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Review Wind Chill (2007): Could have been terrifying!

genre: thriller, horror, drama

A girl, unnamed, played by Emily Blunt and a guy also unnamed played by Ashton Holmes share a ride home for the holidays. Instead of doing the logic and sensible thing the guy turns of the main route because he knows a short cut. The girl tells him to go back to the highway but he refuses. What can possibly go wrong? At one point hey almost get hit by a car and swerve of the road and get stuck. They are stranded and girl is not really trusting of guy since he knows a lot about her but she doesn't know anything about him. And to make matters worse dark figures are randomly appearing who seem very off.

Normally I avoid telling people to watch trailers since they spoil too much. In this case it's one that teases and will make you excited for this film. So please do watch it before you continue with reading this review.

The trailer gave me an impression that we were in for a thrill ride of scares and twists or at least psychological terror. I know not to rely on trailers as they often are misleading and sensationalised. Still it sometimes can channel the atmosphere to the viewer. And in that regard the start of the film does deliver on what is promised. Until the scene where the car is immobilized and the main characters get stranded in the middle of nowhere. What should have been the start of a chilling experience becomes a dull and unimaginative chain of small events. The biggest problem I had with Wind Chill that there was no real threat or dread present. The characters have a lot of opportunities to leave the car and walk back to the civilized world. But they never do. They are not restricted by anything other than the cold. (I know that some will disagree, but I am purely judging on what is shown in the film.) Without real danger and creepiness Wind Chill never gets scary. Isn't that what a film like this is supposed to do? On the plus side the performances by Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes are quite good. I wished I could say the same about the plot and the film.

Wind Chill had the potential to be compelling and terrifying but for some reason director Gregory Jacobs (Magic Mike XXL) wants to evoke something else. The mystery certainly isn't that interesting nor the horror elements that are in service of that story. Love story perhaps? Maybe there are people who can find the romance in the dynamics between guy and girl. Although realize that you are just one step away from being a creep yourself since the whole way guy went about this is downright wrong. 

Overall Wind Chill is a very disappointing affair and not beautiful in the slightest. I have read some comments and reviews where people were claiming that. There is nothing beautiful about forcing a love relationship that does not exist and certainly if it leads to unnecessary accidents and dangers. So don't buy into these positive reviews. 

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Review War a.k.a. Rogue Assassin (2007): One plot twist too many!

genre: crime, action, thriller

As a huge thriller fan I can't get enough of twists and turns in films that elevate the viewing experience. Sometimes I don't mind them being far fetched or over the top. However in War it's one that doesn't make sense and is so random that it comes out of the blue with very little build up to it. There is nothing in the plot that warrants such a twist since most of the story is your typical action fare with nothing remarkable about it. Besides we watch these kinds of movies for the action and not it's plot. No offence to Jet Li and Jason Statham. But they aren't actually what you call Shakespearean actors. Unfortunately the people involved in this film thought different. 

I honestly don't know what they were thinking. How hard can it be to put Jet Li against Jason Statham and let them beat each other to a pulp? But proper choreographed fights without quick cuts. It's what the fans wanted since The One. But no apparently that is too much too ask since director Philip G. Atwell felt the need to be clever. It has to be stated that Atwell mostly has directed Eminem music videos. I know that often video music directors are among the most creative so it could have worked. However it is clear that the leap was to steep. Especially since he did not even attempt to deliver good action. A good director needs to use the talent that is available. Jet Li is a martial arts legend. To use quick cuts on him is beyond stupid and insulting. There is not a single exciting action scene in this film. Of course not since all the focus went in the generic plot and that ridiculous twist that comes out of nowhere. Atwell hasn't done anything after War. If that isn't an indication then I don't know what is.

I could go in detail and explain to you a little more how bad this film is. Instead let me save you the time and cut to the chase. War is beyond terrible. It's one giant waste of time that has no redeeming factor whatsoever. Without a doubt this is Jet Li's worst film he has ever been involved in. 

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Review So Close a.k.a. Xi yang tian shi (2002):

genre: girls with guns, action, martial arts

Two sisters, Lynn (Shu Qi) and Sue (Vicki Zhao), are on a crusade to eliminate corruption at the highest level. Only they do it by killing the evildoers. Naturally these kinds of activities attract the police and one inspector in particular named Hong Yat Hong (Karen Mok) who is determined to catch them. 

A large part of So Close is about the sisters, Hong and how they interact with each other. Essentially the three are equal to each other on many levels and would have made a great team together. If not for the fact that they are each others adversaries. Despite this Sue and Hong have a mutual attraction to each other which results in a playful cat and mouse play between the two. The two sisters are tight but younger sister Sue is a little fed up being treated as such and rebels causing some friction between them although we do learn that these sisters have each others back all the way. Normally in action films like this I hardly pay attention to the story. However in this film it's essential because it does add to the dynamics between the three main characters and helps make the action scenes more exciting. Even when the story itself is as average as in most action flicks of this type I do commend Corey Yuen hinting lesbian love and keeping it tasteful. I wonder if that truly was his own idea or that it was the actresses who came up with it. But it certainly made the characters more compelling. So good job nonetheless. 

Director Corey Yuen also choreographed the action and then you simply know that good action is guaranteed. However it is obvious that actresses Shu Qi, Vicky Zhao and Karen Mok aren't trained in martial arts and therefore their fights and stunts are enhanced with the use of slow motion and CGI. Surprisingly the way it's done is very effective so I wasn't bothered by it at all. Besides the sword fight in the finale is CGI free and is very well choreographed. One legitimate complaint one could have is that it takes a while for the action to really kick off. Almost a full hour and seven minutes to be exact. But then you can be certain you will be served some good and exciting action so it's very much worth the wait.

Overall So Close is a very enjoyable and effective action flick mostly because of Corey Yuen's choreography and the likeability of the three main characters. Both the action and the attractive women provide some scrumptious eye candy and who can resist that. 

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Review Beast Cops a.k.a. Ye shou xing jing (1998): This is supposed to be one of Hong Kong's best films? Really?

genre: crime, drama, action

Beast Cops has got to be one of the most overrated movies ever made in Hong Kong. There are only a few elements that justify some praise. And that is Anthony Wong and the comedy. 

But an actioner this is not. Sure there are some violent scenes consisting of some sword fighting and occasional gun firing but just not enough to qualify it as hard hitting action, that you can expect from this type of Hong Kong film. And before you condemn me for being superficial or not open minded enough. This is advertised as a brilliant action film. You got to put the money where your mouth is. Plus when a film doesn't offer what is promised I will be the first one to embrace whatever goodness that is delivered.

Except there is none. Even for a triad film Beast Cops doesn't convince. Yes, there are gangsters and the usual betrayal shenanigans. But it hardly shows what the triads do or why they are so feared. Plot wise this seemed such an important factor since these triads were so friendly with the cops. With the lack of story and suspense I at least expected some interesting things to happen. I mean why else would so many praise the hell out of this.. Well, I kept waiting and waiting and it never came.  

And what was Michael Wong doing in this? It seemed he was lost and on his way to the set of another crappy film he is featured in. Honestly, I do like the guy but let's face it he is one of the most boring actors in Hong Kong cinema. He didn't make much sense here. The only thing I could think of was that the director wanted to show some contrast between him and Anthony Wong's character. If that was the idea than he failed miserably. Compared to similar Hong Kong films Beast Cops doesn't add anything new other than humour, which in my book wasn't enough for me to truly enjoy this.

Ignore the fact that Beast Cops has won many awards and that it is praised. It is not deserving of that at all. Avoid!

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Review Friday the 13th Part III (1982): The one where Jason gets his hockey mask!

genre: horror, slasher

Jason finally gets his mask. How does he get it? He takes it from a prankster called Sheldon "Shelly" Finkelstein. Surely this would be one of the most special and epic sequences in the film. right? But in my version I did not get to witness this scene. You can thank the MPAA for that. They made the film makers cut scenes so that it would pass the R rating. A few seconds later Jason shoots a spear through an eye which you can see in all it's glory. Censorship of this kind simply doesn't make sense. Anyway this is just one of many things that are wrong with this film.

While this third part in the Friday the 13th film series seems like it is more of the same it is actually a little bit of a departure from the first two. It can be argued and assumed that the killer in those two movies is human. Sure the second one more than the original played around with the idea that not everything is what it seemed and that perhaps something supernatural was going on. But there was always this ambiguity where the fantastic elements could be logically explained. Well, Part III let's go of this ambiguity and turns Jason into an unstoppable killing machine. It is also the first time that we are shown that Jason seems to really enjoy killing people. Oh what joy!

Like it's predecessor this part opens up with the conclusion of part 2 where we see Ginny survive her nasty ordeal. More important we are shown that Jason is alive and well and not death as assumed. Originally it was planned for Amy Steel to reprise her role as Ginny but she declined to returned so this opening doesn't really fit in this part. Actually the connection between the events of part 2 and Chris (Dana Kimmel) and her friends is a little screwy. Because right after the opening sequence they cut to a scene with a peculiar but random couple who have no ties to any of the characters in previous films or the main characters in this third part. Apparently Jason needs new clothes and like the douchebag he is he rather kills them than paying them. 

The biggest flaw is perhaps the lack of tension and suspense. Director Steve Miner showed a much better understanding of horror 101 in part 2. But for some reason he dropped the ball on this one. However this might not have been entirely his fault. He probably had counted on Ginny returning so that he could continue with his plans to have her admitted in a psychiatric hospital where then Jason would go on a killing spree in order to get her. If this plot sounds familiar then you are right. It's the plot from Halloween 2. Not a particular original idea however in hindsight it could have been far more compelling than what they came up with. I mean this part is so random and messy. For example Shelly and Vera managed to anger some gang members who of course feel compelled to deal with them. And what do you think their evil plan is? They steal gasoline from the van that plays a crucial role later in the film. That is so very gangster of them. Best of all is that one of the gang members named Fox (Gloria Charles  March 3, 1955 -  December 8, 2016) gets all hyper and excited when she sees a barn. If you can't tell whether it was intentional or not there is some comedy to be experienced that tonally feels out of place. 

Honestly I am not sure what to think of this part. I didn't dislike it. Nor did I like it. It just didn't do it for me. It felt underwhelming. I did care for some of the characters like Vera, Rick and Chris even when they all looked too old to pass off as teenagers.  Some of the kills were creative and memorable though. But compared to the first two this definitely is a step down. 

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Review Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981): Rare case where the sequel outshines the original!

genre: horror, slasher

Friday the 13th Part 2 manages to improve upon it's predecessor significantly. Mind you it still has some flaws and is far from perfect. But if you ever had doubts about the franchise then this is the part that will explain why Friday the 13th film series has been so popular. 

Part 2 opens up with a scene where we see a pair of legs approaching an old house. Nothing to be immediately alarmed about right? But during this we hear the iconic sounds " ki ki ki, ma, ma, ma " warning us it's Jason. They then cut to Alice who is dreaming of the horrific event she has experienced in Part 1. We get to see a large part of the original's conclusion and how she survived it. Well,  to an extent since one of the story elements never gets explained and seems to be a running theme in the film series so you better learn to like or accept it. I personally think it's a real nice touch since it could open up a whole new bag of tricks for the film makers to tap in to. Anyway Alice wakes up from her nightmare and we are witness to a very suspenseful scene where she is being stalked without her realizing. This was cleverly done since we know Jason is on the prowl and could come at her any second. Of course you can guess how this scene ends. 

The title sequence starts and the new adventure begins. We get introduced to the new characters. Still not that much background given on them but you do get a good sense of who they are and what they are about. They seem to be far more serious and mature. At least now I cared for these characters as opposed to the ones in the original. One of them is Ginny who is a more fleshed out character since she is meant to be the designated hero. More on her later. 

One of the problems I had with the original how it wasn't really as suspenseful or scary as it should have been. The lack of tension and dread is a real mood killer. However Director Steve Miner  has remedied that. He has taken a lot more time to set up the murder scenes with tension and even manages to put in some real effective jump scares. There are like three or four. A good example of how to do them properly. But he has done more. Ginny is a much stronger character than Alice and she does something so bold and daring that most people would not even dare to do. Plus it is extremely clever of her. A lot of people would be too shocked and frightened to come up with any thought let alone what Ginny came up with. While perhaps a little ridiculous it is easily one of the freshest and most surprising things to be shown in a horror film. Remember the bag of tricks I mentioned? One of the tricks is the fact that Steve Miner plays around with reality and fantasy. He hints and implies things by being far too subtle and mysterious about the events I am referring to. Once again you are left with an ending where they don't bother to explain a thing. Now I happen to read about it in an article and I know what Steve Miner is implying. At the time they thought that their intended ending would be too ridiculous. So they altered it. Strangely enough by doing so a big sense of mystique was added. It is quite unsettling to be pointed towards something but failing to see what it is. Am I missing something? What am I supposed to see? No matter how you feel about it, it's undeniably effective. 

Overall Friday the 13th Part 2 is superior to the original and delivers all the horror goodness you might crave.

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Review Friday the 13th (1980): The one that started it all.

genre: horror, slasher

The first film in a series that started one of the most popular horror franchises. For that alone Friday the 13th deserves a lot of credit. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot else that makes this horror stand out from the other slasher titles. Actually it's a bit disappointing if you compare it to it's sequel that is far superior to this. I know quite rare.

I suppose that if you watch this for the first time and you have never heard of this franchise before you might appreciate this more. Like in a lot of slasher films they don't reveal the killer's identity until the final part and up to that moment you get to enjoy the delicious bloody murders. Tom Savini was responsible for the special make-up effects and it shows since they look spectacular even today. However it's the lack of tension or dread that prevented me from getting super excited or thrilled. Granted I already have seen this a couple of times and know who the killer is. Although a true horror classic would still manage to captivate me in other ways. For example there are no red herrings. Not knowing the killer is one thing. But what if the killer is one of the camp counselors? Wouldn't that be more thrilling? No real attempt is made to make you doubt any of these counselors or other characters since there aren't that many to begin with. The audience also don't get to know these characters that well. It would have been real helpful if we at least had learned why camp leader and initiator Steve Christy was so adamant of starting up this camp again. Especially considering the fact that quite a few people had died in this camp and it was said that this camp was cursed or jinxed. The only thing we get to know about Steve that he is in a real hurry to finish up the camp, that he fancies Alice and that he likes to be the boss. If for example Steve had been more creepy and weird like Crazy Ralph then you could suspect him of the killings. It would have made the film more suspenseful. 

Not learning enough about the characters also makes it hard to care for them. I did not find any of them particularly annoying but I wasn't really scared for them. You might recognize Kevin Bacon but you will hardly be impressed by his performance since he is not given that much to do. Even Alice who is the main character doesn't have much dialogue or is given background on. We learn that she wants to leave the camp but it is never fully explained why that is. She admits to Steve that it's not him but something personal. But should we take her word for it? Especially after the way she looks at him when he has convinced her to stay on for another week. None of these characters have deep or meaningful conversations with each other. They are in the middle of nowhere with very little to do. Am I supposed to believe that all they care for is superficiality and sex? On top of that there was very little to no build-up to the murder scenes. Some murders just happen and none of them are scary. They are gory for sure but not to the point that you get shocked by them. However some of them are filmed in a way that make them interesting and therefore slightly effective. 

Then the ending. Yes, the ending is quite remarkable since it contains two WTF moments. No explanations are given but who cares? They were awesome! Enough for the film to redeem itself? Not this part. It did in part 2 though. But more on that in the review for Friday the 13th Part 2. 

The original Friday the 13th might have started it all. But it will be very disappointing for the ones who are craving that special horror goodness. You would think that the first would be the best in the entire franchise. This is not the case. 

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All the Friday the 13th reviews (1980 - 2009)

Two days ago it was Friday the 13th. And since Halloween is approaching the horror bug is in full force. Therefore I have tasked myself to watch and review the entire franchise (skipping the ones I already have written reviews for). Since there are quite a few movies to watch, it will take some time. So consider this a work in progress. When the reviews are done you will be able to click the posters to read them. So do revisit this post in case you are interested. And after I have watched all of the films I will share my overall thoughts on this iconic franchise.

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