Tag Archives: supernatural horror

The Fog (1980 & 2005)

18 Aug

Watching a master working in his prime area is a joy to behold, so watching another horror movie written and directed by John Carpenter is always a lot of fun. Today, I want to look at his 1980 horror cult classic, The Fog, and it’s unfortunate 2005 remake. The history of The Fog is almost as interesting as the movie itself, with this being Carpenter’s horror follow up to his classic Halloween, but the way the story is told and the images he uses is what makes it a memorable movie. The same can’t really be said for the remake, but that isn’t all too surprising. With that, let’s dive right in.

Let’s go back to 1980 and take a look at the original version of The Fog.

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It should be a time of happiness for the small coastal town of Antonio Bay, which is celebrating its 100th birthday with vigils and town parties. Unfortunately for the residents, an evil force is lurking just over the fog covered horizon. When a small ship is terrorized and its occupants murdered, the threat soon becomes more real. The only person who knows the truth is the town priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook). As the fog rolls further inland, more paranormal events start happening to the town, which prompts the town’s radio station host, Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), to report on the direction the fog is moving as certain member of the town work to lift the curse that has befallen them.

Following the overwhelming success of Carpenter’s independent hit Halloween, studios were eager to grab the talent (along with Carpenter’s co-writer and producer Debra Hill) and use it for themselves. That being said, The Fog is what I consider to be Carpenter and Hill’s true follow up to Halloween, and while it doesn’t quite stand up to that film’s excellence it still stands as a strong entry in Carpenter’s filmography. The biggest thing that drags this film down is the fact that it isn’t quite long enough. There’s a lot of time spent building up the mystery surrounding the town’s past and building up the cast of characters that not enough time is spent with the evil lurking in the fog. While this does act as a complaint, I will say that it also means the characters are much more three dimension than a lot in the horror genre of this time and it also gives the story a sense of urgency and depth.

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It’s worth noting the excellent cast of The Fog that brings the characters to life. Adrienne Barbeau, who was Carpenter’s wife at the time, is a good protagonist with an interesting task that makes her feel like more than just a target of the vengeful spirits. Hal Holbrook is great as Father Malone as he brings a real sense of fear to his archetypal character. Finally, it was cool to see both Janet Leigh and John Houseman have a small role in a John Carpenter film. The only person who seems underutilized in Jamie Lee Curtis, who doesn’t do a whole lot but tag along with Tom Atkins’ character.

While The Fog certainly isn’t John Carpenter’s best film, it’s still become something of a cult icon. The men standing in the fog, or even the fog rolling in from the distance to the little town has become images seared in the history of the genre, and taps into some deep, dark fear that we all have. If more time was spent with what was in the fog and the actual horror that happens in the third act, this would have been a perfect little horror film. Unfortunately, more time is spent building all that up that the climax feels less than what it should have been. Still, this is a horror movie well worth checking out.

With the new millennium came the trend to remake both foreign and domestic horror movies, and 2005 finally brought the highly unanticipated remake of The Fog.

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Life never seems to get too difficult in the small Oregon town of Antonio Bay. It’s a peaceful town with a good tourist attraction and a close knit attitude where everyone seems to know each other. This easy going way of life quickly comes to an end when an impossibly large fog bank rolls in from the sea and beginnings killing people in the town and destroying property. This grabs the attention of Nick Castle (Tom Welling) and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Maggie Grace), who start an investigation as to what could have caused this kind of paranormal occurrence. It doesn’t take long to figure out that the town they live in has been cursed by bloodshed since it’s founding, and the victims of the founder’s violence are returning to seek their revenge and to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

In terms of story, the remake of The Fog follows the original pretty closely. The main plot about specters coming in the fog to reign terror down on Antonio Bay is all there, but this movie makes some very odd and, dare I say, stupid narrative decisions. At the beginning of the movie, a whole slew of characters are introduced, which led me to believe that they would all have something relevant to do at some point. Well that was just wishful thinking, because the only people that matter are Welling and Grace’s character, and to some extent Selma Blair’s, who plays this version’s Stevie Wayne, but even this character is left with very little to do and is easily forgotten by the end of the movie. That may be one of the hugest problems this movie suffers from. It’s almost as if the writers were just making stuff up as they went along and forgot about things they wrote earlier on in the screenplay.

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Speaking of screenplay, the writing for the characters is completely derivative, both in how they speak and the dimensions they are given. There was one weird joke in the beginning that got under my skin so bad because it’s the kind of joke that only that really annoying person you know says. This whole movie is made up of characters that I really don’t like saying the most asinine things with complete sincerity. The final thing I have to say about the writing is the ending, which I won’t spoil but have to mention. It’s a completely different ending from the original film, which is fine, but it also blew me away with how stupid and unplausible it was. It’s seriously something that has be seen to be believed.

A bigger budget doesn’t necessarily make a better movie, and the 2005 version of The Fog is a perfect example. There’s obviously more money that was put into it, but the writing, the characters, and the acting were all so subpar the movie ended up just boring me to tears. I couldn’t take anything in this movie seriously, and that’s a big problem for a movie that’s meant to scare you. There’s to many jump scares and not enough actual fear. This is a waste of a movie and is best left to be forgotten.

Just to recap, I can say wholeheartedly that any fan of the horror genre should at least take a look at the original version of The Fog. It plays out like a campfire story or old urban legend happening right in front of your eyes. As for the remake, don’t pay any attention to it. It isn’t worth it.

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The Witch – Review

28 Feb

Horror movies have been in a pretty sad state recently with the constant remakes, sequels, and reboots. Does the world really need another Paranormal Activity? No, it really doesn’t. There have been some diamonds in the rough with critically successful movies like It Follows, which is one of my favorite horror movies to be released in a long time. Now we can add another intelligent and beautifully made horror movie to the rankings of modern horror classics. This movie is Robert Eggers’ debut film The Witch. Without rambling too early on in the review, let me just say that this is exactly how horror movies should be made.

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In the year 1630, a Puritan man named William (Ralph Ineson), and his family are removed from a religious plantation. The family decides to start a new life by building a house near a large forest and living off the land and the blessings they believe to receive from God. The entire family dynamic is thrown when baby Samuel is kidnapped and killed by a witch lurking in the woods near the house. After another incident in the woods harms William’s middle son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), William’s wife Katharine (Kate Dickie) places the blame of witchcraft on their oldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). As the days press on, the black magic of the witch torments the family more until the morning they finally reach their breaking point.

Like I said before, The Witch is a prime example of how horror movies should be made. Since the very first frame there’s a feeling of dread and claustrophobia. I’m not talking about claustrophobia in the sense that the family is constantly in an enclosed space, but claustrophobic in the sense that they are completely walled in by the literal interpretations of their religious beliefs. Throughout the course of the movie, the characters all make these incredibly naïve and outlandish choices and accusations, all because they depend so heavily on God’s divine intervention and judgement. This extremist mind set is almost as scary as the witch that is cursing the family, and it mirrors real life in eerily similar ways.

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What I think really makes this movie is the subtlety of it all. Scenes in The Witch very rarely get loud. Instead, the intensity and feelings of terror come from the silences, what can’t be seen, and the inability of the family to escape the tortures that are destroying them. Isn’t the monster lurking in the dark scarier than the one that you can see plain as day? Sure it is, because your imagination never fails to show you the most horrific possibility. Isn’t the overwhelming feeling of dread and helplessness more terrifying than a jump scare that you could see coming a mile away? Once again, of course it is. The Witch doesn’t rely on getting your adrenaline pumping to keep you entertained. Instead it completely infects your body with a spirit of uneasiness that may come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

Something became quite clear about this movie within the first five or ten minutes. I’ve didn’t watch the trailer for this movie, so maybe it was in there, but I had no idea that all of the dialogue in this movie is written in and spoken in old English. It took a little bit to get used to it, but once it did I really appreciated the effect that it had on the movie. It gives The Witch a very authentic feeling, along with the costume design and cinematography. It’s also really impressive that all of the lines were delivered with such ease. At no point was I confused about what they were talking about. I have to give much respect to all of the actors in this movie, but mostly to the younger actors who pulled off the dialogue just as well as the adults.

I went into The Witch not really knowing what to expect. I was just curious about it because all of the hype it got at the various film festivals. Now that I’ve seen it, I can definitely say it’s one of the better horror movies released in a very long time. It’s a very smart approach to the genre, both in the writing and execution. Robert Eggers has made a great start to his feature film making career, and I really hope he explores the horror genre some more. Plain and simply, The Witch perfectly encapsulates how a horror movie should be made.

Carrie (1976 & 2013) – Review

30 Jul

With 54 novels and almost 200 short stories, along with over 100 film adaptations of these works, Stephen King is one of the most prominent writers to walk the face of our Earth. Incidentally, the first novel he ever published was the first of his works to be adapted. This, as the title of the review may suggest, is Carrie. The first film to be released in 1976 became a horror classic as the years went on, which spawned a little known sequel in 1999 and a TV movie in 2002. Along with these was a remake from 2013, which despite what I originally expected, isn’t half bad.

Let’s start with Brian DePalma’s 1976 classic.

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High school can be tough for just about anyone, but it’s especially tough for Carrie White (Sissy Spacek). Having grown up under the roof of her Christian zealot mother, Margaret (Piper Laurie), she hasn’t been exposed to close to anything that kids her age have been, making her a social outcast and victim of extreme bullying. One day, the humiliation gets so bad that Carrie discovers latent telekinetic powers, which her mom claims to be the work of the devil. When Carrie is asked to prom by track superstar Tommy Ross (William Katt), after his girlfriend Sue (Amy Irving) demands it to atone for her bullying Carrie, it seems like her world is about to open up to new possibilities. Unfortunately for Carrie, school bully Chris (Nancy Allen) and her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) stage a prank at the prom that unleashes not only more of Carrie’s telekinetic powers, but also years worth of rage and a violent desire for revenge.

Anyone who knows the story of Carrie should be able to understand why it’s actually so important, and also an iconic staple of the horror genre. It’s a devastating story of a young girl who is pushed too far by bullies, and she just so happens to have supernatural powers to get back at them. While this is a horror film, it can also be looked at as a drama, especially since the horror that it is known for happens during the last twenty minutes of the film. The other horror is also just watching her get tormented by the students and teachers at school, but also finding no solace at home with her mother who abuses her in a different kind of way. Carrie is a horror movie with a moral, and that’s to respect everyone, no matter how strange they may be… especially if they’re also gifted with murderous supernatural powers.

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Everything about the original Carrie just fits so perfectly. Brian DePalma’s highly stylized use of split diopter lenses and split screen editing makes for a unique experience, especially for a movie like this. The performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie are also something to take note of, and they were both nominated for Academy Awards for their work in Carrie. Isn’t that odd? Two actors being nominated for a horror movie? What I’m getting at is that this is more than just a run of the mill horror movie. It’s a cautionary tale told by one of the world’s greatest storytellers, and it deserves its spot as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

So, when another Hollywood remake was released 37 years later, I kept finding myself wondering why it had to happen. Do we really need another remake of a classic horror movie? Well, like it or not, we got one so I did my best to approach it with an open mind.

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There really isn’t a whole lot of difference between this film and the original, aside from the casting and the use of technology. This time, Carrie is played by Chloë Grace Moretz and her insane mother is played by Julianne Moore. Of course all of the other kids are recast, but they aren’t really worth mentioning. What this movie does, however, is add the use of social media to heighten the level and stretch the reach of the bullying done to Carrie. The most complaints I’ve heard about the original Carrie, even given by Stephen King, himself, who loved the movie, is that it’s outdated. Kimberly Pierce, most famous for her critically praised film Boys Don’t Cry, updates the movie for today’s audience who might not have seen the original. In that way, this film still succeeds just as much as the original with a message that is universal and timeless.

This being a remake, there’s no way that I could look at this movie and not compare it to the original. One thing that I think actually did improve was Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Margaret. This may be completely sacrilegious to cinephiles everywhere, but I just think that out of every actress ever, she was the perfect choice for this part. She just does creepy and insane very well. The same can’t really be said for Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular character, however. She does a fine job, but doesn’t have the power that Sissy Spacek had. Just look at the iconic scene from the prom in the original. Spacek is genuinely terrifying in that scene, which is something that Moretz unfortunately couldn’t capture.

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Most people say that this remake, along with may others, didn’t need to happen. The original has become such a classic that that’s the one people should be watching. The reality of the situation is that a lot of younger people don’t have an interest in older movies. This version of Carrie is actually a good way for younger audiences to experience the story and hopefully learn a little something about how they treat people because of it. It definitely doesn’t reach the high standards set by the original film, but it’s a worthy remake that is actually worth checking out, if anything just for the fun of comparing.

The story of Carrie has become known to pretty much everyone, even to the people who have never seen the movie. It’s pretty cool to think that a story originally written in 1974 is still relevant today and probably will be years from now. It truly is a sad story that ultimately ends in tragedy, but it works great as a horror film as well. For purists, it may be best to stick with the 1976 classic, but (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) the remake really isn’t bad at all.