Scott Derrickson's SINISTER is more than creepy, it's an unsettling collision of the Gothic past and a modern world.
CHAINED is the disturbing journey through a serial killer's method, as he trains a boy he abducted from his family.
Prometheus. 2012. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Damon Lindelof & Jon Spaihts.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, & Charlize Theron. 20th Century Fox.
Rated 14A. 124 minutes.
Ridley Scott is a treasure. He is one of the greatest gifts to the science fiction world in film throughout the course of moving pictures. Outside of sci-fi, his direction is still masterful, as is his enthusiasm and inventiveness as a storyteller. But starting with Alien, then moving next to an equally groundbreaking motion picture with Blade Runner, within the first five years as a feature film director he announced himself as a visionary. Only recently returning to the genre in which he so quickly rose to prominence (though I can’t forget his amazing debut The Duellists which garnered him considerable attention), Scott decided to revisit one of his greatest pieces of work by elaborating on its concepts, themes, and overall world.
Prometheus did not do as well as one might expect. So many are intent on considering this a trash follow-up/semi-prequel to a better movie. And many are right: Alien is the better film. But you can’t discredit this bit of sci-fi for not trying, and as far as I’m concerned you also can’t insist this is a bad movie. It is not. This is a fascinating piece of mysterious science fiction, which uses the talents of Scott to tell us the origins of the story we’ve already seen in 1979’s Alien and lay out the map of an even broader tale. Including the influence of biblical scripture, the theories of pseudoscientists, even some creepy horror literature, Prometheus aims at the larger questions of life’s origins and where exactly we come from. Furthermore, Scott asks deeper questions about belief, faith, how we see God and finally what exactly were his intentions.
Maybe this film doesn’t succeed with everyone. For me, it was a cinematic experience of a lifetime. I don’t often go to theatre. As a film lover, I prefer a quieter environment where I don’t have to contend with noisy moviegoers. Yet Prometheus had me in line buying tickets twice in two weeks. Suffice to say I’m a huge fan.
Ultimately, Scott’s film sets up what eventually comes out in 1979’s Alien. Although it isn’t right before those events. Rather it’s the beginning of the story which brings us to that classic science fiction-horror. But more than that Scott is exploring our own origins, too. While the Xenomorphs are an engineered species, as are humans in Prometheus. In that sense there’s so many things going on. The creation of both Xenomorphs and humans brings them into parallel with one another; while the aliens wreak havoc in space down the line, humans were brought into being only to eventually wreak their own havoc and cause destruction on Earth.
At the base of the story is a relation between man and God. You could probably say Prometheus is a story of faith, religion, belief. All disguised under a thick layer of science fiction. The religious elements of Prometheus are buried all throughout its screenplay. For instance, they head to LV-223 (in the same system as LV-426 from the original Alien), which is more than likely a reference to Leviticus 22:3. This passage from the Bible relates to the Prometheus crew touching the “holy gifts” or “holy offerings” of the Engineers, and essentially overstepping boundaries: “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.”
A major reason why I love the religious elements here is due to the fact Scott, essentially, holds up the belief in God and the belief in extraterrestrial life as being two sides of the same coin. I am without belief, but never understood how people who believe in aliens(et cetera) can possibly look down on and mock those with religious conviction. It’s the exact same concept.
Shaw: “It‘s what I choose to believe”
Not going to waste time on telling you why other reviews got it wrong. I’d rather discuss all the elements I found impressive, unique, as well as those moments which allude to the 1979 Alien in an exciting way.
When I saw this movie in theatre, the opening scene hooked me immediately. Before Scott even mentioned it during interviews I knew that Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? was a huge influence on this film’s story. The Engineers are essentially Ancient Astronauts, a theory for which Däniken is widely regarded as the originator (for those who haven’t yet read the book; even sceptics will be thrown by one or two things in there). But just simply the cave markings, all the work Holloway and Shaw (Marshall-Green/Rapace) do tracking down the same drawing spread out over various locations across the world, it is absolutely like many of the cave paintings, murals (et cetera) which people now claim in contemporary reassessments as being evidence of extraterrestrial life, or possibly presence of these ancient astronauts. Overall, imagining these Engineers that Holloway and Shaw have dreamed up, then later found, is similar to the ideas of Däniken in that some otherworldly beings created us in their image, thereby replacing God. Along with Däniken there is most certainly a brief, fleeting influence of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, as both the Lovecraft tale and this film share similar science fiction/adventure angles. The fact remains Däniken is clearly the most impressive influence on Scott and the writers.
One thing I love is that the film doesn’t rely totally on elements from the original movie to make it work. Yes, obviously Scott is setting up the elements that relate to that film. But above anything else he tries to create a broader universe in which the series as a whole can sit. Whereas some seemed to be disappointed by this, I dig that Prometheus has its own feel. Instead of fighting against some completely inhuman beast, the crew in this movie are forced to confront their literal makers, these partly human entities which came before us.
And in that we’re given the Man v God scenario.
This leads us into John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein territory, working our way back through literary history. Milton began what Shelley continued, which is the examination of an absent creator; the belief that God has created us and all life, but left us and the world to our own devices, not some big moral king sitting atop the clouds judging and handing down punishments. At the same time, this type of creator is no less abusive, as in this scenario he leaves his creations without any guidance or help. Like God casting out Satan, like Victor Frankenstein shunning his monster and casting him into the cruel outside world, the Engineers of Prometheus created man, then decided man ought to be annihilated for one reason or another, prompting the creation of the “weapons of mass destruction” found on LV-223 in the terraforming structure (and as we know the Xenomoprhs that effectively act as such weapons possibly used to wipe out/clean up a planet). What’s most exciting is that this movie is the start of a couple others, including the already announced/dated/titled Alien: Covenant, so here’s to hoping Scott and his writers will continue exploring the absent creator, the implications and effects, as well as bringing us closer to the original film, aligning the mythologies as one cohesive unit.
Something that angers me is the fact some fans are intent on misreading things in the film as meant to be directly related to Scott’s original 1979 classic. He has stated on many occasions this is not a direct prequel; Prometheus is like the first of several steps before the story meets up with Alien. But then there are moments so many supposed fans of the original don’t even appear to be watching, or seeing correctly. Such as Fifield (Sean Harris) becoming a mutated version of himself. He’s not a zombie, and it wasn’t the acid blood that did that to him. If you didn’t notice, he does a faceplant in the black liquid, which of course infects his blood and turns him into a half-superhuman. Case closed. Second of all, when Millburn (Rafe Spall) sees the space snake and gets close to it, leading to him getting attacked, so many act as if that’s the ultimate stupid screenplay move possible for the character. Sorry, but have you ever seen any wildlife experts that are uber enthusiastic about animals? Steve Irwin often ran in and pet down dangerous animals because he loved them, he wasn’t afraid and if he was it was a respect for them. So why is it THAT hard to believe Millburn was overwhelmed by the thought of actually discovering an entirely new species, on a new planet they just found, that he went and got too close? It isn’t, only for people who need to fit everything into a silly little box of predetermined emotion and character actions. These are some of the points of contention for others I wanted to address because they’re absolutely foolish to me.
Oh, and if you really feel so adamant Millburn’s actions are written poorly and unbelievable, have a look at the deleted scenes; one in particular has direct relevance to this scene that’s kept in, then you can see for yourself the intention behind Millburn doing what he does.
If you don’t understand why David (Fassbender) gave Holloway a drop of the black goop, if you can’t grasp very easy plot points – which are explained, as opposed to what other critics might have written in their reviews – then perhaps don’t blame Ridley Scott, Damon Lindelof, or anyone else for what you consider plotholes, or whatever. I’m sick and tired of people not paying attention to movies. And that’s what it boils down to. Even Quentin Tarantino says some dumb shit from time to time like he did about this movie. Now if you just don’t dig it, that’s fine. I don’t mind people having different opinions. Just don’t base them on things that don’t make sense.
For me, this is a magical bit of science fiction that Scott uses to start opening up the world he began in 1979 with Alien. No it is not perfect, but it’s still almost flawless to me. I love every last bit and Scott so obviously has heart in the project. Enjoy it, or don’t. Just make sure you’re paying attention because too many amongst the huddled masses of the internet seem prejudiced against Prometheus for at least SOME reasons that aren’t so reasonable. Even at the bottom of it all there’s some fun sci-fi action and adventure to lose yourself in. Me, I’m looking forward to Scott’s next continuation of this expanding universe.
Chronicle. 2012. Directed by Josh Trank. Screenplay by Max Landis.
Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, and Anna Wood. Twentieth Century Fox.
Rated 14A. 84 minutes.
I’m always a defender of found footage. There are plenty of instances of bad found footage films, but who cares? Why does it bother people SO MUCH? For every few bad ones, there’s a really good one waiting to be found. Honestly, if you dig through a lot of the indie found footage efforts you’ll find more than just a few good movies. Any genre or sub-genre can be used well if it’s done appropriately, in a way which helps the story a film is telling or a mood that’s trying to be attained.
I’m not a huge fan of Max Landis, solely because of some of his interviews and his incessant Twitter ranting/whining – who am I, though, to have an opinion on his personality really? That’s merely how he comes across on social media, and IN the media. Either way, I don’t particularly like how he bashes other films while some of his own don’t do so hot. It’s as if every movie that comes out he’s got his own version, his own ideas, a fan-fiction script built around his conception of how the plot and story should’ve went. Or, he simply has negative opinions instead of being constructive. This doesn’t get in the way of me enjoying any work he does that’s actually good. But honestly? To me, Chronicle is the only decent output of his. Only one man’s opinion.
The fun really begins once the guys are documenting themselves a little while after their encounter with the glowing meteor. First, they throw baseballs at one another and hit each other in the faces, until Andrew (Dane DeHaan) steps up and stops one of them right before it hits his face – the look in his eyes and the reaction they all have is excellent. One of the things I love most about this part is how natural they all feel together. Of course they each have their own separate personalities within the group, the three do feel like friends and the relationship seems natural on camera. Part of why some found footage does not work is because everything feels so forced and inorganic. Here in Chronicle I feel that how the actors make the relationships between their characters feel so organic is a huge part of the film’s overall charm. When you’ve got actors like Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan holding up this type of movie, the relationships and the characters themselves all feel tangible. As opposed to other movies where young actors don’t pull their weight, the main trio including Alex Russell have tons of charisma. Plus, their energy and their commitment to the respective roles is evident. I often say certain roles couldn’t be played by anyone other than who was cast; that’s not always true. Although, here it’s pretty damn true.
DeHaan is a solid actor. As of late, he’s been banging out good performances. From his work as Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings to The Place Beyond the Pines and his short part in The Devil’s Knot. Almost everything he touches, whether his role is big or small, has been very interesting; sometimes if only for his efforts.
The other person whom I love is Jordan. He’s a charismatic man who brings an immediate likability to the character. And it goes well with the others. They each have distinct and different personalities, but Jordan’s character has the personality which anchors them all. All three of the main characters are representative of people we all knew in high school, certainly, and Jordan is that funny, nice, inclusive sort of dude who bridges the gaps. At the same time, he’s almost a perfect parallel for the character DeHaan plays, so that’s another reason why I loved him in the film. Mostly, the actors are able to bring us into the human dramatics at the center of the action, the root of why the movie and its screenplay are so damn interesting in the first place.
A big aspect of the movie and why it succeeds in being so innovative as a found footage film is the incorporation of a good deal of special effects. And awesome ones, too. The best part of this is the fact the video camera has a plausible way of staying around, no matter how wild it may seem in its placement. Because with the powers, the camera can go anywhere, be anywhere, simply by DeHaan’s character levitating it and taking it wherever he goes. A reason why I hate reading reviews on found footage movies sometimes is because so many people are too concerned with the footage itself – and yes, I understand that’s part of it, but why nitpick SO HARD? Sometimes, it’s deserved. Others it doesn’t need to be a relevant factor, you can just enjoy the found footage premise. At least Landis wrote his screenplay in a way that takes this into account, and jumps that hurdle in a fairly excellent manner. So then when you add in all the special effects on top of that, there’s an impressive feeling to many of the film’s scenes.
One favourite part of mine is when they go flying, tossing a football, and the danger of the powers slowly starts to become more and more evident. The fact these high school kids are blessed with such intense superpowers, and they’re so immaturely interested in testing them out, makes the stakes of the film higher. We work up to that, too. First, the special effects start with the baseball throwing, then as above, the Lego building (which I love love loved). Then, it moves onto bigger things, taking us further and further with these high school guys until the scary aspects of their newly gained powers emerge, becoming dangerous for them personally and later violent for anyone and everyone around them.
Even more than that, the special effects and the powers are on display in a vastly different sense than any regular superhero film.
I’ve always been amazed by Chronicle, from the first time I saw it when it was released a few years ago now. 4.5 stars all the way. There were a few minor nitpicks I have, but they’re not worth discussing. Overall, this is a solid piece of cinema with plenty of drama and science fiction to go around. Furthermore, despite anything else Max Landis was able to flip the superhero genre on its head with this one, at least slightly. We’re so used to seeing superpowers used for good, other than the villains we see in the good guys’ movies – because let’s face it, the heroes are always the focus anyways. But here, we almost see the birth of a villain, and it gives us a sort of prequel to life of a supervillain; also with the same care and tact superheroes are given, showing us the inner life, the workings of his mind and how he comes to be who he is in the end.
If you’ve been dragging your feet on this one, give that shit up. Check this one out and hopefully it might prove to be a nice counter-balance to all the superhero movies now inundating our senses, of which I’m not a fan. This is a different twist on an old story, so there’s plenty of fresh, fun stuff to keep your mind aflutter.
Mary's learning new things about herself, and about the horrors of being a woman.
419 takes the Nigerian Prince e-mail scam and turns it into pure terror
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. 2012. Directed & Written by Declan O’Brien.
Starring Doug Bradley, Camilla Arfwedson, Simon Ginty, Roxanne McKee, Paul Luebke, Oliver Hoare, Kyle Redmond-Jones, Amy Lennox, Duncan Wisbey, Radoslav Paranov, George Karlukovski, Borislav Iliev, Peter Brooke, and Finn Jones. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated R. 91 minutes.
Now, I actually gave Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings a rating that, in a totally subjective light, it probably does not deserve. However, I can be a sucker for horror movies with a decent bit of practical gore and a creepy asylum out in the woods, and isolated winter settings in horrors, particularly slashers. So, whatever.
But sweet jesus in the garden (I’m not religious that’s just one of those sayings I’d grow up hearing in my days as a good little Catholic boy before I found atheism) – Declan O’Brien seems to have just taken hold of the Wrong Turn franchise and steered it as hard into the ground as he can possibly manage. With Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, his efforts get no better. Even worse, the iconic Doug Bradley – immortalized as the villainous Cenobite named Pinhead – shows up here and not only does his character really make little to no sense, he’s just garbage.
I do dig the Wrong Turn franchise simply for the first, second, and yes, fourth, films. Even the fourth is not a good movie overall, but I still dig it. So it’s disappointing to see it keep on going while it gets no better, only worse and worse over time. They’re just milking the entire concept for all its worth, yet – following the metaphor through – there’s no milk left, it’s just like… milking a milked cow? Beating a dead horse works better, but you get the picture.
Although the whole cannibalistic clan in the backwoods trope has been more than fully explore in the horror genre over the years, Wrong Turn as a series has at least had a couple good kicks at the cat (as we say around here – ’cause we’re fucked up where I’m from). Unfortunately, Mr. O’Brien continues to nosedive the series as a whole into the shitter, one bad sequel at a time.
Bloodlines has an even worse plot than the others in the series.
The brothers – Three Finger (Borislav Iliev), Saw Tooth (George Karlukovski), and One Eye (Radoslav Paranov) – along with a serial killer named Maynard (Doug Bradley) escape from the Glensville Sanatorium. They murder people near Fairlake in West Virginia. Complete with very cheesy jokes like when Maynard asks for a hand – and one of the inbred brothers literally holds up a severed hand. HAHAHAHAH SO FUNNY, RIGHT?
At the same time, a group of friends – I won’t bother listing their names because none of it really matters – travel to Fairlake for the Mountain Man Festival during Halloween. On their way, Maynard wanders onto the highway causing the friends to swerve. Naturally the car gets crashed; how’d you know?
When they go to check on Maynard, the old bastard attacks them. They stomp the shit out of the guy until police officers arrive and take the lot of them to lock-up for the night. Of course, one of the young people has drugs on them! So during this big Mountain Man Festival, the friends and Maynard are locked away.
But Maynard warns that his boys are going to come and spring him from the Big House. Everyone thinks he’s talking smack until the brothers descend upon the jail. It’s up to the cooperation between law enforcement, a couple locals, and the out of towner 20-somethings to keep one another alive and out of the grips of Saw Tooth, One Eye, and Three Finger, or their equally disturbed friend Maynard.
First thing’s first – the inclusion of this Maynard character, played by Doug Bradley. Now, I’ve honestly never really seen Bradley in anything other than Hellraiser. Well, Nightbreed, and then there are a couple brief cameos such as during The Cottage, and more recently in Exorcismus. Regardless I love Bradley as Pinhead, there’s honestly nobody else who is ever going to be able to replace him. I feel like certain iconic horror characters, one of which is Pinhead, have such a specific persona that it’s hard to let another actor take that on. For instance, I think it was easier for different people to assume the role of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees simply because of the silence, the mask; not to say there wasn’t a particular way they both walked, moved, reacted, because there absolutely was, I just feel when it comes to emotion there is none with them so it didn’t require too much true acting (not meant to disrespect the wonderful actors who’ve played both Michael and Jason – much love and respect to them!). But when you look at someone like Pinhead or Freddy Krueger, their vocal tone and the way they say things, though able to be replicated within a certain degree, is a specific part of the character’s make-up. I mean, the newest Nightmare on Elm Street, the terrible remake, had an amazing actor (Jackie Earle Haley) play Freddy, but you just can’t have Freddy with Robert Englund. You can’t, because that guy has the charisma of Freddy; he is, was, always will be Freddy.
So, that was a ramble, about completely different movies. Just saying, I love Doug Bradley. Solely because of Pinhead. In Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, he does his best with what he has been given by writer/director O’Brien, but the character of Maynard makes no sense. He takes up a good chunk of things at times during a film that’s centred on the bad guys being inbred backwoods hillbillies, crazy cannibals, yet there’s Maynard, an apparent serial killer, all smooth talking and normal.
It makes no sense. I hate his character.
Even worse is the fact that he’s not just a bad character, Maynard – he is jammed into the script, messing with an already feeble story. Maynard sort of bosses these brothers around, and that’s just completely nonsensical. I’m not looking for the Wrong Turn series to reinvent or innovate the horror genre, turning it in some new direction. I’m not even looking an elaborate plot. However, there’s got to be common sense, even in this survival horror type of stuff these films have going on. What I’m saying is – there’s an early scene where Maynard cranks one of the inbred brothers with a wrench, the cannibal goes down. He grabs his face, looking as if he’s hurt.
SORRY DECLAN! YOU SHIT THE BED THIS TIME!
These inbred cannibal brothers are said to have a condition where they can’t feel pain – I forget the exact name. They say it in Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, back in the 1974 scenes at the asylum. Yet Maynard whacks the guy with a wrench, that’s all there is to it. I mean, c’mon! If this were any bit sensible, the brother wouldn’t have even moved with the wrench’s force, he wouldn’t murdered that Maynard idiot, and moved on to the next kill.
Then it leads me to: how did Maynard ever get to a point where he was able to reason with these brothers anyway? They’ve got no loyalty other than to one another. Anybody they come across it seems the brothers just attack, kill, eat, whatever. So how did Maynard manage to even gain dominance over them? Sure, I’m reading way too deep into a cannibal horror movie. But am I? This movie, the whole series, is not complex, so can’t Declan O’Brien at the very least write a decent script that’s logical? Not really that hard. This could’ve just had sensible writing, if anything, and even with all the terrible dialogue O’Brien comes up with there at least would be common sense, characters that weren’t just thrown in for no apparent reason.
There’s not a single redeeming quality in the entire movie – acting is all atrocious, even Bradley can’t save the sinking ship, and the blood/gore is all as bad as it gets in any of the films. At least early on the practical effects were still decently done, well enough to keep a horror fanatic interested (I think most of that died after Wrong Turn 2: Dead End & Joe Lynch).
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is a 0 star film. I really can’t bring myself to give it any stars whatsoever. There’s nothing worth giving a star. Not even Bradley, because the character itself is so god damned useless to the whole story overall that it boggles my mind.
Declan O’Brien can’t even keep together the meagre plot of the film because he seems to have trouble following the logic of the Wrong Turn series, and worst of all he can’t keep straight things that he himself wrote in previous instalments. I wonder how much they offered Doug Bradley to do this movie, I’m also pretty curious if they looked at anyone else other than him first in terms of well-known horror names – because obviously the character of Maynard was an excuse to put a recognizable face into the film. There’s no other reason to have that character in there unless to put someone noticeable in the part, it did not in any way add to the film’s story and certainly was not a memorable character. Not to mention there’s a sequel, and I’m more than positive Maynard is nowhere to be found there. Makes no sense whatsoever.
If you want to complete the whole series, go ahead. Otherwise just skip this piece of garbage. They replaced O’Brien for the next sequel, not that it would do much of anything to help. This series has gone steadily downhill since the first film, though the second was good (plus I’m guiltily into the 4th movie). Time to call it quits, but I hear they’re setting up a 7th instalment for 2016/2017 release. Wow.
The Pact. 2012. Directed & Written by Nicholas McCarthy.
Starring Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Mark Steger, Sam Ball, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins,Agnes Brucker, Dakota Bright, and Petra Wright. Preferred Content.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
I’ve got to confess, I really have a thing for Nicholas McCarthy’s films. Of course I saw this before Home a.k.a At the Devil’s Door (which I’ve reviewed).
The Pact took me by surprise. There’s nothing here which reinvents the wheel, changing the horror genre. All the same, I feel like there’s good suspense in this movie. There is something to say for having a nicely executed film when it comes to tension.
Personally I enjoy the slowburn film, and The Pact is certainly one of those. McCarthy doesn’t just give it all up quick, revealing everything at once; there are motions to get to where he is headed. There are plenty of comparisons to the cult TV movie Bad Ronald, a classic in its own right, but I don’t feel like there’s anything ripped off here. Similarities at one point in the plot, otherwise it’s nothing to seriously consider for long.
McCarthy’s film is interesting – it weaves aspects of the haunted house sub-genre with very raw, serial killer-esque horror. The fusion is definitely creepy, and I found it a whole lot of fun. I’ve seen it a couple times now since it first came out, I was excited to see it when it had been first announced, and I’m sure I’ll watch it again – watching it once more as I review. There are faults, like a lot of horror out there, there aren’t so many that it ruins anything. One of the better indie horror movies I’ve seen over the last 5 years.
Nichole Barlow (Agnes Bruckner) goes back home with her daughter Eva (Dakota Bright) for the funeral of her mother. Her sister, Annie (Caity Lotz) hates their mother; it’s clear she was an abusive, possibly insane woman. Annie has too many residual feelings to go back to their old house. Finally, Nichole is able to convince Annie to come home, but when Annie does her sister is suddenly missing. With Nichole up and disappeared, Eva is sent to live with cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins). However, when Liz vanishes as well, Annie experiences a strange, supernatural event in the childhood home she hates so much.
The police, of course, are involved, but naturally they don’t believe a supernatural entity is causing the disappearances. One cop, Detective Bill Creek (Casper Van Dien) gives Annie the benefit of the doubt after they work past an initially rocky introduction. They go back to the house, looking for clues; Annie finds a hole in the wall, like a peephole, but not too much else. Annie tracks down a girl she knew from high school, Stevie (Haley Hudson), who acts as a ghost medium of sorts. Stevie is brought to Annie’s childhood home, where she channels the spirits – she also cries out “Judas!” over and over in a fit, until her handler Giles (Sam Ball) ushers the girl away, literally beating Annie away from them.
From there, the discoveries Annie begins to uncover are less supernatural, more real, more threatening and violent than she could’ve ever imagined.
SPOILERS AHEAD – Don’t blame me for ruining a film if you’re here mining for clues about it before watching; that’s just fucking nonsense.
There is plenty of debate over whether or not Charles Barlow (Mark Steger), a.k.a Judas, is a ghost. People often cite the fact there is one scene where Dt. Creek visits the Barlow house and his camera catches an apparent ghost on the screen. First of all, there’s no real way you can say for sure that the ghost-like apparition on the camera screen is Judas; it’s a blurry shot. People try to argue about the screen of the lens, the shot of the camera on film, yadda yadda. Look – it could easily be the ghost that’s already established to be in the house: the mother. We shouldn’t have to mull over a part of the film that can easily be explained without getting stuck on a small shot, that seems, to me, fairly obvious in its intention. Sure, it may be a little trick to some, but I don’t think it points to the fact that Judas is a ghost. He is not a ghost, in my opinion. He is a real killer, still alive, and still killing.
I mean, look at this way – if Judas was a ghost, like the mother was a ghost, they wouldn’t be seen, right? Then why didn’t he just wreak havoc on the several people in the house when Annie brought Stevie over?
Logically if Judas is a real living, breathing person, he’s not going to come up and start trying to attack three people at once. Even with a knife, there’s no guarantee he would make it out of there without at least one of them getting a good punch/kick/something in on him. Judas clearly had to be somewhat intelligent enough to come up with an intricate way of snaking around the house unsuspected, killing people all those years and remaining hidden away from the outside world – so, a smart killer would know when to kill, when not to kill.
Not to mention, Stevie the ghost medium picks up on the mother; she can feel the bad things, the abuse which happened, because she hovers around the closet, which is where so much of the abuse clearly took place at the hands of the mother. Stevie doesn’t say anything that could definitively make the case that Judas is a ghost; it doesn’t seem she comes out with any indications that his is the ghostly presence being felt in the house. Could be I’m wrong, I just don’t see anything pointing directly that way when it comes to her character. A decent indication, in my mind.
Some cite when Annie sees him on the bed in the motel, I believe that’s the scene. That also does not fly. She was having some serious dreams going on, she saw a decapitated woman; don’t forget, she jumped in the air towards the door as it closed and everything froze. I mean, do we really need to start to break down such obvious dream sequences? No. We do not.
The pupil dilation argument will not stand! When a person dies, their pupils dilate immediately. Judas doesn’t have massive pupils, however, we don’t see him immediately after he dies. He lays on the floor, the door opens – we see another reaction shot of Annie – all before the camera zooms in on the dead eyes of Charles. So, we again cannot make a definitive judgement with that information because it doesn’t fully jive. The reason, I believe, that they zoomed in on the eyes is obviously because of the earlier shot of Annie – we clearly see her eyes have heterochromia. It’s visible in other shots, particularly one right near the end when she’s crying, looking in the rearview mirror of her car and wiping off the tears; both different coloured eyes are seen. What does that suggest? Well, as far as I know, heterochromia is an inherited trait, so that would come to suggest that Charles Barlow is simply an uncle – he is Annie’s own father. At least, that’s how I see it anyways. I think others out there have noticed this long before myself.
My bet is on Charles Barlow, the Judas Killer, being very much alive. Not a ghost. That’s also the dichotomous part of what I dig in this movie: one part supernatural entity horror, one part serial killer mystery-thriller. Maybe I’m wrong, and Nicholas McCarthy has this pegged as totally supernatural. Though, I doubt that. If it’s all supernatural, that sort of spoils my fun. I like the bits of ghost stuff we get with the mother – as if the pact she’d made with Judas was so wrong she couldn’t move on to death fully until it was made right – she fought to push her own daughter Annie away, even as a ghost, to try and make up for what happened in that house. It’s a real fun mix, that’s one of The Pact‘s biggest strengths as a genre picture; there’s a crossover between the types of sub-genres throughout the film.
I thought the acting was pretty damn great, especially when you consider that there are so many indie horror bombs out there saturating the market to the point of overflow.
Particularly, I found the central performance by Caity Lotz as Annie Barlow to be a knockout. She is a great actress. Certain horror films seem to want to delegate the Scream Queen role to women – not all, but a good deal. The Pact doesn’t make the man the saviour – even when Casper Van Dien rears his chiseled head to seemingly lend a helping hand (he only ends up with a slit throat for his trouble) – instead, Annie Barlow is the one who must solve the mystery, who has to confront all the worst that her childhood home has to offer; both supernatural, as well as far too murderously real. Lotz shows a good range of emotion.
This also has a good deal to do with the script. Nicholas McCarthy doesn’t make Annie out as the victim. Instead, she is a tough, maybe even hardheaded woman who won’t take no in her search for the truth as an answer. Mainly I’m just glad McCarthy didn’t make this a typical horror – even if some of the moves are cliched at times. There are predictable elements, but he avoids (most of) the pitfalls.
Also loved Judas – so damn creepy. Mark Steger did such a fucking perfect job embodying this nasty, weird killer. I was just so chilled by his love of murder, the way he moved, the way he looked. When he was crying on the bed in several of those scenes… wow.
My biggest complaint about this one is at the VERY FINAL SHOT when McCarthy cops out, going for this one last sort of freak out – an eye opens wide, peering (seemingly) through a hole in the wall. I’m not even sure what McCarthy wanted it to achieve. Most of all, I think the shot confuses his message. On the director’s commentary, I believe he actually said he regrets choosing this shot and leaving it there, if I’m not mistaken. Too bad he ended up putting it here, it really doesn’t do justice to any part of the film; cheapens the ending when I found it all effective enough. I’ve not yet seen the sequel, and don’t exactly intend to because I thought this was good enough as a standalone film without needing a follow-up.
The Pact is a 4 out of 5 star horror film. I really do love the mix of supernatural and serial killer themes. That being said, I think that’s part of what makes the movie suffer. It’s not Nicholas McCarthy’s fault if people don’t get what the movie is aiming for – except for maybe that dreaded closing shot of the eye; big mistake. I do see that mistake as being a mixed message on the part of McCarthy.
It does not ruin the movie for me. I can’t let something minor like that closing shot totally destroy all the mood and suspense McCarthy setup throughout the entire film. Great horror movie, and again, it’s one of the best indie horror movies I’ve seen in the past 5 years or so. I dig McCarthy, and hope to see more horror from him in the future. He seems to do well with supernatural elements, though, I’d like to see him also try something that’s totally serial killer-centric; those latter parts worked so eerily for The Pact, McCarthy executed them with finesse.
See this if you haven’t yet. Maybe you’ll have a totally different opinion. Either way, I could watch this even more often than I already have because it’s creepy, fun, and a little fresh – despite what some others might have you believe.
The Collection. 2012. Directed by Marcus Dunstan. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Lee Tergesen, Tim Griffin, Andre Royo, Randall Archer, Shannon Kane, Brandon Molale, Erin Way, Johanna Braddy, and Michael Nardelli.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
My love for The Collector is strong, but I’m not so much a fan of The Collection. This sequel, though a good deal of fun, is not a great one in terms of doing anything smart.
What this sequel does is give us more of the evil Collector and his disturbing traps/kills, and it gives us more horror. All the while sacrificing good characters for amping up the scope of The Collector’s murder spree and his prolific status.
There were instances of characters lacking development in the first film, which I think carry over, even worse, to its sequel. Even further, The Collection is intent on adding more characters than are necessary to fill up the movie instead of maybe focusing on less characters that could have been fleshed out a bit more – a lot more, if I had it my way.
Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton essentially tried to go bigger with the scope of their villain, but instead of making things more interesting and intense, it mostly just made me roll my eyes.
There are a few things I did enjoy, they made the movie a decent bit of fun, but in the end Dunstan wasted the potential of The Collector as a new iconic horror villain in the sea of horror movies out there. While this movie absolutely makes The Collector into an even scarier sort, the creepiness in this sequel doesn’t come close to that of the original, trying to rely more on gore and increasingly intricate traps/set-ups within the villain’s hideout. Instead, there needed to be less reliance on new characters and stories and more focus on Arkin; he’s the whole reason things seemed to continue, he’s in the movie as a lead actor, I don’t know why they couldn’t have honed in more on him to make the whole story stay interesting.
The Collection begins after Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart) has been taken by The Collector, following the events of the previous film.
We see a young girl and her father, Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald) sitting in the back of a car as they drive. The father promises to always be there for his daughter – right before they’re t-boned and the camera cuts away.
We also see some newsreel footage of different television stations reporting on the murder spree of The Collector, even brief descriptions of his M.O, et cetera.
Skip ahead to the young girl from before, she is now grown: Elena Peters (Emma Fitzpatrick).
One night Elena goes to one of those real hip parties where it’s in a seemingly abandoned warehouse, or some other equally dubious place (I don’t know why any real people actually do this sort of thing but in reality – they do). There, everyone dances and parties and has a great time.
Then, once Elena goes to the bathroom, there it is: the antique trunk. Inside, of course, is Arkin – the newest addition to The Collector’s collection. On release of Arkin, this triggers a foolishly elaborate trap killing just about every last person inside the building, shredding flesh and bone to bits as it works through a drunk and ecstasy’d crowd (no doubt) dancing their hearts out.
Arkin manages to make it out of the building alive, but unfortunately Elena gets taken by The Collector.
Once in the hospital, Arkin realizes his family is still in danger. He tells them to stay away awhile. Then, a man named Lucello (Lee Tergesen) comes looking for Arkin, asking for help to track down the man who took Elena; her father, Mr. Peters, is wealthy and has a team assembled to find where the man brought her.
Reluctantly Arkin goes along, and once they find The Collector’s lair, he is forced to head inside with Lucello and a team of mercenaries. Within those walls, they have no idea what to expect, and things devolve into nothing except chaos, blood, and death.
My problem with The Collection, as opposed to the first film, is that there’s too much going on. Already in The Collector, Dunstan and Melton focused too little on developing the characters of the family; while Arkin got proper treatment as a character, they did not. It’s a little worse in this one, sadly. Dunstan and Melton opt to include the new characters of Mr. Peters and his daughter Elena, even with a heavy backstory as they have, yet they’re not given as much depth as Arkin was in the first film.
The part that makes this such a downfall is the fact that Arkin is still a huge part of this film; he is the basic reason for the sequel, as the first movie ends with an excellent scene after the credits that pointed all signals go for a potential sequel. And it wasn’t like a cheesy, post-credits plea to say “we really want to do another movie”, it was just a great, disturbing finale to a movie. It came off unsettling.
But Dunstan and Melton passed up a great opportunity here. They clogged up the sequel with too many characters and Arkin suffered for it. Ahem, SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW OR FOREVER BE SPOILED: at the end of this movie, again, we get a great finale – again, setting up the possibility of another film to make this a trilogy – and it once more involves Arkin. So I just can’t help feeling the writers wasted an opportunity to let Arkin’s story grow. Sure, he is featured in a ton of the film’s runtime, however, it isn’t as if there’s much to him in this one. He’s residual here, when they should have amped Arkin up further; it’s probably Josh Stewart’s best role, to me, and they could’ve let him run more and more with it here. I’m not saying I know what would have been best/correct to do with the character here, I just know that what they did hasn’t done any justice for the character. It might’ve been just as interesting to have Arkin stuck in The Collector’s hideout, then somehow include his wife’s debt predicament in the whole matter.
That brings up another problem I have – his wife was in serious debt with loan sharks, the money was due at midnight the same night Arkin went to rob the Chase house, and yet there she is on the television giving interviews, hoping her husband will be spared by the murderer out there with him taken hostage. I mean, maybe the sharks didn’t come because of all the cop activity around Arkin and his family after he’s been taken by The Collector – I don’t know. It bothered me, though. Just feel like there was a good foundation for Arkin as a character built up in the first film and The Collection blew the potential it could have had.
This one feels as if it’s really a Saw rip-off, whereas I felt The Collector was distanced enough from its influences to be something on its own. Even just the opening sequence made me go “oh brrrrrother” and roll my eyes into the back of my head a-la-Liz Lemon. Things got more and more silly. At least in the first one the scope wasn’t as wide; the house was big, but it wasn’t massive like an old abandoned warehouse. It reeked to much of a Jigsaw-like situation. Other than the fact The Collector set traps in the first movie, I didn’t get that Jigsaw knock-off vibe. Here, I really do. Not in the character, in the way his lair is setup. I mean, he basically had homemade Dahmer-style zombies running around in there, and that was way over-the-top, I couldn’t handle it. The part with that one girl who he’d essentially Stockholm Syndrome’d I didn’t find so far fetched, especially when it comes to serial killer territory. But the wild drugged up people he had going on, the massive pile of bodies in the basement – it got increasingly desperate and derivative of Saw to the point where I realized Dunstan and Melton obviously ran out of ideas for this movie and fell back into their Saw formula (I guess that’s the danger when you’re involved with two or three of the movies in that series – maybe it stuck to them like the stink of shit).
Some of the traps here really bugged me – there’s one part where these cylindrical, spiked tubes come down and impale one of the mercenaries whom Lucello brought, and it just feels so god damn nonsensical. Even in the first movie there were a couple moments I thought “Man this is a bit much”, but none of them blew me away to the point I almost laughed. The Collection ends up with too many little bits that made me feel like laughing, or just made me want to shake my head. Too bad.
A part of The Collection I thoroughly did enjoy was the score. Again, Dunstan works with a Trent Reznor collaborator: Charlie Clouser. What a choice. The style of these movies really goes well with that industrial sound. Clouser opts for a more synthesized sound than Jerome Dillon did with the score for the first film, all the while still adding some real heavy riffs into his compositions. There are excellently ominous moments where Clouser goes for the synthesizer – bellowing, low tones almost shiver in our ears while The Collector stalks the halls of his hideout, looking for his prey – and then there are a few awesome guitar tracks.
There’s one part of the score from Clouser which starts with just short of 20 minutes left to the film that blows me away. It’s a great little guitar part with pounding drums, the foggy voices “ahhh” “ohhh” overtop, not too loud, and it sort of drones on in the background, making things feel epic. Leads up to some badassery on the part of Elena (Fitzpatrick) and Arkin (Stewart). Makes the big climactic moments feel all that much more intense. Amazing instance of Clouser’s power as a composer.
I can only give this sequel a 2.5 out of 5 stars. That’s honestly being generous.
A lot of my problem has to do with the lack of Arkin’s development into a more significant character. I mean, by all rights they could do a third film. Perhaps it could be a prequel, I don’t know, (SPOILER AHEAD RE: ENDING) but it might be interesting to see a movie that starts off with Arkin after the events of The Collection. We could pick up with Arkin surveying all the things in The Collector’s actual home, where he’d tracked the killer down and taken him hostage in the same antique trunk where Arkin had once been locked up. Even if the movie got part of the way through and The Collector turned the tables on Arkin, getting loose – we could then have an almost action-thriller mixed with horror, as Arkin takes off after The Collector, intent on finding him before the killer either finds him, or begins to take more victims, or worse – vanishes into thin air. Whatever happens, another film or not, I think Arkin was downgraded in this movie, even with all the screen time he gets; he could have been turned into something better.
You’ll have a bit of fun watching this, but it’s nowhere near as good as its predecessor. I hope to see another movie in the series, though. I love The Collector as a villain. I didn’t find him as creepy here as in the first either, however, I did think there were some interesting bits going on. Mostly, Dunstan and Melton tried to take their near-iconic villain to a level he wasn’t meant go. I liked The Collector as a villain who did elaborate things, yet on a small scale, not only ensuring better invisibility to law enforcement but also in terms of the film world – it made things more plausible, and easy, for the filmmakers while things stayed on a limited scale. Bringing this sequel to a bigger, wider arena in terms of The Collector’s hideout and the innovation of new traps for him to use, did the movie no favours. I can’t recommend it, other than for the completist, or fans of The Collector who just want to see a bit more of the villain in action; even if it’s lacklustre.
A man tracks down the one who brutally hurt his daughter.
All hail the Lords of Salem!
One hot, horrific, Christmasy remake that has a bit of bite to it.