The truth of the matter is, when it comes to the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, I'm not entirely sure which would be the one I'd deem to be my favourite of the bunch. However, I would probably argue that 'Hot Fuzz' is the overall best-done. 'Shaun of the Dead' does still play on fairly typical zombie horror elements, 'The World's End' takes a particular appreciation for Wright's imagination, but this - this is just all sorts of brilliance in its execution.
What I love about it is that it seems to cover all grounds of action movies, while on the surface basically being a farce on police action movies. But really, you get the buddy cop movie, you get the creepy murder mystery, you get the Brit-com ensemble of colourful characters at the precinct, and you get the over-the top Michael Bay-like action flick.
The film centers on Police Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg); a highly skilled, high-ranking officer in the London PD. He is promoted to Sergeant, but due to him making everyone else look bad, he is reassigned to the small village of Sandford, Gloucestershire. Here, he meets his team of laugh-inducing fellow "policeman officers"; his new supervisor, Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), his new partner and Frank's son, PC Danny (Nick Frost), the "Andy's" (Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall), Sergeant Tony Fisher (Kevin Eldon), PC Doris Thatcher (Olivia Colman) PC Bob Walker (Karl Johnson), Sergeant Turner (Bill Bailey) and their K9 Dog, Saxon (Sampson).
Sanford is largely considered "perfect", winning "Village of the Year" several years in a row. On the surface, things seem entirely peaceful, but there's definitely something off about some of the other villagers. While Angel can't seem to "switch off", and slowly starts noticing sinister things unfold, the rest of the police force is relatively ignorant, suggesting accidents happen. While the rest of the precinct are a little less apt to do their job, Angel tries his best to convince Frank that crimes are happening right under their noses.
The film's three acts are relatively separate from each other in more ways than one. The first act probably has the most laughs, and acts very much as a buddy cop comedy with Angel playing the "fish out of water". The second act darkens the humour, and things take a more mysterious turn once Angel starts to really click in on something going wrong in town. The third, and probably best act, is the result of Danny showing Angel a couple of balls-to-the-wall action flicks; specifically 'Point Break' and 'Bad Boys II', so the film takes the humour to more of a farce on those hardcore action movies we love so much.
It could be argued that this is a film that basically has everything. It even features a scattering of well-known British faces, such as Timothy Dalton as Simon Skinner, owner of the local supermarket, and Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy as Angel's superiors in London. I would have to say that as far as all of Edgar Wright's movies go, this is probably the one I'd recommend to anyone who wants to see what Edgar Wright's style is all about. He does a tremendous job as set-ups and call-backs through his movies, and this may be the best example of it. On top of that though, just take everything I mentioned about this movie before into consideration. It's arguably one of the most fun movies out there (at least in my humble opinion).
While 'Halloween' is often toted as the start of the slasher genre, I prefer to think of it as the film that got things going. Before that, you had movies like 'Black Christmas', but 'Halloween' just had a strength to it. Perhaps the strength mostly comes from casting Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead role; daughter of Janet Lee, featured here in one of the most famous movie moments of all time - the shower stab, with the "ree-ree-ree" music!
This film is a milestone in horror, technically being the first big slasher movie. It's brought to us by the master of suspense, himself, Alfred Hitchcock, and it honestly still holds up to this day. Certain things have tried to duplicate it, like an awful 1998 remake, and a much better TV series in 2013, but no matter how they try, nothing can quite grasp the feeling of the classic 1960 film, where it all began.
It all opens with real-estate secretary, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), providing us with yet another tie to 'Halloween'. They are talking about marriage and the unaffordability of it with Sam's debts. Some time after, Marion is left a $40,000 cash payment on a property. Instead of bringing it to the bank to deposit it, she instead takes the money and runs, headed to Sam's house in Fairvale, CA. On the way, she is caught in a rainstorm, misses her turn, and ends up at the Bates Motel. There, she is greeted by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) who gives her a room for the night.
It's Norman Bates' character that really makes this movie shine, as even today, there's something terribly unsettling about him. He plays the role so well, as a bashful, almost boy-like man who just plain gives you that bad vibe. The only other actor I can think of who delivers the subtle horror of a serial killer while being polite is probably Anthony Hopkins from 'Silence of the Lambs', although I'm sure there are other examples between the two films. The two have a conversation where things intensify, and it all leads to that famous shower scene, killing off a main character only about half way through the film. To this day, that scene is intense, especially when the music stops, everything is still, and you see the bloody water pour down the drain. It's as though the film says "I'm not playing around here."
The latter half of the film involves Marion's sister, Lila, coming into the picture. Together with Sam and a private investigator, Milton Arborgast (Martin Balsam), they all try to get down to the bottom of why Marion has disappeared without a trace. Meanwhile, Norman Bates tries to cover his tracks while dealing with his overprotective and strict "mother". I think by this point we all pretty well know the big twist there, but when I first saw this years and years ago and new nothing about it other than the shower scene existing (I was still in elementary school, I think), it did manage to catch me off guard.
In a time when I thought black and white equaled boring, this was one movie that came along and showed me otherwise. Over the years and after a fair bit of re-watching, it has become a personal favorite piece of cinematic art from the 60s. With franchises like 'Halloween', 'Friday the 13th' and 'Elm Street', I wonder where those would be now if 'Psycho' didn't plant the seed. I strongly consider this film to be the Grandfather of slasher horror ('Halloween' is the father). It is just plain legendary, and held high in my opinion as perhaps the quintessential Hitchcock movie. If you haven't seen this, you haven't seen wat Hitchcock was capable of - like making Janet Leigh terrified of ever showering again.
Stephen King's It
Almost 30 years before we got the presently super famous 'It', featuring Bill Skarsgård, we had the still-relative miniseries. I think it's safe to say that the miniseries holds a place in the heart of most from my generation. 'It' was always a very interesting phenomenon, growing up. A whole bunch of my peers got into reading the novel as almost a right of passage, relating heavily to the kids involved and the idea of facing personal fears head-on.
Some of that reading was fueled by this, and though it was initially released in November, 'It' soon because synonymous with Halloween. It was almost like 'Saw' or 'Paranormal Activity' in that sense. It had nothing to do with Halloween, but it fit so perfectly, constantly making an annual comeback. If I remember correctly, the miniseries would often return to TV for Halloween night, so that after a night of trick-or-treating, the kids had something suitably scary to watch. Yes, this one was indeed horror for the whole family, and holds a current rating of "TV-PG", just going to show what we used to be able to get away with on the small screen back in the day. Ah, 1990, how I miss you.
Anyway, for those of you who have seen the current version, divided into two fantastic films, you already know how this works. The difference here is largely in how it's told, and the fact that this takes place in the 50s while the remake takes place in the 80s. This all blends pretty awesomely with the idea that Pennywise returns every 27 years to feast on the fears of children (at least if you are able to round to 30). Anyway, while the new movies feature a perfect divide between the story from their childhood and the story from their adulthood, the miniseries does a lot more jumping around, but with a primary focus on childhood in the first episode, and adulthood in the second. To be fair, that's a bit closer to the book's execution as well. I might say the remake takes a few more liberties with the source material.
To start, I'll let you know that when I credit people here, it goes by "adult actor/child actor", as they both play near-equal parts throughout the miniseries. Part One opens with the mysterious murder of a little girl in Derry, Maine, which prompts Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid/Marlon Taylor) to place a few phone calls to his old friends - The Losers Club; Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas/Jonathan Brandis), Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher/Adam Faraizl), Stanley Uris (Richard Masur/Ben Heller) Beverly Marsh (Annette O'Toole/Emily Perkins), Ben Hanscom (John Ritter/Brandon Crane) and Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson/Seth Green). The gang made a pact 27 years ago to come back to Derry if "It" ever came back.
One by one, the first part goes through each phone call, and personal recollections from each character about what It was. Although It takes the common form of a clown named Pennywise (Tim Curry), It is really more of an ancient, extraterrestrial evil that makes fearful children its prey, returning to Derry, Maine every 27 years to feed again. It also uses special abilities to its advantage, including shapeshifting, manipulating reality, and going completely unnoticed by adults. The takeaway from the whole ordeal is that these kids have to face their worst fears head on. Then, as adults in Part 2, things seem to get a bit more metaphorical in that fears "return" (they all have some sort of pressure going on in their adulthood) and they reunite to conquer them once and for all. I also fell that much of this has to do with the support of strong friendships in the face of adversity. I've always seen it as very symbolic, and something anyone can relate to.
Out of all of Stephen King's material, it's probably safe to say that this is the story I've gotten the most out of over the years. One should take that with a grain of salt though, since this is the only King book I've ever read through (on audio, anyway), and that was for Halloween, last year. I enjoyed it, but I have to be blasphemous and say out of all of the 'It' material out there, I personally enjoy the two remakes more than anything else. The book gets... super, super, super weird - and I'm not just talking about the 12-year-old orgy at the end (yes, it's totally a thing). As for the film at hand, however, there's a lot to be said about it.
It's interesting to me that this was a huge risk for ABC to take in airing, as in 1990, horror TV wasn't exactly at the top of the list of things to make. However, King fans took a real liking to it, and it really did turn into a bit of a Halloween tradition for many, for a while. So needless to say, it certainly had its popularity back then. Although pretty creepy for the time, however, it has aged to be pretty corny, altogether. The acting and dialogue often feels a bit stilted, the visual effects weren't quite touching CG yet, and all in all, it's not entirely scary... bearing in mind this is rated TV-PG. But one thing about it has remained a continued guilty pleasure for many, including myself, and that's Tim Curry's wonderfully hammy performance as Pennywise. He's having so much fun with the role, you can't help but be oddly charmed by him.
I know I didn't exactly get deep into detail on the basic plot here, but I feel like just about anyone reading this knows what it's about, and to get into detail would really drag this already fairly long review out. So to conclude it, I will say that although I recommend the 2017/2019 films, there's definitely a really fun, Halloween connection I have to this all the same. It's not quite an annual watch, but it totally could be, even though it's not even really that good of a miniseries. I suppose one could chalk it up to a certain nostalgia, as this represents an interesting risk that sort of opened the doors up for horror TV, or at least allowing drama and sci-fi TV to have a more horrific edge ('X-Files' anyone?). It's a product of its time, but a lot of fun if you have three long hours to kill.
You gotta love Scorsese's work. If there's one thing you can say about it, it's that he's got range. He has given us just about everything ranging from family friendly adventures ('Hugo') all the way to intense thrillers such as 'Shutter Island'. As far as all the in-between, just look at his IMDb page, as I could be here all day listing off his wonderful work.
'Shutter Island' is Scorsese's take on a pyschological thriller, all while maintaining that crime-related story he's so well-known for. It's just that in this case, it's a creepy mental institution on an island as opposed to, say, the familiar streets of New York. some of the main draws to this film are among the many names attached to the project.
Aside from director Scorsese, it's also helmed by the talents of Leo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley, with great side roles for names like Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams and Jackie Earle Haley. So it's pretty star-studded, and that's not even mentioning a few more perfectly recognizable faces. One might not place this at the top of their Scorsese list, but I can say with all honesty that it's well worth a watch. You just have to sort of ditch the idea of it being a typical Scorsese film. This is one that seemed a little more experimental, teetering on light horror.
For a real quick plot breakdown, things open up in 1954, where U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck (Ruffalo) have been assigned to investigate the disappearance of a potentially very dangerous patient. The assignment takes place on Shutter Island, where the US government runs an institution for the criminally insane. Based on his own past experiences, Daniels soon becomes weary that the institution may be doing some pretty abysmal stuff behind closed doors. The film takes a few twists and turns, and keeps you guessing as to what the outcome might be. Is the government facility corrupt? What really is going on with certain prisoners? Is there more than meets the eye to the institution, or less?
With all this guess work, though, I might recommend that you don't bother with the trailer before heading into it. It doesn't happen often for me, but this was one case where the trailer showed me everything I needed to know to call its ending. So upon seeing it the first time, I can say I was a bit disappointed. But with that said, it's still a perfectly solid film with a dark and imaginative atmosphere. If you're not into all the gangster related material Scorsese cranks out, this is a cool change of pace that shows us how dark and mysterious he can get.
On the other hand, if you really like typical Scorsese material, this could easily be seen as a little too different for your taste. Here, he plays with things like horror elements and makes sure everything atmospherically dreary and dark. Even through the day, it's all clouds and storms. It's safe to say that the overall feeling of the film matches the poster perfectly. On top of that, the performances and dialogue are all great, and it's a neat one to go back and watch now when some faces may be more recognizable. It may not be Scorsese's crowning achievement, but considering his filmography, that's not a stretch either. It's still a really good flick.
The Sixth Sense
It's unfortunate that this movie has had its ending spoiled to the point of it not being a spoiler anymore. Pretty much everyone knows how it ends by now. Some may have seen it coming (or so they say), but luckily for myself, I was one of many who was kinda blown away, and definitely had to re-watch it. The first time around was a great ride that left you questioning the mistakes the movie must have made. The second time is almost better, though, as you realize the writing is pretty damn tight.
Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist who, through a bad experience with one of his patients, finds himself wanting to do right by helping a troubled boy, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment). In a side story, Malcolm also gets so caught up in his work that he starts to have trouble with his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), who seems overlooked.
Cole lives his life in fear, both of the bullies at school, and of his deep dark secret; he sees dead people. He keeps this from everyone, including his mother (Toni Collette), leading the kids at school to dub him a "freak", and his mother to genuinely worry about him. But being that his secret seems so outlandish, he keeps it to himself, confiding in Dr. Crowe to help him through his fears and find some sort of solution.
Going back to the watchability of it, a lot of people will probably pass this off as something you see two or three times to pick up on things that lead to the twist, but then put it down because it just doesn't have that impact anymore. However, I still deem this perfectly watchable for multiple sittings, as the film represents so much more than one of Hollywood's greatest movie twists of all time. Potential spoilers ahead, but as I mentioned before... can this even be spoiled anymore, today?
If you look at Cole's situation, his big lesson is that he eventually has to face his fears, whether he wants to or not. These ghosts can really represent anything the viewer may fear, but must face. It could be a surgery you have to go through, a place you have to move to for work, or a final test you have to take to graduate. I find this movie to mostly be about facing your fears head on, and it's no coincidence that I really started to take to horror movies right after watching this.
On the other side of things, you have Dr. Crowe. My big takeaway from his side of things is also pretty simple, and that's to do what you need to do before you pass on. Part of that lies in helping Cole, allowing him to forgive himself for failing his previous patient (the same one he had trouble with at the beginning of this review). But part of it is also to do with his wife, and just getting that time in with your spouse while you can.
So, even though this one is 20 years old now, and everyone knows how it ends, it still ends up going on my list of film recommendations as a lot of the writing cleverly brings out other aspects of the world around us, and how we deal with it as individuals. This film is absolutely Shyamalan at his best, so if you wanna check out any of his movies, this is like the 'Empire Strikes Back' of his collection - complete with spoiler you probably already know going into it.
For our first title of suspense, I thought I'd take a look back to one of my first little toe-dips in the macabre. I rented this one with a friend when I was around the age of 13, once it was released on video. At this point in my life, a lot disturbed me, but for some reason I really wanted to see this movie. I did NOT do horror back then, but for me, this just kinda teetered on what I considered horrific.
'Seven' actually marks a pretty big jump in personal growth for me, as the first film I wanted to see, knowing that I might get freaked out by it. I did watch 'Freddy's Dead' a few years prior, but the choice to watch that was based on peer pressure. This had the premise of using the Seven Deadly Sins in its plot, which morbidly interested me. It made me finally want to take a peek behind the veil of morbid curiosity.
This one features two homicide detectives; Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is on the edge of retirement, and Mills (Brad Pitt) who strangely transfers to the film's setting - a dark, bleak, unnamed city that is a perfect reflection of the dark subject matter of the film. Together, they work on tracking down a serial killer who only goes by John Doe (Kevin Spacey) whose M.O. is to use the Seven Deadly Sins against his victims.
One by one, Doe's victims are tortured and killed in some truly gruesome and memorable ways. The kills are done off-screen, and all we really see is a variety of silhouettes and shadows, pretty much always faceless. Yet the memory of what you don't see, and how horrible it must actually look, really sticks with you. It's something I'd use as a prime example of less being more. The Sloth victim was a touch of nightmare fuel at the time, and we get to see a lot of him... but he's still kinda faceless. Maybe I'm reading too deeply into it, but I find keeping the victims faceless lends itself to allowing the audience to take a look at themselves. Could they have been one of John Doe's victims in this situation?
It's very impressive film making from director David Fincher, who we now probably know best for 'The Social Network' and 'Fight Club'. Fincher excels in the gritty, and this film is absolutely no exception. It's the kind of film I'd say you might feel like you need a shower after watching. In some ways, this is a lot like the 'Saw' movies, but without the torture porn aspect. Instead of seeing the torture, we imagine the torture - again, so much more potent. A lot of themes are similar as well, having to do with self-reflection. If you're watching this, knowing nothing about it, it'll probably make you think. Fair warning though, the ending is not a happy one!
So, of course we know that this series has gone on for a while. Likely, it's finally over, since '5' was released back in 2011. It, much like 'Saw' or 'Paranormal Activity', became something audiences kinda got tired of. There's only so many ways you can do it. That said, I highly recommend the bookends of the series, 'Final Destination' and 'Final Destination 5'.
The first movie features a group of high school students, getting ready to go on a trip overseas to Paris, France. Before the plane takes off, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a precognitive dream, showing the plane that they're on exploding, killing everyone on board. He causes a scene, is dragged off the plane with a select few others, and sure enough, they witness the plane explode from the ground.
As the movie goes on, we basically discover that death isn't something that can be cheated, and one by one, in order, these guys get theirs in different and creative ways. All the while, Alex and his new friend Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) seem to be the only ones who fully understand that they all need to be on their toes in order to dodge death - thus making it pretty thrilling and suspenseful.
This whole idea was great at the time (I'm going against most critics on this one), but it was soon followed by the exact same deal with a massive traffic collision in 2, a broken down rollercoaster in 3, a race car crash in 4 (entitled 'The Final Destination') and a suspension bridge in 5. As mentioned before, it pretty much just got old and stale, at least until 5.
What sets 5 apart from the others is that it's generally self-aware, and gets very creative with its kills. For example, a gymnast who you're 100% convinced is gonna get horribly electrocuted just straight up lands stupidly and breaks her neck. By far, it's the best of the series. However, I had the need to start with the first one 'cause, well, it's just the first one. I'd almost go so far as to say you could watch 1 and 5, not be terribly lost on anything, and get the most from the experience.
I'm not sure this one quite plays on fears of death as much as something like 'Arachnophobia' plays on fears of spiders. But I will say that it keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially fully knowing that no one is safe at all. Hell, it even ends on that not so friendly reminder.
So, if you're looking for a fun classic thriller, definitely check it out. I find it doesn't quite get the credit it deserves, and I mostly blame the sequels for wearing it thin. But again, 5 is pretty much just awesome. So check those out (along with the in-betweens if you feel so inclined) and see for yourself where you stand on these films. Opinions are generally split down the middle on these, but for myself, I'd say they're kinda the 'Saw' or 'Paranormal Activity' of the early 2000s - some good titles, some terrible titles.
So here's the thing about 'Buried'. One has to be willing to accept, before going into this movie, that visually, you're gonna be looking at Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half. That's quite literally the movie, in a nutshell, made to feast on the fears of the worst claustrophobes.
Paul (Reynolds) is an American truck driver, working in Iraq, who gets attacked by Iraquis. He wakes up inside a wooden box with nothing but a cell phone and a lighter, and the premise of the movie is essentially him trying to get the hell out of this predicament.
This film serves as a primary example of a great movie with a great story, using very little for a budget. In fact, I'm willing to bet that most of it's budget went towards getting Ryan Reynolds to play the lead role.
So, if it's just Ryan Reynolds in a box of an hour and a half, how can this possibly be good in any way? Well, as the story unfolds, the tension builds, and we really start to feel the panic in Paul's mind. The movie sort of tosses things back and forth, giving us relief one minute, followed by hopelessness the next. It does a fantastic job at playing with our fears. I don't particularly consider myself to be claustrophobic, but the way this movie is filmed did cause a certain sense of dread in me. I can honestly say that it came damn close to making it so - in which case I should probably say that if you ARE claustrophobic, proceed with caution if you wanna check this one out.
If nothing else though, as mentioned before, it's a testament to unique film making, using very little budget. It's basically, in my eyes, living proof that story over substance is far more important. There's a great amount if intensity throughout the film, and it really shows off Reynold's acting skills, for which he was nominated a Saturn that year.
So, if for some reason you're looking for a unique film that inspires dread and disturbance in your core, 'Buried' is a title I'd highly recommend. I know it makes me feel very uneasy, yet positively engaged all at the same time. It's almost the perfect thriller. That is, of course, if you can handle the thriller being Ryan Reynolds in a box for an hour and a half.