by Craig Thomas
It all started with The Super Mario Brothers. By which, I mean the idea that you could take a massively successful computer game and turn it into a movie, which would have a pre-established fan-base. Which is all well and good except for one thing. It was rubbish. Like Waterworld rubbish, apparently. I say “apparently” because having seen Waterworld recently the idea that anything could approach such levels of stupidity just seems incredibly unlikely. Plus, as a child I saw the Super Mario Brothers movie numerous times and thoroughly enjoyed it. But kids are stupid, so they can’t be trusted. Not even your younger self. Especially not your younger self. He was an idiot. At least, mine was.
Anyway, that was the film that kicked off the trend of movies based on computer games being rubbish and since then, not a lot has changed. The only major difference being that nowadays when one of these terrible movies is made, it is openly ridiculed for being terrible. Then it goes onto make millions of dollars. Then there is a sequel. Which is again ridiculed. Which then goes on to make millions more dollars. In the case of the god awful Resident Evil series, they are currently up to number five. All of which are unreservedly terrible. And horrendously successful, financially speaking.
And so it is with Silent Hill, which as a game is pretty damn good, or so I’m told. But they made a film and it wasn’t really any good, but it made a lot of money, so they made Silent Hill: Revelation.
It is set about seven years after the first trip to Silent Hill, and Sharon (now named Heather and played by Adelaide Clemens) is 18 years old, only she can’t remember anything of the first movie. Her mother, Rose, (played by Radha Mitchell), is missing, and for some reason (most likely, financial), Sean Penn resumes his role as her father, Christopher.
This is all explained at the start of the movie. Then a bunch of not very important stuff happens and she finds herself once again in Silent Hill.
What then happens is familiar to anyone who has seen the first one. There are the same deformed armless zombie things, and the same weirdly sexy, slutty nurse zombies and the same distinctly non-sexy sword-wielding giant with a over-sized cheese grater on his head. It might actually be his head, I’m not sure.
Anyway, as well as this there is also the introduction of a new bad guy (read: woman), who is the same as the old bad guy (woman). Then, there is probably the most unforgettably terrible demon creature of all time. If I said it was a zombie spider mannequin composed of mostly arms holding dummy heads it would sound about as frightening as it is (ie: not at all). It might even make you sigh with exasperation, but what it won’t do, and what is shouldn’t do, is make you laugh. Horror is the antithesis of comedy, in that if everyone laughs then you’ve not done your job properly. It was truly pathetic and the graphics of the “scary” screaming mannequin face looked like something out of a spoof.
But that was somewhat indicative of the whole film, it just wasn’t scary, or creepy or anything like that. For all the flaws of the first film, at least it did generate a sense of unease when essentially helpless characters are being chased by the relentless forces of evil. Sure, it wasn’t as intense as The Terminator, but at least it was something. That is missing from this film, not least of all due to the apparent uselessness of the evil characters this time around.
It seemed to me that one of the key problems of the film was that, like its predecessor, it was intended to be about two hours long. Instead, what we get in a film that clocks in at just under 90 minutes. This in itself is not a bad thing. The original certainly dragged in places and felt overly long. However, this one feels like test audiences said it felt too long so they just cut a bunch of stuff out. The issue then is one of pace. A lot of the scenes feel as if they were intended to be slow, drawn-out affairs which have been simply cut short, without any sort of reworking. Ideas then feel under-developed, which is particularly irritating as there are a lot of events in the film, none of which are given an opportunity to build to any sort of dramatic tension. This is a perfect example of a poorly paced film, or more precisely, of a decently paced film, poorly edited.
If you’re looking for a good horror film, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for that first good movie derived from a computer game, you’re out of luck again. It isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t fix the flaws of the overly-long original and in fact, makes matters worse with its brevity. But the acting is fine, so is the dialogue, though the plot could certainly have done with a few more revisions. Anyone who green-lights a film where the penultimate battle is a hug-to-the-death between two teenage girls on a horsey carousel deserves to be fired. But they won’t be. In fact, they’ll probably get a nice juicy bonus.
For all the problems of this film, of which there are many, it is still a better film than any of the Resident Evil monstrosities. And if that’s not damning with faint praise, then I don’t know what is.
Hopefully the lessons will be learnt and all the problems will be fixed for the third installment in the franchise. And there will be a third installment. Or at least, that’s what the ending promised. But then again, so did Super Mario Brothers.
by Steve Habrat
When it comes to horror remakes, I tend to be less forgiving than I usually am with my reviews of classic horror films or more recent original work within the genre. To me, the never-ending string of remakes and face lifts that have been given to horror classics in the past several years just reflect the sorry state of Hollywood and reveal their appalling lack of creativity. But since Hollywood continues to force them on us, I guess we have to separate the good from the very, very bad. In early 2010, we saw the Breck Eisner directed remake of George Romero’s 1973 cult horror film The Crazies. The Crazies ended up being one of the better remakes that I have seen, ranking next to 2006’s The Hills Have Eyes and 2004’s Dawn of the Dead as one of the best ones out there. The Crazies actually works because there is some minor involvement from Romero, who helped pen the screenplay and served as executive producer of the film. With Romero’s involvement, The Crazies plays with the idea of the people we know and love suddenly becoming homicidal maniacs and the savagery that lies in the ones who are supposed to be protecting us.
The Crazies takes us to the small farming town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, where a government engineered biological weapon code named Trixie is accidentally unleashed in the town’s drinking water. Soon, David (Played by Timothy Olyphant), the local Sheriff, and his wife Judy (Played by Radha Mitchell), the Ogden Marsh doctor, begin noticing strange behavior in the town residents. After an encounter at a high school baseball game and several other bizarre murders, David, Judy, and David’s dependable deputy Russell Clank (Played by Joe Anderson) find the town under quarantine and gas-masked soldiers separating the sick from the healthy. When Judy, who also happens to be pregnant, is separated from David, he breaks away from the soldiers and ventures back into town to find Judy and save her. With Russell at his side, they have to continuously avoid the trigger-happy soldiers patrolling the town and the roaming “crazies” who will tear anyone apart who get in their way. As they look for a way out of the war-zone town, the government’s horrifying plans to contain Trixie are revealed.
Director Eisner approaches The Crazies in a surprisingly conservative manner. Sure, it has its fair share of stomach churning gore for the horror gurus who thrive on the red stuff but it is incredibly muted for a horror film and especially for material from Romero. Even though it is conservative in approach, the film is fairy intelligent behind all the apocalyptic hoopla. The material is very weary of the government and what they are willing to reveal to their own civilians. The army refuses to tell the terrified citizens of Ogden Marsh what exactly is happening to their friends and family and even worse, if the army detects any sign of infection while processing the civilians at a makeshift quarantine camp, they panic and rip the individual away from their confused family. The images are reminiscent of those we have seen from the Holocaust and they still haven’t lost their lingering power. The film also touches on the idea of those that we think we know suddenly becoming homicidal maniacs who will maim in the blink of an eye. A scene in which a husband locks his wife and young son in a closet and then lights the house on fire will send chills down your spine.
The Crazies has a talented lead in Timothy Olyphant’s David, who is determined to protect his pregnant wife any way he can. His role doesn’t demand too much of him, playing the cookie cutter Sheriff who is just searching for answers and trying to protect the town citizens but Olyphant does his best to add some emotional depth. I did like the way Eisner had his character react when he was forced to take the life of one of the roaming “crazies.” Instead of reacting with indifference, his initial response after the shot if fired from his gun is, “Oh, my God!” The first time he is forced to shoot one, he races to the crumpled body, stricken with shock and grief over taking the life of someone who was close to him and he thought he knew. Olyphant also has some great chemistry with Mitchell as his soft-spoken wife Judy, the pair getting a handful of great one-liners. Together, they provide us with some tender moments of affection and even some sly black humor. Joe Anderson also gets to have some fun as the deputy who may or may not be loosing his mind. He ends up getting the best line of the film, “Welcome to Ogden Marsh! The friendliest place on earth!”
The Crazies doesn’t attempt to break any new ground and instead retreats to familiar territory to scare us. It applies the same old jump scares and despite my dislike for this technique, a few actually end up working. The premise of a small town gone to Hell has been done countless times before and Eisner really does nothing to build upon it. There are a number of chilling scenes; the standout is the group trying to hide from an army helicopter that wishes to wipe them off the face of the earth. They hide in an abandoned car wash that just so happens to be the hiding place of a handful of snarling “crazies.” The scene ends in a shockingly sadistic death that will not settle well in the pit of your stomach. The Crazies doesn’t shy away from B-movie premise and it is aware that the idea is a bit outlandish. Eisner does manage to pepper in a little fun in all the solemnity (both a certain nursery scene and a run-in in the town morgue come to mind) and the fact that the film doesn’t go on longer than it needs to is a major plus. Eisner wastes absolutely no time getting to the action that we came here for and I applaud him for it. Also, for fans of the Romero original, keep an eye out for a seriously awesome cameo from original cast member Lynn Lowry. Scaled back for mainstream audiences (there is no father raping his daughter in this remake), The Crazies is a bare bones horror remake that thankfully doesn’t ask us to switch off our brains to have a spooky good time. You’ll be happy you gave this remake a chance.
The Crazies is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.