Strange as it may seem but reviewers are people too and, like the rest of you ordinary folk, we have blind spots and mine is horror. Back when I was a civilian, I managed to avoid most of the iconic horror movies of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s for reasons (I’m sorry to say) of pure squeamishness. Imagine my, er, surprise then when I discovered that this week had two, possibly even four, horror films in it. Eek.
My only previous exposure to the Friday the 13th catalogue was a grainy pirate video in 1981 (with sound about ten seconds out of synch) so, with few preconceptions, I am pleased to report that the Michael Bay-produced remake is quite entertaining. Silly, of course, but entertaining.
The scene is present day Crystal Lake (scene of the hockey-masked ghoul named Jason’s camp counsellor-offing rampage in the original) and a group of gormless rich college kids are looking for laffs on Jason’s turf. You suspect it won’t end well for any of them and you are right. Director Marcus Nispel made the video for Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” so you can see how he could easily turn his hand to this sort of thing.
Proving that 3D won’t save a film with a rubbish script, poor acting and plodding direction, My Bloody Valentine 3D is an R16 Scooby-Doo adventure with a bunch of bloody-axe-poking-through-the-screen effects instead of genuine thrills and chills. What was I afraid of, really? Turns out boredom is the biggest problem.
He’s Just Not That Into You isn’t strictly a horror film but I watched it through my hands all the same. A collection of self-absorbed Baltimore thirtysomethings with Hollywood cheekbones and perfect teeth drone on about relationships, commitment, mars, venus, “Why won’t he call?”, “Why won’t she have sex with me?”, etc. It’s all very tiresome until one realises that it isn’t in fact a million miles away from one’s own life – apart from the cheekbones and the teeth. What it isn’t is very funny or very dramatic.
While I’m riffing on the subject of horror, I’ll express my disappointment that Marley & Me isn’t the remake of Cujo that the world has been crying out for, but a middle-of-the-road story about a couple that buys a dog. Seriously, that’s about all that happens. The couple is Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, which will sell a few tickets, but the film itself couldn’t be a softer touch. Somewhere deep down inside Marley & Me is the kernel of something real and meaningful but, as often happens, the Hollywood machine requires something different, something less interesting, less specific.
The Paramount’s dedication to commercially unpromising but culturally uplifting cinema continues with Son of a Lion, an antidote to everything shallow and broad on offer this week. In the remote borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan a young boy tries to persuade his Afghan resistance hero father that he doesn’t want to follow in his footsteps. The world is changing says his uncle, even Pashtuns need an education now. But his hard-hearted father, a widower, is afraid of losing his son to the Mullahs or to Guantanamo.
It’s a classical story of breakdown between the generations, given a new wave twist by Australian director Benjamin Gilmour. If you liked Michael Winterbottom’s In This World (and I did) you will get a kick out of Son of a Lion. The Australian film industry is in the doldrums at the moment but if Son of a Lion is anything to go by, Gilmour is one to watch for the future.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 18 February, 2009.