Archive for the Ghost Movies Category

Me and Lil’ Stevie Go RIDING THE BULLET (2004)

Posted in 2012, Ghost Movies, Horror, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies with tags , , , , , on June 26, 2012 by knifefighter

Me and Lil’ Stevie

Get Burned From

RIDING THE BULLET (2004)

(Exterior/Night.  Establishing shot of a long, lonesome highway in Southern Maine.  A full moon hangs over the highway, casting long, eerie shadows of pine trees onto the macadam.  We can tell by what’s left of the foliage that it is mid-autumn.  On one side of the road is an old cemetery, with swirls of fog drifting out of the entry way.  Over the cemetery’s stone wall we see a mysterious figure doing some mysterious business.  The figure turns and walks out of the cemetery gates.  It is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

LIL’ STEVIE:  You never listen to me.  I told you to do that back before we left the movie theater.  Do you know how unprofessional that looks?  It’s bad enough I have to watch!

PETER:  I’m sorry, okay?!?  Good evening, folks, and welcome to another edition of our little column.  Today we’ll be discussing the 2004 Mick Garris adaptation of Stephen King’s RIDING THE BULLET.  Now, if you haven’t read the story, it’s…

LIL’ STEVIE:  Your fly is still down (rolls eyes comically).

PETER: (Struggles with zipper) …it’s a standard ghost story based on something that sounds right out of urban legend.  It’s the phantom of the guy who died in a car wreck, but has been known to drive around this same stretch of highway on cold October evenings, just like tonight!

LIL’ STEVIE:  Only, when I wrote it, I was dealing with own mother’s mortality, and…

PETER:  When the REAL Stephen King wrote it, he was dealing with some very personal stuff.  But in typical King fashion, he took lemons and made a pitcher of margaritas.  Released back in 2000 (then later again in EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL), RIDING THE BULLET was his transition into the age of digital downloads, and in the first 24 hours, over 400,000 fans downloaded the story onto their computers.  It created havoc.  Servers crashed due to the high Internet traffic.  Unlike the road where we’re standing, where there is no traffic whatsoever…

LIL’ STEVIE:  I was merely trying to point out that RIDING THE BULLET  is more than just a ghost story…it’s a parable about morality and the choices we make when we’re alive!

PETER:  You aren’t alive, pencil-neck.  You’re a puppet.  If I die, you’ll be pretty screwed.  Now, can we get on with the review?

LIL’ STEVIE:  (pouting) Fine!

PETER:  The story concerns Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson, who played Kyle Reese in the TV series TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES), a college student at the University of Maine at Orono (where King attended college) who has been obsessed with death ever since his dad passed away.  The opening of the film is a montage of Alan’s childhood, including a pivotal moment of his life where he and his mom are at the front of the line to ride The Bullet; the big scary roller coaster at Thrill Village, but he chickens out and his mom smacks him for being such a candy-ass.

LIL’ STEVIE:  What a Milk-Sop!

PETER:  I’ll say.  So there he is in college (circa 1969), taking an art class with his gal-pal Jessica (Erika Christensen, FLIGHTPLAN, 2005), and while the rest of the students are sketching the gorgeous nude woman in front of the class, Alan is drawing the Angel of Death standing behind her.  In some weird exposition with Alan and the teacher (cameo by Matt Frewer, a Garris regular we talked about back in our review of BAG OF BONES), we learn that Alan has seen the Angel of Death around ever since his dad died in the car accident way back when.  We also learn that Alan has built this wall around himself, which has kind of hindered his ability to deal with life and have real relationships.

LIL’ STEVIE:  And it’s all hogwash!  None of this came out of my novella.  This always happens!  The story is too short so let’s just invent stuff to fill in time!  In my story, Alan gets the call that his mom had a stroke, and he’s out on the turnpike, thumbing a ride!

PETER:  Calm yourself, Lil’ Stevie.  You always get so angry.  Let’s not jump the gun.  Get it?

LIL’ STEVIE:  Look at your leg.  You’ve got drops on your pant leg.  No matter how much you squirm and dance, the last few drops go down your pants!  Hyuk hyuk hyuk!

(The headlights of an 18-wheeler appear in the distance, heading their way).

PETER:  Wanna go for a ride?  (Holds out Lil’ Stevie in the semi’s path).

LIL’ STEVIE:  Aaarrghh!  I’m sorry!  I’M SORRY!

(The semi goes whizzing by just as Peter pulls Lil’ Stevie back at the last second).

PETER:  That’s better.  Where was I?  Oh yeah.  So Alan is the 60s version of an emo kid, and his desperate plea for help culminates with him drunk and stoned in his bathtub, ready to take his own life with a razor blade.  This is the only compelling scene in the movie, as the Angel of Death shows up, and the giant women’s faces he’d painted on the walls come alive and begin chanting “Cut” at him.  And then Jessica barges through the door with all of his best friends behind her to give him a surprise birthday party.  Which is lucky for him, because otherwise he was a goner.

LIL’ STEVIE:  Never happened!

PETER:  Noted.  What does happen is that a red car that looks incredibly similar to CHRISTINE begins showing up and lurking in all his exterior shots.  At first I thought it was a clever nod to another King story, but as it occurs more frequently, it begins to feel like a rip-off.  And as Alan returns from his hospital trip with his buddies en tow, we learn that Alan is also haunted by a mirror image of himself that serves as his conscience and voice of reason.

LIL’ STEVIE:  Never happened!  God, this drives me crazy.

PETER:  Me too, actually.  I hated the whole dual-persona thing Garris created.  And I really hate how every scene has to play out with Alan’s scary imagined-reality scenarios before what really happens.  It jumbles continuity and kills any chance for real tension to build.

(A mad dog suddenly lunges out of the woods and begins to attack Peter, as Lil’ Stevie Looks on and laughs).

PETER:  What the…

(Then the dog disappears, and it’s as if nothing ever happened).

LIL’ STEVIE:  You mean like that?

PETER:  That was really weird.  Anyway.  We’re getting long-winded, so let’s break it down a little simpler.  Jessica gives Alan tickets to see John Lennon and the Plastic Ono band up in Canada.  Just as he shows his tickets off to his buddies, the phone rings with the news about Alan’s mom having a stroke.  He passes the tickets off to his buds and begins hitchhiking downstate to get to Lewiston, where his mom is in the hospital.

LIL’ STEVIE:  The SAME hospital I stayed in after that jerk-wad ran me over back in ’99.

PETER:  If you were run over, you’d be sent to the firewood pile, okay, Humpty Dumpty?  But you’re right…The real King did stay at that hospital after his accident.  I wonder if he added that intentionally while he wrote this piece.  Anyway, Alan thumbs rides down to Lewiston, all the while shadowed by his annoying double in the backseat, telling him his every move.  First, he’s picked up by some old guy (Cliff Robertson, Uncle Ben in the Sam Raimi SPIDER-MAN franchise) who digs at his crotch like he’s got a urinary infection and rambles on about his late wife.  When the old guy gets into town, Alan’s double tells him to get out and find another ride.  Which isn’t easy, apparently, on this particular Halloween night, where NOBODY is outside doing anything.

LIL’ STEVIE:  I’m really starting to hate Mick Garris right now…

PETER:  I’m right there with ya.  For everything he directs that is semi-decent, he throws a turd like this at us in response.  Is he trying to be mysterious or something?  Do you think he sits around watching this movie on late-night cable and saying, “Gosh, I really nailed this one”?

LIL’ STEVIE:  I’d like to nail him!  We should have saved this one for this year’s Holiday Turkey Shoot!

PETER:  Alan travels on foot for a few miles.  He gets chased by some redneck Mainers with a shotgun into a junk yard.  Then travels a few more miles on foot to the cemetery over yonder, where we’re finally introduced to the ghost that is driving this movie.

LIL’ STEVIE:  About freakin’ time!  In my novella, Alan is already at the hospital.

PETER:  George Staub (David Arquette, Deputy Dewey from SCREAM, 1996) is buried in the plot that Alan stumbles across.  A quick glimpse at his tombstone tricks Alan into thinking the epitaph reads FUN IS FUN, AND DONE IS DONE, and is just certain that his mom has already kicked the bucket…Alan does this through most of the movie, mistaking events as supernatural omens that his mom has died…and it’s annoying as hell.  But he glimpses again, and the epitaph now reads, WELL BEGUN, TOO SOON DONE.

LIL’ STEVIE:  Unlike this movie…

PETER:  Back on the highway, Alan finally thumbs another ride.  And predictably, it’s the red car that looks just like CHRISTINE, and (cue scary music), the ghost of George Staub is driving!  The rest of the flick is George tormenting Alan.  Apparently, Alan will have to choose whether George will take HIS life or HIS MOM’S into the afterworld.  Alan manages to escape, and is somehow transported from Maine to Thrill Village in Laconia, New Hampshire, where Staub will chase him down and eventually get him to ride THE BULLET, thus giving this turd a title.

LIL’ STEVIE:  And Staub will reward him with a pin that says, I RODE THE BULLET, which actually DOES happen in my novella.

PETER:  Of course, none of this really happens, as Alan had accidentally tripped back in the cemetery and knocked himself out on the corner of Staub’s tombstone.  And yet (cue scary music again), he STILL HAS THE PIN!

LIL’ STEVIE:  Somebody shoot me!  No wonder this film got a limited released, then jumped right to cable television.

PETER:  Alan arrives at the hospital, and low and behold, his mom is just fine.  But by this point in the movie, we’ve also been tipped off that Alan’s dad had committed suicide, that mom’s a bit of a lush and cigarette junkie (hence the health problems), that his buddies from school died on the way to Canada, and that emo-Alan, who had tried to commit suicide at the beginning, pussied out and told George Staub to take his mom instead of him.  What a shock.

LIL’ STEVIE:  (holds up tape recorder) Note to self…kill Mick Garris before he damages my career any further.

PETER:  That’s a little harsh.  How about we just say that Garris should focus on one thing at a time?  In this case, he should have let someone else write the screenplay instead of himself.  What began as a neat little novella about a ghost from a campfire story has blossomed into a field of big, stinky flowers.  Garris tried to throw too many ingredients into the stew and ruined dinner.  He tried to put too much icing on the birthday cake.  He…

LIL’ STEVIE:  You really suck at metaphors.  You’ll never be a REAL writer!

(In the distance, we see another 18-wheeler fast approaching behind them).

PETER:  Oh yeah?  Well, what’s FUN IS FUN AND DONE IS DONE!

(Peter tosses Lil’ Stevie into the path of the semi.  Camera switches POV to inside the rig, where Lil’ Stevie’s face is screaming just outside the windshield.)

PETER:  Thanks for joining us, folks.  See you next time… (Peter turns toward an on-coming car and put’s his thumb out to hitch a ride.  We see that the car looks a lot like CHRISTINE as he climbs inside.)

–The End—

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

Pickin’ the Carcass: GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011)

Posted in 2012, Faux Documentaries, Ghost Movies, Haunted Houses, Michael Arruda Reviews, Paranormal, Pickin' the Carcass, Supernatural with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by knifefighter

PICKIN’ THE CARCASS:  GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011)
DVD Review by Michael Arruda

 

All I can say is the 21st century is proving to be a gold mine when it comes to “found footage.”

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS (2011) is yet another in the growing line of “recently discovered footage” movies with documentary-style filmmaking, hand-held camera usage, and people running around screaming “Oh my God!” and “Did you hear that?”  It fits right in with the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, and films like CHRONICLE (2012) and THE LAST EXORCISM (2010).

This is not necessarily a bad thing, because I tend to like this style of filmmaking.  It lends itself easily to eliciting scares.

The gimmick in GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is that a crew which films a reality TV show called “Grave Encounters,” a show about ghost specialists searching for ghosts inside houses and buildings, arranges to spend a night inside a former mental institution that is supposedly haunted.

The movie opens with the show’s producer introducing the footage, explaining how the show had held so much promise, and that all was great until the crew filmed the episode inside the institution.  It would be their final episode.  The producer goes on to say that the footage the audience is about to see is real, edited only for time.  And thus the movie begins.

Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson), the host of the show, is busy with his small crew of camera and sound operators setting up for their latest gig.  Preston interviews various people associated with the now-closed institution, and we see that Preston is not above paying people to give him phony answers.  This is not a team that really believes in what they’re doing.  Sure, they’d love to find evidence of real ghosts, but they don’t expect to.  For Lance, it’s all about creating an entertaining show.

Their resident ghost expert, Houston Gray (Mackenzie Gray), is also a fraud.  He’s seen on camera speaking about demons being present and how it’s not safe for them to be there too long, and as soon as the camera stops rolling, he laughs it up, wondering how good his performance was.

Preston and his crew are locked in at the institution for the night, and they’ve arranged for the doors to be unlocked at 6:30 am.  They also can’t escape through the windows since, like a prison, the windows are all barred.

As you would imagine, as the night goes on, strange things begin to happen.  Preston and his crew hear odd sounds, see mysterious apparitions, and eventually bad things begin to happen to them.  Very bad things.

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is not a bad little horror movie.  I liked it for the most part, but if there’s one glaring weakness with this film, it’s that feeling of déjà vu that we’ve seen this all before.  Because you know what?  We have.

It’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY in a mental institution.   We know where this story is going to go.  Plus, we’re told at the outset by the show’s producer that the crew doesn’t film any more episodes, and so the fate of our friendly TV crew never comes as much of a surprise.

To its credit, the movie does try to shake things up a bit.  It has some weird things going on with both the building itself—doors aren’t where they once were, for example—and with the conditions outside the building.  These ideas are welcome, but in the end, our TV crew is still hounded by ghosts, and their fate is nothing we haven’t seen before.

The movie works much better early on when things are creepy and eerie, and we’re not exactly sure what’s going on.  Once we start seeing the actual ghosts, it doesn’t work as well.  There are ghosts and shock scenes aplenty, but for some reason, these scenes just aren’t as scary as the subtle frights encountered earlier in the movie.  As a result, the movie drags somewhat during its second half.

One thing I did like was the movie does a good job making its case that if ever there were a place for unhappy ghosts to haunt, it’d be a former mental institution.  There are plenty of images in this movie showing what life was like for these mental patients, and because these patients were treated abysmally, it makes perfect sense that their pained spirits would be inside this building, still trying to make sense of it all, still striking back against people they viewed as their tormenters.

GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was written and directed by The Vicious Brothers. They sure have a nice name, but too bad this movie didn’t live up to it.  It’s not so vicious.

That being said, I did enjoy GRAVE ENCOUNTERS better than John Carpenter’s THE WARD (2011), the movie I reviewed in my previous PICKIN’ THE CARCASS column, also about a mental institution.  GRAVE ENCOUNTERS was scarier and did a better job showing the horrors of mental institutions from the past.

The cast is likeable enough.  Sean Rogerson is believable as the driven host of the show, Lance Preston.  He’s committed—heh, heh—to making the episode the best it can be, and once the ghostly hauntings begin, he’s the one who drives the rest of his crew to get this stuff on camera.

Mackenzie Gray also turns in a nice performance as the phony ghost expert Houston Gray.

For the most part, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is creepy and enjoyable, but it doesn’t possess enough originality to lift it above the pack of “found footage” movies, except perhaps for the validity of its mental institution ghosts.

A mildly satisfying haunt, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is okay, but it’s certainly nothing to be crazy about.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

THE INNKEEPERS (2011)

Posted in 2012, Ghost Movies, Haunted Houses, Indie Horror, Jenny Orosel Columns, Supernatural with tags , , , , , on February 10, 2012 by knifefighter

THE INNKEEPERS (2011)
Movie review by Jenny Orosel

You know you’re in for a long night when the horror movie you’re watching reminds you of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE (1981).

If you’re unfamiliar, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE is two guys having dinner and talking. That’s it. No action and, if memory serves me right, they don’t even get up from the table. THE INNKEEPERS (2011) was like that, and not in a good way.

It’s the final days for The Yankee Peddler Inn, and the last two employees are spending the last days holed up in rooms at the hotel, pranking each other and not being helpful to the handful of guests. The first innkeeper is Claire (Sara Paxton), a twenty-something with no goals, no interests, no personality really. She works with Luke (Pat Healy), a web developer at heart who’s working on a website detailing the haunting of The Yankee Peddler. Decades ago, a woman was murdered there and supposedly haunts the halls to this day. With only a little while left before the hotel closes down, there are only a handful of guests: a crabby mother with a whiny son, a former TV star in town for a convention, and a mysterious old man who demands to stay in one specific room, although that entire floor had already been stripped. Out of boredom, the two innkeepers try and record the haunting (in between forgetting to stock towels).

When making a horror film, there are a couple different ways to approach it. One is to sprinkle it with scares, building to one giant climax. Except for a few fake-outs (including the use of an old internet meme of “now keep looking closely at this picture…keep looking…boo!”), there wasn’t even an attempt at a scare until more than forty minutes into the movie. And then you have to wait just about as long for the next one, which is the final climax. In and of itself, that’s fine because you can build tension by developing the characters, putting you at the edge of your seat with worry over the well-being of the heroes. THE INNKEEPERS aimed for the latter, relying on mood, characters and story to create suspense. In my opinion, it failed.

Director Ti West (who also gave us 2009’s HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) uses a lot of creepy music to create the tone. That can be a useful tool when it’s meant to underscore an eerie sense to the scene, or build up to a fright. But here, it’s ever-present, and by the time something scary did come about, I’d become immune to it. In fact, its use in almost every scene became more of an annoyance than anything. And the story itself isn’t nearly enough to rely on. Less than half the movie has anything to do with the haunting or the ghosts, but rather characterization. I understand the reasoning behind this—the more we know and care about the protagonists, the more their peril affects us. The problem is I didn’t care about the characters.

The movie rides on the shoulders of Claire. Almost every scene is about her, and she’s in almost every shot of the film. The actress did a decent job with the role and was perfectly believable. The problem was not with her, but how the character was written. Claire was supposed to represent the young everywoman: aimless, directionless, passionless. However, while most people aren’t overachievers, they tend to care about something. Even if it’s a nightly game of Sonic the Hedgehog, even the dullest among us has something they find interesting. She was completely unrelatable. The secondary characters didn’t fare very well, either. Her coworker, Luke, was your stereotypical computer geek with a laptop full of porn links. The mother and child served no purpose in the movie—they didn’t move the story forward (or even backward for that matter) and didn’t bring a thing to the movie. The wise old faded star (played by Kelly McGillis, in a role that will make anyone who saw TOP GUN in the theater back in 1986 feel old) was the most interesting character, but it still isn’t saying much. She just happened to know exactly what was needed at the right time, and surprisingly, had the exact skills the writers needed to move the plot along. Her character was just too convenient to be believable enough to keep me in the story. As for the old man, although he was integral to the ending, he barely appeared for fifteen minutes of time, just enough to perfectly play the Deus Ex Machina role.

Speaking of the ending, it was painfully awkward. In fact, it rendered about an hour and twenty minutes of the movie totally useless. Perhaps the ending would have worked if, even a little, I cared about Claire or what happened to her. The best part of the end was the fact that it was the end, and I could move on with my life.

THE INNKEEPERS seems to have garnered quite a bit of praise, hitting a surprising 78% on RottenTomatoes.com. Most of the reviews were along the lines of “Finally, a horror movie that doesn’t rely on gore” and “I’m glad it used tone rather than blood and guts.”  So much praise is coming from its genre, rather than itself as a movie. This goes to show just how hungry audiences are for quiet horror, that by simply being such it gains bonus points. THE INNKEEPERS had the quiet part down, but forgot about the horror. Looking at the praise this got, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if somebody made a halfway decent (let alone good) piece of quiet horror. For now, all we can do is wonder.

Out of five stars: a 30 watt light bulb.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

(Note: despite being made in 2011, THE INNKEEPERS is currently in limited theatrical release in selected cities, and is also availble on some cable OnDemand services)

Too bad THE INNKEEPERS isn't as good as this cool poster implies.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012)

Posted in 2012, Daniel Keohane Reviews, Ghost Movies, Gothic Horror, Haunted Houses, Supernatural with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by knifefighter

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012)
Movie Review by Dan Keohane

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2011), directed by relative unknown (to the average moviegoer, at least), James Watkins (his only other directing effort was 2008’s EDEN LAKE), is a remake of a 1989 British TV-movie of the same name. I’ve never seen the original, but I’m very glad to have seen the remake, starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry himself from the HARRY POTTER film series, 2001-2011) and Ciaran Hinds (THE RITE, 2011 and the HBO series ROME). It’s been a very long time since a movie has truly scared me, to the point where I was sometimes cringing in my seat. Yes, there were a few “Ahh!” moments of things popping out and making me jump, but THE WOMAN IN BLACK did most of its scares the “old-fashioned” way, with eerie settings, subtle music and long build-ups to many of the frights. It succeeded often enough that I developed a good respect for the film.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK is, in just about every way, an homage to the atmospheric Gothic films that have mostly faded into the woodwork with the advent of big budget effects and the popularity of slasher and torture films. That’s a fancy way of saying it takes time to build up steam. Radcliffe plays a late-nineteenth century apprentice in a law firm, Arthur Kipps, who is on thin ice with his employers since falling into a depression after losing his wife a few years earlier, in childbirth with their only son, Joseph (played with quiet sincerity by Misha Handley—it’s the boy’s his first film and, for trivia buffs, he is Radcliffe’s godson in real life).

As a way of redeeming himself to the firm, Kipps is assigned to go through the voluminous stack of papers left behind by an old widow to verify there are no more recent documents to contradict her will. He leaves his son in the care of a nanny and travels by train to a sleepy, remote hamlet, the location of many a Gothic tale. Adding to the seclusion, the widow’s home (where the paperwork is waiting) sits alone on an island cut off from the village by a tidal bog. Twice a day, the tide rolls in and cuts off access to the house completely. The home—a massive, sprawling estate reminiscent of Poe’s “House of Usher”—is reachable only at low tide via a narrow, winding road. The townspeople are less than welcoming to Kipps when he arrives at the only Inn in town, forcing him to stay in the attic room where, we learn in the film’s opening sequence, three children recently jumped to their deaths.

The town is dreary and wet, filled with tension as every townsperson glares menacingly at the young lawyer. The movie truly shines (in a manner of speaking) whenever Radliffe’s character crosses the moors and enters the old mansion. The sets here were amazing. Gorgeous, but not in a glamorous, shiny way. No, the home was dark, dusty and damp, but beneath the surface were signs (paintings on walls, decorative woodwork) that this was once a thriving, radiant place, stunning to behold. Not now. But that’s what makes this film so amazing to watch. How do I explain this…? Have you ever walked through an antique store and come across a few items, or more than a few, caked in dust or discarded on a shelf, but emanating a kind of old-life to them, as if once upon a time they were loved and cherished objects? If not, then skip ahead… that’s how every room, every carefully-chosen prop came across as the camera panned alongside Kipps as he moved about the house. Everything about the place looked real. (Maybe, as a side note, they were real—in other words, Radlciffe wasn’t walking through a green room where everything around him was added later —I honestly felt there was little to no CGI in this film, aside from a few moments with our resident spook, but even then I wonder, as I’ll explain in a moment). Simply gorgeous to behold and experience.

Now this, dear reader, is the canvas where the filmmakers painted the fear across the screen. I mentioned there were far less jump-out scares here than in a modern horror film (there were some, in moderation), but one joy in watching this film is how many subtle clues and scares had been inserted into a scene without any fanfare. These might appear on screen for a second at most (for example, as the young lawyer reaches the front door for the first time—Linda didn’t noticed what was on the door, but I did). If he’s walking through the house, pay attention to the background—the background is where many of the scares happen. When they do, with a few exceptions, you will not hear a Shayamalan-esque Ba-Doom! orchestral shock. Blink and you’ll miss it. And I like that.

A benefit of putting so many subtle cues and creeps in the background is in the overall effect they produce in this large, haunted house—one of dread, the most important ingredient of a Gothic horror story.

The story does pick up steam, more and more as the events unfold, though even this momentum is tempered by restraint. It never goes completely over the top, although the climactic nursery scene with Radcliffe and the woman in black is quite frightening. It scared me, at least.

Daniel Radcliffe has a good screen presence as a sad, beleaguered lawyer struggling with depression. Watching him face one supernatural event after another, however, I wanted more fear to show on his face. More terror to work its way across his countenance. Sorry, but if I was caught in some these situations I would have looked a hell of a lot more frightened. They could have at least showed a wet spot on his pants (maybe they did, I wouldn’t put it past the director to do so and not make a big deal of it). Closer to the end of the film, Radcliffe’s character looked more frightened, but his expression was too neutral in the earlier scenes.

Two of the best performances in the film are by Ciaran Hinds as the wealthiest resident in town, Mr. Daily, and Janet McTeer (TIDELAND, 2005, and more recently in ALBERT NOBBS, 2011) as his wife. Like Kipps, Mrs. Daily is dealing with the death of a loved one, her young son. So much, that she is convinced the boy is communicating with her from the dead. These two characters shine like the sun, which rarely comes out in the village. Mr. Daily does not believe in the superstition the townspeople are traumatized by: that if someone lays eyes on the infamous “Woman in Black,” one of the children in town dies. As these very things unfold during the film, even he is hard-pressed to deny what is happening, much less convince young Kipps, who has encountered the spirit first-hand.

How scary is the otherworldly star of the film, the woman in black? Scary as anything I’ve seen in a long time. Mostly because they are very careful to show her from a distance, or in brief glimpses. There might have been times when the ghost was CGI, but like I mentioned earlier, I do not think there were many instances of this. I think there was an actress in scary makeup standing in the shadow of the doorway, moving down the hall, hiding in the dark. Our brains recognize real from computer-generated in films, and she is much scarier for it.

I’ve been careful to not reveal too much of the overall plot or subplots of the film, since I think you’ll enjoy the movie more if you discover the secrets along with Mr. Kipps. Overall, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a smart, clever horror movie, original and frightening among so many predictable, unfrightening others. It’s a film that’s also a joy to watch—sets as lavish as Dickens’ description of Miss Havisham’s parlor and an atmosphere as dread-inducing as that in BURNT OFFERINGS (1976). Now, the word “subtle” is prevalent in this review, because of the nature of this kind of film. THE WOMAN IN BLACK is a smart movie, dark in mood, and doesn’t force you to notice everything about it that is scary. You need to pay attention, and be patient as the mood builds. Because of this, those who like their horror films fast-paced like a roller coaster might be bored in parts, especially in the beginning, when Kipps first arrives in town. But that’s how most Gothics play out, and in this case, the pay-off is so, so creepy.

I give this film 4 Shaking Candlesticks out of 5, because I was so pleased to be so creeped out sitting in the movies again.

© Copyright 2012 by Daniel G. Keohane

(Dan Keohane’s new horror novel, Destroyer of Worlds, has just been released. You can find it here.)

PETER DUDAR’S BEST MOVIES OF 2011

Posted in 2011, Best Of Lists, Exorcism Movies, Ghost Movies, Paranormal, Peter Dudar Reviews with tags , , , , on January 15, 2012 by knifefighter

This really has been kind of a blah year in terms of media events.  You have to figure when idiots like the Kardashians and Donald Trump garner more attention than movies, music, and books, then we as an artful society have really suffered and lost ground.  It almost feels like the entertainment world really has nothing new and exciting to offer.  Nonetheless, it’s imperative that we celebrate the best of the best (even if our opinions are subjective and have cause for disagreement) and since L.L. is sending me hate mail to write something, here are my picks and pans for 2011:

Best Movie:  Hands down, my choice was INSIDIOUS.  The fact is, though, that I just don’t have time anymore to rush out and see every movie that I want to see, and I kind of have to pick and choose.  My year in the theater was peppered with must-see only flicks and kids movies like ALVIN AND THE CHIPMONKS, CHIPWRECKED!  But INSIDIOUS was the one I really, really wanted to see.  It lived up to the hype of the Facebook preview clips and the blurbs I’ve seen posted everywhere (and you’ve probably seen them too…the campaign where they show people getting interviewed immediately after walking out halfway, most crying or too frightened to talk about what they’d just seen).  The contenders were PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3CAPTAIN AMERICA and the final HARRY POTTER flick.  I also want to add a DVD flick that I saw at the beginning of the year (which had been released the year before) called THE NEW DAUGHTER.  I thought this movie was quite sensational, and it took me a whole year to get L.L. to finally sit down and watch it.  After all the protests, he finally agreed that he liked it, too.

Worst Movie:  Well, not really.  More like a pan on the motion picture industry in general.  Over the last several years I’ve railed against remakes and reboots of my favorite horror films.  This year I’m pissed off at the idiocy of presenting kick-ass trailers, only to have the movie itself NOT get released on the big screen.  Cases in point: THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES and GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.  The previews for both these movies left me drooling and checking the Moviefone app on my iPod, but were released in either limited engagements or direct-to-download releases.  If you’ve made the investment on the film, why wouldn’t you try to recoup your finances?  Even the worst horror films seem to make money at the box office, so what the hell is holding you back?  I have seen reviews for GRAVE ENCOUNTERS, and even though they’ve been unfavorable, I still want to see it.  So take note, Hollywood…don’t take us half-way and leave us like a cheap ho with the clap!

And with an eye to the future:  I’m highly anticipating January’s release of THE DEVIL INSIDE.  The trailers look supremely frightening; especially the NC-17 preview where the priest drowns a baby during it’s baptism (I’m still in shock from watching THAT one).

Hope you enjoyed 2011.  I, for one, could have skipped it, but as my daughter is fond of saying, “You git what you git and don’t pitch a fit!”

Cheers and Blessings for 2012!

© Copyright 2011 by Peter N. Dudar

DREAM HOUSE

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Family Secrets, Ghost Movies, Haunted Houses, Paranormal, Plot Twists with tags , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: DREAM HOUSE (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(THE SCENE: A house in suburban Connecticut —suddenly explodes, igniting into a giant fireball. Cameramen and film crew members flee the scene, while the DIRECTOR jumps up and down, swearing.)

DIRECTOR: ARE YOU GUYS CRAZY???

MICHAEL ARRUDA: No.

L.L. SOARES: Yes.

DIRECTOR: What the hell is wrong with you? What did you do that for? (Pointing to fireball.) Do you realize how expensive—? We were supposed to shoot this week’s review here.

MA: There’s been a change in plans.

LS: Yeah, we wanted to blow this whole haunted house genre out of the water. Ka-boom!

MA: Especially since today’s movie DREAM HOUSE (2011) doesn’t come close to blowing anything out of the water.

DIRECTOR: I’m sick of you guys!

MA: Well, you’re in the minority. You should see our readership numbers.

DIRECTOR: I’m never working with you again!

MA: That’s what you said last week.

LS: And the week before that. And the week before that. Why don’t you just man up and show some backbone and quit for real!

DIRECTOR (in obvious frustration): But I like CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT! It’s just you two guys! You’re so— so—!

MA: Unpredictable?

LS: Nuts?

(MA hands LS a crossbow, and LS fits it with a toilet plunger which he fires at the director. The plunger engulfs the DIRECTOR’s face, and the man runs off screaming.)

MA (shaking his head): I’m not really sure why he doesn’t like working with us.

LS: We pay him as well as we pay ourselves.

(MA grimaces)

LS: Anyway, shall we review DREAM HOUSE?

MA: Certainly. Hey, that fireball back there is glowing red hot. Maybe we should switch locations.

LS (standing in front of the flickering red flames) : Nah. I like it right here.

MA: Reminds you of home, does it?

(Flashback to LS holding a pitchfork and wearing horns and a tail and asking,” Where are my slippers?”)

(LS smiles)

MA: DREAM HOUSE is a new “ghost story” thriller starring James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. I say “ghost story” in quotes, because as ghost stories go, DREAM HOUSE is pretty lame. It’s more of a psychological “thriller” than a supernatural haunted house tale, and, to be honest, it’s not much of a thriller either.

LS: C’mon! You didn’t find this movie thrilling?

MA: No.

LS: Me, either.

MA: Anyway, as the movie begins, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) is seen happily leaving his job for good at a publishing house in order to work at home writing his novel, which will allow him to spend quality time with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two young daughters in their new home in suburban Connecticut.

Hmm, spending quality time with his family while writing a novel. I guess he’ll be writing his novel in his sleep! I thought this was a funny plot point, since it implies that staying home writing a novel will give this guy lots of free time to spend with his wife and kids, as if writing a novel isn’t a full time job itself!

LS: You’d think screenwriters would have some clue what it’s like to be a writer. What’s up with that?

MA: No clue.

LS: Yeah, they’ve got no clue, either.

MA: They soon learn that a family was murdered in their house five years before, and for some reason, this really creeps them out.

LS: They’re creeped out because Will discovers a group of teenagers in their basement writing graffiti all over the walls about the murders, and having some kind of ritual with candles or something. I’m not really sure what the hell they were doing in the basement. Trying to commune with the dead? But I guess that would be kind of creepy.

MA: Yeah, I guess that’s upsetting.

When Will tries to find out more about these murders, he learns that the father survived the shooting, and, in fact, was the prime suspect in the murders. He also learns that the father has recently been released from an institution, and since there’s been a man lurking about outside their home, they assume it’s the father, and suddenly the family is in panic mode.

It’s at this time that the movie reveals its first plot twist, given away completely in the film’s trailers, and once this happens, the movie switches to Will’s dealing with this horrific revelation, and ultimately, his solving the mystery behind it.

(SHERLOCK HOLMES is hovering in the background, smoking a pipe)

LS: Hey, it’s not a spoiler in this case, because the damned TRAILER spells it out for us in big letters before we even see the movie. Will is shocked to find out that he is the father of the murdered family, and that his name is really Peter Ward.

If anyone has gone to the movies during the last month, and been subjected to the trailer, or checked the trailer out on the Internet, then they know this already. I’m not the bad guy here. The bad guy is the idiot who put that TRAILER together. The audience should feel cheated. I know I did. I felt like I’d already seen this stupid movie before I even bought a ticket. Just more proof that Hollywood is a bunch of morons. Why give away a major plot point in a trailer?!!

MA: It’s absolutely ridiculous! Can you imagine if the same folks who put this trailer together—and most of the other trailers around these days— had been in charge of putting together trailers for these classics: PSYCHO—the trailer would have revealed Norman Bates dressed as his mother. KING KONG —Kong is shown falling from the Empire State Building. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK—Darth Vader saying the immortal words, “Luke, I am your father.”

Thanks a lot, morons!!!

LS: We could have reviewed this movie based on the trailer alone and not even bothered to see the movie itself.

MA: I wish we had.

(SHERLOCK HOLMES suddenly moves forward)

HOLMES: I have used my keen powers of deductive reasoning to determine that Will Aterton is in truth Peter Ward!

LS: We’re way ahead of you lame-brain! It doesn’t take a detective to figure this one out.

MA: Did you see the trailer, Mr. Holmes?

HOLMES: Yes I did. That is how I was able to deduce this without ever seeing the actual movie.

LS: Oh go away, you wind-bag.

(HOLMES leaves in a huff)

MA: I’m not going to beat around the bush. I didn’t like DREAM HOUSE at all, and one of the main reasons I didn’t like it was the film’s major plot twist is given away in the previews. This twist takes place about half way through the movie, and since I knew about it beforehand, the first half of this movie was a complete waste of time. The story is supposed to build up suspense about the situation this family finds themselves in, but it’s false suspense since we, the audience, already know where the story is going. The movie should have begun with the twist. Why waste our time? I’m sick and tired of movie trailers giving away too much information about the movies their advertising. This crap has to stop!

LS: I hope someone who is involved in making trailers reads this and passes the word on. This policy is incredibly stupid. Audiences are tired of it. STOP IT ALREADY!

MA: On the other hand, even without this giveaway, the film is still rather lame. The first half, when Will and his family are supposedly being spooked in their new home, is hardly spooky at all. And later, after the revelation, and the story switches gears and becomes a murder mystery, the film doesn’t become scarier or even more interesting. It simply becomes sadder, as what happened to Will is tragic, but that’s about it.

LS: The only thing this movie made me feel sad about was the money I’d wasted on a damn ticket!

MA: DREAM HOUSE is a very sad movie, and in that regard it reminded me of the Nicole Kidman film THE OTHERS (2001), which also involved ghosts and the deaths of young children, but that movie was much more atmospheric, eerie and unsettling than DREAM HOUSE.

LS: It was also another movie with a hokey twist. You obviously enjoyed THE OTHERS more than I did.

MA: Well, I liked it more than DREAM HOUSE, which, I guess, isn’t saying much.

LS: I found that movie, and DREAM HOUSE, to both be sick patients with the disease I call SHYAMALAN SYNDROME, because this whole “twist” thing was fresh when M. Night Shyamalan directed THE SIXTH SENSE in 1999, and then it got really tired soon afterwards, even in the movies of M. Night himself.

MA: Especially in the movies of M.Night.

LS: This incessant need to give us one lame plot twist after another in an attempt to shock us. The thing is, lame twists don’t shock anyone. They just annoy the hell out of us. THE OTHERS was a lot better than this movie, but they both had the same intent. And, in my opinion, they both failed. Except DREAM HOUSE is an epic fail.

MA: In terms of tone, DREAM HOUSE reminded me more of the sanitized Harrison Ford/Michelle Pfeiffer thriller WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000), a film I didn’t like at all. I didn’t like DREAM HOUSE either.

LS: I despised this stupid movie.

MA: The worst part of DREAM HOUSE is its screenplay by David Loucka. The story is very disappointing. It’s not really a ghost story—the ghost elements are just on the fringe of the story and don’t really come into play until the end—and it’s not a very good thriller or mystery, either. There aren’t any decent thrills anywhere, and the mystery is undone by the film’s trailers, which give away the main twist in the film. The latter half of DREAM HOUSE involves Will/Peter trying to piece together what really happened on that awful night, and this is only somewhat interesting. The story is ultimately done in by a ridiculously contrived ending that I found even more disappointing than the twist giveaway in the trailer! So, simply put, I thought the story told in DREAM HOUSE was horrible.

LS: I thought the ending actually explained some things—except I thought the things it explained were stupid. And what was with Peter Ward’s amnesia? How friggin convenient. And how completely contrived and unbelievable.

(Suddenly, a GHOST appears beside them)

GHOST: Boo!

LS: Oh, go haunt a house, you moron!

GHOST: Awww, don’t be mad. I was just playing. My name is Casper. Would you two guys like to be my friends?

MA: We’re trying to review a movie here. Go away!

LS: Yeah, get lost!

GHOST (crying): You guys are so mean.

LS: Beat it, you crybaby!

MA: Director Jim Sheridan simply goes through the motions and adds nothing of note to this movie. It has the look and feel of a bad TV-movie— bland and unimaginative.

LS: I’m surprised, because Sheriden is normally a good director. I mean, he gave us award-winning films like MY LEFT FOOT (1989) and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993). But he really seems to have been asleep at the wheel when he directed DREAM HOUSE.

I actually found myself squirming during parts of this movie. Not out of suspense, but because I didn’t want to be sitting in the damn movie theater watching this crap.

MA: The best part of DREAM HOUSE is Daniel Craig. I’m a Daniel Craig fan, so I always enjoy watching him, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him deliver a poor performance. Craig doesn’t disappoint here. He’s excellent as Will Atenton. Once he finds out the truth about his past, Craig’s Will becomes a tortured soul who looks and acts exactly the way a man in his predicament should look and act.

LS: No, the best part of DREAM HOUSE was when the end credits rolled and it was over! What is it with you and Daniel Craig, anyway? The guy’s a good actor, but he’s hardly infallible. To say he’s excellent as Will Atenton is a laugh, because it’s a horrible role. He can try to make it a little better, but if it’s complete crap, how can he deliver an excellent performance? You’re just screwy.

MA: I’m not screwy. It’s simply this: he’s good, but the role isn’t.

It’s one of the reasons I didn’t like this movie more, in spite of Craig’s solid performance. The role itself of Will Atenton stinks. True, Atenton is horrified and sad when he learns the truth about what happened to his family, and we feel for him, as we should, but when the story becomes all about Atenton’s solving the mystery, he doesn’t have to work hard to find answers. They fall right into his lap, which does not make for high drama.

LS: I still say it’s a valiant attempt at portraying an incredibly dumb character. But it’s hardly “solid” or “excellent.” It’s a failure. But it’s not his fault, because the material Craig is given to work with is awful.

MA: The rest of the acting is decent. I enjoyed Rachel Weisz as Atenton’s wife, Libby. She did a good job creating a strong character, so that what happens in the film’s conclusion in terms of her character comes off as believable.

LS: Really? I like Weisz, but I found her incredibly irritating here, because she perpetuates what is wrong with this movie. Every scene she’s in just aggravated me more and more, especially after the big twist in the middle. It’s like—wake the hell up, Daniel Craig! And their scenes at the end are just plain sappy. Rachel Weisz deserved a lot better role than this!

MA: Naomi Watts has less success as Atenton’s friend and neighbor, Ann Patterson. Watts is fine, but the role is small, and although she does play a key part in the film’s ridiculous conclusion, it’s not a very active one. She’s nothing more than another victim.

LS: I like Naomi Watts a lot. In fact, she’s probably my favorite actor in the movie – even more so than Craig—but you’re right; her role is pretty thankless. I guess that’s another big problem for me. It’s a good cast—and they are all completely wasted here. Why did such smart people agree to be in such a lousy movie? Did they even bother to read the script? Or were they just so eager to work with director Jim Sheriden than they agreed to be in it, sight unseen?

MA: And Elias Koteas, an actor I like a lot, is completely wasted in a small but key role as a creep named Boyce.

LS: My man, Elias, who I will always remember as Vaughn in the classic CRASH (1996) by David Cronenberg. No matter how many bad movies this guy is in, I still forgive him. The thing is, there is a scene very early in the movie where Daniel Craig is taking the commuter train back to Connecticut and he bumps into Koteas on the train. There’s something menacing about him right off the bat. Anybody would have seen what was coming with his character a mile away!

MA: Ultimately, DREAM HOUSE fails as a drama, mystery, thriller and ghost story, because first and foremost, it fails to thrill, but it also struggles unsuccessfully to tell a decent story that makes sense. And its ending is stupid and insulting.

If you’re a Daniel Craig fan, you might like this movie, but if you’re not a fan, I can’t imagine any other reason to see DREAM HOUSE. So, if you need a Daniel Craig fix before THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO comes out in December, you might want to see this one, because Craig is indeed very good here. Otherwise, stay away.

LS: How dare you suggest anyone subject themselves to this garbage! Even Daniel Craig fans need to stay away. Why would you want to see a good actor in such a lousy movie? Instead, go rent one of his Bond movies or, better yet, 2004’s LAYER CAKE. Watch him in a good movie instead!

MA: I knew you were going to say that, but the thing is, when you’re a fan of an actor’s work, you like to see everything they do, or at least I do, which is why to Craig’s fans, I still say they might like this one. I know I enjoy seeing my favorite actors even in films that aren’t so hot. Look at Bela Lugosi! Most of his films suck, yet I still watched them.

Anyway, I give DREAM HOUSE one and half knives, and I only give it this high a rating because of the presence of Daniel Craig.

LS: I still don’t understand your crush on Daniel Craig, but I think you are being way too generous here.

MA: Whoa, whoa, whoa! There’s no man crush going on here! I just think Craig is a phenomenal actor, and just because he plays James Bond, shouldn’t detract from his talents.

LS: I give DREAM HOUSE just half of a knife. And that’s despite the strong cast. The material they have to work with is beneath their talents, and an insult to our intelligence as movie-goers. When I saw this movie, someone leaving the theater afterwards shouted, “Boy, that really sucked,” and I bursted out laughing, because he was completely right. No one should have to sit through this dumb-ass movie. We saw it so you don’t have to, dear readers.

Aside from giving a few good actors a paycheck, there is no reason why this movie should have been made.

MA: Let’s get out of here before the fire trucks show up.

LS: Yeah, I don’t want to get yelled at again.

(They leave, to reveal CASPER and SLIMER from the GHOSTBUSTERS movies, sitting on a rock, smoking cigarettes and toasting marshmallows on the fire as the house blazes on. )

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives DREAM HOUSE ~ one and a half knives.

 

 

 

.

L.L. Soares gives DREAM HOUSE ~ half a knife.

The Geisha of Gore vs. SICK NURSES!

Posted in 2011, Asian Horror, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Ghost Movies with tags , , , on September 28, 2011 by knifefighter

SICK NURSES (2007)
Geisha of Gore Movie Review by Colleen Wanglund

As with most horror from Southeast Asia, Thai horror has lots of ghosts. Again, it’s a cultural thing. Many of the movies are based on folk tales and spiritual beliefs that go back generations. In Thai tradition a ghost can be both a protector and an antagonist, depending on the circumstances concerning the dead. For example, a dead wife’s ghost refusing to leave her husband out of love is quite common, as is the ghost who is seeking revenge for a misdeed. There have been male ghosts in Thai stories and movies, but it is predominantly the female ghost that is used to represent maliciousness or misdeeds that go against social norms. The ghost becomes a symbol of punishment. Women are, in large part, still second-class citizens in many of these Asian societies, which is one of the reasons the vengeful ghost is a female.

Written and directed by Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat, SICK NURSES (2007) actually surprised me quite a bit. The movie tells the story of a young doctor and seven nurses working in a hospital in a run-down neighborhood of Bangkok. These eight medical professionals are secretly selling bodies on the black market for their organs.One of the nurses, Tahwaan, discovers that Dr. Tah, her boyfriend, is having an affair with another nurse, Nook. What is even more hurtful is that Nook is Tahwaan’s sister. Enraged by the betrayal, Tahwaan threatens to expose the scam to the police. Before she has a chance to make good on that threat Tahwaan is killed and Tah arranges for her body to be sold to his black market connections. However, a problem arises and Tahwaan’s body must be kept on ice for a bit longer than any of them anticipated.

At one point in the movie we see the nurses in their locker room and one nurse says to Nook how it had been seven days and Tahwaan’s spirit would come for her. This comes from an old Thai belief that if a body is not cremated within seven days of death the spirit of the dead would come back. As the camera moves to a wall clock, we see that it is almost midnight. We don’t need to wait long for Tahwaan’s ghost to appear and seek her revenge against those who killed her. One by one the women are attacked by the ghost and are killed in some gruesome ways. While this is going on, Tah is going to meet his connection to finally be rid of Tahwaan’s body.

Unlike the ghosts typically seen in Asian horror, Tahwaan’s ghost is not covered in long black hair and dressed in white. She appears in all black, including her body, and she poses and moves in a very suggestive manner. Tahwaan uses the individual girls’ vices against them. One of the nurses is completely covered and hanging by hair—she’s quite vain. Another nurse is seen with a purse sewn over her head—she is materialistic. It is also these vanities that Dr. Tah uses to get what he wants from the nurses….including their silence. They cooperate completely with Dr. Tah’s scheme and with Tahwaan’s punishment for threatening to tell all about their little operation.

SICK NURSES is bloodier than your standard Asian ghost story, and that’s not the only originality on display here by the filmmakers. The ghost does not outright kill any of the girls. Instead she possesses them and makes them kill themselves or kill each other. One really cool death scene involves one girl pulling out the thread that is holding the other girl’s neck and head together with the purse over her head. The head rolls away leaving the remaining girl screaming her ass off. It’s funny, but still a bit disturbing. There is another great sequence involving a set of twins, a basin, and a surgical saw that’s both weird and brutal.

What is also intriguing to me is that SICK NURSES pushes the envelope with the Board of Censorship, the governing body of all things moral or immoral in the Thai movie industry. There are typically some very strict rules about movie content in Thailand. Most graphic violence and sex is not allowed to be shown. The Board has also, at times, questioned the portrayal of a profession (in this case the medical profession) and did demand and get a change to one scene in this film. The nurses are all dressed in white, but not necessarily what you would consider a nurse’s standard uniform. Some of the “uniforms” are sexually suggestive, as is the girls’ behavior. It is hinted at that Dr. Tah has probably slept with, or at least flirted with, all of the girls. In this instance, though, I like the contrast between sex and purity, suggested by the white clothing the girls are in for most of the movie. The film uses the color white to sarcastically remind the viewer that women are supposed to be pure and innocent but these women clearly are not—both sexually and in their criminal activities.

Another surprising aspect of SICK NURSES is that one of the characters is a transvestite and another is homosexual. These topics are usually taboo in Thai movies and are rarely, if ever, discussed in Thai culture. It added a pretty decent subtext to the story, but it also allowed for a plot hole involving a main character. This plot hole did not necessarily hurt my viewing experience. I understood what was going on.

That plot hole is not the only thing wrong with this movie. The nurses spend their time running around a near-empty hospital building. If it’s active enough to provide dead bodies to the black market and be lucrative for eight people, then where are all the living patients? And for that matter, where is the rest of the hospital staff? There are also quite a few scenes that are flashback sequences, but the subtitling doesn’t fill us in on that. I caught on quickly but the subtitling should have clued the viewer in to these linear differences. There are other out-of-sequence scenes of what appears to be a banquet where Dr. Tah is awarded as doctor of the year. They appear to be nothing more than comic relief and filler. One of the scenes shows the hospital staff singing a song about compassion, as they are being covered in blood. I don’t know what it was supposed to be. These scenes are interesting but out of context, for the most part, except to show the hospital’s administration as being incompetent, allowing Dr. Tah and his nurses to get away with…well, murder.

Overall, SICK NURSES is an above-average ghost story with some interesting plot devices. These chicks are pretty sick. You can find it easily on Netflix streaming and it’s only 82 minutes long. That makes it entertaining AND quick.

© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund