Archives for May 2009 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for May, 2009

The Woods – Review

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 31 - 2009

I know, haven’t been too terribly active as of late. My fault. Had a lot of personal stuff popping up this month that kind of kept me away. Anyhow, I have several reviews already written, just need to get time to post them. Which is what I’ve found today! Some time! And here we are with my review of Lucky McKee’s “The Woods”, a very well told spook story set in a all girl’s school. Definitely worth a look for fans of the filmmaker and those looking to see what the younger generation of horror fans are bringin to the table.

The Plot: Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner) is a troubled young lady. She simply can not stand authority figures and does everything in her power to take them down a notch. However, this attitude has got her into a fair amount of trouble and that’s why she’s headed to Falburn Academy, a boarding school for young women. Once there though, she begins to wish she never started any of the trouble that upset her mother the way it did. She’s an immediate outcast to most everyone, and the teaching staff treat her like some kind of vile creature unworthy of their attention. The only thing that keeps poor Heather sane is the meeting of her new friend Marcy, the one girl at school that actually seems to have any sense in her head. The rest all just bully the two of them. Things grow more worrisome as Heather begins to have nightmares on a regular basis, with the woods whispering to her and visions of a young girl. With this and several students coming up missing, just what is Heather in for while staying at Falburn?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Woods, The

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 31 - 2009


The Plot: Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner) is a troubled young lady. She simply can not stand authority figures and does everything in her power to take them down a notch. However, this attitude has got her into a fair amount of trouble and that’s why she’s headed to Falburn Academy, a boarding school for young women. Once there though, she begins to wish she never started any of the trouble that upset her mother the way it did. She’s an immediate outcast to most everyone, and the teaching staff treat her like some kind of vile creature unworthy of their attention. The only thing that keeps poor Heather sane is the meeting of her new friend Marcy, the one girl at school that actually seems to have any sense in her head. The rest all just bully the two of them. Things grow more worrisome as Heather begins to have nightmares on a regular basis, with the woods whispering to her and visions of a young girl. With this and several students coming up missing, just what is Heather in for while staying at Falburn?


The Review: I tell you, it doesn’t feel at all like six years since Lucky McKee burst onto the horror ‘scene’ with his dramatic and utterly intriguing debut May. Seems like just the other day we were all posting on internet message boards about Angela Bettis and this new director with such a poignant take on horror from the female perspective. Little did we know that the man would sort of define this part of his career in just that field. With May, his Masters of Horror contribution Sick Girl and this film here The Woods, McKee shows a tremendous knowledge into this new area within horror. His study on this strange feminine side of horror, with his strong female leads and bombastic or bizarre leading ladies helped solidify his voice. Although May, his breakout debut might not have twisted the entire horror genre on its ear – it took those feminine qualities and delivered a film that seemed like few that had come before it. With The Woods, McKee’s long-shelved bigger budget follow up, he wasn’t able to quite deliver as refreshing of a film – but still managed to craft something that shows off all of his unique talents while also delivering a love letter to much of his horror influences. Something you know us horror fans can’t resist.

The Woods isn’t what I would call groundbreaking, unlike May which caught many of us offguard when first released, The Woods is generally just Lucky playing the genre straight up and doing a very good job of it. The influence that Dario Argento’s Suspiria had on the film had to be massive, from the general plot synopsis you can probably already tell that. Although Lucky doesn’t try and take a bite out of Argento’s style, the Argento influences emanate throughout every grame. Truly, any supernatural horror film taking place at a girl’s school owes at least some kind of debt to Argento’s horror classic. McKee manages to keep his film feeling fresh however, by not tackling anything directly similar to Suspiria and instead focusing on the relationships bound between parents and child. This is where I think The Woods found it’s strongest footing, as the sequences between Bruce Campbell and Agnes Bruckner towards the end of the film were really heartwarming and helped solidify the entire film through these tense but complex relationships. I have to say, we’re of course talking about a horror picture here so it isn’t an overly complex piece of material but without a doubt I would say these two characters and their relationship were favorite aspects of the film for me.

Did I mention that Bruce Campbell was utterly great in this? Well, it’s a small role, but for the fanboys out there you’ll be proud to see Bruce playing a character who isn’t arrogant, stupid or silly – but a caring father put into extreme circumstances. For a character who doesn’t speak at all in his first few minutes of airtime it’s great to see him come back later in the film and utterly steal the show. The entire cast are all excellent in their roles however and Lucky’s script is tight and filled with great back and forth dialogue. The bits between Agnes Bruckner and her bullies are usually quite humorous in particular, as the juvenile insults tend to fly. Still, the real question at this point isn’t whether this is a well made film – but is it a good HORROR film? In my opinion, yes, it is. Although some of the spookier moments seem to be a little drawn out, I think there’s a lot of spooky things happening for The Woods. McKee handles the atmosphere with ease and delivers a very tense and suspenseful ride. However, the only problem I had with the film was by just how much it followed along genre staples. Although it was a surprise to see Lucky break out the gore that is unleashed in the latter portion of the film, the film plays out about how you would expect it would just from watching the trailer. Don’t let that detract you from seeing it however, it is a very solid three out of five which is above average (remember, I count zero as a rating too) and McKee is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. You won’t want to miss his career as it unfolds.

HARD REVENGE MILLY!

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 28 - 2009

Hard Revenge Milly


Hey guys, quick little series of questions for you. Nothing too hard, just some basic stuff I want to throw at you. First, do you like action? Do you like this new breed of gore flick from Japan, often featuring the FX work of Yoshihiro Nishimura (The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police)? How about nunchucks and swordfights? If you answered with a resounding yes, then the two of us have a lot in common – and you’ll probably find the following trailer for Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle pretty interesting!

Recently picked up along with the first film in this series to play at the New York Asian Film Fest, which if you don’t know is going ballistic with awesome stuff this year. Oh how I wish I lived closer! Anyhow, the basic plot for the sequel seems to pick up where the previous film left off with Milly having revenged the death of her husband and child, only now she must fight off the evil followers of the dastardly gent who had them killed. Probably not going to be a ton of plot to this one, and the English translation on the main site which you can see here, isn’t all that clear especially for those of us who haven’t seen the original. Who cares though, we’ll check both of ’em out if Nishimura is involved! Now check out that trailer!

Late Bloomer Review by Jon Jung

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 20 - 2009

Well Jon’s been a pretty busy little bee here lately, but managed to take in Go Shibata’s new classic Late Bloomer. I caught this one a while back myself, and essentially agree with him on all counts. Not a perfect film, but unique and interesting in all the right ways. Definitely worth catching simply for the experience.

The Plot: Late Bloomer documents a severely disabled man, Sumida-san, who has made a life for himself hanging out with friends, drinking beer (a lot, at that), and checking out shows. In addition, Sumida-san is the director of a disabled home (as is the real-life actor, Masakiyo Sumida in a bit of verisimilitude) and well-cared for. Though this may seem like a rather content life, Sumida-san’s anger and frustration toward his disabilities provoke him to embark on a murderous rampage.



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Late Bloomer

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 20 - 2009
Review Contributed by Jon Jung


The Plot: Late Bloomer documents a severely disabled man, Sumida-san, who has made a life for himself hanging out with friends, drinking beer (a lot, at that), and checking out shows. In addition, Sumida-san is the director of a disabled home (as is the real-life actor, Masakiyo Sumida in a bit of verisimilitude) and well-cared for. Though this may seem like a rather content life, Sumida-san’s anger and frustration toward his disabilities provoke him to embark on a murderous rampage.



The Review: Japanese genre films have become all but pigeon-holed by scraggly-haired ghost children (Ringu, Ju-On, Dark Water) and cheesy Troma-like gore comedies (Meatball Machine, Tokyo Gore Police). In fact, with classic Kurosawa and Ozu films being of the few exceptions, Japanese movies as a whole can hardly get released without the “extreme”, “quirky”, and /or “kawaii” tags put on them. Thus, it’s not particularly surprising that Late Bloomer slightly mismarketed and packaged to look like the latest gorefest when it is actually a interesting, dark character study not unlike Taxi Driver or, even more closely related in theme, Tod Browning’s seminal 1932 shocker, Freaks.

Unfortunately, while Late Bloomer shares similar stark themes as those two classics of transgressive cinema but it does not share the same production values. I would not generally fault a director for having to work under a low budget. For example, the fact that the movie was shot in black and white seems like less of a budgetary constraint than an artistic decision. For the most part, the black and white photography is pulled off quite well in Late Bloomer; the film’s schizophrenic visual effects (a la Tetsuo) could probably not be as effective in color, for example. However, the impact of any scene involving blood was noticeably lessened. Blood on film should be visually alarming either in its color or viscosity. This should even be the case in black and white such as in Night of the Living Dead, a film whose shimmering dark blood was probably too much for the faint of heart in 1968. Late Bloomer’s sometimes languid pacing sometimes also affects the impact that the film could have had. The director sometimes shoots scenes for a little longer than they should be, but not long enough to feel intentional. One death scene, in particular, which occurs in a bathtub feels much too “matter of fact” than it should. The film could have done well with a little choice editing as well. For example, several scenes involving two sets of characters watching videos of each other to symbolize the social distance between them tended to drag, again taking away the punch of the central storyline

Negatives aside, Late Bloomer thematically is a breath of fresh air. Calling it the first movie to have a disabled protagonist might be a stretch; Born on the Fourth of July and My Left Foot come to mind as two others. However, it is one of possibly two (“Children of a Lesser God” is the other) in which the actor him or herself is disabled. With that said, the director Go Shibata does well for his subject matter by weaving the narrative around Sumida-san, never forcing us to feel one way or another about him. It would have been easy to have taken one of two overt routes and made a mean-spirited exploitation or sappy “deep down we’re all the same” message film. Overall, in fact, the film does a great job at presenting us with a character who, all said and done, is not necessarily a villain, hero, or anti-hero. Rather, the protagonist is just a guy who, through life’s misfortunes, has just taken the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just too bad that Shibata didn’t have a better budget and slightly more experience with which to improve all the positives this film has. This is definitely a film worth watching but, as previously mentioned, this may not be for the gorehounds. But, if you have the patience and will to sit and watch a unique, somewhat artsy character study from a promising young Japanese director, then you could do worse by picking Late Bloomer up.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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