24 Oct 2012

Is it just me or it it a bit rubbish?

Horror films, I Love them.

The Horror genre can be traced all the way back to classic gothic literature to fairy tales to campfire stories.  Whether it is a ghost story, or an old fashioned fairy tale, horror stories evoke strong emotions in us. Stories of suspense and terror can be highly stimulating, exhilarating even. I think that you can argue that culturally humor is very subjective, but as a race we fear the same things.

One of my favorite directors said:
 "We’re all afraid of death, loss of a loved one, everything you’re afraid of; I am, so there’s no secret to it."
John Carpenter

The fear of pain or the threat to your family and friends can be translated across culture, much more so than the humor of Adam Sandler or Mr. Bean.

It is no surprise then that horror movies have been part of cinema from the beginning. The 1922 Nosferatu retold Bram Stokers Dracula and thrilled audiences then and now. And since then we have seen a variety of great horror classics over the years.
A classic

 Some of the best horror films in my opinion would be; The Omen, The Thing, Halloween, Children of the Corn, Carrie, Psycho.  There are of course many more and that list is of course quite subjective. But I think most fans of horror recognize at least some of these as classics.
Another classic.

But if these are classics where are the decent horror movies of today?  Rec 2? Final destination 5, The Ring 3, the remake of the Thing, Hostel?

I know I am generalizing but allot of modern horror seems to be what I describe as torture porn. Films like Hostel lack sophistication to me and attempt to reach new lows in gratuity. Sure they are playing upon the fear of imprisonment and torture, but for me they just over load you with gore until you become desensitized to the horror and violence and it simply becomes distasteful. Even ludicrous.
Tucker and Dale was a great take on a tired story

It could be said that the stories of Robert Bloch, Stephen King and Clive Barker have all been told, and that there are no new stories. That is why there are so many sequels, and derivative films of teenagers being sexually assaulted and murdered by Hill Billies in the Appalachians. To me cultist children with farm impliments hunting people is more frightening than some inbred mutant in a mask. Not that there isn't anything wrong with a mask. Michael Myers mask dehumanises him in a way whih is much more terrifying than a eastern european with a scapel. But Mr Myers has been rebooted so many times now his image is more mundance than evocative.
Gingers! the most frightening of all horror villains.

But I don't believe that Horror is passe. I am an optimist about the scope of the human imagination, and that includes its capacity for fear. Films like   Let the right one in,  and Mama (admittedly I have only seen the preview for this) show that good classic horror can still be made.

20 Oct 2012


When I was a boy I remember having to go to the doctors.  There was a long wait so I went to the book shop across the road. I didn't really know what to read because unlike a lot of my friends I was never really into comics. Until a crazy looking comic with a blue soldier caught my eye. It was 2000 AD weekly and it cost 70 cents. I brought that comic and started collecting. Unlike many comics of the time it was British and was a collections of different stories of different characters; Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Slaine and of course Judge Dredd. 

Judge Dredd was the face of the Law in a post apocalyptic America. He was unwavering in his duties and merciless in the dispensation of justice. He was loosely modelled after the 70's Dirty Harry movies starring Clint Eastwood. But as we entered the 80's our taste in action heroes changed and Dredd became more like the stars of the time, bigger and more physical.
Original Dredd
80's Dredd was more like Stallone and Schwarzenegger

 I can't remember when Hollywood first purchased the rights for the Judge Dredd movie, but it was a hot topic amongst the fans of 2000 AD. Was Clint Eastwood too old? Was Conan better than Rambo? but that accent? Anyway after several years of debate Hollywood pictures produced Judge Dredd starring Sylvester Stallone. Many cried foul, but I was optimistic. Despite popular opinion he was a smart actor and director.  When it was released in Hamilton in the mid 90's I was one of the first in line to go and see it.  And for five solid minutes I was gleefully transported to mega city one. Unfortunately then Stallone took the helmet off, ceased to be Judge Dredd and it became some awful rom-com action film with Rob Schneider.  I still bear the scars today.

Well until today!
Because today my beautiful girl took me to see the re-boot DREDD 3D.  Now I do hate reboots, and the Hollywood studios are remaining pretty much anything these days regardless of how successful the original film was. But this has New Zealand own Karl Urban in the title role. And Mr Urban made it quite clear that he was not taking off the helmet! Huzzah Karl!http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3155666/interview-karl-urban-on-going-back-to-the-comics-and-not-taking-the-helmet-off-for-dredd/
The two versions of Dredd
 I wrote about three different synopsis for you to read, but none of them do the film any justice so I think I will talk about other things. 

Urban plays Dredd very well. The constant disapproving grimace is very reminiscent of the art of the comic. But more than just the look he captured the essence of  the source material, while adding his own take on this iconic character. The character is the faceless representation of the ruthless application of the law, but over the years Dredd evolved and grew along with his readers and fans. As one of those fans I felt that Urban was true to the entire history, not just a concept.  The screenplay writer Alex Garland who you my know form the novel  The Beach  consulted with the original creator John Wagner.Wagner liked the screen play but told Garland "Dredd should say less."  Garland listened and slashed Urbans script. This role is not a great ego boost for any actor, you never see his face and has no more lines than any of the other characters. But all credit to Urban that is what the part required and he did it excellently. 

Cadet Anderson is played by Olivia Thirlby. I have never seen her in anything before but she played the part well. Strong, but also young and empathetic to the people of her city. She gives Dredd a vehicle for his own humanity but also gave a great performance. 

Olivia Thirby as Cadet Anderson
Judge Anderson in the comics
The beautiful Lena Headly plays Ma-Ma, the Gang leader which the judges are trying to take down. Unless you are dead or just dull you would have seen her as Cersei Lannister in the Game of Thrones. She continues her role as the evil antagonist in Dredd and give a strong performance as the de facto ruler of the mega bloc of 75000 people. 

The style of the movie didn't follow the comics closely but that was fine. The comics were larger than life, and the film had a more gritty realistic feel to it. The action was brutal and bloody, but not offensively gory. Highly entertaining. 

I saw the film in3D, well you have to as this does not appear to be released in 2d which i was originally disappointed with. My girl does not enjoy 3d it makes her feel a bit woozy, so I was grateful that she made the effort. The creators utilised the 3D to create vibrant scenes of drug induced spectacle. It was at times like watching a avaunt Gard film. I thought this added rather than subtracted to the film, and as a fan of the good aesthetics got a thumbs up from me.

On the whole it was entertaining, fun and frankly cathartic. Out of all the reboots and remakes we are seeing this is a success. I can only hope that the studio picks up on this and we can see maybe another two films. 

7.5 Judging monkeys from me.