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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.
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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.