Tag Archives: movies

Review: Devil (2010)

Devil (dir. John Erick Dowdle, 2010) – A group of people are trapped in an elevator and the Devil is among them.


Horror fans are in for a treat, should Devil be only the first of more to come from The Night Chronicles.



After a streak of brilliance in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, director M Night Shyamalan seemed to have lost his spark. While Signs and The Village showed his knack for suspense, senseless twists were starting to irk audiences. Things looked fairly bleak as disasters followed since Lady in the Water.

So it comes as a welcome change as Devil sees Shyamalan step away from the director’s chair. Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle takes charge of his small-scale horror film, working with a solid script from Hard Candy‘s writer Brian Nelson.

The minimalist story opens with the vast city landscape of Philadelphia, where a jumper leaps off a skyscraper to his death. In that very building, five strangers soon find themselves trapped within the confines of its claustrophobic elevator. Deaths start to occur with each power surge, and suspicion quickly turns them against each other.

Continue reading Review: Devil (2010)


Review: Resident Evil – Afterlife 3D (2010)

Resident Evil: Afterlife
Credit: Rafy / Davis Films & Impact Pictures

Take a group of survivors. Have them hold out hope for a safe paradise in a zombie-ridden dystopia. Add Alice and Claire to the alliance, and a new Resident Evil is born. In the visual department, Resident Evil: Afterlife is undeniably a stunner. The effects in actual 3D are naturally impressive. More points go to the style factor in its neat creature designs.

Whilst exceeding in style, the film neglects substance in its storytelling, or lack thereof. A mission takes place on a rapid pace that leaves unanswered questions in its trail. Where did The Executioner come from? Does ammunition come without limits in the future? Are the coins bursting out from the monsters a homage to the Mario games? (Probably not.)

So it seems, director Paul W.S. Anderson has accomplished a visually competent video game adventure with nothing else to rave about. Most scenes only exist for in-your-face action, while there is virtually no room for heart.

None of the side-crew are very likeable, while they do not seem to like each other much either. There is also the unappreciated fact that they seemed to be built on racial and gender stereotypes, whether unintentional or otherwise.

The main draw remains to be the returning cast of experienced zombie killers, Ali Larter and Milla Jovovich. New addition Wentworth Miller makes a good soldier for the team. Ironically, he is once again the only man who knows the way out, only this time zombies are the walls of his cell.

Immediately discrediting their acting is a ludicrous script, though they sure as hell did try. “It’s a trap,” the characters announce with a straight face in the conclusion of a tough fight. Right before they strut through the ominous doors without a chance of hesitation, to our dismay.


Review: Hunger (2009)

Credit: 5 States / Global Empire Studios

Not to be confused with Steve McQueen’s masterpiece, the Hunger in question is a Fangoria Frightfest entry. Murder intent fuels its typical horror plot, where six strangers wake to find themselves in a dry well as unwilling subjects of a twisted experiment.

The sextet gradually reveals potential reasons behind their captivity and at the same time, their varied personalities. The manipulative, the fearful, and the rational find commonality in their past. Amongst them, five have committed murder despite their reluctance. An unfortunate control subject rounds up the team… So far, so Saw.

But forget torture devices. There is a little twist to the game. In 30 days, they will starve to death, unless they kill. Any form of violence is a choice they have to make. Hope begins to fade, when the pain of hunger starts to take its toll. Cannibalism becomes an increasingly tempting option.

In face of desperate deprivation, how far are you willing to go? The abductor finds his voice in writer L.D. Goffigan, who explores human psyche in the face of scarcity and withdrawal. The script is not exactly strong, nor do the visuals aid in upping the ante in the horror genre (due to a visibly low budget). But the gradual unfold of an intriguing mystery sustains on a tightrope of lasting tension in the atmosphere.

Hunger, despite its technical flaws, thus ends up an interesting study in the questions it poses: How much is morality worth? Is murder justified if it preserves the life of another? Would you kill another to survive? A fatal game built to scare shows great potential in baring humanity’s raw limits.


Review: He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not (2002)

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
Credit: Téléma / Jean-Claude Lother

À la folie… pas du tout (Ou si tu ne parle pas français, He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not) is a stunning piece of French cinema made to linger. Subverting genres and challenging expectations, Laetitia Colombani’s psychological drama compels in charming visuals, then grows to captivate in its unexpected thematic thrills.

But it all begins quite simply in the story of a young art student Angelique (Audrey Tautou)’s affair with a middle-aged cardiologist, Loic (Samuel Le Bihan). Her conviction in his eventual separation with his wife seems destined to end in tragedy, though not of the kind consumers of the romantic genre would expect.

Reminiscent of Irreversible, the underlying narrative device is a well-utilised non-linear technique that stretches the boundaries of cinema. The unreliable narrator returns the suspecting viewer to the beginning, just as we might have thought the story was over. Things are then seen from a disparate vantage point that reveals a shocking twist in its entirely different narrative.

The contrast in the latter part’s consistent mood of paranoia makes one skin’s crawl, as her perturbing obsession continually haunts. Stunning cinematography compels in the visual symbolisms, which deeply interest in their initial subtlety that increasingly becomes vivid upon the film’s revelatory mid-point.

With her perpetual mania that only ends up better hidden than cured when the credits roll, the audience is left room to ruminate over the complexity of relationships that often hold a hidden side. A seemingly ordinary tale of romance and betrayal becomes a psychological exploration that delves into the fascinating study of disturbing delusions.


Review: Inception (2010)

Credit: Warner Bros Pictures / Stephen Vaughan

Inception is Christopher Nolan’s first original screenplay since his debut Following. His latest science fiction venture draws fascination from the elusive concept of entering lucid dreams.

Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb, a skilled thief who specialises in extracting secrets from his victims’ subconscious. His new mission sees him trespass into the dreams of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) to plant notions in the young heir’s head, with help from the best in the espionage business.

This highly original premise allows Nolan to envision a whole new world, bending not only the mind but rules of science. It makes for a highly complex puzzle that may not be easy to grasp, but that very nature is what makes for a compelling watch.

Layers fall upon layers with admirable ease in a tale of both beauty on the surface and underlying ingenuity. What could have easily ended up as a muddle is instead, an impressive display of masterful storytelling.

Director Christopher Nolan executes a complex idea perfectly, balancing blockbuster heist action with an intelligent narrative. Like what Quentin Tarantino once said about himself, Christopher Nolan does not believe that the audience is lower than him.

So he gives us the rare opportunity to delve deep into his wondrous world and engage in the intrigue of its notions. Its sheer magnitude awes, but Inception is more than a yarn of twists. At its core, the story is closer to heart with thematic exploration of guilt, romance, and redemption.

Trapped by past misgivings, Cobb’s reluctance to let go endangers the team’s mission and lives. Dicaprio captures every thread of his inner turmoil. Turning in an equally emotional performance is his mark Robert, whose material fulfilment lacks from a lacking relationship with his father.

The rest of the cast does not lack in staying power despite less prominence. Their strong performances confidently back Nolan’s immense ambition. No doubt many years in the making, Inception is a beautiful dream realised. Diving into the subconscious workings of the human mind has never been as grand as one of his best works to date.

Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

Paranormal Activity
Credit: Paramount Pictures / Oren Peli

A year ago, I saw the original Paranormal Activity and enjoyed it. Natural acting boded well for a film that depended on its documentary style. While the idea was nothing new, its realism brought across the intended terror. The characters were also considerably well-written, with bits of unpretentious humour to boot.

Drawing parallels to a typical home, the story is enough to deter you from waking for a midnight trip to the bathroom. As a result, the tense suspense felt reasonably believable. It was no Exorcist, of course, but it did surpass the similar cinematography (or rather, the lack of it) in The Blair Witch Project (Sorry, Blair Witch fans).

Upon second watch, Paranormal Activity feels plainer. An angry Bear Jew is possibly much scarier than all 90 minutes of an empty and predictable plot. There is nothing particularly threatening about a trite demon who opens and closes doors for reasons undisclosed. No one really knows what it is doing during the night, with knocking noises unexplained yet again.

Just like every other box office success, a sequel is now in place. The 2 minute trailer shows how much they will be leeching on the success of the previous film, and how unnecessary it will be. Every second is filled with questions: What is going on in the writing room?

Paranormal Activity 2 seems like a poor excuse to use a tiny budget for minimal story-telling efforts, solely leveraging on our irrational fear of horror in real life and deceiving us into placing more hope in a lacklustre ghost tale.