6WH: Week 5: The Quasi-French Connection

Coming down the homestretch of the Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon (See Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4), we've got yet another trio of films with the usual comedic shorts and spooky trailers. I haven't had much in the way of foreign horror films in the marathon so far, and to be honest, there's only 1 (French) horror film in this entry... but one of the films is directed by a Frenchman and the other is connected to that film. We shall start with the the latter...
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror IV: Bart Simpson's Dracula
  • The Last House on the Left (trailer)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (trailer)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977): One of Wes Craven's earlier efforts, this movie has its moments, but is ultimately a bit uneven. It's about a typical American family whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere only to be attacked by a vicious group of cannibals. It's a bit cliched, even for its time, but Craven does a reasonable job executing the story, especially when you consider that he was working on an extremely limited budget. The film's pacing is a bit off, but the centerpiece of the film is a harrowing second act, when things suddenly go from bad to much, much worse. The last act went on a bit too long and then ended a bit too suddenly (though, looking back, it seems to be a rather satisfying ending). The acting is about what you'd expect from a low-budget horror film of the era, but there are a few standouts and a couple of great casting calls (for instance, Michael Berryman is well cast as one of the cannibals, named Pluto). Visually, Craven was still growing, but he managed to pull a lot out of the landscape, and despite the low budget, most of the film is well shot. The success of the film is mostly due to his efforts, and it's not a surprise that this movie has developed a strong cult following. **1/2

    Four eyes running down a hill

  • The Notebook (fake trailer)
  • Them (trailer)
  • High Tension (trailer)
  • Inside: This French film starts off with a car accident where a pregnant photographer named Sarah loses her boyfriend. Month's later, it's Christmas Eve, and Sarah will be going to the hospital the next morning to have labor induced. As she grieves her dead boyfriend, a stranger shows up at her house and starts to wreak havoc. I actually watched this movie a long time ago, but figured I'd include it because it's somewhat obscure but it's been garnering great reviews from a lot of horror fans. I will admit that I became very involved in this movie and that it is extremely well made, but the story kinda derails at one point and it totally ruined the movie for me. One problem I had was that a large part of the emotional response I had to the film is simply because they made the main character a pregnant woman. That fact is integral to the story, but it's also a cheap shot. If you put a pregnant woman in danger, of course I'm going to be affected by it. I don't care how well made the movie is, it's going to be an emotional experience simply because a pregnant woman is in danger. Movies, especially horror movies, need to be somewhat manipulative. But the best movies are able to be manipulative in a much more subtle way. Inside was manipulative in a very overt, look at me, I'm torturing a pregnant woman sort of way. As a genre, Horror is supposed to confront uncomfortable subjects, and this is certainly uncomfortable, but this film went a bit too far for me. In general, this is probably a subject that deserves a more thorough look. Anyway, this film reminded me of another French horror film (that I watched during last year's 6WH), High Tension. Both movies are exceptionally well made, but undone and held from greatness by a fatal flaw. In High Tension, it was the twist ending. In Inside, it's the cheap shot of a premise mixed with some incredibly stupid (but all too common in horror) character decisions (in particular the cops in the film start out great, but after demonstrating that they're pretty smart, they immediatly start doing incredibly stupid things). However, my griping aside, this film is very well made. And though it's a cheap shot, the story is quite involving. The tension is high and it's one of the goriest movies I've seen recently. There's even a twist towards the end that works pretty well. It's definitely worth watching for fans of the genre, but the cheap shot of a premise still bothers me. **1/2
  • Horror Friends
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) (trailer)
  • Hostel (trailer)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (2006): This remake of Wes Craven's 1977 film reviewed above was directed by Alexandre Aja, who was also the director of the aforementioned High Tension (and thus the quasi-French connection of all this week's films is revealed). In general, this film succeeds and fails in pretty much the same places as the original. Great photagraphy, a bit cliched, an intense second act, and somewhat uneven pacing. Aja was working with a somewhat higher budget, so the film is more slickly produced than the original, and it looks great. He also managed to ratchet the tension of the second act even higher than the original, being more gorey and disturbing (interestingly, this is partly achieved by endangering a baby, something I found distasteful in the same way as Inside, though I have to admit that this was an effective technique here). Unfortunately, some of the additions and changes are a bit cliched in themselves. For instance, instead of there being just this crazy family of cannibals, they're actually mutant cannibals caused by the government's nuclear bomb testing. This felt a bit unneccessary, and despite having more background on the villains of the film, I found that I connected with them less. They seemed to become a bit more unreal, which made them ess scary. Again, while Aja does his best to distinguish this film from the original, it doesn't really add much to the experience. On the other hand, I did enjoy this film a lot more than I expected. **1/2

    There are some eyes on this hill

And there you have it. Only 1 week left (actually, it's almost two weeks until Halloween, so there'll probably be two, maybe even three more entries).