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Movie Review: Devil (2010) December 10, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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Unlike most people, I still look forward to M Night Shyamalan movies — even if he just produced it and came up with the idea for the story.

Yes, Devil is neither written nor directed by Shyamalan, but it is still very much his project.  It is the first film of the Night Chronicles trilogy, which deals with supernatural themes in modern society.  Without giving too much away, it’s about a bunch of strangers who get stuck in a skyscraper elevator, and one of them may or may not be the devil.

Sounds like a gimmicky film, and it kind of is, but Devil is better than I expected considering the low budget and the narrow premise.  There is an inevitability about the progression of the plot, but I was nevertheless kept guessing until the end — and knowing Shyamalan, there is always a clever “twist” or “revelation” of some sort to look forward to.

That said, potential viewers of Devil need to keep their expectations in check, for this is really not much more than an average film backed by an intriguing idea.  My biggest problem with the film is that none of the characters felt very convincing.  The situation, the reactions and the dialogue don’t feel very authentic, and as a result the film never becomes as scary as it should be.

Nevertheless, at a tight 80-minutes, Devil is a crafty little thriller that can be enjoyable if in the right mood.

3 out of 5 stars

Classic Movie Review: The Orphanage (2007) March 31, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Paranormal.
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Most of the posters for this film are very disappointing, but this Spanish one's not too bad

I’m a sucker for supernatural thrillers, and for the last couple of years I kept hearing about this Spanish film called El Orfanato (The Orphanage), the debut feature of director Juan Antonio Bayona, and produced by his good friend Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and soon, The Hobbit).

I finally got around to watching it, and admittedly, the hype is justified.

The Orphanage tells the tale of a woman who returns with her husband and son to her childhood home, an orphanage, which they intend to turn into a home for disabled kids.  Needless to say, stuff happens.  I don’t think it’s a premise I’ve seen before, but I’m sure it feels familiar.

Three things that tend to be common in ghost movies: big old house, weird noises and creepy children.  The Orphanage ticks all three boxes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s going to be a formulaic, predictable horror.  The Orphanage is multiple notches above your average supernatural story for a variety of reasons.

First, the atmosphere is genuinely creepy.  It’s a film that builds up the tension gradually, using a combination of eerie stories and spooky moments.  It unsettles you, makes you feel uncomfortable.  It rarely relies on the cheaps scares that plague horror films these days.  There are also some clever tricks that I won’t divulge, but they are freaking terrifying.  There are a couple of scenes in particular that are classics in my opinion, and they always give me chills when I think about them.

Second, you actually give a crap about the characters.  Laura, the mother and the main lead, is exceptionally played by Spanish actress Belen Rueda.  You feel her pain, her fears, and her desperation.  Rueda makes her a flesh and blood, believable character you care about.  The father, Carlos, played by Fernando Cayo, has less to do here, but he has his moments too in a subtle, controlled performance.

Third, it’s a great story!  Given the premise I described above, it would have been easy for the film to collapse into your run-of-the-mill haunted house story, but there is so much more to it.  There is mystery, intrigue, twists and turns, many of which I didn’t see coming.

In a way, The Orphanage shouldn’t even really be called a “horror” as that downplays the dramatic aspects of the film.  I think the main reason the movie has done so well (won 7 Goya awards) is because of how emotional and heartbreaking it is, in a way you don’t expect horror movies to be.

Watch it before the obligatory Hollywood remake comes out! (New Line has already acquired the rights)

4.5 stars out of 5!

The Haunting in Connecticut – Fact or Fiction? April 10, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Paranormal.
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haunting_in_connecticut_ver22

Just how much of it is true?

Yesterday I watched the ‘based on the true story’ film The Haunting in Connecticut.

First, a short review

To be honest, despite the poor reviews the film was received, it wasn’t all that bad.  It was just average, and for a supernatural horror film, ‘average’ is pretty good these days.  In my opinion, it was one of those rare horror films that actually got better as it progressed.  In the first half or so, the attempted scares were your stock standard ‘boo’ moments and the bloody, visceral shocks you’d expect to see in any regular PG-13 horror.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I found myself actually frightened a few times in the second half, and that’s a rarity for me nowadays.  I even forgot how insanely and ridiculously stupid and non-sensical (even within the confines of the film’s own logic) everything was.  And for that,  3 out of 5 stars!

Fact or Fiction?

After I got home, I started wondering just how much of the film was really ‘based’ on the true story?  Was it even a true story to begin with?  Which characters existed and what parts of the film actually happened in real life?

And so I turned to the trusty old Internets for some answers.  The results were…interesting.

(Read the rest of the true story by clicking on ‘More…’!)

(more…)

Seven Degrees…thing… March 2, 2009

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Just a quick one.  It’s been a while since I was tagged by Digital Dame for this Seven Degrees of Separation thing.  I’m ashamed to admit I still don’t know enough bloggers to pass the baton to, but nevertheless, here are 7 random facts about me.

1. I have a deep fascination in the supernatural and things we can’t explain, like ghosts, the afterlife, and UFOs.  Despite not having any personal experience with any of them (though I have read extensively and know people who have had experiences), I believe all three exist, especially the first two.  I have been struggling with religion for years (still am) and I consider myself an agnostic theist.  At least for now.

2. I am a huge, massive, enormous movie buff.  I watch around 3-4 movies a week per week during my studies, and averaged at least 1-2 even when I was working crazy hours.  I try not to discriminate between genres – I just like to enjoy good movies and even the occasional guilty pleasure.

3. I don’t drink alcohol.  Don’t mind a tiny sip at formal functions but if I had a choice I wouldn’t drink at all.  The reason: I simply don’t like the taste, and frankly I don’t understand all the fuss.

4. I can speak and read four languages at varying levels of fluency (the threshold being that I can carry on a normal conversation with it).

5. I write, eat and play racquet sports (and bowling) with my right hand but in all other sports I favour my left.  This could be the result of me being born left-handed but taught how to do most things with my right.

6. I’ve learnt various musical instruments throughout my childhood and a small part of my adult life – piano, recorder, violin and guitar.  I can’t play any of them.  In fact, I was so bad at the violin that I was encouraged to quit.

7. I love Japan – in particular the food, the cool technology and the wacky culture.  I’ve been there at least six times (I think) and I’ve even lived there for six months (where I met my wife, who was also on exchange over there at the time).

And there you have it.

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