Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hatchet II (2010) - Not Enough Treats

On the Menu: HATCHET II (2010)

Ingredients: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, Ed Ackerman, AJ Bowen, R.A. Mihailoff and John Carl Buechler. Directed by Adam Green. Run time: 85 minutes. Rated: Unrated.

At First Bite: I watched HATCHET not long after it came out on DVD. I thought it was pretty decent (3.5 stars) and bought it. Why not watch the sequel then?

Marybeth (Harris) survived the first movie, but her father and brother did not.

She goes to Reverend Zombie (Todd) for help, and he enlists a crew to hunt down Victor Crowley once and for all.

$500 to risk my life hunting a hatchet-wielding killer?

I'll pass, but good luck.

Tough to Swallow: Love seeing Harris in another horror movie, but her acting here is atrocious. Her emotion and delivery don't quite jell. You can tell she's trying really hard, but it's painful to watch.

The first death is pretty silly, as is what happens to Reverend Zombie.

In a flashback, Lena dies, but you see her moving as the scene ends.

The blood spraying is gratuitous.

In the soundtrack portion of the credits, "Courtesy of" appears to be repeated accidentally on the third line of info for the song "Old School."

Something to Chew On: The original was released in 2006. A third film is set to be released sometime in 2013.

In the original, Marybeth was played by Tamara Feldman.

Aside from Hodder (Jason Voorhees in 4 films) and Todd (Candyman), the first film also included Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger). Joshua Leonard (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT) and Deon Richmond (SCREAM 3) were also in the cast.

Harris appeared in three HALLOWEEN films: HALLOWEEN 4, HALLOWEEN 5 and Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN remake.

Some lines reference Jason Voorhees, the Blair Witch and Leslie Vernon. 

Holland, who plays Bob, wrote and directed CHILD'S PLAY and the original FRIGHT NIGHT.

David Foy plays Chad. In the original, he went uncredited as a hillbilly.

Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell appear uncredited. They both also starred in FROZEN, which was also directed by Green. Green had to split his shooting schedule for HATCHET II into two parts due to promotional work for FROZEN. Schedule #1 was January 7-13, 2010. Schedule #2 was January 15-February 24. FROZEN hit theaters on February 5, 2010.

The news is on at Jack Cracker's place after he rescues Marybeth. The interviewee is Bell's character from FROZEN. Ashmore appears in an earlier montage as a fisherman.

Ackerman, Hodder, Green, Rileah Vanderbilt and Joe Lynch are all in HATCHET II and FROZEN as well.

Green also wrote and executive produced the film. He has a cameo in the movie as a guy puking.

One hundred and thirty-six gallons of fake blood were used.

A crew member is actually credited as Voodoo Fluffer. What exactly is that?

Aftertaste: Well, it's not as good as its predecessor. The acting, especially from Harris, is shake-your-head bad through most of the movie.

I don't quite understand the reason to go back to the swamp to face Crowley right after you escaped with your life. Yeah, you don't need to retrieve the dead bodies. Just call the police.

But, it's a horror movie. Duh.

I will say the kills progressively get better and more creative throughout the film, but the movie itself isn't really scary. It's bloody, sure. I mean, it rains buckets of blood, but there aren't even any jump scares.

What I enjoy most are the treats of the horror movie references.

However, those won't save this from being just your average splatter flick.

I feel tricked.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - Spicing Up the Recipe

On the Menu: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Ingredients: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White, Amy Acker, Jodelle Ferland and Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Drew Goddard. Run time: 95 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: I thought this was supposed to be out on DVD months ago, but it was released just a few weeks ago. I made sure to grab it when it did.

Curt (Hemsworth) and his friends take a little vacation to the woods. Apparently, his cousin owns a cabin there.

Meanwhile, two technicians (Jenkins and Whitford) in a control room appear to be keeping tabs on the college kids' every move.

Something weird is going on, for sure.

Tough to Swallow: There are a few continuity issues, e.g., a disappearing football here and a disappearing towel there.

I don't quite understand the point of the elaborate "games." Are we to believe the "Ones" are actually watching?

Opening the film with the twist isn't as effective as having the twist more than halfway through.

Something to Chew On: The film had an estimated budget of $30 million. Its worldwide box office totaled just under $66 million.

This is Goddard's directorial debut.

Goddard co-wrote the film with Joss Whedon. Whedon is also one of the film's producers. Goddard was also a writer for Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel."

There are several horror movie references and homages, including THE EVIL DEAD, HELLRAISER, CUBE, THE SHINING and STEPHEN KING'S IT. A Reaver from Whedon's "Firefly" also makes an appearance.

The theatrical release date of February 5, 2010 was postponed because MGM wanted the film converted to 3D. The 3D release date was to be January 14, 2011, but MGM announced on June 14, 2010 it would be delayed indefinitely due to the studio's financial troubles. MGM filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy five months later. The release date ended up being April 13, 2012.

A tie-in with the PC/Xbox 360 game Left 4 Dead was canceled due to MGM's financial woes, but three of the characters from the game appear in the movie.

Aftertaste: It's difficult to really talk about the movie without spoiling it. Basically, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a deconstruction of the horror genre (think BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON or SCREAM or, more recently, TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL). Why do friends always split up rather than stick together? Why does the virgin always survive? The movie answers these questions and more.

Personally, I prefer watching the technicians' side of things. Jenkins and Whitford provide the most interesting characters, by far.

Is the film too clever for its own good? Perhaps. It's not perfect. There are a few WTF moments that might leave you shaking your head. And, it's funnier than it is scary, which doesn't bode well for a horror flick. But, hey, it's the guy's first shot at directing. He did a respectable job.

What I can say is THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is different. It's nice to get away from torture porn and the never-ending list of horror remakes we see each year.

I think it definitely takes the genre and provides a much-needed kick.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012) - Starved of Intensity

On the Menu: THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

Ingredients: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Gary Ross. Run time: 142 minutes. Rated: PG-13.

At First Bite: I live in Western North Carolina, so I was bombarded with media buildup of THE HUNGER GAMES. Locals were predicting it would be the biggest box office smash of 2012. The news would feature stories on filming locations. I was sick of the movie before it had even finished filming, and I vowed not to watch it in the theater (much like my semi-boycott of AVATAR). And, since I had some surprise leftover gift card money from my wedding last year, I only spent $13 on the 3-disc Deluxe Edition DVD set.

A dystopian future has transformed North America into a new nation called Panem, which is split into twelve districts and the Capitol. In the past, there had been rebellion against the wealthy Capitol, so a lottery was put in place as retribution. Two children (one boy, one girl) from each district are randomly selected to participate in The Hunger Games.

The contest is pretty brutal. The Capitol has control over the arena, so if the game gets boring they might throw in some crazy beasts.

Oh yeah, it's all televised... and only ends with one survivor. And, the victor gets to live the high life afterward.

Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) are the contestants from District 12, the poorest of the districts.

Do they have a chance?

Tough to Swallow: The 180-rule is broken in the scene where Prim gives the Mockingjay pendant back to Katniss.

There's a moment when Katniss is speaking to her mom and the camera appears to have been bumped. Why not reshoot that or edit it out?

There are a lot of continuity issues with Katniss's hair.

The Capitol citizens throw flowers to the tributes during the stadium entrance. In the overhead shot, the flowers are gone.

While in the tree, Katniss's sleeping bag disappears.

The cannon doesn't fire for Rue or her attacker.

I think the control room scenes are one too many.

The movie is over 2 hours long and the character development is pretty non-existent.

The whole idea of the "Games" is pretty R-rated, but the violence is very tame.

The wolf mutts (my favorite part of the book) are simply made out to be big dogs. Lame-o.

Something to Chew On: The film's $152.5 million opening weekend box office set a non-sequel record in North America.

Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Emma Roberts and Chloe Grace Moretz were among those considered for the role of Katniss.

Effie Trinket's name is never mentioned.

Suzanne Collins wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay. Her inspirations for the movie include a reality show, footage of the invasion of Iraq, Theseus, the Roman gladiatorial games, and the loss of her father when she was 11.

Cinematographer Tom Stern has been the director of photography on Clint Eastwood's last 10 films (starting with BLOODWORK in 2002). He's worked on 11 other Eastwood films as a gaffer, lighting consultant or chief lighting technician.

Aftertaste: When I heard the plot of this movie, I immediately thought of BATTLE ROYALE, SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS and THE RUNNING MAN. Seriously, it's not really that original of an idea. It's like when I saw the trailer for AVATAR and said, "Hey, that's FERNGULLY in space."

So, with that and the constant local news stories about the filming of the movie, I felt predetermined to dislike the film. However, I had the same feeling before watching AVATAR, and gave it 4 stars.

Honestly, THE HUNGER GAMES isn't all that bad.

However, at 142 minutes in length, there's no reason for the movie to be lacking character development. They could have cut down on the control room scenes to focus more on the characters, especially some of the other tributes.

A lot of the context from the novel is also missing. What's the deal with the 3-finger salute? What was the meaning of Katniss's hallucination? If you read the book, you know the story of Haymitch (Harrelson), but the movie doesn't really touch on what his deal is. I don't think the movie is all that clear on why Katniss does some of the things she does, but, in the book, we know her thoughts and feelings since it's her point of view. Her relationship with Rue isn't quite as compelling as in the book, which kills what should have been one of the film's most emotional moments.

I like the look of the film: the grays of District 12 versus the crazy colors of the Capitol. The makeup was a bit much, especially for Effie (Banks). I know the citizens of the Capitol are eccentric, but there's no reason to pile on the layers and make Elizabeth Banks surprisingly unattractive.

The camerawork is okay for the most part. I'm not a fan of the shaky cam, but it doesn't bother me. Katniss's hallucination scene has to be my favorite of the entire movie.

Although the movie might not have made as much movie had it hit theaters with an R-rating, it would have been much more entertaining. The Hunger Games is a bloody event, but the movie is relatively blood-free considering it's a story of kids killing kids. This absence of violence is the biggest disappointment for me.

If you read the book, I can't say you'll be entirely pleased with the film, but...

May the odds be ever in your favor.