Sunday, September 19, 2010

What the 'Devil'?

There's no doubt that M. Night Shyamalan's recent "scare" (The Last Airbender) is probably his most frightening film to date; however, Devil is proof enough that Shyamalan still has what it takes scare and entertain audiences with an original story.

Set in a Philidelphia office building, Devil traps five complete strangers in an elevator with nothing but their past choices and misfortunes bonding them. Of course this wouldn't be a horror film if nothing horrific happened, so if being stuck in an elevator with four strangers isn't scary enough, one of them just happens to be, you guessed it, the devil.

Devil is the brainchild of M. Night Shyamalan, but for those of you fearful of this fact, don't worry, Shyamalan is only the money behind it; there will be no writing or directing for him on this one, although fans familiar with Shyamalan's work will recognize the atmosphere that director John Erick Dowdle brings to this film.

Dowdle is no newbie to these kinds of movies, having written and directed the very scary, very intense Quarentine, which is probably why M. Night Shyamalan trusted him with this movie. Dowdle does a fine job with the camerawork here, starting with very interesting angles right from the get go and he keeps it up throughout the film. This makes everything about this film more interesting to watch and it is difficult to find time to take your eyes off the screen.

Brian Nelson is also familiar with this genre, having written the screenplay for the vampire thriller 30 Days of Night. The script in this film makes everything feel more realistic: from the witty banter to the ways the characters develope and interact with each other. One of the most difficult things to capture in a horror film is real human essence and making the characters themselves feel real, seeing is how the actual story in most horror flicks can be a little drastic, but this film has a great script with believable characters that react in very reasonable ways.

Simplicity is the key to success for this film. It takes a talented filmmaker to take five actors, place them in a small elevator set, turn the lights on and off and turn that into legit fear. This film is very Hitchcockesque in the way that it creates fear out of, essentially, nothing; you don't see most of what's going on and Dowdle understands the concept that it is what we don't see that scares us the most.

Devil may just be Shyamalan's most entertaining idea since Signs. It gets props for its intruiging camerawork, believable script, and extraoplating more fear than there probably should be.

Definitely see this film.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Monologue: The Last Airbender

A.K.A: The Last Shyamalan

Air... Water... Earth... Fire...  They say that only the Avatar can master all the elements, so if that's true, M. Night Shyamalan could be the real Avatar, seeing is how he has mastered the element of surprise...ingly bad movie making.

If Shyamalan can't even successfully tell you what this movie is about, how do you expect me to? Yeah, this movie is that bad. Everybody who is a fan of the original animated series has a pretty good idea of what is going on here (kinda), but if you are not familiar with the cartoon, strap in your seat belt because it is going to be a long and bumpy ride.

Okay, so let's start off with the most obvious mistake about this movie- it was ever made. This movie is based off a Nickelodeon cartoon, so that right there should be the first sign that this probably isn't going to be a great film. Not only that, but each element in the story has its own season in the actual show. So how do you take an entire season's worth of story and condense it down into a two hour film? Don't as Shyamalan because he sure doesn't know.

Secondly, this movie has no character developement what so ever. The three main characters, Sokka, Katara, and Aang (not Ung!) are all introduced literally within the first few minutes of the film. After that, the movie jumps right into what Shymalan calls the "story" and moves so fast that it is difficult to develope or care about any of the characters because there are so many of them coming at you so fast.

Expanding on that, Shyamalan does try to develope each character carefully and give them each a backstory that will make them seem more human: Zuko has his father issues, Katara and Sokka's mother has died and their father is off fighting in the war, Aang's entire race has been wipped out, and Sokka even has a brief love interest; however, none of it meshes the way it should and by the end it just all feels overbearing.

Next, the script was so uninspired and boring that it was actually funny. Most of the lines uttered in this film were just blatant observations like: "No! Katara, don't hit that sphere!", and "That bison thingy floats" when obviously the bison thingy is floating. Each character speaks as if they can't wait to finish their line and quite honestly, neither could I.

Moving on, the acting in this movie is terrible. Now I know that I have done my fair share of complainning about bad acting, but this one takes the cake. In fact, it made me miss the great stoneface acting of Dear John. I don't know what Shyamalan was thinkg hirring such a cast of bad actors. Oh wait, yes I do- "Let's spend all our money on visual effects and take whatever we have left over and hire whoever will work for it. I mean come on, in today's economy, that's pretty much everybody so work won't be hard to find!". I mean you know your movie is bad when Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi is playing your villain.

Despite semi-stunning special effects, this movie is a total bomb. Nothing works here and we are all being conned into paying our hard earned cash to see it. It is also yet another disappointing run in Shyamalan's losing streak, but despite my subtitle, I don't believe that this will be his last movie. Shyamalan is a talented writer-director and I can't wait for his next good movie (if indeed there ever is one).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Last Exorcism


If you plan on seeing this movie, it may be smart to bring a priest along.

Patrick Fabian brings to life Cotton Marcus, a minister who has lost his own faith but continues preaching to feed his family. After reading about the death of a little boy during an exorcism gone wrong, Reverend Marcus decides to retire from exorcism indefinitely. However, the good reverend gets his chance to expose exorcism for the fraud that it is when he receives a plea from a Louisiana farmer who is convinced that his sixteen year old daughter is possessed by the devil himself. To do this, Cotton brings along a camera crew to capture the moments of his last exorcism.

At first glance, The Last Exorcism may look and sound like any other horror movie, especially to those who are familiar with any other movie about exorcism, but it has its own, unique feel. Yes the shaky cam is reminiscence of The Blair Witch Project and exorcism is nothing new to fans of the horror genre, but this movie takes both of those concepts and makes them feel new. In other words, this movie isn't boring.

As I said, this movie feels fresh. This can be contributed to all the great performances we see in this film. Ashley Bell does a terrific job bringing her character to life and making the supposed "possession" seem so real. In fact, Bell's performance is probably the scariest aspect of this film. Patrick Fabian also does a wonderful job at creating empathy for the reverend. This movie is more centralized around the main character than a lot of its predecessors and Fabian does a wonderful job at holding it all together.

I have been asked many times if this movie is scary and I always answer by saying, "It's an Eli Roth film." The Last Exorcism is a great horror flick because it always keeps its audience on edge; you never quite know what is going to happen next and it keeps you guessing until the very end. However, like I said earlier, this is an Eli Roth film so it pretty much borders on R and is probably too gory and too intense for any thirteen year old that I know.

The Last Exorcism is a great horror flick for those of you who are into that kind of thing. It produces legitimate scares without sacrificing the storyline and always has the audience engaged in what is happening.

See it.