Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) review


   One of the only horror classics to be up for an Oscar, this film shook the horror world. The memorable character of Hannibal Lecter was introduced to us for the first time through the visionary eyes of Jonathan Demme and the excellent acting skills of Anthony Hopkins. The film's excellent acting, grotesque images, and anxiety-inducing suspense all make this an excellent horror film and a great drama. However, not everyone can stomach this film as well as others.

PLOT: Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is training to be a member of the F.B.I. under the direction of Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), an important trainer for the group. Meanwhile, a notorious killer named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is making a name for himself, slaying woman after woman with all familiar calling cards. As an outside mission, Crawford sends Clarice to a mental institution to interview notorious serial killer, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a.k.a. Hannibal the Cannibal. After a traumatic visit to the institution, Clarice starts to take the information given to her by Hannibal and finds out major things about the crimes of Buffalo Bill. After enough information is retrieved from the twisted, ex-psychologist, the true identity of Buffalo Bill, his location, and his motive start becoming clear. However, a race is on to catch the serial killer, for he has taken a U.S. senator's daughter for whatever he's wishing to do. The plot is brilliantly written and excellently executed, creating a unique idea and molding in characters and intense suspense that grabs you and keeps you entertained and guessing upon the mystery of the great crime.

ACTING: The performances in this film are very excellently done. The starts in this film are definitely Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Anthony Hopkins plays an amazing, memorable part as the twisted, cannibalistic psychopath, Hannibal Lecter, adding color and madness to the role. His performances is definitely one of the most memorable in horror film-making, sparking iconic quotes and visionary scenes of disturbing scares. Foster also creates a very real portrayal of the beginner-F.B.I. agent, Clarice Starling. From the accent all the way to the realistic actions of the character under pressure, Foster definitely reigns persistent as a heroine of horror/drama film. Ted Levine also played a very realistic and disturbing part as confused serial killer, Buffalo Bill. The way Levine played the part just enhanced the twisted mood created here. All performances were very well done, from the major characters to the minor characters, for example, Stuart Rudin as Miggs and Brooke Smith as Catherine Martin, the senator's daughter.

SCORE: The score in this film is very well done, but nothing truly memorable. The score fit the moods well but didn't create any memorable themes. However, the use of the song "Goodbye Horses" for Buffalo Bill has grown memorable and quite scary to today's standards.

EFFECTS: The effects in this horror were very well done. They weren't the best I've ever seen, but they were definitely worth mentioning. From chewed-up body parts to corpses murdered gruesomely, the effects were very well done and realistic, giving the audience the feeling that there really is a dead body on set or that something really bad did actually happen in life.

MISC. THOUGHTS: This film is definitely a memorable classic for the horror genre, creating a twisted persona of two different serial killers, Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill, with the earlier being more memorable in the end. Jonathan Demme creates, in this film, a twisted, demented, and actually scary portrayal of a crime mystery and serial killer story. He also creates a great amount of suspense, making the audience feel the tension in the film up to the very end. However, this film may be a little too twisted for some people's tastes. The only reason this film isn't widely accepted as perfect film-making across the cinematic nation is because some people can't even stomach the film's entirety. The film is very twisted, unsettling, disturbing, and sadistic at parts and can be actually scary, which is a good plus for horror fans but not for lovers of all drama film. The film is a cinematic masterpiece, but only to those who choose to accept it.

   Putting into motion another memorable horror face, this horror/drama film grabs the audience and keeps them where they need to be: glued to the screen. The performances are excellent, especially by the great Anthony Hopkins, the plot is unique and brilliantly worked with, the effects were gruesome, the suspense is dense and tense, and the film is actually a good, twisted scare for horror fans. However, some people can't seem to take the realism of it all as well as others.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Labyrinth (1986) review


   Jim Henson has impressed the mass family audience throughout the years with his many fantasy films and comedic variety, from The Dark Crystal to The Muppets. This movie is no exception; in fact, it meets in between fantasy and comedy. Since my childhood, this movie has kept me enthralled and coming back to visit the fantastic, creative world of the Labyrinth again and again, with excellent puppetry by Henson's crew, great soundtrack from the rockin' voice of David Bowie, and a whimsical sense of child-like fantasy that lets you know that you've been whisked away to another world. However, all good things age and get old after a while.

PLOT: Young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is stuck in a rut with her family and obsessed with her favorite book, Labyrinth, about a wicked goblin king and his kingdom. One night when her parents leave her in the care of her baby brother, who won't stop crying for anything, she wishes that the goblins from her story will come take him away to their land forever. To her surprising dismay, her wish comes true and the evil goblin king, Jareth (David Bowie), and his army of goblins come to take her brother away. Now, she must navigate her way through the labyrinth that is the goblin kingdom, facing each new turn, situation, and creature with an open mind, especially her new "friend", Hoggle (Brian Henson), who's cowardly and grumpy, but knows the labyrinth better than anyone else she comes into contact with. The plot is very unique and whimsical, considering the main character is whisked away to the land in her favorite book. The execution is marvelous, taking the land of the labyrinth and adding more and more visually stunning characters and ridiculous situations. With all that's going on in this movie, there's no surprise that this is a classic fantasy film.

ACTING/VOICES: The acting in this film is very good. The stars of the show would definitely have to be Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie as Sarah and Jareth. Though Connelly's part as Sarah seems rather over-dramatic and amateurish, she seems to actually pull off the character that Sarah's supposed to be, and rather well: a book-obsessive, young teenager stuck in a rut and her own fantasy world. Bowie just plays the part as the wicked goblin king with ease and finesse, putting a wicked power in his hands only a professional could control. The voices for the puppet-characters are also very fitting: cartoonish and Henson-like. The best voices had to be from Brian Henson as Hoggle, Dave Goelz as Didymus, The Hat, the Four Guards, and the Left Door Knocker, David Healy as the Right Door Knocker, and Michael Hordern as the Wise Man. Henson and Goelz definitely were the best of the bunch, as they shed the true spirit of puppet voices. They were definitely fun and fitting.

SCORE: The score was very well done by Trevor Jones, a master of eighties synth and sound. The score gave the film more of a sound of wonder and whim. The soundtrack from rock master, David Bowie, was also very pleasant, with memorable, catchy songs, such as "Magic Dance" and "Chilly Down" and more in depth songs like "Underground" and "As the World Falls Down". Bowie's addition to the score definitely enhances the fact that this is a classic for fantasy fans and cult followers everywhere.

EFFECTS: The effects in this movie are excellent. Jim Henson's puppetry has been loved long before this for its cartoon joy, but in here, Henson's crew really shows what creativity can do with creating dozens of colorful characters, from an old man with a bird hat to red-haired monsters with removable limbs to four guards hidden behind a shield except for their heads. The creativity of the characters is definitely the best part of the movie, as well as the building of the sets for location. The labyrinth itself looks very well done and more realistic than a lot of CGI work done on films these days.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The movie itself is a trip into a completely-different world, not seen before by audiences around this time. So much is going on that you actually could be convinced that this movie could live and breathe with its own community. Simply put, this movie has been brought to life by its many perks of which Henson has installed. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and still rings true today as a classic in my book. However, growing older has revealed to me a couple of things about this movie. Firstly, the humor can span from slapstickish to potty humor to just family friendly jokes, and some of those jokes just end up growing old in the end, from the overall fear of "The Eternal Stench" to the goofball actions of the Fireys. The movie has a lot for everyone, but only at certain times for certain audiences, even more distinct than films today with references and wide spans of humor. Secondly, the tone in this movie tends to shift greatly sometimes, without warning. One minute you could be plunging into action, and the next you can be slowing down to an almost direct halt. A couple parts in particular would be the launching of Sarah into the labyrinth (fast, wastes no time) and the hallucinogenic dream from the apple's bite (slows the movie down greatly). The tone shifts sometimes seem effective, but not all the time.

   The Henson, fantasy classic definitely meets in the middle of dark and humorous, with wild fantasy and family humor laden throughout. The execution breathes life into the world Henson created, the acting puts Jennifer Connelly on the map and secures David Bowie's glam stardom, the score and soundtrack add memorable eighties sounds and music to the decade, and the whimsical feeling of fantasy drags the watcher away into a infinite world of possibility. However, the movie's humor becomes less relevant with age and the tone shifts become more noticeable.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Club Dread (2004) review


   Aside from the more popular horror spoofs (Scary Movie) and comedy troupes (Monty Python), modern comedians, Broken Lizard, decide to have their take on the horror genre with this mock at a slasher film. Some of the jokes are pretty hilarious and some of the imagery is pretty creepy as well, but most jokes fall flat on their face with acting either suckish or fairly decent.  I doubt one would completely dread Club Dread.

PLOT: A new masseuse, Lars (Kevin Heffeman), comes to fill in for a summer at tropical resort/island, Coconut Pete's Pleasure Island, where women are everywhere, drugs are in circulation, the staff is very colorful, and the party never stops. Leading this tropical resort is Coconut Pete (Bill Paxton), a more-obscured, stoner version of Jimmy Buffet, whom he hates. Everybody's expecting another good time at Pleasure Island, staff and all. However, things start going awry when some of the staff members start disappearing and later are discovered as murdered. The staff almost loses its cool and makes the guests evacuate back to the mainland, but due to the promise of the killer, the staff either has to do their jobs with no worries or die. After some clever investigation, the staff decides that the killer must be another staff member, since he or she has access to the staff's knowledge of the island. The trouble is going to be figuring out who the true killer is. The plot is pretty well established, setting up the perfect scenario for a comedy horror movie. However, the execution is nowhere near as funny as it needs to be to pull the concept off as set up.

ACTING: The acting in this movie is mainly decent. Not very many performances in this movie shine out. The best performances in this movie would have to be from Bill Paxton as Coconut Pete, Paul Soter as Dave, Erik Stolhanske as Sam, and Kevin Heffeman as Lars. Paxton played his role as the smoked-out, played-out rock star with ease as though not worried at all. Soter and Heffeman both put a fair amount of emotion in their work, convincing me of their feelings, as did Stolhanske in more than one tone. Aside from these few, the performances in this movie were fairly average or just sub-par of being good. Even the director, Jay Chandrasekhar, who played Putman, couldn't put enough feeling or proper action in his role.

SCORE: The score is nothing too special. Aside from a few basic themes, there are some club tunes scattered throughout and some satirical tracks from Coconut Pete, including "Naughty Cal" and "Pina  Coladaberg", obviously poking fun at Buffet. The Coconut Pete tracks are fairly enjoyable.

EFFECTS: The effects in this comedy slasher were pretty decent. The blood didn't look completely fake and the dead bodies with severed limbs looked decently scary. The best effects had to be the head-on-the-record, the severed torso, and the speedboat explosion. The effects surprisingly were pretty good for a movie of this genre.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The comedy horror genre has been greatly overdone since the early 2000s, and this one isn't a landmark to prove my opinion wrong. This spoof uses all of the same conventions, poking fun at the usual cliches of horror movies, from fake jump scares to hidden messages. However, the movie does seem to borrow from some of the right places, referencing to Friday the 13th cleverly near the end. Also, some of the imagery was very pleasing to the eye, from some creepy murder scenes and killings to beautiful babes getting into trouble. For a comedy, some of the imagery is actually unintentionally creepy, and it works. Not all of the jokes succeed, however, for a comedy. Some jokes make you question whether it was meant to be funny and others are just too crude, yet some are so ridiculous that you just have to laugh and think about how unexpected they were.

   Broken Lizard is definitely no Monty Python, but this comedy horror could almost, if not, stomp the majority of the Scary Movie franchise. Though a good handful of the jokes fall flat, a fair amount of the performances are bland, and the execution is off-kilter to where it wants to be, there is some truly creepy imagery present with a few clever jokes and nods to other horror films and a handful of key actors that knew what they were doing.