When vampires have taken over the world, feeding off humans, one vampire abstains & hopes for a way out; a way back to humanity.
This is not for the fainthearted. However, if you want to see a compelling, though disturbing, look at the misogyny inherent in Roman Catholicism: press play, if you dare.
The House of the Devil. 2009. Directed & Written by Ti West.
Starring Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen, Dee Wallace, Heather Robb, Darryl Nau, Brenda Cooney, Danielle Noe, Mary B. McCann, John Speredakos, Lena Dunham, and Graham Reznick. MPI Media Group/Constructovision/RingtheJing Entertainment/Glass Eye Pix. Rated R. 95 minutes.
Ti West is one of the modern horror directors I think you could say is an auteur in his own right. All of his films have a similar feel, maybe all aside from The Sacrament, as in they’re all done on film (again aside from the aforementioned last of his films to come out), they have the full, rich look of movies from the 1970s and 1980s. Not only that, West is great at drawing out the tension of a film to create atmosphere and to setup excellent uses of suspense.
The House of the Devil is no exception. I’d actually seen this before any of his other work before, and loved it so much I went back to see anything else he’d done I could get my hands on. The Roost is a highly underrated indie horror gem, even Trigger Man – an early attempt at shooting digitally – has its merits. Since then he’s done The Sacrament, of which I’m a big fan, and another fun little spooky flick called The Innkeepers. Loves titles starting with The!
With this movie, West throws back to the ’70s/’80s Golden Age of Horror, not deliberately making a period piece but still harkening directly back to that time by use of similar techniques, camerawork, music, and aesthetic filmmakers were in the habit of using. Essentially, The House of the Devil ends up as West’s scary love letter to movies he grew up, the vibe of filmmaking happening at the time which influenced him, as well as he gives us a slow burn horror rooted in the false Satanic Panic especially prevalent during the 1980s. If you don’t like a slower paced film, this won’t be for you at all. If you don’t mind letting a horror build, letting it grow on you, then give it a shot; you will not regret it.
Trying to get out on her own, away from terrible roommate living, college student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) ends up taking a mysterious job babysitting for Mr/Mrs. Ulman (Tom Noonan & Mary Woronov). Mysterious due to the fact the Ulmans don’t have a child. The job is, in reality, for Mrs. Ulman’s mother who lives with them. After some negotiating, Samantha gets a massive payday all for a single night. Her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig) tags along to make sure everything is fine, and though not entirely satisfied she leaves Samantha at the house, almost literally in the middle of nowhere with the Ulmans.
And once they leave, Samantha slowly begins to feel as if something isn’t quite right in the big old house. Not to mention a young man named Victor (AJ Bowen) blasts Megan’s face off just a little ways down the road.
Nobody ever told Samantha babysitting would could be so hard.
There are lots of things to admire about The House of the Devil. While big films often try to go for period looks – such as how Martin Scorsese for instance did the different portions of his Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator according to how films looked at various instances throughout the 20th century – it is’t often an independent movie, horror at that, will try and emulate the particular look of certain decades. West not only shot this on film, but 16mm film, which gives it a great look that was very popular in the 1980s. Other ways West achieves his retro feel is through the zooms, nowadays a technique you’ll mostly see done through use of a dolly shot. Even right at the beginning with the freeze frame on Samantha, music playing, movie title in big block letters; totally ’80s style, through and through. Down to the fact this was the only movie since A History of Violence in 2005 which got released on VHS in one of the clamshell style cases, this is a unique and fun indie horror. So there’s a quaint charm about West’s film I feel gets lost on a lot of people who don’t care about any of that. Should you care? Well, that’s totally subjective. Me, I think there’s a certain artistry involved with all the care that goes into making a movie into more than just a movie, but instead making it become an experience. The House of the Devil, for me, has always been a solid horror while also very much being a horrifying experience all around because of its style.
When Samantha puts her ear close to the door, asking if “everything’s all right in there”, the slow and brief reveal West gives us of the Satanic-like markings, the bloodied corpses on the floor is shocking. It’s not shocking like the scene is going to make you gasp, or lose your breath and hide away. This shot and the scene is shocking in that you’re not expecting such blatant nastiness right behind the door. Even how slow West shows us what’s in the room is incredible, as I was expecting something more along the lines of the ‘mother’ in the dark, looking sinister in the corner, or anything close to that. Instead, it’s a pretty ballsy visual, such that West announces at this moment things are definitely going to start getting savage. At some point, anyways. Afterwards there are more moments of horror later like this, and also some key shots of very dreamy imagery in certain scenes. Generally, West strikes a nice balance between these two methods.
When Samantha discovers the full extent of what’s happening in the house (think: drinking blood from a horned skull), the plot takes us into the depths of horror. Mixing subtle creepiness with plenty solid doses of nasty violence, the finale of the film plays out with pumping adrenaline in a sequence washed with blood. In particular, a few shots remind me of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, almost homage-like cuts to a hooded demonic character much like how Friedkin made several subliminal cuts to the Pazuzu demon in his film.
Most of all, I found the atmosphere of the film combined with the characters pretty damn eerie. Such as the Ulman family themselves. First there’s Tom Noonan whose creepiness knows no bounds, never once calling back to his stint as The Tooth Fairy a.k.a Francis Dolarhyde in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, which is an unfair criticism of his acting I often see when he plays in horror movies; here, his character is all its own and he plays it quietly with great nuance. Then Mary Woronov does a spectacularly unsettling job with the character of Mrs. Ulman, even in the brief time she’s actually onscreen. Of course, Jocelin Donahue as Samantha is a perfect fit – she’s an ongoing yet at times quiet sort of person, but there’s a strength Donahue gives the character which is really great and adds something to the story. Throw in AJ Bowen and Greta Gerwig as interesting, smaller characters, and I’ve got to say West’s screenplay is a tight one with plenty of intrigue and none of the heavy, sagging exposition of other horror movies trying to spell every last thing out through dialogue.
This is a great film, 5 stars in my book. Ti West could’ve done a typical slasher with this, however, he opts to draw on his biggest influences from the ’70s/’80s and some of the real life yet fake claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse from decades ago, crafting a unique indie horror experience. Great and classic sensibilities show in the way West handles his directorial duties, as well as his writing. I can’t say anything else except for: watch it. Maybe you won’t dig it. But those who are into a slow burn, atmospheric type of horror, it’s full of that and it’s only a little over an hour.
Let me know what you think of the movie in the comments below, as long as you can be civil and have a proper talk!
Saw VI. 2009. Directed by Kevin Greutert. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Athena Karkanis, Samantha Lemole, Tanedra Howard, Marty Moreau, Shawn Ahmed, Janelle Hutchison, Gerry Mendicino, Caroline Cave, and George Newbern.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
In this Saw outing, Kevin Greutert takes up the reigns of the series. He’s primarily been an editor, having worked on every entry in the Saw series up until now (those duties were taken over by Andrew Coutts). With another screenplay from writing team Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, Greutert attempts to somehow extend the legacy of Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer into another film.
Luckily, this one cuts back down to a 90 minute runtime, something other entries might have benefited from as well. Problem is, no matter how lean and quick things get there seems to be a progressive drop into full on gore for gore’s sake, which began a couple sequels ago. Even worse, the screenplay does not match up to what they’re attempting to do. There are good things here in Saw VI, but not enough of the original atmosphere and tone of the series remains for me to feel like this movie belongs anywhere near the top few.
With a couple interesting traps and a fun, plausible step in the story of Jigsaw, there’s enough to watch through once. But unlike the first and third entries of the Saw series, I can’t see myself putting this on again (this was my 2nd viewing and twice was too much). Going for too many characters, too many switches between subplots, I feel like this sixth entry of the franchise doesn’t do much except try to come up with more elaborate traps in which to toss more fodder characters for murder’s sake. Maybe enough for some? Not for my liking. There are gore films I enjoy, but this one doesn’t even go for scary, not really so much CREEPY either; it aims only for disgust and shock horror, nothing else.
Saw VI shows us what happens after the previous film, when Agent Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) makes it out of the house of horrors where Agent Strahm was crushed to death. Now the noose is slowly slipping around his neck, as the other law enforcement agents around him close in on the Jigsaw Apprentice; to Hoffman’s surprise, Agent Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) is still alive after suffering terrible injuries in Saw IV. We get further flashbacks of Hoffman with Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his wife Jill (Betsy Russell), as well as Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) who was the other apprentice to Kramer.
At the same time, a health insurance executive named William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds himself in the clutches of a new Jigsaw game – having been the one to effectively sentence Kramer to death, not providing him coverage for an experimental treatment to help his cancer. Facing most of the people he knows and loves, the few they are, locked into a whole crop of terrifying traps, he must face the gauntlet or watch them all, as well as himself, die.
Immediately something I did enjoy was the first trap involving this film’s main character, the seedy insurance agent. Reason being is that, while gruesome, the graphic nature of that entire scene opted not to be too extreme – the most we get is a splash of blood, really. And that’s fine. Because sometimes, less is more. Particularly when the series has strayed wildly into the area of so-called “torture porn” (fucking hate that dumb label though). Giving us a creepy trap which works effectively without needing to go for complete blood and gore is something rare at the tail end of the Saw series, so I’ve got to give them props for that in terms of writing and production design, all around stellar job on this sequence.
Furthermore, while I do think stretching a series out is not always a great idea, there’s something genuine which strikes me about the plot and story of Saw VI, as a logical progression in the overall tale of Jigsaw. Bringing in the whole insurance angle is not far fetched. And though you can certainly still ask why bother to extend the series, I don’t think there’s much use in trying to tear down the logic behind the story. Not saying everything in the plot is plausible, not whatsoever, merely that I think the story of the insurance agent coming into play is sensible, as Jigsaw would’ve no doubt found their practices enough to warrant ending up in a trap. Which, of course, they do.
To be honest, an aspect of this screenplay I could’ve done without is so much of John Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) wife. I know she’s part of the story, I know it needs to be sorted out, yet so much of it feels like it’s mashed in, tacked on for good measure. Again, the whole insurance agent plot is something I find pretty good, but all the stuff with John and Jill (Betsy Russell), even the stuff with Agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), it all feels INCREDIBLY TIRED. Mostly, I feel like they should’ve just kept the main focus on Jigsaw instead of involving so many other characters around him. Once more, I know the writers can’t simply ignore characters and start leaving them out, but at the same time this already trim 90 minutes could’ve probably been trimmed a couple minutes more for scraps.
There are some incredibly tense bits, for instance the STEAM TRAP involving William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) and his attorney Debbie (Caroline Cave), which I found pretty wild. It had me on edge watching Debbie trying to make it through that rough cage maze with the steam. Nasty. But then that tension gets ruined with too much switching back and forth between the traps and those characters involved, as well as showing bits with Jigsaw, Jill, Agent Hoffman, even Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) is back for more action with new scenes for the first time since Saw II. There’s simply too many different things happening. Nobody can tell me I have a bad attention span or anything like that – check out the movies I love, and the sheer number of films I’ve seen over my 30 years on earth. There’s just TOO MUCH HAPPENING, not in a good way. Far too many characters for this 90 minute film to tackle; they’re just not needed, I don’t think. There’s no reason each and every last character here was essential to the film, not in any way. It’s a mess, in terms of how the screenplay flows, and throughout the film this throws the pace off to a point where it’s hard to recover. While I’m sure the back and forth between plots is meant to be intriguing, and also intense, when in reality it only serves to make this a jumbled sequel in the franchise rather than something well crafted and properly intense.
Definitely one of the worst in this series, Saw VI is at best a 2 star film. There’s too much being thrown about in the screenplay by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, both of whom I do enjoy I have to say, for this movie to find a pace where it fits correctly. Instead, this movie sort of bounces all over the place from one scene to the next – very intense at times, others it’s sluggish and drags itself about with heavy handedness but under the guise of being full of mystery.
If you’re looking for a better entry in the series, I always suggest the first film and the third as my top choices. The second is decent, but those are honestly solid horror movies. Interesting, tense, and horrific stuff. This is just an excuse to try and make more money. Sadly, another franchise which has spiralled into the darkness in the worst sense.
Rampage. 2009. Directed & Written by Uwe Boll.
Starring Brendan Fletcher, Shaun Sipos, Michael Paré, Matt Frewer, Lynda Boyd, Robert Clarke, Malcolm Stewart, Steffen Mennekes, and Katharine Isabelle. Event Film Distribution.
Rated 18A. 85 minutes.
So I’ve been dying to review a couple of the Uwe Boll films that I find are actually decent. As I mentioned in my review of the intense and wild Stoic, I don’t think Boll deserves all the hate he gets online and otherwise. I know that many people see him as an arrogant, egocentric fool, but I don’t see him that way. Sure, he takes the haters by the horns, especially lately with his mad rant online after his funding campaign for a new Rampage instalment failed. I just don’t see why people have pushed him to that point. I agree not many of his movies are good. However, I think filmmakers, and artists in general, ought to be given a chance to get better. Is it easy to make movies? No, it’s not, though fans seem to think it is by the way they treat directors and actors who make subpar movies.
With Rampage, I believe Boll has crafted a damn good action thriller that’s a lot more interesting than so many other movies in that category as of late. There’s a good deal of crazy action, yet what interests me most about the film is the premise Boll has come up with for the main character and what he eventually begins to do as the film goes on.
Rampage is the story of Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher). Ole Billy, by all accounts, is what I would call a real slacker. He’s living at home with his parents (played by the fantastic pairing of Lynda Boyd and Matt Frewer), whom he gives a hard time, as if they’re meant to usher him from a boy to a man. Bill works at a garage where he’s not treated how he would like to be treated. Outside of home and work, he beats around with his equally slack buddy Evan Drince (Shaun Sipos who did an excellent job in Boll’s other fairly solid 2009 movie Stoic). The two of them eat chicken and play paintball together.
Lurking underneath all the normality, Bill is a troubled man. Inside him brews a combination of childishness and being unprepared for life, crossed with the injustices of society both actual and perceived. This develops into a boiling rage. Bill pieces himself together a full bodysuit of armour made of Kevlar, as well as the guns and ammo and toys to boot, then heads out onto the streets: the rampage is on and no one is safe. Least of all the structures of society, which Bill – misguided or not – takes aim towards, blasting hard as he can.
There are definitely a few faults in the movie’s own logic. Perhaps this has more to do with the fact the script for Rampage was officially only about 10 or so pages long and less with any lapse in reason. Maybe the fact so much improvisation went into the filming made some of the plot get muddled. Either way, there’s not enough plotholes or anything in this movie for me to be turned off. Boll does a pretty good job with the material he brainstormed going in.
What I do enjoy quite a bit is the character of Bill. Not in the sense I agree with the verbal manifesto Bill Williamson pours on us through the camera’s eye throughout Rampage. I think, in my opinion, Bill is ultimately representative of dangerous right-wing logic. Others will say he represents something different, but I think the juxtaposition between Bill Williamson and Evan Drince at so many points speaks volumes. You can tell how Bill is so completely driven by the media, by right-wing flawed logic, and so on, as the television clips & radio stations flick by in the background, like they’re lodged in his brain.
You can tell so perfectly what Bill is setting up as he switches the bag of fake money in for the one with the real stuff, then burns the fake money declaring it is the worst problem of the world. You see how he’s not any kind of left-wing extreme activist. He’s the sort of person who we might see in any school or military complex or theatre, as is so often seen in America today – a sad, lonely, pessimistic soul who only wants to drag the world down to their level. My opinion is that Uwe Boll is making more of a statement about the people who commit these vicious rampages, armed to the teeth, than anything else. While maybe some of the opinions spouted off by Evan are more relatable, Bill Williamson represents the antisocial man in society, the one who just wants to watch the world burn, if I might steal a better written line than I’ll ever write. Even though Bill is an awful person for his crimes, the character is still interesting and I think Bol does well with making statements about this sort of madness. Honestly, he needs to move further away from video game adaptations more and more. If he can do more stuff like Stoic and Rampage, I’d gladly support him even more than I already do.
Bill: “You think people are equal. They’re not.”
Not sure what the budget on this film is, but I’ve got to admit some of the action is great work. As Bill stalks the streets of his city, first disabling the police station with a van loaded up on bombs in its trunk, he starts to mow down anyone and everyone in his path. There are points where I was more than impressed with the raw action Boll was giving us. One scene Bill gets hit with a couple shots from the police, but his Kevlar bounces the shots off him and then he responds with his own gunfire, ripping the cops apart. Vicious, savage action. Got to love some of that!
While disturbing, it’s actually a little funny – of course in a pitch-black sort of way – to see Bill confront a barista in the coffeehouse where he’d earlier been snubbed and insulted by the same man. It’s tense and terrible in the end, however, a brilliant little scene to watch.
There’s a bunch of dark comedy mixed in. Though, most of the film is highly serious. Pretty grim, yet exciting all the same.
What I like most of all, though, is Brendan Fletcher. The first time I can remember seeing him was way back now, about 15 years ago. I was watching Showcase and a film called Rollercoaster came on; he blew me away with his performance. After that, I made sure to catch any film or television show I could find him in. He has this incredible capacity for emotion, as well as a knack for dark roles. Here he displays several bits and pieces of those qualities. The mocking way he treats people, walking around town and blasting the citizens to bloody chunks, it’s truly macabre to see. Coupled with the action, its intensity, I think Fletcher’s work as the lead actor helps Boll make a solid thriller out of the material. Not sure how much of the character of Bill Williamson came from Fletcher, and what came from Boll. Regardless, I get the feeling the work well together and I’d like to see something outside of the Rampage movies where they work together. I know Fletcher has been in other Boll stuff, but I’d like a new film; maybe similar tone to this stuff, just a different story altogether. They appear to have similar sensibilities at times.
I can’t not give this 4 out of 5 stars because I really do enjoy the film. Sure, there are moments I bet having a script, as I mentioned before with Stoic, might have been a benefit in the end. Although, I believe having an actor as solid as Brendan Fletcher playing the central role is something which ultimately helps the fact much of the “script” comes from improvisation. I’d like to hear the commentary on this film some day, perhaps more would be explained on that side of things.
The best part of it all is what I perceive to be Boll’s take on those who view right-wing extremist policies as the appropriate way to go, and what all these Kevlar, assault rifle toting gun lovers seem to be thinking in their heads. Bill Williamson is in no way a character fighting for the rights of every citizen, he’s fighting both society and the citizens in it. He just wants to tear it all down.
Either way, if you’re looking for something a little different and you’re secretly rooting for Uwe Boll, with every one of his films, to finally come out with something decent, you ought to check out Rampage. You might be pleasantly surprised with the end results.
When three experienced offenders come up against a jail rookie, the consequences of a little game become life or death.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence. 2009. Directed and Written by Tom Six.
Starring Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura, Andreas Leupold, Peter Blankenstein, and Bernd Kostrau. Six Entertainment.
Rated R. 92 minutes.
To start, I’m a huge horror fan. Maybe a horror buff, if that’s your bag. I don’t know. I just love the genre, and many of its own sub-genres, as well. I’m no stranger to the really gory stuff, whether it be a slasher movie or something else. Most of my favourite horror happens to be the classic stuff – Don’t Look Now, Psycho, and A Bay of Blood. Those are just a few of my top favourite, there are plenty others aside.
So when I first heard about The Human Centipede: First Sequence, I thought it was a disturbing premise from the sounds of the brief synopsis available. Then once the first trailer came out, I knew it was something I’d at least have to see simply for the sake of being a horror completist. I’m not a fan of gratuitously gory horror when it only happens just to have blood and guts in a movie. Though, I do like a good gorefest if there’s some reason and logic behind things.
With The Human Centipede: First Sequence, there isn’t even much gore at all. A bit of blood, nothing serious. So I can’t even try to act like this movie is a big ton of gore thrown in our faces just to have a bit of fun. I genuinely believe writer/director Tom Six does something different and fun (in horror terms – this is by no means a fun watch), especially when you consider how much generic junk horror is flooding the market these days. It’s not like Six’s script is turning the horror genre over on its head. But I don’t think that this film necessarily needs to be lumped in as a bit of “torture porn” (a term I fucking hate and think is stupid) or shock horror. It’s more than that. The shock is there, however, Six allows our own mind to work most of the disgusting and disturbing tricks out. Instead of going all out, Six gives us enough nasty visuals (and they are there – not trying to say they aren’t!) to really work up our inner gross-out, but doesn’t go beyond what some other horrors do simply for a shock effect. Most people can’t get past their own disgust with the idea of the Human Centipede as a concept itself to even treat the rest of the film as a decent horror, in my opinion.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence begins with two American friends, Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) who are traveling in Germany. They head out in a car and get stranded along a stretch of road. Walking to try and find help, they stumble across a quaint little house in the country. There, they meet Dr. Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser), former Nazi doctor, who graciously accepts them into his home. The doctor claims to have called a car service, saying they will be there within a half an hour. Soon the girls drop unconscious from the drugs Heiter spiked their drinks with, and he injects them with more from a needle.
When Lindsay and Jenny wake up, they are on medical gurneys and cuffed, unable to move. Another man is present, a truck driver, but Heiter kills him because he’s “not a match“. The doctor finds a new victim, Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura). Eventually, he tells the three captives he plans on making them into a Human Centipede: he will connect them surgically mouth to anus.
After this, the horrific events which follow scar everyone, very literally, as well as psychologically, and nobody walks away unscathed.
While Six doesn’t do anything super innovative during the setup to all the chaos and mayhem which follows, at the same time he does not seem to fall into anything too derivative. The initial situation is one we’ve seen so many times before: young people have car trouble, get stranded, get abducted and swept off to a house of horrors. Here, the girls wander out from the road to a nearby house after car troubles; there, they meet Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser). Nothing unfamiliar really. But it’s when the actual plot kicks in that Six avoids being like everything else.
Most of the deterrents concerning The Human Centipede series as a whole is the fundamental and inherent repugnancy of the whole gimmick: (most) people just don’t want to see characters with their mouth sewn onto someone else’s asshole. That’s the bottom line. For all the depraved and twisted and horrific film that’s already in existence out there (I love good gory and fucked up horror but as an example of the terrible stuff I’m going to say… August Underground. Hate that stuff!), the idea behind The Human Centipede movies, that basic concept, is too disgusting for even some big horror fanatics. And you can’t say “You’re a pussy” if someone doesn’t want to see something that’s, not surprisingly, absolutely wretched.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence has become one of those films which truly sets the bar on horror. I don’t mean it’s the most disturbing thing out there. Personally, many Takashi Miike films are what disturb me the most (just a couple are Audition, Visitor Q, his segment “Box” from Three Extremes, & his short contribution to Masters of Horror called “Imprint”).
What I mean to say is that Six has given us a film that has somehow almost become mainstream – an idea so strange has attracted even jokes from late night hosts – and yet it divides horror fans. Some might think it’s just shit horror; pardon the pun-iness. However, I feel like it challenges peoples limits. So many horror fans are fine with the random hack n’ slash of Michael and Jason – I’m certainly one. Then on the other hand, they seem to say this stuff is gross, it’s just for shock value. Maybe the other two films in the trilogy are, but I don’t think this one is, at all. I think this is an awesome part of the sub-genre of Nazi horror films. Dr. Josef Heiter (Laser) is a crazed old member of the S.S (not sure if he says that specifically but he did the Heil Hitler enthusiastically back in the latter days of WWII) who experimented on siamese twins, no doubt others – just like dear ole Dr. Josef Mengele. As an extension of that sub-genre, I think it works ridiculously well. I don’t think the script is perfect – I do think the intentions and the horror Six brings are pretty damn good.
Yet for all the fanfare over how visually disturbing the film is or isn’t, I’m on the side that thinks Tom Six actually could’ve been a whole hell of a lot more fierce, honestly. Not saying he’s a slouch; no sir. Six has, with these films, cemented himself as one of the big game names of shock horror. What I’m saying is that, for all the rotten nastiness he gets up to in this movie, I truly believe Six restrained himself. What he does so well is that he uses the idea of the Human Centipede, gives us a few visuals, and lets our mind do most of the work.
Because let’s face it, as far as horror movie gore goes, I don’t think there’s anything ridiculously over-the-top or super disgusting. Honestly. Maybe that’s just because I’ve seen 1,000 horror movies, who knows. Like I said earlier, August Underground, all those (however many there are – 3 maybe?), they are just trash. There’s a premise all right, it’s just trash. Six goes for a bit of a trashy premise, he just doesn’t let the film itself become pure trash.
There are genuine moments of suspense. When Lindsay first escapes, there is a point you wonder how far she’ll get, but soon it becomes clear Dr. Heiter has the place virtually locked down. I truly felt terror for her, especially when Heiter would taunt her: “You will be the middle piece!” Those bits were truly horrific. I always try and put myself in the place of the characters, right in their shoes; works best for horror, in that sense. While watching these characters, Lindsay specifically, I found my own stomach lurching with anxiety over the thought of being sewn mouth to ass, ass to mouth with two other unwilling victims (like anybody would ever be willing to get this as cosmetic surgery). When Dr. Heiter shoots Lindsay with the dart as she tries to drag Jenny away from the house, I felt downright awful for the girls; then he just steps on her face with this look in his eyes, looking over at the Three Dog grave. Chilling.
It’s once Dr. Heiter starts to prepare and then gets the Centipede in motion that terror really set into me, personally. First, we see him marking away in blue felt tip over the skin of his victims, as if he were a plastic surgeon. Of course, then he starts to remove teeth, and things get sloppy.
When he has them in the yard and he’s trying to get them to be able to “walk”, or crawl, I guess… that whole scene is absolute torture for me psychologically. It’s darkly comic because Heiter is just SO GOD DAMN INSANE, but at the same time I can’t help watching it and being completely gripped with horror.
Even just little moments, like the brief shots/montage of the victims on a surgical table, Dr. Heiter making various creepy faces, then we cut to him in a nice suit and tie, watching as two men put in a new piece of glass in the window he’d previously broken (while chasing Lindsay down). I just imagine how these men have no idea what this crazy fuck has been up to/is still up to, and they’re going about their day, replacing windows, la-tee-dah. Creepshow. Then he surveys his new Centipede as they come to briefly, drugged up and dozy. It is just spectacularly wretched.
I think that’s one of my favourite moments of the whole film – as Dr. Heiter gets the Centipede to “stand up”, it is scary. I mean, it’s really creepy. The way he yells “I DID IT!“, fists clenched in front of him. Then he parades the mirror in front of them, each of the three victims weeping while Dr. Heiter weeps with them; except he does so in joy. God damn. A full-on horrorshow.
Most of what’s wrong about The Human Centipede: First Sequence does have to do with Six’s script. It isn’t a terrible piece of writing, not by a long shot. Certainly not when you look at how many small, independent horror films are out there which truly have terribly written scripts. All the same, there are a few moments in the film where I can’t deny the writing is a bit poor, or more so that it’s not thought out properly.
One example being the part where the two detectives, Kranz (Andreas Leupold) and Voller (Peter Blankenstein), show up at Dr. Heiter’s place. Now, I understand Heiter was able to deflect their sudden questions when he drops the dish towel and it has a syringe inside. I just don’t think it was sensible. I mean, the police were already suspicious obviously, they were at his house. Why would he be creeping around with a dish towel hiding his syringe? If he were diabetic, he’d have no problem whipping out the insulin and shooting up; most diabetics don’t take issue with that, especially if they’re in their own home. I feel like Six grasped at straws here and it was just a cop-out. He could’ve found a better way to go about that piece of the plot, and he went the lazy route. That was one moment I felt came off badly and it affected the rest of the plot. They do show up again, the detectives, I just don’t believe any detective in their right mind would have left that place considering the situation. Alas, such is the case. Doesn’t blow the movie, but it doesn’t help an already mediocre script.
I think that I can easily say The Human Centipede: First Sequence is actually a 3.5 out of 5 star horror film.
Plenty will disagree and try to pass it off as “torture porn”, shock horror, whatever. But it is not just a film relegated to the realm of gore for the sake of shock value, or anything near that. Because while there is definitely a good deal of gross imagery, a bit of blood, there are so many other, lesser horrors out there which go far beyond what Tom Six did here in terms of visuals. He could’ve easily made this into a Dead Alive-level gorefest, but instead there is at least some restraint on his part; not in premise, in execution.
What impresses me most is the horror itself, the blood and the effects. The Human Centipede itself is a good show of make-up effects. The close-up shots (like the one above) on the three links of the Centipede are something else; really disturbing and gruesome. Yet, as I said, there’s nothing that goes far beyond what other horrors are doing. It’s merely the fact of the premise: people are totally repulsed by it.
Give it a go if you haven’t, and maybe you’ll see it how I do, or maybe you will be far too disgusted by it to even care about having an opinion. Either way, I think Six hits the mark. Though I’m not a fan of the sequel, I’m watching these all back-to-back right now, and I’ve yet to see the third – so, onward and upward!
P.S the last shots of this movie are beyond terrifying to me and they really put the nail in the coffin; great disturbing stuff.
The Collector. 2009. Directed by Marcus Dunstan. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Josh Stewart, Andrea Roth, Michael Reilly Burke, and Juan Fernández. Fortress Features. Rated 18A. 90 minutes.
It’s only natural to see why people try to say that this movie is a Saw knock-off.
First of all, anything involving traps now will forever be likened to saw. Reviews like to use the (idiotic) term someone coined, “torture porn”, to try and describe similar films.
Second, The Collector is directed by Marcus Dunstan, as well as the fact that its screenplay was written by Dunstan and Patrick Melton – both of whom did a couple Saw films. In fact, this was intended to be a sort of prequel, or who knows what kinda-quel, but I assume the producers wanted nothing to do with it.
Now, we’ve got The Collector. I don’t think it’s “torture porn”, nor would you ever catch me using that god damn ridiculous made-up term. I know what the people using it are getting at, but I think it’s a) the cheap way of saying what you don’t have the better words to say, and b) nonsense because some horror movies are just more brutal and depraved than others. Yes, some horror just goes either over-the-top or too vicious to the points where you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay let’s get the rest of this over with…”. However, there’s other horror, the real effective stuff, the fun stuff even, that uses it in the right sort of way.
I find The Collector is in the latter section of horror films – it’s brutal, but a hell of a lot of fun. In a twisted way.
The movie opens with Larry and Gena Wharton coming home from a night out. They’re laughing, seemingly they’ve had a few drinks and a bit of fun. Upstairs, the older couple find an antique-looking trunk. Inside… horror. Then from out of nowhere, they are attacked from behind.
Cut to Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart): ex-con working as a handyman in the home of the rich Chase family – Michael and Victoria (Michael Reilly Burke/Andrea Roth), along with their daughters Hannah and Jill (Karley Scott Collins/Madeline Zima). Unfortunately for Arkin, his wife Lisa (Daniella Alonso) owes a debt and the sharks are asking for their money – they need it tonight, she says. Arkin’s wage as handyman, even for such a rich family, does not cut it.
Turns out, though, Arkin has been casing the place. There’s a ruby worth a ton of money inside the Chase house. Arkin rushes the job and heads out to the house that night in order to rob them. There, he discovers a masked man – The Collector (Juan Fernández) has rigged the place with traps and other horrors. In the main bedroom, Arkin discovers an antique style trunk, and inside: Larry Wharton. The older man is in bad shape, he warns Arkin that “he always takes one“. The family is all either incapacitated, or eventually killed. Arkin tries to save who he can, but The Collector has so many surprises in store for him.
Immediately, there is a tone to the film I thought worked extremely well in making things creepy. For me, it was a combination of the look and feel of the scenes and the score.
Dunstan uses a great colour scheme that makes it feel like an old school genre picture. There’s this green-ish/yellow v. blue thing going on at times (as you can see in some of the pictures I’ve included), and I liked how it made things look. Not only that, there’s almost a grainy layer over the camera’s lens in a lot, if not all, of the scenes. I like it, Reminds me of the look David Fincher chose to go with for Se7en. Together with the choice of that green/yellow and blue pattern, almost muted and blurry colouring, the grain of the film makes things look dark and gritty. Super fitting for the way things play out.
Now – the score. I would say, for this movie, the score works perfectly. I knew of Jerome Dillon before now, simply because I’m Trent Reznor’s biggest fan (maybe not realistically I just love his music and have for 20 years). Dillon did amazing work with Nine Inch Nails – my favourite being on And All That Could Have Been and With Teeth. Dillon’s use of an industrial sound flows well in combination with Dunstan and his gritty visual style.
One of my favourite moments of the film, in terms of music + directing, is when there’s softer, friendlier sounding music playing while Dunstan gives us a montage of shots showing The Collector’s carnage, the blood, the fury he has unleashed throughout the house; something about the juxtaposition of that sweet sound, soft guitar riff and vocals, against the terror and the bodies – it works horror movie magic!
A lot of good moments work effectively with the music – and not in the way certain horror movies, like the 2012 remake of The Woman in Black, employ the jump-scare with strings to literally jolt you, which I consider a cheap way to do things. Dunstan and Dillon make things unsettling in a great fashion, their collaboration makes this movie come off in the right way on more than enough occasions that it’s a significant part of why the whole film works.
There’s very little in this movie I would say is written poorly. Not even a handful of scenes, in my opinion.
One sequence, though, I found particularly dumb: when older daughter Jill Chase (Madeline Zima) comes home with a boyfriend, they seem to just not notice a thing until The Collector is spotted, creeping in the dark while the young couple starts to get frisky; meanwhile, I thought the entire house was filled with traps and devious devices to really fuck someone’s day up. I guess it was an effort on the part of Dunstan and Melton to try and either add a shot of breasts (Zima gets her chest let loose for a few seconds before Mr. Collector is seen), or maybe it was simply the fact they wanted a way to have another member of the family be killed onscreen instead of just tied/locked up somewhere in the house. Either way, I thought it was a bit dumb.
However, they did save themselves a little. Poor Jill meets an awful end (as seen above), and I thought it was pretty gnarly in the best way possible. Junky lead-up, but a good horror movie kill indeed.
Overall I have to say the characters aren’t developed much, if at all. Outside of Arkin, honestly there’s no real development of any other character. I really do like Arkin, and I’m not even a big fan of Josh Stewart – but he plays it well. We get to see a good bit of him in terms of character, not enough of the family. I cared about Arkin as a character, but when it came to the family I sort of felt apathetic; there wasn’t enough time to get to know these people before they’re locked up in the house and being messed with/tortured/killed. With Arkin, we see bits of his family, the tough time he and his wife are obviously having. There’s also the moments with Arkin where we see him talking to the youngest Chase daughter, even the older one, and he genuinely seems to be a good guy. So I connected with him, whereas the family didn’t get enough screen time for me to be invested in them. Certainly – SPOILER AHEAD – I suppose that’s why Arkin is the character who goes along to the sequel, along with The Collector obviously.
Most people try to pick holes through the story of the film, but me – I know when to suspend disbelief. Sure, something like this would probably never happen in real life. It’s like a reverse Home Alone where Joe Pesci and Danny Stern break into the McCallister house before they could wake up to go to Paris, and they terrorize Kevin along with his family using booby traps.
But it’s scary. For me, anyways. I thought The Collector was a great horror villain. And even though I personally enjoy some of the Saw franchise, I find The Collector more entertaining. In Saw a lot of the people Jigsaw was taking were some messed up people – not all of them deserved that craziness, but some of those “victims” of his were awful sketchy. With The Collector, as opposed to Jigsaw, he’s active in the murder of these people – that’s what makes him a badass horror villain, more so than Jigsaw. He doesn’t let people ultimately decide their fate; he breaks in, kills with his contraptions and traps and gadgets, then The Collector takes someone with him along to the next house of horrors.
Yeah, you have to suspend some disbelief. Certain horror is meant to be realistic, other stuff is not – The Collector is an all-out horror, balls to the wall, but it isn’t meant to be the story of a real serial killer. The main villain, for me, is up there with some of the iconic guys. I wouldn’t put him next to Michael Myers. I would, however, put him next to Jason and Freddy both at times – even though I love those two and they’re ultimate icons of horror. I just think The Collector is interesting. Very interesting. So if suspending disbelief at times has to happen, I’m all for it. Because this isn’t meant to be one of those raw and realistic bits of horror, not like a found footage movie tries to be (notice I did emphasize the verb ‘to try’ because not all of them can achieve that goal) or something like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. This movie is meant to be visceral, gritty, and fun in the most disturbing sense of horror.
For me, I’ve got to say this is a 4 out of 5 star horror film. In my books, there’s not a whole lot more Marcus Dunstan needed to do on his part as director. Although there could’ve been a few tweaks in the script – I thought the parts with the daughter/her boyfriend didn’t make enough sense because the whole house seemed booby trapped and everything yet they were unaware so long, plus Dunstan and Melton could have given the family more depth than they were allowed (I connected with Stewart’s character because he had a decent little backstory while the family felt flat), I think the weakest element is the acting. Again, Stewart was good, but I didn’t particularly think anyone else stood out – other than Juan Fernández, who is beyond creepy as The Collector. They are the main characters, of course, I just did not feel like the supporting cast held up their end.
Either way, it’s a great little film that came out of nowhere. I’d seen a brief synopsis about a year before its release, but nothing much else. Then once it dropped, I was blown away. I also enjoyed The Collection, its sequel, and I’ll be doing a review for that one soon, as well.
Check this out if you haven’t, hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this tense and intense horror-thriller.
Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead. 2009. Directed by Declan O’Brien. Screenplay by Connor James Delaney, based on characters by Alan McElroy. Starring Tom Frederic, Janet Montgomery, Gil Kolirin, Christian Contreras, Jake Curran, Tom McKay, Charles Venn, Tamer Hassan, Jack Gordon, and Borislav Iliev.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unrated. 92 minutes.
★1/2 I don’t like to specifically rag on a director because directing can be tough, although, that’s what critiquing is all about in the end. Declan O’Brien doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record when it comes to his filmography as a director. He’s done a lot of sequels, including Joy Ride 3, plus Sharktopus, as well as both Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings and Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. Now, while I do actually enjoy the 4th film of this series, I can’t say I like the 5th, and that brings me to Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead.
What a pile this movie is, if it weren’t for a half decent performance from a couple people and at least a different story than the usual “people wander into the deep woods and get murdered by cannibals”, then this would be completely useless in every single way. Not that it’s good, at all, but at least it has one or two small redeeming qualities amongst the garbage.
The third film in the Wrong Turn series begins with the obligatory opening scene of people being killed, only this time a girl survives and runs off. Meanwhile, a notorious prisoner is being transported by some prison guards, along with several other inmates, and on the way they are thrown off course, their bus crashes, and the guards are then at the mercy of the criminals. Then come the inbred cannibals, raving from the woods, shooting arrows from bows and throwing knives and generally destroying anything and anyone who comes across their path. The surviving girl from the beginning meets up with the guards and the inmates, then they all try to survive the woods together, as the cannibal brothers descend upon them with blood and madness and murder.Right off the bat there’s needless nudity, and I’m not someone who needs to get my daily fill of breasts on film, thank you very much. Sure, if there’s some reason calling for a little bit of nudity, that’s fine, but I’ve got no time for horror movies that try to fill time with naked women. There are some 1980s horrors I don’t mind even though there’s a bit of shameless nudity, because there was a certain charm to slashers from that era that had the whole “don’t have sex or do drugs or drink or you’re dead” thing going on. I just think nowadays it’s a bit tired, and the opening scene here was not called for, no need.
Then there’s an awful bit of CGI for a kill in that beginning scene that was just… whoa. Brutal. Funny because afterwards it looked like practical effects, and yet the kill itself, as a guy literally tears apart, looked to be terrible graphics. It was laughable, I actually cracked up. One of the things I loved about Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End was the fact they did some great gory stuff with practical effects, you got to see good blood and guts and it looked plausible. This one gag just throws all that out the window. They obviously used some practical stuff in the aftermath of that kill, or at least it looked that way, so it boggles my mind why they couldn’t manage to pull the whole kill off that way. We’ll never know.
There only comes more terribly done kills, for the most part anyways. There’s a horrid face-cutting kill that just blew me away how wretched the effects were and how fake they looked. Very few effects are decent – one knife to the side of a prison guard’s neck is done well, even though it’s not super gory or anything too extreme; it went off well enough to be enjoyed, for a brief instant anyways. The most decent bit of blood was when the cannibals hooked the loudmouth prisoner with all sorts of barbed wire and hauled him off, and even that wasn’t too special.
I can’t recommend this at all. I gave it 1.5 out of 5 stars because there are at least a couple actors who aren’t complete rubbish, even if the dialogue is crap for the most part. Not all the performances were good, and none of them were great. At least the main guards were all right, a few of the prisoners were annoying, but overall it could have been much worse. The acting gets worse and worse as the whole series goes on. Stay away from this one. Most people hate all the rest, I actually enjoy part of the next entry – Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. That being said, from here on in none of the films measure up to the first two in the series, so proceed with caution; you won’t be too enticed by any of the films that follow this one, even if I do enjoy the next instalment.