I Have Been Watching… August 2013, Part 2
So, here’s part 2 of the films I watched in August. In October. A bit later than I was hoping, as life and GTA V (mostly GTA V if I’m honest) kind of got in the way during the month of September. As a result, I barely watched any films in everyone’s favourite ninth month (or visited as many of my favourite blogs as I would’ve liked), so will probably skip “I Have Been Watching” for September altogether, and move straight onto October. Part 3 of what I watched in August will follow soon.
Every major new horror film has to be from the makers of those other major horror films you watched a while back. Therefore, Sinister is from the makers of Paranormal Activity, and Insidious. I don’t think it matters who’s involved across all the films, as long as there’s a common link somewhere. All these films probably have the same caterers. “From the people who made the sandwiches on Paranormal Activity and Insidious.”
Anyhoo, Ehtan Hawke is a true crime writer who hasn’t had a hit book for years. In desperation, and hoping for inspiration, he moves himself and his wife and two kids into a “murder house” where a family of four were hung by their necks from a tree under mysterious circumstances. There’s some good stuff between him and his wife, anger and resentments bubbling to the surface that feel real, but mostly Sinister drags on for ages whilst Ethan Hawke pisses around watching Super 8 snuff films that magically appear in his attic.
If I learnt one thing from Sinister, it’s that ancient demons love to film themselves doing nasty shit. In the sequel, the lead character will probably find footage in his attic of the ancient demon masturbating in the shower or something.
Director Ben Wheatley continues his streak of dark, off the wall films — Down Terrace, Kill List — with Sightseers. Except this time he’s got Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace alumini, Alice Lowe, on acting and scripting duties. If you’re unfamiliar with Darkplace, Lowe played a psychic nurse in a hospital where the doctors carry guns, humans evolve back into apes, and a giant eyeball impregnates a man. Confused? Seek out the show, and watch it. You’ll still be confused. But probably bust a gut laughing.
As a result of Lowe’s involvement, Sightseers is a more comedic affair than Wheatley’s previous films. But it’s no less dark because of it. Lowe plays a woman still tied to her mother’s apron strings. But she seizes a chance to go on a caravan holiday with her new boyfriend, much to her mum’s disapproval.
The couple develop a twisted relationship, killing their way across the English countryside. They’re not evil in an obvious way. Rather, they are frustrated with the hand life has dealt them. It’s clear they were both heading for a mental breakdown, but meeting each other, and a gruesome accident involving a rude litter lout, is what makes them both snap. The outcome is probably one of the best endings I’ve seen for a while. It’s grim, but very funny.
Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)
Ah, The Wizard of Oz. The Judy Garland version from 1939 used to be something of a Christmas Day regular in the UK. If you’d ever slung one too many beers down your neck on Christmas Eve, and crawled out of your bed the next morning wondering what day it was, The Wizard of Oz on the telly was a good indicator that Christmas Day had well and truly arrived. These days, it seems Jurassic Park is now the BBC’s go-to film to fill that post turkey dinner slot. I’ve probably seen that dinosaur film about twenty times if you add up all the little bits of it I’ve seen through a martini induced haze, nodding off with mince pie crumbs down my jumper.
The same goes for The Wizard of Oz, except maybe fifty times. Somehow, I don’t think Oz: The Great and Powerful will quite end up in the same category. Rather than a straight remake, it’s a prequel (and probably plunders some characters from the other ten Oz books that L. Frank Baum wrote). It’s the story of how the wizard became the wizard of Oz, and starts in roughly the same way that the original does, with James Franco’s charlatan magician being transported from our world to the world of the film’s title.
The trouble is, Franco is pretty unlikable, and not easy to root for. He tries, but by the time his redemption rolls around comes the finale, I think most of my interest had dried up. I will say this though. One of the characters, a little china doll, should get her own film. She was the best bit of CGI in a film overloaded with computer enhanced bufoonery.
The Reef (2010)
The Reef is a rather effective Open Water style horror, supposedly based on a true story. These types of story usually are. Admittedly, I’ve not seen Open Water, which may account for why I enjoyed The Reef. I suspect it does nothing really new. But rather than two unlucky pieces of shark bait, this time we have four. Straight away, this increases the potential for more gruesome death scenes of sharks munching on their human victims. And considering this is based on a true story, it seems sharks have an inbuilt instinct for devouring the cast in the exact order you would expect. Who knew sharks were a fan of horror films? It’s not a movie that will shake your world, but the characters are likable, and it does a lot with very little, being really quite tense at times.
Spring Breakers (2013)
Is Spring Breakers just a movie where four girls dance around in bikinis at Spring Break for the entire running time? No, but it’s not far off. They do stuff other than dancing. They rob places, drink beer, snort coke, all in their bikinis. They even make a court appearance. In their bikinis.
But is there more to it than that? It can’t all just be girls in bikinis, right? Whilst there’s a feeling that the director, Harmony Korine, probably had one hand down his shorts as he set up the next lingering shot on Selena Gomez’s bottom, he nevertheless concocts a vivid dream-like atmosphere that’s quite unlike anything I’ve seen in recent times. Dialogue repeats, often in different scenes. Time lines get jumbled up, but not at the expense of propelling the movie towards its violent denouement.
Gomez’s character says, “I’m starting to think this is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been.” But it’s all a lie. Some of the girls embrace the lie. Some of them don’t. Meanwhile, James Franco doesn’t give a shit either way. He’s too busy walking away with the movie.