Thursday, September 24, 2020

Capsule Reviews - Sept. 24, 2020

A random selection of films

1. Come And See (1985)

This 1985 Russian film is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Set in the Belarus region during World War II, Come and See introduces us to Flyora (Aleksey Kravchenko), a young boy who finds a rifle and joins an underground regiment to fight the Nazis. Skillfully directed by Elem Klimov and beautifully shot by Aleksey Rodionov (who employs a number of uninterrupted – and highly effective - long takes), Come and See is nonetheless a harrowing depiction of warfare and the effect it has on the individual (hopeful and vibrant at the outset, Flyora looks as if he’s aged 15 years by the end of the movie), and a late sequence in which the Nazis terrorize a small village is among the most disturbing I’ve ever seen. Ranks right up there with All Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory as one of the cinema’s all-time best anti-war films.
Rating: 10 out of 10

2. The Editor (2014)

Written and directed by the gang at Astron-6 (the creative minds behind 2011’s ultra-entertaining Father’s Day), The Editor is a crazy, often hilarious spoof of Italian horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The dialogue is so incredibly over-the-top that you can’t help but laugh, and affectionate jabs are taken at movies like Fulci’s The Beyond (tarantulas turn up throughout, for no good reason), Hitch Hike (there’s a fireside rape scene), and The New York Ripper (a dog playing fetch retrieves a severed hand). The Editor also features tons of nudity, plenty of nods to the Giallo subgenre (including a killer with black gloves), and blood and gore aplenty (in one very funny scene, a woman at an aerobics studio has her entire face ripped off). Put it all together and toss in Paz de la Huerta (as the lead character’s wife) and Udo Kier (as a bizarre doctor) and you have a movie you won’t want to miss. The Editor is an absolute blast!
Rating: 9 out of 10

3. Next Door (2005)

Wow, does this movie mess with your head! John (Kristoffer Joner), recently dumped by his girlfriend (Anna Bache-Wiig), is drawn into the bizarre world of next-door neighbors Anne (Cecilie Mosli) and Kim (Julia Schacht), a pair of promiscuous sisters intent on making his life a living hell. The theme of sexual violence runs rampant throughout Next Door, and often crosses lines that might make some audience members uncomfortable (especially a scene where John is seduced by one of the sisters), yet the ever-growing mystery that envelops the lead character is intriguing enough to keep even the easily shocked on the edge of their seat. This, along with its strong performances and a story that remains a fascinating enigma through much of its runtime, lifts Next Door to a level above that of simple exploitation.
Rating: 8 out of 10

4. Spider Forest (2004)

Spider Forest is a nifty whodunit-that also works as a horror film. Kang Min (Kam Woo-sung) believes he’s stumbled upon a murder scene in the middle of a forest and gives chase to the suspected killer, only to be struck by a car and left for dead. He ends up in the hospital, yet even in his weakened state is drawn to this mystery. With the police convinced he himself is the killer, Kang-Min decides to conduct his own investigation, but is he prepared to uncover the real truth behind these strange murders? The story eventually branches off in a number of different directions, though I never had a problem following along (thanks in no small part to Song Il-Gon’s solid direction), and while the final reveal wasn’t much of a surprise, the journey to get there - coupled with a handful of very brutal scenes - makes Spider Forest a mystery / horror hybrid that’s well worth your time.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

5. Visiting Hours (1982)

A Canadian horror flick with a solid cast; Lee Grant plays a TV newscaster who is being stalked by a killer, and William Shatner appears briefly as her boss. The highlight, though, is Michael Ironside’s amazing turn as the psychopath at the center of it all, a truly despicable guy who enjoys torturing women and photographing his victims while they lay dying. As its title suggests, the majority of Visiting Hours is set in a hospital (where Grant is recuperating from a run-in with Ironside), and there are some effectively creepy scenes. But as the story progressed, and Ironside continued his killing spree, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the complete incompetency of the hospital’s security force (which included a strong police presence). Even when the authorities knew he was coming (and where he was going), Ironside’s killer had no problem taking out patients and nurses alike. After a while, it was almost laughable, and actually detracted from the movie’s overall effectiveness (with security forces running in every direction and never finding anything, there were times when Visiting Hours looked more like a Mack Sennett Keystone Kops short than it did a horror film). Still, Ironside’s performance is reason enough to see it
Rating: 6 out of 10

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