Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Prometheus (2012)

June 13, 2012

[rating:4]

Prometheus is a gorgeous film directed by Ridley Scott, the highly anticipated prequel-but-not-really companion piece to Alien (1979) also directed by Ridley. The story is set some years before the event of Alien and of a completely different plot, although it does shred some mystery of the origin of the space jockey, by questing the origin of mankind, only leading to more mystery.

It is a very unique movie that shows a director picking up the same material 3 decades after the movie that made his name, and showing a very different director in work making a very different movie. That doesn’t happen often, whether or not the movie lives up to the high expectation is pretty much beside the point.

The story goes like this – A team of scientists led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapce) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) arrives at a distant planet on a mysterious mission. Among the spaceship crew we also find David (Michael Fassbender), our trustworthy android who styles himself after Peter O’Toole from Lawrence of Arabia, and Vickers (Charlize Theron) the postergirl of the evil cooperation.

Dr.Shaw and Dr.Holloway believe that some ancient tablets sharing the same star map indicate the origin of mankind. They hibernate for 2.5 years, flying in Prometheus 3.27 x 10^ 14 km away from Earth, that by the way means they should be flying at 34.6 times the light speed to make it on time, to meet the creator of mankind. You see, the science is as sketchy as my math. Anyway, following the tradition, things go to the wrong direction and the crewmen die in some new gory and creative ways – except our heroine Shaw who now officially replaces Ripley the toughest woman in the universe.

Gone is the gloomy, industrial, biomechanical world created by H.R. Giger. Ridley immerses us in a world of technological wonder, with visually stunning and believable industrial design, interface design, gorgeous and slightly unfamiliar landscapes. The first hour of the movie walks us through this world slowly, sending us from Earth to this unfamiliar landscape where the unknown lurks. The movie works on this level. Then hell unleashes. Ridley knows which buttons to push to make you jump.

I am blown away by the production design and some odd aesthetic choices. For example, the whitish-bluish giant super human (aka the engineer, space jockey) looks rather mundane at the first sight, but at time you notice a subtle creepiness about their facial structure, that they look like a marble sculpture of a greek mythical deity. Ridley also makes great casting decisions – Fassbender is intriguing as David the android with an ambiguous agenda; Noomi Rapace is the hottest item and a novelty who will shine anyway in every movie she’s in.

If you are expecting a philosophical quest like 2001: A Space Odyssey, look elsewhere. Prometheus feels grand, but works like what Ridley does best – a highly polished sci-fi/horror thriller with good taste. And nobody does it better than Sir Ridley Scott.

Prometheus is directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof, starring Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green and Michael Fassbender.

The Shining (1980) Trailer

October 26, 2011

The trailer of The Shining, that is of course my favorite film of all time, is my favorite trailer of all time. The trailer lasts for 1 minute and 30 seconds, in a still shot of blood pouring out of the elevators’ doors while the credit is scrolling up.

It took the crew nine days to set up the shot, and Kubrick being a perfectionist that he was well known of only took three takes to be satisfied. That means twenty-one days of work went into this one minute and a half trailer that crystallized the best of The Shining. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to leave a comment with your favorite trailer just right below!


The Shining is directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson and Sherry Duvall.

Read this also on Lomography!

Psycho (1960)

September 2, 2011

“Psycho” ages extremely well over the course of fifty years. Today some of the plot points have been reduced to cliché in parody after parody, but the movie is so well made that the artistry keeps it fresher in each viewing even after you know all the secrets, knots and twists.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) and Sam Loomis (John Gavin) are in love. Sam is divorced and in no condition to marry Marion because most of his money goes into alimony. Marion is sick of being stuck, and when given the chance, steals $40,000 from his employer. She runs away and stops by the Bates Motel, meets the owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who lives with his ill mother. Norman is likable and handsome at the first sight, but we quickly sense something is not quite right about him. He and Marion connect in the way that they are both trapped, and hiding a secret.

Then it comes to the most famous twist at exactly 47 minutes into the movie. Hitchcock shot it in one week, with 77 camera angles, 50 cuts, and the sequence lasts only 3 minutes (I didn’t count, the figures vary from source to source). It has to be the most studied murder sequence of all time. Notice the scene when the water goes down the drain, then dissolves into an extreme closeup shot of the lifeless eye and slowly zooms out as the life is draining away from the pupil.

Does it look like I am giving a lot of plot away? If you do not know the secret yet, expect the unexpected. In fact, Hitchcock insisted that all viewers should arrive at the cinema on time, and requested that nobody should give away the secret. In a more extreme measure, after he bought the right of the original novel, he also bought every available copy of the book to avoid the secret being given away.

This is also the last black and white film by Hitchcock, who shot this cheaply with US $800,000 and in black and white to get a cheap b-movie look. Against the studio’s wish, he even employed his television crew instead of his usual team that made his other sleek thrillers to achieve this purpose. It is as much a disguise as everything from the plot, down to the characters. He toys with us, misleads us, in order to surprise us. In a way, we are as much the victims of Hitchcock as the victims of the murder in “Psycho”.

And check out the beautifully designed opening sequence of the movie on Vimeo.

Psycho” (1960) is directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins.

The Man Who Laughs (1928)

August 21, 2011

Most viewers today will immediately associate “The Man Who Laughs” to The Joker the most notorious fictional villain of our time. That’s about the only legacy this forgotten silent movie has left today. That fixated grin is the only linkage to the joker, and in fact the movie has much more to offer still today.

Directed by Paul Leni and released in 1928, “The Man Who Laughs” is the last breed of its kind before we abandoned story-telling to visual and sound. Watching this film, you will have this constant bittersweet feeling that the late master is mastering the art to the limit within the limitation of the medium. The production is still a highly watchable and at time entertaining piece of movie making, beside its historical value. Leni even experimented with recorded sounds, such as the crowd’s noise and ambient sound of the parade.

Adapted from a novel of the same title written by Victor Hugo in 1869, the story starts with an English nobleman who has offends King James II, he is sentenced to death in the iron maiden, his son Gwynplaine is sentenced to be mutated and forever wearing a large grin on his face with the help of a surgeon called Dr. Hardquannone. Gwynplaine meets Dea a baby girl he finds in the midst of a snow storm, chances upon a good hearted showman called Ursus. Together the trio survives the hardship and makes a living out of the circus business with the famous gig of Gwynplaine the joker, who reluctantly displays his horrifying grin to put bread on the table.

Roger Ebert wrote in his 2004 review that “Movie villains smile so compulsively because it creates a creepy disconnect between their mouth and their eyes. Imagine, however, a good man, condemned to smile widely for an entire lifetime.” The horror of this movie, unlike the title otherwise suggests, is not the horror commanded by the laughing man, but instead the horror that is enforced upon him. The film is essentially a bittersweet melodrama that is told in the best of the german expressionist style, that casts a strong contrast between the good hearted Gwynplaine and the horrific chain of events around him, with unseen horror lurking in the darkest of the shadow.

Conrad Veidt shines as Gwynplaine. He also played in other famous german expressionist silent movies such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. He had to wear a monstrous denture that keeps his grin, in doing so, limits his mouth movement. The whole thing works because first it’s a silent movie anyway and the story telling relies on Conrad’s facial expression rather than words, and second Conrad’s acting with the eyes conveys unspeakable emotions that at time make his character more sympathetic than if we could hear him speaking.

I highly recommend this movie if you have 2 free hours over the weekend and would like to revisit the art of the silent movie. Movie making has gone from the story-telling, that works much like a novel, to a spectacle of sometimes grotesque visual and busy soundtrack. Not that silent movie making is in any way superior than the talkies, but if you want a good old analogue entertainment in which the creators must work much harder on the craftsmanship with wild imagination and creativity to surpass the limitation of silence, pick this up via the internet or watch below.


The Laughing Man” is directed by Paul Leni adapted by J. Grubb Alexander from a novel of the same name written by Victor Hugo.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 20, 2011

This is a truly horrifying and strangest movie experience set in a claustrophobic Hollywood mansion in the tradition of the german expressionism.

Once a famous child star, Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) never goes beyond a second rate actress, overshadowed by her sister Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) who has become a bigger star that she aspires. Blanche is crippled in a mysterious car crash allegedly orchestrated by Jane. Reclusive and bound to a small room, Blanche depends on the increasingly insane Jane on her breakfast, lunch and din-din.

It’s hard to mention this film without citing the real life quarrels between Bette and Joan which fuel the on screen hatred between the two characters, but it is Bette’s performance as Jane that makes this film instantly unforgettable. Jane applies pile of make-up on her aging and ugly face, dresses like she is still 10 years old, and buries herself in the world of fantasy and booze.

As things pile up, she becomes more violent to her sister, shutting the paralyzed Blanche from the outside world, serving her meals of contents I wish not reveal here, dreaming of a come back as she practices her old act as the Baby Jane Hudson. David Lynch has not yet created something quite like the scene as Jane dances and sings in the aging mansion.

The film is escalated from a melodrama to a true psychological thriller and ultimately the tragedy of Baby Jane when the secret is revealed near the end. Blanche is seen here as the helpless good hearted sister that we identify with all along, but she is as guilty as Jane herself in the road of greed, regret and hatred. Ended with the only redemption of two cones of strawberry ice-cream.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane is directed by Robert Aldrich, based on the novel written by Henry Farrell,