Friday, November 21, 2014

Film Review: Gallows Hill (aka The Damned) (2013)

Gallows Hill (aka The Damned) (Review)
United States/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"The characters are especially poisonous for this film."

After a car accident, a family finds refuge in a desolate inn, where they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil...

Gallows Hill continues to follow this family after their accident. They find refuge in a seemingly out-of-business inn ran by an old man. Eventually, the daughter of the family, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), wanders around the home, which she's told not to do, in search of a restroom when she hears a girl cry. So, the family releases the girl, despite several warnings from the inn's owner. The girl turns out to be possessed, and the family tries to survive and unravel the mystery. I didn't like the ending.

In fact, I didn't like most of the film. The most glaring issues for the film: the unbelievably stupid characters and the consequently contrived story. Really, these are very stupid, ignorant, and arrogant characters. It must have been Opposite Day on the day this film took place, these characters do the exact opposite of what they're told. "Let's drive through this intense storm, even though the police officer told us not to." "He told us not to, but let's leave and explore the house." "Oh, this girl is dangerous and we shouldn't release her? Let's do it, anyway." I was shaking my head throughout the entire first half of the film.

Not only that, but these characters were also annoying. Jill was so self-righteous, she really ruined the ending. The same goes for Gina (Carolina Guerra), Jill's aunt and the journalist who has to get the scoop; furthermore, she makes the stupidest choice in the movie. The other characters were at least tolerable when it came to personality. (I think most of them make at least one stupid decision, though.) The characters ultimately spoiled the film, though.

The film gets a little better during the latter half, when the characters make less decisions, but it's not enough. I suppose, it's too little, too late. I enjoyed some of the scenes, but they weren't enough to redeem the first half of the film. That's very disappointing. I really enjoyed the setting, the inn has a really ominous mood and it almost has a personality for itself. It could've been very atmospheric and creepy. The keyword being: could've.

The acting was all-in-all mediocre. I don't fault it too much, though, most of it is tolerable by horror standards. However, I thought Nathalia Ramos was especially mediocre. Maybe it was dialogue, but her performance sounded very insincere, almost like she was reading directly off a script. Come to think of it, a lot of dialogue seemed insincere, it lacked a human flow -- for lack of a better term. The film is shot well, though. Like I said, the inn looks great and occasionally feels ominous. Director Víctor García almost redeems himself during the second half, but the flaws during the first half are too severe. I liked the concept and some of the horror elements during the final act, but the characters were simply too dreadful for the film.

Overall, I didn't like Gallows Hill. It has some decent horror elements, especially during the second half, as well as a decent concept, but it is too flawed to begin with. The characters are especially poisonous for this film. The plot contrivances are also too blatant, and the entire plot relies on the stupidity of its characters. The writing comes off as lazy, despite the cool concept. Stream it if you're still interested, but I can't recommend it.

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief nudity.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Film Review: Total Recall (1990)

Total Recall (Review)
United States/1990
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a magnificent action-thrill ride with a wonderfully-crafted world."

In 2084, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a construction worker on Earth who has dreams of Mars. One day, Quaid visits "Rekall", a company that provides implanted memories of vacations. Before the memory is implanted, though, Quaid has a surge of his own memories...

Total Recall continues to follow Quaid as he remembers himself as a secret agent. Rekall sedates him and tries to wipe his memory, but the damage has been done. Soon, Quaid finds his world flipped upside-down as he's chased by pursuers he can't seem to recognize. Eventually, he finds messages his old self left him, and he spirals into a complicated ride filled with twists and turns. That's as far as I'll go for my synopsis -- this is a film where the less you know, the better. I will say: I thoroughly enjoyed the entire plot, and the ending, albeit abrupt, was great.

Total Recall is a fantastic film. First and foremost, the world is amazing. I was instantly immersed into this futuristic setting. The world was mesmerizing on Earth and Mars. The plot kept me hooked from beginning to end. This is a story that always stays on its feet, consequently delivering a turbo-paced film. There's barely any time to breath thanks to the ridiculously fast pace. When the plot isn't twisting or turning, the film is hitting you with breathtaking chase scenes, a violent shootouts, brutal fights, or its effective black humor. Whatever its hitting you with: it works and it works well.

In this case, though, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, I didn't mind, I love action-hero Arnie, but it's worth noting for those expecting some groundbreaking acting. Fortunately, the rest of the cast and their characters are filled with personality. The world is beautifully captured through the cinematography. The action is effective captured through the engaging camerawork, too. The music stood out most, though. It's a classic SciFi soundtrack that helped build the immersion factor of the film. Actually, scratch that, I think the special effects and makeup stood out the most. The makeup in this film is unforgettable. I first watched this film in the 90s as a child, and I still can't forget it. Director Paul Verhoeven masterfully crafts a wonderfully immersive world, and delivers a fast-paced, action-thrill ride.

Overall, Total Recall is a magnificent action-thrill ride with a wonderfully-crafted world. Whether your looking for action or SciFi, this film delivers tenfold. Love music and special effect/makeup? This film delivers. Want a twisted and engaging plot? This film delivers. It's a ridiculously fun time -- this is how you make a SciFi blockbuster. I can't recommend this film enough. If you haven't seen it yet, you're over 20 years late.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Film Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Review)
United States/1976
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...when it works, it really works."

Loosely based on real events, this is the story of the Phantom Killer, an unidentified serial killer who tormented the town of Texarkana, Texas.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown has a straightforward plot. The story follows the police officers tracking the Phantom killer. It mainly follows Captain J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson), a well-known lead investigator, as he heads the case. Meanwhile, the Phantom killer attacks people every 21 days or so, particularly during the night. The town becomes nervous and begin to dread sundown, and the stakes are raised as the victims pile in. That's pretty much it -- not much investigative work going on. The ending of the film is great, though.

I didn't really have a problem with the simplicity of The Town That Dreaded Sundown. In fact, I thought it was often an attractive simplicity. The main issue with this film was the inconsistent mood. Separately, the elements work. When it's dark and ominous, it is exactly that. When it's aiming for a laugh, it's actually humorous. But, these two elements fail to blend seamlessly. It was almost like watching two different films: a cheesy b-movie horror/comedy and a serious crime thriller. The conflicting mood made it much less effective. The pacing was also an issue on occasion, especially during some of the uneventful parts of the film.

However, like I said, when it works, it really works. Parts of the film reminded me of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- which is a good thing for me since I love that film. The actual serial killer aspects of the film, like the killings and (minimal) investigations, are chilling and creepy. There are some very ominous and unsettling scenes here and there. Some great suspense and tension, too. I laughed out loud at least a handful of times during the film. On the other hand, though, I think this film would have been tighter and more consistent without the comedy.

The acting was good from the main cast. The role wasn't very demanding, but Ben Johnson delivered a strong performance. Some of the supporting cast was terrible. For example, one of the early attacks on this film had an actress screaming hysterically; instead of feeling her fear and hoping she got away, I wanted her to get caught so the screeching could stop! (I'm a bad person.)  The film looks great, though; the high definition print allows this film to shine. Director Charles B. Pierce does well in developing the ominous mood and delivering chilling scenes -- at certain times. On the other hand, the mood changes so often and inconsistently, it makes the film less effective and less focused.

Overall, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a good film. It's not a superb film or a classic, but it's also far from terrible or bad. I couldn't fully immerse myself into the film due to the constant mood swings, but I did enjoy a bulk of the film -- especially the horror/crime scenes. The humor worked, too, but it didn't fit. If you have an hour and half to kill and enjoy the genre, this is at least worth a rental or stream.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Film Review: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Night of the Creeps (Review)
United States/1986
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a horror-comedy treat."

While trying to get into a frat, friends Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) unwittingly unleash an alien experiment...

Night of the Creeps follows Chris and J.C., as well as detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), while an alien rummages through their college town. Of course, they have no idea what they unleashed, but they have all heard or seen similar reports: the dead are walking. So, while this alien species spreads its seed, the students prepare for their big dance. A purposefully familiar cast of characters bring life to this fantastic world! Plenty of humor, suspense, and gore blend together for an entertaining plot. It also builds up to a great climax. The ending was good, too.

Night of the Creeps is a fairly simple zombie/alien horror b-movie. Fortunately, it has plenty of heart to make up for its simplicity. And, really, I thought the simplicity was attractive. The humor was great. There are many laugh-out-loud moments thanks to the lively set of characters. There is also some great suspense and tension -- more than expected considering the abundant humor. The gore, which is most prominent during the final act, was superb -- I love practical effects, and this film delivers. I did feel like there was a little too much buildup in this film, though. It had some moments where it felt like it might not reach its climax efficiently. Otherwise, it's a horror-comedy treat.

The acting was great. This cast captured the b-movie charm perfectly. Jason Lively is good, Steve Marshall is even better. But, Tom Atkins steals the show; Tom Atkins delivers a very memorable character through his cheeky performance. The film is shot very well; I really enjoyed the cinematography and camerawork. The music was also good -- I really liked the choice in soundtrack and editing, especially during the 60s segment. The special effects and makeup were superb; they were a little off during the introduction, but they are perfect afterward. Writer and director Fred Dekker delivers a hilarious and entertaining homage; the direction is stylish and effective, and the writing is humorous and accurate (for a b-movie homage). There was a little too much buildup, though, and some minor pacing issues.

Overall, Night of the Creeps is a very entertaining and enjoyable b-movie horror film. It offers some genuine humor, great suspense, and superb special effects -- especially for fans of practical effects. If you're a fan of the genre, this is definitely worth checking out.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some nudity.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Film Review: Deepstar Six (1989)

Deepstar Six (Review)
United States/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...kept me locked and seated until the end."

The crew of the Deepstar Six, a deep-sea colony, struggle to survive against a vicious sea monster.

Deepstar Six begins by following the routine procedure of this crew. This crew works on the Deepstar Six, a deep-sea colony funded by the Navy, so the crew consists of military and civilian personnel. Eventually, as the crew sets up the nuclear missile storage above a deep cavern, they awaken a large and fast sea creature. So, it becomes a fight for survival. The ending was a bit bizarre, but I enjoyed it. Ultimately, it's a fairly simple creature feature, though.

It doesn't really become a creature feature until halfway through, actually. The first and second act are used to mostly buildup the character and setting. I definitely appreciated that. However, I thought this segment was longwinded. If you're looking for a creature, it doesn't appear until the second half. Furthermore, it's not built up well, either. There's some suspense here and there, but it simply didn't feel engaging. The final act becomes the actual fight for survival, and I enjoyed it. Great suspense, action, and death sequences. In fact, this film has an instant-favorite death. (that sounds bizarre, but it's true.)

I also loved the setting for this film. It reminded me of Alien, but obviously underwater. Regardless, the setting was immersive. In fact, it was more immersive and engaging than the plot during the first two acts. I often found myself looking at every inch of the setting, sometimes looking at the setting more than the characters. If you're a fan of settings, this is for you. The creature is also great. It's design is definitely different, but memorable. I only wish we could have seen more of it.

The acting was good. Nothing special, but nothing terrible, either. It's more than competent, though. Miguel Ferrer stood out, though, I really enjoyed his performance. The music is great, too, I can see myself listening to this soundtrack without the film. The film is shot very well. The cinematography and camerawork capture the wonderful setting perfectly. This is worth watching in high definition, the film stands the test of time. Although it's not as engaging during the first half, director Sean S. Cunningham does a wonderful job in creating an immersive atmosphere and a redeeming second half. He also pulls solid performances from his cast.

Overall, Deepstar Six is a good SciFi horror film. It reminded me of films like Relic and Deep Rising, which I really enjoyed. However, this film really excels when it comes to the setting and atmosphere. The story may have flaws, but the setting really hooked me. It kept me locked and seated until the end. If you're a fan of creature features, this is definitely worth a stream or rental.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, and some partial nudity. (wet t-shirt contest!)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Review)
United States/1978
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a must-watch for fans the genre."

Matthew (Donald Sutherland), a San Francisco health inspector, and his colleague Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) begin believe people are being perfectly duplicated by aliens...

Invasion of the Body Snatchers begins with some very strong yet subtle buildup, and I love it. It takes its time to introduce the characters and the concept, which creates an overall more effective experience. Slowly but surely, Elizabeth convinces Matthew about people not being the same, like her boyfriend who suddenly becomes emotionless. So, Matthew and Elizabeth, along with some select friends, find themselves searching for answers and trying to survive. Who can they trust? The third act has a few flaws, particularly with one character, but the ending is great -- I actually really love the ending.

In fact, I really enjoyed most of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The first act is wonderful in buildup and character. It takes its time -- not too much, though -- to really create that effective slow-burning sensation. It continues with this sensation for the bulk of the film; in fact, there are some very tense and suspenseful scenes here. Also, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is wonderful in creating a subtle sense of paranoia. The onscreen characters don't bicker and question each other, but I was sitting wondering "is he a duplicate? What about her?" I love when a film hooks you like this, and this film obviously succeeded for me.

There are a few issues, though. There are a couple of pacing issues. I know, I know, I just praised the slow-burn pace, but there is such a thing as burning too slow. Consequently, there are a handful of scenes that feel longwinded. This film probably could have been cut down 5-10 minutes, and be just as effective. Furthermore, there is one character that suddenly becomes incompetent during the final act. This character is great during the first half of the film, but suddenly makes several "mistakes." Really, this character became more of a plot contrivance.

The acting is great, though. Donald Sutherland delivers a strong performance, and Brooke Adams is oozing with charisma. Jeff Goldblum also offers a great supporting performance. The film looks great. I loved the cinematography, and I especially loved the camerawork. (You should seek the High Definition print of this film, it definitely stands the test of time.) The music works very well with the film and the genre. The practical special effects are superb, by the way. Aside from a few pacing issues and a somewhat contrived final act, director Philip Kaufman is fantastic in creating suspense and paranoia; he has crafted a very immersive and atmospheric SciFi thriller.

Overall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a great film. If you love slow-burn film with atmosphere and immersion, I think you'll love this film. I think you'll especially love this film if you're a fan of movies from the 70s. From its atmosphere to its suspense and from its (once) creative concept to its paranoia, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a must-watch for fans the genre. Be warned of the slow-pace, though.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some nudity.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Film Review: The Possession of Michael King (2014)

The Possession of Michael King (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant Video (Rental)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Do you like possession films? And, do you like loud-noise jump scares?"

After his wife passes away, filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson) sets out to disprove God and the Devil by documenting his supernatural experiments...

The Possession of Michael King is a fairly simple film. The story follows Michael as he documents his experiments with the supernatural, particularly black magic and such. Michael interviews people with experience on the subject and participates in some of the experiments. Particularly, Michael attempts to summon a demon using several bizarre methods. Eventually, Michael begins to question his sanity as he witnesses the unexplainable and begins to lose control of himself. It becomes hectic during the climax, but it oddly felt like it was wandering; it was aimlessly shooting for any ending. The story is very familiar but more than competent. I liked it.

Now, I think the horror will be the most polarizing aspect of the film. It boils down to two questions: Do you like possession films? And, do you like loud-noise jump scares? As long as you don't hate either of these, I think you'll find some enjoyment in this film. Otherwise, this film may not be your cup of Joe. You see, Michael King is very reliant on sudden jump-scares. In fact, most of the "horror" in this film is jump-scares. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially for a single viewing, but it becomes detrimental when the buildup is nonexistent. Some of these jump-scares come from out of nowhere. There's no suspense or buildup, just a sudden loud-noise.

Like I said, though, if that's your preferred method of horror, you'll enjoy this film. Although I'm not the biggest fan of jump-scares, I did enjoy some of these. I won't lose any sleep at night, but I had fun. I suppose that's the best way to describe this type of horror: fun. It won't be so fun if you watch it again immediately after because you'll know when to expect the jump-scares, but it's fun for the time being. (i.e. Not bad for a rental.) As for other types of horror, there were two or three genuinely creepy scenes and some interesting possession scenes.

The acting was all-around good. Shane Johnson does very well as the lead. The supporting cast also offer great performances. I had no complaints for the acting. The film is shot well, especially for a found-footage/mockumentary film. This is one of the rare found-footage films that avoids the disastrous shaky-cam most of the time. (Thank you!) I liked the audio distortion the film occasionally uses, it worked well for some scares. This is directed and written for the screen by David Jung, and it serves as his debut. Aside from the over-reliance on jump-scares, this film was enjoyable. It's not a technically flawed film per se, but it is somewhat disappointing and it falls the one-trick-pony category. In other words, I'd like to see more from David Jung, especially if he expands his palette.

Overall, The Possession of Michael King is a good horror film. It may not have a lot of atmosphere or suspense, but it has plenty of jump-scares and some decent possession elements. It's definitely better than The Devil Inside, which shares a similar plot and style. Ultimately, if you enjoy possession films and don't mind jump-scares, this is definitely worth a rental. (I rented it for $0.99 from Amazon and I don't regret it.)

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Film Review: The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985)

The Hills Have Eyes Part II (2) (Review)
United States/1985
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"... a 'so bad, it's good'-type film."

Eight years after the events of the original, Rachel unwittingly leads a team of bikers into the same location of the original massacre.

The Hills Have Eyes Part II follows Rachel and her team, who have created super fuel for their bikes, as they enter the desert for a race. The group decide to take a shortcut, but run out of gas on their way. Soon, they fall prey to a pair of cannibals named Pluto and The Reaper -- sound like some wrestlers' names. That's practically all that happens in the film. Also, the plot is contrived. There are also plenty of flashbacks to fill you in on the vastly superior original film; in fact, there's even a dog has a flashback! The ending is predictable and cheesy, but enjoyable.

Well, as enjoyable as a cheesy film can get. This isn't a good horror film. In fact, this film isn't particularly scary -- at all. It's one of those cheesy horror B-movies that feels phoned in for a sequel. You know, like a studio or director was in need of cash, so they rushed out a sequel. Fortunately, it's also a charming film. It's kind of like Piranha and The Incredible Melting Man. They're bad films by most standards -- well, at least the latter is -- but they're wildly entertaining, regardless.

So, if you go into this with the proper expectations, or none at all, you may find some enjoyment in this film. There some mild suspense here and there. Nothing unbearable or impressive, but some decent tension. There are some surprisingly impressive death sequences, like some bone crushing and a wicked slit throat. The humor falls flat most of the time. But -- and this is a massive but -- you'll likely have a good laugh at the "so bad, it's good" aspects of the film.

Such as: the mediocre acting. Some of the actors may try to be funny, but their hilariously mediocre performances steal their thunder. It's as robotic as many of the other 70/80s horror movies. I could barely remember the music, to be honest; it sounded like a typical horror soundtrack from the era, though. The film looks decent at times; during others, it's often too difficult to see, especially during some of its dark/nighttime sequences. This is written and directed by Wes Craven, who also wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street, one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, like his work on Pulse and My Soul to Take, this film feels uninspired, often dull, and not scary. This is one of those moments where a legendary filmmaker delivers a "so bad, it's good"-type film.

Overall, The Hills Have Eyes 2 is a decent film. Sure, it failed to frighten, the plot was contrived and somewhat forgettable (I'll never forget that dog flashback, though), and the acting was mediocre, but the film is enjoyable. It's the same type of enjoyment I found in The Incredible Melting Man. If you don't like B-movies, especially the so-bad-it's-good kind, then you'll likely dislike this film. If you watched the superior original or the remake, there isn't much of a reason to watch this film, unless you're open-minded or drunk -- or both.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some brief nudity and sex.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Film Review: Mercy (2014)

Mercy (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...not necessarily a bad film, but it is definitely a disappointing film."

When her mental health begins to deteriorate, a single mother takes her two sons to help take care of their grandmother.

Mercy mainly follows George (Chandler Riggs), who has a very close relationship with his grandmother, Mercy (Shirley Knight). George, his brother, and their mother move into Mercy's home to take care of her as she nears death. All is seemingly normal -- or, at least as normal as it can get in this situation -- until George starts digging into his grandmother's past and finds that she's not exactly what she seems. The story becomes hectic and cliché during the final act, but it was a much needed boost for the film. The ending was okay -- a little cliché and cheesy, though.

I really wanted to like this film. In fact, I liked quite a bit about the film, so let me cover that first. The music is great, I liked the introduction thanks to the music. The plot is interesting. I always appreciate films that become more than "just another supernatural" movie. There are quite a few creepy scenes, too. Honestly, there were some very chilling scenes here involving Mercy, and I was impressed. If you're a fan of jump-scares, the final act packs in plenty. The short runtime is also attractive, it doesn't feel like a complete waste of time.

Okay, so let's go over the bad. The buildup is mostly ineffective. The "close" relationship between George and Mercy only has one scene of development, which was very disappointing. Other than the character, the plot doesn't buildup well, either. It's slow-paced, but without the necessary burn. So, there wasn't much suspense or tension, either. Furthermore, it's a bit on the uneventful side, which is odd considering the very short runtime for the film. In fact, most of the story unravels during the latter half, which makes the first half feel like a chore. I didn't really like any of the characters, either.

The acting was also hit-or-miss. Shirley Knight hits with a creepy performance, but her screen time is limited. Chandler Riggs misses with his performance, he has very little range, which was disappointing. The supporting cast barely have any time to shine, but they're at least decent. The music, which I genuinely enjoyed during the intro, was great -- during the intro. The rest of the runtime, I didn't actually notice a strong music presence, which was also disappointing. This film is adapted from a Stephen King story I haven't read, but it seems like the filmmakers either cut too much out of the story or stretched the story too thin -- this is based on a short story, after all. Director Peter Cornwell is decent. I think he captures the atmosphere well and creates some genuinely creepy scenes here and there, but the story feels disjointed and uneventful, the buildup is ineffective, and the lead actor is a dud.

Overall, Mercy is a mediocre film. It's not necessarily a bad film, but it is definitely a disappointing film. I applaud the film for being more than another jump-scare ghost story, but it unfortunately offers less horror than some of those very same films. If you have the hour and 15 minutes to kill and you're a fan of either Stephen King or Blumhouse Productions, this is at least worth a stream.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Film Review: Death Wish (1974)

Death Wish (Review)
United States/1974
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...more than enjoyable for fans of the genre."

When his family is brutally attacked by muggers, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) becomes an armed vigilante...

Death Wish is a very simple vigilante/revenge film. The story quickly introduces and develops the relationship between Paul and his wife – probably less than 5 minutes. Rather early in the film, Paul's wife and daughter are brutally attacked. Paul and his son-in-law deal with the police and eventually – after some long buildup – Paul becomes a vigilante. The rest of the film follows Paul as he deals his own breed of justice to the despicable muggers plaguing his city and as the police attempt to stop him. The ending is odd, but decent.

I liked the simplicity of the story, but I found it to be mostly ineffective. I'm a big fan of buildup in film, especially slow-burn buildup. And, like I said, this film has plenty of buildup. However, I think the buildup is poorly balanced. The attack happens so early in the film, it's almost impossible to have any connection to these characters; consequently, the attack, as disturbing as it may be, feels less effective than it should have. Instead, this film opts to buildup Paul's decision to become a vigilante. It would feel much more natural and effective if it had spend an equal amount of time on each, but instead it feels a bit dull and, well, ineffective. Furthermore, the story does feel a tad bit on the repetitious side during the latter half of the film – bait a mugger, kill a mugger, police investigation, and repeat.

Otherwise, the story kept my attention and I was fairly entertained. There are some suspenseful and tense scenes here and there. And, the story does a decent job in representing the issues with self-defense and gun control. Even more fortunate, the film does not preach. It has its discussions about guns and self-defense, and so on, but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. I suppose the best way to describe this film is as a standard vigilante film. Sure, it's practically the pioneer of the genre, but it doesn't pack many surprise – and not that should have to.

The acting is good. If you watch a lot of films, it's what you would expect from a typical 70s film. I enjoyed Charles Bronson as the lead, though, he's great. The film looks good; the cinematography doesn't really pop, but it's more than competent. The music is great; I like these old-school soundtracks, and this soundtrack is good – however, it occasionally feels out of place. On the technical side, it doesn't really stand out, but it's also far from bad. Director Michael Winner is good, he pulls decent performances from the cast and has a decent flow for the film; however, the film does suffer from some dull moments, some bad balancing, and some poor pacing.

Overall, Death Wish is a good film. I know bashed it quite a bit, but it is more than competent and more than enjoyable for fans of the genre. It suffers from its mediocre buildup and balancing, as well as the repetitive latter half, but it ultimately works as a vigilante crime thriller. Death Wish simply has not aged well, or at least as well as many other 70s films – like The Exorcist or Invasion of the Body Snatchers – and I suppose that's one of its bigger disappointments.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sex and brief nudity, including a sexual battery.