The House of the Devil

House_of_the_Devil_Poster

If you follow my blog you know I’m all about those precious independent small budget gems.

The House of the Devil is a 2009 american horror movie written and directed by the young promising director Ti West, staring Jocelin Donahue.

This movie takes place during the 70s and it does a good job capturing the feeling from that era, which surely will bring some nostalgia for some people.

 

Creepy_Shot_House_of_the_devilThis movie does not rely on scare jumps, The House of the Devil is all about suspense, tension, and menacing atmosphere. You don’t fear what you are seeing, you fear what will come. It’s all about anticipation.

The plot is super simple and the action burns very slowly throughout most of the movie, leaving you enough time to sit back and delight with the production quality. Shots are meticulously well framed and the lighting is beautifully sinister. Jocelin Donahue is pretty good too, and we get a ton of alone time with her character. Overall it is well produced and directed.

The House of the Devil is a low budget movie that puts most Hollywood horror “blockbusters” to shame.

Jocelin_Donahue_The_House_of_the_Devil

The Babadook – Finally a good horror film

The Babadook - Poster “If you touch my son again, I’ll fucking kill you!”

It was my brother who recommended me this film. He told me “You should see that horror film, the Mr. Baradok, or Babaruk, or Babadick, or something like that”, and I thought to myself “He doesn’t even know the name? Hell, it truly must be a very good film…”

The actual name is The Babadook, and it turned out to be a very good film indeed. It is the first long footage of the Australian director Jennifer Kent. The film takes place in a quiet suburban area somewhere in Australia, and it follows the story of a single mother trying to cope with the loss of her husband, while struggling to educate her troubled son.

It has been described by many critics as one of the scariest films ever made, but honestly I didn’t find this film that scary. It is indeed rated as an horror film, but in most parts it feels more like a psychological drama. It deeply explores raw human emotions like grief, hate, resentment, and the impact they have in the relationship between a mother and her child. This is what truly makes The Babadook a disturbing and unsettling film.

The main character is played by Essie Davis. An actress well known in Australia for her charismatic role as Miss Fisher, but here she plays a completely different character. She takes the role of a single mother who carries a tender yet tortured soul. Her performance in this film is magnificent to say the least, and I’m not exaggerating, hands down brilliant acting.

The film is well produced, it has a solid screenplay, it’s beautifully shot, and it doesn’t rely on special effects or scare jumps. What makes this film scary is the slow paced atmosphere build through out the scenes. It’s definitely not like the typical American horror films we have seen in the last years, The Babadook is smart and intelligent, and even if it doesn’t scary you, at least you can’t deny its cinematic quality.

In the end The Babadook is a sad moving story disguised as a psychological horror film. A great example of what the Australian cinema has to offer.

The Babadook

Coherence – Rearrange Your Brain

Coherence Poster“There is a cat in a box that has a fifty-fifty chance of living…”

When I first heard about Coherence I managed to get my hands on the film, but during several months it just laid in a corner collecting dust. I had forgotten all about it when I recently stumbled on it, and decided to give it a try. I had no expectations, actually I didn’t even know the genre or the plot. I was completely in the dark when I hit play.

It turned out to be some sort of science-fiction footage, but without the spaceships and laser weapons. It also mixed a bit of horror, drama and suspense. A perfect formula for a late night film. The plot is quite simple, a group of friends decide to gather for a dinner party on the same night a comet is crossing the night sky, which triggers a series of strange events. That is all I’m going to write, and I would recommend you not to search deeper into the plot, because during the film you never know more than the characters do. I was immersed, confused and frightened just like they were.

Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit, this was his first major picture. The film had a low budget, I read somewhere it was around 50.000 dollars, and believe me that’s really low for a full length picture. Furthermore it was shot only in five nights and many dialogs were improvised. Nevertheless this film is a proof that you don’t need a big budget, famous actors, or special effects to make a good science-fiction film, or simply a good film for all that matter, all you need is a good idea and a competent crew.

Coherence is one of those enjoyable surprises, and it surely deserves more appreciation that it has.

Coherence

Fury – Best War Film in Years

Fury Poster“It will end, soon. But before it does, a lot more people got to die.”

The first film I saw at the cinema was Saving Private Ryan. I was just a kid, and I was impressed with the size of the screen and how loud the sound was. During the first 30 minutes I was amazed, as the allied troops landed on Omaha beach , I could feel the sound of the explosions reverberating on my chest, and the bullets ricocheting all around me. Not bad for a first time cinema experience. After that I started to pay close attention to war films, hoping to find one that could offer a similar experience. Long years passed…

Last month I found myself in a parking lot of a shopping center. I hate shopping centers, so much I will probably write a whole article about it. Sitting there in my car I thought “Go in, do what you have to do, and get out, nice and easy”. So I went in, I did what I had to do, and when I was rushing my way out I came across the entrance to the cinema. The poster showed an image of a soldier leaning on a tank barrel, beneath a dark sky. His face shone sadness, yet I found the whole picture rather peaceful, except for the word written on the barrel: “Fury”.

I really wanted to get out of there. I looked at the exit, I looked at the poster, and I thought “Oh, what the hell”. I approached the young lady at the ticket office:
– Hello, I would like a ticket for the film Fury, please.
– Yes sir, where would you like to sit?
– Where do you recommend?
– Well, I can get you a sit right at the center, is that good for you sir?
– Is there anyone eating popcorn at the center?
– No sir.
– Then it’s good for me, one ticket at the center, please.
– Certainly, would you like popcorn with that?” she asked smiling.
It turned out there was no one else to watch the film except me and an half-sleeping guy at the back. I pretty much had the room for myself, no common disturbances. I sat right at the center, and as the film started to roll I thought “This is going to be good”.

The film was directed by David Ayer, it takes place during the last days of World War II, and it follows an American crew of a Sherman tank. As the allies make their way towards Berlin, this five men end up finding themselves standing against incredible odds. The film is well produced, and the main actors perform excellently, specially Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal. Their characters are not the typical American heroes we are used to see in the big screens, their hearts and minds have been hardened by the cruelty of the conflict, and that reflects on their actions throughout the story. The film is full of graphic violence, the picture has a somewhat darkened color, and the soundtrack is depressing and frightening. This film pulls no punches while showing the horrors of war.

The sound was loud has hell, I could swear I felt my sit vibrate every time the tanks went full gas, the sound of the blasting shells in my chest, and the ricochets reverberating on my ears. I loved every single second. Is Fury better than the old Spielberg’s classic? No, but is the only war film that ever got close.

Fury, underrated and highly recommended.

Fury

World War Z – Audiobook VS Film

World War Z coverThis is a long post, one I wanted to write since I first created this blog, so please bare with me.

Most people know the film World War Z, but few people know it’s based on an audiobook. I’m not sure if “based” is the right word, because the only thing they have in common is the title. That’s right, even the zombies are different, in the audiobook they are not sprint machines, they are just typical slow zombies.

While the film follows the story of an American superhero saving the entire mankind, the audiobook takes a more realistic and credible approach to the zombie apocalypse. Here there was no Brad Pitt to save the day, so the entire world collapsed. The main plot takes place several years after the breakdown, and it follows Max Brooks, a journalist who travels the world recording testimonials of people who survived the zombie war. He interviews key elements from governments, armed forces, along with civilians and even children. The audiobook is a collection of this interviews, following the chronological order of the events.

I don’t care to much about audiobooks, and I thought World War Z was just another lame production for people who don’t like to read books. Nevertheless I decided to give it a try, and listened to just a couple of interviews. For the next several days I found myself rushing home just to listen to this audiobook. I would serve myself a glass of wine, roll some cigarettes, lay back on the couch, and spend hours listening to it. The featured voices are from real cinema actors, which helps adding credibility to the interviews. Forget about everything you have seen in films and series, all the facts stated in this audiobook have been thought to the tiniest detail, and if some day the zombie apocalypse really takes place, I’m sure everything will happen just like in this audiobook. It is THAT realistic.

Most of the interviews are from doctors or politicians, explaining how they first reacted to the outbreak, what impacts it had in societies and international relationships, how the governments had to manage resources, and how societies had to be organized to become self-sustainable. But then you have the civilian and military testimonials, and those are the ones that will keep you glued to your couch. The little girl who is dragged by her parents to north Canada, trying to use the cold as a defence, later finding themselves resorting to cannibalism to stay alive? You don’t see that in the film.

I can’t even imagine the disappointment of the original fans when they first saw the footage. There are so many memorable stories in the audiobook: the Irish mercenary who deserts his master for honourable reasons; the essential role dogs play during the war, and the high suicide rates of their trainers; the Battle of the Five Colleges, where a group of students turn their schools into strongholds, and hold their ground with improvised weapons; the Battle of Yonkers, which was suppose to be the first American offensive turns out to be a last stand for the troops in New York; the air force woman who crashes her plane and finds herself in shock, outgunned, and wounded, fighting through hordes of zombies to reach the extraction point on time; the mentally challenged girl who is saved by her aunt, while her mother was trying to choke her with her bare hands to prevent her from being eaten alive – I still feel the chills when I think about that interview. Actually, during my listening of World War Z, I lost the count of how many times I felt the chills running up my spine.

I don’t know why they decided to make the film the way they did. I mean, they could have made the story true to the audiobook if they wanted. Regarding this matter I’ll just cote a phrase told by a soldier during an interview, while explaining the reason for the military failure: “Don’t pull my pud with stories about budget cuts, the only thing in short supply was common fucking sense”.

Bottom line, the film sucks, the audiobook is a masterpiece. I highly recommend it.

Battle of Yonkers

Das Leben der Anderen – Excellent German Film

Das Leben der Anderen CoverDas Leben der Anderen, aka The Lives of Others, is a German movie directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

It takes place in 1984, when the country was still divided, and it follows the live of an agent of the East German Secret Police. Ulrich Mühe plays this character brilliantly, a quiet yet serious man, extremely meticulous, who occasionally resorts to unorthodox methods to get what he needs. He lives a lonely life entirely devoted to the Ministry for State Security. One day he gets assigned to spy on a German couple and everything changes, as he starts getting emotionally involved with their lives. The film is slow paced, is well directed, has a solid screenplay and brilliant performances. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, along with a BAFTA Award in the same category, and dozens of other awards and nominees in cinema festivals all around the world.

Das Leben der Anderen is an excellent film and a great example of what the European cinema has to offer.

Das Leben der Anderen

The Fall – One of the best tv series in years

The Fall

“No one knows what’s going on in someone else’s mind. Life would be intolerable if we did.”

Once in a while anyone who watches TV series will find himself searching for new shows. All our favorite series eventually come to an end, and when it happens we’ll surf the internet looking for something to fill that void we’re left with.

I was there when I first came across this show. The only reason that led me to watch it was the main actress, Gillian Anderson. Yeap, I’m a fan of the X-Files. So one night I turned off the lights and gave this show a try. I had no expectations, and after watching the first episode I was left speechless. As the credits rolled over I kept asking myself how was it possibly that I had never heard about this show before.

This psychological thriller takes place in Belfast, following the lives of two urban predators, a detective and a serial killer. Their everyday routine is constantly being compared, and even though they are in opposite sides of the law, they have more in common than one could ever anticipate. They are both meticulous and intense, both take pleasure from control and dominance. Both have a normal life during the day, holding themselves on family or work, but when darkness falls each one indulges on his own secret ritual.

The series is very well produced. It has a dark atmosphere, and the tension is slowly built through out the episodes. Sometimes it builds so much tension it can be frighting. You will not be frightened due to scare jumps or loud noises, you will be frightened because there are no scare jumps or loud noises. All you hear is the water dripping in the bathroom, the wind outside. You know something is wrong, something horrible is about to happen, but it doesn’t, and the tension just keeps raising, leaving you on the edge of your sit for long periods of time. The camera plays a very important role here, sometimes leaving you staring at that dark corner, or that creepy window at the back. There are also long takes without cuts, adding realism into the action, along with some Point of View shots, you will find yourself immersed into the show. It basically looks like a chilling horror movie disguised has a crime investigation thriller. The camera is something to praise here. If you are really into cinema or television production, you will notice some very interesting shots in a couple of episodes.

The main characters are brilliantly well-acted. Gillian Anderson has been kept under the radar since the X-Files. If you were a fan of this cult series, you will surely be pleased to see her performing in The Fall. She plays the role of a dominant Irish woman, reveling all of her talent as an actress. The second main character is played by Jamie Dornan, who also performs exceptionally well.

The Fall is one of those pearls waiting to be found. Not only is one of the best series of 2013, it’s one of my all-time favorites.

The Fall 2