Summer Horror 2012!
By Kristin Battestella
It’s too hot outside, isn’t it? Well, that’s just another reason to stay inside and scare yourself silly!
Medium Raw- John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) is good to start this 2010 wolf meets asylum romp. The maniacs and asylum hang-ups are indeed better than the usual haunted madhouse types, but the wolf designs are unfortunately kind of dumb. Writer/director/hero Andrew Cymek (Dark Rising) is a bit too new and weak as well, but the scary ideas and effective killing concepts are played pretty straight. Okay, so the title is totally stupid, the subtitle Night of the Wolf is even worse, the twist is a bit obvious, and there’s nothing superior here. However, the getting there is good with a few better than expected jump moments. Great claustrophobic sets allow room for dark fears to play (even if that dang title doesn’t give the film much of a chance!) and uses of red lighting, cannibalism, kitchens, and more warped fetishes add to the creepy. Modern jagged camera attempts and silly, unnecessary dream/ghost hinges over do it just a bit, but the Red Riding Hood motifs are just enough. Refreshingly not used for sexy boobs and nudity distractions, Brigitte Kingsley (W/D/H’s wife) and a surprisingly fun Mercedes McNab (Buffy) keep it all together along with X-Files alum William B. Davis. I do however, wonder why new horror movies waste time on intercutting cool credits? No one else does anymore.
The Most Dangerous Game – Based on the oft cited Richard Connell story, this hour plus 1932 short starring Joel McCrea (Foreign Correspondent, Sullivan’s Travels), Leslie Banks (The Man Who Knew Too Much), and Fay Wray (King Kong) is fast, action packed, well shot, and actually, a bit scary. So some of the early toy boat effects are shoddy, and the production borrows from King Kong. There’s over the top acting with errors of the time, granted. However, it’s all still dang entertaining- hints of pre-code scandal, cool island fortress sets, creepy taxidermy to match, isolated people on the run from a deranged and diabolical looking Banks. Candles, music, ominous mood, deadly pace – there’s even a crazy, intense, dirty chase. Though not billed as horror, longstanding staples of the genre are here, with damsels trapped in remote spooky houses and complex killers pursuing their victims in such stylish ways. Oh, and the hunting of people? Why, that’s just “outdoor chess”! Thanks to its quick length, this one is also an easy airing for schools studying one of the source story’s umpteenth publications.
The Tell Tale Heart – This black and white 1941 twenty minute short from director Jules Dassin (The Naked City) stars Oscar winner Joseph Schildkraut (The Life of Emile Zola) as the unstable murderer from Poe’s 1843 source. Establishing specifics and some back-story occupy the first few minutes, but the plot is generally faithful with a solid use of shadows and foreboding music. Off camera action, however, isn’t as intense as it could be, and it all seems a bit too short to fully build all the hatred and insanity from Poe’s succinct writing. Thankfully, the increasing intensity of the titular sounds cap off the conclusion. I confess, The Tell Tale Heart is my favorite Poe piece, and teachers or other Poe studies and enthusiasts can fit this quick drama in the classroom perfectly. As to why the short ended up as a side feature on The Thin Man DVD collection? Beats me.
Triangle – Black Death director Christopher Smith creates a great mind bending and smartly head-scratching ride in this watery 2009 Bermuda triangle thriller. There are a few scares, but the within within storytelling and multi level camera work develop more of a thinking viewer’s Twilight Zone heavy before full on gore or modern slasher horror. A decrepit and sinister ship, carefully placed mirrors, dual appearances and deceptions, and altered audience perceptions layer the plotting and paths for desperate mother Melissa George (Turistas). Though it boy Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) is iffy, his role is relatively small. Hefty concepts, time twists, and intelligent debate outshine any small scale productions here, too. I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything!
The Tomb – I tried to give this 2009 update a chance just because it was supposed to be a new and fresh take on the Edgar Allan Poe ‘Ligeia’ story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take it a half hour in-the convoluted set up, crappy location, and lame sexy were just a complete mess. I eventually fell asleep, and was so put off by what I did see that I couldn’t bring myself to rewatch. Sorry!