The Forgotten (I completely ruin the film and tell you the ending)

The Forgotten – 3/10

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Look, it’s a good film, but I had some serious issues with the scripting of it so I’m basically going to ruin the ending to explain why it rates so low.

The basic premise is, a woman whose son died in a plane crash is still not over the death of her son 14 months later. Then one day, everyone denies she had a son. And there’s no evidence she ever had a son.

There are some early scripting issues I had. Within the first half of the film, on two occasions the people chasing her get stopped by blind chance placing a car or person in their path so they lose her. Then in another scene, someone looking for her is practically right on top of where she’s hiding and… they get called away.

It all happens very close together and is basically really poor writing. Or directing – maybe the writer had her getting away using her wits and the director thought this was better visually. Who knows? What I do know is that it added up to some bad storytelling.

Later in the film, we meet the unfeeling power that has been screwing with people’s lives. It tells her it was all an experiment to see if it could make people forget their kids, but she’s a threat to the idea that it is possible. That was all fine, but when it suddenly lost its temper and screamed at her and talked about the personal cost to itself should it fail… that was shit. It’s a way to humanise the baddie, which is the exact opposite of what should have been done.

Which leads to the ending, which for me, seriously buggered the central conceit of the film.

Right at the end, when it becomes apparent that she’s not going to forget her son, the powers that be take away the bad guy, and basically give her her son back.

Why?

Seriously, is there any reason to do this other than to give the film a happy ending? Because it makes no friggin’ sense in the context of the entire movie. If they didn’t care about experimenting on these people in the first place, why would they care enough to give them back their kids? In fact, why would they even keep the kids alive? Or on ice? It doesn’t work, especially given that anyone else who seemed to be a threat to the status quo was simply removed, so why not simply remove her at the end of the experiment?

I would have preferred her to find out her son was still alive, living with another family somewhere in the world, and for her to decide she would keep looking for him. I can imagine the beings that started the experiment in the first place thinking that this would be a worthy follow-up. How many years would she search? What would she do? Could she find enough evidence to track him down?

It is a good movie, the acting is solid, it has some nice concepts, but the ending guts the central premise.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.
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The Corridor

The Corridor – 8/10

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Low budget Canadian horror. I didn’t understand quite what happened right at the end, but this one did a great job of creeping dread. It builds wonderfully, and has a moment with a television set that was astoundingly creepy on so many levels.

It has some issues, I wasn’t fond of some of the characterisation and such, but over all, I was really impressed by it. It’s not for everyone, and quite nasty and gory at times, but even that is well handled. There are times when they show the gore, and times when they make sure you know bad stuff is happening but don’t show it to you. An awful lot of films could learn from their approach.

All up an interesting and creepy low budget film.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Uzumaki (minor spoilers)

Uzumaki – 9/10

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Also called Spiral or Vortex, this Japanese film helped me to identify the problems I had with the next two films I watched. It also spoiled them a little, by being so damned good. Stylish, clever, absurd, and creepy, the direction in this is excellent.

The inhabitants slowly become obsessed with spirals, manifesting in madness and even physical changes. That’s the story. And it drags you through a slowly pervasive and deepening madness often in very subtle ways. Occasionally out of the corner of your eye you’ll spot a bit of scenery slowly twist into a spiral. It’s brilliantly done. It’s obvious when you spot it, but its also used sparingly and with great restraint.

The effect is, you start actively looking for spirals. The director has dragged you into the same madness that is experienced by the characters.

There are also times where the film gets ridiculously over the top and silly, but that’s fine. It makes you laugh, but it doesn’t relieve you from the dread.

Of all the films watched up to Red Sands, this is the one that for me best fit the feel of an indifferent power driving people insane. Apparently it’s based on a manga. Have no idea how it is as an adaptation, but it was good enough that I’d like to track down the original work.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu – 7/10

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Made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society like The Whisperer in Darkness. This one is done as a late 1920’s silent movie. Not quite as polished as their other production (this was made first) it’s still a good and interesting adaptation of the work. I have read the original story this was based upon, and it certainly hit all the major notes I remembered.

It didn’t draw me in quite as much, I didn’t find this quite as creepy, but that may well be the story itself. Certainly it’s worth a look and is a noble experiment. Again, it uses a mixture of techniques to tell its story, even including a some stop motion animation amongst the computer graphics.

Both films are well worth tracking down from the store and checking out. They don’t cost much, and they are interesting, especially because they show a certain level of craft and originality of approach.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Cosmic Horror – The List

Haven’t watched a lot of films this year, but in recent weeks I’ve been on something of a cosmic horror binge.

There are a few definitions of cosmic horror out there. H.P. Lovecraft is the name you’ll most often find associated with the genre, given he was one of the major people who defined it, though even he was inspired by others.

A very simple definition is that something is wrong in the world/universe – we don’t know what, we don’t know how or why, and we don’t have any ability to make any lasting change, or to stop it affecting us.  It’s about the unimportance of humanity as it comes up against… something.

We don’t matter. It might manipulate or wipe us out without even being aware it’s doing it, or with the same level of thought as a child picking up and dropping an insect somewhere different just because they can. Not only do we not matter, but often the effect on us is simply unimportant to whatever it is.

After having rewatched John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness, I did a little research and found a handful of lists of cosmic horror/Lovecraftian horror films. So now I’m slowly working my way through all that I’ve found.

I’m a firm believer in the less one knows about a film going in, the better. So below is the base list of what I’ve watched with a simple rating. For more details, and major spoilers for one or two, click the links.  It’s likely to keep me going for a while, so as I write little reviews, I’ll put links to them back here so there’s an easy place to access them all.

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The Whisperer In Darkness

The Whisperer In Darkness – 8/10

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One of two films made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I like the approach of both, in that they looked to when the original short stories were written, then tried to film them in a way that echoed film-making from that time.

So this one is an early 1930’s film noir piece. My only complaint about the filming technique is that they don’t know quite how to work with black and white. There’s too many muted tones that show a lack of knowledge about what colours work with a black and white process, and there are small issues of contrast as well. But hell, major Hollywood film The Artist got the same stuff wrong.

I wanted to get my main complaint out of the way first, because I really liked this. I genuinely felt creeped out at times, and there was a growing sense of dread as the story progressed. It really is a very well done piece of film-making. It shows great restraint at times, and has a good feel for when to hint at things and when to finally show them.

Having not read the original story, I can’t say how faithful the adaptation is, but I suspect they’ve done a reasonable job. The effects work is well done too, using a wide range of techniques including computer graphics to mostly solid effect.

Overall, while not a perfect production, it is very, very good.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

In the Mouth of Madness (minor spoilers)

In The Mouth of Madness – 3/10

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I like John Carpenter, but he just can’t manage subtle. And to me, the script here really needed it. Rather than a feeling of creeping dread, what we’re constantly told is “there’s something weird and wrong here…” and then we’re shown something weird and wrong.

There’s an old rule of story-telling – show don’t tell. In The Mouth Of Madness keeps doing both. Sometimes hinting at something is vastly more effective. This likes to telegraph its punches. So when the main character tells us that the sweet little old lady at the hotel wouldn’t hurt a fly, then mentions that the fictional version of her was a killer, we already know she’s going to be found doing something odd.

Later we get the scene with her at the desk. At one point she obviously kicks someone below the desk and we hear a groan. And if it had been left at that, it might have worked. But no, we get given a shot of the naked man cuffed to her leg. The whole film is like that. Clumsily setting up things, then saying “Oh look! Look at how strange and weird everything is!”

I know some people like it, but for me, it failed.  And I really think a good portion of the problem comes from Carpenter’s choices.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.