Tag Archives: 1 star

“I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley” – SPLIT (2017) from Jonny Numb

[118 minutes. PG-13. Director: M. Night Shyamalan]

***This review contains SPOILERS***

While obvious, it bears repeating: M. Night Shyamalan hit hard with the Oscar-nominated The Sixth Sense in 1999. With the auteur put on a high pedestal so early in his career, it’s easy to imagine his subsequent films getting tripped up in a game of matching – if not exceeding – what came before. I can’t speak to Shyamalan’s post-Signs output, but Split bears the hallmarks of a director making a desperate bid to recapture his former glory.

But maybe “desperate” isn’t the right word, as Split will have bypassed the $100-million mark (on a $10 million budget, no less) by the time this review is published.

In a role that a younger Johnny Depp might have jumped at, James McAvoy plays Kevin, a man with “23 distinct personalities,” who kidnaps a trio of teenage girls – Boss Mean Girl Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Middle Manager Mean Girl Marcia (Jessica Sula), and Obligatory Basket Case Casey (The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy) – because…well, that would be giving it away.

But wait a second…is it possible to spoil something that’s already rotten? Now there’s a paradox for ya.

Considering how well-crafted The Sixth Sense was – lining up characters and events for unexpectedly touching plot crescendos – Split is a special kind of disaster to behold: from concept to execution to the seemingly endless wait for the third-act twist, it’s afflicted by a throw-shit-against-the-wall approach that not only drastically diminishes its thriller potential, but comes off as callous in its depiction of mental illness.

In the same year as The Sixth Sense, Fight Club garnered controversy not only for its “depiction of anti-social behavior” (per the MPAA content descriptor), but its use of a similar plot twist. Unlike Split, however, Fight Club justified its madness as a reflection of a greater cultural malaise, with a character who acknowledged his complicity in the twisted world he’d (semi-consciously) created. Director David Fincher didn’t make allowances or justifications for the behavior on display, and, by rejecting Hollywood convention, the film became a generational firebrand – infuriating complacent, middle-aged critics while appealing to youth on the cusp of adult responsibility.

As thrillers go, Split sets up a game with essential pieces missing…and a board that’s been cut in half. If there’s any subtext worthy of greater analysis, it’s for all the wrong reasons.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a wide-release movie with such goggle-eyed, baffled performances (the teenage cast gets the worst of it, though Betty Buckley’s psychiatrist doesn’t fare much better). Adding insult to injury, Shyamalan ogles the partially-clad females in a manner that borders on the “windowless van” club.

There are moments where our girls, trapped in McAvoy’s subterranean house of horrors, suggest rushing their captor, but are more than willing to sit (again, goggle-eyed) while he does his Johnny Depp thing. Also not-good: how the two Mean Girls insist that Basket Case is “one of them” despite their ostracizing her at a birthday party. Sloppy.

For a film that includes plot points hinging on the one-two punch of child molestation and murder, Shyamalan seems oblivious to how tasteless this story really is, but goes about business in an inexplicably cavalier (and inexplicably PG-13) manner. As long as you don’t show the bad thing happening, it’s okay. Yeesh.

I never thought I’d see the day when Peter Jackson’s woefully misguided The Lovely Bones came off as a tasteful-by-comparison rendering of similar themes, but here we are.

Just as offensive is Shyamalan’s depiction of mental illness. The trailer for Split – leaning heavily on McAvoy’s persona­-swapping – put a bothersome twist in my guts, and what the film does with this, in addition to being incredibly confusing, also sends messages that are deadly mixed. I can’t in good conscience praise McAvoy’s performance, which amounts to an aimless string of vignettes (including – god help us – a hip-hop dance number) left untethered by a story that has no fucking clue what it wants to be. By the end, the only thing made clear is that McAvoy was cast for a purely commercial reason (tying in to his X-Men tenure). And the closing decree – that “damaged” people are the most “pure” of all – carries no consolation and even less truth, especially after McAvoy’s ultimate personality goes on a kill-crazy rampage. By that point, Shyamalan’s thoroughly wrongheaded approach has also equated the mentally ill with zoo animals – dangerous, and only suited to cages. Toxic.

Talk about a movie that would please the current Administration. Maybe that’s why Split is doing so well with audiences: its pervasive ineptitude and zero-tolerance policy against The Other is just what Trump’s cronies are seeking in their quest to “make America great again.”

1 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis Support Team:

unknownJonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) only plays favorites when it comes to review sites like Crash Palace Productions and loudgreenbird.com. He co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast on iTunes, and can also be found on Twitter and Letterboxd.

(Split photo from PopSugar.)

Crash Analysis: A Bug Hunt: ALIENS

Four_Marines-A2*** Spoilers abound ***

In 1986 James Cameron’s ALIENS was released, and I was one of many in theatres around the world engaging the action/sci-fi/horror. Though it received several Academy Award nominations, and is adored by many around our little blue ball, I always hated the damn thing – even before I saw poor Lance Henriksen pop out of his hole, revealing the lower half of his body to catch that screeching urchin, Newt.

Yes, the original ALIEN is my favorite film, but don’t think I’m knocking on Cameron’s second installment simply because it’s a sequel.

The year is 2179, and Lieutenant Ripley, the sole-survivor of the Nostromo, has been rescued by a salvage team. Brought back to Earth, she learns that she’s been floating in space for 57-years, and in short order, the planetoid where the Nostromo crew had picked up the alien now has a small colony on it – and “the company” has lost contact with the place. Of course her employer’s ticked that she blew up their ship because they don’t buy her story (it’s amazing how Cameron left out any civil ramifications for her implied murder of six crew members. However, Ripley eventually sets off as an advisor with Colonial Marines, aliens run amok, and the only question is: “Who will survive?”

After the opening with the salvage crew (the best part of the movie), we soon discover that Ripley’s Colonial Marine buddies must have been magically transported from 1968. Instead of coming up with clever slang and such, Cameron fell back on Vietnam War speak and characterizations that are all sad caricatures, whether they’re discussing cornbread based cuisine, how “short” some of the “grunts” are with enlistment, or scoring some “poontang.” Again with the element of caricature, we have a rag-tag group of rejects (Vasquez and Drake), including a nutcase (Hudson), and other passive-aggressive or “soldiers on the ball” (Hicks, among other red shirts). They are led in command by their big daddy sergeant, Apone, the spokes model for the Corps, and what would be called a “90-day wonder” in Vietnam: Lieutenant Gorman. The lieutenant is the new “by the numbers” guy who’s had all the training but none of the practical experience. Oh, and “the company” (now named in the sequel as the “Weyland-Utani Corporation”) has sent along their own representative in a snake oil man named Burke.

None of the dialogue is new or special for the age, though STARSHIP TROOPERS screenwriter, Edward Neumeier had no trouble employing new lingo, something author Robert A. Heinlein had even failed to do. But when Hudson makes an illegal alien joke about Vasquez’s ethnicity, I find it hard to believe that we’d still have that issue almost two centuries from now.

To date, the only horror movie I can think of that presented a military unit in its best trained and most logical form is Neil Marshall’s DOG SOLDIERS. But in ALIENS, they are loose, cliquish, and silly. Besides their Pulse Rifles (which includes parts of a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun), Hicks carries an Ithaca Model 37 pump shotgun “for close encounters”, while Private Frost whips out a Heckler-Koch VP-70, and Vasquez sports a Smith and Wesson Model 39 automatic. Now, we’re about two hundred years in the future, and these marines carry weapons from the late 20th century? That’s ridiculous. That means my personal back up on the field would be a 1793 Versailles Flintlock Cavalry Carbine. I don’t think so. I guess they raided a museum on the way to the planetoid.

So the company apparently wanted to send the worst, most ill prepared group to the colony. Once again, as in the original, they send along a “goddamned robot” with Bishop, who can’t harm humans. Of course, this kicks Ripley’s PTSD into high gear, and it’s clear that she’ll eventually trust him over time. Yawn. We also learn that the only survivor of the colony is a squealing little runt called “Newt.” And in an instant, Ripley becomes her surrogate mommy, and we know beyond a doubt that absolutely nothing will happen to the squirt (though I truly wanted an alien to tear her to shreds). Another yawn.

The worst part about ALIENS, however, may be the transformation of Ripley as intelligent survivor of an alien attack to an obnoxious, bitchy, know-it-all. What we loved about her in the original has been stripped away as she becomes what many theatregoers at the time labeled as “Rambette” (Sylvester Stallone’s ludicrous “Rambo” crap was big at the time). Her ugliness shines through in the scene where the marines are below the nuclear engine that drives the colony. When it’s made clear that the ammo the marines use can damage the tanks, which would end in a thermo-nuclear explosive of epic proportions, Gorman orders Apone to collect ammo yet continue with the sweep. In short order, the aliens unleash themselves, and the near defenseless marines are either dead or dying. It’s full combat, and Gorman freezes, but Ripley’s suddenly in full mental awareness and tells them to get out of there. One: did anyone need to tell them to pull out? Two: If one listens to Gorman’s wimpy dialogue about “laying down” suppressing fire and to withdraw, his plan’s pretty solid, but no one can hear the whispering pinhead over the carnage. Third – and most crucial – this is a nuclear power plant without the capability of exploding in mass megatonnage. Sure, a meltdown could happen as well as intense contamination, but a nuclear explosion? Never. It’s clear that Cameron didn’t give a damn about any semblance of reality and simply wanted to create a mindless action romp.

Other stupid stuff:

In the original, when an alien bleeds acid, it burns through a few decks. However, although marines are affected by acid splashes, when the aliens are initially attacked under the power plant, acid doesn’t burn through floors or walls.

How the hell did little shit Newt survive all that time? If these aliens are so damn smart – intelligent enough for the queen to not only get on an elevator but pick the right floor – how come none of these creatures ambushed her outside of her hiding place? Better still, all Newt does is scream, which gives away her position time and time again. Nope. She would have been nothing but food or a place to lay an egg.

Speaking of which, Burke apparently wanted to impregnate Ripley and Newt to get them back to Earth for the bio-weapons division. But if his plan had worked, the marines would have seen the facehuggers stuck to their faces because they like to hang on for a while. Plus, they would have known something was up because the two had been locked in the med lab and Ripley’s Pulse Rifle had been removed. You think the company would have sent a sharper scumbag along.

After the first dropship exploded, why didn’t Hicks get Bishop to bring down the other dropship right away so they could escape? Nope, they had to wait until almost all hope was lost to get the hell out of there for good. This is pure idiocy, and more bad writing on Cameron’s part.

Best of all: who knew that Ripley was so ripped? Just think of the finale, which doesn’t do much to deviate from the original, because the only way to get rid of the queen is make sure the vacuum of space gets her. Yet, even with Ripley’s “loader” (the mechanical suit I’m still surprised we don’t have yet – and no, that’s not a nod to Cameron, but a nod to Heinlein), space, and the alien queen tugging on her, she gets away, and even climbs a ladder to shut the doors. Incredible.

So don’t be suckered. ALIENS may look good, and even sound cool, but the narrative is weak, and the plot is full of enough holes to make that planetoid a piece of cheese. A marine unit, or any military unit for that matter, wouldn’t last a day if they acted like they’d never been trained. And for Hudson? It would have been “game over” long beforehand because guys like that wouldn’t qualify for a mission.

If you’re a military/horror fan, watch DOG SOLDIERS. And if you love a great sci-fi horror, check out Ridley Scott’s ALIEN and enjoy the character interactions and claustrophobia. As for Cameron, he does choose visuals over story, but I do have respect for the man. Watch his documentary on the sinking of the Bismarck and you’ll find something truly worthwhile.

one star out of five

(Photo from Avi.Wikia.)

Crash Analysis Support Team: ROOM 237 (2012) Guest Post from Jonny Numb

[102 minutes. Unrated. Director: Rodney Ascher]

the-Shining-600x350

Question: When is a picture of a skier not a picture of a skier?

Answer: When the skier is a Minotaur (of course).

Question: What hidden image can (apparently) be found in the white clouds and blue sky of one of the opening shots of THE SHINING?

Answer: The visage of Stanley Kubrick (of course).

Question: When is a documentary not a documentary?

Answer: When that documentary is ROOM 237.

 

After multiple viewings over many years, I’ve tried my damnedest to see the masterpiece many others see when watching THE SHINING, but it’s never worked. With little payoff and a flagrant disregard for Stephen King’s actually-not-bad source material, Kubrick created an interminable bore of a movie, its bad decisions underlined forever by the miscasting of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall as husband and wife.

I approached ROOM 237 with optimism and a sense of purpose – could the revelations housed within be substantial enough to change my opinion of THE SHINING and give it another chance?

Director Rodney Ascher does a commendable job with the film’s structure: brief introductions to the half-dozen or so contributors (who are never seen, for reasons that quickly become clear); a sense of organization dictated by white-on-black, Kubrick-style title cards (“The Enigmatic Bill Watson,” for example); and the use of computer graphics, slow motion, and clips from other films (by Kubrick and others) to drive home specific points. In this regard, ROOM 237 is successful.

Where it fails, repeatedly, is in its content. Using the guise of “documentary filmmaking” in a manner that would make Michael Moore blush, ROOM 237 is like a sad little conspiracy-theory roundtable given unworthy amplification through IFC’s distribution. Our “experts” go down various avenues of interpretation (some view the film as a metaphor for the slaughter of Native Americans, or the Holocaust) that begin with interest before rabbit-trailing into you-gotta-be-fucking-kidding absurdity. Actually, it isn’t even sad – given the ego and self-satisfaction radiated by most of the commentators, it’s enough to make a SHINING non-fan like myself swivel my head in an EXORCIST 360 and puke pea soup all over the screen. When one commentator insists Kubrick staged the Apollo 11 moon landing, it’s delusional jack-assery of the highest order.

ROOM 237 does contain one intriguing segment: the simultaneous forward/backward playback of the film, and the interesting overlap of imagery. While little more than an avant-garde stunt, it’s one instance where the truth is plainly displayed on-screen. (Though, as with everything else, I doubt Kubrick went to such lengths for the sole purpose of demented film-student dissection.)

In a sense, I “get” Ascher’s thesis: why leave cinematic interpretation to the stuffy, mothball-laden stiffs who provide “archival commentaries” on DVDs?

But he does nothing to make us believe these individuals are at all credible…which also may be part of his thesis.

Hear me out…

Rodney Ascher secretly hates Kubrick’s THE SHINING (and might actually be Stephen King using a pseudonym). His aim, in trotting out a bunch of disparate commentators to ramble on with their highly subjective, highly ridiculous interpretations, is to equate fans of THE SHINING with a bunch of asylum inmates, forever nattering about the same damn thing. ROOM 237’s ultimate goal is to make the most rabid SHINING fans look foolish for holding the film in such high regard. Notice the use of the snippet where Jack Torrance (Nicholson) takes his first drink since being on the wagon, served by spectral bartender Lloyd (Joe Turkel) – in succumbing to the sauce (even if it’s all in his head), Jack drips with sarcasm and crazy twitches as he chews the scenery – in essence, a snarky mockery of the interpretations on display, and an indicator of Ascher’s contempt for his subjects.

Given most of the shit posited in ROOM 237, that’s the only logical explanation.

1 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Machinations Into Madness.)

 

Jonny Numb works in the salt mines at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is not allowed to wield sharp objects on Thanksgiving. He also co-hosts THE LAST KNOCK podcast. Find his movie reviews at http://numbviews.livejournal.com, and on Twitter @JonnyNumb.

Crash Analysis: CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012)

Ninety minutes for that?

 Extreme tourists wish they’d gone elsewhere

When a movie isn’t screened for critics before general release, there’s something suspicious in the air. And no, it’s not the unseen radiation from Chernobyl, Ukraine. After watching this no-nothing of a horror, it was clear the producers wanted to make a killing on opening weekend, at least, before word got out.

The hoopla before the release was simple: Oren Peli. After all, he earned his Hollywood office for his PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) becoming such a word-of-mouth hit when it was finally distributed nationwide, and beyond, in 2009. The budget to return on investment ratio rivaled that of previous “found footage” winner THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999). Granted, Peli didn’t direct CHERNOBYL DIARIES, but he did come up with the story and helped craft the screenplay with writing team Carey and Shane Van Dyke.

A group of six tourists take an illegal visit to the town of Pripyat, which once housed workers for the ill-fated Chernobyl plant. Of course, this is a big mistake – because it’s a horror movie and people get killed.

That isn’t much of an explanation, but this movie is awful on many levels and the crux of the narrative doesn’t necessarily count. The story is completely weak because *** spoiler alert *** there is no way people can be exposed to that much radiation near the plant and survive for long periods of time, let alone have enough energy to go bonkers and kill people like crazed, feral cannibals. *** spoiler over *** Once the foundation for the story is deemed ridiculous and devoid of logic, it becomes far too fantastical to take seriously. Think of Eli Roth’s ludicrous HOSTEL series and you’ll get the idea. Additionally, though the daytime cinematography is fine, in the evening, the scenes are so dark it is extremely difficult to follow the action. However, I do not blame the great Morten Søborg for this, especially since his work in VALHALLA RISING (2009), as well as other features, is striking and brilliant. The editor, Stan Salfas, probably at the behest of Peli as well as other producers, played with lighting in post-production, which was a major error. It’s fine to provide a hint of what’s stalking after the characters, but to hide them completely from beginning to end is simply awful – at some point, we must see the beast(s).

Most important, the movie provided no scares. Not one. Does this mean we’re getting used to what horror has been delivering the past few years? I guess so. One could see a jolt coming at every turn, whether telegraphed or not. We’re simply getting used to the scares, and Hollywood, as well as independent filmmakers, had better come up with more creative ways to rock our world. I got more of a jump from watching Spielberg’s POLTERGEIST (1982) – and we knew that damn puppet was going to spring to life.

The big losers in this film are the actors. Granted, not everyone is perfect, but they all worked hard. The two standouts are Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Zoe) from COLD PREY (Norway, 2006) and Nathan Phillips of Australia’s WOLF CREEK (2005) fame. Both delivered quality performances, followed by the rest of the multi-national cast.

The story is weak and surprises are sorely lacking. There is nothing new or intelligent here, and the cool idea of a horror at Chernobyl is wasted (though the film was shot on locations in Serbia and Hungary).

The one star goes to the actors, as well as Aleksandar Denic and Matthew Sullivan for production design – and for Marilyn Manson’s “No Reflection” at the credits. Otherwise, you’re better off going back to the old THE HILLS HAVE EYES series than wasting money on such a low brow and disappointing feature.

1 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… AGAIN (1996) – 1 star

Greaser punks gone really bad… 

A father’s past haunts him when demons come calling.

Milestones are great benchmarks of achievement. They tell us how far we’ve come and grace us with some semblance of accomplishment. Therefore, when horror geek me celebrated watching my 1,300th horror, the only downside was that it was SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK… AGAIN.

Michael Gross, forever pigeonholed as the father from “Family Ties” stars as something completely different – a father. Well, he’s also a therapist, though that never really ties into the tale. Anyway, his mother just died and he’s off to close the house, with soon to be eighteen-year-old Michelle (played by a very young and toothful Hilary Swank). Soon enough, however, father is haunted by some old demons: the three boys who murdered his sister thirty years before. And now, they want his daughter.

The movie maintained a total low budget 80s feel with cheesy characters, a predictable plot and some horrendous special defects. What’s worse: Michael Gross knows better. He can act. I’ve seen him in TREMORS (1990) and its pathetic sequels, as well as other venues where he shined. Yet it seems that once on set, he realized what he had gotten himself into and decided to hold back. Then again, Swank gives us no indication of her acting prowess. Finally, Alexis Arquette, before his sex reassignment surgery, played the bad boy nemesis – and he couldn’t act either.

When there are that many actors not stepping up, and the rest of the cast was quite weak, except for Patrick Renna who truly glowed, the fault lies with one person only: the director. In this case, it’s Adam Grossman, the same culprit who also rewrote and directed CARNIVAL OF SOULS to much booing, hissing and dead cat throwing. His career fizzled into the ether afterwards.

As for the special effects, which should support the story, they were distracting. Special effects make-up should never look obvious, and visual effects should be clean and sharp, not clearly cartoonish and subpar. Now you know why many laugh at this film, which makes me wonder why no one has created a drinking game around this one.

But there is some good news: Christopher Baffa’s cinematography is solid. And his work has taken him to big time fare, such as RUNNING WITH SCISSORS (2006), and regular work as director of photography for “Nip/Tuck” and “Glee”.

Baffa and Renna are the combined reason for the one star. As for my 1,300th horror, I guess it’s fitting that it was a cheesy piece of laugh out loud garbage. After all, of those 1,300, I’ve only found a handful of brilliant films in the 4.5 star or better category – and you’ll learn about all of those soon.

1 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: SCREAM 4 (2011)

So corny it seemed the Wayan’s brothers were responsible

Sidney Prescott comes home and Ghostface goes on the rampage…

With some wonderful reviews from SCREAM (1996) fans, it took little thought to dive into this fourth segment. After all, Kevin Williamson, the screenwriter behind the original feature had penned the script, and after a ten-year hiatus from the franchise, Wes Craven surely would have brought something new to the experience.

Wrong.

Williamson’s story was more comedy than horror – and cheap, stupid comedy at that. Quite often, it appeared as if the material was straight out of SCARY MOVIE (2000). Granted, Dewey Reily (David Arquette) was always dumb, but new idiocy is reached with dumber deputy sidekick, Judy Hicks (Marley Shelton) who can’t wait to draw her weapon on anything at any time. Furthermore, how big is Woodsboro anyway? Seems Sheriff Reily and his crew had to travel dozens of miles to get to point B when they were needed most – and they always arrived after the fact, of course. Timing, as in most ridiculous horrors, was way off the mark and far removed from reality.

And even though Williamson does his best to poke fun at sequels and pathetic remakes, his sequel is far from worthwhile since the comedy, horror and playful spoofing is childish and banal. Then again, it seems the screenwriter may have been lost in his own effort to include story twists since he had missed at least two deadlines before filming. One wonders if he had just said, “Fuck it” and turned in his latest draft without making certain it had been squared away.

Though this may be sacrilege, I never felt Craven had lived up to the moniker of “master of horror”, and found SCREAM to be his best venture. Yes, even more so than THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984). As a director, he never seemed to go that extra mile to drum up the suspense and keep the audience guessing. Once again, he doesn’t bring us to the brink. In fact, the story is so hackneyed, further plagued by camera angles long established and tiresome, sleep ensued at one point.

As for the tired tale we’re used to seeing from the franchise, audience members probably spent more time guessing who comprised Ghostface this time around, though in the end, it wasn’t a shock and the relevance didn’t really matter.

The producers (The Weinstein Company), Williamson and Craven, served up the same old scene once again to try and delight fans on a base and mundane level instead of serving up a new and improved dish (something Peni and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY enterprise tries to do). Therefore, the audience falls victim to the musings of the initial players who rail against sequels and remakes, and the aforementioned all become victims of their own joke. However, the real victims, once again, are audience members that tolerate below average entertainment from the film’s braintrust that have become their own whores to sell and sell again in order to cash in.

If there ever is a SCREAM 5, and I doubt there will be, I only hope the years of experience Williamson and Craven possess will lead to something as new and as riveting as their first installment.

1 out of 5 stars

Crash Analysis: SHUTTER (2008)

Watch the original Thai version

Married couples move to Japan only to be stalked by a vengeful spirit…

Banjong Pisanthanakun’s and Parkpoom Wongpoom’s phenomenal SHUTTER (Thailand, 2004) is one of the best ghost stories of all time. The American version (with much Japanese influence) is an insult, an extremely poor remake, loaded with the mundane for the lowest common denominator of American audiences.

We’ve seen it one too many times. An overseas film soars and American producers get the rights, rewrite, reshoot, change the story, and dump it upon moviegoers instead of bringing us the bona fide original.

Where the original tale of SHUTTER brings audiences a solid story with excellent acting, visuals and pace, the new incarnation is watered down, sterile and is a couple steps away from appearing like a Lifetime movie of the week.

In this poorly crafted version, Jane (Rachael Taylor) moves with her husband, Ben (Joshua Jackson) to Japan so he can continue his career in photography. After thinking they hit a woman while driving, the couple notices strange images appearing on their photos. Soon enough, they realize it’s spirit photography and the woman in the images is the woman they had run over – Megumi Okina, a Japanese scream queen who appeared in JU-ON and several others.

The scares are non-existent, and the heavy atmosphere that elicited fear in the original is completely lost. There is no suspense whatsoever, just some screams, some running around, a reveal one can see coming a million miles away, and a quiet resolution.

Though an American production, the crew and most of the actors are Japanese, and the movie was made on location in Tokyo. However, the American backers, Japanese, American and Thai producers, did little to make this a stunning motion picture for audiences.

Most important, why are foreign films reshot to begin with? There’s a belief that American audiences are “subtitle phobic”. Hmm… I guess the millions CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON made was just a fluke. At the cinema, is if difficult to find a seat. Granted, if someone has a better twist on a movie and wants to shell out millions to do a reshoot, go right ahead. However, do us all a favor and bring those non-English speaking films to theatres for us to decide. Sadly, where I now reside, there are no independent cinemas devoted to foreign, independent and quirky cinema. Instead, I have to cope with the latest top-10 movie fair that usually induces vomiting.

The only Americanized version that clearly outshined the original is THE RING (USA/Japan, 2002). Here, the ho-hum tale became a grand mystery with one hell of an unsettling aesthetic. Otherwise, I’ll take the originals every time.

Foreign language horror recommendations (besides the aforementioned): AUDITION (Japan, 1999), A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (Korea, 2002), THE ORPHANAGE (Spain/Mexico, 2007), MARTYRS (France/Canada, 2008), THE UNINVITED GUEST (Spain, 2004), LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden, 2008) and PREMONITION (Japan, 2004).

1 out of 5 stars