Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wolf Creek (2005): The Halloween Fifteen

Ryne over at The Moon Is A Dead World has devised a plan so cunning so as to entertain us throughout the entire month of October.  It's called The Halloween Fifteen, and surely this is the "We Are The World" of the horror blogging community.  My humble part in this extravagant plot is to simply review the film Wolf Creek.

All told, Wolf Creek really is a simple story: Three adventure-hungry youths take on the isolated Wolf Creek Crater in Western Australia.  They become stranded there, far from anything remotely resembling civilization.  Help arrives in the form of friendly Australian gentleman, Mick.  As soon as Mick is trusted, it is revealed that he, well, should NOT have been trusted.

Director Greg Mclean is the captain of this ship.  He begins the film at a leisurely pace and let's things meander as we get to know the cast.  We see excessive pool partying, excessive drinking, and excessive flirting.  All this serves to introduce us to the 3 main leads:

Ben, the confident yet sensitive city boy,
who may or may not have a crush on Liz.

Liz, the resourceful and quick-witted life of the
party, who may or may not have a crush on Ben.

Kristy, the wet blanket/third wheel, who may or may
not be bitter that she's boyfriend-less on this outing.

Group shot!

As the film progresses, we are treated to many Australian locales, from the suburbs to the highways, a hole-in-the-wall bar to the sprawling plains.  Visually there is a lot to take in, which is impressive considering the sparseness the film maker is trying to convey.  And once we get to the heart of the story, the film does a great job of portraying the middle-of-nowhere helplessness of the characters effectively.

I mentioned the slower pace of the first hour or so.  It's intentional, and never feels like the film maker was lost to what he was doing.  It was the right way to set this story up.  We spend time with these three characters, and we are able to identify and empathize with them.  By the time we see bad stuff happening to these good people we've spent enough time with them to feel that they deserve to survive this nightmare.

I won't go into all the intricacies of the story.  Watching how things unfold is half of the fun.  Having said that, the story is not what's important here.  The real meat of the film is in its performances, and misdirection of the audience.  Each cast member gives their all (with a slightly off-putting turn by the male lead toward the end) and is fairly believable in their reactions to their new found stress.  But the real star of the show is John Jarratt, who plays Mick.  He's fucking RELENTLESS:

Geez, and this picture is from one of his more tame moments.  Mick can play friendly, menacing and creepy all in the same scene.  In scenes where he is in full on Crazy Mick mode, it's underlined by the fact that he is always in control of his actions.  Not once is he unaware of what is happening around him, and his actions are precisely calculated.  Mick is a hunter, and he does this to people because he can, plain and simple.  And that laugh of his is haunting...

There are several sly misdirections from the director. One precedes the 'head-on-a-stick' scene.  One happens toward the end on a lonely stretch of highway.  I don't want to give them away because they are pretty effective.  There are many scenes where the leads seem to be making progress and then things blow up in their faces.  It's the typical 'one step forward, two steps back' scenario, but it works well in this film and keeps the viewer unnerved.

At one point, this kind, old man shows up, but isn't really any help to anyone.  His intentions were pure, but let's just say he won't be attending the annual Gorton's convention this year...

When all is said and done, the slow build first hour is a great set up for the bat-shit INSANE finale.  The movie poster claims this was based on true events, but I'm not aware of the supposed real life incident, so I can't comment on that.  What I do know is despite a bit of a weak ending, this movie will make you give pause the next time a stranger offers you help.

Here are a few things I took note of while watching the film:
-the travelling montage while not boring, is quite forgettable.
-the locals at the bar worked hard at making us hate them, but nothing came of it.
-'head-on-a-stick' is largely effective because Mick is explaining what he's doing to his victim.
-not only in America, but old men wear funny hats in Australia too (refer to above photo)
-only 5 cast members have names in this film, 19 actors are listed as "Pool Party People."  

In closing:

Wouldn't you trust him?  He seems harmless enough, doesn't he?  (WARNING: If you answered 'Yes' to either of these questions, it is very likely that you have been, or will be, one of Mick's many victims)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Victim Tally Of Jason Voorhees

It's no secret I love the Friday the 13th films. I saw this graphic at Zombots and just had to have it. It didn't say who originally designed it, so I can only give credit to my source. Feel free to steal it from me, and maybe the designer will come forward so we can all shower him/her with adoration.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Did You Know?

The only movie in the Friday the 13th series to not say the name "Jason" is:

Friday the 13th Part 3

I know Ginny says his name in the flashback to part 2, but I think it's kind of neat that they never use his name in the movie proper. I wonder if the film makers were trying to make Jason seem more like a "boogey man" by doing this.

Who knows?!

I'm Just Sayin'

I bought this little bluray disc a while back. Maybe you've heard of it. Here's the front cover:

Of course, I've seen A Nightmare on Elm Street many times, so this was promptly added to my collection shelf without a viewing...

where it sat...

for a long time...

until tonight.

I grabbed the disc from the shelf and threw it in the player. As the film loaded, I amused myself by reading the back of the movie case. And let me tell you, sir or madam, I was embarrassed by what I read:

You may not be able to read the tiny text, so I'll also type it out for the ease of your tired eyeballs.

"1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you." And here he is, phantom fiend Freddy Krueger in all his razor-fingered infamy. Wes Craven (Scream movies) directs this trendsetting first in the slash-hit series. The premise is simple: Freddy (Robert Englund) homicidally haunts the sleep of Elm Street teens. The results are terrifying and mind-blowingly innovative. There’s another film debut too: Johnny Depp. He plays the ready steady of the hottie mcsmarty (Heather Langenkamp) who figures a clever way to flambĂ© the fiend. But ever-say-die Freddy will be 3, 4 back for more…even returning to the screen in a killer 2010 remake of this diabolical original. Sweet dreams!

I guess with a movie of this reputation you don't need to try real hard to synopsize the story, but come on. Try a little bit. I wasn't only embarrassed for the person who wrote it, but for myself. I thought someone was going to come along and ask me what I was reading, and I would have to tell them. And they would laugh at me.

So, I guess there is no real point to this post, other than to preempt the person who sees me reading this bluray cover. Then I can refer them to this little corner of the interwebs and say "I agree with you. That movie synopsis sounds silly."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Something To Look Forward To...

Another foreign film doing something original. And it looks awesome!

Frozen (2010)

It's that time again. Final Girl Stacie Ponder, has invited us to "watch a movie together." There are some rules though:

1) You have to remember to actually do it (I have missed the due date more than once).
2) We all reconvene at Stacie's place, to share our thoughts.
3) B.Y.O.(whatever you're into).

It's really a good time, though occasionally things get out of hand. I'm waiting for the month when Stacie provides all the guests with mysterious little floating coffins inside a bigger coffin...

Anyhoo, onto the feature: Frozen (2010)

Adam Green is a strange case. He's hard to pigeon-hole. There are few people that I talk to that like all of his stuff all at once. He's got the over-the-top grotesquities of the Hatchet series. Then he's got the low-key subtleties of Spiral. With Frozen we get yet another side of Green's storytelling skills.

(obligatory quick rundown of plot, even though we all know what's what) Frozen is about 3 college students who are left stuck on a ski lift over the course of a few days.

Frozen gives us a character driven dramatic piece, where gross things happen. We learn to like the characters (for the most part) and we really do root for them to escape this horrible situation. I admit, the aforementioned situation seems a bit silly when describing the film to others. Only when watching the film does it become "real." The cast plays it straight, and the situation that once seemed ludicrous becomes something you'll think about every time you ride up a ski lift.

The whole movie takes place on a mountain. I can't remember where this mountain is supposed to be, or if it's even a real-life mountain or a fictional place. I guess that doesn't matter. What matters is the situation we are presented with quickly deteriorates over the course of a short while. Nothing these characters do can improve their situation without serious consequence.

The film is good. But not great. Everything was shot well. It was well acted. There was great tension where appropriate and their was a great sense of hopelessness throughout. It's the little things that drag it down a notch. Why wouldn't these characters huddle together? Why wouldn't they cover their exposed skin? Little things like that are what I thought about after the film. It's still an effective film, but it's the details that people notice, you know?

At the end of the day, I can recommend this movie (and have). It's tense enough, and bloody enough to satisfy most horror fans without going too far for other types of movie fans. It's survival horror, and that's what strikes a chord with people: "What would I do in a situation like this?"

Looking around the interwebs, I found a cool fan produced movie poster for Frozen:

Not too bad, methinks. Artist Kevin Tong goes a different direction than the official movie poster (at the near-top of this post) while keeping all the main elements intact.

As always, I've enjoyed my time "watching a movie with the gang." I'll look forward to the next Film Club. I wonder what hospitality our host will provide next time.

 Oh, and you can also find Stacie here and here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


2010 wasn't really a great year for movies. Or was it? I was looking through my movie collection wondering what happened with 2010. There wasn't a lot of gold to be found, but there was plenty of silver and bronze.

Maybe our beloved genre had a weak showing last year. Maybe this year will be better. Only time will tell. All I know is that while 2010 wasn't the year for tour-de-force cinema, it certainly was a fun year at the theater (and at home).

I kept saying to people that 2010 was the year of the action movie comeback. There were a ton of action movies that hit this year, and it kept things fun. And while the action genre overshadowed the rest (as far as my small scope perceived anyway), there were a few good comedies, horror movies, dramatic pieces, and documentaries. The point is: The more I kept digging, the more good stuff I found. Some great stuff, but mostly good stuff.

This certainly isn't an exhaustive list, by any means. This is just what I had the most fun with, or took the most from. And there are a few movies that I really enjoyed but would be ashamed to say so (Clash of the Titans, anyone?). Also, the small screen saw a giant release this year: The Walking Dead. While it was only 6 episodes long, it was still quite a big deal.

Bottom line: 2010 wasn't the lost cause that I thought it was after all. In fact, I really quite enjoyed it.