Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Film Review: Ghost In The Shell 2.0 (2008)

Ghost In The Shell 2.0 (Review)
Japan/2008
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

In the future, in a world seamlessly interconnected by technology, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a female police officer and leader of Section 9, along with her team, hunts down a mysterious and elusive hacker, the Puppet Master. What she finds is a complex world of life and conspiracy.

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 has a fantastic story. Using its immersive SciFi environment, we are sucked into a computerized world where reality and fantasy seamlessly blend to provoke thought. We follow Kusanagi and her crew as she hunts the Puppet Master - a mysterious character up to the end, where the meaningful motives and truth behind a web of lies are revealed. Along the way, we are introduced to many different characters - not deeply, but briefly - and the different technology available; and, we often get to see it all in action. The film has a few twists - they're not mind-blowing, but they work very well for the film and aren't far-fetched. The ending is great - again, you can see it coming, though.

GitS 2.0 uses magnificent action sequences to move the story along. The shootouts are incredibly captured, and the use of futuristic technology, such as camouflage, add variety. Much of the action reminded me of the Metal Gear Solid video game series, though clearly GitS 2.0 released first; regardless, the action is fascinating and uses the SciFi elements perfectly. There are a few scenes that some may consider useless, like the long shots of the different areas that are visited; I felt like these scenes, accompanied with fantastic music, added some atmosphere and ambiguity, like Blade Runner, and left room for contemplation.

The voice acting from the Japanese cast is great - capturing every emotion needed simply with voice. The animation is smooth and slick; the characters' movements are very well-made, the environments - colors and design - are moody and gritty. The new 3D computer animation in GitS 2.0 is okay - it doesn't hurt the film significantly, but it definitely doesn't help. (I liked this combination much more in South Korea's Wonderful Days.) The music is superb - I love the soundtrack in this film, worth listening to even without the film. The animation and music ultimately blend to create an immersive atmosphere. I'm not familiar with the source material, but the story works as a standalone feature.

Overall, Ghost in the Shell 2.0 is a fantastic SciFi action film. The technical aspects effectively compliment the narrative - the animation, the music, the story - everything is top-notch. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of SciFi action and anime.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, full female nudity.

Film Review: Paprika (2006)

Paprika (Review)
Japan/2006
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...captures the magic dreams are made of..." 

Using a device called the "DC Mini", psychologists are able to conduct dream therapy, where they can view people's dreams. Dr. Atsuko, using her alter ego, Paprika, illegally uses this device to help psychiatric patients; as Paprika, Atsuko can travel the dream world. When three DC Mini prototypes are stolen, Atsuko and friends team up to find who's responsible before irreparable damage occurs...

The mystery continues into the dream world where the dreams of several seem to be merging, and the original suspect may be a victim after all. And so, Paprika continues to face threats in the dream world that can hurt her in the real world. The story continues with a few interesting twists, and a world-merging concept. In fact, the third act of the film really amps up the story and starts to bring its concept to life. The ending is superb, filled with brilliant designs and edge-of-your-sear action; and, it even makes you think a bit.

Paprika is a SciFi action film. The dream world sequences are very creative and mesmerizing; it's a real touch of ingenuity. The real world features plenty of dilemmas, but the SciFi isn't fully fleshed out. The concept is always interesting, but it doesn't become fully utilized until the final act; something always felt like it was missing, like a viable threat. The action is superb, especially towards the end. There are many humorous scenes, and that comedy blends well with the film. Ultimately, the story is great; it's not perfect, but it's close.

The Japanese voice cast is superb. Every emotion is captured perfectly, and the dialogue is delivered fluently; for example, moments of excitement feels genuinely exciting. The animation is great, the colors are vivid and the movements are smooth; the designs are creative and unique, really capturing a dream vibe, and even capturing some nightmarish creatures. The music is also very unique, and it fits the film perfectly; the soundtrack is very creative, and the sound editing is also well-fitted for the SciFi themes of the film. Satoshi Kon is fantastic as director and writer, really pulling everything he can from the cast and story.

Overall, Paprika is a great SciFi action film. The concept is interesting, the story is entertaining, the animation is creative and unique, and the music is superb. Although not without its faults, Paprika captures the magic that dreams are made of; well, some of our dreams, at least. Like Satoshi Kon's previous effort, Tokyo Godfathers, I strongly recommend Paprika for fans of the genre.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and nudity.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Film Review: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Tokyo Godfathers (Review)
Japan/2003
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...successfully tells a meaningful story while being incredibly entertaining."

On Christmas Eve, three homeless people - Gin, an alcoholic gambler, Hana, a trans woman, and Miyuki, a teenage runaway - find an abandoned baby in the garbage. After much debate and bickering, the group decide to find the birth mother and return the baby. Their trip will be much harder than expected as they run into odd characters and sticky situations.

Tokyo Godfathers is a humorous drama with compelling elements. Following themes such as coincidence, forgiveness, family and hope, Tokyo Godfathers successfully tells a meaningful story while being incredibly entertaining. Also, the story is complimented effectively by the Christmas setting and atmosphere; a story, despite some dark humor, a family can enjoy on Christmas. The film takes time to develop its eccentric characters, especially when they are alone; together, they form a strong and humorous bond; alone, we have a moment of introspection. This wild adventure leads up to a fantastically suspenseful and tear-jerking ending.

As I previously stated, the story is a humorous drama at heart. However, in this 1hr 30min feature anime, you can expect both black and lighthearted comedy, some action and suspense, and a great feeling of adventure and discovery. The fast pace of the story makes for the perfect time-killer, and the meaningful themes make for contemplative experience - during and after the film. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and all of its aspects. It's not what I expected from an anime film, and I think fan or not, you'll be able to enjoy it too.

The Japanese voice acting is fantastic; capturing the eccentric characters with different tones and pitches, as well as effectively capturing deep emotion. The animation is easy on the eyes - a bit sluggish here and there, but all in all, a very pleasing experience. Satoshi Kon's direction, as well as his writing, is superb. The music works very well with the film. Technically speaking, the film is exceptional.

Overall, Tokyo Godfathers is a deeply compelling, adventurous, and humorous film; the elements of this film effectively compliment each other to create an immersive and entertaining story - from beginning to end. Whether you're a fan of anime or not, this film is worth watching. I strongly recommend a purchase, a rental otherwise.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, brief nudity (breast feeding scenes.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Film Review: Ninja Scroll (1995)

Ninja Scroll (Review)
Japan/1995
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a gory, creative anime that impresses to this day."

Amidst a deadly plague, Jubei Kibagami, a lonewolf ninja, Dakuan, a government spy, and Kagero, a Mochizuki Koga ninja, team to destroy the Devils of Kimon, a demon ninja group. Although they have different motives and goals, the group share a common enemy with sinister plans.

Ninja Scroll is an action-packed anime. The story is deeper than my description, but not at all complicated. Most of the film consists of a battle against a demon ninja, moving a few steps forward, another battle, and so on. What may have been a repetitive formula is saved by the thrilling battles and unique characters. However, some, and I mean some, of the battles end underwhelmingly compared to the epic buildup leading up to said fights. The story continues at a ferociously fast pace towards a truly epic final battle.

The enemies in this film are unique, and creativity is required to defeat them; this adds much needed variety to the film. The designs ranged from nightmarish to erotic, and everything in between. The fights are mostly short as there are 8 demons and some of these fights end quickly, and the story also attempts to add some romance into the short 1hr 30min run time; fortunately, it is enough to satisfy action fans. Ultimately, the creative characters and their impressive designs are enough to keep me interested in the world of Ninja Scroll.

The animation is fantastic with great use of color and movement. This is an extremely gory film, and the animation is awe-inspiring during these sequences. The Blu-ray features fantastic picture and sound quality, although not quite matching contemporary animation. The Japanese voice acting is superb, the English voice acting is good if you'd rather not read subtitles and don't understand Japanese. The music fits perfectly with the film and helps create the epic vibe.

Overall, Ninja Scroll is a great, action-packed animation; a gory, creative anime that impresses to this day. It is hardcore action from beginning to end, and action worth watching - anime fan or not. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Very strong violence and gore, nudity and sex.

Film Review: Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies (Review)
Japan/1988
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...an animated benchmark that surpasses most live-action films that attempt to capture the same subject."

During the final months of World War 2, Seita and his younger sister, Setsuko, survive the bombing of the city of Kobe. Supporting each other through the harsh reality of war, the two siblings continue through constant firebombings, caring yet nagging relatives, malnutrition, and much, much more.

Grave of the Fireflies is a wartime drama. It's not a biased film nor is it a film that preaches - don't expect an emphasis on the enemies or any antiwar themes. As a wartime film, Grave of the Fireflies focuses much more on the experience of survival, hope, and general humanity. It's a very powerful and compelling story from beginning to end. There are moments that will make you smile, and other moments that may make you cry. Regardless, it's a story filled with deep, genuine emotion. The last 10 minutes, or so, of the film end painfully; it's bittersweet, but the pain overpowers the sweetness.

The characters have a real impact and are greatly developed. The relationship between the two lead siblings feels authentic, which makes it much more effective. There are some dislikable characters, but people like that do exist - and I enjoy the blunt truth the film represents regarding this point. Seita is really developed as a caring older brother, a family man who would do anything for his little sister. Setsuko is incredibly adorable and easily likable from beginning to end; a character that ultimately makes for one of the most memorable endings of all time. I thoroughly believe this wartime drama is as effective as it is because of its focus on characters and relationships, as well as its focus on family, hope, society and survival - with an open-for-interpretation war theme.

The voice acting is fantastic from the entire Japanese cast. To emit such genuine emotion through audio is an accomplishment for this incredible voice-over cast. The animation is great and works well with the film; the vivid use of color is amazing and compelling, especially during the stunningly beautiful firefly scenes. The music is beautiful, and a great guide for your emotions; a very memorable soundtrack I'd listen to on its own. I watched this on Blu-ray, and picture and audio quality is great - definitely the version to own for fans, and the version to watch for first time viewers.

Overall, Grave of the Fireflies is a superb drama - a compelling, bittersweet anime; an animated benchmark that surpasses most live-action films that attempt to capture the same subject. This is a must-watch film, whether you enjoy anime or not.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some disturbing images concerning the aftermath of war, as well as malnutrition.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

CinematicAddiction's Anime Review Marathon (Jun. 29th - Aug. 2nd)

If you're a fan of anime, you'll be delighted to hear I'll be reviewing anime films for the following week. These are feature-length films, not TV shows. Some I've seen before, while it'll be my first time viewing a few others; I'm very excited. So excited, that instead of my regular 7 reviews, I'll be adding one more to bring the total up to 8 for the week! (not a big change, I know.)

Hopefully you return daily to either gain some recommendations or share your opinion; or, hopefully you'll return daily simply to view someone's opinion. Who knows, maybe you'll find something interesting, like a new anime to check out?

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Film Review: My Son (2007)

My Son (Review)
South Korea/2007
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"My Son is a moving South Korean masterpiece."

Lee Gang-Sik (Cha Seung-won) is serving a life sentence for robbery and murder. On his best behavior for the last 15 years, Gang-Sik has earned a day out of prison to visit his family - his mother and his teenage son, Joon-suk (Ryu Deok-hwan), who was forced to grow up at an early age...

My Son, or A Day With My Son, is a powerful South Korean drama. With heartwarming and heartbreaking moments, Gang-Sik and Joon-suk slowly develop a new relationship. Of course, there is some hesitation, especially from Joon-suk, but that comes off as expected; Gang-sik is a convicted killer, after all, and had to abandon his child at a young age. Eventually, they begin to bond over happiness and tears. One particular moment really touched me: father and son staring off at a full moon, as Gang-sik confesses his love and regret. Much of the story is dictated by monologues and character narration; it feels like deep poetry, written to lead your emotions - and, it succeeds. It follows a familiar path to redemption, but it stays extremely effective, regardless.

Now for the third act, this familiar yet effective story takes a turn into the unexpected. Occasionally, something feels afoot, and this is revealed during the third act. A surprising twist that can make or break a film - a very, very daring twist, indeed. Personally, I think this breathtaking moment is beneficial; it gives My Son the opportunity to differentiate itself from the many similar Father-Son films and to deliver a very important message - and it executes this opportunity without flaw. The actual ending of the film is beautiful; this ending delivers something different, something that will make you think differently about family.

Although it's mostly a dramatic experience, My Son occasionally offers some lighthearted humor. The drama and humor blend well together and work as complimentary elements. Some moments can make you smile, while some scenes can make you breakdown; it really depends on your personality and relation to the film's themes. The pacing is great, the film has some gripping moments; surprisingly, it pulls these off without lifting a finger. As a whole, the film is very effective and entertaining. This isn't a typical coming-of-age drama, it really manages to be much more.

Cha Seung-won plays Gang-sik with a towering performance; he captures his character perfectly - the emotion feels authentic through the tone of his voice, his facial expressions and reactions, and so on; definitely an understated actor as he's also fantastic in Over The Border, but doesn't get the praise he deserves. Ryu Deok-hwan is equally impressive, delivering everything perfectly - from his initial hesitation to his tearful moments, it feels right. The cinematography is often exceptional, and the music is beautiful; both elements compliment each other to further expand the emotional depth of the story. Jang Jin is fantastic as writer and director really proving himself as a unique and creative filmmaker - a true risk taker.

Overall, My Son is a deeply compelling and very daring drama. It's exceptional at every level - the writing, the direction, the performances, the music, the cinematography... everything is superb. My Son is a moving South Korean masterpiece. I strongly recommend this film.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Although it often deals with compelling themes, My Son is generally safe for all audiences.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Film Review: The Voice of a Murderer (2007)

The Voice of a Murderer (Review)
South Korea/2007
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a drama so good it feels like a thriller..."

In 1991, the son of a famous news anchor, Han Kyung-bae (Kyung-gu Sol), mysteriously disappears. Eventually, a man calls claiming to have the child and demanding $100,000 for his safe return. Along with his wife, Oh Ji-sun (Nam-ju Kim), and the clumsy police, Han Kyung-bae engages in a game of cat and mouse with the elusive kidnapper.

The Voice of a Murder is a fictionalized story based on actual events. The story plays out like a thrilling drama. The family relationship is developed early on as we're introduced to a normal family; a hardworking, celebrity-like father, a caring mother, and a gentle, innocent son. With such a nice, believable child, the kidnapping becomes much more effective. It's painful to watch this family as it is torn apart because of how the family is developed - because of how I cared for all of the characters.

Aside from characters, the film focuses on the situation at hand: a kidnapping. The family struggle and their actions are important. The cops are presented as mostly incompetent, but with their hearts in the right place; although they make mistakes, they genuinely want to help - and we witness that through the different investigations, interrogations, and the forensic science used. There are plenty of races against the clock scenes and thrilling chases. The mystery plays out well, really wondering who embodies this terrifying voice. The ending is chilling, a truly spine-tingling finale; in fact, I would consider the last 15 minutes, up to the credits, unforgettable. Some elements of the story are formulaic, but they are masterfully executed and entertaining.

Kyung-gu Sol leads this fantastic cast with an emotional performance, and a very charismatic performance, as well. Nam-ju Kim also captures her frustrated, panicked character well. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, even the bodiless voice of the kidnapper is impressive. The music really matches the tone of the film, creating tension and dread while seamlessly blending with the visuals. Park Jin-pyo writing and direction really brings this chilling event to life with incredible force.

Overall, The Voice of a Murder is an incredibly effective, emotionally draining, and immensely entertaining drama - a drama so good it feels like a thriller. The story is effective and the ending is unforgettable - everything plays out perfectly. The Voice of a Murder, despite a few generic moments, is a must-watch film.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, brief nudity.

Film Review: Voices (2007)

Voices (Review)
South Korea/2007
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...manages to deliver some spine-tingling scares and tons of blood..."

Ga-In (Yoon Jin-seo) is a student leading a seemingly normal life. However, after a vicious accident at her aunt's wedding, Ga-In begins to believe she is in danger as her friends and family start killing each other one by one. The only clue are the phrases they murmur while attacking, the voices that may be possessing them...

Voices, or Someone Behind You, is a supernatural slasher. The story feels very traditional and even cliché as it follows a formulaic path. Along this generic path, however, there are plenty of scares to be had. A few effective jump-scares here and there, a couple suspenseful fights, and gallons of blood blend to make a solid horror film. There are also some creative, eerie visuals to be seen making it a little more than your typical Asian ghost. Much of the film, despite moving at a slow pace, relies on its violence and jump-scares. The film builds up some character and atmosphere, but not so much that you'll feel fully immersed into this world.

The concept uses psyhcological aspects to adds some mystery into the film; what's causing the sudden murders? I had to ask myself if this would end up a ghost story or a psychological story. However, many of the significant events are treated as insignificant - lacking further explanation and reasoning; for example, you're attacked and you escape, but that issue isn't further detailed - maybe I'm asking for too much, so I digress. (and I don't fault the film much for this, either.) Unfortunately, the film's ending lacks proper explanation. You'll eventually understand the twists, but they aren't effective anyway. It's the type of twist that's hard to predict for all of the wrong reasons. Aside from being confusing and ineffective, the ending, the third act in fact, lacks impact due to the lack of explanation; in fact, one of the twists is explained in a short flashback that doesn't fit well with the film anyway.

The acting is great, overall. Yoon Jin-seo is fantastic as the lead, always hitting the right emotion - never underwhelming or overacting. The rest of the cast is believable, as well; the students feel like students, the family interact like a family, etc. The film has some great cinematography, especially during a particularly bloody and red scene. The music is well-fitted, but nothing special or exceptional. The writing often feels like it takes the easy way out, but it does make for an entertaining film.

Overall, Voices, or Someone Behind You, is a good horror film. Using elements of supernatural and slasher, Voices manages to deliver some spine-tingling scares and tons of blood; the storytelling may be formulaic, the story may often be too slow, and the ending is unfulfilling,
but Voices is moderately entertaining. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental or stream otherwise.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Film Review: Bug (2006)

Bug (Review)
United States/2006
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a fantastic psychological drama, with subtle yet effective horror elements."

Agnes (Ashley Judd) is a waitress at a bar and lives in a motel in rural Oklahoma. Living in loneliness and regret, she eventually develops a relationship with a similar man, Peter (Michael Shannon). Their relationship, however, is strongly supported by the belief that bugs are eating them alive...

Bug is a psychological drama with elements of horror. I view it like I view The Exorcist: a drama so good that it's scary. Mostly relying on dialogue, Bug managed to keep me immersed and interested. The relationship between Agnes and Peter takes center stage in a secluded, almost claustrophobic, hotel room. The degradation of the characters is fascinating to watch; the levels of paranoia slowly reach a point of unimaginable scenes, like a bloody tooth removal. Themes of attachment and loneliness, conspiracy and coincidence, and paranoia and reality are fully developed in a subtle yet understandable manner. The story ends with a fantastic third act, with unforgettable dialogue and actions.

As I previously stated, you're better off going into this film as a drama rather than a horror film. The slow-burning pace, the ominous atmosphere, and a plethora of disturbing scenes blended with character and relationship development, and compelling themes make this a terrifying drama. There is some sinisterly dark humor, but it does not have a strong presence; the film as a whole can be scene as a black comedy, though. With the story and the storytelling, as well as William Friedkin's directorial duties, Bug is most comparable to The Exorcist.

The acting is fantastic from the entire cast. Ashley Judd is great from beginning to end, really capturing her lonely character and being able to change over course of the film. Michael Shannon steals the show with is mesmerizing performance; he really delivers with his intense character arc - from calm and awkward to paranoid and violent - an incredibly understated actor, indeed. William Friedkin is fantastic with his superb direction. The cinematography works well with most of the film; however, the final act features a strong blue-tone, which hurt my eyes and head quite a bit.

Overall, Bug is a fantastic psychological drama, with subtle yet effective horror elements. Featuring incredible performances from Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon, Bug is strongly recommended.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, sex and nudity.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Film Review: The Child's Eye (2010)

The Child's Eye (Review)
China/2010
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It's often unintentionally humorous, but not scary..."

Six young people are vacationing in Thailand when riots suddenly breakout. As they try to flee the country, their hotel and the airport close due to the protests, so their driver takes them to another hotel. At this hotel, they sense an eerie presence...

The Child's Eye has a bad story. The story, despite some creative additions, is a cliché Asian horror haunting. The group of friends move around a hotel, complain about it, talk about their strange feeling, and occasionally experience ghostly encounters. They meet some odd children, and a dog that can see ghost (shouldve been called "The Dog's Eye"), and continue to... solve the mystery? This goes on and on (and on...) until it reaches its predictable climax. After its incredibly underwhelming twists, the film drags on a bit more with pointless, unexplained scenes. Then, a sigh of relief as the best part of the film occurs: the credits roll!

Okay, I lied. There is one scene that I really enjoyed. This scene uses dim lighting, shadows, and ghostly figures to create a momentarily spooky setting. Unfortunately, this scene is short, especially considering every other sequence in this film is stretched thin; really, the scenes in this film go on and on with unnecessary, repetitive closeups of every character in an attempt to evoke creepiness - which, ironically makes them ineffective and tedious. It's almost as if these repetitive scenes were done purposely to meet some feature-length film requirement; this story likely would've worked better as a short film. Aside from one scene, The Child's Eye isn't scary. It's often unintentionally humorous, but not scary.

On top of the inflated runtime and scare-less story, The Child's Eye offers bad acting, terrible writing, inconsistent storytelling, poor direction, and horrendous special effects. The acting sometimes reaches mediocre, but usually sticks to bad. The writing is cheesy and cliché, filled with generic characters and odd dialogue, as well as causing inconsistent storytelling. The direction is almost nonexistent from the outside looking in. And, to top it off, the film has a few scenes with genuinely pointless 3D; it looks bad, and doesn't blend well with the film.

Overall, The Dog's Eye The Child's Eye is a boring film - a chore to get through. The one scene I liked doesn't redeem the film's massive missteps. Let me recap for those that skip to the last paragraph: The Child's Eye is scare-less, tedious, repetitive, cliché, and a technical mess. Don't waste your time.

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Film Review: Gurozuka (2005)

Gurozuka (Review)
Japan/2005
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes 

"...is a great way to kill a night..."

In Japan, Maki and Ai restart their school's movie club 7 years after it was shutdown - the club was supposedly closed after a member disappeared and another was hospitalized due to a nervous breakdown. Now, Maki and Ai, along with several others, plan on making a horror film based on the rumor at a secluded lodge...

Gurozuka is an interesting horror film. The story doesn't venture into unexplored territory, usually staying on a safe, traditional horror path. The story mostly follows Maki and Ai as they try to recreate the events of the past; they tell the group the rumor in an urban legend fashion. They bicker with the others about what was promised and so on. Eventually, they slowly begin to disappear and are attacked; everyone is a suspect, but evidence of foul play is nonexistent. The revelation occurs, but leaves many questions unanswered; I'd say the ending is open for interpretation. I actually enjoyed the story.

Gurozuka often uses its eerie antagonist, its light suspense, and its secluded environment to create terror. However, the film is most heavily reliant on jump-scares. I actually enjoyed most of the jump-scares, especially when they included the antagonist. Although the film often slows the pace down, some scenes send barrage you with jump-scares. (I mean: jump-scare after jump-scare after jump-scare.) The horror is traditional, it doesn't really ooze style or atmosphere like other Japanese horror film but it will be familiar to most horror fans. The horror is great for those fans of jump-scares, but there isn't much variety or depth; it ends up being a one-trick pony, and that one trick isn't exactly consistent throughout the entire film. (not a significantly bad thing since it leaves room for a few other great scenes.)

The acting is good - not spectacular or terrible, simply good. The writing is solid - the story was well balanced, and the dialogue was smooth. The direction was okay, there really wasn't much direction. The antagonist, particularly the mask, was great - it was eerily designed and effectively used. The music was mostly great, as was the sound editing; I liked that it tried something new, not exactly horror at all times. Technically, the film is simply good.

Overall, Gurozuka is a good horror film. Featuring an interesting story, a creepy antagonist, and a barrage of effective jump-scares, Gurozaka is a great way to kill a night. It's not perfect, and it doesn't strive to be more, but it's just enough. I strongly recommend a rental or stream for fans of the genre.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Film Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives (Review)
France/Denmark/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"It's a film that you'll either hate or love, and I tend to be leaning towards love..."

Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his brother, Billy, run a boxing club in Bangkok, Thailand. One night, Billy kills an underage prostitute and surrenders to Lt. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm); Chang allows the deceased girl's father to brutally murder Billy before cutting off his arm for being partly responsible. Julian's mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), eventually arrives to identify the body and demands vengeance...

Only God Forgives is a brutal arthouse revenge thriller. When Crystal arrives, all hell breaks loose between both parties - the police and Crystal's crime family; murder occurring on both sides, as Crystal orchestrates hits and Chang demonstrates why he's known as the "Angel of Vengeance." Julian stays quiet throughout most encounters, usually in deep contemplation or in moments of introspection as the world around him quickly dissolves. Blending reality with surreal visions, Julian also faces a deep rooted dilemma stemming from his unhealthy relationship with his mother. The film ending is open for interpretation, although we can safely assume the worse.

Occasionally, I felt as if Only God Forgives placed style over substance. The atmosphere is developed perfectly creating an immersive and effective experience through its intense slow pace and beautiful cinematography. However, the characters aren't fully and clearly developed leaving many assumptions; for example, Julian is a man of very few words, so we can only assume what he's thinking with his contemplative stares. Those looking for a story that will feed you the essentials will be disappointed, Only God Forgives allows you to interpret the characters yourself; and, if you don't, the character will end up bland and one-sided. The story is interesting and entertaining, although it often feels inconsistent; it feels like the story is missing essential links or bridges between scenes.

Remember, Only God Forgives is an arthouse revenge thriller. It moves at a slow pace, yet it managed to keep me hooked. There are several scenes that take time to capture the beauty of every shot - the setting, the character, the emotion; some of these shots are overdone and end up inflating the short runtime. There are several tense action sequences; from dialogue-based encounters to vicious fistfights, and even a slick shootout. There is tons of violence, some that will serve as a wake-up call for those not accustomed to slow-paced films; the violence can be overwhelming, including it's shootout and a vicious interrogation. It's not an action blockbuster, but I'd say it's a slow-burning thriller.

Ryan Gosling captures his character well; his performance is very calm and introspective capturing a character that is hard to identify, but interesting to analyze. Vithaya Pansringarm, similar to Gosling, plays a man of few words; his screen presence is intimidating, capturing a, for lack of a better word, badass character. Kristin Scott Thomas superbly captures her despicable character; with a range of emotions to manipulate and deceive, Scott Thomas feels genuinely twofaced. The film is captured beautifully with its magnificent cinematography; capturing its incredible style, effective lighting, and vibrant colors to create a beautiful, almost surreal experience. The music is equally impressive, a perfect soundtrack. Nicolas Winding Refn delivers with great direction, but inconsistent writing; the writing doesn't strive to be much more than it has to be.

Overall, Only God Forgives is a great crime thriller. The story is entertaining, the performances are great, the cinematography is magnificent, and the music is superb. It's a film that you'll either hate or love, and I tend to be leaning towards love; I think it's a film that will get better with multiple viewings. I strongly recommend for fans of the genre, a rental for those not familiar with this style.

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Film Review: Antichrist (2009)

Antichrist (Review)
Denmark/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime:No

After the death of their young son, a therapist and his grieving wife retreat to a cabin in the woods. As he attempts to treat her, she becomes more and more violent...

Antichrist is an art house horror film told in chapter form - a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue. This slow-paced story, drenched with symbolism, focuses on several themes - grief, depression, life, death, nature, good and evil, and so on. Due to the art house nature of the film, I think this film can be perceived differently by its audience; we won't have the same interpretation, which leaves room for (hopefully) healthy discussion, and I like this aspect. Be warned, however, some may find this story extremely offensive - in fact, many have interpreted the film as misogynistic.

The story follows an unnamed couple as they retreat into a cabin in the woods, presumably called Eden. In the cabin, he attempts to find the fears within her, in order to help her conquer it. As they delve deeper, she becomes more and more violent; her frustration seemingly stemming from evil, which she has convinced herself exist within women. The story continues to spiral into a bloody finale, and a thought-provoking epilogue. How it is interpreted - including the epilogue and themes - is completely up to the audience.

As I previously stated, many have interpreted the film as misogynistic, and justifiably so: the title card has a hint of what's to come, and the perceived antagonist, She, is brutal because she is evil. Initially, I found the film to be the opposite: men are the root of all evil, as He is presented as the root of all of Her problems - he's heartless, and cares more about "fixing" her than his dead child, the type of man that cause women to go insane. Then, I thought the film was making a statement on mental illness, as Her problems tend to stem from deep psychological issues, even before the death of their child. Or, maybe, people - male or female - are inherently evil. As you can see, the film is deeply thought-provoking. And, as I said before, I don't think you can really ever be wrong in your personal interpretation.

The film, however, is technically unfocused and poorly balanced. The film is slow-paced, often dreadfully and unnecessarily slow. The runtime is bloated, partly due to the slow pace. The symbolism feels likes it's shoved down your throat, I personally prefer subtle symbolism. The chapter structure feels like an art-house gimmick; in fact, the first chapter is so much longer, by the time it ends, I had forgotten it was being told in this format. These problems continue through the film and make it somewhat ineffective. The violence is incredibly graphic, so is the sex and nudity, and the violence and sex blend to create horrendous sexual violence; this is not a film for those sensitive to violence as it will be overwhelming for those that have not been desensitized. It kind of feels like a wake up call, in case of drowsiness.

Willem Dafoe plays He, and he has great control of his character as he plays it calmly yet with genuine emotion. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays She, a little more over-the-top than her counterpart, but equally impressive. Lars von Trier writing and direction is solid, but could use some polish and better structure. The cinematography is mesmerizing, creating beautiful visuals; Anthony Dod Mantle is the true artist in this film. I also enjoyed the music in the film; along with the superb cinematography, the music helped Antichrist develop an eerie atmosphere.

Overall, Antichrist is an extremely violent, deeply thought-provoking, yet mildly entertaining art house film. It's a film that will stir up conversation, both positive and negative, but ultimately fails to create a deeply effective and entertaining film. Sure, the violence is unforgettable, but the actual story, due to its flaws, won't be stitched into my head. I recommend renting for open-minded fans, avoid if your sensitive to violence.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, full male and female nudity, graphic sex and sexual violence.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Film Review: 6 Souls (2009)

6 Souls (Review)
United States/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Cara (Julianne Moore), a psychiatrist, gets a call from her father, also a psychiatrist, about a special patient. The patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) introduces himself as David Bernburg. After an interview, David Bernburg convulses and becomes Adam. Cara then begins to search for a reasonable explanation, but soon realized something sinister may be responsible...

The story continues as a blend of mystery and horror. Cara is the skeptical, know-it-all psychiatrist we've seen a few times before, albeit with slight differences. Some of her interviews and explanations are interesting, but there is not much depth. However, the interviews, the investigations, the experiments is enough to hold together a thoroughly entertaining first half. The second half, on the other hand, becomes repetitive, predictable, and preachy; Cara has to race to save a loved one while admitting to what she rejected during the first half. Toss in a few jump-scares and a moody atmosphere, and you have the 6 Souls story. The ending of the film was okay, but underwhelming.

6 Souls is a little confusing. Other than the inconsistent storytelling, characters are introduced quickly with little development or attachment and some scenes are not fully explained. So, most of the characters, and their names, are forgettable in a film with a concept that relies heavily on these elements. Also, the story seems to be concerned with confusing the audience in an attempt to buildup an amazing twist; unfortunately, the suspense and buildup is mostly ineffective and the twist is underwhelming. The blame rests on the generic and cliché approach to a familiar concept - we've seen this film before, and better. Nonetheless, as a whole, the story is interesting and there are a few creepy, even scary, scenes to enjoy - especially during the first half, or even the first two acts.

Julianne Moore plays the lead well; far from bad and just short of exceptional. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stood out to me as he took on multiple characters; he does this well as he changes the tone, the pitch, and even the accent of his voice constantly throughout the film. The rest of the acting is solid. Although it isn't anything special, the music is well-fitted and helps develop the dark atmosphere of the film. The editing is great; it has a few unique and experimental shots. The cinematography is also great, especially during the outdoor scenes.

Overall, 6 Souls, formerly Shelter, is a good mystery-horror film. The story is interesting and entertaining, despite being generic, predictable, and repetitive. The acting, the music, the
editing, and the cinematography make for a technically great film, as well. I recommend a rental for fans of the genre, a stream if you have a membership.

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

Film Review: Sweatshop (2009)

Sweatshop (Review)
United States/2009
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes 

A group of friends break into an abandoned warehouse to throw a party. As they set-up the presumably massive party, they feel an eerie presence and are picked off one by one by a huge sledgehammer-wielding figure, along with some demonic-looking women.

The story is very basic. There is no backstory or explanation to the beasts within the warehouse. They seem to be lurking the warehouse without consequence; I mean, they kill a cop in the introduction and there is no response afterward - a pointless intro, indeed. The characters are hollow and bland - only one character really has spunk and she's unfortunately underutilized. So, the characters are basically setting up a party and drinking, when they suddenly get brutally killed. And, it continues to repeat this formula. The final slaughter was great... until you realize every person in the party could've escaped as they were standing right next to the massive exit. And so, the generic character escapes as originally predicted, and the credits roll.

The story uses some jump-scares, but they are poorly timed and lack suspense, so they are ineffective. The film relies on its gritty look and its gore to be considered in the horror genre. I wasn't scared, however. The gore effects were insane and over-the-top, and the story builds up a large body count with creative kills. Gorehounds will not be disappointed by the viciousness in Sweatshop. In fact, if you're solely interested in the gore, skip the horrendous first act (30min or so) and enjoy the slaughter.

The acting ranges from mediocre to terrible. Most of the dialogue and dialogue delivery is terrible. It's very unnatural and robotic; it's either cringe-worthy or laughable. None of the actors emit any charisma or likable features, except for Jennifer Jean Guhlin (Julin). Again, for gorehunds, you may be able to forgive the terrible acting. The editing and screen direction is sloppy; the close-up shots of the demonic women were clearly shot afterward and clumsily edited into scenes. The cinematography creates a dark look, but it is often too dark and bland; there really wasn't much cinematography going on.

The special effects are great. The gory kills are creative, versatile, and effective. The sledgehammer-wielding madman literally obliterates bodies with a single swing, he rips jaws off, smashes heads into the floors or walls, cuts fingers off, and much more. Like I said previously, the body count is huge, so there are alot impressive special effects. The kills become very consistent during the second half of the film, and the gore redeems the film a bit. I also like the design of the main beast with the sledgehammer, he reminded me of Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head.

Overall, Sweatshop is an incomplete horror film; no character or backstory, no scares or suspense, and a weak ending; on top of that, the film suffers from poor acting, editing, and screen direction. The film is redeemed by the massive kill count, the very impressive gore effects and makeup, and the awesomely-designed villains. I recommend streaming before paying directly to rent or purchase.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, nudity and sex. (one brief sex scene)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Film Review: A Separation (2011)

A Separation (Review)
Iran/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Amidst a separation, Nader wants to stay with his father who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, while his wife, Simin, wants to leave the country with their daugher, Termeh. When Termeh decides to stay with her father, Simin moves in with her mother and Nader hires help for the care of his father. But, the help, with too much on her hands and mind, brings Nader into a nightmare...

A Separation is a deeply compelling and intense drama. Although we witness a relationship at the peak of crumbling, we are still able to witness the actual avalanche and aftermath. Both parents are equally stubborn, and their reasons for staying and leaving are equally selfish; the story doesn't demonize either parent, and I like this approach. Instead, we are fully involved in the suspenseful situation at hand; a complaint that shakes up two families, and a fight for justice. The film subtly builds up a strong message regarding separations and the deep impact it has on the children - her role may be minor compared to the rest, but Termeh has the most impact in the long run. In fact, because of Termeh, the film ends on a note of pure anticipation and anxiety - through the credits and all.

A very relatable story, indeed, and an immensely entertaining story, as well. Even as a drama, A Separation has more thrills and intensity than most thrillers and action films today; add in a compelling plot and theme, and you have an incredibly effective film. What is even more surprising, and impressive, is the fact that the film relies solely on its dialogue; through its dialogue, A Separation creates edge-of-your-seat conversations and intense confrontations. And, despite a 2 hour runtime, the film felt like it was over before it started - ferociously paced and engaging.

Peyman Moaadi plays Nader with a fantastic performance; a hard-headed and stubborn, yet caring and calm character captured perfectly. Leila Hatami plays Simin and, although with less screen time, manages to deliver an equally impressive and believable performance. Together, Moaadi and Hatami create a realistic relationship - one that will be easily recognizable for those of us that have experienced this situation first hand. Asghar Farhadi writing and direction is extremely well-done, capturing every emotion and creating a compelling film. Music is rarely heard in this film as most of the emotional evocation is accomplished through the dialogue, but I believe only during the credits do we hear a beautiful, moving piece.

Overall, A Separation is a compelling drama, an incredibly engaging and entertaining film. With incredible performances and writing, A Separation is a film worth watching more than once. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of film in general.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some violence.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Film Review: Premium Rush (2012)

Premium Rush (Review)
United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a New York City bicycle messenger hired to deliver an envelop by 7:00 PM to a Sister Chen. However, Wilee is soon racing against the clock and riding to save his skin as a gambling, debt-burdened NYPD officer, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), aggressively pursues him for his own motives.

Premium Rush is nonlinear as it is not told in chronological order. The smooth editing and timecards help create a smooth ride, and this storytelling is beneficial to a story that would otherwise be too straightforward and somewhat repetitive. The story follows Wilee, along with some fellow bike riders, as they race to deliver the envelop. Officer Monday aggressively pursues with his vehicle, while manipulating the playing field in any other way possible. Between the beginning and end, the film is loaded with suspenseful chase scenes and daring, exciting stunts. The ending is underwhelming for what it builds up and a bit cliché, but it works well.

Other than the action, the film has some drama and humor elements. Some of the actions and dialogue are witty, especially scenes with Bobby Monday and a few with Wilee. However, there is also some "douchebaggery" as some characters' actions are annoying, one character speaks in the first person and refers to himself by name, and a few other annoying scenes. Fortunately, the film doesn't try hard to be a comedy, and works very well as a consistent action film.

The acting is great from the cast, although the story doesn't ask for much. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, despite a few annoying scenes, keeps the film together with his charisma and consistency. Michael Shannon is entertaining from beginning to end with an oddly humorous performance; he's a black hole, sucking up the shine from any other actors in his presence. The music works very well with the film. The editing is creative and keeps the film moving on all gears. A couple of the computer graphics could've used some fine tuning, but they're good enough.

Overall, Premium Rush is an entertaining action film moving at a ferocious pace towards the finish line; the finish line may be underwhelming, but the ride there is mostly great. I recommend purchasing for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

Film Review: The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

The Last of the Mohicans (Review)
United States/1992
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

During the French and Indian War in 1757, Mohican Chingachgook, his sons, Uncas and Nathaniel Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), who is an adopted white, stumble upon and disrupt a Huron ambush saving sisters Alice and Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe). They are unwillingly brought into an epic conflict of war and vengeance.

The Last of the Mohicans is an epic historical piece. It's story revolves around many different themes from racial tensions, war and politics, vengeance, and much more; it all depends on how you look at it. Fortunately, the film doesn't preach and simply presents these issues to the audience. The story follows Nathaniel and his family as they assist Cora Munro and her party to safety, and Nathaniel sticks around for his personal interest in Cora. Safety, however, is only temporary as war reaches their doorstep and Nathaniel attempts to free the deceived militia. Tension continued to escalate as the enraged Magua continues to pursue vengeance. All of these spectacular events are captured in under 2 hours, so you can expect the film to have that "full" feeling.

I feel the main purpose of the story is to entertain through its immersive world, its interesting characters and conflicts, and its superb action sequences. The story blends elements of action, romance, and light social commentary, along with excellent technical feats, to keep a strong momentum up to its stunning finale - an ending that unexpectedly left me breathless. The story is effectively complimented by the cinematography and music, which contribute to the overall immersion of the film. The film may not be 100% accurate regarding history, but it captures certain aspect well enough without sacrificing entertainment.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Daniel Day-Lewis delivers an authentic performance as Nathaniel; he delivers his dialogue smoothly and often with great power or genuine wit. Madeleine Stowe is equally impressive with a generally sustained performance, but delivers great emotional power in certain scenes. The music is fantastic; the music is very consistent and may be a bit repetitive, but it works very well with every scene; the soundtrack blends incredibly well with the film, and effectively compliments this incredible world we're brought into. On that note, the cinematography also superbly compliments this world as it effectively captures its beautiful scenery.

Overall, The Last of the Mohicans is an excellent historical epic. The action is spectacular, the romance helps develop the character, the world is immersive, and the story doesn't preach; the music is mesmerizing and helps create an epic vibe, the cinematography is stunning, and the direction is flawless. The story entertains from its beautiful introduction to its jaw-dropping finale - that is an incredible accomplishment. I highly recommend purchasing The Last of the Mohicans.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Film Review: Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly (Review)
United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Johnny "Squirrel" Amato plans on robbing Markie's (Ray Liotta) poker game using Frankie, a nervous and naive associate, and Russell, an eccentric drug addict. Previously, Markie orchestrated a robbery for his own poker game and made off with the money, and he eventually admitted it to the rest of the criminals - luckily without consequence. Now, Squirrel's robbery will essentially setup Markie, if all goes as planned...

When the robbery is completed, Jackie (Brad Pitt), a hitman, is called in to handle the situation for the mafia. Although the fully understands that Markie isn't stupid enough to pull this stunt twice, he strongly believes Markie should be killed so that a message is sent to the outsiders look in; otherwise, every kid with a gun will think it's okay to rob the mafia. And so, Jackie begins his work, searching for the two robbers and the mastermind. Along the way, he brings his old friend, Mickey, a New York-based hitman, to kill Squirrel - Jackie initially refuses as he personally knows Squirrel.

Killing Them Softly is a straight-forward gangster film - very easy to follow, and clean cut. Although it is simple, the film incorporates a unique style and some compelling material. The financial crisis really affects everyone - if you don't have money, then neither does the mafia. The financial crisis of 2008 plays a major role in the film, and is constantly referenced in the background. It works very well off of its dialogue - the conversations flowed very well with a sense of authenticity, and it was often very witty. The murders are very stylish, blending slow-motion and lavish colors, along with some graphic violence. This all leads to a very well-done and compelling, although a bit abrupt, ending. I really enjoyed the story in Killing Them Softly, it can be a bit slow but it manages to be unusually mesmerizing.

The cast is great. As I previously mentioned, the dialogue was very smooth and genuine. Brad Pitt has limited screen time, yet he manages to deliver a magnetic performance; his charisma really adds to is excellent delivery. Ray Liotta is also fantastic in this film, delivering the right emotions at the right moments - definitely an understated actor showing great skill. The music in this film is fantastic - including the actual music and the seamless editing of the material. The film is shot beautifully, the slow-motion sequence really stands out. The storytelling is smooth, as is the editing; however, some scenes feel like they drag on and on, and some dialogue feels forced - these are two very minor issues.

Overall, Killing Them Softly is a fantastic crime drama - it delivers an entertaining and occasionally compelling story, fantastic performances from Pitt and Liotta, and superb editing and music. You should be prepared, though, as Killing Them Softly has a very slow pace and relies on its dialogue - don't expect an action/shooter gangster film and you should be fine. I highly recommend Killing Them Softly for fans of the genre. A rental for those who usually dislike slow-paced dramas.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Film Review: The Tower (2012)

The Tower (Review)
South Korea/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Lee Dae-ho (Kim Sang-kyung) is a single father and manager of the luxurious 120-floor apartment building, Tower Sky. Along with his secret love interest, Seo Yoon-hee (Son Ye-jin), a restaurant manager, Dae-ho has a busy night as an extravagant Christmas Eve party is set to light-up the night. However, a helicopter crashes into the building trapping Dae-ho, his daughter,Yoon-hee and many other guests and tenants in a blazing building.

The Tower is a disaster film. The story takes time to briefly introduce its main characters, including building staff, firefighters, and more. In fact, the first 30 minutes is wisely used to create a feel-good environment with light-hearted humor and a Christmas setting. When disaster strikes, it strikes with incredible force. The disaster takes the center stage for the rest of the film, filling the story with death, sacrifice, and hope. There are some light-hearted scenes that give you a breather from the exciting and emotional-draining scenes; these work well to give the film some heart and variety.

There are some simple scenes that really got me; for example, there's a sequence where firefighters are forced to cancel a rescue mission to save another group... this group turn out to be a wealthy couple on the top of a priority rescue list. Some scenes sent goosebumps through my entire body thanks to the extreme suspense blended with a superb audio/visual presentation; for example, a scene where a glass bridge is the only means to escape had me at the edge of my seat as you can hear the cracking and feel the tension - it could snap any second! The film is filled with memorable scenes like this, up to its bittersweet, albeit predictable, ending.

I can't say The Tower hasn't been done before, but this film still manages to establish its own identity and entertains thoroughly. Compared to other disaster films, particularly Tidal Wave, The Tower excels in everyway thanks to its balanced approach and technical advancements. One note I'd like to make on this topic: The Tower is much more realistic than Tidal Wave, as The Tower features tamed, believable acting and graspable situations; in other words, the overacting is toned down, and no one is dodging dozens of tankers and explosions. (don't get me wrong, I love Tidal Wave. I gave it an 8/10!)

The entire cast deliver realistic and believable performances. Kim Sang-kyung plays the lead in the film, capturing quirkiness well during the first act, and exceptionally captures every other
emotion associated with tragedy during the rest of the film. Son Ye-jin stands out with her very charismatic performance, she's very likable and delivers great emotion. The rest of the performances are equally impressive. The film has great special effects and stunts. The cinematography is beautiful; the film captures its colors, especially the fire, vividly and the lighting compliments the gritty disaster. Visually, the special effects and the cinematography compliment each other to create a beautifully-shot film. The music also compliments the film and the setting, really capturing the holiday mood one moment, and invoking tension during others.

I own the South Korean Blu-ray of this film. The Tower is a slick digipak with one blu-ray disc, covered with a high-quality slipcover. It has English subtitles in both the feature film and the menus for easy navigation; however, the special features do not have English subtitles nor an English dub; on that note, the special features consists of a 30 minute "Making Of", Deleted Scenes, Theatrical and Teaser Trailers, and more. The picture and sound quality are superb, it's a shame this isn't getting released on Blu-ray in the United States; considering the beautiful cinematography and special effects, HD is the definitive way to enjoy The Tower.

Overall, The Tower is a superb disaster film; it features great acting, light-hearted and well-fitted humor, dreadful suspense, beautiful cinematography, and superb music. The Tower has a few disaster movie clichés and the ending is predictable, but it doesn't significantly effect the overall entertainment value of the film. I highly recommend purchasing this film, especially for fans of South Korean and disaster films.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, partial nudity (barely viewable.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Film Review: Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Silent Hill: Revelation
Canada/France/2012
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

Following the events of the first film, Sharon has been freed from Silent Hill by Rose. In an attempt to protect her, Sharon has her name changed to Heather Mason by her father, Harry Mason (originally Christopher). The pair have been moving from town to town avoiding the police and a cult. When Harry is kidnapped, Heather travels to Silent Hill with a classmate to save her father and find her roots.

Silent Hill: Revelation is a direct sequel to Silent Hill (2006). I highly recommend watching the first film a few days prior to Revelation - not only is it a fantastic film, the sequel is a confusing mess without it. The story starts up immediately attempting to tie up loose ends. It attempts to answer many questions from the first film in a few minutes, all while attempting to setup the story for this film; the film fails to do this competently as it is a mess and hard to follow, with an odd flashback and too many new names rapidly introduced. The characters never really develop any character, either. So, the entire introduction is a mess that has the audience working too hard to catch-up.

The story continues with Heather traveling into Silent Hill, but the exploration and adventure is absent as Revelation focuses on small conversations, some romance, and underwhelming "boss battle" type of scenes; the problem with the boss battle scenes is that they end quickly and ridiculously, with no real struggle or significance. The film doesn't use psychological horror and the symbolism has been downgraded. Instead, the film uses jump-scares, most of which fail to achieve any real terror; the greatly disturbing creature designs and vicious gore somewhat redeem the lack of genuine horror, though. In fact, one could argue that Revelation feels more like an action/horror film. To support that, the film ends with an ill-fitted sword fight that is jaw-dropping in a disappointing way. The final few scenes are great as they tease with elements of two of the video games, but they're not nearly enough to redeem the ending.

The acting is good from the cast. The dialogue is much more fluent and authentic, although some delivery is over-the-top. The visuals are impressive, the cinematography features great use of color. The music may sound familiar, but it is severely underused; considering the Silent Hill sound is perfectly eerie and unique, this is an unfortunate decision. The cinematography and music are good, but they fail to blend with the story to create an immersive atmosphere and never capture the Silent Hill vibe. The story uses a fast pace and short runtime - unfortunately, this complicated story could've used extra time to develop its story, characters, and atmosphere.

Overall, Silent Hill: Revelation is a mediocre action/horror film. The film lacks the dreadful terror, the dark, immersive atmosphere, the fantastic soundtrack, and the uniqueness of the great first installment. Revelation upgrades its visuals, adds more gore, some great creature designs, and fastens the pace - unfortunately, none of this creates a truly terrifying experience. Despite being filled with game references, I'm afraid even the fans of the video game franchise will be as disappointed as I was. I recommend streaming or renting before purchasing. If you have not watched the first film, you will likely be confused, in turn creating an even worse experience - so, watch the first film first.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, and brief nudity.

Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Silent Hill (Review)
United States/2006
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

After Rose (Radha Mitchell) and Christopher Da Silva (Sean Bean) find their daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), dangerously sleepwalking and repeating the town name "Silent Hill", Rose decides to take Sharon to the desolate town in hopes of finding answers. As Rose and Sharon speed toward Silent Hill, trying to escape police officer Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), they end up crashing. As Rose wakes up, she realized her daughter has disappeared. Now, Rose and Cybil delve into the foggy town on Silent Hill, where they encounter nightmarish creatures...

Silent Hill is a psychological horror film based on the popular video game franchise of the same title. Silent Hill features three different worlds: the Real world, the Fog world, and the Otherworld. Christopher is searching for his wife and daughter in the real world Silent Hill, while Rose is simultaneously searching for their daughter in the fog world Silent Hill, and the fog world of Silent Hill may turn into a hellish environment when it becomes the Otherworld.

The story follows the exploration of several key locations in several worldly forms, including a school, a hotel, and a church. The exploration is slow yet creepy, and has the same vibe as the video game. In fact, the film focuses on capturing the same incredible atmosphere the game creates, and it does this well. Moving at a fairly slow pace, the film focuses on exploration as much as it focuses on the disturbing creatures and tense situations; using disturbing visuals and incredible gore effects, the film is consistently scary. The ending is great, and it leaves room for perception. The film, like the games, is filled with symbolism open to interpretation; keep an eye on the creatures and focus on the story and this will be very rewarding. The story does feel like it is a little too long and could've been cut down.

The acting is great from Radha Mitchell, she really captures her character well. Sean Bean also does a great job, despite limited screen time. Jodelle Ferland is okay, she often misses with her delivery, but can be forgiven as she impresses during certain scenes. Laurie Holden delivers her dialogue in a very robotic manner, and she unfortunately doesn't get any better until the ending of the film. The music is fantastic, it works perfectly with the subject and is actually unique, creative, and eerie; fans of the video game series will be familiar with the soundtrack. The special effects and makeup are great, the creature designs are high-quality.

Overall, Silent Hill is a great horror film, and a fantastic video game adaptation. The visuals, the music, the atmosphere... it all blends together beautifully to create a terrifyingly immersive
world; the film is only held back by an inflated runtime and a few mediocre performances. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre or video game franchise, a rental otherwise.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Film Review: Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Texas Chainsaw 3D (Review)
United States/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

As a direct sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw 3D picks up with Leatherface and his family being attacked by an angry mob. The home, and everyone in it, is burned down and everyone is presumed dead - except for a baby. Years later, Heather Miller learns she has inherited her grandmother's home - along with a sinister secret hidden away deep in the home...

The story isn't anything special. There are a couple of scenes that bring us back to the better days, really bringing you back to the original film, but it's mostly filled with modern horror clichés. Young, attractive people go to the home, plan to party, a little sexuality here and there, some gore, predictable twist, an ill-fitted action finale, and an after-credits scene to tease the inevitable sequels. Boom! That's your story. It never strives to be more, and it could've worked if it developed its characters, terror, and settings properly.

There is one chase scene I enjoyed, it played out very well as it blended suspense and bloody violence. But, the rest of the film really doesn't try to terrify. The blood and gore fail to push the limits, and usually blend terrible computer-generated with been-there-done-that gore effects. The jump-scares consists of loud music, but lack tension and buildup. The setting is never fully utilize or explained; this may be nitpicking, but this story can't take place more than 25 years after the original, and the film never tries to capture a 90s vibe - it's stuck pretending to be in the 70s with modern technology like iPhones. On top of that, Leatherface is poorly design and utilized, he's no longer a force to be feared. I'll break it down: The suspense and setting is better in the original film, and the gore and style is better in the remake.

The acting is mediocre. I wouldn't say it's terrible, but, again, the cast never strive to be much more than competent. They are attractive to look at, but never seep into their characters; they are generic and often overact. The writing is simplistic, littered with clichés and horrible one-liners. The special effects look like they belong in a made-for-TV movie. (made-for-TV movies have been getting better, though, so maybe the effects belong in something worse.) Technically, the film falls flat - below the line of mediocrity.

Overall, Texas Chainsaw 3D is a bad slasher film. The film didn't scare me at all, I laughed much more for all of the wrong reasons. If you want a great slasher, stick with the masterful original film or the great remake. If you want gore and violence, stick with the Hatchet series (preferably the first film, the second wasn't all that great, either) or Sweatshop (a bad film with great kills). I strongly recommend staying away from this sequel/reboot.

Score: 2/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, some sexuality.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Review)
United States/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Erin (Jessica Biel), her boyfriend Kemper, Morgan, Andy, and Pepper (Erica Leerhsen) are returning from Mexico and heading to a concert. After almost crashing into her, the group pick up a confused hitchhiker. This hitchhiker eventually reveals a gun and shoots herself - bringing this group into a nightmare she couldn't escape from...

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gory slasher. The situation quickly escalates after the bloody suicide. As the the group search for the sheriff, they find old photographs, ritualistic objects, and disturbing human parts - this helps create the dark mood for the story. Eventually, the group slowly begins to separate, and two characters are introduced; the large and intimidating Leatherface and the blunt, eccentric Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey). Leatherface brings the terror, suspense, and gore as he wields his chainsaw and chases the group. The sheriff brings some dark humor and tension with his tasteless dialogue and vulgar actions. Thereafter, the story consists of gore, chases, and hiding. The path the film follows is formulaic, which leads to a predictable yet satisfying ending.

The story isn't perfect, however. There are quite a few inconsistencies and moments that aren't logical (I suppose it wouldn't be a slasher if it were.) The small inconsistencies may not be worth pointing out - like the handgun that seemed to appear out of nowhere, or the inability to use Leatherface's chainsaw against him, and small annoyances like that. I won't fault the film too much as I feel like I'm nitpicking. Other flaws in the story include the lack of detail and explanation for certain scenes, and a empty feeling - the film moves at a fast pace but ultimately feels like it lacks significant events, some scenes feel disconnected.

The cast does a great job in this film. Jessica Biel delivers a solid performance as the lead, and plays the character well demonstrating happiness one moment and dread during the next; she's also fantastic to look at. R. Lee Ermey is fantastic as usual, he really plays his sinister character well. Although she's a supporting actress, Erica Leerhsen delivers a weak, overacted performance - maybe it's her character overreacting, but she just never hits the right emotion. The cinematography is great, creating a dark gritty vibe. The music works well with the film. The special effects are very effective and graphic, this is a treat for gorehounds. Leatherface has an intimidating design, which I really enjoyed.

Now, as a standalone, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is great. As a remake, it doesn't quite match the raw realism and disturbing content of the original. The remake is overwhelmingly violent - as I said, a treat for gorehounds - which in turn makes the film less realistic. For example, the hitchhiker in the original is disturbing through his eccentric dialogue and actions, while the remake has a hitchhiker that quickly and violently kills herself. The original being much more believable than the remake, I think these scenes alone show the difference in the film. Another comparison is related to the chase scenes; whereas the original has a chase scene that is dreadfully suspense as it is so close and realistic, the remake uses a longer range between Erin and Leatherface which lowers the tension and sets up the hide-and-seek scenes. I think both work well, but the original chase scene is much more effective. As for style, the remake is a more stylistic slasher with a dark, slick atmosphere - its also clearly a remake as it uses a lot of gore, jump-scares, and it's over-sexualized.

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great slasher - it's a gory and suspenseful thrill ride that genuinely entertains. It doesn't live up to the original, but that's okay because this remake really tries to develop its own identity - it adds so much to the original story that it feels like a new ride. I strongly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

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

Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (Review)
United States/1986
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

After she records a vicious murder, Stretch, a radio host, teams up with Lieutenant Lefty to capture a suspected serial killing family. When Lefty convinces Stretch into playing the murder tape live, Stretch becomes the target of Chop-top and his chainsaw-wielding brother, Leatherface.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has a strong comedy presence, while horror takes the backseat. In other words, the gritty realism and cautionary-vibe of the first film is absent. It is replaced with maniacal dialogue and actions, and over-the-top gore and violence. The film begins strongly with a two obnoxious kids shooting and shouting as they drive. They are eventually attacked, showing off the stronger gore presence. The film continues with a slow and interesting build-up. A radio station scene introduces the insane Chop-top and his brutal, misunderstood brother, Leatherface. This sequence is memorable for both its dialogue and its jump-scare (don't spoil it for yourself, it's actually really good.) At this point, however, which is about halfway through, the film stumbles.

The film continues with its comedic approach, which is heavily reliant on Chop-top's eccentric personality. However, his over-the-top personality becomes annoying after his great introduction; it's not funny and it's too much, it's too overwhelming. The suspense and horror is absent, I wasn't actually scared during the second half of the film. The special effects are great, but never match the introduction's superb sequence. The ending is also familiar, but rushed in a bad way. However, although the ending feels rushed, the second half of the film drags on and on; the 1hr 41min version is repetitive and bland, and it overstays its welcome.

The acting is okay. Dennis Hooper plays Left; much of his performance is filled with monologues, and they are presented competently - nothing special or terrible. Caroline Williams plays Stretch, and she plays her character well for the first half. Like the writing, she loses control during the second half and performs aimlessly. Bill Moseley plays Chop-top and initially nails the character, but his performance becomes to repetitive and irritating during the second half of the film; this may be due to the sloppy writing, but it is partly due to his performance - his energy comes off as slapstick instead of creepy like the hitchhiker. Tom Savini blesses this film with his superb special effects, but is unfortunately underutilized.

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has a great first half - the comedy works, the gore is impressive, and the buildup is nice. But, the second half of the film drags on and on with bland, repetitive comedy, boring chase scenes, and a weak ending. The film does not work as a comedy or a horror film, the elements simply don't blend together well in this film. Fans of the genre should rent before purchasing, unless you can find the Blu-ray at a low price. On that note, the Blu-ray has great picture and audio quality.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Film Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Review)
United States/1974
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Sally Hardesty, her paraplegic brother, Franklin, and three other friends travel to the Hardesty homestead. Along the way, they stop at their grandparents' grave as reports of vandalism surface. Before reaching the homestead, the group pick up a hitchhiker... an eccentric young man that disturbingly cuts himself and Franklin in the vehicle. The hitchhiker, however, is only the first step into a nightmarish night...

I love the story in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; It is so simplistic yet so terrifying. The hitchhiker scene is truly chilling, a memorable and cautionary moment that happens early in the film; it's neither too violent or overwhelming, which makes it much more realistic and effective. The hitchhiker scene made me think twice of picking up hitchhikers. The film continues with a slow build-up as the characters arrive at their destination and wander the homestead, while Franklin remains concerned of the hitchhiker's bizzare actions; is the hitchhiker following them? Is it possible to follow them to the homestead?

When Leatherface finally appears, he shocks with his disturbing design, his overwhelming size, and a realistic thump to the head of his first victim - no loud music or excessive blood, just raw footage of a realistic attack. The film begins to spiral further into insanity as the death count rises, intense chases occur, and a disturbing family of cannibals is introduced. The violence in the film is memorable, including hooks and chainsaws. The chases are intense since they are very close and realistic; the shouting for help, the panic, it all seems so real. And, the family dinner scene shows some the disturbing characteristics of this family. The ending of the film is abrupt, yet satisfying; there are a few odd decisions, but since it is filled with adrenaline, you may miss or excuse them.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Marilyn Burns' screaming is a bit excessive at times, but she really captures fear, especially with her eyes. Edwin Neal plays the hitchhiker with a very eccentric performance, a very disturbing portrayal. I liked the music and audio editing, really helped create the gritty atmosphere of the film. Tobe Hooper's direction is great, especially with the unknown cast he was working with. The violence isn't graphic, but it feels realistic thanks to the acting and the subtle approach. (Sometimes, showing too much visual violence reveals flaws in makeup and such. The less you see, the more left to your imagination.)

Overall, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a fantastic slasher with many unforgettable scenes - a truly terrifying tale with everlasting impact. I highly recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Film Review: Killer Joe (2011)

Killer Joe (Review)
United States/2011
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

Chris has been kicked out of his mother's home, so he visits his father, Ansel, with a proposition. Chris wants to kill his mother to receive her $50,000 life insurance policy which is to be paid to Dottie, Chris' eccentric younger sister; Chris owes money to dangerous people, and Ansel wouldn't mind having extra money. So, they agree to meet a police detective, Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who works as a hitman on his spare time...

Now, they can't afford to pay Joe's $25,000 advance, but they have something he wants. Joe would like to keep Dottie as a retainer, and, without any other options, they reluctantly agree. Chris must either keep the deal on the table and save his own life, or drop the deal and save Dottie from Joe's manipulative hands.

Killer Joe is an insane crime drama, drenched in black comedy. With some very immersive dialogue, the film really captivates from beginning to end - from the planning, to the execution, to the insane finale. The film is heavily reliant on its dialogue, and it works perfectly thanks to the great performances. It's able to keep its strong momentum, with a ferocious pace. The characters are developed well as dysfunctional. The ending is jaw-dropping, ending in a bath of blood and humiliation; an unforgettable ending, indeed.

The story is strongly supported by its stunning performance. Matthew McConaughey delivers a sinisterly charismatic performance as the titular character; it is unbelievably evil yet charming, his dialogue delivery is chilling, especially during the incredible ending. Juno Temple as Dottie also captures her character with her eccentric performance. The rest of the cast delivers amazing performances, although some dialogue comes off as inauthentic - a bit robotic.

William Friedkin superbly directs Killer Joe with great precision. The writing is mostly authentic and accurate, the black comedy blended seamlessly with the story never feeling forced or falling flat. The film captures the southern style, and uses the setting well. The music works with the film, although it's not used strongly; a little more southern oomph would've been appreciated.

Overall, Killer Joe is a fantastic black comedy/drama; it's almost perfect in every way, an unforgettable experience. McConaughey is a pillar for the film as he delivers a performance of a lifetime; this is a film that made me take him seriously, as well as the Lincoln Lawyer. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, sex and excessive nudity.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Film Review: Jack Reacher (2012)

Jack Reacher (Review)
United States/2012
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

A man enters a parking garage across the Allegheny River from PNC Park. He calmly pays for his parking and prepares a sniper, subsequently shooting 5 people at random. The sniper escapes successfully and the police arrive, headed by Detective Emerson.

A quick investigation leads to James Barr, a former U.S. Army sniper, who is arrested and questioned. Without answering questions, Barr mysteriously requests Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), a former Army police officer and a current drifter - off the system and impossible to locate. Fortunately, Jack Reacher recognizes Barr on the news and finds him, following his own motives; unfortunately, Barr has been beaten into a coma by his fellow inmates. Now, Reacher and defense attorney Helen Rodin team up to find the truth.

Jack Reacher is a thrilling mystery film. The mystery elements are evident, but they are a bit predictable; you can guess the ending from the beginning, and the film spent too much time on the mystery. The action sequences are superb and versatile. There are some amazing hand-to-hand fights, an epic car chase scene, and electrifying shootouts. There is also a pinch of humor thanks to the charismatic lead character, Jack Reacher. All of this blends into a great thriller which leads up to a somewhat unexpected ending, although it is a bit long winded.

The acting is great. Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher very well - he can be very smooth, very witty, and very serious. The rest of the cast is also great - they're not groundbreaking or spectacular, but they're more than competent. The film is shot beautifully, or maybe it's just the amazing picture quality on the Blu-ray - regardless, it looks great. The action is choreographed superbly. I also enjoyed the music - scratch that, I loved the epic music in this film as it had a vibe that worked perfectly for the titular character.

Overall, Jack Reacher is a great thriller. The story follows a predictable, long path, but it is thoroughly entertaining and ends on a high note - and it's technically superb. I highly recommend this film for action fans, a rental for those looking for something unique.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

Film Review: Into The Mirror (2003)

Into The Mirror (Review)
South Korea/2003
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

After causing the death of his partner during a hostage crisis, Wu Young-min quits the force and becomes chief of security for his uncle's shopping center, Dreampia - a large shopping center being rebuilt due to a fire 5 years prior. As the opening date approaches, odd deaths begin occurring within the building...

Young-min questions the methods of death and believes they may actually be murders, instead of suicides. Soon, the police take over the investigation and stakeout within Dreampia. Ha Hyun-su, an old friend of Young-min, heads the investigation and he also questions the methods of death. As the mystery begins to unravel, the police and security feel an eerie presence, especially in the mirrors.

Into The Mirror has a unique and interesting story. It is a mystery film with supporting elements of horror. Most of the film revolves around the investigation, although it uses a dark, eerie atmosphere and some spooky imagery. It's really a slow-burner. I like the mystery - it kept me glued to my seat.
 The horror elements were also very effective - I love the subtle approach, the creepy figures in the background and the the suspenseful mirror scenes. Also, although it is violent, it's not nearly as gory as the remake, Mirrors; although I enjoyed Mirrors' visual effects, I liked the atmospheric horror in Into The Mirror much more. The ending of the film was also surprising. Despite it's interesting concept and effective blend of mystery and horror, the story did feel too long and it did drag on at times.

The acting is great from the cast. Everything was very smooth and believable, no overacting whatsoever. The music was also intense and eerie, although it was repetitive during certain scenes. The cinematography is great, the film is well-shot and the dark tones are well-fitted. The storytelling was also smooth - the only questions I asked where due to my interest in the story, not because of technical confusion.

Into The Mirror isn't widely available as a singular release. I watched it on the flipper DVD of Mirrors 2. The Blu-ray + DVD combo of Mirrors 2 includes the flipper DVD (a disc that has content on the top and bottom) and side B contains Into The Mirror in Korean with English subtitles. (Side A is Mirrors 2 Unrated, of course.) Into The Mirror is worth the price of the Mirrors 2 DVD or the Blu-Ray+DVD combo, even if you aren't interested in Mirrors 2.

Overall, Into The Mirror is an effectively spooky mystery film. It is entertaining and unique, but it is too slow at times. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre, a rental otherwise.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Film Review: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

House on Haunted Hill (Review)
United States/1959
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes 

Millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) invites five people to a haunted house party his fourth wife is throwing. Frederick has promised each guest $10,000 if they survive the night at the haunted house; they have until midnight to decide whether they want to stay or not - the windows are barred and the door will be locked afterward.

The house is home to several violent and odd murders. And, apparitions are said to stalk the house for victims. The guests do not personally know Frederick so they begin question his motives. On top of that, most of the guests are skeptics, so they don't believe ghosts are responsible for the terror they experience. By the end, it is revealed that Frederick isn't the only one with ulterior motives...

House on Haunted Hill is a black and white horror film with a pinch of mystery. The house is eerily atmospheric, and I really enjoyed the brief tour and explanation of the murders - I do wish this sequence was longer, though. The film uses plenty of loud music jump-scares - some that are very effective - and a great sense of mystery. Are the ghosts real? If not, who is responsible? The ending explains almost everything, although it is a bit predictable; it may also be seen as cheesy thanks to the outdated effects. It's short run time is beneficial as the film doesn't overstay it's welcome, and it doesn't drag.

Vincent Price steals the show with eerily charming performance; his delivery is very fluent and authentic. The rest of the cast did a good job. The dialogue was often robotic and unnatural, though. Also, there is too much screaming; the screeching from two of the actresses was almost laughable at times. The music was great, really adding to the haunted house vibe of the film. Some of the special effects are also great considering the period this film was made in.

Overall, House on Haunted Hill is a great old-school horror film. Much of the film passes the test of time, although there are a few scenes and some acting that may feel outdated. Regardless, it's an entertaining film that delivers a solid amount of scares. I recommend a purchase for fans of the genre and timeframe, a rental otherwise.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.