2.20.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 49: "Blaxploitation Month Part 3 - Bad Azz Mofos"





Week 3 of Blaxploitation Month rolls on and this week the MC Crew take a look at TROUBLE MAN (1972) and TRUCK TURNER (1974). Plus the Top 5 Black Actors of all time. Now can you dig that? I knew that you could, babies. *all celebrity voices impersonated...poorly.*













 


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2.13.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 48: "Blaxploitation Month Part 2 - The Ladies"





Just like Valentines Day this episode is all about the ladies. This week the MC Crew review CLEOPATRA JONES (1973) and FOXY BROWN (1974). Plus the Top 5 black actresses of all time. We hope you dig this week's episode and always remember to put cho weight on it!












 


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2.06.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 47: "Hoodoo the voodoo like we do?"


Blaxploitation month starts now! This week the MC crew review THE HOUSE ON SKULL MOUNTAIN (1974) and my 800th review, SUGAR HILL (1974). Plus the Top 5 Movies involving Black Magic. Yamma, yamma, yamma, yamma.











 


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1.30.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 46: "Wild West Winter Part 2: Cannibal Edition"


This week the MC Crew take on two tasty old west cinematic morals; CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL (1993/6) and RAVENOUS (1999). Plus the Top 5 Cannibal themed movies of all time. Shpadoinkle!











 


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1.23.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 45: "Wild West Winter Part 1"


This week the MC Crew review 2 bloody, bleak and depressing westerns, THE GREAT SILENCE (1968) and CUT-THROATS NINE (1972). Plus we countdown the Top 5 Westerns from 1964 to present day. Yippie ki yay, motherfuckers.











 


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1.16.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 44: "A Trilogy of Cheesy Winter Badness"


This week Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I tackle 3 winter-themed turkeys--and Wednesday Addams in ICED (1988), SNOWBEAST (1977) and BLOOD TRACKS (1985). Watch out for the yellow snow, kids.











 


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1.10.2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

DIRECTED BY
Jonathan Liebesman

STARRING
Megan Fox - April O'Neil
Will Arnett - Vern Fenrick
William Fichtner - Eric Sacks
Alan Ritchson - Raphael
Noel Fisher - Michelangelo
Pete Ploszek/Johnny Knoxville - Leonardo
Jeremy Howard - Donatello
Danny Woodburn/Tony Shalhoub - Splinter
Tohoru Masamune - Shredder
Whoopi Goldberg - Bernadette Thompson
Minae Noji - Karai


Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Martial Arts/Comic Books

Running Time - 101 Minutes


It's mind boggling to realize that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been around for 31 years now. What started out as an underground comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird would become such a phenomenon for three decades now. Successful multiple cartoon series, toys and merchandising, and even films of various quality have managed to ingrain these characters into the pop culture lexicon.

It was no surprise that someone would come along to reboot a new live-action film for the franchise after TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III in 1993. When it was revealed that "beloved director" Michael Bay would produce a new adaptation under his Platinum Dunes company, boy did the you-know-what hit the fan. It also didn't help when he hired Jonathan Liebesman to direct - the man who brought us DARKNESS FALLS, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING, as well as BATTLE LOS ANGELES and WRATH OF THE TITANS. Then we heard stories that the Turtles weren't going to be mutants at all, but aliens. We also heard that Shredder would be Caucasian instead of Japanese. The casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neil and weird looking CGI Turtles [that looked realistic, mind you] didn't help things either. People had already bashed the film months before the film was released last August. It didn't really matter though, since 2014's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES made a good amount of money worldwide, securing an eventual sequel in 2016.

The real question is - is this new version of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES as bad as many say? It ended up on multiple Worst of 2014 lists, with critics thinking it was an insult to the original concept and calling it "brainless" and a "waste of mutagen". And although there are some who enjoyed the film, they were pretty much in the minority from what I gathered. I will admit - the negative reviews did scare me away a bit from watching this in theaters. I didn't want that feeling of negativity cloud my judgment of the film, in case it was a good one. So I waited until it hit home video to check it out. And after finally sitting down to judge the film for myself, I can see both sides of the coin. It's not the worst TURTLES film ever. That still belongs to III. But as an origin story to a new adaptation of the characters, there was a whole lot to be desired for me to really like it.

PLOT
The Foot Clan is terrorizing New York City. Channel 6 News Reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) is tired of fluff pieces and wants to get the lead on this current crime wave. While investigating the Foot, she encounters them fighting off huge mysterious figures whom she believes are vigilantes. However, this idea makes her the laughing stock at her job.

April eventually follows another lead, causing her to be a hostage of the Foot in a subway station. However, she's saved by her mysterious vigilantes - who just happen to be six feet tall Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When they reveal their names and take her to their sensei, Splinter, April realizes these giant animals were her pets fifteen years prior - given life by a mutagen her father and Dr. Eric Sachs (
William Fichtner) had created. When Sachs learns about his experiments being a success, he contacts the Foot Clan's leader Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). Shredder, wanting to control NYC and the rest of the world, wants to release this mutagen throughout the city to make Sachs look like a hero when he saves them with an antidote [for financial reasons, of course]. Unfortunately, the Ninja Turtles aren't pleased by this and decide to fight back.

REVIEW


Good Things: I think the best thing TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES has going for it is the visual presentation. I honestly never thought Jonathan Liebesman was a bad director. He just worked on films that relied on style over substance. TURTLES is one of those films, as there isn't really much to say about the narrative. But looking at the film is great eye candy. And I think Liebesman eye for the material elevates this film to a higher degree than it probably deserves.

I thought the film was well-paced, nicely framed, and even edited well. It never felt longer than the running time, thanks to great action sequences were a lot of fun to watch. The snow mountain sequence [although the geography was a bit iffy - that close to a warmer New York City?] was the highlight for me. It's just over-the-top silliness that kept be mesmerized from beginning to end. And while the final act harkened a bit too much to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN than necessary - hell, it looked almost shot-for-shot at times - I thought the Turtles vs. Shredder was some cool stuff. I just wish there was more of it. But the visuals are pretty damn neat here.

As for the CGI, it's fantastic. Yes, I would prefer the Jim Henson automatons over any computer generation Ninja Turtles. But damn, the effects were so good, you'd actually believe these mutant characters were really there interacting with the human characters. Yes, the Turtles look a bit strange with their snouts at first. But after a while, I sort of forgot about that and just went along with their new looks. I thought the Turtles looked badass! And Splinter looked cool too. As for Shredder, I loved the nod to his look from the 2003 cartoon series. The villain has never looked better on screen. The motion capture for the CGI characters was close to perfect, and I thought the actors standing in for the characters delivered a ton of personality and amusement. They acted and spoke like what the Ninja Turtles should [although listening to Johnny Knoxville as Leonardo was a bit strange at times]. I appreciated that, as it helped soften the blow to other things I had major issues with.

And I might get hate for this, but I didn't think Megan Fox was that bad as April O'Neil. She's definitely not the best actress in the world, and not my choice to play the character in any adaptation. But for the first time, Megan Fox felt alive on-screen. She's usually in films as eye candy, usually staring blankly while her body does all the talking. Here, you can tell she's excited to be in this film and seems motivated in giving a decent performance for once. It doesn't surprise me, since Fox has claimed multiple times about her obsession with the franchise and how much she loves the Ninja Turtles. She's not the best live-action April O'Neil [my vote still goes to Judith Hoag], but I thought she was very likeable in the role and was a pleasant surprise overall.

And while I had major issues with the film's narrative, I will say that it works just fine for this film and its target audience. It's cliche and recently been done in other comic book origin stories, but kids and teens will probably eat it up since it's simple to follow and to the point. I'm not a fan of the changes to the origin story, but I can respect the screenwriters for wanting to take the franchise into a different direction to separate itself from what's been previously done. It's not for me personally, but I can see why it appealed to so many others since its release.


Bad Things: Like I mentioned earlier, the film's narrative really bugged me. I honestly couldn't feel a connection to TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES because of the changes made to the established story. I respect something different in a new adaptation. But when the changes made subtract to what made the franchise so great to begin with, I begin to have issues with what's done.

It really all starts from the origin story. In the original comics, we all know that the franchise is based around the personal hatred between Splinter and Shredder. Splinter watched Shredder murder his Master Yoshi as a pre-mutated rat, with Shredder scratching Shredder's face in revenge. There was a personal vendetta between the two parties, which would later add the Turtles, who were Splinter's "sons" and would do anything to protect their "father". April O'Neil was their human guide as the Turtles couldn't be out in public without people freaking out, and because that's not the Ninja way either. You felt connected to everything because you understood both the hero and villain side to things, and where all the supporting characters fit in.

Unfortunately, there's no personal connection in this film at all. The story is not about Splinter and Shredder anymore. It's about April and scientist Eric Sachs, who worked with April's father and may have led to Mr. O'Neil's death. The Turtles and Splinter were April's pets in the laboratory, where they were experiments for the mutagen that made them who they are today. Shredder was a mentor to Sachs in Japan, and Sachs wants to return the favor to Shredder by helping him take over New York City for financial reasons. It feels like I'm watching THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with Peter Parker being connected to everything through his own father, who is connected to Norman Osborn, who is connected to Oscorp, who is connected to all the villains Spider-Man has to face eventually. Make changes to the story all you want, as long as it allows the audience to become invested in it. At least when it happened in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the main character was still the focus. Here, it's April who seems to be the main character, with the Turtles being supporting characters in their own movie. If April was a more fleshed out character, which she isn't, it would be okay. It's a shame, because there was nothing wrong with the original origin and it allowed the focus to be where it was supposed to be - on the Turtles, Splinter, and Shredder. Instead, I'm watching the April and Sachs Show - not as interesting.

Speaking of Shredder, what a waste he was here. He looks great and fights like a bad-ass. But he has no personality here and seems more like a henchman to Sachs rather than some crime lord wanting to take over NYC. It's a shame because Shredder is a cool villain with a lot to offer in a Turtles story, as we've seen countless times before. He was just there for me, and Shredder should never be just there in any film with the words NINJA TURTLES in it. At least in the sequel, Shredder will now have a justified personal vendetta against the heroes, which could make the second part of this reboot a much better viewing experience. So maybe everyone involved just wanted to get the set up out of the way in order to tell more fulfilling stories in the next couple of installments. The problem is that you need to make the first part of your story feel just as fulfilling. There's a ton of potential, but we can't really judge and live on potential.

As for the actors besides the motion-capture performers and Megan Fox, they display really uninspiring performances. Will Arnett tries as Vernon, but he didn't do much for me as the comic relief who has a crush on April. Honestly, he came across more creepy than anything. I don't blame Arnett for that. I blame the material really. William Fichtner can play the bad guy role in his sleep, but he didn't do much for me either as Eric Sachs. I appreciate that he played it subtle rather than over-the-top, but it felt bland to me. And Whoopi Goldberg didn't add anything as April's boss. At least she got a good check out of it. And Tohoru Masamune underperformed as Shredder. Then again, he doesn't get much to do outside of action sequences. Hopefully a better script in the second installment will allow these actors to do more and give memorable performances.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE LEARNING NINJITSU FROM A BOOK

- Instead of hard hitting news like the rise of the Foot Clan, April O'Neil is stuck bouncing on a trampoline with a fitness instructor for a news segment. At least Channel 6 News realizes what her best assets are! ...In journalism, that is.

- After seeing the Foot Clan stopped by a vigilante, April sees this as her new story, as she's tired of "froth and foam". Well you had to get your job somehow, April!

- Bernadette doesn't believe April's stones about the Turtles, finding it crazy and hilarious. This is the same lady who encountered aliens on the Enterprise, spoke with Patrick Swayze's ghost, survived both Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and dated a black face Ted Danson. Fuck off, Whoopi!

- The Ninja Turtles are fans of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl". I thought I was supposed to like the heroes of the story? Total B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

- The Turtles enjoy creating their own music while riding in an elevator. Kenny G is suddenly in the mood for some turtle soup...


THE FINAL HOWL
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES was a middle-of-the-road film for me. I thought the film had great visual presence, the motion capture and CGI were done really well, and I didn't mind Megan Fox here too much like I was expecting to. And while the changes in the origin may work for this version of the film, I didn't quite feel a strong connection to it like I did for the original Splinter vs. Shredder origin that most people know and understand. The narrative really bogged down the experience for me due to how cliche and dumbed down it was. And some of the acting and use of characters [especially Shredder] felt uninspired. While I can understand the hate for it, I still thought it was way better than TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III from 1993. But unfortunately, it didn't leave me shell-shocked either.



SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4



1.09.2015

Midnight Confessions Ep. 43: "The Winter of Our Discontent Begins"


Rev. Phantom, Moronic Mark and I return with our 1st podcast of 2015 with two wintery horror flicks: DEMONS 5: THE DEVIL'S VEIL and NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST [aka WEREWOLF AND THE YETI]. Plus the Top 5 Winter Themed (non-Xmas) movies. A Werewolf, a Yeti and a sexually aggressive witches....yup, this is Midnight Confessions. Good to be back!











 


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1.03.2015

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Night of the Living Dead: Re-Animation (2012)

DIRECTED BY
Jeff Broadstreet

STARRING
Andrew Divoff - Gerald Tovar, Jr.
Jeffrey Combs - Harold Tovar
Sarah Lieving - Cristie Forrest
Robin Sydney - DyeAnne
Adam Chambers - Russell
Denice Duff - Sister Sara
Melissa Jo Bailey - Aunt Lou


Genre - Horror/Zombies

Running Time - 88 Minutes


PLOT
In the town of Hinzmanville, Pennsylvania, Gerald Tovar Jr. (Andrew Divoff) has inherited his late father's mortuary practice, Tovar & Son. Not pleased with his goth assistant, DyeAnne (Robin Sydney), and her work on the recent corpses, Gerald and his secretary Aunt Lou (Melissa Jo Bailey) hire a more qualified assistant in straight-laced Cristie (Sarah Lieving) to replace DyeAnne. While dealing with personnel changes, Gerarld's brother Harold (Jeffrey Combs) makes a visit in need of a lot of money. As the two bicker about this and other subjects, Gerald reveals to Harold that the mortuary is really a cover for the U.S. Government to hide corpses injected with some chemical that brings them back to life. Harold is skeptical at first until zombies begin to crash the mortuary.

REVIEW
I have three words for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION:

WHAT THE FUCK!?

1968's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a horror classic that not only changed how audiences looked at zombies, but it changed how horror films were conceived at the time. It allowed director/writer George A. Romero to become an icon in the genre, as it allowed him to direct other high-profile projects as well as five other DEAD films to varying success. Unfortunately, Romero didn't put a copyright on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD [some legal snafu or something], allowing the film to be put in the public domain to be remade by anyone with a camera who wants to use the title whether it reflects the subject matter or not. There are so many other NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD films out there [the best being the 1990 Tom Savini remake that Romero collaborated on], that you lose track which one is which these days.

In 2006, director Jeff Broadstreet remade his own version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, starring Sid Haig and using 3-D technology. Unfortunately, not only was it a bad remake, but one of the worst horror films I've seen in the last 10 years. The idea that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION was intended to be a prequel to that remake is boggling to me. Did anyone really care how the events of that film came to pass? Was the 3D technology, which isn't the version I watched, necessary again? And why are genre actors Andrew Divoff and Jeffrey Combs starring in this? Oh... I get it now. RE-ANIMATION as in RE-ANIMATOR! Oh, how clever.

Surprisingly though, I actually liked this "prequel" more than I did the remake it's connected to. Not by much, mind you. But hey, it was an improvement and you gotta give credit where credit's is due. Still a piece of crap, but it's still an upgrade!

 
Good Things: The only real reason anyone should watch NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION is for the two leads - Andrew Divoff and Jeffrey Combs. Divoff, of WISHMASTER and Lost fame, plays the main role of Gerald Tovar, Jr. - the same role that Sid Haig played in the 2006 remake. And thankfully we follow his story the most in this film because Divoff is the best part of this so-called prequel. There's a subtle edge in his performance - playing a character you want to sympathize with somewhat, yet his actions and behavior towards the last half convince you otherwise. Divoff makes Gerald a much deeper character than probably what the script had intended, coming across as Norman Bates-ish in some ways - normal on the outside, but really messed up internally. I really enjoyed him here. As for Jeffrey Combs of RE-ANIMATOR fame, as well as multiple Star Trek roles and other horror/sci-fi ventures, he's good but doesn't have enough material to really pull off a great performance. He plays your typical greedy, conceited younger brother who has no problem selling out his brother's secrets to get easy money. Combs plays the role as well as he can, although I'm sure the paycheck was the real incentive. But at least he has very good chemistry with Divoff, and their banter and dialogue whenever they're onscreen together is entertaining - only because they're the two actors performing them.

The rest of the acting isn't great, but it's not the worst either. The characters they play are just archetypes. Robin Sydney played the Goth Girl who liked to smoke pot and bang corpses, since that's what Goth Girls do I guess? She was alright. Sarah Lieving was okay as Cristie, although her character really didn't add anything to the story at all. Plus, she does have more than one emotion besides stoic, right? Adam Chambers as Russell was the stereotypical pothead. And Melissa Jo Bailey was good as Aunt Lou, although her best moments are when she's a zombie. Plus you have Denice Duff looking and acting like a Sarah Palin wannabe. Pretty middle-of-the-road stuff, but I'll put it on the good side since the acting didn't bother me all that much.

I also thought the make-up job was actually very good in this film. The zombies did look dead, with some nice detailing in their faces and corroded bodies. I was expecting less actually, and was pleasantly surprised by the work done. The CGI blood splatter was a different story, as it looked ridiculously fake. But it barely happens, so not a total eye sore.

And while the script itself will be discussed on the Bad side, I did enjoy a bit of dialogue between Gerald and Harold after Gerald explains what the crematorium is really being used for:

Harold: "Are they slow? Are they shamblers or sprinters?"
Gerald: "They're slow, Harold. They're dead."
Harold: "Ah, Romero Zombies. This has happened before back in '68, again in '78, in Louisville, Kentucky in '85, and again in '90. I heard that one was a bit gorier."

I don't care how pointlessly meta it is. I found that bit of dialogue quite amusing. Plus, the characters live in Hinzmanville, PA - in honor of the first Romero zombie, the late Bill Hinzman. When the story gets things right, it gets them quite right.



Bad Things: Unfortunately, when the script gets things wrong, it really gets them wrong. And that's mainly the issue with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION - the narrative doesn't add much to anything by its conclusion. Like a Romero Zombie, it meanders around until it finds a schmoe like me to prey on.

For a supposed prequel, it didn't really connect itself to what it was trying to explain in the 2006 remake. The only connections are that Gerald Tovar, Jr. and zombies appear in both. I guess it also explains, without doing much explaining, how the zombie outbreak came to be. Pretty much the evil government was behind it all. Yeah, that's original. And not much is done with that aspect either. So why bother?

There's also some commentary on politics with the Sister "I'm a Sarah Palin lookalike" Sara character, who works for Fix News. There's some dialogue bashing the Tea Party, calling them "crackpots" for being too conservative when it comes to societal issues. I get that George A. Romero used these zombie films as a way to convey some sort of language. NIGHT was about the Vietnam War and civil rights. DAWN was about mass consumerism. DAY was about the social ills during the Reagan Era, especially towards women and outsiders [zombies] in general. LAND was about a class divide between rich and poor. And so on. But what these filmmakers failed to realize and that all the social commentary stuff was only the subtext. Romero was getting his points across through the story, which at the end still looked and felt about a zombie apocalypse with interesting enough characters we can relate to and follow as they deal with it. Here, the political subtext is anything but subtle. And what's worse is that it doesn't add anything to the narrative, or go anywhere besides having an actress look like Sarah Palin. If you don't know how to do subtext, why do it at all?

I think the biggest issue about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION is I'm not even sure what this film is even really about. What is the film's purpose for existing? Is it about Gerald? If it was, I felt his arc finished before it even got started. The guy was obviously descending into madness due to the whole "Life's Blood" chemical that raised the dead, and his moral ambiguity about it. I wish the film focused more on that as a character study, because Gerald was the most interesting thing about this film. Is it a zombie film? Because if it was, you couldn't really tell. Besides a random attack in the beginning, some shots of them [including a zombie baby in a fridge that never appears again] in the middle, and the zombie invasion at the end, it's just scenes of characters talking and/or smoking pot. The Walking Dead this ain't! And if it was trying to be a prequel, it failed big time. I would have had no clue this took place before that 2006 remake besides the fact that one of the characters appears in both movies. The only thing this did was make that remake look worse, because this was a better film than that one. And why would Gerald be surprised by zombies existing in a later film, but know quite a lot about it in this film? Confused much?

Plus, I felt Jeff Broadstreet didn't do justice to the narrative with his visuals. I understand it's a low budget film, and I respect how much he got out of that to make a feature. But when you're shots are framed in an odd way, your composition is uninteresting, and your pacing [especially that dull middle section that had me playing with my phone for some of it] is uneven, I gotta call it like I see it. The actors also seem without much direction, which is a shame. Like I've always said, if the script isn't that great, at least compensate with interesting visuals. The flashback black-and-white and saturated red coloring was cool and added life to the film for a short bit. But other than that, I was bored with how the film looked. And I only really noticed the intended 3D stuff in the final act, when things were popping towards the screen. I can't say if it worked or not though as a 2D film.




THE FINAL HOWL
While it was slightly better than what I was expecting, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION still manages to be a dull time overall. Besides Andrew Divoff's and Jeffrey Combs' performances, and good zombie make-up effects, there is really no reason to force yourself to watch this supposed "prequel" to a terrible remake from 2006. Unless you like boring and inconsistent narratives, bland direction, and political subtext that doesn't add anything to the rest of the film. And with only a few scenes with the undead, it can barely call itself a zombie film. For a movie called NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATION, it's ironic how lifeless it is.




SCORE
1 Howl Outta 4



1.01.2015

The Woman In Black (2012)

DIRECTED BY
James Watkins

STARRING
Daniel Radcliffe - Arthur Kipps
Ciaran Hinds - Samuel Daily
Janet McTeer - Elizabeth Daily
Shaun Dooley - Mr. Fisher
Mary Stockley - Mrs. Fisher
Misha Handley - Joseph Kipps
Jessica Raine - Nanny
Sophie Stuckey - Stella Kipps


Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Ghosts

Running Time - 95 Minutes


PLOT
During the turn of the 20th Century in England, a widower named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) hasn't been able to cope over the death of his wife who died during childbirth years ago. Due to his depression, he's been neglecting his real estate practice. His superiors, tired of Arthur's behavior, gives him one last chance to sell the Eel Marsh House - a Gothic estate that seems to have a dark, mysterious, and violent history. For some reason, Arthur's presence near the estate has upset the locals, as well as the spirits that seemingly haunt the place - in particular a certain woman in black...

REVIEW

It's been a while since I've reviewed a Hammer Film - one of my favorite horror studios from England. In fact, I have yet to review any of the modern Hammer horror films that have been released since Dutch TV producer, Jon de Mol, purchased the company and revived it in 2007 after the studio closed its doors in the early 1980s. The revival has been a mixed bag of sorts. 2010's remake, LET ME IN, was great. 2011's WAKE WOOD was above average. And from what I hear, 2011's THE RESIDENT and 2014's THE QUIET ONES were pretty lackluster for the most part. One of these days, I'll review each one of these new Hammer Films. But right now, let's talk about 2012's THE WOMAN IN BLACK before the sequel is released this weekend.




Good Things: I think what I really liked about THE WOMAN IN BLACK is the look and feel of the film. It's been a while since I've watched a ghost story in a Gothic setting that actually felt like what it was advertising. Director James Watkins creates a ton of atmosphere, mood, and a slow pace that keeps you invested even when the film loses itself in some aspects. The dull and bleak cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones really enhanced the mood of the film, with Watkins investing in wide shots, mise-en-scene, and dolly shots to give the viewer a creepy ride throughout this town and Eel Marsh House. Seeing spirits rush through the frame, or stick out in the background, are things every good ghost story needs. The film, even though it had people in it, felt like an island - giving a sense of isolation throughout. Even the CGI that was used didn't bother me all that much. I thought for the most part, the visuals set the tone right making THE WOMAN IN BLACK feel more old school than modern.

I also thought the acting was pretty damn good here as well. THE WOMAN IN BLACK was Daniel Radcliffe's first post-HARRY POTTER film, and I thought he did a good job playing a wounded husband/father who was in a situation beyond his control. You kind of felt sympathy for Radcliffe's character, Arthur Kipps, as he dealt with his personal strife while also dealing with supernatural forces. To be honest with you, I think Radcliffe was more of an acteur in those HARRY POTTER films - only because he had eight films to evolve the character and make it his own - and show more emotion and depth in those films. But his subtle performance here gave you all you needed to know about the guy. He was probably way too young to play this role, but I thought he was pretty solid. The only other actors who stuck out were Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer, who had nice chemistry with Radcliffe and were given more scenery to chew on. The acting was one of the bright spots in the film.

And while predictable and cliche at times, I did enjoy the mystery aspect of the Woman in Black and what the supernatural deal was. Even though the film was adapted from a Susan Hill novel published in 1983, the adaptation seems to take certain aspects of other ghost films to tell its visual narration. But you're interested in why children are killing themselves. You wonder why the town believes in a curse and sort of blames Arthur for unleashing it again with his presence. And you're curious as to how it'll all be revealed towards its conclusion. The tragedy of this town is intriguing. And while the storytelling surrounding this plot point isn't near perfect, at least you're willing to sit through it to figure out what the hell is going on. Most modern horror films these days want to explain everything without much depth or substance behind them. At least THE WOMAN IN BLACK tries to do that, and I appreciated it. It's an old-school philosophy that I think most modern filmmakers and studios have lost along the way. Nice to see a recent film stick with what made horror so memorable and timeless, even if it doesn't work all the time for it.

And I felt THE WOMAN IN BLACK relied too heavily on jump scares. That's not too say that all of them failed to work. The one with the crow made me jump, mainly due to the loud sound design during these moments. Some others made me jump due to the sound as well. But it felt like there was a jump scare every 5 minutes, which made the next one feel less effective than the previous one. The atmosphere was creepy enough. These scares felt cheap by the fifth time. I did dig the sound design though. And that hanging scene - creepy...




Bad Things: THE WOMAN IN BLACK felt like an unfinished narrative at times. This mainly applies to the Arthur Kipps character, who actually has an interesting backstory that isn't exploited enough within the investigative portion of the film. His entire character is based around the fact that he hasn't gotten over the death of his wife and how that transitioned into a distant relationship with his son. As the film goes on, you tend to forget about this subplot because the narrative is too focused on the Eels Marsh House and the Woman in Black. The film never really focuses on the fact that Arthur's grief is what is feeding this spirit her power, as they share certain ghosts in their past that connect them in a mysterious way. And with all the children dying within the town, wouldn't that make Arthur more fearful about the situation since he's a father? He sees strange things, but never really questions them until it's too late. The townspeople dislike him, but he never asks why that is. Arthur has no urgency until it's convenient - a.k.a. flashbacks of his late wife - and never really worries for his son while all this goes on. Yeah, Arthur is distant with him, but he obviously thinks about him and loves him. The narrative felt really disjointed when it came to the two subplots. Arthur's misery should have made the Woman in Black stuff more effective because he can relate and feel the ghosts of his own past are haunting him. Arthur has a character arc that could have taken the film to places, but the script never allows that to fully happen. It's sad because I felt both subplots were interesting. They just needed to work together better.

Speaking of the script, the ending is something I'm on the fence on. Is it the worst conclusion to a ghost story ever? No, not really. But it lacked oomph and felt somewhat unsatisfying in a way. I understand why the climax occurs and what it represents in terms of Arthur's character. But it felt way too easy, too cliche, and kinda lame as the film just ends quietly. I actually asked myself, "That was it?" I've seen worse endings in horror films [at least this one didn't have a one last scare deal with annoys me by this point], but I felt the way the narrative was treated before it didn't justify a feeling of satisfaction during its conclusion. I think if the Arthur stuff was handled better within the main plot of the movie, the ending would have come across better. But it felt like a deflating balloon to me, honestly.

Like I said, the film relied on too many jump scares. It also didn't help that these took place during a long and sort of redundant second act where Arthur was investigating the mystery of the house. This portion wasn't terrible, but could have been handled in a much shorter amount of time. If more things happened during this portion, it would have come across better. Otherwise, 30 percent of it felt like filler.




THE FINAL HOWL
While it's not a perfect horror film in the slightest, I still liked THE WOMAN IN BLACK for the most part. The acting, especially by Daniel Radcliffe, was pretty solid. I loved the atmosphere and mood of the Gothic setting. And felt the visual presentation was top notch for this modern Hammer Films entry. The narrative could have been tighter, the ending a bit more satisfying, and less jump scares would have been appreciated. But overall, I thought this was a cool throwback ghost film that knew what it was and went for it. It was a stylish and elegant horror film - something that can't really be said for most modern horror. Not sure if the sequel will continue that trend, but we can only hope.



SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4




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