Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Top Ten: Evil Children of Cinema

10. The White Ribbon: This 2009 offering from Haneke is a tense, slow burning drama set in a rural German Protestant village just prior to WW1. A series of strange and ever more tragic and horrible accidents begin to take place in the village. Attempts to uncover what is truly going on meet with confusion and failure, until it begins to be suspected that the children of the village are perpetrating the crimes in some sort of macabre punishment ritual. Not particularly frightening, but lingeringly disquieting.

9. Village of the Damned: Beware the Stare! A small English village becomes infested with demonic blond children who, through their eerie glowing eyes, manipulate and murder the adults around them. Allegedly, these children are the product of aliens who one day decided to impregnate every woman in the village with their energy beams. You'd have a job talking your way out of that one.

8. Children of the Corn: Based on a Stephen King novella, Children of the Corn centres on a small American town in which all the children come under the sway of a boy preacher; they worship an evil presence which resides in the corn fields and set about murdering every adult they can find. I'm starting to see a theme developing.

7. Night of the Living Dead: Romero's original and classic; over forty years old and still probably the best zombie movie ever made, it makes the list purely because of the scene in which a small girl, after succumbing to zombism of course, stabs her own mother to death with a garden trowel. They don't make 'em like this anymore, kids.

6. The Wicker Man: (Orginal, of course, not remake - pisses me off I even have to specify) A devout Christian policeman visits a small island in search of an allegedly missing girl called Rowan. Not only is Rowan not actually missing, but her entire 'disappearance' is part of an elaborate plot to lure the policeman into becoming a human sacrifice to the Pagan Gods worshipped by the islanders. The children of the island, raised in a world where death doesn't exist and a toad on the tongue can cure a sore throat, are creepy as hell. Check out the classroom scene for evidence; also, Rowan happily dancing and singing as the man who thought he was about to save her burns alive.

5. The Ring: A dead girl left to drown in a well who, if you watch her avant garde short film, climbs out of your television and frightens you so badly that your heart stops and your face instantly rots in the most horrifying way imaginable. And if that wasn't bad enough, she rings you up to let you know this is going to happen a week in advance. At least you'd have time to get the house nice.

4. The Exorcist: possessed by a demon claiming to be the Devil Himself, twelve year old Reagan has a wild time of it peeing on her mother's expensive carpet, murdering her mother's friends, taunting priests with 'your mum' jokes and doing unspeakable things with crucifixes. They wouldn't get away with this one today. Well, they probably would, but nobody would have the nerve to try. Has to be seen to be believed.

3. Rosemary's Baby: in third place, one of the greatest directors of our time (leaving aside the whole rapist thing) Roman Polanski, and the Devil's Own Son Adrian/Andy Woodhouse. Rosemary's (Mia Farrow) husband sells her body to the devil without her prior knowledge or approval in order to further his acting career. She unknowingly carries and gives birth to the demon child under the ministrations of a coven of elderly Satanists who happen to congregate in her block of flats. Never trust anyone over sixty who tries to get friendly with you; they're almost certainly after your fertile uterus to house the Anti-Christ.

2. The Omen: The Anti-Christ takes both third and second place; Damien Thorne, the son of the Devil, born of a jackal, terrorises Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, along with diverse others. Some tricks he gets up to: ramming into his mother on his toy bike so that she falls off a balcony, going apeshit when they try to take him into a church, and driving his nanny to throw herself out of a window with a rope around her neck. Eventually Peck makes up his mind to kill Damien, but loses his nerve in the horribly heart wrenching "no daddy, no!" scene, and then himself dies in a hail of police bullets. Damien ends the film at his own parents' funeral, smiling evilly into the camera as he clutches the hand of the US President.

1. The Shining: In first place, the Grady Twins; axed to death by their father after he is driven mad by the malevolent presence which lurks within the Overlook Hotel, the twins decide to hang around for a while so that they can stand in corridors blocking the way and inviting unsuspecting young boys to come and play with them, forever and ever and ever...

Monday, 15 August 2011

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to take lots of guns...

So, it's yet another 'let's find a cure for Alzheimer's by performing experiments on animals until they get smart enough to open their cages and take sweet revenge on proud humanity' movie. In other words, it's Deep Blue Sea with apes instead of sharks. All in all, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an intriguing and visually pretty wonderful re-imagining of how the apes started to take over prior to the main Planet of the Apes fiasco. But, I'm still going to pretend it was never made. If it had been just a tad more believable, it would have been a significantly better film.

The actors do their best with what they've got, but frankly, what they've got isn't all that much. Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy, pretty much appears to be playing an American version of his most famous role, only taking his wizard angst out on apes instead of Gryffindors. Andy Serkis, as lead Apelord Caesar, reprises his role as CGI creature of the year - if you thought it wasn't possible to be typecast as an effect, think again - although, you won't hear Serkis complaining, seeing as in his pre-LOTR days the highlight of his career was a bit part in a little known Poliakoff drama. James Franco is not up to his usual standard, although you can see he really is trying to be; he just doesn't quite get there. In the end, the CGI itself steals the show.

There are a few nice allusions to the classic 1970s original, including the obligatory 'get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape', but unfortunately the film makes itself just a shade too ridiculous, especially with the whole 'Caesar learning to talk' thing which, as Sophie Rickard pointed out, would really be quite impossible on any level within the context of the film. The drug given to these apes in order to make them super-intelligent is neurologically based, and therefore could not possibly cause vocal chords to develop in such a way that would allow an ape to speak. However, you could argue that because Caesar was not in fact given the drug but was born with it as part of his genetic make-up after it had been given to his mother, then he could feasibly have developed the physical capability of speech, but frankly that's a massive stretch, and rather more geeky and obsessive than this film deserves considering its many flaws.

Plus, the ending is mawkish and anti-climactic. The only reason to go and see this film is if you're in the mood to see apes wrecking up San Francisco and beating the shit out of humans during a pitched battle on Golden Gate Bridge. Fairly amusing and interesting to look at, but you'll only ever need to see it once.