Tag Archives: haunting

Arang: Creepy Korean Folklore

…Not Japanese Cinema, mind you.

Now here’s a movie that stood out to me. The South Koreans did it again in this creepily well done horror movie with a great plot and ending twist to boot. Arang is based on a Korean folk tale about a young woman who was conspired to be raped and stabbed to death by her evil nanny. After succeeding, the corpse of the girl would come back to haunt the area in which she was killed. This movie, more or less, is loosely based on that. In a very similar vein to the Thai film, Shutter, this movie is a revenge/horror/thriller/detective film all in one. Let’s get it goin’.

The film starts off in a bit of the surreal, with the main detective

A haunting and surreal feel for a great thriller.

character, So-young (Song Yun-ah) encountering a salt storehouse she’s never seen before. A young girl is outside crying in the rain. Obviously this has some significance to the story right? You would be right in assuming so.

Next we move to a series of murders that appear to be the work of a vengeful ghost out to kill those who wronged her. With the help of her rookie forensics partner, Hyun-gi (Lee Dong-wook), So-young must

The dynamic duo strikes again!

discover the reason for these supernatural killings. The ending may leave you in a state of shock, and I was very happy with the way everything turned out. It’s up there with the satisfying endings of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance trilogy (currently re-watching now).

The acting in this movie was fairly good. You can always see the American influence on South Korean films and the like (i.e. Gangnam Style being so successful here and whatnot. Particularly, I’m in love with Hyuna). The crime aspect of it and the justice behind it is very

This keeps coming up about the folklore, and I keep laughing at it.

American based, and I hate to attribute that to the Korean War. It’s a jagged pill to swallow, but Koreans just do American style dramatic films better. More than 20 films have affirmed this for me.

It was creepy, but not to the point of scaring me with any of the disturbing images or frightening scenes. This was an underrated film to find on Netflix, and, as per usual, I thank Netflix for providing me with an adequately good selection of foreign films. You can never go wrong with Tartan Extreme films either.

It has been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I do plan on re-watching/buying it. It was a worthwhile film to watch. So check it out at least once. And don’t ever be crushed to death by salt. 8.1 out of 10.

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Party Monster: Fabulous

Now how did I happen to come upon this movie? I’m pretty sure at some point my dad rented this movie and I sat down to check it out for a few minutes. The opening scene rolled and I saw Seth Green in some strange garb. Wondering what he could possibly be doing in this movie, I of course sat down and watched the rest. I was pleasantly surprised. I found Party Monster, the club story of Michael Alig and James St. James to be a standout movie to me with its content and acting. Knowing very little about the club scene in NYC of the

A little taste of some club kids.

1980’s and 90’s (other than that there was one), this movie was a breath of fresh air and done in such an interesting way, for me, that I have to rave (sorry for the pun) about it for a post. Bear with me.

Party Monster is the documentary turned feature film that was first referred to as Disco Bloodbath by James St. James, the author of his own memoirs. After the film Party Monster was released, he changed his book to a title of the same name. The book features James’ club life as a Club Kid of the 80’s and 90’s, and his friendship with Michael Alig, the self proclaimed “King of the Club Kids”. It all ends in ruin though,

Culkin’s fearless role.

for Michael, while James has kept up a stunning career involved with some art collections and blogging (gotta dream the dream right? Be up there with James St. James someday…).

The film starts out with a recreated interview with Seth Green playing James St. James. From the start, we are given this surreal interview (parts of Party Monster are based on the shockumentary) in which the film interacts with James’ retelling. With a heavy drug influence and surreal dance scene, we begin to realize this is more of a fabulous retelling mixed with a truthful undertone.

I have to say how impressed I was with Macaulay Culkin’s performance in this film. I think it was right of one critic to call it “fearless”. Coming from a well known and loved kid actor and maturing into what we see in front of us on camera, it is a strange change. He

That’s pretty camp-esque.

has become even more aloof (he doesn’t discuss his personal life regardless) and what just seems more drawn from the world than usual. His drug charges, relations to Michael Jackson in his youth, and a shaky parent/child relationship attributed to the actor we see today. And I’d say I was blown away by his performance. He presents a character in a fast paced world of clubbing, drugs, and sex. He has no filter, no inhibitions. He takes what he wants. And he does it all with a vague, drug addled look on his face that screams with pain behind the eyes. It was haunting at the same time that it was surreal and campy. Impressive.

Too ironic that this actor has played 2 characters named Angel…

I think the same and to a lesser degree goes for Seth Green. Although his life wasn’t as “complicated” as Culkin’s was, Seth Green was a child actor as well (Stephen King’ It, for example in 1990). He has become wildly successful in my book with Robot Chicken among other works, and I found this role to be a change of pace. Playing a flamboyant and glamorous club kid like he did (which pales in comparison to pictures, unfortunately), I was still fond of the semi-bravado he brought to the film. He still gets a nod for a job well done from me.

This movie and the documentary are a cult classic. And not the typical cult classic I’d watch that centers around a failed

Did I fail to mention Marilyn Manson had a transsexual role in this film? Oops…

action/horror movie. This movie is a representation for a different walk of life. For wanting to live bigger than yourself with dreams of being who you are, and showing that on the outside with how you dress and act (minus the drugs, I’d hope). The fans of Rocky Horror Picture show, the club kids of today, the LGBT community should feel empowered by such a successful and powerful role model.  A couple of individuals who brought NYC to its knees in the 1980’s and 90’s, now that’s impressive. Every decade has its Kings, and these Club Kids were it.

Green and the realest of St. Jameses.

So overall I was impressed with the film’s content and delivery. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have brought to light a film about the fabulous and the downfall. My eyes have been opened to another side of life, and I found it quite interesting. For those who want to broaden the mind and see what it’s like for 90 minutes to live glam like a skrod, check this film out. 7.7 out of 10.

 


Queen of the Damned

Now I’m gonna take the leap here and suggest (as it probably has been, being a film out for 10 years now) that Anne Rice didn’t understand where this film was coming from or going. A little later, I’ll explain why. But it is sad for me to see that Rotten Tomatoes (or any other reviewer) thought that this film was so poor. I have reasons for liking it, but there’s truly really only one. But plot first.

In a modern day world with the rise of Nu Metal in the early 2000’s, Lestat the Vampire (Stuart Townsend) rises to a new sound he had never heard before. A sound that rises him from the grave. Upon encountering the goth band making all the racket, Lestat

Townsend as Lestat. Anyone see Dorian Gray?

reveals himself to be a centuries old vampire comes to make all their wishes come true. Now he just broke the unspoken agreement all vampires tailor themselves to. Don’t talk about being a vampire, or that vampires exist. But he is doing this for a reason.

To break the monotony. His silken and brooding voice (sung by none other than Jonathan Davis of Korn) charms all the goths in the entire world, a la Deathklok from Adult Swim. Pronouncing proudly that he is a vampire, Lestat hopes that other vampires will come out of hiding, even if it is only to get him. He has the world on a string, and he’s shaking it to find out where they’re hiding.

The beautifully frightening Aaliyah.

Meanwhile, at the London paranormal research building, Talamasca…

Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) is a young researcher, looking into whether or not Lestat is actually a vampire. Analyzing his lyrics, she feels she’s stumbled onto something real. With a colleague of hers confirming that it’s true, David Talbot (Paul McGann, you Dr. Who fans out there may know him as the 8th Doctor… personally, I don’t care.) hands her a diary of Lestat’s pasts and beginnings. When the two intertwine, a evil, ancient presence arises, leading to a new world order. Unless it can be stopped. I’m talking about Aaliyah as Akasha, the vampire Queen of Egypt. Word.

So you have your wondefully sexy and fierce R&B singer that I said I loved from Romeo Must Die. She takes on this role with as much grace before her tragic end (this film is dedicated to her). You have Stuart Townsend, the man who was almost destined to play Aragorn before Peter Jackson up and said he didn’t want him. You may ask, where have I seen Townsend before in a similar film? Look no further than the suave Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary

Some pimpin’ old vampires.

Gentlemen. Badass. He was a great addition to the film and really had the whole “Metal Sex God in Leather Pants” look going on. And Jonathan Davis backing him up on vocals. He’s Irish too, so you can’t hate. Marguerite Moreau was beautiful as ever in the film, giving Lestat a reason to fight for humans. And can I say again that Jonathan Davis makes a cameo in the film? Look out for him.

The Moreau factor.

And this is where I come to why I liked the film. Nu Metal. The early 2000’s framed my pathway into teenagery. That means I was frustrated and awkward. And what better music to listen to than Deftones, Static-X (my favorite bands), Disturbed, and the almighty Korn? Nothing in the world soothes my soul more than death metal. And you get all new hauntingly original songs from Korn? This movie is a package deal. It could’ve almost worked out as a rock opera. I’d be down.

And this is also the point where Anne Rice doesn’t get it. Goths/metal have forever been linked with vampires. It’s a fact now at this point. And a woman who was 58 at the time of this movie should’ve keeled over dead at the use of music in this film. New age music that’s not from my early years? Noooooooo! Understandable response. The movie is nothing she’s seen because it’s meant for the goth scene. The punk and metal scene. Because that strain of music has adopted the vampire image and feel. And, in that way, this movie works for me as a metal fan.

Jonathan Davis on his throne of Korns.

There are those out there who think that Korn is a hack band. They’re original, true, that can’t be denied. But, for some people, they’re washed up, or not hard enough for a lot of hardcore metal fans. They’re like Limp Biskit (I don’t even care to look up his name…) But that’s all wrong. And they hate old Limpy boy. Korn has been around since 1993. It is now 2012. They are infusing techno methods now, into their music. They were ahead of the curve when it came to electronic music back in the day, before all this started. They’re metal, they’re rap metal, they’re nu metal. They. Are. Korn. They can do whatever the shit they want. They are the original when it comes to everything. They are groovy and they are hard. And they hate the world. What could be better?

Now that you know my secret obsession with Korn, you know why this movie works for me. But it’s just my opinion. The acting was fine (I thought Stuart Townsend really stood out), and I pooped myself the second I heard him sing and I knew it was Jonathan Davis. It just

Can’t get enough of the sexy darkness.

clicked with me. It doesn’t have to with you. That’s why I specially recommend this to fans of Nu Metal and all things dark. For those of the 90’s and 2000’s who want to relive a bit of angst. And maybe suck some blood. 7.1 out of 10.


Insidious: The Downward Slope

I cannot speak highly enough of Saw creators Leigh Whannell and James Wan, but this movie in the horror genre is in a whole other ballpark. I had been wanting to see this movie since the day it came out but I could never rouse any of my friends to locate that spine and see it with me. So I sat down with my girlfriend and watched it instead. I was rather surprised with my final impressions.

The movie starts out like any other haunted house film. Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) are loving parents of three children: one baby girl and two

Old decrepit ladies scare people, right?

young boys. Foster (Andrew Astor) is their other son, but they don’t care about him. He gets one scene. The son they do care about is Dalton (Ty Simpkins). Some strange things are going on in the house, and one day Dalton decides he’s got some explorin’ to do. He climbs up into the attic and tries to turn on the light. He fails, falls off the ladder, and screams the most unconvincing scream you could ever think of. Long story short, he ends up in a coma that is just actually an extended slumber.

A dad in peril.

Here’s where things get good. Renai is being constantly bombarded by evil spirits and apparitions that appear to her and freak her right the hell out. Josh, the high school teacher husband, avoids his comatose son and the evilness in the house at all costs. He wants his son to be okay, but the months drag on (meanwhile their other son is nonexistent. The baby girl gets more face time than he does…) He can’t handle it and the wife is becoming fed up.

With some evil man presence being the last straw, the family moves out into another house, only to experience the haunting all over again. So what could it be? It must be something…

I like the direction that Leigh Whannell was taking this movie, despite the deliverance onscreen. James Wan did a good job of some scary pacing and using shadows to his advantage. The scene everybody talks about? If I had been in the

Save us, Lin Shaye!

theater, I may have jumped. The scaryness aspect that sold me though was the use of shadows and tricks on the eyes. Many times in the film, and everyone has experienced this, you see things in the shadows that are tricking your mind. A coat on a chair in the right light looks like a menacing sitting figure. A space behind a door hides demons. All that sorta thing. James Wan played that up so well that the main focus of the camera wasn’t even on these things. It left images for your mind to wander over and think, “Wait a second, didn’t the camera just miss that evil demon there in the corner?” That’s a first for a film I’ve seen.

Classic Leigh Whannell hipster move.

After this haunted house first half, comes the strange second half. In a strange way to explain away these occurrences, the family employs the help of a psychic who talks with the other side (Elise Ranier played by Lin Shaye). With her gas mask in hand and Specs (Leigh Whannell) by her side, it’s only a matter of time before the movie gets into exorcism and spectral beings. People with fears of 50’s ghosts in proper attire, beware.

I really felt the movie was carried a lot by the music it employed. There were plenty of scenes that were enhanced by the shrill violins and pulse pounding beat. Hell, I was scared of the movie’s use of Tiptoe Through the Tulips. That song and the voice it is sung in are freaky. But, at other times, the music came across as overdramatic and ruined the seconds after the scary moment happened with this over the top dramatic piece. You have to know when to play your hand.

The demon as it should have been.

What really ruined the movie wasn’t the reveal of the main monster, but the constant use of him. What is not seen as much is more frightening than what is. To describe the demon and then see him cheesily chasing the young boy through the house is just the kind of B-rated to C-rated antics that caught this movie so much flack. And the ending as well. Just when you didn’t want another twist, they throw you back in.

The acting was 50/50. I am a huge fan of Patrick Wilson, have been since I saw him in Watchmen. He has an understated way of acting that comes off as truthful. In this movie I considered him one of the best, and it showed in his dad-like ways and regretful attitude towards the end. Rose Byrne could have been better. I’ve been hesitant about her acting since Troy, and maybe that was right to doubt… Ty Simpkins, the main plot point of the movie does not know how to sell

GTFO, Barbara Hershey…

acting. Especially not a horror movie. He made it more comical. Pretty unremarkable. Also, get Barbara Hershey out of these dark thrillers. She may have had a heyday in films, but it has past. And these movies (I’m including Black Swan) are not meant for her. It needs to stop.

So with all these mixes of good scares and ample acting with a strange ending leads to an overall disappointing reaction from me about this movie. My girlfriend especially was disappointed. Sad. I’ll give this movie an A for effort, but when it comes to an actual rating, it’s pretty average. 6.1 out of 10.


100 Feet

It’s not every day you see Famke Janssen under house arrest for killing her husband. And it’s not every day that you see a vindictive poltergeist wreaking havoc all over her life for killing him. In this version of what I would consider Jennifer Lopez’s “Enough” gone wrong, Famke Janssen is haunted by her husband she killed in self defense. There are some frightening scenes and I really enjoyed the way that the jumpy scenes are strewn throughout without warning, not just built up until the end. With a minimal cast and quality acting, this was a horror movie that was unfortunate that I hadn’t seen sooner.

Marnie Watson (Janssen) is a newly paroled felon who has just been released from prison and given house arrest in her house. This is the very house that she killed her husband in in self defense. A little twists is that her husband was a police officer, and the partner cop to the man who will stalkingly watch her for the rest of the film, Officer Shanks

Famke Janssen, terrorized all over again.

(Bobby Cannavale). I was semi-impressed with Cannavale’s performance in this film, only because it wasn’t a stretch for him to play a hardened Brooklyn cop. He’s a character actor and it’s all good.

So Famke’s ass gets locked up with a house arrest anklet that only allows her to go within a 100 foot radius in her own house. If she leaves the confines of the house, the alarm will set off and she has only seconds to return to the barrier. This is a problem because parts of her huge and nicely furnished house are off limits to her, including the basement. Plot device, anyone? So Marnie returns to a semi-life of normalcy and goes about buying groceries, cleaning house, ad finding anything she can do to keep busy.

The face of a wife beater…

It’s not any help that the entire neighborhood doesn’t believe that she fought in self defense to save herself. Looked down upon by everyone, only one delivery boy, Joey (Ed Westwick) finds no problem with her. Attempting to be her friend, Marnie copes with a life of solitude. Until her husband starts attacking her from beyond the grave. In a series of scenes that bust up her and her house, Marnie starts reliving all the horrible beatings her husband gave her in life. And this time around, Marnie has had enough of this poltergeist B.S. She’ll fight back at any cost necessary. Without being able to leave her house, this plot restricts her from running away. It’s time to kill again.

I really liked the simplistic plot of this film. It was a creative idea, although I’m not sure they would lock her up in the same house she killed in, as poetically justified it may seem. There are some great haunting scenes in the movie involving a lot of things breaking (including some bones). Ed Westwick plays a reasonably real character in this film, although he’s a straight tool for his work on Gossip Girl. I’d say this is one of his better works. Hauntings and devilish exorcisms and demons are more my style when it comes to horror, so this movie was right up my alley. There’s a great kill scene in the movie, and, although the CG effects in this movie are a bit Syfy channel middle of the road, it doesn’t detract from the whole overall

I know I’ve been stalking you for a while now, but did you know you look like that read headed wench from X-men?

experience of the movie. It’s brutal, and it does the job of performing as a threatening and horrifying film (didn’t scare me much, but all the same, the lights were on).

Most of the time, I’m a tool.

The one thing that will either disappoint you or make you laugh will be the end of the film. There’s some strange confrontation and a ridiculous explosion of an ending that would give Michael Bay a boner. It ruins the whole otherworldly feel of the movie and gives rise to a really dumb explanation of why he’s haunting her and how to stop him. Everything is resolved and, in a really sloppy style for a poltergeist, Shanks believes her and gives her the happy ending she wanted from the beginning. It just really comes down to the sub-par dialogue at the end and that explosion. I can’t get over how that ruined the movie.

But, from beginning to middle, this movie was well executed. It has the right amount of horror and plot, jumpy scenes and furthering events. Famke Janssen did her job (not as Phoenix from X-men, obviously) and gave the woman in peril role new meaning. She fought back with a butch attitude I wasn’t entirely expecting. She doesn’t frighten away like most women do in films and really sticks it to her husband in the film. There’s a real in your face attitude about this horror movie and that made it a breath of fresh air. It’s only the ending that takes down the rating. I’ll give this little horror film a 6.2 out of 10.

Janssen won’t back down easily.


Creation: The “A Beautiful Mind” of the 1800’s

So I just finished this movie and, I have to say, I was blown away by its simplicity. I’m pretty sure this movie had about 5 shooting locations, and this simplicity alone was touching and dramatic. This film about the entity that is Charles Darwin and the theory that changed the world through conflict, was one of anguish, inner turmoil, and alienation. This movie may have been pure speculation about the life of Darwin and his quest to write “Origin of the Species,” but it is rare to encounter a film that makes you believe that the actor who is Darwin must have known Darwin. Must have been Darwin.

I had heard about this movie a year or so ago and have always had an affinity for Paul Bettany. All of his

Paul Bettany as Darwin with his Wife Jennifer Connelly as, well, his wife.

work is top shelf stuff. And Creation is no exception. Another amazing piece from across the sea, and it kept me entranced in Bettany and those around Darwin. The 1850’s was a time of religious dominance and this film portrayed that quite clearly. It is this conflict between science and religion (still ongoing) that frames the film. It is not all encompassing of the purpose, but gives substance to the interactions between work, family, and the past.

Martha West as Emma Darwin. What a relationship they had.

There are two amazing relationships that also frame this movie. The first is between Darwin and his daughter Annie (Martha West). The conflict between the live Annie and the memory of her past self haunts Darwin throughout the film. Annie loves her father and his dedication and fervor for life. And at the same time, she loves her mother and the devotion she shows to her religion. As Bettany says ever so touchingly, “I thought we were making the perfect child.” But it is this child that causes the loss of faith as well as the devotion to his soon to be world changing book. And, with every painful interaction, Darwin is forced to face the demons of his past and the issue that this creates with his family, most importantly his wife. And therein lies the second best relationship portrayed in the film. Between Darwin and Emma (Jennifer Connelly), there is an ocean. Emma’s religion and Darwin’s science seem to be the issue at the heart of the problem, but in a surprising and touching twist, it is the daughter that causes the rift. And the resolution is worth the watch in itself. It is rare in films that a leading man and lady would be married in real life. This is one of them. And I give that credit to whoever cast a married couple in a role like this. It’s absolutely amazing to watch two people with chemistry that is based in life to interact on film. Every scene with their interaction is so fluid and natural that I was blown away by how wonderful it must be to be those two in love. Quite literally the best part of the film.

Quite similar.

And there are a few notable mentions to make about minor acting parts. Freya Parks does a great job as Etta, the oldest of Darwin’s children, fighting for the attention of her father who is perpetually focused on the memory of his dead daughter. Her scenes are touching and tragic in the way that she tries and seems to flounder without any affection from her father. The last scene, something to see. Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s current Sherlock) gave a great minor performance as Mr. Hooker, one of Darwin’s confidantes and emotional support in his hour of need when it comes to writing his book. And Martha West, bless her heart, gave it her all as Annie, the focus of Darwin’s obsession and past regrets. Having to play a protagonist and antagonist simultaneously must be quite hard for a child, and she pulls it off with aplomb.

You may have noticed the title of this blog. And I would have to say this plot reminds me of A Beautiful Mind, the great Ron Howard award winning story of another theorist who could see figments of his imagination, John Nash. All of the dramatic elements are there and its done with the same grace. I gotta give credit to Jon Amiel, a director who I’ve not seen do anything like this before, directing with all he has. Throw in some scenes straight out of The Fall with their exotic nature, and you have a recipe for a great movie. 9.5 out of 10.