by Jaime Grijalba.
It’s been quite a while since I last posted in this magnificent site, even if I have the chance every other wednesday, I haven’t done so, many reasons have been in the way, but most of the time it’s been lack of material to work with. After all, most of my posts go around two subjects: literature and new films that should be taken into account, considerated to be in the year end’s lists. So, then, two things have happened, I haven’t had time to finish the latest Mario Vargas Llosa novel (‘The Green House’) since it’s long and not really that entertaining (and I recently left it at a friend’s house, and just today I’ll be getting it back, that’s more than two weeks without reading what I should have, but that gave me time to finish one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, ‘Good Omens’ by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman). The other thing was that I’ve seen some 2011 films and most of them will be considered for the year’s best (or worst of the year even… I’m looking at you “The Dilemma”, “Hall Pass”, “Sucker Punch”…), but there’s been a subject that has been interesting me recently and just now I’ve realized how it connects to the later aspect of my interests in this blog: 2011 films.
I can feel enthusiasm when it comes to film, and it makes me value things more, I can sense when something is done with passion, may it be a script, a direction, a certain acting, something that’s made with love is specially noted by me, and I celebrate that in many ways. When people love what they do you can see it, and it shows, specially when it goes through a tremendous effort to make it through. For example, the movie ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981) may not be considered as a great movie, for many not even a good movie, but for me it represents what I’m talking about: Passion. Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Robert G. Tapert , and everyone else that put so much effort, blood, sweat and tears, that it’s pretty much wonderful, a masterpiece in my eyes, and my fourth favorite movie of all time. I know it’s extreme, but the first time I saw it something clicked with me, and it’s been the only movie so far that I could see three times in a row without getting bored one second (I was doing nothing else at the moment, in fact, I should have been studying for the biggest test in the history of a chilean student, the PSU — University Selection Test –). Now I see the same passion in the new guys who now are in charge of Hammer Films.
The Hammer Films Production Company is one of the most loved by the horror fans from around the world, and they’ve produced one of the most extended catalogues of visually impressive horror films in history. They went the Universal route by re-doing all the classic monster films with a lot of blood and cleavage, which really enhanced the experience in most of the cases, and gave the opportunity to these classic stories to give more of themselves, showing things that couldn’t be shown in those early years of cinema (1930’s – 40’s). Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, and even the Mummy were made by this production company, and they spawned many sequels. They also went the way of science fiction, with their Quatermass series, and many fantasy and monster-creature flicks, even some of them which are regarded highly than those classic series. They have been the subject of studies, and even a chilean book was made studying the films and their psychological-sexual force behind them… what I’m trying to say is that there is a visual and invisible qualities so their appeal is practicly universal.
But sometimes good things just can’t last. Hammer broke and stopped doing movies, their last horror film being ‘To the Devil a Daughter’ (1976), which starred the usual Christopher Lee. It was remembered by some, reverd by many and missed by all, they used to bring out the best of the british horror, but now the world was turning around to a new batch of films from the United States during the 80’s, the slasher genre and such. But miracles happen, there had been rumours throught the years that Hammer didn’t really close at all, that it was just a rest for them. The return was modest, in the most unexpected (and some say undeserved) way, through an film divided in parts shown through the internet, I’m talking about ‘Beyond the Rave’ (2008), a horror vampire movie set in modern times, that I haven’t been able to see, not that I’m actually looking forward to it, but it looks interesting enough. Then there was another hiatus of two years until we saw their first feature that went into american and british theaters, ‘Let Me In’ (2010), a remake of the lauded swedish vampire movie ‘Let the Right One In’ (2008). Again, Hammer decided to start their new life into horror through the way of the remake-retelling.
But I’m not going to talk to you about some old film from 2010 (which was actually quite revered no matter how evident its remake status was), because I haven’t really seen it. I’m going to give you two little looks, two little reviews of the two recently released Hammer pictures in 2011, both of them available for rent and buy on DVD/Blu-ray, and both of them good examples of the kind of original content and new talent that Hammer is bringing up for their revival/resurrection/comeback. Maybe they won’t make my own list of the best movies of the year, but they were enjoyed enough for them to be recommended, maybe just because they’re Hammer produced, what else could you possibly ask for? There’s a new Hammer film out, see it! No questions asked! And if you have any question, first read these short paragraphs on them, I hope they help in your final decission.
The Resident (Antti Jokinen)
After a break-up, Juliet Devereau (Hillary Swank), a doctor in a local hospital in Brooklyn, decides to buy a new flat. His new landlord (played by the clone of Javier Bardem a.k.a. Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is incredibly gentle to her, bringing her presents and having her meet his father (played by, oh my God, Christopher Lee!). What she doesn’t know is that when she sleeps, someone is watching over, while she bathes, while she cooks, while she’s with her ex-boyfriend. Someone always seems to be around and we’re never sure who it is, until about 30 minutes into the picture, in which it is revealed that the landlord has been obsessed with her for quite a while, knowing her in the hospital, falling in love with her, just so he could get in bed with her. Well, she is a beauty, and the risk may be worth it, if she doesn’t really notice, but when you have to dope her every night so you can grope her, just because she won’t have sex with you every night, because she still loves her ex-boyfriend, you’re in real trouble, because she won’t stay calm, specially when she starts to get suspicious and puts cameras around her bedroom. Even if it goes beyond the flat, the movie feels claustrophobic due to the always menacing and lingering figure of the landlord, which always seems to be in some part of the scene: stalking, looking or just talking. There’s some good deal of acting, specially from Dean Morgan, and the role of Christopher Lee is just adorable, Hillary Swank is just a good actress and she manages to give a fine performance that doesn’t feel to scared neither too in control, just like a modern strong woman would do in her situation. The colours are interesting in the film, as every scene inside the rooms of the flat are brownish/yellowish/reddish, giving it a giallo-like look that sometimes fits with the scenes of the stranger who looks around. The movie fails in some points due to the ridiculous attempts of the landlord to get her attention, and after we know who the stalker is, we lose some interest, but there’s still more than an hour left of the movie. (Rating: ***1/2)
Wake Wood (David Keating)
This movie is a little and surprising wonder, one of those movies you don’t seem to get very often, and if it wasn’t for some ridiculous plot points and some confusing dialogues, it would pretty much be wonderful. The movie starts with an amazing montage which combines the travel of a couple by car to the town of Wake Wood, their past as they raise their daughter, and the bloody death of her by the jaws of a rabid dog. Those scenes are filmed in such perfection and the raw quality of it all predicts quite a stunning visual quality through the rest of the film, which actually reminds of the tremendous effort put into earlier Hammer pictures so they looked good. This grieving couple work in this town, apart from the modern city, with a patron (played by a splendid Timothy Spall) that everyone in the town knows and respects. Obviously, the town hides some secrets, and we are witnesses of the birth of a man through the burning remains of a cow fetus, conducted by this man. Another series of strange events break down the mother so she wants to get out of the town, they are intercepted by the patron, who tells them that they can resurrect the dead for three days, and that they can bring their daughter back if they want to. Of course, the ritual is done, and they enjoy their daughter, but as the date of the end approaches, the daughter starts to act more and more strangely, getting to the point in which all gets bloody awful. The acting is correct, but there are two that stand out: Timothy Spall as Arthur, this town mayor/patron/priest and the newcomer Ella Connolly, who plays the daughter, which has extremely emotional scenes as well as terrible events to commit. The photography is just the best I’ve seen in the whole year, and it should be noted that it feels as one of those old countryside horror films, who take place in far away places, like ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) or ‘Who can Kill a Child?’ (1976). Some processes aren’t quite understandable, but it could be understood given the little budget they were working with, as well as the ending, which doesn’t really seems to fit… or I just couldn’t understand it. I recommend it very much. (Rating: ****)
So you know now, see these movies.