Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Horror Movie Review: Finale


Starring: Carolyn Hauck, Suthi Picotte, Elizabeth Holmes, Steven Nieport, and Brad Barnes

Directed by: John Michael Elfers

Written by: John Michael Elfers

Production Company: Fire Trial Films

Release Date: March 29, 2009

Awards: Best Cinematography at the 2009 Boston International Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2009 Oxford International Film Festival, and STIFFY for Best Horror Film at the 2009 Seattle True Independent Film Festival

John Michael Elfers wanted to write and direct Finale to exorcise some personal demons. According to Elfers, the premise behind Finale is based on actual events: his brother's suicide and his mother's paranoia that a Satanic cult was involved. The demon exorcised from his past made for a great demon in Finale.

The Michaels are a typical family until the eldest son and brother commits suicide. Everyone is naturally saddened by the passing, but mother Helen is particularly stricken with feelings of guilt and not satisfied with the lack of answers surrounding her son's death. Helen begins spending much of her time at her son's house where he mysteriously splattered black paint everywhere. She finds a journal and begins learning about his girlfriend and a strange Satanic cult.

Meanwhile, Helen's daughter Kate joins an acting class and, despite her inexperience, lands one of the lead roles in an upcoming play. She also finds herself the love interest of lead actor PJ.

Helen soon finds herself plagued by a demon, written about in her son's journal, who kills through reflective surfaces. While she tries to insure that the mirror demon can't get at her or her family, everyone else begins to think she's going crazy. Kate also learns that not everything is as it seems with PJ or the play director Miss Bliss. Are they connected with the cult behind the demon?

Elfers doesn't waste time to get us looking suspiciously at the reflective surfaces in all of the scenes, and the shots make good use of those objects making them as much a part of the scene as the actors themselves. The film is shot to look like a 70s horror film, so the graininess is intentional for mood and effect. Most impressive is that CGI is not used in the film at all. I assumed it had been for the demon, but Elfers and his SFX crew went with old school tricks...tricks which maybe shouldn't be so quickly discarded for the often times noticeably unreal computer effects.

Not everything is answered here, so if you're hoping for a modern horror film which fills in all of the explanation like a color by number picture, forget it. I think it adds to the mystery of the film, but it may be frustrating for some.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Horror Movie Review: Legion


Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Adrianne Palicki, Charles S. Dutton, and Dennis Quaid

Directed by: Scott Charles Stewart

Written by: Peter Schink and Scott Charles Stewart

Production Company Bold Films

Release Date: January 21, 2010

Ah, the apocalypse. Such a great concept for story telling. The end of humanity not because of global warming, or war, or some giant asteroid crashing into us. Nope, God's ready to pick up his Etch-a-Sketch and shake us out of existence.

And thus we have Legion. Charlie and Jeep work at a diner in the middle of the desert. Jeep pines away for Charlie and tries to care for her, but she just isn't having it. She's pregnant, but she doesn't need a man telling her what to do, like not smoke when you're pregnant. But the humdrum diner life takes a turn for the weird when an old lady tells Charlie her babies going to burn, that all the babies are going to burn, and then tries to kill her, crawling up the walls and across the ceiling in the attempt.

After a plague of locusts, or some such flying insect, Michael arrives. Michael is an angel who has come to Earth and cut off his wings in order to fight for humanity. Michael explains that God has lost faith in mankind and that Charlie's unborn child is humanity's savior. God wants the little brat dead so that can't happen and he's sending angels and possessed humans to do it.

We've got a lot of things going on here which makes for an interesting watch. The possessed humans are similar to zombies. It's like a fantasy tale with an evil sorcerer trying to wipe out mankind, but the sorcerer is God. And it's got the ingredients for a post-apocalypse survival tale, except, well, it takes place during the would that be trans-apocalyptoc tale?

The horror works pretty good here with the God-zombie humans being pretty cool and creepy. The ice cream truck guy is particularly unnerving with the juxtaposition of the happy sound of his truck and appearance of his uniform with the decidedly intimidating physical appearance.

A problem, though, it it seems to borrow too much from The Terminator. Michael, similar to both the Terminator and Kyle Reese, comes to Earth naked and must get clothes and weapons for his mission. Charlie, like Sarah Connor, is the mother of the savior of mankind and the ending, with Charlie driving in a vehicle filled with weaponry and Charlie voice-over is derivative of the ending to Terminator.

There could have been more action, I suppose, and there were pretty lengthy stretches of talking heads, but I think the reaction of those at the diner to God's plans was interesting. And I think God was pretty accurately portrayed. I saw that some saw the film as blasphemous and anti-Christian because of the portrayal of God, but come on. In the Bible God wavers from flooding the world and turning people into pillars of salt, wiping out whole cities because he was frustrated with out behavior, and then being all nice and benevolent, so this film looks at, what if He decided to turn all Old Testament on us. Also, it's a clear indictment of mankind's generally pissy attitude and activity.

The one question I'm left with is...what's so special about Charlie's baby? When dealing with the end of days and a baby, it's either the devil's child or Jesus reborn. Neither makes much sense in this film, unless Jesus is also rebelling against God and decided to have his second coming. That's the only theory I've got.

Oh, and there's one thing that happens with Michael at the end which makes me wonder why Charlie will have to continue protecting the baby...but I can't explain about that without spoiling it...

Sure, there are problems, but I found it to be a pretty fun movie and Dennis Quaid and Charles S. Dutton both rock.

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