This did not turn out anything like I thought it would, and I came at this movie with two entirely different ways of thinking. One side of me retained the cynicism I had developed from the trailers, none of which managed to convince me this was going to be anything other than a standard haunted house extravaganza lacking in any real substance or coherency. Another side was coming from a place of optimism, having heard that reviews were actually calling this one a masterful Stephen King adaptation as well as a great horror movie in it’s own right. It’s never ideal to come into a movie with any preconceived notion of quality, but in this case what I saw conformed to neither. It is a movie of highs and lows competently thrown together in a manner that works, fleetingly.
“Thrilling horror… One to make the reader dread to turn around… To curdle the blood… And quicken the beatings of the heart.”
This is what is spoken during the opening credits of “Frankenstein”. A quote from Mary Shelley herself, the author of what is perhaps the most famous of novels. Never before have I considered how disturbing a tale “Frankenstein” really was until I began to read the novel recently. We are filled with images of the square headed lug’s bolted head, and this image is forever engrained, but this version of the novel brings the creature back to its roots. Kenneth Branagh stars and directs this new adaptation of one of the greatest Gothic novels to surface since the genres inception, and he does so faithfully. Much of the imagery is carried over and so are the themes and motifs, but the inconsistent narrative holds “Frankenstein” back from greatness.
Some might see the fact that a book relies somewhat on the readers ability to imagine the scenarios that are being written about as a flaw. Film is often seen as having an advantage in that it is able to portray visually what is happening without the limitations of certain peoples imagination. “The Blair Witch Project” relies on the human imagination much as a book does, and the fact that a lot of the movie involves what you can’t actually see — and often can’t hear — makes it an unbelievably effective horror film. It preys on our fear of the unknown, and does so throughout until the final gut wrenching moments of the film. The found footage horror genre truly began here, where the method was used to the greatest effect.
Horror as a genre is fortunate in that it is able to succeed in simply being a roller-coaster of emotions. The audience is played like a piano, and when we begin a horror film, we expect to be unsettled and terrified by what we are about to witness. Unfortunately, making a genuinely scary film is a lot tougher than one might anticipate, in a surprisingly similar way to how difficult it is to make a good comedy. “[Rec]” is a Spanish horror film that is able to get into the action fast and from then on, fully succeed in creating varying degrees of terror and false sanctuary. Even if “[Rec]” doesn’t scare you, it is nigh on impossible to be truly bored by the brief affair.
Ah, The “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, one of what I call the “Big Three” of the slasher genre, along with “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween”. Those who have seen all of these movies, or even just a fair few, know that the endless sequels were almost all tosh. If there is one thing worse than the slasher sequel though, it’s the horror remake. All three of these franchises have been remade and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is the last to get this treatment, and oh boy oh boy, I can’t wait to tell you how disappointing it is.
So we’re here again for even more of “The Twilight Saga”. The addition of the word “Saga” depressed me in the last film, “New Moon”, because by then the idea of watching more “Twilight” seemed like a strange from of oriental torture. I’ve had the misfortune of watching “Eclipse” four times now (Through a chain of events I barely remember, never mind want to go into) and I can safely say it’s better than “New Moon”, but then again, so is strangling puppies. It’s always upsetting to find that after the last film, people still went to see “Eclipse” in droves and helped solidify it’s presence as a blockbuster. Enough about how I hate more people than I am even acquainted with and onto what I thought.
What we get now, are horrors, slashers and action movies that are too focused on throwing action right in your face without so much as saying please first. What “Alien” realises, like “Jaws” before it, is that part of the splendour of these films is mostly found away from the explosions. “Alien” is special for many reasons but particularly because it knows exactly how much to show you and how little as well. Ridley Scott uses restraint perfectly and the end result is one of the best science fiction movies of all time but also one of the best movie movies of all time.
I considered not mentioning it, you know. Maybe, I thought, maybe it would be noble of me to completely ignore it and not mention its significance. After all, if I ignored it I would heavily imply that it’s not an issue and that’s where I would like it to be ideally. The main cast of “The Descent” is entirely female and at no point did it ever feel unnatural. Of course, the truth of the matter is that it is unnatural for horror movies to have such an emphasis on an all-female cast that keeps its “personal belongings” personal, but at no point did it ever feel weird or forced and the characters that are weak are not weak because they are female. They are weak because they are weak, it really is brilliant to see. I’m not going to say that I believe all movies should have a solely female cast just to be feminist, but that “The Descent” has proved that it is perfectly believable seeing women survive in tough situations and fight for their lives as any man could and would.