Saturday, March 25, 2006
M comments on our recent films

As V mentioned, I had the opportunity of watching several films we’d wanted to see together for a while. I always love seeing good films again with someone else – in a way it’s like seeing it yourself partly for the first time again, as you judge everything against what you think they’ll think and watch for their reactions to bits that affected you…


First up, Narnia was excellent. I keep hearing that this (and the books) is some ultra Christian allegory, which is not how I remember the books I read as a kid – I just remember awesome fights with mythological creatures and a timeless and emotive story, which the film pretty much was. By sticking to the books and using modern effects they pretty much couldn’t go wrong. I always thought Mr. Tumnus was creepy (especially in the old animated film) and he’s about as creepy here too! V mentioned a point about the wartime background as an allegory rather than the Christian motif and I can see her point particularly when watching the film. Roll on the sequels!


Hostel was probably the best real ‘horror’ film I’ve seen in years. OK, this was probably the most disturbing cinema experience I’ve ever had. (As films go, not audiences). I am used to extremely gory films not intended for general viewing in cinemas or video.

Firstly, V and myself were big fans of Cabin Fever, being more of an ‘Evil Dead’ style homage with broad comedy mixed with some sick but ultimately cartoonish gore. There were hints in Cabin Fever that Eli Roth was a more hardcore horror fan – particularly the use of music from ‘Last House on the Left’ as a subtle acknowledgement. In this film, those hints are realised, with almost a ‘Last House on the Left’ for the new millennium.

This film is played commendably dead straight with only the very slightest and blackest of humour. It truly grabs the sick, relentless, grimy, dirty and uncomfortable feel of ‘Last House on the Left’ and puts it squarely and cleverly into a modern setting.

What is scary to me in the film is the sheer and utterly unadulterated, pitiless, perverse, brutal and inevitably believable violence inflicted on human beings by other human beings for nothing but pleasure. Not only does this film show torture at its bleakest and most visceral, it incorporates it into a believable and well-made film structure that makes you ultimately care about the portrayed characters suffering, compounding the horror.

There is the bleakest of humour, so bleak that even the most hardcore horror fan might wonder if it was intentional, even after Cabin Fever’s fun. For instance, a character tries constantly, pointlessly but utterly understandably to retrieve his fingers that were lost while being transported to a butcher’s block and ultimately an incinerator in a scene that reminded me a lot of the unforgettable disposal of bodies by a concentration camp employee in Men Behind the Sun – a film depicting Japanese war crimes – not exactly light hearted humour?

What makes the film so good is that it’s entirely capably filmed with not the slightest inkling of anything less than professionalism and talent. The characters are well established; the plot cleverly plays urban myths and popular news scare stories- i.e. what scares us. Saw, Dawn of the Dead etc. may have gore and violence but in an ultimately fantastical way. Hostel portrays infinitely more disturbing scenes in a manner that you imagine is really happening somewhere in some form, it’s the portrayal of the true evil extent of human beings, even from the callous minor characters, from the knowing girls that use sex to hook the victims to the critically independent blank and brutalised street urchins that only know the rule of survival on the street.

V and I disagreed a little about the film. V thought the torture was unrealistic and unnecessarily graphic at times. V also thought the street urchins (watch the film) were maybe more evil than the torturers and torture guards. I’d have to really disagree with both counts. I think we were both quite affected by the film though (maybe I was more)

For my money this is a real classic of modern horror and almost makes me afraid of what might follow! I’m also sure that the music in one scene was an appropriate ditty from the Wicker Man.

As an afterword, The Daily Mail (extremely right wing, knee jerk newspaper in the UK) vilified this film as they do with almost any horror film and blamed it for influencing criminals for the last year when it wasn't released (ho hum) with a 'review' that laughably intimated that the film was anti-gay because a 'middle aged Dutch business-man' had the film's 'bloodiest death' for daring to put his hand on the leg of one of the main characters. If they had watched the film they'd have seen that the other deaths (that they complained extensively about) were far bloodier and that the 'Dutch' man in question was very obviously in the film one of the torturers. They actually pay people to review these films as a career...

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek was a quite surprising low budget hit and a really good horror film. I thought it had more in common with Open Water than a low budget. For a start they are both high profile recent Australian films involving foreign tourists and supposedly based on a true story – apply that to as many films as you can! Second they both inevitably involve the threat of the eerie natural wilderness of Australia (see ‘Long Weekend’). Thirdly it involves characters that I was sure V would surely hate as much as the struggling couple that put her off Deep Water where I thought the people acted realistically in the circumstances and timeframe.

V has a definite point about the way these things can happen in real life. A threat didn’t even occur to me when we broke down on the highway. See in England there aren’t any ‘wilderness’ areas. I had to run along the side of the highway for several miles until I hit civilization and then call ANY place that could help us. It never occurred to me that Bozo with his poodle was anything other than a moron who happened to know the only tyre place in reach. That’s how these things happen though…ugh. I’ll know better next time… maybe. To me the tyre man seemed as normal as many of the other people I’d seen there!

Back to the film, it was as grim as hell and told a very basic and brutal story. I doubt it had much to do at all with the 'true story' oft quoted in the advertising. I did read up about the 'real' case which sounded nothing like this film but was possibly more disturbing as it competed with a lot of similar stories in Australia - people going missing on a large scale and torture/murder seems to be a national obsession from the articles I've read...

V for Vendetta

Now I haven't seen this yet but I've read a lot about it and V gave me the comic book for Xmas which I devoured rabidly.

What V says pretty much corresponds with what I've read about this. We were going to watch this WAY back last year but the film was postponed...and postponed. In general I don't get why films and TV shows are not shown because they contain something contentious in the current news. For example after the NYC attack every film or TV show remotely referencing the 'twin towers' was censored while the TV showed constant newsfeeds of footage and intimate analysis for months...The thing is, V for Vendetta is exactly ABOUT this contention and social control through the media - kind of ironic.

The film sounds awfully watered down. As the whole purpose of the comic book was at least contesting the definition of terrorism and portraying the weak will/stupidity of the voting majority and their control by the goverment and it's financial backers it should be very timely.

The comic book was written from a very 1980's viewpoint, when cold war was still rampant and the thought of Thatcher being ousted by a 'caring' government was on the horizon. I think we're now a lot wiser about the 'cold war' and the 'alternatives' of the 80's governments.

I do want to see this but I anticipate another 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' style mediocre film. For my money 'From Hell' was a pretty decent adaption of a comic book that went into minutely researched historical detail, every bit of which was intelligently and artistically put onto the page. I'm glad to hear the most moving part of the book is present where Evey is incarcerated in a concentration camp with a hidden letter from a lesbian inmate. I'm less glad to hear about the dumbing down and cleaning up of all the characters and a ludicrous ending.

I still wanna see it though!