A short review of “Hellraiser: Deader” (2005)

Believe it or not, “Hellraiser: Deader” (2005) surprised me at first for being unexpectedly good for the seventh film in a franchise.  We’ve got a detailed, original, creative horror story setup, we’ve got some quite good makeup effects, and we’ve got Romania as a great atmospheric location.  I was having a good time.

Just past the halfway mark, however, this movie descended into confused plotting and incomprehensibility, half-heartedly depicted by bland directing and bad acting.  (The lead actress here illustrates for us that not every pretty girl can be an Oscar contender.)

Fans of the franchise, take note — this is only a putative “Hellraiser” movie.  The iconic “Pinhead” makes a couple of perfunctory appearances; the other “Cenobites” appear once, I think, in background.  A quick check of Wikipedia confirmed my suspicion — this was originally a standalone horror movie script, into which these characters were inserted (and pretty tenuously in terms of plot).  Clive Barker had no creative involvement whatsoever.

I’d give this movie a 3 out of 10 for an interesting first half, and I’d recommend you skip it.

You know what?  Go watch “From Within” (2008).  That’s a good horror yarn that gets too little press.

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“It Follows.” (It’s great!!)

[WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR “IT FOLLOWS” (2014).]

A smaller budget doesn’t hurt this great indie horror film; I’d give “It Follows” a 9 out of 10.

It’s smart, surreal, creepy and atmospheric, and it’s beautifully shot.  Maybe it has some similarities with “The Ring” series, and also the little known excellent horror film, “From Within” (2008), but it’s still darkly creative and original.

It’s damn scary too — it’s terrific what this film accomplished with what looks like minimal CGI.  For some reason, a certain shot of a rooftop really got under my skin.  So, too, did a sequence depicting friends unable to warn a major character, because they’re unable to see “It” approach.

I have always had a weird thing about dopplegangers.  Other people hate clowns; I get creeped out by shapeshifters.  I’m frightened by any monster that can masquerade as allies or loved ones.  It’s part of the reason that the Alien Bounty Hunter worked so well for me as an antagonist on “The X Files” (1993), and why the T-1000 scared me in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991).  Even Mystique, “The X-Men” franchise’s anti-hero, could be a little unsettling every once in a while.  (An attack on Wolverine BY Wolverine?  Leaving his confused teammates unable to help?  That’s a little creepy.)

There are a bunch of themes served up by “It Follows” that you could walk away discussing with your friends; online critics are quick to point out sexually transmitted disease.  (A little on the nose, don’t you think?)  They also pointed out mortality — this was something that I actually missed, despite the fact that it was helpfully hinted at by one character who periodically reads Dostoyevsky aloud.

I personally thought the film tapped into a bunch of sexual taboos and anxieties — especially incest.  Consider the conversation about one character kissing a sibling, a face we see in a framed photograph toward the end, and the way “It” attacks another major character.  I also saw victimization — as with “The Ring,” the victims of the monster here are presented  with a tremendous moral quandary about how they might save themselves or at least forestall an attack.

Is water a motif?  Much screen time is devoted to characters entering pools or the ocean; one person also begs for water during an attack.

And what about wealth?  Much seems to be suggested by characters traveling from an affluent neighborhood to a poor one.  And all those sweeping shots (and excellent long tracking shots) of the protagonists’ beautiful neighborhood really stayed with me.  I kept thinking about how much I’d like to live there.

I’d love to know more about the origin and modus operandi of “It.”  There is a sequel planned, according to Wikipedia; that’s one of its possible plots.

This is a terrific scary movie!  Watch it tonight!

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My quick review of “From Within” (2008)

I am blogging some of my past years’ movie reviews on Facebook.

*****

It’s Born Again Christians versus Wiccans in a Small Town Smackdown!!!  If you’re a member of either of those groups, you just might be offended by “From Within” (2008).  Neither group is portrayed favorably – you could easily retitle this horror movie as “When Stereotypes Attack.”

Still, this was a decent fright-flick.  People are attacked by their own demonic dopplegangers which, incidentally, can strike in broad daylight.  It was scary and diverting, and there were two nice surprises at the end.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

Watch the end-credits too, to get a real sense of just how things turned out for everyone.  Creepy!

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