Archive for January, 2008

Frankenstein (1931)

1931, US, Directed by James Whale

Black & White, Running Time: 67 minutes

DVD, Region 2, Universal, Video: 1.33:1, Audio: Mono

While an eminent vampire was crawling out of his crypt-bound coffin somewhere in Eastern Europe, a devout but possibly unhinged scientist was discovering the secret of granting life to that which has never lived… Somewhat abbreviating Mary Shelley’s early nineteenth century novel Universal’s first version of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus warns us in the opening two minutes through an onscreen narrator of the ghastliness we’re about to witness (a tool Ed Wood would later naïvely employ in similar fashion with Criswell), before introducing Henry (though he was actually called Victor in the book) and his deformed servant Fritz as lurking body snatchers waiting for a recently deceased corpse to be buried over so they can exhume it to take it back to their laboratory. Assembling a makeshift body from other people’s parts the last component required is a brain, but the imbecilic Fritz accidentally takes a damaged specimen from the nearby medical school after he drops the only good one. This of course forms the catalyst for Henry’s eventual failure in creating a Nietzschean ‘superman’. Using electricity provided by a storm the hulking monster is ’granted’ life but it proves to be sporadically violent, lacking observable intelligence and the means to integrate socially, unpredictable, and a moral burden to its creator. Soon Henry is persuaded to go home and marry Elizabeth but he’s unaware that the creature has broken free of its prison and is now roaming the countryside. The innocent murder of a child sparks a mob congregation, partly led by Henry himself, intent on tracking the wayward monster and destroying it.

Locked up

Jack Pierce unwittingly developed one of the most iconic characters in cinema history with his creature design, painstakingly applied to Boris Karloff over a period of hours. The bolts in the neck, the flattened cranium, darkened fingernails - all possibly thought of as clichéd nowadays but innovative at the time, and certainly possessing everlasting longevity. The first proper appearance of the monster is strange, and partly achieved with a lovely piece of editing: footsteps as it approaches (and a verbal warning offered by Henry himself so our anticipation is heightened), the door creaking open, and the monster facing… backwards? Yes, it actually walks into the room backwards before slowly turning for our first full view of it, a series of three or four cuts that progressively bring us closer to the distorted, morbid face. This was the movie that really launched Boris Karloff’s career and seeing him in other films tends to bring it home how great this performance is; it’s an easy thing to forget through years of repeat viewings. In fact I tend to prefer his portrayal of the monster here over his work in the sequel. Bela Lugosi was famously offered the role, declining to become involved due to what he felt was an apparent lack of talent required. This misjudgement is sometimes blamed on his later vocational misfortune but to be fair he’d already received plentiful recognition with Dracula and I doubt his future would have been significantly improved by taking on the role of the monster, firstly because his restricted versatility as an actor would have inhibited his progression one way or another and secondly because he finally got his chance to play the monster a couple of films later for one of the sequels and it didn’t shake the world. Having said that it’s impossible for anyone to predict what might have happened. Henry’s dedication to his work is quite heavy handed however there is an omnipresent duality to his motivations: is his work that of a man who wishes to master science to create life through manipulating naturally evolving cells, thereby offering evidence that there is no God, or is he seeking to emulate the God that he believes exists (signified by his most famous line, “…now I know what it feels like to be God.”) to reinforce either his admiration or competitive contempt? In fact, the name ‘Victor’ (Henry’s name in the book) itself may not have been chosen randomly in this light of theistic questioning: as indicated by the use of a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost at the end of her book, Shelley was influenced by the poet and it is in this book that Milton refers to God as ‘the Victor’. This possible allegory is unfortunately lost in the Universal film by their renaming the scientist as Henry. Further characterisation of the protagonist comes when the monster is on the loose and we see Henry craftily lock his wife in her room - is this to protect her or because he doesn’t want her interfering, something which she has already done enough of. Probably the former in this case but throughout the film there are thoughts in Henry’s brain we feel are remaining unspoken and this makes his character much more interesting. Mention must also go to the castle/watchtower where Henry performs his experiments as it’s an incredible gothic design of twisted angles, warped walls and shadows, echoing some of the German silents that preceded it years before. As a film it’s much better in many ways than its brother project, Dracula, released the same year and similarly successful.

 

The Monster Legacy DVD was at the point of its release the best home video incarnation of the film - picture contains a surprising amount of detail whilst contrast fluctuations and grain are not too distracting. Sound does tend to meander between a little too quiet for some of the dialogue passages and too loud for thunderclaps and crowd noise but it’s obviously been cleaned up somewhat. It is remarkably free of hiss and crackle and as a result the dialogue is often refreshingly clear for film so old, and Mae Clarke’s voice never sounded so soft and beautiful. The aforementioned line that was once considered blasphemy was fully restored for the first time, something possible thanks to the discovery of a separate audio disc recording combined with modern technology, and the young girl’s drowning - another previously censored item - is also intact. There has since been a slightly superior US release in the 75th anniversary DVD.

Posted on 27th January 2008
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Son of Dracula

1943, US, Directed by Robert Siodmark

Black & White, Running Time: 77 minutes

DVD, Region 2, Universal, Video: 1.33:1, Audio: Mono

Yes, not only did Dracula have a daughter, but apparently a son too… Disregarding any potential continuation of a story from Dracula’s Daughter this one introduces us to Count Alucard (please!) who appears on the scene somewhere in the deep south to sweep a young woman, hot Katherine, off her feet, one who also happens to be engaged to somebody else. She’s immediately enslaved by the count’s mystical nature, a man who seems to have ulterior economic motivations for his infiltration of the family who owns a plantation - the father of said family becomes deceased almost immediately upon the Hungarian man’s arrival. Katherine’s fiancée Frank wonders what activities are going on between the count and the woman he loves so he traces her to a house where the residing count reveals that they’ve just married each other. In anger Frank attempts to shoot Alucard, but the bullets inexplicably seem to pass right through him killing Katherine instead, who was standing behind Alucard under the misconception that she was shielded. A distraught Frank breaks free of the house and makes a run for it but Alucard transforms into a bat to follow him with the intention of permanently resolving any issues between them, only to be thwarted by the silhouette of the cross cast by a gravestone as the chase ends in a cemetery. Elsewhere a couple of scientists turned amateur sleuths begin to suspect that Alucard is a descendent of Dracula and set about destroying the undead man.

Where's that bloody vampire got to now?!?

The plot kicks off in quite a feeble manner with little justification for Katherine’s initial fixation with the count and his arrival. Generally what follows is what seems like simply an excuse to continue the series whilst taking advantage of Universal’s newfound star or terror, Lon Chaney’s son (this genre stardom arising primarily as a result of The Wolfman but his most acclaimed role overall was Of Mice And Men prior to that). One of the most prominent problems is that, aside from a Hungarian with an American accent, Chaney Junior doesn’t make a particularly good count, though I did like the way he handled the sequence where he’s being shot at. One scene where things get a little silly occurs when some woman brings in her blood-drained boy to the doctor: already aware of Alucard’s local vampiric threat the doctor immediately treats the neck bite by painting two small crosses over the wounds and promising that the boy will make a full recovery - first time I’ve seen that one! The score is very typical of how a composer of the period would define genre music and is likable and corny in almost equal measure. As far as special effects are concerned, the bouncing bat has improved marginally since the 1931 Dracula and there’s also a little animation helping Chaney transform from human to bat and back again.

 

Black levels on the DVD transfer are very good, as is detail and sharpness, however the image is sometimes plagued by flickering and contrast instability which slightly spoils what would otherwise have been a very good picture. Sound is fine. Whilst not complete rubbish, Son of Dracula is not an exceptional film in any sense and its creation seems to have been derived almost purely from commercial decision making. Having said that, the film’s conclusion is quite surprising in being downbeat.

Posted on 22nd January 2008
Under: Horror | 4 Comments »

Dracula’s Daughter

1936, US, Directed by Lambert Hillyer

Black & White, Running Time: 68 minutes

DVD, Region 2, Universal, Video: 1.33:1, Audio: Mono

I‘ve heard varying stories about Lugosi‘s meagre involvement with the first sequel to Dracula. One suggests that he was paid several thousand pounds to appear in publicity stills following the film’s completion, while another reports that he was actually drafted in to star until script revisions excluded his presence and contractual obligations required him to be paid anyway. Either way, it’s not that Lugosi probably minded too much but his absence here is a shame (depending on whether you enjoyed him in the first movie or not!), and dragging someone else to ‘stand in’ for his dead body was a bit pointless. Dracula’s Daughter takes up directly from the end of the first film, with Van (here entitled ‘Von’ in the credits) Helsing emerging from having staked the vampire and Renfield lying dead at the foot of the stairs. Two policemen apprehend the homicidal professor and bring him in for questioning. After the body of Dracula is shipped back to a secure unit a mysterious Hungarian woman called Countess Zaleska appears, hypnotises the guard and minutes later the dead count’s body has vanished. Revealing herself to be under the same curse as Dracula she cremates the corpse to altruistically release his soul, but her own soul remains tortured as she spends the remainder of the story attempting to convince the eminent Doctor Jeffrey Garth to help her overcome her major hindrance. Meanwhile ‘Von’ Helsing maintains his innocence (argument: you can’t kill someone that’s already technically dead) to sceptical ears as the same Doctor Garth steps up to defend him, having been one of the professor’s most prized students years earlier. Then people start showing up drained of blood…

Trust me, I'm a bloodsucking creature of the night.

Surprisingly this went way over budget though that probably wasn’t helped by the action quite suddenly shifting to Transylvania for the last eight minutes of the film (up until that point everything had taken place in England), requiring different sets, costumes, actors, etc. A spattering of scenes throughout the film rely a little on typical comedy of the period but once the story gets going, alternating between V. Helsing’s legal predicament and Zaleska’s fight against the vampire curse it becomes quite interesting if a little low key. There’s not a great deal of terror going on here though a few injections of gothic overtones remind us that we’re watching a genre film. One touch I liked was the reiteration of one of Lugosi’s beautifully executed lines from the first film - “I never drink… wine” - this time spoken by Zaleska. Zaleska is a confused character: impelled to carry out the horrific deeds of her bloodline whilst simultaneously begging for help to be released from her existential prison before finally resigning herself to eternal torment. A fairly fascinating psychological dichotomy results. Whilst I’m not one to jump on homosexuality bandwagons there’s a good chance she’s also bisexual due to her apparent disregard for someone’s gender when showing them interest (for example, at one point her servant brings back a woman to pose semi-nude for the countess). The man she wants to settle for is clearly attracted to another woman so even when craving a normal life Zaleska seems doomed. It’s nice that Edward Van Sloan returned to reprise his role as V. Helsing from the first film, though he seems a little less energetic here despite a retained eloquence.

 

Looking a little better on DVD than the preceding film, the image here is quite pleasing taking its antiquity into consideration - there‘s a fair amount of detail. Sound comes across well though there are no modern alterations to be had here. Despite not qualifying itself as a great movie I found Dracula’s Daughter ticked away an hour or so quite comfortably.

Posted on 18th January 2008
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Dracula (1931)

1931, US, Directed by Tod Browning

Black & White, Running Time: 71 minutes

Review Source: DVD, R2; Universal, Video: 1.33:1, Audio: DD 5.0/DD Mono

Taking the theatrical play of the late twenties (of which Lugosi himself was also the star) as a template the studio put together a script that was more faithful to the stage version than it was Stoker’s book. Nevertheless it was their biggest financial success of the year and really was to change the future as it almost single-handedly sparked a whole generation of films, primarily from the studio itself but also from those influenced whether directly or indirectly. From the opening it’s clear that there are liberal differences to the original literature as Renfield (yes, Renfield) is travelling with a group of passengers making his way to the count’s castle in Transylvania, the intention being to offer him property in London. Parting company with the group he is taken by carriage to the rather derelict castle which is occupied by the rather offbeat count (who is revealed to sleep in a coffin from the opening scenes) and three mysterious women. Dracula soon enslaves the estate agent, turning him mad and using him as a servent. Both of them return via ship to London where Renfield is imprisoned for his insanity and Dracula continues his quest to ensnare a woman who has attracted his attention: Mina. John Harker does make an appearance but it’s later on in London, his position in the film being much less prominent than in the book. On to the scene comes Van Helsing, the man who recognises that several of the people are in the grip of a vampire curse, the cause of which is the count himself and from there onwards Van Helsing attempts to persuade the most relevant people of the count’s true undead nature in order to despatch him forever.

You're welcome to suck on me, er, blood any time, ladies...

The feel of this movie compared to Universal’s subsequent chillers is closer to that of silent cinema, despite it being quite talky - I’m really thinking about Browning’s filming techniques, plus Dwight Frye’s very old fashioned performance of Renfield. His exaggerated expressions and movements remind me of something from the silent era (though, aside from a small appearance in one film, Frye’s only work was in ‘talkies’, whereas Browning was very experienced with the silents), however his insane laugh is something of a spectacle. There are two actors that really strengthen the proceedings: Edward Van Sloan is captivating as Van Helsing, his recital of lines being emphatic, deliberate, and authoritative. He could feasibly convince anyone that vampires exist, so serious and articulate is his delivery of words. Then of course there is Bela Lugosi as the count. Aside from hinting at a possible lack of versatility his portrayal is quite domineering thanks to such an incredible accent and his odd way of expressing vocal emphasis, it’s difficult to take your eyes away from him. The other actors are generally quite conventional and service the picture adequately without standing out (though really it’s difficult to stand out next to the likes of Van Sloan and Lugosi). The first fifteen or twenty minutes of the film features Renfield’s trip to the castle, the introduction of the count, and Renfield’s succumbing to madness, and this is the best segment of the whole film. The creepiness is laid on quite effectively and the ruined castle is an incredible piece of gloomy, ancient architecture, its huge stones broken with massive cobwebs everywhere. Actually there is one nice little sequence involving a cobweb where Dracula appears to walk right through it (much to Renfield’s understandable shock), something achieved with no special effects whatsoever and all the more potent for it. The three brides make a brief appearance, almost token but welcome they are nonetheless. After the return to England things become very dialogue driven and not as gripping as the Transylvania-bound act, with the exception of certain sequences generally involving Lugosi and Van Sloan. For the final segment the movie gets back to great production design with a beautiful underground crypt and what must be one of the stunning gothic staircases ever seen. Speaking of crypts, I love the introduction of the count at the beginning where we see first him climb from his coffin, then his bride climbing from hers, then a cockroach crawling out of its own small box - nice touch. Something else quite humorous is Renfield’s persistent ability to escape from his cell, even turning up at one point to engage in a discussion with Van Helsing in Dr Seward’s office - they can’t seem to keep the slippery man imprisoned long before he finds a way of wandering off somewhere. The use of bats in this film is pretty hopeless with them bouncing up and down remarkably like rubber on string (indeed, in the DVD you can actually see the string in at least one scene). Unfortunately Hammer were insistent on using this same effect some forty years later - surely it didn’t convince audiences even in 1931? So Dracula is of course a classic; it was highly successful, formed the catalyst for a whole sub-genre and was generally influential, but it’s not wall-to-wall excitement, more so an average film with a number of high points that make it worth watching. Tod Browning himself was to go on to much more notoriety a year later with Freaks.

 

Universal get some mileage out of these films, with three DVD incarnations (in the US - two in the UK) having been in existence hitherto. The disc I have (from The Monster Legacy collection) features a transfer that fluctuates between very good in some shots, to very awful in others. The 75th anniversary disc (later released in the US) is reportedly an improvement. A couple of instances of censored audio exist in my print unfortunately (again, corrected for the 75th anniversary): Dracula’s death moans, and some screams from Renfield. There’s a choice between two soundtracks - the original mono track of course and a score composed a few years ago by Philip Glass, presented in surround while the dialogue and effects remain centred. It’s something that purists probably can’t accept (the original track is almost completely music-less) but it’s a great score and very reminiscent of the period (possibly earlier) so it fits well. It is a little overly present but there are occasions when it enhances the film just like any great score should, my favourite being the scene where Dracula almost hypnotises Van Helsing - the music here embellishes the moment exquisitely. Despite the rough print used the package (including commentary and documentary) is a very good one.

Posted on 14th January 2008
Under: Horror | 4 Comments »

After Hours

1985, US, Directed by Martin Scorsese

Colour, Running Time: 96 minutes

Review Source: DVD, R1, Warner; Video: Anamorphic 1.78:1, Audio: DD Mono

Simply put, After Hours focuses on one man’s night of pure bad luck. The fantastic Griffin Dunne (American Werewolf…) plays New Yorker Paul Hackett, someone who leads the most ordinary, mundane life imaginable. One night after work he’s wasting some time in a café reading a book when one sultry Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette in her peak) gets chatting to him and ends up giving him a number where she can effectively be contacted (through a friend who sells paperweights). Later on (after eleven in fact) he decides to give her a ring and ends up catching a taxi downtown to Soho where she and her friend are. What he finds is a disturbed person with layers of complexity beneath an attractive exterior, too much to deal with for a guy who’s essentially interested in a quick fling. So he makes a rapid exit hoping to find his way home despite losing his taxi money on the way over. Thus begins a string of one mishap after another with the totally strange inhabitants of the darker side of Manhattan, a place seemingly populated by lonely characters who have become wrapped up in the idiosyncrasies of there own little microcosms without actually realising what they’ve become. His situation escalates to a point where there’s a vigilante mob out for his blood based on flimsy evidence that the stranger is guilty of a string of robberies in the area. The night brings about a wake-up call to a man whose life appeared, up until that point, to be eventless in the extreme.

Dunne and Arquette

The producer team, which included Griffin Dunne himself alongside Amy Robinson, were actually in talks with Tim Burton to shoot After Hours (then a script called Lies by newcomer Joseph Minion) when it was announced that the filming of Last Temptation of Christ had fallen apart. A distraught Scorsese, who had already seen the script prior to Burton’s involvement but was already wrapped up with Last Temptation… at the time, showed great interest in taking on a much smaller project and Burton obligingly stepped aside. Whilst I admire some of Burton’s very visual work I believe this was the best thing for the film because, having a great understanding of film mechanics, Scorsese was able to bring a clinical accuracy to the shooting of the movie, capturing brief but meaningful reactions in addition to facilitating perfect execution of lines that help to characterise in beautifully subtle manner the inhabitants of the weird dimension that Hackett finds himself trapped within. Both the editing and acting on the part of most of the participants exhibit an intuitive sense of timing, ensuring that the comic elements are funny even over repeat viewings. Dunne’s performance in particular is so acutely excellent it surely must be his career best. Paul Hackett is a man that most people should be able to identify with and Dunne warms you to the character with skill, his increasingly frantic reactions being realistic whilst retaining an awareness of comedy that keeps the material purely in the entertainment category without becoming too dramatic or dark. Returning along with much of the crew from Baby It’s You, Rosanna Arquette captures the unpredictable nuances of her screwed up character; why she’s screwed up we’re not entirely sure: she at one point suggests that she was raped but then tells Hackett that it was actually her boyfriend and she slept through much of it anyway, then there’s the ambiguous burns issue, plus her marriage that apparently only lasted three days (to a man who was obsessed with Wizard of Oz). All of these points help to build up a mystery feeding the paranoia that Hackett is swept up in. There are threads of plot that initially seem to have little relevance but ultimately wind up influencing the outcome of events significantly, the most important being the spate of burglaries that Hackett is unconcerned with but later blamed for thanks to him being in the wrong place at the wrong time and meeting the wrong people. These plot strands are entangled together with great imagination and much of the credit for that must go to Joseph Minion, who has since hardly been prolific unfortunately. Though it may partly have been the result of the recognition that might arise from having worked with Martin Scorsese, German Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus had his American career kick-started by his work on this film, later going on work on many of his director’s subsequent films as well as more commercial fare such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Air Force One, Outbreak, etc. The lighting on After Hours is notable for the fact that the team shot at night to authenticate the atmosphere, these conditions bringing about the freedom that would enable Ballhaus to much more so control what was actually being captured to film. These nocturnal working hours also of course aided the actors in realising their characters’ behavioural patterns. Finally, Howard Shore proved even at this early stage that he’s one of the best composers working in Hollywood with a score that perfectly complements the lonely Hopper-esque world that Hackett saunters (and sometimes runs) through, speaking of which, some of the settings on offer here really did remind me of the barren worlds that Edward Hopper painted - obviously the most notable being the empty café that Hackett finds himself in on several occasions, ala Nighthawks. The team’s chosen locations - the darker, quieter side streets of New York - really embellish the increasingly frightening atmosphere. For me After Hours is the ultimate black comedy and remains one of the few viewing experiences to induce similar delight to what I might have experienced ten or fifteen years ago watching a favourite movie.

Lost in New York

Once available as part of a boxed set in the UK or by itself in the US, I’m real glad Warner put this out - the image looks amazing (though at 1.78:1 not quite correctly framed) while the audio reflects the fact that it was recorded and mixed in the mid-eighties (and on a small budget). We get an 18 minute retrospective featurette mostly featuring Griffin Dunne and Amy Robinson plus a few snippets from Scorsese himself, it’s nevertheless quite informative. There are 8 minutes of deleted scenes: generally it’s understandable why these would have been removed but there are one or two smiles to be had even here. The first rough cut ran excessively long at 2 hours 40 minutes so there’s probably a lot more footage lying around somewhere; not referring to a desire to see an ‘extended cut’ in any way - the film’s just about perfect as it is - but they’d make nice extras some day. Featuring a lot more input from the director there is also a commentary that only covers around 78 minutes of the film and is oddly included as a separate entity rather than with the main feature itself. Still, it’s a welcome addition and again very informative. Treasure something like After Hours for it’s not often we see something this simultaneously smart and funny.

Posted on 9th January 2008
Under: Other | 1 Comment »

Them

2005, France/Romania, Directed by David Moreau, Xavier Palud

Colour, Running Time: 74 minutes

DVD, Region 2, Metrodome, Video: Anamorphic 2.35:1, Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

Them (or, in its original title, Ils) opens in Romania near Bucharest with a fairly conventional shocker scene where a mother and daughter crash at the side of the road, unable to get their car going again. Taking a look at the engine the mother mysteriously vanishes, her daughter deducing that someone or something has emerged from the woods to kidnap the woman. Minutes of tension pass before the daughter is brutally murdered by the unseen assailant(s). We then catch up with Clémentine, a French tutor teaching in one of the Romanian schools; Clementine is an reasonably content, attractive woman and just heading off to the countryside to spend some time with her boyfriend Lucas, a budding writer. The house is isolated and in a state of dilapidation but functioning as a home while the couple themselves seem happy together. Some time during the night they’re awoken by noises outside: someone is stealing their car. Lucas tries to give chase but fails to catch up with the thief. They then realise that their house is being invaded and their lives are under genuine threat, thus beginning a chase from persistently unseen homicidal attackers in a desperate bid to survive.

I'm sure I left my dead husband around here somewhere...

Early on a forceful degree of tension is established and to an extent maintained as the directors intuitively keep their perpetrators of evil mostly anonymous, an unusual tactic in today’s cinematic world of the ‘show everything’ ethos. It is of course an approach that often works supremely well, but one that presumably induces boredom in younger generations given its sparsity nowadays. The real risk obviously arises when the unidentified terror is not revealed until the very end - tension can be difficult to maintain over feature length without occasional payoffs in the form of small revelations. The makers here have sidestepped that problem by keeping the running time to a minimum - little over an hour and ten minutes - while keeping the suspense cranked up as high as they possibly can. The fear of domestic invasion is quite universal and therein lies their ticket to success, along with the opening claim that Them/Ils is based on a true story giving its terrors some authentic validation (assuming of course that the claim itself is truthful). The central performances by Olivia Bonamy and Michaël Cohen are proficient and involving, the actors being professionals but little known outside of their native country (France). The writer/director team of Palud and Moreau are inexperienced but manage a thoroughly professional job, constructing a traditionally crafted film that rises above its low budget trappings (despite being shot on video). I have no desire to give away the way this story winds up, but initial suspicions that this would turn out to be yet another slasher proved unfounded - the denouement sent a shiver through my body that lasted for several minutes after finishing the film as I contemplated what I’d just witnessed. Wrapped up in what appears to be a relatively standard horror movie is a genuinely chilling comment about modern day society that may well resonate with anybody who dwells within it, and you don’t have to live in Romania to worry. The final shot is one that is so grounded in normality that the abominable occurrences that precede it are only emphasised in their ghastliness. Watch this film without any preconceptions other than to come away with chilled blood and thoroughly disturbed.

 

Being shot on video gives way to results that I hate the look of. The makers have managed to disguise it quite well, however, and some may not realise they’re watching something other than film (on DVD of course), but the telltale signs are there, specifically with inadequate response to light. It can be argued that the grittiness of the image works in the story’s favour though, much as it did for Blair Witch Project. The DVD consequently looks very rough and grainy, with muddy colours. The surround track does provide an enveloping experience, taking the deliberately unnerving sound mix that Palud and Moreau use to their full advantage and placing you right in the middle of a pretty frightening sound field, cracks, bumps a strange noises coming from any direction. Most of the audio track contains French dialogue (with English subtitles reasonably executed) so we’ll probably be seeing an American remake of this in the next couple of years due to the widespread mental laziness that prevails when it comes to having to use certain parts of the brain whilst watching film, but I think you’d be doing yourself an injustice simply waiting for that. It’s all the more ironic, therefore, that the two directors have since found themselves working on an Americanised remake of another successful foreign horror film (The Eye, due in cinemas soon).

Posted on 5th January 2008
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