Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Round-Up#17

It's time for some more good stuff for you consideration.

Film review: The Box: Writer/director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland tales) continues to impress and aggravate with The Box, his third feature film. An astounding critical and commercial failure, and a film which boasts a pretty clever premise - a mysterious box that is delivered by a mysterious salesman to a middle-aged couple, and which has a button, if pushed, kills another human being and the couple receive a million dollar, tax free - The Box is a mind-boggling film.

Kelly has taken the short story Button, Button by Richard Matheson, and used it to make a film that is overly downbeat, frustratingly pretentious, and occasionally, just plain bad. Despite a deeply philosophical and intriguing premise, Kelly's direction, which is strangely style-less and lethargic, turns the story into a heavy-handed, melodramatic morality tale, delivered in a manner reminiscent of a passable Twilight Zone episode. Decent performances from Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella, can't save the film from being an incoherent, lifeless, if admirably bizarre, mess.

The only redeeming value: The ending, which despite being heavy-handed, is shocking and grim.

Time will tell if this is the turning point for Richard Kelly, a filmmaker who is admirably uncompromising when it comes to realizing his vision, but who also doesn't show improvement in his storytelling abilities.

Film review: Halloween (2007): Rob Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's classic slasher film, is a strange beast. It tries to distance itself from the original's aesthetics, yet generously borrows from that film's plot devises, especially in the third act. Add to that a mediocre first act, a trashy second act, and liberal doses of gratuitous violence and nudity, and you get a mostly uneven film.

That is, until the climax.

Zombie takes the ending of the original, combines it with a plot element from the sequel to Carpenter's original (also penned by Carpenter), and delivers a whopper of an ending.

Also, Zombie's take on Sam Loomis' character (the Van Helsing-type character that was Michael Myers' psychiatrist and, later, the one who hunts him down) is interesting and edgy, and is bolstered by Michael McDowell's charismatic and touching portrayal of the character.

So, is it better or worse than the original? The answer is: it is a stylish, effective, shocking addition to the Michael Myers mythos, and it's way better than most of the sequels to the original.

Extra! Victoria by Ruby Jean Jensen: This edition's Extra! selection is the novel Victoria by Ruby Jean Jensen. Although the plot is simple (and a little thin), this is a tremendously atmospheric novel, with a couple of truly memorable sequences that chill the blood. It also packs a very effective and frightening ending. A forgotten gem for fans of atmospheric, quiet horror.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves!

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