Thursday, October 30, 2014

Movie Review: The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu
Starring: Matt Foyer, John Bolen, Ralph Lucas, Chad Fifer, John Klemantaski, Jason Owens, D. Grigsby Poland, David Mersault
Director: Andrew Leman
H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, USA, 2005.
The movie is based on the short story written by H.P. Lovecraft. 

The movie begins with the narrator (Matt Foyer) telling about his and his late great-uncle's research. Great-uncle Professor Angell (Ralph Lucas) was conducting a research on the Cthulhu cult. In 1925 an artist Henry Wilcox (Chad Fifer) brought him a strange tablet that had a carving based on his dream experiences. Henry had terrible nightmares about the city of R'lyeh. Professor Angell had collected newspaper clippings about strange happenings with cultists performing strange rituals and cases of insanity occurring around the world. 
Matt Foyer
The narrator tells his story
City of R'lyeh
Chad Fifer
Henry telling about his nightmares
Prof. Angell also remembered strange happenings in 1908. Police Inspector Legrasse told about a raid in a swamp where a cult was conducting hideous rituals. After raiding the cult the police confiscated a small statue of Cthulhu. One cultist named Castro (Clarence Henry Hunt) told that Great Cthulhu waits dreaming in the sunken city of R'lyeh an will return when the stars are right. All who studied the cult either died or went insane. 
Rite of Cthulhu
Clarence Henry Hunt
Crazy cultist Castro
Cthulhu figurine
The narrator wanted to end the research but he was already obsessed by the cult. The final piece to the mystery came from the diary of sailor Johansen (Patrick O'Day) who depicts his experience with the cosmic horrors. The sailor and the other crew set foot on an unknown island that rose from the sea.
Tomb of Cthulhu
Terrified sailor
Great Cthulhu
The story uses narratives and diaries of multiple persons peeling the mystery like an onion, one layer at a time. The movie is made in the 1920s silent movie style, the sets are Expressionistic in the style of German silent classics. Also the acting style is dramatic, with heavy make-up. The movie's length is short, being only 47 minutes. Only in some scenes green screen effects are obvious. Cthulhu effects are made using stop-motion animation. The ritual scene in the swamp is intense and uses lighting effects well. The non-Euclidean geometry (something that looks like a corner or horizontal plane may suddenly turn into a deep chasm) of the nightmare city R'lyeh is well realised. The movie is quite faithful to Lovecraft's original story. It may well be the best Lovecraft-movie.

Rating: Excellent

Movie Review: Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls
Starring: Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt, Herk Hervey
Director: Herk Harvey 
Harcourt Productions, USA, 1962. 
This movie is also published a part of Horror Movie 50 movie pack box published by Mill Creek Entertainment. 

Young folks are drag racing at a bridge. The car falls down into the river and all the passengers are drowned except Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss). How she survived is a mystery. Mary travels to Utah where she has a job as a church organist. However she is not putting her soul into playing the instrument. Her car radio starts playing demonic organ music. She sees also a reflection of scary ghoulish  man (Herk Harvey) in the side window. She passes an abandoned pavilion, used for carnivals that begins to entice her. 
The car falls down into the river
Mary survives
Candace Hilligoss and Tom McGinnis
Mary does not put soul into the music
Mary goes to her new work place, the church. The reverend (Art Ellison) suggest that she should meet the congregation, but Mary refuses because she is not a social person.  She begins to practise organ playing. She sees the mysterious man again and stops playing. She thinks that she has maybe practised for too long. The reverend  takes her to sight-see the pavilion. 
Mary playing the organ
Ghoulish man appears
Candace Hilligoss
Mary at her new job
Mary rents a room from Mrs. Thomas (Frances Feist). The other guest John Linden (Sidney Berger) wants to know Mary better, but she is not interested and drives him away. Mary gets again scared by the ghoulish man, but Mrs. Thomas says that there was not any weird man. At night she dreams about the pavilion. 
Sidney Berger
John Linden wants to date Mary
Abandoned pavilion
When she goes to shopping there is an moment when she becomes invisible to other people. When she sees the ghoulish man again she snaps out of the trance and stumbles into Dr. Samuels (Stan Levitt) who offers some therapy. Mary thinks that her imagination is playing tricks on her and decides that maybe going to the pavilion might help. 
Stan Levitt and candace Hilligoss
Dr. Samuels tries to help Mary
Candace hilligoss scared
Moment of horror
Herk Hervey ghoulish man
Ghoulish man haunts Mary
The movie has a great uniquely nightmarish atmosphere. Mary seems a cold person, but the reason becomes clear in the end. Also because the budget was low, there is no big staging and the bars, shops and other locations seem like real businesses. This creates almost an documentary feel of early 1960s America. Gene Moore's eerie organ music is just perfect for the film. The movie was not a big success when it released. This was the only feature length film Herk Hervey directed. The picture quality of the Mill Creek release is decent. There are better versions available, and also a not bad computer-colorized version.

Rating: Excellent

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Complex

The Complex (Kuroyuri danchi)
Starring: Atsuko Maeda, Hiroki Narimiya, Masanobu Katsumura, Naomi Nishida, Ruiki Sato, Shiro Namiki, Mariko Tsutsui, Megumi Sato, Satomi Tezuka, Yurei Yanagi, Masaya Takahashi, Taro Suwa
Director: Hideo Nakata 
Shochiku, Nikkatsu Corporation, Django-Film, Koch Media, Japan, 2013.
Nursing student Asuka Ninomiya (Atsuko Maeda) and her family move into an old Kuroyuri apartment complex. Her family members are father Isao (Masanobu Katsumura) and mother Sachiko (Naomi Nishida) and little brother Satoshi (Ruiki Sato) The neighbours are secluded and do not want to open doors.
Kuroyurihouses have seen better days
Atsuko Maeda
Asuka moves in a new home
Ruiki Sato and Naomi Nishida and Masanobu Katsumura
Asukas parents and little brother Satoshi
At night Asuka hears strange scratching sounds from the neighbouring apartment. Also neighbours alarm clock wakes Asuka every morning. Asuka's parents seem to have the same morning discussion every day. Student friends of Asuka tell that the Kuroyuri houses are haunted.
Asuka hears weird sounds
Young boy Minoru (Tanaka Kanau) plays alone at sandbox. First he is afraid of Asuka. Later he plays with Asuka and tells her that his grandfather lives next door to the Ninomiyas. Asuka goes to meet the grandfather and finds out that he is dead. Mr. Shinozaki (Masaya Takahashi) was scratching the wall when he died. However at night there is something moving in the empty apartment. A cleaner Shinobu Sasahara (Hiroki Narimiya) tells that for the living the time goes on, but for the dead the time has stopped and some of them still try to contact the living.
Atsuko Maeda and Tanaka Kanau
Asuka playing with Minoru
Mr. Shinozaki is dead
Asuka's nursing lessons get a disturbing turn. The ghost of the old man comes to haunt Asuka. She asks Sasahara for help. Sasahara talks with Asuka's relatives. Soon Sasahara disovers, that there are more than one ghost in the house.
Shinozaki's ghost haunts Asuka
Hiroki Narimiya and Atsuko Maeda
Sasahara tries to help Asuka
The house has a disturbing history
Asuka and Minoru become friends. Sasahara gets a psychic Sanae Nonomura (Satomi Tezuka) to help Asuka. She says that the old man's ghost is trying to warn Asuka. Earlier there have been many mysterious deaths in the house. Also Sasahara has his own ghosts. Sanae tries a traditional Japanese exorcism.
Satomi Tezuka
Psychic Sanae can contact the dead
Sanae tries exorcising
Do not open the door
The style of the movie is similar to Nakata's previous works, especially Dark Water. The atmosphere is spooky and the suspense is slowly developed. Haunting ambient score by Kenji Kawai adds to the creepiness. This time the themes of the movie are feeling of guilt, fear of loneliness and fear of dying alone without anyone noticing. Asuka has problems letting the past go, and also the ghosts do want to stop living but repeat the same things over and over again. The movie wanders into the area of psychological drama before returning to horror. However the otherwise intense ending leaves some subplots unresolved, being bit of a let down.

Rating: Good

Movie Review: Kon-Tiki (2012)

Kon-Tiki (2012) 
Starring: Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Agnes Kittelsen, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jakob Oftebro, Tobias Santelmann 
Directors: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg 
Nordisk Film, Recorded Picture Company (RPC), Roenbergfilm, DCM, Norway, UK, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, 2012. 
The movie is an dramatised account of Thor Heyerdahl's 8000 km (4300 nautical miles) expedition over the Pacific Ocean using a balsa wood raft. Heyerdahl wrote a book about the adventure. 

Film begins with young Thor Heyerdahl trying to jump on ice floats. Thor falls into icy water and is saved by his father. Father scolds him and makes him promise that he will not try anything as dangerous. In 1937 Thor (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) is with his wife Liv (Agnes Kittelsen) on Fatu Hiva studying Polynesian tribes. 
Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen
Thor in Polynesia
Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen and pineapple
South-American plants
Agnes Kittelsen
Thor's wife Liv
The prevailing theory is that the tribes paddled to Polynesia from west, i.e. from Asia. However some plants growing in Polynesia are clearly originated from South-America. The tribes believe that the Sun-God Tiki brought the people from east. 
Tiki statue
Anders Baasmo Christiansen
Engineer Herman
In 1946 Thor tries to publish his research results. He suggests that the people traveled from South-America to Polynesia using balsa wood rafts. However the publishers do not believe Thor's radical new theory. To prove his theory Thor prepares an expedition but getting funding for such a dangerous enterprise is difficult. An engineer Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) offers some insight for building the raft. Thor and Herman travel to Peru but the funding is still unresolved. 
Tobias Santelmann and Jakob Oftebro
Radio-operators Knut and Torstein
Odd-Magnus Williamson
Sailor Erik
Gustaf Skarsgård
Anthropologist Bengt
The expedition team consists of radio-operators Torstein Raaby (Jakob Oftebro) and Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann), sailor and artist Erik Hesselberg (Odd-Magnus Williamson) and  anthropologist Bengt Danielsson (Gustaf Skarsgård). The president of Peru arranges the funding. The group decides to make a film about the expedition. The adventure begins in April 1947. They must survive sea storms and sharks, also the raft may fall apart. Also the long voyage is psychologically hard for the crew. They see big sea animals and bioluminescent creatures. 
Kon-Tiki balsa raft
Harmless whale shark
The movie is quite accurate depiction of the famous expedition with some artistic freedom. However Herman's character is depicted as uncertain and scared, being portrayed differently than in real history. Maybe the filmmakers tried to make Herman more like a regular guy, while the other crewmembers act more like already seasoned sailors or war veterans. This way he contrasts Thor, who is overly confident that the voyage will be a success. The movie is visually very beautiful.
Ordinary day on the raft
Rating: Very Good

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