle (20th Century Fox)

10. Dr. Doolittle – This is another example Eddie Murphy’s sad decline ruining an altogether fine film concept. The Doctor Doolittle books by Hugh Lofting are magical and if adapted at the very least faithfully if not slavishly could certainly still be a huge hit and there is no reason it can’t start up again. Considering that the original 1967 rendition with Rex Harrison is mostly an afterthought it’s about time the series as written was done properly – installment by installment if possible.

Asterix & Obelix (Clement)

9. Asterix et Obelix – One of two foreign entries on this list. While there are animated versions of this popular comic available ad nauseum there are only two live action films and one can clearly see why. The story came across as stale and lacking in whimsy. Gerard Depardieu who was one of the leading men in cinema once upon a time comes across as a charmless, fat oaf and not Obelix. The cast and director should be scrapped. It can be done in France or anywhere for that matter as long as it lives up to the magic these stories that travel through history are capable of and with that theme story possibilities are endless since the source material already provides many of them.

In light of the worldwide box-office success and aesthetic triumph of Tintin motion capture would be a wonderful place for this series to go.

Daniel Cerny in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Dimension)

8. Children of the Corn – This is a series that has had a remake of the original. Now as it stands the original is fantastic. It is a quintessential 80s horror film and overall one of the better ones ever made simply due to its overall impact. Having said that the series of sequels that followed soon thereafter have watered down and bastardized the brand and the drop in quality from the original to the sequels is one of the most precipitous of any horror franchise ever (with few exceptions). For that reason I have placed the franchise on the list and it will be with a bit of curiosity that I will attend the remake to see if the franchise can be revitalized.

Zombie (Anchor Bay Entertainment)

7. Zombie – These are perhaps the films that Lucio Fulci, Italian giallo director, is best known for and it’s a mystery why. Slow-moving, sunlit and un-suspenseful when compared to Fulci’s best works. The occasional grossly unsettling make-up job is not enough to save any of the set-ups. These are a prime candidate for a relaunch. The island can be shot at night, or it could simply not be set on an island. Zombie films are all the rage for the time being find some other way to turn the genre on its ear under the zombie brand and it is sure to be a hit.

Jaws (Universal)

6. Jaws – Yes, Jaws is an absolute classic and should not be touched. There are reasons why the series is on the list. The series as a whole is very bad. Nothing that happened after Spielberg is any good and Hollywood has proven time and time again that absolutely nothing is sacred, not even Spielberg. A Poltergeist remake is in the works. So, theoretically, yes the Jaws series does belong here.

Samuel Costa in O Menino Maluquinho (Inter Filmes)

5. O Menino Maluquinho – This is the second foreign selection on this list and it is the film adaptation of the best-selling children’s book by Brazilian illustrator/author Ziraldo. The first film was absolutely wonderful and while not a literal adaptation it was most definitely one in spirit, which is the most important thing. There was a sequel which was good but not as good as the original as the cast was a little too old at this point to be believable in the story. However, with the character still popular in a daily comic strip it is easily a candidate for reboot. Brazilian audiences, especially younger ones are used to long series like Os Trapalhoes, and it would work perfectly if the kids were recast every few installments similar to the James Bond franchise.

4. Home Alone – This is another example of a series where it was the sequels failing the concept more so than the original. This is also one of those series where it’s one of the least necessary reboots but it’s the kind that makes you wonder why it hasn’t happened already, especially considering that it’s a John Hughes project Anyway, the second was regurgitation, the third was decent but weird in as much as it was just a continuation of the situation not characters or plot and the fourth was just painful.

Gremlins (Warner Bros.)

3. Gremlins – Yes, the first only was classic but they kind of dropped the ball. The sequel, though enjoyable, seemed like an afterthought and the time between the original and the follow-up could’ve contributed to its lack of success. It’s an idea that’s endlessly appealing and one of the best combinations of horror and comedy around while the film is an 80s classic there is no performance that’s irreplaceable so it’s surprising that studio executives haven’t jumped at the opportunity to jump-start this one.

Anthony Michael Hall, Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo and Dana Barron in Vacation (Warner Bros.)

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation – The Vacation films weren’t ever really designed to end. They’re all so great each one more memorable than the last and just silly. I think it’s a series that could easily come back into play by just having Rusty or Audrey go on a trip with their kids and have Grandpa and Grandma (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) along for the ride (Seriously, what else are they doing? And they should be doing something). With the last film being in 1989 there is so much socially and about the world that can be mocked, parodied or lampooned that wasn’t even in the public consciousness back then that it’s about time. People still laugh at the old ones and they would laugh at new ones too.

Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear (Paramount)

1. The Naked Gun – Yes, the 3rd film was called The Final Insult but those kinds of titles have been contradicted before. I think along with a new James Bond we should have new Frank Drebin pictures. This can be done in one of two ways one the old pulling the investigator out of retirement against his will ploy can be implemented or he could be unwillingly training his replacement. Either way good parody is a necessity and his were second to none and he should be leading, not making appearances in second rate attempts so the parents in the audience can have a good laugh.

Ideally, I’d have loved the late great Leslie Nielsen to have been involved but the fact of the matter remains that the parody film is fast becoming a lost art of the comedy genre and perhaps a classic vehicle is needed to revive it with the right people in place.

61 Days of Halloween- The Prowler

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Prowler

Vicky Dawson in The Prowler (Sandhurst)

Today’s disappointment was called The Prowler from 1981. A film which has a decent setup with a newsreel, “Dear John” letter and then teaser but then really struggles to pick up the pieces when it introduces the main players. The identity of the killer is closely guarded like many a slasher film but the reveal is no shock.

Sadly prior to the reveal the pace has staggered so greatly you may not even care at that point. While there are occasions where it plays against stereotypes of stupidity in horror (like having someone actually being quiet while hiding) it does get dumb from time to time like having a heartfelt exchange of glances in the presence of a corpse.

There is also a pet peeve of mine which is a nonsensical shock at the end. The film is worth seeing for a few great effects Tom Savini pulls off, which is sad because Farley Granger is in this film but completely wasted.

4/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Video Dead

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Video Dead

The Video Dead (MGM)

Pretty much the best thing that can be said about The Video Dead is that at no point was I compelled to turn it off. Other than that there really is no redeeming quality here. It is a case of auteur theory gone awry as the director was the only writer and other producer and someone should’ve checked him on a few things.

It pretty much starts right away with a reclusive and supposedly renowned author getting a TV delivered to his house. However, he did not order it. Why then is it accepted? Then zombies are seen roaming about on it even though he turns it off and it turns back on again, even after it’s unplugged and he makes no attempt to get rid of it. So right there in the teaser you have two story issues already.

However, there is the issue of every single performance in this film. To put it bluntly if they were trying to be terrible they did a tremendous job but I give none of the actors invovled in this travesty that kind of credit as I don’t think it’s possible to be this bad if you’re trying. The older sister (Roxanna Augesen) always sounds sarcastic and the brother (Rocky Duvall), who is about 18 sounds like he’s trying to play twelve whether he means to or not.

I can’t place all the blame on the actors though only some because the dialogue is truly atrocious. From being blatant about the mixup in the delivery to getting TMI about the first kill’s poodle’s mating habits to someone who is majoring both in aerobics and music videos it’s one car wreck after another.

Even the cinematography is not immune from odd decisions and bad angles.

It’s comedically bad at times but more often than not it’s just a painful experience to watch this thing. One character introduces himself like so “I’m the Garbage Man. I dispose of human garbage.” Which is fascinating but who disposes of cinematic garbage because I’ve got a heap sitting here that I can’t get out of my mind.

1/10