Archive for the ‘Rewatch’ Category

I started this series of rewatching movies I previously disliked with an Asian horror film, and it seems I’m ending it with an Asian horror film, albeit from a different country. I swear, that wasn’t intentional.

But before I get into the review, I want to thank you all for keeping up with this series and making it a success. Watching films I’ve hated has been no easy task. It’s time-consuming and can be almost physically painful to watch some of these duds. If it weren’t for the constant reads, likes, and comments you guys gave me, I would’ve probably stopped after film number 3 or 4. So thank you for being there and enjoying these rewatch reviews. I hope you got something from them (particularly ideas about which films to enjoy and which to avoid). I certainly did (some of which my doctor can’t find a diagnosis for).

So onto the final Rewatch Review, the 1998 landmark South Korean horror film, Whispering Corridors.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The film follows Ji-oh, a strong-willed but slightly superstitious artist at an all-girls high school and Eun-young, a young teacher who was once a student at the school. They become aware that there may be a ghost at the school targeting teachers. As Ji-oh tries to figure out if perhaps she’s connected to the deaths, Eun-young knows she has a connection to the deaths, and must try to stop them before they get any worse. Both women will find out, they both have a connection to the deaths, and to the ghosts causing them.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was watching a lot of Asian horror films when I saw this one, and I thought this one didn’t compare well to the others I’d seen at the time. Just not scary enough, and too much focus on daily life instead of spooky, scary spirits.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I found out this was one of the first horror films made in South Korea after the end of the dictatorship, and that it came with a lot of commentary on that time and on the South Korean school system, which made me see it in a whole new light. It also started a successful series of horror films set at all-girls schools, one of which involves a ballet school (and you know I’m a sucker for ballet) and was influential on Korean horror and Korean cinema as a whole. And finally, I needed a tenth movie to round out the series. Hence, Whispering Corridors.

THOUGHTS: Okay, it’s not as intense as other horror films I’ve seen, but it is a decent film.

For one thing, the story does set up a great mystery: it’s established early in the film that the ghost is masquerading as a student, and does a good job of making you guess who the ghost is. And while the body count in this film is small, they’re shot well and at times executed (pun intended) very creatively. All this contributes to create a unique, fairly creepy atmosphere.

There’s also the non-supernatural horror in the film: the school system itself. As I said above, the film features heavy commentary on the South Korean educational system, in this case the darker sides coalesced into one school. A number of the teachers make the school into an uncomfortable place to be. They’re often verbally abusive, set the students against one another and, in the case of one teacher, physically abuse and sexually harass students! I mean, my God! And all on top of a rigorous education philosophy designed to emphasize academic excellence to the point of crowding out everything else. To say the least, it’s horrifying.

That being said, the film does have its problems. The pacing can be very slow, with lots of moments involving people just talking rather than anything supernatural and/or exciting. I know some horror stories are slow-burns, but I don’t think this one should be one of them. Also, the ending is a little sappy, with a special effect that I’ve seen done better in other films.

But that’s the extent of the problems I’ve found. And considering other films with more problems that I’ve seen, I’ll take that.

JUDGMENT: I’m glad I made this film part of this series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Whispering Corridors a 3.7 out of 5. Not the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but I recommend seeing it. In a good way, it’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: while it may not be that terrifying, you should see it for the impact it has. And I guarantee that if you do see it, you won’t be as disappointed as you might be with TCM.

Just be aware that this is an extremely difficult film to find. Not kidding, I had to jump through a few hoops to find this film (hopefully the sequels will be easier to find). And you’ll likely have to go through a few too to get this one. Just warning you.

 

And that brings an end to the Rewatch Review series, for now anyway. We had laughs, we had tears, we had screams of terror or boredom. And who knows? I may do this again someday, if I can find enough films to rewatch and the will to go through it again. But right now, I think I’ll try getting through my Netflix queue.

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The great thing about three-day weekends is that there’s plenty of opportunities for catching a few flicks. So far I’ve watched Black Panther (really good, 4.2 out of 5), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (surprisingly decent, 3.5 out of 5), and this morning I caught the ninth entry in my Rewatch Review series, Mama. I honestly thought this film would be painful to watch, but…you know what, let’s get into the review.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Mama is about Victoria and Lilly, two young sisters who disappear after their father goes on a murder spree after the 2008 market crash. They show up several years later after living in the woods all this time and are sent to live with their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel. Pretty soon they start experiencing weird things and find out that the girls weren’t exactly alone in those woods. Someone, or something, was there with them. And it’s come back to civilization too.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: You know, I honestly don’t remember. I just remember not liking it when I saw it back in college.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: The director, Andy Muschietti, produced 2017’s It, and that rocked. What the hell did I miss in Mama that made studio heads select him to be the director after Cary Fukunaga signed off?

THOUGHTS: Apparently I missed quite a bit. Mama‘s a great horror film.

For one thing, the actors put their all into their characters, and it works. You really see the arc of Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain, going from a carefree rocker girl who doesn’t want to be a mom at all bonding with the girls and growing into the role of a mother. And watching the girls adjust to civilization is fascinating for each one. And seeing these three very different and clashing people come together as a family is heartwarming, but in a way that doesn’t take away from the horror of the film (*cough* unlike Before I Wake *cough*).

Not only that, but the film does know how to set up a creepy atmosphere while also using jumpscares. I found myself hopping in my seat more than a few times. And as the film goes on, it manages to up the creepiness without showing too much of the titular Mama, who for a horror movie villain is actually kind of sympathetic once you get her backstory. It was genuinely scary.

Of course, the film isn’t without its problems. At times, while Mama’s design is creepy*, the CGI used to make her can be a bit distracting at times. And the music in the final scene kind of makes this really heartbreaking scene kind of melodramatic and sappy. I’m sure the idea was to heighten the sad emotions, but it backfires for me.

And hoo boy, that movie was loud. I turned down the volume and I was sure my neighbors would knock on my door and ask me to turn it down!

JUDGMENT: I honestly don’t know why I disliked the film anymore, and I can see why Muschietti was tapped to direct It.

Mama is a terrifying but heartwarming horror movie with a great premise and wonderful characters played by accomplished actors. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this film a 4.5 out of 5. I’m so glad my opinion changed on this one.

 

Well, that’s nine films rewatched. My last one might take some time to find, as it’s not usually available in the States. Still, I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. Until next time, pleasant nightmares, my Followers of Fear.

*And is probably the inspiration of the look for the abstract painting woman from It. Not kidding, look at those two side by side. They’re basically the same character with a different style…so there’s a King/Muschietti shared cinematic universe now? It’d make sense, this movie does feel like it would fit as a Stephen King adaptation.

The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, based on one Stephen King’s greatest novels. It’s still widely enjoyed today, has been very influential on a number of films and filmmakers, and has led to numerous theories about its deeper meanings, ranging anywhere from the Holocaust or Native American genocides to faking the moon landing. Yet when it was released, audiences and critics didn’t care for the film. Variety actually called it “a disappointment,” and Stephen King himself hates this film with a passion. Director Stanley Kubrick himself has garnered controversy for overworking and even abusing cast and crew during the production of this film.

I disliked this film immensely after I saw it in middle school, which was right after I read the novel. But I’ve since learned a lot about the film’s production and influence. And given the reasons I hated the film (see below), I’m wondering if my opinion needs a change. Let’s find out.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The Shining follows the Torrance family, who have come to the historic Overlook Hotel to be its winter caretakers. Isolated and cut off from the world, the Hotel’s supernatural side comes out to play, leading to a horrifying descent into madness and murder.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: It strayed too far from the source material. Not kidding, I hated the film simply because of how much changed from book to movie, to the point it drove out all my other reactions to the film (I can be a real purist sometimes). I actually preferred the 1997 television miniseries based on the movie because it was more faithful to the book,* and no other reason.

WHY I’M REWATCHING IT: Well, you hear so much about how great the film is, and you learn a bit about its production and legacy, and you realize how much a movie differs from its source material isn’t always a bad thing. Kind of warrants rewatching it.

THOUGHTS: That was a rather unsettling slow-burner, wasn’t it?

I’ll give the film this, it knows how to set up a creepy atmosphere with great visuals and sound. For one thing, the hotel is so distinct that it’s a character all onto itself. But it’s the way that Kubrick films the hotel and the characters in it that’s great. The whole film is shot with a wide-angle lens, which means we always see the characters alone in these vast spaces. On top of that, when close-ups are done, the wide-angle lens distorts the characters’ faces, giving the film a sense of surrealism and unreality. Add in the soundtrack, which sounds more like several clashing soundtracks playing at once. Heartbeats, eerie chanting, electronic music, symphonic pieces, all playing at once. It is creepy as hell.

I also like the reveals of scares. The camera always focus on the characters’ reactions to a scare before they show the scare. We see Wendy’s reaction to what Jack has been writing before we actually see it. We see Danny’s reaction to the little girls before the little girls are actually shown. That’s not something normally done in horror.

And finally, the film takes its time setting up the horror. It doesn’t rush in to showing us the gruesome haunting nature of the Overlook, but gives us time to see how isolated the characters are before introducing elements to show how their insanity is growing/the hotel is alive. It’s pretty effective.

However, I did have some issues with the movie. For one, the actors and the characters they portray. I didn’t care for either, really. Jack Nicholson is pretty good at playing a madman, but in my experience, that’s all his performances, and there’s not much transition between normal Jack Torrance to insane Jack Torrance. Shelley Duvall as Wendy…I don’t know what it was, but I just got annoyed with her every time she was on screen. And Danny Lloyd as Danny (ha!) was passable, but let’s face it, the character in the movie isn’t as fleshed out or as deep as he is in the movie. You could change the actor out, and it wouldn’t make that much difference, because Danny in the movie is very flat.

On top of that, I wasn’t ever that scared by the film. True, seeing Jack go after his wife and son with an ax is pretty threatening, but he doesn’t actually hurt them or get close to doing so. And while the film is good at keeping that creepy atmosphere going, it never truly escalates to the point where I feel myself shift from terror.

And like I said, the novel is phenomenal. Was it really that necessary to make so many changes from the source material? Also, what’s with that photo in the last shot? Was Jack reincarnated from a previous caretaker? Did he travel through time? I don’t get it! Explain movie! Explain!

FINAL JUDGMENT: I have a feeling this opinion is going to rile some people. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Shining a 3.5. It’s creepy and visually creative, but the actors/characters aren’t that great, and the lack of terror, unexplained final shot, and important changes from the source material are issues that detract from my viewing.

Sad to say, it’s just not a film for me.

 

Well, at least I got that film out of the way. And with The Shining watched, I only have two films to go. Though I have a feeling this next one might be painful to watch…

Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares.

*And now I may have to get that miniseries again just to get a fresh opinion (Rewatch series 2?). And I’ll have to rewatch Room 237, the documentary on The Shining movie and people’s interpretations of it. And maybe reread the book? It’s been at least a decade, so I don’t remember it that well. And I should really get to reading Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. Especially since a movie version’s on the way.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

So I’m seven films into this series (click here to see the whole series), where I rewatch horror films I previously disliked to see if there was something there I missed the first time. And this time around, I’m going with a classic. By which I mean, it’s probably older than any of my grandparents. Nosferatu, one of the earliest horror films and the first Dracula adaptation, as well as an example of German expressionist film. It’s become something of a cult classic since it’s release over ninety years ago, and its villain, Count Orlok, has become almost a meme, but longer lasting.

And can I just say, my own opinion aside, it’s a freaking miracle we even have this movie? Not kidding, we nearly lost this film to copyright infringement. Prana Films, the studio that made this film, was started and owned by two businessmen who never made a film before, and apparently had no idea you had to ask permission before doing an adaptation of a non-public domain work. Bram Stoker’s widow sued the company when she found out, and the company was forced to destroy all their copies…except or two copies, which have been copied and cobbled together to preserve the film to this day. Which is why if you watch the film today, sometimes the film is pure black-and-white, and at other times it’s sepia-toned.*

Okay, enough of that. Time to talk about the actual film.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: It’s Dracula, just with everyone’s names changed: Dracula is now Orlok, Harker is Hutter, Mina is Ellen, etc. Do you need more information than that?

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was fifteen or sixteen when I saw this film for the first time. And while I enjoyed older films well before then, I just didn’t get into it. I knew the plot, so I was never surprised or scared. It was just…boring. Really poisoned silent films for me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I just thought it would be good for this series. And in any case, while I still don’t read it that much, I appreciate classic literature much more than I did then. Maybe that extended to films too.

THOUGHTS: Um…it’s not good, but I find it hard to hate.

Look, you need to have a certain frame of mind to enjoy silent films, and I’ve only enjoyed one of the silent films I’ve seen (which was made in 2005, so…), so it’s safe to say I don’t have that frame of mind.

But I did enjoy it at times…as a comedy. Yeah, I know it’s a horror film, but I just couldn’t help but laugh at the film. There was so much to make fun of! For one thing, the make-up makes every guy look like a serial killer about to take a victim, especially when they laugh or smile, and every girl like a drag queen. I just couldn’t help but giggle. (Also, the character Knock is probably the inspiration for Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Thank the make-up department for that!).

And because it was a silent film, I could just sit in my living room and make goofy voices. I remember during one moment, when Hutter comes home to tell Ellen he’s going abroad, I responded to the dialogue card by saying, “Hi husband, good to see you too. I had a wonderful day, thank you for asking. Now what are you talking about?” And when Hutter runs into another room to start packing, I said, “So this is what Marge and Lois are talking about when their husbands announce they’re about to do something stupid.” It was hysterical.

Unfortunately, the best of on-the-spot comedy couldn’t help the film from dragging. For a 95-minute film, it felt so much longer, and like nothing was happening at all. Characters just took their time, said things, and reacted to things. There was nothing to get your blood pumping at all.

I could go on with the problems I had with this film, but that’d be a veeeery long blog post. I’ll just save time by saying, I had many more issues that kept me from enjoying it.

Still, Count Orlok is cool looking, and the sets are really pretty. I’ll give the film that.

JUDGMENT: I’m sorry, but it’s just not my kind of film. I know it has its fans, but I’m not one of them. 1.5 out of 5. I’m sad to say that, due to its place in film history, but that’s just how I feel.

Well, I think I might enjoy this next film a bit more. And if I don’t, there’s a good chance I’ll be reviled in the comments for it. in fact, people might shout “REDRUM” at me. That’s right, I’m rewatching Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining next.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Also, the version of the film I watched was restored in Wiesbaden, the city in Germany I lived in for four months back in 2015! That’s really cool, if you ask me. My former home helped to create a beautiful print of a classic movie. I wonder if my supervisors knew about that?

You know, I’ve seen a lot of YouTubers do series where they watch specific kinds of stories–sequels of great hits, weird-ass anime, the Mummy series, etc.–and I appreciate what they do, but I feel like I’m getting an idea of the horrors they have to endure just to entertain me. A lot of what they watch can be really bad or silly or painful, and they endure it just to bring me YouTube commentary and humor.

How do they do it as often as they do? They must have some serious endurance.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A bunch of friends/lovers go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend, and obviously, something horrible happens. It’s the embodiment of the cliche, if not the original that started the cliche.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I saw it right before the remake came out, and I thought it was totally stupid. It was dated, the effects were terrible and cheap, and far from scary. I could not see how it became a phenomenon. And after I saw the remake and loved it, I was amazed that the original didn’t just get swept into the dustbin of history.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: You hear enough people talk about the influence of the original, and even do YouTube videos comparing both films (YouTube is a big part of my life, if that’s not obvious), you start to wonder if you missed something. It also started a phenomenon, as well as jump-started the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Not to mention that the shooting was pretty dangerous: people were actually thrown into and had furniture fall on them. Not only that, but when the characters are fighting demonically-possessed friends with sharp knives, they’re actually fighting other actors with gunk in their eyes, completely blinded, while using actual sharp knives! Kind of makes you want to see if your opinion needs reevaluating.

THOUGHTS: Ummm…it’s better than I remember it. A little better, anyway.

There are some things about this film that are good. The camera work is always interesting, showing things from points of views I don’t normally see in horror films. At times, it feels like a drone is holding the camera: odd angles, fast movements, branches and whatnot hitting the camera. There are some really atmospheric moments, like when the characters arrive and there’s this eerie music and the porch swing is knocking against the wall.

And there are some shocking moments, like the…rape-tree scene. Yeah, if you didn’t know, that’s a thing this movie has. And it’s shocking and disgusting. Which is what the filmmakers were looking for, the most shocking horror film ever put to screen at that time, so I guess they got what they wanted.

But I have a lot of problems with this film. For one thing, the shock and awe only stays shocking as long as the audience isn’t desensitized. And I’ve been desensitized since I was nine and saw my first PG-13 movie. And when that stuff loses it power, what’s left has to hold up the rest of the film, and it doesn’t do that very well. Biggest issue I have is the effects: I know they’re going for memorable and it is, but they’re very silly at the same time, and in a horror film, even when I put aside my distaste for excessive gore, that’s just going to turn me off.

While I don’t expect the characters to be that fleshed out–not that kind of film–but they could’ve done a better job of establishing their relationships early in the film. I could not tell who was dating who, and they waited till nearly two-thirds into the film to reveal that Girl #3 was Bruce Campbell’s sister. Um…could’ve pointed that out earlier. I thought she was just a fifth wheel who went with the other four so she didn’t have to feel bad about not having a boyfriend. Which she was, but the sister part should be mentioned earlier.

And weirdly enough, for the bare-bones story, it actually gave me questions. For one thing, after the sister’s possessed and one of them is badly injured, the other characters are way too calm. Why are you so calm? Your friend’s possessed! Be a bit more freaked out and active! And why are the spirits said to be “sleeping” prior to being summoned by the incantations in the Book of the Dead, but they’re able to possess a hand or cause cars to swerve into the wrong lane? They seem pretty active to me! Are they like Cthulhu, sleeping but still able to affect the world, they’re just not at full power unless under certain circumstances? I’m so confused.

JUDGMENT: It may have caused a phenomenon and started a few careers, and you should see it for those reasons, but I wouldn’t expect to be really scared once you’re past age fourteen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the original Evil Dead film a 2 out of 5. That may be the unpopular opinion, but let’s face it: some classics don’t age well with time. We saw that with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I’m seeing that with Evil Dead. And I’m not sorry for pointing that out.

At the very least, I’ll check out the next film. I hear that and its sequel are at least a bit more enjoyable. And hopefully they will be.

 

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ve already reserved #7 in this series, and I think that, even if I don’t enjoy it as a film, I’ll find it interesting from an academic point of view. I’m talking Nosferatu.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Going with a classic this time around, as well as one of the most polarizing films in horror. Some love it, some hate it. I hated it at first, but I think it’s time I see if my opinion needs to change. After all, this was one of the earliest slashers and is considered a staple of horror movies. Maybe it’ll give me a jump.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A pair of siblings and their friends go to the former’s ancestral home to make sure their grandfather’s grave wasn’t a victim of recent grave-robbing in Texas. They later come across a house filled with a cannibalistic family, including the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: In high school, I had heard this movie hyped so much among horror fans. When I finally could get Rated R movies on my own library card, I was disappointed. I didn’t jump, or feel any atmosphere. I wasn’t scared. It just felt over-hyped.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: You learn more about its production and legacy, you see some remakes and one sequel. You wonder if you missed something. Hence a rewatch.

THOUGHTS: I didn’t care for it.

Yeah, I was more aware of the film’s importance in the horror genre, but I still didn’t find myself enjoying it. It took the film forever to actually get going and become interesting. And even then, it was cheap to the point of noticeable (I refer you to the meat hook scene), there were lots of awkward close-up shots of girls freaking out, and more shouting and screaming than was probably necessary…from the villains. When damsels in distress scream, it’s fine with me, it’s kind of expected. But villains being so loud and annoying…yeah, I don’t care for it.

Yeah, it was quite the shocker in 1974, and that was the point. The film was meant to shock the 70’s movie-going audience. And it did, which lead to it becoming so famous and getting so many sequels and remakes. But to me, who is used to more gore and shock and terror from later slashers, it just feels tame and boring.

JUDGMENT: 1.5 out of 5. Watch it to see what it did for horror, but honestly, once you’re past a certain age and seen enough horror films, you’re just not going to get scared.

Don’t kill me in the comments for hating my opinion. It is what it is.

 

Next time around, I’ll be taking a look at a film that has become a staple for Halloween, but I had one particular problem with it that ruined the experience for me. It’s time to rewatch Oculus.

Well, I’m back at this again, with an odd film for my third outing. You see, I watched this film last July, and I even wrote a review. So why am I watching it again and making it part of the Rewatch Review series? Well, here’s why:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: A Puritan family is forced to move out into the wilderness and start a farm on the edge of a forest. There, a witch sets into motion events that will change the fate of this family, especially the teenage daughter Thomasin, forever.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: Well, I actually did like it. I gave the film a 3.8 out of 5. That’s a good score. However, I went into the film with different expectations based on the title (the titular witch is actually very peripheral to the story), and I had a hard time without subtitles understanding what anyone was saying, which affected my enjoyment of the film.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: Over the past year and however many months, I’ve thought a bit about this film, and how my enjoyment of it was skewed by the fact that I had totally different expectations going in. I wondered if maybe, f I rewatched the film knowing what it’s really about–not the witch, but the family she affects–I’d enjoy it more. So when I decided to do this series, I put this film on my list.

THOUGHTS: I guess I did enjoy it a bit more, but I wouldn’t raise that 3.8 any higher.

The Witch is a good film, and I go into detail why in my review. It’s faithful to the time period in all the best ways, the psychological aspects are handled very well for a first-time writer/director, and the actors are all good in their roles. With great setting and music, it’s a pretty damn good horror flick. And if you watch it with the subtitles and don’t get miffed by the witch only being in the film for about two or three minutes, you’ll enjoy yourself thoroughly.

I did notice this time though that sometimes the lighting makes it hard to make out what’s going on, though. Like seriously, I know you’re in the middle of the woods, but maybe still use some lights so we can see the characters? Thank you!

JUDGMENT: My opinion doesn’t change, but I’m glad I watched it the way it was meant to be watched. It’s still a good movie, and if you get the chance, check it out. Just remember: subtitles! Those thick accents will puzzle you to death if you allow them to.

 

Well, that’s all for this entry in the series. Honestly, it was shorter than I expected it to be. The next one will probably be a bit longer, at any rate. After all, I’m watching one of the first slashers ever. That’s right: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Bring it on!