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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cold Prey II (2008) Horror Slasher

Cold Prey II (2008) - Fritt vilt II in Norwegian this thrilling slasher film continues mere hours after the last film ended. The original Cold Prey  was surprisingly well done but seeing the history of sequels I have to say I feared the worst going into the second film. The original with its killer creation story built into it was well directed by Roar Uthaug and acted by the cast with lead Ingrid Bolso Berdal a real stand out, the action was tense and the situations presented were not way out there. When it comes to stalker /killer movies they can quickly go from good to bad with small script choices and the fear is always that in the pursuit of a few dollars suddenly your killer has some kind of supernatural powers and can't be killed. Then before you know it is its "Friday the 13th", parts 3 and on, and he is killing in outer space.
 Mats Stenberg in his directing debut, and from the looks of it his only project ever picks up shortly after the first film ended. Of course we don't know that yet instead we meet the cast of people who will be the hunted at the new location, a hospital. We have Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik) and Ole (Kim Wifladt) he a search and rescue technician and she a doctor at the hospital in Stehotinn. They are in the midst of a sort of breakup, but not where she is thinking of taking a job further away and he is not committal about joining her. None of this will matter soon though, as Ole while driving out on his job almost hits Jannicke our sole survivor from Cold Prey. This is how we know it is not long after the events of the first film. She is in tough shape with exposure related problems and is brought back to the hospital to be cared for by Camilla. When the bodies of the other victims are brought into the hospitals morgue, and the body of the killer from the first film you can guess what happens next.
This second film directed by
  The film makes a leap,  partially reasonable and somewhat ridiculous at the same time to explain the return from the dead of the killer. First there is a reasonable argument that the cold slowed the killers heart so he appeared dead, then the warmth of the morgue allowed him to revive. The second part though involves the back story of the character, it goes that at birth the child was DOA but that amazingly after some time his heart magically jump started itself. This is wrapped in a paper of some kind of syndrome but really it is a lame attempt to create back story while also getting the killer back in action.
  Writer Thomas Moldestad as he did in the first film delivers a script that is tight and tense. If not for the silly rebirth of the killer you could say that this film is damn close to the first in the scenarios that play out. Since the killer does what he does it is, the basic stalk and kill of the first film is on display here. Instead of the abandoned ski lodge we place it in the hospital and instead of skiers we have patients and hospital staff. So what is different? Well the story of Jannicke who at first is pretty helpless as she recovers, but as the film goes on her fight, this time from a place of experience is what drives the film forward. What is great about her isn't that she is some kind of wrecking ball for the killer but more that her will to survive. She encompasses the competent and strong willed survivor we all hope we will be in such an extreme situation. Like Ripley in Alien she is a problem solving, strong woman who will fight back when it is called for. Since seeing "You're Next"  and its character Erin, this is another competent resourceful woman character and I have to say the horror genre needs more of them. Also this film does what a good sequel does it ups the body count a bit, and includes more action than the first. Many of the characters in the film are just fodder for the killer.
  So although the film plays out like a stalker slasher film, the character of Jannicke carries the action and again even though there is not a lot new in this film is entertaining all the way through. We do have the story of the killer though. Not quite willing to make the killer supernatural, Moldestad instead uses the fact that in the original the killer is defeated outside to help bring him back to life. This is Norway and its damn cold in these films. So suggesting that the killer's body temperature could of made his heart slow to the point that it could not be heard is a reasonable attempt. Unfortunately we also get a little back story on the killer, how when he was a baby thta he was stillborn and the doctors could not get him going with CPR. The after they had given up he suddenly jump started his own heart. It is a bit of a stretch and damn close to being ridiculous. Knowing that there is a third film in this series I anticipate the crossing over into camp at the very least.
  So if you want a solid and entertaining film where lots of people are stalked by an overly strong killer, half the time, the characters don't even know there is a killer, then watch Friday the 13th, oh wait no, Cold Prey II which is similar but not the same. You will have to read subtitles but I think the story is strong enough to recommend this film.

Monday, September 2, 2013

You're Next (2011) Horror Home Invasion

You're Next (2011) Seen in theaters RIGHT NOW! (2013) after sitting on the studio shelf for a couple years. This film is a home invasion film with a twist and some scary ass masked worn by the attackers. When a wealthy family comes together for an anniversary party for their parents, the house is attacked by men in masked. The evening of celebration become a fight for survival. Then of course there is a twist...
  The question I had going in was why did this sit on the shelf for a couple years? Sure there were a couple of home invasion films made before this one was finished. You're next did well on the festival circuit and probably have made money even if release in 2011. "The Strangers" and the remake of "The Last House on the Left"  the first a random attack with a dark ending and also the use of masks, the latter a random attack, hard core revenge film. The influence of these films getting big press and advertising budgets may have influenced Lionsgate's decision to not release right away. Who knows if it made a difference, it is true that there is a lot of buzz around the film. Director Adam Wingard has done his part in promoting the film as the  release date drew near. He knows the horror community is a group that pays attentions and pay tribute to the film makers, writers and actors who interact with them. So there has been a good deal of interaction and thus some really positive blogs for the film.
 The film itself written by Simon Barrett who did the wonderful and surprising "Dead Birds" gives us a well structured script with some surprises humor along with the horror. You're Next is a solid entry in the home invasion sub-genre with an solid story and a great lead in final girl Erin (Sharni Vinson). Vinson a competent Australian actress really takes command of the role, the new girlfriend of Crispian (AJ Bowen). She is at the party to meet the family and when the shit starts going down she is the one who takes charge. So often in these films the women are reduced to babbling, fearful victims who are stalked and killed without a fight. Here though the film takes a different approach with a women who knows how to defend herself and is not to be taken lightly. It is a refreshing approach that I really appreciated.
  Sometimes though the structuring of scripts can be done too well. For someone like me who has done a lot of skill building in screenwriting the there are some foreshadowing bits that gave the largest twists of the film away. I doubt the average viewer though picked up on it on a conscious level but for me there were a couple things that gave too much away. While the opening was classic horror with a college professor sleeping with one of his students. Her realization as he is poking her that her choice was probably a poor life path, was great. The sound horror tropes of someone is out there is well executed and the demise of the professor is good too. This is important to the later plot so not only does it establish that the killers are scary and brutal but as all good scenes it serves another purpose, to make cover for the home invasion of our main family. Since there are more than one attack it will be a crime wave instead of a targeted attack on just one family.
  The establishment of the dynamics of the main family is done well, a wealthy couple Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) inviting the kids to the country place for a celebration of their 35th anniversary. Now this alone was a bit of a put off, these two actors are way to young to have been married for 35 years. I get that they are playing older but damn they just look too good for the idea to play. It could be that since they married young they are well into their marriage but it seemed a bit of a stretch for me. It could happen mathematically if Crampton had her first child at 18, of course Moran would be younger than that. I found myself just letting go of the idea, suspending disbelief consciously and letting the film not bother me so much. Besides you have great acting with Crampton playing Aubrey the mentally fragile Mother. She is great although her role is short. A veteran  actress who appeared in such films as The Re-Animator, Chopping Mall, From Beyond, and The Sisterhood she is up to the task and looking as beautiful as ever.
  The sons and spouses arrive to fill out the cast, Crispian and Erin, youngest son Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and Zee (Wendy Glenn), Oldest son Drake (Joe Swanberg) and wife Kelly (Margaret Laney) oh and lets not forget daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) who has the most comical death scene I have seen in a while. Her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) fills out the victims who will be hunted by  out three killers Lamb Mask (L.C. Holt), Tiger Mask (Simon Barrett) and Fox Mask (Lane Hughes).
  The film as you expect is the three masked players attacking and killing the family members. An astute viewer will know something is afoul early in the film by listening to the dialog of the cast when the first attack happens in front of everyone at the dinner table. I at that point knew the main twist which was sad because we were only 15 minutes into the film. When a second event happens later and the character that leaves the scene is not followed in the film in any way I had the second part of the twist and was a bit disappointed in myself for not watching the film like normal movie goers.
Even with my personal disappointments there is a lot to like about this film.  The lead Erin is a survivor and takes charge right away. This is the kind of situation she is most prepared for and she masters her surroundings right from the start. So many times in horror films the motivation for the main character is to overcome a flaw in her/his personality to overcome the situation. This new better takes is saying what if the killers didn't know that one of their supposed victims is way more equipped to handle them then they are to handle her? Erin moves immediately into action when the first kill takes place. She looks for weapons assesses the situation and determines the safest place to be. She is up to the task of handling the situation even though it is deadly and extreme. While the others in the group are being picked off she is fighting back.
  I loved that in this film we know more than our lead, while she plays at dealing with the external threat we get to see the threat on the inside that she does not know about. It makes for some great scenes where we know she is in danger but she has no idea.  All the way to the end when our final girl has the confrontation with the last threat she is a powerhouse who through strength and perseverance ends up with the upper hand.
  So I would recommend this film, it is a competent and enjoyable horror film with a strong female lead. Some of the violence is over the top in a good way, the plot although a bit transparent to me will be a pleasure for many with twist and turns that create tension. In the end you may be surprised and should come away with the film with a feeling that you were entertained and the cost was money well spent.