Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Parting Shot (Part 2)

And here're the rest...

(May 2008)

And while I had those “let’s keep it to one slot” quandaries, Australian horror actually grabbed up two slots this year (which only goes to prove that in the wake of Wolf Creek’s box office success, there’s been some noteworthy horror coming from our neighbours in the land Down Under).

Thus, an excellent title that got frozen out of the main list: Jon Hewitt’s Acolytes.
With three teen-agers, a convicted child molester out on parole, and a killer, as its main characters, Acolytes may sound more like a thriller, but this is a horror movie; the characters’ paths cross and collide in this disturbing tale that demonstrates how quickly schemes and manipulations can spiral out of control. Secrets lie at the root of Acolytes, secrets that can be traced to both childhood traumas and adolescent hormones, secrets that lie behind the veneer of teen bravado and adult suburbia.

It’s an interesting and pointed note that the only adult characters of consequence in Acolytes are the aforementioned child molester and killer (not once are we shown any of the parents of the three teens). It’s almost as if today’s youth have been cast adrift, without any moral compasses to steer by.

The fact that, on the surface, things seem to be triggered by that awful narrative copout of teens doing patently stupid things, when the truth is so much deeper and far more insidious, makes this one a solid piece that leaves us wrung out by the wayside.

Ultimately, we’re left with a bleak and haunting final shot, and the sound of the Midnight Juggernauts (“Si-yi-yi-yi-rens, sound of the sirens, Hell reigns above…”) guiding us through the end credits roll.

Powerful, twisty, unsettling stuff.

Incidentally, among the cast of Acolytes is Sebastian Gregory, who also appears in another noteworthy Aussie entry, Beautiful. If Acolytes rocks your boat, chances are, Beautiful will too.

(October 2009)

"[The script for
Splice] pushed me a little bit. It challenged me and made me feel very uncomfortable at times. I was fascinated by my own response to it, because it really does make you squirm in a deeply uncomfortable, ethical, emotional way that I wasn't necessarily prepared for."

-- Sarah Polley

Though Vincenzo Natali hadn’t really thoroughly rocked my Film Geek boat with Cube, what put Splice on my anticipatory radar were a bunch of other things: I love me some Sarah Polley and Guillermo del Toro. And let’s face it, who can say “No” to some good old fashioned 21st-century Frankenstein horror?

As it is, in a slower year, Splice would most likely have ended up on the main rundown, but this year, it’s got to settle for runner-up status.

Polley and co-star Adrien Brody are superstar geneticists fiddling with DNA for a pharmaceutical company, who end up creating something unnatural, with disastrous results. (Natali displays his love of James Whale’s Frankenstein films by naming both characters after key actors Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester.)

Past is indeed prologue here, as the largely unseen histories of the characters impact on the narrative flow; in Splice, heredity and environment merge in the most terrible of ways to produce a cautionary tale for our times.

In addition, there’s also a lot of Classic Cronenberg in the celluloid genes of Splice; it can, in fact, be seen as a companion piece to his remake of The Fly. I’ll refrain from saying anything more, other than, if you’re into Cronenberg, you’ll know the themes and the imagery and the conventions when you see them.

(Reviews of some of del Toro’s films, the del Toro-produced-- and ¡Qué Horror! 2008 entry-- El Orfanato, the Polley-written and -directed Away From Her, and Paris Je t’aime, which includes a segment by Natali, can be found in the Archive.)


(August 2009)

And, speaking of 21st-century Frankenstein horror with Cronenbergian echoes, there’s Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence).

Like Ti West’s The House of the Devil, this one has got that late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s horror aesthetic which makes it play like a forgotten relic from the Betamax era, though it admittedly lacks the assured polish of West’s effort. Also, unlike Cronenberg, writer-director Six doesn’t seem to be interested in exploring the thematic depths beneath his surface assault on the audience’s sensibilities. Still, The Human Centipede has got its fair share of biological and scatological horror, and a mondo disturbo premise that has assured its cinematic infamy for years to come.

If the “mad scientists” of Splice had too much of a modern sheen for you (a little too “we’re so cool, we’re on the cover of Wired”), Dieter Laser’s portrayal of stark raving loony, Herr Doktor Josef Heiter should be just the old school ticket.

And, whilst on the subject, I should point out that Six has his follow-up (the ominously-titled Full Sequence) raring to go, and while the original is purportedly “100% medically accurate,” the Full Sequence teaser proudly proclaims the sequel is “medically inaccurate.”

Which just gives Six all the leeway he needs to take his twisted visions to heights unseen in First Sequence.

Oh, Lordy…


(March 2010)

And we wrap up with a film originally entitled The Repossession Mambo (after Eric Garcia’s novel, upon which it was based), Miguel Sapochnik’s Repo Men, where we have some excellent and disturbing future dystopia on display.

Though this may initially appear to be a SF-action vehicle, there’s definitely horror in this scenario, a future where The Union is ready to repossess artiforgs (artificial organs) from those unfortunate souls who fall behind on their payments.

There’s horror here; in the shadow of a looming, merciless System; in the foreboding sight of that Final Notice red; in a life dogged by bad debts and the hounds sent out to make the collections; in the proverbial shoe suddenly found on the other foot.
Aside from a killer cast (Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, among others), we also get visual echoes of Oldboy and Videodrome, as well as a narrative echo of a future dystopia classic that shall remain nameless; though that last echo is particularly resounding-- a point some may take against it-- Repo Men is still a noteworthy title that deserves an audience.

So, there we go. ¡Qué Horror! for another year.

Now, as we slide into the next 12 months, I’m going to try a little something in the build-up to 2011’s rundown.

I had the idea when I happened to catch up with Adam Green’s latest, the nastily intense Frozen, about 20 hours after the cut-off date of September 30, 2010.
That, in itself, was a bit of a blessing for me, because if I had caught Frozen before the deadline, I’d’ve had a bitch of a time wrestling a slot for it on the main rundown.
So, what I’m going to attempt here is to, every now and then, when I’m able, have short mentions of horror films I feel have a pretty good chance of staking out a slot in next year’s ¡Qué Horror! rundown.

It’s a good way for me to keep a running, online track of the possibles, and it’ll put the spotlight on titles that I feel deserve the attention.

If I can’t do the full-length reviews the way I used to before, I can at least try to do this…

Thus, in a few, you’ll have ¡Qué Horror! 2011 Candidate #1: Frozen.

There you go, Mr. Green. Officially the first title with an eye on a 2011 slot. Truth to tell, Mr. Green, given what a nasty little number Frozen is, it’s your slot to lose at this point…

To everyone, hope your Halloween’s a happy one, and here’s to the next dozen months of horror…

(Splice, The Human Centipede, Repo Men OS’s courtesy of; Acolytes French OS courtesy of

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