Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

"Demons exist whether you believe in them or not," says the priest at the center of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Yes, and you could also say that demons do not exist whether you believe in them or not, because belief by definition stands outside of proof. If you can prove it, you don't need to believe it.

Such truths are at the center of this intriguing and perplexing movie, which is based on the true story of a priest who was accused of murder after a teenage girl died during an exorcism. If the priest is correct and the girl was possessed by a demon, he is innocent. If the authorities called by the prosecution are correct, she died of psychotic epileptic disorder, and the priest created complications leading to her death. If, on the other hand, exorcism theory is correct, drugs given to the girl to treat her "disorder" made her immune to exorcism and led to her death.

The movie is told through flashbacks from a courtroom, where Father Moore is on trial. He has been offered a deal (plead guilty to reckless endangerment and do six years of a 12-year sentence), but he refuses it: "I don't care about my reputation and I'm not afraid of jail. All I care about is telling Emily Rose's story." His lawyer Erin Bruner despairs, and yet admires him for his conviction. She herself does not believe in demons. The prosecutor, Ethan Thomas is a church goer and does presumably believe, but lawyers sometimes argue against what they believe to be true. That's their job.

And who is Emily Rose? As played by Jennifer Carpenter in a grueling performance, she is a college student who sees the faces of friends and strangers turn into demonic snarls. Her nightmares are haunting. She speaks in foreign languages. She loses an alarming amount of weight. She calls home for help, in tears. Her boyfriend can't reach her. The parish priest, Father Moore, is called in, and determines that an exorcism is indicated.

He has authorization from the archdiocese, but after he is charged with murder the church authorities order him to accept plea bargaining and create as little scandal for the church as possible. The church is curiously ambivalent about exorcism. It believes that the devil and his agents can be active in the world, it has a rite of exorcism, and it has exorcists. On the other hand, it is reluctant to certify possessions and authorize exorcisms, and it avoids publicity on the issue. It's like those supporters of Intelligent Design who privately believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, but publicly distance themselves from it because that would undermine their plausibility in the wider world.

What is fascinating about The Exorcism of Emily Rose is that it asks a secular institution, the court, to decide a question that hinges on matters the court cannot have an opinion on. Either Emily was possessed by a demon and Father Moore did his best to save her, or she had a psychotic condition and he unwittingly did his best to kill her. The defense and the prosecution mount strong arguments and call persuasive witnesses, but in the end it all comes down to the personal beliefs of the jury. A juror who does not believe in demons must find the priest guilty, if perhaps sincere. A juror who does believe in demons must decide if Emily Rose was possessed, or misdiagnosed. In a case like this, during the jury selection, are you qualified or disqualified by believing one way or the other?

The film is fascinating in the way it makes legal and ethical issues seem as suspenseful as possession and exorcism.

The movie was directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Paul Harris Boardman and Derrickson. The screenplay is intelligent and open to occasional refreshing wit, as when prosecutor Ethan Thomas makes an objection to one witnesses' speculations about demonology. "On what grounds?" asks the judge (Mary Beth Hurt). "Oh...silliness," he says.

a scene from 'the exorcism of emily rose'

Somehow the movie really never takes off into the riveting fascination we expect in the opening scenes. Maybe it cannot; maybe it is too faithful to the issues it raises to exploit them. A movie like The Exorcist is a better film because it's a more limited one, which accepts demons and exorcists lock, stock and barrel, as its starting point. Certainly they're good showbiz. A film that keeps an open mind must necessarily lack a slam-dunk conclusion. In the end Emily Rose's story does get told, although no one can agree about what it means. You didn't ask, but in my opinion she was possessed, and it was science that killed her, not faith.


p.s There is a scene where Emily explains about a vision she had of the Virgin Mary and it was so touching it almost made me cry. The fact she sacrifced herself for the ignorance of man.

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist. Has Anyone Not Seen It?

Since the debut of The Exorcist in 1973 few films in the horror genre have received so much attention or acclaim.

Two academy awards in 1974, best screenplay based on another medium (William Peter Blatty) and best sound (Robert Knudson, Christopher Newman), as well as 12 other awards and 14 nominations demonstrate the notoriety that The Exorcist has received for everything from Directing to sound to acting to the whole package.

I can remember when The Exorcist became known to me. Myu parents were reminising about all the havoc it caused it the 70's. “Three ambulances are required outside of every theater where the movie is showing”, they said. “People have heart attacks and die from the terror of it all” they continued. Yes, this flick caused quite a stir.

I can also remember why they said it was so scary…”I believe something like this could really happen” said my mother about this tale of demonic possession.

The Exorcist - Regan dualityFor those who don’t know, the story is very simple. The sweet young daughter (Linda Blair) of a successful actress suddenly takes ill. Her sickness progresses to the point where ole mom (Ellen Burstyn) becomes convinced that her daughter has been possessed by evil spirits. Perhaps the fact that daughter Regan speaks in strange spectral voices and floats through the air was her first clue.

A young priest whom is questioning his faith (Jason Miller) is convinced to work with a church elder to exorcise the demon. All hell breaks loose (so to speak).

There are several factors that come together to make this film such a masterpiece. Well, ALL of the factors came together to make this a masterpiece really. Director William Friedkin interpreted the story written by William Peter Blatty (novel and the screenplay) and, through the support of superb acting, music, effects and cinematography, created an experiential trek through the terrifying unknown that stands up just as brilliantly today as it ever did.

The Exorcist - Regan floating above bedThe addition of the subliminal elements of screen flashes and bees buzzing in the background help to create a shroud of fear and uncertainty that persists even when the overt action on the screen wouldn’t seem to cause it. Panic, fear, uneasiness, doubt and terror are all emotions that one can expect to experience while watching The Exorcist.

The only real loser in all this was actress Linda Blair. Blair played the possessed girl Regan at the tender age of 14. This was only the third credited role for this young actress, and it catapulted her to fame.

It also pigeon-holed Blair as the possessed Regan in the eyes of casting directors and movie-goers and prevented her from being taken seriously in any other role throughout her professional career. Well, it was either The Exorcist that caused her difficulties at getting other roles to develop as an actress, or the fact that she really couldn’t act once she passed puberty…not sure which one.

The Exorcist - Regan the spider girl
In any case, Blair did make some attempts to do other things as an actress (I could find 39 movie credits since The Exorcist) but it seems that each one either exploited her persona as the possessed Regan, or capitalized on the fact that Regan acted a bit sluttish when she was controlled by evil forces by portraying her as sleazy.

Overall, it’s hard to say if we would even know her name today had it not been for The Exorcist, so did the movie ruin her career, or make it? You be the judge.

The Exorcist spinning head with cross
The plight of poor Linda Blair does not detract from the quality of what is arguably the best horror movie of all time though. This is one of those horror flicks that you can watch again and again, and be scared each time.

The themes have been debated and analyzed, and The Exorcist appeals not only to those that want to be scared, but also to those who are looking for moviemaking elements that elevate a film above the pack.

The Exorcist - silhouette of demonIf you have seen this film then you’ve likely seen it multiple times, and you don’t need me to tell you that you should watch it again because it’s already in your plan. If you haven’t seen it…watch at your own risk. This one will have an affect on you.

Possibly my fave horror flick of all time.....9.7/10

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project Relys on Psychological Scares.

The Blair Witch Project raises feelings of powerlessness, being hunted and the hopeless unknown. All for about 35K...with some ingenious Internet marketing.

The Blair Witch Project movie poster

“In October of 1994 three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”

The Blair Witch Project - Heather I was led to a website that started with those now famous words. It told the story of a lady who, in 1785, was accused and found guilty of witchcraft. After being banished from the Township of Blair in North Central Maryland she is then blamed for the disappearance of all of her accusers and others within the township. And now three filmmakers have disappeared tracking down the legend. How intriguing…how inspirational…how revolutionary…how totally cool. I was sucked in.

The Blair Witch Project - Mike with his backpack.

The Blair Witch Project first introduces us to the main characters by showing us the footage of them preparing to travel into Burkittsville, Maryland to investigate the legend of the Blair Witch. Heather, Josh, and Mike are three film students with three different personalities that begin The Blair Witch Project - Josh the camera guy. their journey through the backwoods of what was once the Blair Township. We then watch as all three begin to have their spirits broken from cheerful, to frustrated, to suspicious, to downright terrified. The ending just cements the type of horror that causes long, sleepless nights.

The Blair Witch Project is a classic study in the way a director allows the styles of his influences to flow through his own. Myrick and Sanchez (filmmakers) take a meager budget ($35,000 Note: Night of the Living Dead cost $114,000 in 1968), Hi-8 and 16mm cameras, and create a masterpiece of cinema. Throughout the film you will see the combined styles of Romero, Carpenter, Hooper and even Welles. The Blair Witch Project symbols made of twigs. The editing room floor must have been littered with cut footage. The first cut was two and a half hours long and was cut more to a time of 86 minutes. Not a task that I would have wanted to undertake.

There is no soundtrack, no monster, no special effects, and no gore. Ninety percent of the standard content of the horror movie is absent. The only thing left is the other ten percent or the psychological effect. With the lack of visual effects the viewer is forced to uses the power of the imagination to visualize what could be out there bringing fear to the students.

The Blair Witch Project - children's hand prints. The Blair Witch Project is not for everyone, in fact it is either loved or hated (I loved it my g-f hated it), but should be viewed by every horror fan. It should also be required viewing for any student of film and filmmaking. If for no other reason than to show what can be done with virtually nothing to work with except for imagination, determination, and a passion for their art


(Completely off topic) Wizard of Oz parody.

I just had to post this. I was dying with laughter. All day I just burst into random giggles and people think that I flew ove rthe cukoo's nest!!
It is soo realistic and Dorothy actually sounds like July Garland.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Entity (1981)

Alright, my last review of the day. A review that is so haunting, so terrifying, so scary, if you have a date while watching it, you are guaranteed not to get any. GUARANTEE BABY!!! (trust me i know) Ok, too much coffee, sorry about that. Anyhow, if you recognize the title, perfect. If not, get you’re a** out there and watch this!!!

Plot…based on a true story of a woman who gets sexually assalted (for the close minded...raped) by a spirit…yep, that’s it. But the crazy part is, you are feeling like shit for watching this!!! The moment the loud music comes in, signalling the ghost coming, that’s it, you want to scream and tell her to run, but you know you can’t. And unlike a slasher movie when the dumb person doesn’t run when you tell them to, in ENTITY, when she doesn’t run, you don’t yell. You sit there, waiting for the inevitable to happen. And the ending, oh, if you have yet to feel fear from a movie’s ending, then watch ENTITY…

Acting…not sure of the others, but Barbara Hershey is in it. No clue what she use to be in prior, but I know here she is very convincing of a woman who is being terrorized by the ghost. All other actors did very well…

Nudity…yes, partially, but doesn’t do much for you when you know a ghost is in there first…


CGI…I’m sure there was, but I couldn’t tell. That is probably why it freaks the fuck out of me so much!!!...

Scares…plenty. Again, the music starts, you will start to freak out…

Bottom line…this movie is worth owning. PERIOD. Worth every penny spent, every piggy bank broken.

8/10 (sorry for the sort review)

Misery (1990)

I Love Misery. I also Love Company, but That’s Another Story…

Sometimes the lines between “thriller” and “horror” are a bit blurred, and the gore-factor often tips the scales.

Misery shows Horror Freaks that a horror movie without gore can become a classic.

(DOnt you just love the cover)--->

Stephen King novels are scary, that much is clear. How well do Stephen King novels translate to the Silver Screen? That part is debatable. In many cases the necessity to “pare down” the length and details, as well as the move from action “in your imagination” to action “on the screen” loses something in the translation. Happily Misery made the translation well.

Our story begins with Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a writer of trashy novels who has an auto accident as he travels to the isolated mountain cabin that serves as his “literary sanctuary”. The accident is bad…real bad…and it appears that his broken body will perish in the snow – until an angel appears. Annie Wilkes is Paul’s “Number One fan”, and happens upon the accident scene just in time to rescue Paul from his icy fate and bring him to her comfy country home to nurse him back to health. Wow, Paul is one lucky guy…or is he. You see, Annie is a little whacked in the head, and decides that the best way to show her adoration for her favorite author is to keep him prisoner in her home with no means of escape.

Misery - Annie playing nursemaid
Misery is a true psychological horror film. There is no real gore to speak of. The scare factor is all in your head, and in the realization that Paul is powerless to defend himself against the crazy Annie.

The real strength of this film is found in the amazing performance of Kathy Bates. The academy award earned by Bates for her performance in Misery is well deserved, as she effectively conveys suspense, terror, madness, tenderness and psychosis with a single glance.

Misery - Annie (Kathy Bates) is not happy
Many of my friends insist to me that this is not a horror....I beg to differ.

Gore there is not, that much is true. But…if suspense, dread, fear and terror can be conveyed and communicated without a single gory scene then that’s the genius of horror cinema! It’s one thing to inspire fear by chasing young lovelies through the woods wielding a machete. It’s another thing to create the same type of heart-stopping angst through a simple phrase by a star-struck psychotic who has her victim in a position of utter helplessness.

Misery - Annie preparing to hobble Paul
Rob Reiner, the director of Misery, has had an interesting career – gaining notoriety as the actor playing “meathead” on the television series All in the Family starring Carroll O’Connor. His directing credits include This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me and When Harry met Sally.

I believe, however, that Misery will be the achievement that he will be most proud of as he enters ripe old age. Between the intensity of Kathy Bates, the quiet panic of actor James Caan, and the brilliant ability of Rob Reiner to create a tone of dread and despair, Misery is a classic of horror that must be seen to be appreciated.
9.2/10----> one of the best Stephen King adaptions and one of my favourite

The Evil Dead (1981)

The Evil Dead is, in the Opinion of Many, the Classic Horror Movie of the 80s.

The Evil Dead is low budget, heavy gore, high imagination and lasting impact...all accurate and true when describing this timeless film.

The Evil Dead (1981) Horror Movie Poster

Before such cinema classics as Spiderman, Darkman, and The Quick and The Dead, there was a 30 minute, extremely low budget, film called Within The Woods that was created by a couple of film students to sell investors on the idea of a full length feature called Book of the Dead. The students were Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and the film would eventually be released as The Evil Dead. One of my all time favorites.

Evil Dead (1981) - party at the tableWe start our journey in an Olds Delta 88 with five friends traveling to a cabin in the backwoods of Tennessee for the weekend. Upon entering the cabin Scotty (Richard DeManincor) decides to see what is in the cellar after they hear a noise. When Scotty does not immediately return, Ash (Bruce Campbell) goes into the cellar only to be purposefully scared by Scotty. They find a book, some notebooks and tapes which they take back upstairs to investigate further.

Evil Dead (1981) - book of the deadThe book turns out to be the “Book of the Dead”, an ancient Sumerian text that is supposedly inked in human blood, bound in human flesh, and contains incantations that deal with demons and demon resurrection. The tapes contain the voice of a man that not only describes the book but also recites the incantations out loud. This in turn awakens the evil spirits and begins fatally possessing the friends one by one starting with Ash’s sister Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss). Eventually Scott, Scott’s girlfriend Shelly (Theresa Tilley) and Ash’s girlfriend Linda (Betsy Baker) also become possessed and it is left up to Ash to attempt to make it through the night alive.

Evil Dead (1981) - Cheryl floatingStephen King once said that The Evil Dead was “the ultimate experience in grueling terror". How right he was. Sam Raimi shows off the originality of his film making skills that he will later bring to larger budget films. The camera work is incredible. Raimi’s style will always be distinguishable from the other directors in Hollywood. He has a love for the fast and aggressive shots that have become unmistakable.

The blood and gore is top notch and even over the top for 1981. So over the top, that it was one of the first films to be labeled as a “Video Nasty” in England and is still banned in Malaysia, Iceland, Ireland, Singapore, and German theaters. I wonder if that is what my mother meant when she said, “If it is worth doing then it is worth doing right.”

Evil Dead (1981) - Ash intenseThe Evil Dead also introduced us to Bruce Campbell and the character of Ash. The two fit together. You cannot think of one without thinking of the other. Nobody has been able to match the ability to portray the “abused hero” with such tenacity as Bruce Campbell. He will forever be known as one of the greatest “B” movie actors of all time. The Evil Dead is not your typical horror movie. It is not your typical zombie movie either. As a matter of fact, there is nothing remotely typical about it. Though not intended for those with weak stomachs, I highly recommend The Evil Dead for any “discerning horror freak”.

Evil Dead (1981) - hand of a demon Since the first time I saw this movie in 2008 it has been one of my absolute favorites. Everyone who knows me has seen my rendition of a dramatic moment in The Evil Dead: I begin by standing with my back to the “audience”. Then say “Ace of spades…queen of spades...four of hearts, eight of spades...Jack of Diamonds JACK OF CLUBS!!!!” and then turn around to face them and scream loudly.

Of course, nobody gets it, but I know. This was the instant that Cheryl became possessed.

Evil Dead (1981) - bloody AshWhen I introduced The Evil Dead to watch for the big Halloween Horror group, which consisted of myself and my friends Kelly and Connor, Krytian and Damien, I was immediately put on “movie probation”. I was not allowed to suggest movies for the rest of the night. They didn’t get the genius of The Evil Dead. They were clearly "blind" to the genius behind it all.

What is the moral of this story? Well, the fans of the mass-market horror of late may or may not appreciate the awesome nature of The Evil Dead. I know my friends did not, but they are still good people. If, however, you are a true aficionado that doesn’t require slick Hollywood mega-productions to appreciate an incredible movie then I imagine that The Evil Dead will join your list of all-time favorites and classics of the horror genre.

Two really memorable scenes include Cheryl being raped by trees (i could imagine her walking into the police station with a bunch of trees lined up aginst the wall "It was number four, the oak") and the scene where Cheryl actually become possessed (as mentioned above).

Just watch out for the woods, and wear clean panties…