Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: Hard Candy (2005)

Exploiting themes that probably shouldn't be exploited, I expect Hard Candy would have been offensive if it wasn't so ridiculous.

It's a shame because the opening 15 minutes could have been the start of a much better film. Ellen Page's performance is sensational and David Slade's direction is impressive but, the screenplay is so contrived and exploitative, it's difficult to appreciate their fine work.

I honestly think writer, Brian Nelson, must have had the infinite improbability drive blowing smoke when he concocted the ludicrous ending.

This sort of thing can, and has, be done better: look no further than Death And The Maiden (ironically, a Roman Polanski film) for evidence of this.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nooooo! Minister: Tower Of Evil (1972) Review

Have you ever watched an Agatha Christie movie and thought to yourself "this is good and all, but it could really use some more blood and gore and tits and ass"? No, I don't watch Agatha Christie movies either. But I imagine the creators of Tower Of Evil did and they were probably thinking along these lines when they created... well, you know... Tower Of Evil.

The titular tower is actually a decommissioned light house that sits upon a rock called Snape Island. We first see it when a couple of caretakers arrive on the island only to discover three brutally slain bodies. For reasons that aren't immediately obvious, the caretakers don't seem surprised by the carnage, but they are caught off guard when a crazy young woman emerges from a cupboard in the disused lighthouse (sorry, in the Tower... Of... Evilllll!) and stabs one of them to death.

The authorities quickly deduce that the crazy young woman, now hospitalised in a catatonic state, was a friend of the three dead people, and that she must have flipped out and murdered them, along with the caretaker who we know she stabbed. But the girl's family doesn't buy it, so they hire a private investigator to find out what really happened.

In order to get to Snape Island, the PI hitches a ride with a group of archaeologists who had planned to visit the island and search for ancient artefacts before all the murder and mayhem had broken out. Not surprisingly, for a movie of this genre, when the ensemble gets to the island the murder and mayhem resumes.

"I'm just saying... if you want to be taken seriously as an archaeologist, you might want to reconsider that outfit."

Tower of Evil is a strange mix of sex & violence exploitation, fine British character acting, and salacious innuendo riddled dialogue. All the archaeologists seem to have some sort of sexual history with one another and are either constantly flirting or denigrating each other, with ribald language, in between getting murdered. And when they're not getting murdered or having saucy conversations they are delivering plot-driving expository dialogue with more conviction than an actor in this kind of film has any right to.

Consistent with the uneven tone is the uneven pacing. There are moments when the film is effective and suspenseful, but there are other times when there's not much of anything really happening. The characters constantly separate, for no logical reason, making portions of the film feel repetitive; "Oh, no, someone died, let's split up and look for clues... Oh look, someone else died, let's split up again and look for clues again."

Beyond the film's strangely uneven tone and pace, the most distracting element for me was actually seeing a young Derek Fowlds playing one of the archaeologists. To me Fowlds is, and always will be, Bernard from TV's Yes Minister. How did this mild mannered public service secretary get caught up in this rambunctious affair? I know it's unfair to criticise a film for casting an actor because he will be typecast 10 years in the future, but I still found it distracting.

At the risk of sounding like a perennial fence sitter, Tower Of Evil was just another horror pic, in a long list of horror pics, that left me feeling ambivalent. It's not good, but it's not bad either. It just is. I'm sure Agatha would not be happy with such an ambiguous conclusion.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quick BIQ Review: Beerfest (2006)

Beerfest is a complex, multi layered film that defies easy analysis.

At its heart is the simple tale of two American restaurant proprietors, of German ancestry, who are asked by their aging grandmother to return the ashes of their recently deceased grandfather to Germany. When they get to Germany the seemingly simple task becomes unexpectedly complicated due to a number of complex cultural and family issues.

Beerfest is a beautiful movie going experience that delves deeply into cultural cross-pollination, with a loving emphasis on the ubiquitous, age old, amber fluid. The American makers of this impressive feature film even respect German Purity Law that stipulates Jurgen Prochnow must star.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Top 5 Nightmare Inducing Movies

It's becoming increasing rare for horror movies to genuinely frighten or unsettle me, and I can't remember the last time a movie actually gave me nightmares. But, I have to admit, I haven't always been such an unflinching hard-core bad-ass.


In fact, I remember, as a youngster, several movies gave me terrible nightmares. I've seen some of these movies again as an adult and am amazed by how innocuous they are.

So just for your amusement I thought I'd share with you the top 5 movies (in no particularly order) that emotionally scarred me as a child. Enjoy...

Phobia (1980)

I don't remember being overly frightened by Phobia whilst actually watching it (on TV), but I do remember it giving me some of my most vivid nightmares when I went to bed straight after it.

The story is pretty simple; a bunch of different people with different phobias are attending group therapy, when they suddenly start dying one by one in circumstances related to their phobia. It's possible I didn't even watch this movie all the way to the end but I distinctly remember being awoken, more than once, by a nightmare where I met the same fate as the claustrophobic character in the movie.

I haven't revisited Phobia since seeing on TV in the early 80's, but I'd be willing to bet that it would have no way near the impact today as it did 30 years ago.

Alien (1979)

Alien is probably the only movie that gave me nightmares as a kid that is actually still pretty effective today.

Again, it was the early 80's, when I watched Alien on TV immediately before going to bed. I don't remember the specifics of the nightmare(s) but I remember waking several times that night from "bad thoughts" sown from the seeds of having watched Alien.

I can watch Alien now, impervious to its scares, but I can at least see why it scared the begezus out of me as a kid.

Trilogy Of Terror (1975)

If you ask anyone, who saw this anthology movie in the 70's, what they remember of it, there's every chance they will recall the "Voodoo Doll" segment but nothing else. That's certainly the case for me. For all I knew the "Voodoo Doll" segment was the whole movie.

The thing about the "Voodoo Doll" segment that literally sent chills through my pre-pubescent body, sometime in the late 70’s, was its shocking conclusion. Few things have creeped me out as much as that finale.

I happened to catch Trilogy Of Terror again on TV sometime during the early 90's and... well... I can't think of a euphemism that adequately disguises how laughably bad it was and how much of a wuss I must have been as a kid. Again, I can't remember the other two segments (it seems that they just refuse to stick in my memory), but the "Voodoo Doll" segment again stood out, this time around, for its pure ridiculousness. It's just so weird to think that something so silly gave me nightmares as a kid.

The Last of Sheila (1973)

Of all the movies that gave me nightmares The Last Of Sheila is the one I really want to revisit the most.

I don't remember what it was about. I don't think I watched all of it. And I don't remember what happened in my nightmares. But, I do remember watching part of it on TV at my Grandmother's (probably in the late 70's) then going to bed and having multiple nightmares.

The IMDB score is surprisingly high so I’d really like to see it again. Unfortunately, no Australian distributor has released it on DVD. One day, maybe.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

OK, I'm cheating a little here because A Nightmare On Elm Street didn't actually give me nightmares. Phobia, Alien, Trilogy Of Terror and The Last Of Sheila are the big 4. But "Top 4" sounds kind of lame so I've picked A Nightmare On Elm Street as filler for my "Top 5" nightmare inducing movies.

Whilst A Nightmare On Elm Street didn't give me nightmares I did nearly poop my shorts when watching it on VHS at home alone one day in the mid 80's. I figured watching it in daylight might make the experience less scary, but I soon realised that being alone in daylight is actually scarier than night time when you have company.

So, anyway... about half way through the movie, during one of the film's many quiet suspenseful scenes, the creaky concertina doors in the front hall of my parent's house blow open. Now, I've not had it medically diagnosed, but I'm pretty sure I had a mild stroke when this happened. It scared every fibre of excrement out of me. Now, you might well say, "but BIQ, the doors scared you not the movie". Not true. Those doors had a habit of blowing open and it had never bothered me previously. But when it happened at that time during that movie... it was a like a real live waking nightmare.