Saturday, August 30, 2014

Creep




***

In the aptly titled Creep (2004), Franka Potente gets trapped in a subway as a grotesque freak man kills unfortunates that come in contact with him (a junkie couple living in a secret hideway, subway employees in the sewage system, a person Potente’s journalist knows who mistakes a faux advance as a legit proposal for possible sex). Potente spends most of her time trying to avoid the freak, stay alive, and get the fuck out, but this wouldn’t be a horror show without complications. The atmosphere of the subway station and dark, eerie tunnels, the hideous malformed freak man (he screeches and hobbles), and some potent violence make up for moments where characters (like Potente) behave irrationally and stupidly (Potente falling asleep while boozing on small bottles of liquor, missing a clear blade shot to the monster man’s face while he’s pinned down by a subway worker, simply dropping the weapon and running, the subway worker breaking windows and allowing himself to be vulnerable to attack, one of the junkies purposely calling out to monster man in a challenge without knowing where he is) and a lack of real development for the killer (a photograph of a doctor that was perhaps his mentor and father figure is about what we get). The ending is a hoot as Potente understands what it is like to receive change for carrying the appearance of a bum while her night of hell wears itself on her quite vividly. Plenty of bloodletting and body cutting here. The most potent scene to me involved the female junkie locked in a gynecological chair as the freak man decides on how to destroy her (her pleas for help fall on deaf ears; what adds to the tragedy is the fact that the subway worker Potente rescues from a cage checked her vitals and declared her dead!).














Friday, August 29, 2014

The Monitor (Babycall)


***


The Monitor (2011) is not a bad little Norwegian psychological thriller that kind of left me a bit miffed by the time it was over. It didn’t wind up making a whole lot of sense to me by the time the film concluded. Nonetheless, not surprisingly, Noomi Rapace is really good as a mother barely holding herself together as she deals with the possibility of losing her son and once again contending in court with her abusive husband (who tried to murder her son). Also her grip on reality seems to be slipping as she is hearing something horrible (screams and violence) across a baby monitor she has in her son’s room so she can keep tabs on him during the night. This paranoia seems considerable because of what she claims her ex attempted to do to her boy (drowning attempt). But the husband, it seems, claims that her testimony against him is questionable. Also going against her are the “caseworkers” who seem to be questioning her mothering skills and emotional ability to raise the boy. In particular, the male caseworker makes disturbing sexual remarks and advances that are a bit too close for comfort. The one good thing that seems to happen to Rapace’s Anna is a kind, generous electronics store employee, Helge (Kristoffer Joner), himself struggling with the dying of his mother (a life-long cigarette smoker, she’s now on a respirator and seemingly living on life support). Helge has a past of his own that is relatable to Anna’s son. When her son has pale skin and bruises, Anna is considered by the school to be responsible. So there’s all this going on in the film and when it appears that we will follow Anna to the troubling encounter with the missing husband and a potential relationship with Helge, everything turns on its head. What Helge experiences and all that seems to be happening to Anna could or could not be real.







 I found The Monitor compelling yet frustrating as Helge seems quite held together while Anna always appears on the brink of insanity. Not sleeping much, having recollections of a forest, a drowning, and her son’s supposed encounters with the abusive husband (that we never see)—while also worrying about the caseworker expecting her to keep him on her side by perhaps offering up her body in return for his sympathy as the husband might capitalize on any character flaws exposed to the wrong people (school faculty, for example)—Anna is the tragic heroine with a lot of complications besetting her. Helge’s plight in regards to his mother’s demise and noticing Anna’s son’s bruises which unsettle him are also established with much importance. I never understood how he can see things that others don’t while the film seems to indicate that Anna visits a school that her son attends yet the ending muddies the waters considerably to the point that I wish I knew what I’m supposed to take from all of it. Something has to be real out of all of it, right? When a second boy communicates with Anna's son that leads to the discovery of a body in a blue bag found buried in the woods that results in the arrest of parents, I kind of just threw my hands up. Still, overall, the performances are so good--Rapace is a star whose work on the Stieg Larsson "Girl" series and later Hollywood hits such as Prometheus & Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows are no surprise considering how good she is here--and I found the film gripping and creepy most of the way through.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman



 A Japanese city is in terror as kids are being kidnapped by a "boogeywoman", an urban legend known as the Slit-Mouthed Woman. While it is believed that someone is merely masquerading as this character told around campfires to scare children, a few locals soon learn that this is anything but imaginary.

**½


I was quite unsettled with Kōji Shiraishi’s Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman, particularly because of the child abuse involved. Kids punched and kicked left me enormously bothered. The slit-mouthed woman is an urban legend that is often discussed by the schoolchildren. An earthquake occurs and the ghost of the woman with the slit-mouth arrives in a city to kidnap kids. A cellar in the red roof home of a male schoolteacher, Noboru--who was a serious victim of child abuse thanks to a psychotic mother that murdered his brother and sister--seems to be where the kids are taken to by possessed mothers, locals who begin coughing before ultimately being invaded by the spirit of the slit-mouthed woman. This process continues even though the mothers invaded are killed. Assisting Noboru is a fellow female schoolteacher, Kyôko--a divorcee whose daughter chose her father because of “accidental” slaps to the face—as the two try to find the slit-mouth woman and a missing student that is held captive in the cellar. As kids either turn up dead or in serious condition (the possessed mother stabs a boy and slices the mouth of a girl), it is imperative that the captured girl be rescued or she herself could be the next victim. Meanwhile the kidnapped girl’s abusive mother (paralleling Noboru’s mother, who so happens to be the slit-mouth woman possessing mothers) is out looking for her daughter, eventually finding the red-roof house herself. I think the film has plenty of blood-curdling ghoulish subject matter to appease the horror audience looking for such goodies. You get the creepy effects involving a slit mouth that opens to reveal a hideous visage as promised by the title.


























How this woman came to be is told to us in flashback by the traumatized Noboru with quite a story to tell Kyôko. Kids turning up missing as the community is gripped in fear, with law enforcement trying to figure out where they are, as schools have faculty leading their students to families instead of allowing them to walk home unattended—not to mention what happens to them at the hands of the slit-mouth spirit that takes control of mothers—is quite the nasty piece of work that will certainly cause chills to viewers who find child violence disturbing as it did me. But how does anyone stop a spirit that seems capable to move from one body to another like an invading parasite using a host to harm and kill children? Noboru’s childhood horror story (regarding an unstable mother asking him to behead her by using a butcher knife directionally pointed at her throat) and how it could be the answer to vanquishing the slit-mouthed woman could be the anecdote. Let’s be honest: this film needs some sort of avenue to destroy the evil that is on the rampage so that we can root for heroes and believe they have any type of chance. The obvious possibility of a twist was always in my mind so if it happened I wouldn’t be surprised. Director Shiraishi made sure to deliver his ghoul and make her quite a memorable sight not to be forgotten. That a sequel would result probably shouldn’t have surprised anyone either. This kind of ghoul couldn’t have been limited to just one movie. I would say that the scenes that stand out all involve the scissors and uncovered face of the spirit as it threatens the heroes and children. Still open abuse so visible towards children was a bit too much for my tastes. Still if you aren’t bothered by that, this film might be considered easier to digest. Overall, it has its moments. I think the story is a bit silly and framing it around such a character was a chore that Shiraishi and company did the best they could with considering the circumstances. Not a total waste of time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Heart of Midnight

After inheriting a club on a seedy part of the city, a young woman with a difficult past tries to put her life together, but she doesn't realize that this won't be exactly easy due to the past and the relative that left the place to her.

****½

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...