Author Archives: Hud

Try before you buy

OPEN HOUSE

3 Stars  2010/18/84m

“Welcome to the neighbourhood.”

Director/Writer: Andrew Paquin / Cast: Rachel Blanchard, Brian Geraghty, Tricia Helfer, Stephen Moyer, Gabriel Olds, Anna Paquin, Larry Sullivan.

Body Count: 8


Some things are a one-time-only experience: colonic irrigation, The Human Centipede, and that X-Treme ride on the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas.

Open House not a remake of that shoddy late-80s death-to-realtors flick with Adrienne Barbeau – is a tour around a house that looks nice, has all the components, handsome attributes but you don’t want to move in. It’s not home.

Andrew Paquin brings sister Anna aboard as well as her on-and-off screen partner Stephen Moyer, both enjoying limelight thanks to the success of True Blood, for this home invasion slasher flick, in which Rachel Blanchard is trying to sell the home she shared with her recently departed husband Josh (divorced, not dead).

Unfortunately for her, murderous couple David and Lila decide to wade in, kill Anna Paquin (who has, like, five minutes on screen), and pretend they’re the new tenants, offing a variety of cleaners, realtors and passers-by for reasons pretty much unknown.

Unknown to Lila, David has actually kept Rachel Blanchard alive and tucked in a hidey-hole in the basement. Why? Lila mutters something about her being ‘his type’. While she is your basic femme fatale, not far removed from Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, harbouring a seemingly sexual fetish for knifing people to death, David is practically mute, clearing up her messes but loses his rag when Rachel Blanchard tries to escape.

Open House is a strange film. It’s entirely shot on the grounds of the house (save for one lone moment of Rachel Blanchard jogging up the street and the sub-minute ending) and palpably builds a decent amount of tension as we wonder how Rachel Blanchard is going to escape. Rachel Blanchard, Rachel Blanchard, Rachel Blanchard. She’s called Alice in the film, but I like calling her Rachel Blanchard.

Anyway, there’s a showdown as Lila finds out David’s kept her alive and then the film just nosedives and ends. No, it doesn’t end, it fizzles out like a damp firework, feebly trying to blast off towards a cool twist but landing about three feet away and setting fire to some trees as it dies on the ground.

Paquin’s ending SUCKS. It unfurls everything and makes Open House look like a Sunday afternoon TV movie from the 90s with a bit of blood lobbed over some set pieces.

Given this, my three star rating is because I didn’t get bored, it’s nice to look at, the cast are nice to look at – especially the disturbingly attractive BSG Cylon Tricia Helfer, who’s a natural loon – and Paquin chooses not to reveal too much about his nutters’ motives or history, although in this case it might have actually benefited proceedings somewhat.

Like I say, have a once over and then let it fade like the wallpaper in a house that just won’t sell.

Blurb-of-interest: Geraghty was in the When A Stranger Calls remake and also Cruel World.

Big Bad Wolf

I wouldn’t normally be so vain as to post a picture of myself – but my buddy Rob’s stag night (bachelor party, if we’re being all proper about it) had a requisite superhero theme. He chose Popeye (!?) and was forced to wear a tutu during paintball (which I SUCK at). I, on the other hand, spent a week-and-a-half growing a pair of big ‘burns, donned some claws and dog-tags to become a sort of low-rent Wolverine. Gotta say, this about the most rugged I ever have, and possibly ever will look.

OK, so this was actually the next morning and I’m hungover, my hair is bad, the shirt stank and you can see my oven of our lovely olive-green kitchen.

So endeth my vain moment and the sideburns were brutally shaved away last night. Sad times.

The Weakest Link

CHAIN LETTER

3 Stars  2010/18/84m

“Pass it on – or die.”

Director: Deon Taylor / Writers: Deon Taylor & Michael J. Pagan / Cast: Nikki Reed, Michael J. Pagan, Keith David, Cody Kasch, Cherilyn Wilson, Michael Bailey Smith, Brad Dourif, Betsy Russell, Matt Cohen, Noah Segan, Eliot Benjamin, Charles Fleischer.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “What about the internet? What about MyTube, YourSpace?”


“Ch-ch-ch-chain letters…” – remember that crummy daytime TV quiz? Kinda wish the same fate befell the contestants that drops into the laps of a group high school kids who randomly receive a chain letter – which is, in fact, an email – that warns of a horrible, bloody death should they fail to send it to a specified number of people. Chain Email doesn’t sound quite so sparky. Chain Mail?

As is so often the case, they’re presently learning about the dangers of technological progression from their intense teacher Dourif, just like the kids in Urban Legend are taking a class in urban legends or the myriad of ‘experiments in fear’ that any number of doomed college kids are dabbling in when they start getting offed.

Chain Letter serves up a series of brutal slayings courtesy of the Chain Man, a mystery killer who hunts them down if they delete or fail to forward the email within 24 hours. Beginning with a girl whose legs are each chained to the back of her parents’ cars. When they pull out of the drive and go in different directions… well, you can guess what happens.

After a couple of the group die gruesomely – really gruesomely – cops Keith David and Betsy Russell (the latter wasted in a thankless role that anyone could’ve phoned emailed in) begin investigating ideas of an anti-technology terrorist group, y’know the kind that targets gormless teenagers to make their point.

‘Cause EVERYONE cares about teenagers. How many times have we heard ‘no harm must come to the precious, adorable teenagers’ etc?

As it goes on, Chain Letter makes less and less sense: is it a slasher flick? Torture porn? Cop-hunts-killer thriller? Seems like no one can really decide but it bears most in common with a Saw-influenced take on the former, with lots of squealing dead teenagers, a smart girl trying to hold it together and solve the mystery before the killer comes after her but, as usual, no parents around when you’d expect them to be – like, when one of their kids dies and the other is likely to go next… further underscoring the fact that the terrorist group really picked a heartwrenching target group that the world clearly cares about losing.

Eventually, it sort of collapses under its own weight. I’m not sure if I stopped listening or zoned into another, less confusing dimension for a couple of moments, but there wasn’t really an explanation provided. There are some flashbacks which are supposed to “reveal” something to us but we couldn’t have known what they were in the first place and it reeks of an idea not thought out or one that quite arrogantly assumed it was good enough to warrant a sequel.

However, this problem is partially forgivable thanks to the neat twist, which loops back around to the beginning but leaves things on a downbeat note and the idea that the whole script was constructed around the twist and other elements were left to…well, the elements. Who cares if the rest of it doesn’t tie up – Lost managed alright?

Blurbs-of-interest: Deon Taylor co-directed 7eventy 5ive; Pagan was in See No Evil; Michael Bailey Smith was in Monster Man; Betsy Russell was in a few of the Saw films and Cheerleader Camp; Matt Cohen was in Boogeyman 2; Charles Fleischer was in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Back Lot Murders; Brad Dourif is the voice of Chucky and was also in Color of Night, Dead Scared, Trauma, Urban Legend and the Halloween remakes; Keith David was later in Smiley.

Ahem… “Hot Shit”

COLD PREY

5 Stars  2006/15/94m

“You’ll catch your death.”

Director: Roar Uthaug / Writers: Thomas Moldestad, Martin Sundland, Roar Uthaug, Jan Eirick Langoen & Magne Lyngner / Cast: Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Viktoria Winge, Rune Melby.

Body Count: 5


Hands up in da air for a Final Girl Filmclub entry.

Fans of Friday the 13th have long wanted an episode set in the snow. To date, Cold Prey is the closest any of us are going to get. And I say this as a long time Jason advocate… Cold Prey would probably still be better.

Seems as if in the wake of the Scream generation, European slasher films are where it’s at. Them toyed with the concept of uninvited guests long before The Strangers; Haute Tension lived up to its name; and Norwegian export Cold Prey not only packs in more tension than its French counterpart but unfolds as possibly the best slasher film in a long, long time. Combined with its equally well-crafted sequel, this is one franchise to be reckoned with. Although reports of the yet-to-be-released-internationally prequel, Cold Prey III, paint a picture of inability to leave well enough alone. Apparently, it sucks.

EDIT: I’ve since seen it, it doesn’t suck after all.

Never mind, it can’t change the fact that Cold Prey is a sensationally well made film, constructed out of a thousand cliches but using them wisely rather than retreading old ground and falling into a pit of topless babes going off to check on weird noises and dialogue no deeper than “oh my God, Todd looks soooooo hot!” Beautifying its simple story with a good eye for what looks scary and an evident lack of spoon-feeding the audience, it perfectly avoids the kind of executive meddling that has plagued way too many bigger budget American releases of the test-audience era.

Five young friends – horndogs Mikal and Ingunn, cutesy couple Eirik and Jannicke, and singleton Morten Tobias – drive out to a desolate frozen landscape for a day of snowboarding, which is soon cut short when Morten Tobias breaks his leg and they end up seeking shelter in a long-abandoned ski-lodge.

They bed in, stoke up a fire and the generator, get loaded on booze and get wasted by the hulking pick-axe toting psycho who resides there.

Cold Prey adopts the kind of slow burn approach often preferred in European horror. Little horrific happens for the first half, we simply spend time with the group, who have a few unspoken issues between them, most notably, sweet natured dork Morten Tobias’ unrequited love for Jannicke. The debut murder, some 40 minutes in, is set up just like something out of a Jason movie and remains undiscovered until the next morning, after Eirik opts to trek back to the car, leaving the other three alone at Hotel Creepshow.

Meanwhile, Jannicke and Mikal come across a room filled with ‘abandoned’ ski apparel, jewellery and keys, echoing that creepy cabin scene in Wrong Turn. Spooked, they decide to actively look for their friend who hasn’t been seen all morning and when they realise the extent of their dilemma they barricade themselves in a room until Eirik returns. Of course, we already know he’s been incapacitated by the nutter, who looks like he’s just hiked in from Lapland. Maybe he has. Maybe he’s Santa and they’ve all been bad.

The Friday-meets-Shredder outlay is soon cranked into overdrive as attempts to raise help are repeatedly thwarted by the killer until only Jannicke is left to battle him, culminating in a scene reminiscent of something I saw in Hostel of all things, but used to better edge-of-your-seat effect here. Despite the formula, the fact it comes from foreign shores leaves a gap in your expectation – the first time I saw the film I found it positively nerve-shredding.

All in all, while there’s not much to say about clever plotting elements in this otherwise standard slasher flick, Cold Prey undoubtedly benefits from believable and – gasp! – likeable characters, none of whom ‘have it coming to them’, their complicated personal motivations and the unrelenting cloud of bleakness that hangs over proceedings, ever threatening to shower things in sticky blood.

Director Uthaug’s vision was that the true horror was found in the helplessness of the situation and the killer was just a conduit for converting the underlying brood to a more accessible legion of terror. It works.

The byproduct of this is that we don’t really know what drives the killer. It’s hinted at and even shown in brief flashbacks towards the end but it makes little sense. It’s left up to you to decide rather than rammed down your throat.

Low-concept, high-art stalk n’ slash with a fond recollection of what actually made the hey-day films so good. Impressively, all cast members were brought back for roles in the 2008 sequel, which I frankly didn’t have time to fawn over so will follow some time soon.

To see how Cold Prey fared when pitted against similarly-named band Coldplay, go here.

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