Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
The Horseman (2008)
Written & Directed by: Stephen Kastrissios
Have you ever heard the phrase that goes something like “people hate in others what they secretly find reprehensible in themselves”? I may not have it worded totally right, but the sentiment is perfect for thinking about The Horseman, a stellar action/revenge film from first time director Stephen Kastrissios. I often find that when someone is vehemently opposed to something, it often betrays a blatant hypocrisy within that person. For example, someone who thinks an adulterer should be taken out and shot, but is also having his or her own little thing on the side with the neighbor’s spouse, and is oblivious to the double standard. Maybe that’s a dumb example, but hopefully you get my point. People aren’t perfect, and when someone portrays a façade of perfection at the expense of others, it’s truly a call for outrage. I’ll tell you how that fits into this review a little later.
As for the film itself, this Australian revenge/action film is probably one of the most brutal experiences I've had so far this year. Brutal in terms of onscreen violence, but also in terms of the thematic elements it explores. It shares a lot with another effective revenge thriller Dead Man’s Shoes, which I enjoyed immensely. As is often the case with this sort of film, a lot is thrown by the wayside in favor of the violence. However, The Horseman is far from a mindless excuse for carnage like some of its emaciated brethren. Sure there’s violence and torture, but it also has a lot of heart. It also doesn’t trick you into thinking revenge is sweet or glorious. In fact it is very ugly, very grueling, and ultimately very unsatisfying.
(What lengths will a man go to avenge his child?)
Peter Marshall (Fortress) is incredible as Christian, a man driven to extremes by the recent death of his daughter. The police provide no answers other than a drug overdose and possible evidence of sexual abuse. When Christian receives a mysterious package containing a VHS tape, the possibility that she was murdered by a group of depraved pornographers is introduced. Fueled by rage, Christian pursues the group to exact revenge as only a scorned father can. The bulk of the film resides in the seedy underbellies of small town drugs and pornography, a world tucked away from most of our eyes. While the film doesn’t portray these in a positive light, it also doesn’t necessarily perch itself upon a moral high horse. It’s merely a reflection of the desperate things people do to escape depression, poverty, a lack of real opportunity. Instead, they seek refuge in these acts as a means of escape, all too often ending in tragedy. Christian is an everyman, but he slowly becomes a monster as he sinks further and further into this world in his pursuit of vengeance.
Far from standard format for a revenge flick, The Horseman throws a few curve balls at you. Christian has his own issues, and didn’t quite have a good relationship with his daughter. He is driven partially by his failures as a father. As the story moves toward his inevitable showdowns with each member of the group, we find him conflicted as it appears his daughter may have been at least partially responsible for her own actions and grim fate. Time and again Christian’s victims tell him “she knew what she was doing”. That statement can serve two purposes: Taken as a common defense for an accused rapist in a predominant culture of sexism, or it could place responsibility directly on Christian’s daughter as being in control of her choices and actions. I don’t prescribe to the “blame the victim” mentality personally, but there are certainly more angles to explore and usually more than one victim in most cases. Clearly it’s not all black and white. Don’t get me wrong, the offending group in this particular story can be vicious and certainly took advantage of a desperate person. Maybe the point is that we need to start looking at the systematic conditions that drive people toward these dark places.
We don’t really get to find out much about what actually happened to Christian’s daughter which allows us to feel his frustration. Even so, we know that ultimately she was a victim of many failures and certainly met a terrible end. While we are spared from any sort of rape scene, some of the torture scenes are excruciating. At first we want Christian to have his revenge, but as the film progresses, we see that it is at the cost of his humanity. Christian also has his own sordid past, and is clearly not an avenging angel. He may even be a little crazy. When he picks up young hitchhiker named Alice (brial-liantly portrayed by newcomer Caroline Marohasy), he may have a chance to help her in a way that he never could with his own daughter. What he does at the crossroads is the only thing that matters.
(Brief moments of humanity with Alice.)
(Have you had enough?)
I have a few minor complaints with the film. It tries to present things in a realistic manner, but some of the fight scenes tend to be a little over-the-top. Christian is beaten severely and repeatedly in these scenes, but never seems to get a black eye or bruising on his face. Also, most of the characters seem to possess near inhuman ability to take pain and it’s all a bit hokey at times. That said, this is still a great movie well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of action films with a bit of deconstruction. The acting alone is worth it, and the film is definitely nerve-wracking, thought-provoking, and never boring.
The Horseman Trailer
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Hey horror fans, let me first introduce myself. I'm Michele “Izzy” Galgana, Associate Director of Programming from the Boston Underground Film Festival. I'm the resident horror chick of that fest, and most recently curated all the shorts programs for the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. Mike's invited me to contribute to All Things Horror Online, and I thought, since he's a brand new dad, what better way to start off than to skeeve him out with a list of creepy babies and kids in film? I originally wanted to post this on Father's Day, but my list became so momentous that it took a few days to compile all these awesome clips. Here are my favorite killer/creepy kid movies, in no particular order. Enjoy!
All Things Horror presents ZOMBIE LOVE b/w FRANKENSTEIN UNLIMITED July 7th at the Somerville Theater
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Looking Beyond the Work in Three Outstanding Documentaries: Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story, Dreams with Sharp Teeth, and Horror Business
SPINE TINGLER!: THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY
Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story (2007): Spine Tingler is the biography of legendary Hollywood producer and promotional mastermind William Castle. Aside from his monstrously successful horror hits like The House on Haunted Hill, Homicidal, and 13 Ghosts, Castle is recognized for the brilliant promotional gimmicks that brought in movie-goers in droves. It’s a delight to see movie patrons lined up around the block to experience Castle’s innovative trickery such as the shock device fashioned to seats during The Tingler or the floating skeleton that flies over the crowd in The House on Haunted Hill. Castle is a personal hero of mine and while the film reveals his cigar-chomping, “everyone’s favorite uncle” demeanor was interrupted by periods of self-doubt, it is still a treat to watch the man at work. Solidifying a great time is being able to revisit Castle’s legacy with the likes of Roger Corman, John Waters, Joe Dante, and John Landis, all of whom appear in the film.
Sping-Tingler!: The William Castle Story Trailer
DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH
Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008): Love him or hate him, Harlan Ellison is one of speculative fiction’s greatest treasures. The man is hugely prolific having written some the literary world’s most exceptional novels, short stories, and essays, as well as teleplays and screenplays. This documentary gives us a glimpse at the life of Ellison, one of the most vitriolic, respected, and feared writers in the business. Not content with merely creating fantastic stories, he is also a master editor having compiled the groundbreaking, controversial anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions. Ellison can be an incredible asshole in every best sense of the word, and here we see him at his best and worst, which can sometimes be one and the same instance.
Dreams with Sharp Teeth Trailer
Horror Business (2005): I recommend Horror Business both to aspiring filmmakers or film fans with any sort of curiosity about the often agonizing, rarely rewarding experience of making a film. It’s a fascinating look at what to do and NOT to do when trying to make a movie. While some of the filmmakers on display here may not appear to have a clue, others show an unparalleled level of dedication to their craft. Consisting of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, Horror Business features such well-known filmmakers as Herschell Gordon Lewis and Lloyd Kaufman, as well as prolific film buff Joe Bob Briggs, actor Sid Haig, and independent filmmakers Mark Borchardt, David Gebroe, Ron Atkins, John Bloom, and David Stagnari among many others.
Horror Business Trailer
Monday, June 21, 2010
Never underestimate the benefits of well tied shoes. You never know when you might be sent sprawling over a loose lace, and the seconds you need to recover could make all the difference. If you're especially clumsy, invest in shoes that fasten with velcro straps.
This public service announcement has been brought to you by your friends at All Things Horror.
Saturday, June 19, 2010