Archive

Posts Tagged ‘2002’

28 Days Later (2002)


After waking from a long nap, there is always that feeling of disorientation as you try to get your bearings. This is especially difficult if things have changed drastically since you went to sleep. Meet Jim. He’s been in a coma for 28 days. In that time, the world has ended.

28 Days Later is a zombie horror film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland. It stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, and Christopher Eccleston.

When a group of British animal liberation activists break into a lab to free some monkeys being used in medical research, they are warned that the monkeys are infected with a “rage virus” in the hopes of curing aggressive tendencies in humans. They don’t listen, and of course once they free one of the monkeys, one of the activists gets bitten, and hilarity ensues. Fast forward to 28 days later. Jim, a bicycle courier, awakens from a coma to discover that apparently London is completely devoid of human life, in one of the eeriest sequences in the whole movie. Then he discovers that, no, London is not abandoned – it’s populated by rage zombies. Yay. Fortunately the merry chase that ensues ends with Jim being rescued by a pair of uninfected survivors, Selena and Mark, who fill him in: the rage zombies are not dead, just really, really pissed off, and they try to kill anyone who isn’t infected. Trouble is, the rage virus spreads through bodily fluids, so a bite on even a bit of slobber getting in the wrong spot means that in a matter of seconds you’re one of them. Selena has hardened herself to this way of life, killing Mark without hesitation when he is cut in another fight with the Infected. It is not long, though, before they find another pocket of survivors, Frank and his teenage daughter Hannah, who offer them a place to stay and a glimmer of hope: a pre-recorded radio broadcast apparently being transmitted by an Army blockade in Manchester claiming to hold the solution to the Infection. Sounds great, right? Of course it does. Think it’ll be that easy? This is a zombie movie – of course it won’t. However, with dwindling supplies, the survivors have little choice but to investigate, and hope that they can survive the hordes of infected Rage zombies on the way…

I love zombie movies. They can be goofy and fun, or terrifying and claustrophobic, sometimes even within the same movie. 28 Days Later offered an interesting twist on the classic zombie – the living zombie, something previously explored by Romero’s original version of The Crazies but nearly forgotten until now. 28 Days Later crosses the living zombie with the fast zombie – something used extensively in the Return of the Living Dead series but since discarded until fairly recently with the Dawn of the Dead remake. This combination of zombie traits makes for a frenetic, terrifying take on the zombie movie. You don’t have time to react. You have to kill them or be torn apart. Infection takes seconds. And they absolutely hate you. The military subplot also reminds me a lot of the military subplot in Day of the Dead; the Army dudes have their own ideas about what constitutes a “solution” to the Infection, and once it is discovered you’re left with a general feeling of, “Well, we’re screwed now.” Because that’s what the military does in these movies: they take a bad situation and make it worse in the hopes of making it better.

The cast was tight and well-cast. Cillian Murphy works well here as disoriented coma patient Jim, the guy to whom the London situation must be explained by the others. He just wants to survive and get back to a normal life, and he is just as desperate and terrified as one would expect an uninfected human in a zombie apocalypse would be, but when he snaps – boy howdy. His woobie-ness goes away instantly, turning into a savagery that makes his later role in Red Eye look like Barney the Purple Dinosaur. Selena is another aspect of the zombie survivor, reluctant to make any human connections because she know that she might have to kill any allies without hesitation. Frank and Hannah comprise another aspect, the caregiver playing at normality to avoid traumatizing his young ward too much. And Major Henry West… you know, I’ve seen Christopher Eccleston in three roles so far, and only one of them, the Ninth Doctor, has been even remotely benevolent. I would call him Pragmatic Evil here.

Overall, 28 Days Later is a worthy addition to the zombie subgenre, effectively walking the line between subtlety and blind terror in its depiction of a once-bustling city given over almost completely to the Rage Virus. I highly recommend this one to all zombie fans.

Minority Report (2002)

04/18/2011 1 comment

Wouldn’t it be great if we could prevent crimes before they were committed? I mean, that’s the goal of any law enforcement agency, because investigation and prosecution of any crime takes resources, and with something like murder there’s no guarantee that things will be made right ever again. Figuring out how to flag people before a crime can be committed sounds awesome… until they flag you for something you haven’t done yet. Then things get a little… complicated.

Minority Report is a sci fi thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick. It stars Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max von Sydow.

It is the year 2054. John Anderton is the head of Washington, D.C.’s PreCrime police force, who tracks and pre-emptively stops future murders with the aid of three pre-cogs, mutated humans who can see the future. Anderton has been a bit of a mess since the unsolved disappearance of his son, and while his obsession led him to join PreCrime, it has also resulted in his wife leaving him and his addiction to an illegal psychoactive drug. Pre-Crime’s success in preventing murders means it is poised to go nation-wide, but on the eve of this event, the system is audited by one Danny Witwer from the Department of Justice, during which the pre-cogs predict a murder – to be committed by John Anderton. Now on the run from his own co-workers, Anderton tries to solve a murder he hasn’t committed yet, of a man he’s never heard of, but it isn’t long before he finds himself immersed in another cold case connected to PreCrime. What he finds out about both cases threatens to shake the supposedly infallible PreCrime system to its core…

I am not a huge fan of Tom Cruise. He’s done some good movies, of course, but many of them seem to play off the fact that he’s pretty rather than a good actor. Fortunately, Minority Report is one of his successes. As is generally the case in films adapted from Philip K. Dick, the plot is tight and intricate, and the inclusion of precognition in a law-enforcement setting only enhances the story rather than cripples it. Spielberg took great pains to nudge the future technology over to the “hard” end of the sci fi scale, and many technologies portrayed in the movie (such as the data tiles and the 3-d screens) have since been developed in real life. The near-future portrayed in Minority Report feels real and organic, allowing the plot to gleefully deconstruct the idea of PreCrime in a logical fashion.

Of course, throughout the film is an exploration of free-will vs. determinism, similar to that seen in Paycheck: if an agent that can see into the future predicts an outcome, is it set in stone? Are the players in the prediction fated to hurtle blindly towards an inevitable outcome, or can they choose their future? Here, the impetus is more of an emotional one than a logical one: Anderton fully intends to kill the man who took his son, no matter who he is or why he did it. This conflicts with his cop instincts to bring the culprit to justice, but seriously – what parent would not want vengeance on the behalf of their child? What parent would hesitate to kill anyone who hurt their kid? Anderton’s motives are sound and sympathetic, and his moment of truth at the climax will have any parent nodding in recognition.

If you want a thrilling whodunnit film with a new twist, and you don’t absolutely hate Tom Cruise, I suggest picking up Minority Report. It will have you on the edge of your seat from the moment that red ball drops.

The Ring (2002)


Stories featuring evil children date back as far as Village of the Damned, The Exorcist and The Omen. Even today, there seems to be a rule that children under the age of 12 in horror movies can be the scariest antagonists, because you expect children to be innocent, to need our protection. Samara Morgan is about to show us a new generation of evil children…

The Ring is a psychological horror movie directed by Gore Verbinski and a remake of the Japanese movie Ringu, in turn based on the book Ring by Koji Suzuki. It stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Daveigh Chase, and Brian Cox.

When 16-year-old Katie Embry dies under mysterious really freaking weird circumstances, the event hits her 9-year-old cousin Aidan especially hard. After the funeral, Katie’s mother, Ruth, asks her sister Rachel, an investigative reporter, to investigate Katie’s death, as the poor girl was found in a closet with a horrifying expression on her face, as though she’d been literally scared to death. The only other witness to Katie’s death, her friend Becca, was left so traumatized that she had to be committed to a mental institution. Rachel’s quest brings her to the cabin where Katie had spent the weekend with friends a week before her death, where she finds a mysterious videotape. Upon watching it, she sees a nightmarish stream-of-consciousness series of images flicker across the screen, and once the tape has ended, she receives a phone call informing her that she has a week to live. Yay. Now Rachel races against this deadline to unlock the secrets behind the videotape in the hopes of breaking this curse before it’s too late.

When The Ring was first released, I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’d become jaded on campy slasher movies that rely on blood and guts for their scares, and I was starting to think that there were no really scary horror movies anymore. Then I saw this little wonder in the theater, and I knew that there was still somebody out there with the talent to really scare the piss out of people, without showing everything. And Samara is a new twist on the typical horror villain: she kills pretty much indiscriminately – you see the tape, you’re gonna die in a week. She doesn’t go after the druggies or the sexually active – she has more of a blast radius than crosshairs. Once she has her hooks into you, you absolutely cannot run far enough to get away from her. Adding another element is the fact that this is a remake of a Japanese ghost story – the onryo. Sure, many Western ghosts can be vanquished by helping them find closure, by helping them solves a problem left unfinished, even if it’s their own murder. Not the onryo. She’ll just keep on going. And she will get you. The fact that you don’t see what she does that leaves her two on-screen victims looking like that makes it infinitely worse, leaving us to come up with our own theories. And all this malevolence is locked inside something as innocent as a videocassette.

The cast is sparse but well-chosen: Naomi Watts as Rachel, the tenacious reporter on a tight schedule, forced to use all her investigating skills to hopefully avert her own death, David Dorfman as Aidan, the benevolent counterpart to Samara’s Creepy Child, and of course Daveigh Chase as Samara herself, innocent and childlike on the surface but with a chewy center of uncontrolled psychic abilities fueled by a simmering hatred for a world that has rejected her; I see big things in Ms. Chase’s acting future. In the supporting cast, Brian Cox, pre-X-Men is a tragic man, grieving the death of his wife years ago and feeling guilty about the relief he feels over the loss of his daughter. Martin Henderson as Rachel’s ex Noah doesn’t offer us enough to get to know him, however, leaving him as just a harsh lesson about why you should be afraid of unlabelled videotapes.

While it may be difficult to see the menace in video tapes anymore, in today’s world of YouTube and writeable DVD’s, an unstoppable evil wrapped in a package of innocence still endures as an effective horror menace. What makes this movie terrifying is the impending threat, combined with things you don’t really think about until later, getting together and laying eggs in your unconscious mind until, hours later, the realization hits you. If you’re looking for that type of subtle horror movie, pick up The Ring and watch it in the dark.

Ghost Ship (2002)


In 1962, the cruise liner Antonia Graza was lost at sea, with all its passengers and crew presumed perished. Twenty years later, it has returned, just as mysteriously. And something is still aboard…

Ghost Ship is a horror film directed by Steve Beck and produced by Dark Castle Entertainment, responsible for the recent remakes of Thirteen Ghosts, The House on Haunted Hill, and House of Wax. It stars Julianna Marguiles, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, Karl Urban, Desmond Harrington, Isiah Washington, and Desmond Washington, plus a bunch of very angry ghosts.

Everyone has heard of the Antonia Graza – she’s like the Holy Grail of ship salvages. So when the crew of the Arctic Warrior is approached about a salvage in the Bering Sea and it turns out to be the vanished cruise liner, everyone is excited about not only the reward for salvaging it but also the bragging rights. However, when they board the ship to prepare to tow it to shore, strange things start happening that suggest that not everything is at rest aboard the derilict. Maureen Epps (Marguiles) sees the spectre of a little girl wandering the decks. Greer (Washington) hears the voice of an unseen songstress crooning a ghostly melody. Epps and their employer, Ferriman (Harrington), find the corpses of previous salvage crews… and a quantity of gold bars in the hold, with the identifying markings filed down. Estimating that the gold by itself is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, they decide to take the gold and leave the ship, but the Arctic Warrior explodes as it is started up, killing a crewman and leaving the rest of them stranded on the Antonia Graza. With no other choice, the salvage crew try to repair the ship, but as more of them are killed by the ghostly forces on the ship, Epps is about to learn some terrifying things about the ship’s history and their helpful employer…

I basically picked up Ghost Ship on a whim. I enjoy ghost stories, almost as much as I enjoy finding hidden treasures (as I had with Pitch Black). I’d previously seen how Gabriel Byrne did supernatural horror in End of Days, and Julianna Marguiles had proven her acting chops in her stint in ER. The rest were unknowns at the time, and I thought they did well. This spooky little horror tale did a lot with a little, offering glimpses and hints rather than beating the viewer over the head with OMG GHOSTS, and on the whole the spooks are not obvious or in your face about it. The sequence where Greer witnesses the ruined ballroon reconstituting itself around him was impressive, as well as the fact that most of the special effects had been done practically, favoring models and prosthetics over CGI.

In addition, while the setup appeared to be a standard haunting, the writers took it and made it their own, offering an explanation for why the ghosts are trapped there instead of saying “just because”, while also giving the otherwise marooned salvagers (well, one of them) a possible solution. The story was engaging as it unfolded, with the ghostly Katie guiding Epps to the answers she would need to survive the darker forces at work on the wreck, and the explanation for why that ghost alone, out of the hundreds bound to the vessel, was able to help was satisfying and made sense within the context of the story. While the rest of Dark Castle’s movies have been largely hit or miss (mainly miss), this one was enjoyable and spooky.

If you like ghost stories and you’re looking for a movie that’s slightly off the beaten path, try Ghost Ship. It’s not flashy, just a beautiful, atmospheric tale of a tragic haunting, and the outsiders who find themselves drawn into the darkness of a decades-old tragedy.

Cabin Fever (2002)


Gorehounds rejoice, for you have a new god in Hollywood, and his name is Eli Roth, here to bring you another reason not to go into the woods. You might know the rules for dealing with cannibal rednecks, angry spirits, and hockey-masked psychos, but what do you do when the killer is a billionth your size?

Roth’s first movie, Cabin Fever is an American horror movie inspired by Roth’s real-life experience with a skin infection he contracted on a trip to Iceland (but of course taken to its gory upper limit). It draws upon elements of many of Roth’s favorite horror movies like The Evil Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It stars Rider “Boy Meets World” Strong, James “Scary Movie 2” DeBello, Jordan, “Never Been Kissed” Ladd, Cerina “Not Another Teen Movie” Ladd, Joey “Super Troopers” Kern, and Matthew ” PANCAAAAAAAAKES” Helms. The movie was shot on a relatively small budget of $1.5 million.

A man walking in the woods encounters the rotted corpse of a dead dog. He turns it over and is sprayed in the face with blood. Sometime later, five college friends, Jeff (Kern), Marcy (Vincent), Paul (Strong), Karen (Ladd), and Bert (DeBello) have rented a cabin in the woods. On their way to the site, they stop at a local convenience store to stock up, and Paul has an encounter with Dennis, a mentally handicapped boy with three apparent interests: Pancakes, kung fu, and biting people, as Paul discovers. At the cabin, Jeff and Marcy have sex, Paul and Karen swim in the nearby lake, and Bert goes squirrel hunting. Instead of squirrels, Bert encounters the man who found the rotted dog, whose condition has deteriorated. Like, a lot. Terrified and disgusted, Bert shoots him to try to drive him off and runs back to the cabin. The man follows him back to the cabin, begging for help, and tries driving off him their car but vomits blood inside it. Ultimately, he exits the car and Paul sets him on fire, whereupon the diseased man runs off, dying in the lake. A local deputy offers to call them a tow truck. After that, things start going rapidly downhill for our intrepid heroes…

Karen drinks a glass of lake water and starts feeling ill. That night Paul discovers rotten spots on her thighs, and the other quarantine her in a nearby tool shed. Fearing that they are also infected, the others argue about what to do. The next day, Bert realizes that he is infected but does not tell anyone. When Paul and Marcy insist on helping Karen, Jeff bails on them, taking all the beer (currently the only reliable drinking source), while Bert drives off to try to find a doctor. In revenge for Jeff abandoning her and because she figures they’re both doomed to die anyway, Marcy has sex with Paul, assuring him that she is healthy but later finding red patches where he touched her. Paul, rightfully worried about the disease going around, tries to disinfect himself with Listerine. Bloody medical carnage lies in both their futures, though, and once the townsfolk catch wind of things it looks like nobody’s going to make it out of the woods alive…

Cabin Fever is a unique twist on the “slasher in the woods” premise, and in my opinion it was done well. In overall ambience the plot feels like both a zombie movie (who’s infected? How long before the infection gets us?) and a slasher movie (merciless quantities of blood), in an affectionate throwback to the gory, tit-filled horror movies of the 80s. I’ve alway enjoyed the idea of a slasher movie without a concrete antagonist, somebody specific that you could try to escape, and the breakdown of the protagonists’ friendship added a lot to the paranoia of OMG FLESH EATING BACTERIA. The main characters were not well-defined, but here they didn’t need to be. I did get the impression that the locals had battled this disease (or similar ones) before, which made me wonder why they didn’t insist that the kids pick up lots of bottled water.

The disease FX were wonderfully nauseating. In addition to Roth’s own experience with skin-eating diseases, one of the sound mixers had also survived a bout with flesh-eating bacteria, and maintains that the makeup is 100% accurate. I actually found myself writhing in discomfort during the leg-shaving scene (scraaaaaaaaaape… EUGH!), even after seeing other characters with decomposing sores. It was possibly the best justification for death by sex ever, too – I mean, you shag someone with a highly contagious case of the rot, of COURSE you’re going to die too!

In all, Roth’s premier movie is a delightfully stomach-turning addition to the horror genre. I would recommend it to all gore fans and those with strong stomachs who enjoy a nice scary romp in the woods.