Friday, December 24, 2010

Candidate # 9


(July 2010)

“Throw some animals in a cage and you get to find out which one of us is gonna be the lions and which ones are gonna get gut.”
"I like to think we’re slightly higher on the evolutionary chain than monkeys.”

“It don’t matter how evolved you think we are. You lock up any animal long enough and the strong’s gonna eat the weak. That’s just the way it is.”

To make $14,000 in two weeks, Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, and Clifton Collins, Jr. (among others) sign up for a behavioural experiment, which places them in pre-assigned roles-- prisoner or guard-- for fourteen days, in a simulation of life within the walls of a penitentiary.

Based on the novel, Black Box, by Mario Giordano (the novel, in turn, based on an actual experiment run at the Stanford University in 1971), and its German film adaptation, Das Experiment,* Paul T. Scheuring’s The Experiment is a largely bleak depiction of humanity that displays how terrifyingly easy it is for us to shirk our morality.

It’s about how power and authority can warp and corrupt, and how the roles society impresses upon us affect the way we act and see ourselves.

With a minimum amount of on-screen violence, Scheuring (who also gave us Prison Break) achieves here what many a “legitimate” horror movie fails to do; affect us on a disconcerting, primal level.

* I once had the opportunity to see Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Das Experiment, but passed on it; I’ve been trying to rectify that ever since…

Parting shot: Interestingly enough, there’s another upcoming take on the subject, The Stanford Prison Experiment, which, as indicated by its title, is based on the actual university experiment.

(The Experiment UK DVD cover art courtesy of

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Candidate # 8


(July 2008)

In 1984, Russell Mulcahy, armed with a script by Everett De Roche, regaled us with the giant killer pig hijinx of Razorback.
Now, Jim Isaac, after the flawed Skinwalkers, returns with Pig Hunt, which features a giant killer pig, amongst other assorted narrative elements, to give us a title that does its sordid, lurid job whilst delivering some welcome subtext (underscored by the Animal Farm quote which closes the film).

Isaac ably captures the backwoods tone as a group of friends go on a hunting trip, only to have things go, yes, very wrong. DP Adam Kane (who also shot Skinwalkers, and who’s directed episodes of Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Kings, and most recently, Haven) shoots Pig Hunt down and dirty, highlighting the mud and the blood that streaks the body of this tale where men are, perhaps, really no better than animals. (It’s a telling point that there are precious few likable characters in this.)

For my money, Pig Hunt is: one, a lot better than Isaac’s previous effort, Skinwalkers, and two, a lot better than the recent Korean giant killer pig flick, Chaw.

Parting shot: Reviews of Isaac’s Skinwalkers and past ¡Qué Horror! title Long Weekend (also written by De Roche) can be found lurking in the Archive.

(Pig Hunt OS courtesy of

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Candidate # 7


(October 2010)

Like John Cassaday before him, Kaare Andrews is a comic book artist whose work I rather like, that’s chosen to spend some time in the Director’s Chair. And while Cassaday’s debut was on the small screen (an episode of Dollhouse), Andrews tackled some shorts before taking the feature film route with Altitude.
Paul A. Birkett’s script for the film is an interesting and curious throwback, with shades of an ‘80’s creature feature sporting generous helpings of The Twilight Zone. It also operates in the area of experiential horror, as, following an initial set-up, the audience winds up confined on a tiny twin prop with five young, fresh-faced pretty things in peril, among them, alumni of primetime TV shows like The O.C. (Ryan Donowho), Degrassi: The Next Generation (Landon Liboiron), 90210 (Jessica Lowndes), and the daytime soap As The World Turns (Jake Weary).
Andrews and DP Norm Li successfully capture the claustrophobia of the cramped cabin of the plane, as first, mechanical failure, and later on, something decidedly inhuman, threatens the lives of Altitude’s protagonists.
And while the film itself is an effective piece, the most significant aspect of it is Andrews’ achievements; I, for one, am certainly curious to see whether he chooses to follow Altitude up with more feature directing.

If he does, rest assured, I’ll be there to check it out.

(Altitude OS courtesy of

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Candidate # 6


(August 2009)

Guns and drugs, blood and guts, adorn Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher’s La Horde, where the unfolding scenario interrupted by the latest zombie apocalypse is a violent vendetta.
And as the running, ravening undead lay siege to a decrepit, condemned building, enemies must enter an uneasy truce to survive the ordeal.

With Alain Figlarz as stunt coordinator (Figlarz also choreographed the fight scenes in Babylon A.D. and Chrysalis and worked on Aurélien Poitrimoult’s Green Hornet short), this one’s a kick-ass, adrenalized ride. Things move so quickly and decisively, that there’s precious little time afforded to question why the dead are coming back to animated life and why their bites are contagious. Of course, given that the main characters of La Horde are cops and crooks, we really shouldn’t expect any lengthy bouts of circumspection regarding the situation they all find themselves in.

For the record, I had more fun with La Horde than the other zombie apocalypse entry currently vying for a ¡Qué Horror! slot next year, Candidate #4, Mark McQueen’s Devil’s Playground.

Parting shot: A review of Chrysalis can be found lurking in the Archive.

(La Horde OS courtesy of