Jun 7 2010

Splice

This weekend we went to see Vincenzo Natali’s sci-fi horror hybrid, “Splice” (2010).  The movie was produced by Guillermo del Toro and stars Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley as geneticists and Delphine Chanéac as Dren, the monster. The movie is yet another remake of Frankenstein (maybe with a little Left Hand of Darkness thrown in)… and not a very good one at that. There are two scientists instead of one. The scientists use genetics instead of alchemy. The monster is female instead of male. But beneath it all, the story is about researchers who decide to make a human-like hybrid using multiple genomic sequences, the amazing result of their haphazard efforts, and their inability to cope with the resulting sentient creature. As Frankenstein’s monster was rejected by Victor, Dren is treated like an abomination and shielded from the world.

Not everything about the movie sucked. It actually started pretty good. The acting was good (given what they had to work with). The resulting “monster” looked like it had stepped out of the video-game Half-Life or possibly the Skyrealms of Jorune. The animation was good (not fantastic, but good… no real CGI innovations here). Dren’s early reactions were interesting (observing things monocularly always looks odd). It looked like all the elements were there for an enjoyable, if not good movie. Then, things, changed.

Maybe things changed before I realized it. Maybe I “accepted” too many leaps (logic, story, believability) before realizing that the whole story was silly. It could have been the ability to knit together the DNA of several animals into a viable chimera without first amassing a bloody pile of horrific miscarriages… It could have the strange morphological changes (eyes migrated from the side of her head) in Dren as she grew to accommodate the actress that played the final creature… It could have been the anatomical “surprises” evident in Dren (and her slug precursors Fred & Ginger) despite being subject to x-rays, MRIs, &c… There were a number of problems and most were evident DURING the movie… not as “way-homers“. Perhaps my biggest complaint was the ending. How does a movie with a good amount of promise turn into a B horror movie? The movie should have ended with the vat… As the scientists shut the barn door, believing the monster to be vanquished, the camera should have panned down through the murky liquid and found eggs. I know that sounds a little “Species” (1995), but it would have been better than the Bat Boy ending that we got. In summary, the slugs were best part of the movie.

“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” – Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

2.5 out of 5


Oct 8 2009

The Castle of Otranto

Horace WalpoleFirst things first… Before today, I was completely unaware of  Horace Walpole‘s 1764 novel “The Castle of Otranto“. I encountered the title by chance on LibraryThing and proceeded to download a copy from the Gutenberg repository. I was intrigued (that word keeps popping up!) about a story described as the first Gothic novel (i.e., a story containing horror and romance). I was also interested to see how an 18th century author dealt with fantasy elements, e.g., apparitions, damsels in distress, knights in shining armor, hereditary curses, superstition, etc. The book does not disappoint (though it is very “over the top”).

“The Castle of Otranto” was originally published under a pseudonym, and marketed as a translation of a 15th century Italian manuscript of a Crusades-era (11th to 13th centuries) tale. *deep breath* The “translation” was well-received originally, until Walpole finally admitted that it was a work of pure fiction… at which point the praises turned sour. Think: 18th century “Blair Witch Project“. The movie was MUCH better if you believed the uncredited early screenings were real, than it was after you’d seen the “doomed” actors final hurrah on the MTV Awards.

So did I like this chance find? Yes, I did! The story rolled along quickly and kept my interest throughout. It is packed with turns and twists and intrigues (hmmm…) and a healthy dose of the supernatural. Maybe it’s just me, but my only advice is to keep your dictionary handy, the book is a vocabulist’s wet-dream.

“The fellow made no answer, but continued pointing towards the courtyard; and at last, after repeated questions put to him, cried out, ‘Oh! the helmet! the helmet!'”

3.5 out of 5


Oct 4 2009

Zombieland

Zombie GrrlThis weekend we went to the opening night of “Zombieland”. Let me say at the beginning, that I thought this movie was going to suck after seeing the trailers.

My impression afterward was different. Very different. The movie seemed to be a cross between “Shaun of the Dead” ,  “Natural Born Killers”, and “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, three movies that I like a great deal. The movie centers around two unlikely companions named Columbus and Tallahassee. Both have survived the zombie plague apocalypse in their own way. Columbus has found survival-success creating and following a strict list of rules (some of which are the source for long running gags throughout). Tallahassee has found survival-success in more traditional zombie-flick fashion, aka guns blazing. The movie follows their travels, the people and zombies they meet, their successes and their failures. It’s sort of like a Crosby and Hope road-movie but with lots and lots of gore.

If your mind can’t find entertainment sandwiched between horror, gore, and comedy, then this movie probably isn’t for you. As for me, I enjoyed it, though it never seemed to rise to the level of the movies that inspired it. Not surprising, I guess.Woody Harrelson does an okay job, revisiting (to some degree) his role of Mickey in “Natural Born Killers”. Jesse Eisenberg carries the movie well enough for a straight-man sidekick. Emma Stone does okay… but I miss Juliette Lewis *sigh*. And Abigail Breslin proves that she’s more than just “Little Miss Sunshine”.

All-in-all, an enjoyable flick that is good to see on the large screen!

“Rule Number 4, Double Tap”

4 out of 5