Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980)

It's generally a good rule of thumb to not adapt novels literally when making movie adaptations, because they're two very different mediums. For example, if you translate every single line of dialogue from a simple 180-page book to the screen, you end with a three hour long movie! The example in question today is Why Didn't They Ask Evans, an adaptation of an Agatha Christie book...

Bobby Jones, a young man in the Welsh town of Marchbolt, comes across a near-dead man, who utters cryptic last words to Bobby-'Why didn't they ask Evans?'. Bobby believes the man's death to be an accident, but events after the inquest make him suspicious, such as a replaced photo. Originally, a photo of a beautiful woman was in the dead man's pocket, but after Bobby left watching the body to another man-Roger Bassington-Ffrench, the photo was replaced by one of a woman named Amelia Cayman, who, along with her husband, shows up at the dead man's inquest, claiming he's her brother. Bobby, and his friend Lady Frances 'Frankie' Derwent realize the Caymans are lying, especially after an attempt on Bobby's life after he send them a letter detailing the dead man's last words. The two sleuths start investigating Roger Bassington-Ffrench, and soon uncover a large conspiracy...

This is a largely faithful adaptation of the book, although it rearranges certain lines of dialogue, and changes certain conversations up to include bits of the prose that weren't verbalized by the characters. The finale is also altered, as a letter in the book is an in-person moment. This is a good decision, as it fits better with the TV format than the book's version of the scene would. As an adaptation, this is quite good, but there are two problems dragging it down. The first being that the book's plot itself has serious problems, which carry over, and the second...THE RUNNING TIME!

Why Didn't They Ask Evans is three hours long, and it really, really doesn't need to be!
There are numerous scenes that could have easily been trimmed. And I'm not even talking about scenes with dialogue! There are a lot of scenes where the camera is just aimlessly surveying its surroundings, or characters are taking forever in walking/sneaking around! Now these particular scenes aren't badly paced on their own, but as part of a bloated three hour monstrosity, they'll make you yell at the screen!

Onto the plot. It has some pretty sizeable issues! The first is that the two leads keep going after their presumed suspect, and never go to the obvious ones! Sure, they investigate the character Dr. Nicholson, eventually, but they don't investigate the Caymans until well past the 90 minute mark! The Cayman's are heavily tied into this case, as it's their photo in the dead man's jacket, they lied about his identity at the inquest, and tried to murder Bobby. Despite knowing all of this, Bobby and Frankie seem determined to believe Roger Bassington-Ffrench is the culprit, even though he's innocent in every way!...Well, except in the respect that he turns out to actually be guilty, but as far as the two sleuths knew,  there was extremely little, if anything, tying him to the murder. Then there's the John Savage part of the case, which they also should've been investigating way sooner than they actually did!

The mystery here isn't that great (which is partially why I had no compunction with spoiling Roger's role as a bad guy. That and the monstrous running time.). It's good when the characters finally get around to learning something (Frankie's visit to her lawyer, for example), but the majority of plot is them dicking around at the Bassington-Ffrench's learning nothing but red herrings!

One final writing problem is a small one, and not even all that noticeable in this adaptation, as it's a movie, but it irks me all the same-The name Bassington-Ffrench! Yes, it really has two F's! That's Fucking Fucked!

The main two characters are amusing, even if they do wear out their welcome a tad in the 185 minute running time.

Other characters are not so lucky. After the death of 'a certain character', Sylvia Bassington-Ffrench drops out of the movie entirely! There's an occasional mention to her, and an offhand reference to an offscreen character resolution, but that's it.

Two particular minor characters have their roles expanded on from the book, which is good for the respective reasons. The first character in question is played by John Gielgud, even though he only has barely over two scenes in the book. I've no idea why they hired such a big name actor for so small a part, as it's not much even when you take his extra scenes into account. The other character is Dr. George Arbuthnot, who has one scene in the book, and then I'm pretty sure never appears again, while he has multiple scenes in the movie. This is good, as it gives the character more to do that be a plot convenience in one scene then scoot off, never to be heard from again.

The acting in Why Didn't They Ask Evans is all good, although Connie Booth never attempts an American accent despite that being her character's nationality. Still, better that than what the actor playing the Canadian Nicholson does! He's attempting a Canadian accent, and failing so much it seems like he's just not trying! Also, no-one in the Welsh town of Marchbolt has a Welsh accent! The actors are all British!

This obviously isn't an effects feature, so there's little to talk about in that regard-Just two pretty big mistakes. The first is when a 'certain character' has seemingly shot themself in the head, and there's zero blood or brain splattered all over his desk, or the walls, or anywhere! The second problem is the lack of fog in the movie's opening scene. This is important in the book as it's the whole reason everyone believed the dead man accidentally fell off the cliff, as he couldn't see his way around the area! If he could clearly see where he was going, then either this case is obviously murder or suicide, or the guy was incredibly stupid!

As I said, this was originally a miniseries, which is partly the reason behind the absurd length (the other reason being their faithfully adapting the novel), and it was divided into either six or three episodes. For its DVD release, it was spliced into one movie, and the pacing isn't as off as you'd think due to this decision, but the editing in those five spots is! Every time an 'episode' is ending, it cuts to the next scene so abruptly you'll get whiplash! Granted, it's a better trade off than hearing the happy theme each time after a menacing cliffhanger ending, such as the main character potentially dying of Morphia poisoning!

Finally, the scoring. It's ok, but repetitive, and said main theme is merely ok to me. Still, I mildly dig the storybook opening credits!

To finish, I don't recommend this movie, due wholly to its length. Still, it's a better watch than the Miss Marple TV episode that adapted Why Didn't They Ask Evans, which, as that dreadful series was wont to do, changed almost everything about the plot, making it baffling why they decided to adapt the book in the first place, especially as it has nothing to do with Miss Marple! And there's that version of The Sittaford Mystery that changed the killer, his motive, and I think the victim too! And there's when they adapted The Pale Horse and...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lover Come Back (1961)

Lover Come Back, Doris Day and Rock Hudson's second outing together, is the second film I've seen where he's seducing her character under false pretenses. That's...disturbing!...

Madison ad executive Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) is stuck in a battle with Carol Templeton (Doris Day), a rival from another company. She's trying to ruin his career, and even turns a ladyfriend of Webster's against him, but he wins back her favour by starring her as the lead in a series of advertisements of a mystery product known as Vip. Jerry immediately shelves the commercials, having no desire to ever air them. Unfortunately his boss and friend Peter Ramsay unwittingly allows the ads into the public. After being away from the world on a camping trip for a short time, Pete and Jerry come back to find that Vip is in high demand, with everyone eager to know what this product is, and dozens of companies wanting to get it on it.

Jerry hires the misanthropic Dr. Linus Tyler to create Vip, and sets out to distract Carol, who's intent on finding out about Vip and taking its account for herself.  While Dr. Tyler is in a rush to create whatever Vip may be, Jerry is taking his time in seducing Carol, pretending to be Tyler...

Lover Come Back is a comedy, but don't believe any source that calls this movie a romance, as the only thing close is the main character's deception. More on the story below.

The acting is all good. Doris Day is definitely a delight (I have a thesaurus in my hands and I have no intention of stopping), but this is Rock Hudson's movie for sure. My Doris Day four pack should be retitled The Rock Hudson four pack (which coincidentally, is exactly what most women (and undoubtedly plenty of men too) envision on his chest). Tony Randall is hilarious, from his first scene, to his last! I need to watch more films with this guy! There's also Ann B. Davis (Alice the maid, from...that show), who's pretty funny, but unfortunately she's only in the film for a bare minimum of scenes.

Lover Come Back's writing is solid, and it's very funny, and there are many hilarious lines and exchanges!
Pete: "Well you should feel sorry for me. You don't know what a handicap it is to be born rich!"- Jerry: "Some handicap!"- Pete: "Don't sneer. Wealthy people are hated and resented! Look what's written on the Statue of Liberty. Does it say 'Send me your rich'? No, it says 'Send me your poor'. We're not even welcome in our own country! It's all very well for you to laugh, you're one of the lucky ones, you grew up in the slums!"- Jerry: "That's lucky?"- : "Of course it is, you had everything going for you. Poverty. Squalor. There was only one way for you to go-Up. But I started at the top. I've done it the hard way!"
Carol "All I know is Jerry Webster's trying to land it, but we're going to beat him to it."-Millie: "Are you sure you wanna tangle with him again? He fights rough."-Carol: "Then we'll fight rough. This is war, Millie!"-Millie: "That means liquor, wild parties, getting sponsored girls, right?"-Carol: "Right!"-Millie: "Good. I'd like to volunteer for frontline duty."
Pete: "We've sold a product that doesn't exist! We have ruined the great agency of Ramsey's."-Jerry: "Relax, Pete."- Pete: "Dad will kill me!"-Jerry: "Pete, your dad's dead and gone."-"No he isn't, he's around someplace. He wouldn't go away and leave this business to someone like me!"

Lover Come Back is unfortunately not without problems. Once the 'romance' part of the film starts, the films slows down a lot. Not only does the main plot come to a complete standstill, but the likeable Jerry Webster becomes a pretty unlikeable sack of crap due to his actions-Actions that don't even make much sense! He could have just skipped the whole rigmarole, and (either as himself, or pretending to be Dr. Tyler) told her to go away. That way, we wouldn't lose an entertaining comedy, and he wouldn't go to jail for committing serious fraud.

The film's ending is odd and rushed. It seems like production was wrapping up, but the script wasn't yet over, so they hastily wrote the ending on a tissue on a Ritz dinner table.

There are also some pretty irksome qualities about the film's final act. As far as this ending is concerned, if you and the woman who despises you for grievously deceiving to her get drunk and bang, then you're both a-ok fine, as long as you were married in the interval. Well that just makes everything ok, doesn't it!...Yeah, this is painfully dated, almost to a degree of misogyny, and possibly misandry too. Neither party wanted to knock boots, and especially not get married! Granted, the moment this happens, Jerry is instantly in love with Carol, which is pretty out-of-nowhere, as is her eventual reciprocation.

So, to finish, this is a fine comedy, albeit one with serious issues. I also haven't the slightest idea why it's called Lover Come Back. Still, I recommend it to Doris Day and Rock Hudson fans...

Jam (2000)

Some comedies are lighthearted, some are more risque, while others are more ribald. Then there are those that are dark. Black comedies can come in various forms, and the one I'll be looking at today, 2000's Chris Morris helmed sketch show Jam, is so dark and morbid that come consider it to be just as much horror as it is comedy...

Jam has a ghoulish sense of humour, will make you laugh out loud sometimes, and then you'll probably feel creeped out at yourself for having done so...Unless you're like me, in which case you would've just laughed and thought nothing more.

The sketches include such ideas and plots as a man trying to commit suicide by jumping off a first floor balcony forty times rather than just jump off a fortieth floor in case he decided to change his mind part-way through suicide, or one where a man in a noose ties it to his car and sets it off, so it'll decapitate him, but it gets in a car wreck, leaving him completely uninjured. One of my favourite sketches is the one where a man needs to dispose of a body, and the specialist he hires is a six-year old girl.

Some of the sketches in Jam are gross, others have a horrific bent to them, while some are just plain old surreal, like a doctor who consults his patients over the phone even though they're in his office, and one about a faulty television that pours out lizards.

Some have some very questionable moments such as the Gush sketch, which pointlessly shows very sexually explicit material (albeit using prosthetics, but you wouldn't necessarily notice). Now, my issue with this sketch isn't so much that it shows this explicit stuff, but rather that it shows so little of it, making it pointless to try and push this envelope in the first place-They might as well have shown nothing.

Not all the humour in Jam works. Some are unfunny, and some seem to lack a punchline, like the one with the jilted boyfriend (I guess) who goes outside his girlfriends window and kills himself. There's no joke, he just kills himself offscreen, the woman shrieks, sketch over.

There's one unfunny sketch involving a man in a psychiatrist waiting room asking a receptionist if she's seen a dove a few times. Now with this sketch I'm willing to be a tad lenient on, on the chance that I just didn't get it. But then again, I've analyzed it all over, and also struggled to get through the follow-up sketches, so maybe it's just plum not funny.

Worse still, not only do the last two episodes seem to have the greater volume of not-so-good sketches, but the very last one of the whole series is crap! What rotten luck!

The acting is good althroughout. There are extras, and sometimes bit players, but for the most part, the same six actors are Chris Morris, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, David Cann, Amelia Bullmore, and Julia Davis, and they all do well. If you've seen The IT Crowd, then you're probably expecting Chris Morris (Denholm) to be an absolute madman here, but surprisingly enough, his role in the regular sitcom is far more angrily psychotic than anything in Jam.

Music is very important to Jam. The scoring is usually ambient tunes, sometimes twisted (like the Backwards Music Station, but better-crafted), sometimes not, always heavily emphasized. Unfortunately it sometimes drowns out the soft dialogue in some scenes. This is further worsened by the lip-syncing, I would imagine. Apparently, in numerous sketches, the actors have been dubbed with their roles from the radio predecessor to Jam, purportedly to add the show off and unsettling feel, but all it accomplishes is making the actors hard to hear some of the time.

Despite its problems, and sometimes unfunny sketches, Jam is entertaining, and is actually a rather mature show that actually has wit behind its jokes and sketches, rather than just parading a bunch of gross stuff around for its running time and claiming to be disturbing despite having no effort put behind it (an example of that being Slaughtered Vomit Dolls, which is a boring fetish 'horror' film made by a compulsively fibbing dumbass, who, among other things, can't make movies). I recommend Jam, but only if you know what you're getting into. If you're not interested at all in questionable and morbid black comedy, then you likely won't find much enjoyment out of this.

What's really surprising is that I don't write comedies like this! I used to write incredibly, horrifically dark stories, and I usually write comedies, yet they're normal ones, despite my morbid imagination...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004)

So many movies that try and be so bad they're good fail, as they tend to be really forced, and the makers don't understand why movies such as those of Ed Wood are so amusing in the first place. Short-lived British TV series Garth Marenghi's Darkplace does, however...

Back in the '80's, famed horror writer Garth Marenghi wrote, directed, and starred in a TV show called Darkplace. Due to its 'radical' nature, the BBC refused to air the show, and it was locked away. Now, in the wake of a television drought, the channel has 'come crawling back', with Marenghi pleased to be finally bringing his magnum opus creation to TV screens everywhere...

In Darkplace Hospital, Dr. Rick Dagless M.D is always at the rough end of the pool, frequently having to stop various supernatural occurrences from tearing the hospital apart...

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a show-within-a-show,which both pokes fun at the low-quality sci-fi horror fare of period British television, while also paying it homage in a way. As I'm an Australian, I've seen a few of these types of shows, and I can certainly attest to Darkplace both capturing and mocking their feel perfectly!

The humour in this series has multiple aspects. For a start, we've got a series of absolutely absurd plots, including PMS 'tellykinesis', gates to hell, human-to-ape contagions, eerie and sinister Scotsman mist, among others. The effects are intentionally bad, as is the continuity, acting, and editing. For those intentional so-bad-it's-good movies, they always fail when deliberately having terrible effects, yet Darkplace succeeds. Maybe it's because of just how far this show goes in how many of its aspects are shoddy, and in how straight it plays everything. And of course, it helps that the show is friggin' hilarious!

There are numerous riotous lines of dialogue in this series. "I kept thinking about Larry, and how inconvenient his blowing up had been.".
Liz: "Do you really buy this portal to hell deal?"-Dagless: "I wouldn't say I'm buying it, Liz. Let's just say I'm window shopping, and right now there's a half-price sale on weird!".
Garth Marenghi: "Thankfully, when I impregnated my wife Pam, she dutifully gave birth to twins-A huge relief. Though for years, I couldn't shake off the fear that one of them might eat the other. Luckily they didn't, which I put down to good parenting."

The characters are great fun, from the melodramatic Rick Dagless, the suave and quick-tempered Julien Sanchez, the subservient and psychic Liz Asher, and the hard-liner head-of-staff Thornton Reed. The real world counterparts (who show up in the prologues, and interview segments) are just as hilarious. The titular writer is sexist and up himself, while Dean Lerner is a sleaze, and possible murderer.

The acting, deliberately hammy and/or terrible, is a riot! Matthew Holness, Alice Lowe, Matt Berry, and Richard Ayoyade all do great jobs. Ayoyade is definitely the best, given the stark difference between his two characters Thornton Reed and Dean Lerner.

The scoring is very effective, both in creating a mood of horror, and of incompetent filmmaking. It's frequently over-the-top, very synthesised in the way that only the 80's could be, and glitches out sometimes, or is just cut off way too abruptly, with all these instances perfectly lending to the feel the show is trying to cultivate. The main theme is definitely awesome! It's kinda like the theme to Dario Argento's Inferno, but not as ridiculously over-the-top.

From flying killer plates with visible strings, to easily visible boards in actors' shirts when they get stabbed, or the drawn out slow motion, the effects in Darkplace are always a laugh riot! What I especially like is the modelwork for the exterior shots of Darkplace Hospital.

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a hysterically funny horror-comedy, and it's a shame it only lasted for six episodes!...Granted, six episodes constitutes a healthy lifespan in terms of British television. After all, the monster hits of Fawlty Towers, and The Young Ones only went for twelve episodes, respectively, while Dad's Army, and George and Mildred (to my American readers, it's the original Ropers, except actually funny and popular) were oddities in that they actually surpassed 38 episodes! Darkplace's 'place in history is assured', and its unique style and humour won't be forgotten any time soon...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Isle of the Dead (1945)

Ah, it's been a while since I've seen a Boris Karloff film!...Well if you wanna get technical about it, it's been ten hours, but prior to The Raven, I haven't seen a Karloff film in some time. Too long! That's something I must rectify!

Tonight I'll be looking at Val Lewton's 1945 drama/'horror' Isle of the Dead...

In 1912 era Greece, during the Balkan wars, an American journalist is doing a piece, and talking with a tough-as-nails military general Nikolas Pherides (Boris Karloff). The two sail to a nearby island to pay respects to Pherides' dead wife, but soon realize that septicemic plague has struck the island. The general quarantines the island, firmly demanding that no-one may leave. Only one person is allowed to come to the island-A doctor.

With the doctor's death a short time later, the general's faith in rationality is shaken, and after being influenced by Kyra, a superstitious old woman, he takes to believing the old tales he once derided. He soon starts to think Thea, a kind young woman, is a malignant spirit, and to get rid of the plague, he must destroy her...

For the first two acts, Isle of the Dead is a very good film! For a start, it's very well-directed, and has great imagery. Its setup is good, and not only is Boris Karloff's character well-rounded, but all the other characters are too, even ones who die at the 30 minute point! It's one thing for a film from this time period to have one three-dimensional character, but for its whole cast to be is damn impressive!

The acting in this movie is very good, with the obvious standout being Boris KARLOFF, who's fantastic in what's basically a straight role for him. There's a very good reason why the man's a horror icon, and it's not just because he played a lot of monsters.

Unfortunately, here's when we start to get to the bad. The final twenty minutes of Isle of the Dead are badly paced, and the story completely goes off the rails, completely botching two character arcs, capping it off with the 1940's equivalent of an ADR rush job doing some 'moral' closing line, as the Hays Code was wont to do. At least the Code ensured that the psycho bitch Kyra dies horribly!

The first character to have their arc botched is Miss St. Aubyn. She's cataleptic-Wont to fall into deep trances which seem like death. She's been afraid of this her whole life, and being buried alive is a chilling possible reality for her. However, she eventually loses her fear, comes to terms with death, and is at peace for a long while, until she dies of sickness, and the remaining characters, knowing of her condition, even do the requisite tests to make sure she's really dead...But it turns out she's not dead, and is entombed alive! Well fuck you, movie! Worse still, she goes pretty trident-crazy afterwards, a role I was sure Boris freakin' Karloff would play!

Now, while I am glad that Karloff's character didn't go crazy and kill-crazy (unlike what the poster would have you believe), as he was a likeable character, and such a downward spiral would be pretty depressing, I also feel that's what should have happened, as 1, that's what was being set up, and 2, this is apparently a horror film after all, so something horrific has got to happen at some point.

One last thing to note is this film's genre-Despite what everything seems to class it as, it's not a horror film. For the majority of its running time, it's more of a drama, and only in the last five minutes does anything even remotely horrific happen. The film has a sombre tone of unease, and accepting death, but it's never ghastly.

Isle of the Dead is a very flawed movie, but it also has some very good qualities, so I do recommend it, especially for the great performance from the fantastic Karloff the Uncanny!...

The Raven (1963)

Horror icon Boris Karloff has an interesting history with Edgar Allen Poe adaptations of famous poem The Raven. He was in the 1935 film adaptation (co-starring with horror legend Bela Lugosi), which had nothing in common with the story (but was related to Poe, so it wasn't an entirely unwarranted title), and he's in the 1963 version (co-starring with other fellow horror legend Vincent Price), which I'll be discussing tonight...

Dr. Erasmus Craven is a simple magician, powerful but content in staying at his secluded home, still despondent over the death of his wife Lenore two years prior. His grieving is soon interrupted by the arrival of a talking raven. He turns it back into its human form-Dr. Bedlo (Peter Lorre), a fellow magician who tells of how he drunkenly challenged cruel sorcerer Professor Scarabus to a duel and lost. He also tells of how he saw Lenore at Scarabus' castle, enthusing Craven to go to the villain's castle and free his lost love's spirit...

Roger Corman's The Raven is a comedy, which may throw some viewers off at first if they were expecting a straight horror film, especially after the solemn and serious opening. The humour in this film definitely works, with many funny, sometimes hilarious, situations and lines ("Magic by gesture of the hands is the most advanced sorcery!").

This story has nothing to do with Poe's poem of the same name, and is not even the same genre. While this is slightly problematic, it's easily overlooked given the film's general good quality, and a couple of positive points-The opening with Vincent Price reciting part of the poem (the man was born to recite Poe!), and the poem's backstory of Lenore lending a great portrait of grief for Price's character. Though of course, that latter point is scuppered by the revelation halfway through the film. Ultimately, The Raven acts as framing for the film, and whether or not it's a good decision to frame The Raven around a Gothic comedy-horror depends entirely on the viewer.

There are numerous great scenes in this movie. An especially great setpiece is the magical duel at the end. It's nearly ten minutes long, and has no dialogue, instead carried along by the actions and performances of Price and Karloff. The special effects are nifty too, even if one does get a little literally cartoony. The matte paintings present look nice, especially Scarabus' gloomy castle! As for the raven that appears here and there (mainly in the film's first act), it's cute and neatly well-trained!

Vincent Price plays against type here, as he's a meek and gentle protagonist, rather than a diabolical cackling villain. His character is very well-written too, making a definite character journey, starting out as one thing, and being another come the film's end.

Boris Karloff is highly amusing when he's pretending to be benevolent, and delightfully evil when his true intentions are out in the open! He manages to be both funny, and intimidating in whatever scenes demand which tone.

Peter Lorre is very amusing as the drunken and cowardly Dr. Bedlo. The rest of the acting is decent. Olive Sturgess and a young Jack Nicholson are both decent, while Hazel Court is pretty funny as Scarabus' evil partner.

The Raven has neat direction and fantastic pacing! The films is so enjoyable that it breezed right by without me realizing it had been 83 minutes! That's one of the best feelings you can get when watching a film, because it means you're really enjoying yourself!...Well, most of the time it does, anyway...

The Raven is a great film, that doesn't mock the classic horror genre with its humour, but rather meshes the two genres together perfectly, having a load of fun and utilizing two of the biggest figures in horror history fantastically!...

Crowhaven Farm (1970)

I've been on a bit of a TV movie horror kick as of late, and with The House That Wouldn't Die proving to be a fantastic sit, I decided to try my luck with 1970's Crowhaven Farm, which I'd read positive things about...Well, it's not awful, at least...

At the will reading of a relation, a man inherits Crowhaven farm, a patch of land in a town near Salem. A mysterious little girl causes him to crash into a tree, killing him instantly, and his relations, married couple Maggie and Ben, inherit the estate. Maggie is instantly repelled by the farm for an unknown gut feeling, but is persuaded to stay by Ben. The couple, who are a bit on the rocks, soon adopt Jennifer, a seemingly kind-hearted ten year old. However, it soon turns out that she's evil-Cathy's Curse evil-and will stop at nothing to take Maggie's soul, because of a witchy deal-with-the-devil gone south back in the 1700's...

Crowhaven Farm is a passable horror film. Things take a bit to get going, but a witchy vision and the ooky prologue help the film's pacing, so it doesn't just set its characters up for 18 minutes without a single scare. As the movie goes on, however, the thin plot starts to become a problem. It's not a drastically underwritten film, but it's still very lacking, made all the worse by the downer ending that not only see fit to depress you, but make you hate all the characters in the movie!

A pretty sizeable problem with this movie is that the timeframe is very rushed, and at one point, you'll be wondering how the hell Maggie's having a baby when she only got the news that she was pregnant seemingly a few days prior, and she's as slim as a board. The birth is said to be premature, but given the skewed timeline, it feels like it was premature by 9 friggin' months!

The characters here are tolerable. They're sometimes likeable, sometimes annoying. Ben is a dickhead at first, but once that first leg of the movie is over, he gets more likeable...Until the finale, anyway! As for Maggie, she's likeable for the majority of the film's runtime, but aside from the crap climax, there's also one scene where she's a total idiot! When walking out at night, she witnesses a black sabbath, including an animal on an altar, and the next day, she goes to investigate the remains of the site. She sees a red wet stain on the altar, and she runs her hand through it! The stupid part comes when she realizes what it is and screams, flailing her hand. What did you think it was, dumbass?! Rasberry jam?!

The film's highlight is definitely Cindy Eilbacher as the requisite evil little girl. She's basically the main villain, and carries the ooky atmosphere well, but the fact that she never loses kinda sours the film to me, as she's a little bitch who you want to see get her comeuppance. That's part of what I meant when I said you'll hate all of Crowhaven Farm's characters come the end. The protagonists all do sudden acts of craven idiocy while the villains get off scot free. It's a pretty frustrating ending!

For a '70's TV movie, Crowhaven Farm has some...uh...icky stuff in it. Think back to that movie Orphan where the evil little girl was really over 30, and only looked like a child. She had...unfulfilled needs. The character of Jenny here does too, but while she's kinda technically a couple hundred years old, she's also kinda technically still ten years old, so EW!

As you can tell from the above paragraph, what the villains are is extremely unexplained, much to the film's detriment! This film would've been at least a bit better had the script fleshed things out a bit more.

The acting here is all decent. There's also John Carradine in a tiny part. It's still a real role, mind you, unlike all those Trojan Carradine movies but barely there all the same.

Overall, this isn't a very good film, and while it may only be 73 minutes long, it's a pretty dull and irksome sit and I don't recommend it...

Doctor Who's 51st Anniversary: Sophie Wilson-...Okay

I don't normally review songs on here, and I certainly wasn't planning on doing so before April the 1st given the jokey post I have planned involving music reviewing, and how it's not something I ever do, but what I have to talk about for the 51st anniversary of classic sci-fi TV show Doctor Who bears discussion.

...Okay is a song by a person named Sophie Wilson, who put together this song last year in honour of Doctor Who's big Five Oh.

This song is not without minor faults. The opening verse is a bit shaky (singing-wise-Also, I mean shaky figuratively, not literally), but not bad, and the song picks up quickly. What we get is a nice tune about the lives and personalities of The Doctor's eleven incarnations, from the point-of-view of a companion. The composition of ...Okay is great, as are the lyrics, with a full detailed verse for each Doctor, almost all painting a fine portrait! I say almost all because the one's for Doctors 9 and 10 are a bit lacking, I imagine due to neither Doctors really being as well-rounded as the rest (9 was pretty unexplored, especially as he only had one season, while 10 was very inconsistent).

Ending on a poignant, and melancholy yet hopeful note, ...Okay is a perfect compliment for a great show, and I hope its well-remembered! Sophie Wilson has created what I think is a fantastic song, and I hope she feels great about it!...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Theatre Fantastique (2014)

Oh joy, up-and-coming young indie filmmaker Ansel Faraj has again been struck by the delusion that he can adapt things! Forgive my anger, but with his Doctor Mabuse films, this schmuck has done serious harm to the franchise! Mabuse films are extremely, absurdly infrequent, so when the first in twenty-four, technically fifty, years are dreadful and unfaithful betrayals to the source material, then you can see that I would be quick to anger and frustration, especially when Faraj's follow-up project, web series Theatre Fantastique, is so bad too!...

The Madness of Roderick Usher

Sickly Roderick Usher is in his gloomy home, awaiting an undertaker to take his deceased sister away...

This is a pretty uneventful short. It's a bad adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, as it doesn't cover all the story's bases, thus leaving the plot both lacking and unexplained. I guess Faraj must have found Christopher Pennock sitting in an armchair in a nightrobe more irresistible than a real plot!

The look and set design of this short are lousy! The only real set is a darkly lit room with a few curtains, while everything else is terrible green screens, and embarrassing photoshop CGI. This is so cheap that the film can't even be bothered to show the sky by shooting the camera at it! Neither is an actual doorway used for a doorway! Jesus, Faraj, I get that you probably only had ten bucks to make this film, but believe me when I say it costs zip to film clouds, and someone walking into a doorway!

Ansel Faraj's obsession with dark green-lit rooms is back again here, no matter how little sense it makes. If there's no light in the room save for a single candelabra, then where the hell is the bathing green light coming from?!

The direction here is meh, while the editing is passable for the most part. For the most part! There's a painfully obvious re-use of a scene from the beginning at the end.

Christopher Pennock is decent here. The guy can be a good actor, even if his overacting does get the better of him sometimes (such as it did badly in Doctor Mabuse: Etiopomar). Elyse Ashton, who I've spoken positively of in the past, is sort-of wasted here. She makes for a decent physical presence, but gets practically zero dialogue. And finally, J.R. Cox is dull. He's an ok actor, but he lacks presence.

Nosferatu: Beyond Death

That title card is made with the airbrush tool on Microsoft Paint! How frakkin' cheap can ya be? Was it seriously too taxing to make a real title card?! My loathing for these shorts aside, I'm at least respectful enough to consider them real films, so Faraj, why don't you actually put some damn effort into your projects!

This movie is basically a seven minute vampire bloodletting fetish video. There's no plot, and there's little-to-no dialogue! Oddly enough, there are a couple of dialogue exchanges, but they're muted out. I suppose that's because the film is striving to evoke a silent film feel for the film. This would make sense if the film wasn't 1, in colour, 2, in HD, and 3, lacking in intertitles!

After the four-and-a-half minute mark, we get actual dialogue, and a scene in black and white (though not in a belated attempt to evoke silent films). What little excuse there is for a plot is next to nothing, and the small smatterings of dialogue are as vapid as they are fleeting. As for the adaptation aspect, this short comes across like something made by someone who has never seen Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, and has only looked it up on Google Images.

The make-up for Nosferatu is decent, but despite the effort that went into putting it together, the short has him do nothing but bite a woman for the short's entire runtime! What a waste!

The rest of the effects are horrid. Actors don't match up to scale with the outside locations the green screens are projecting, there's a vampire flying scene worse than the one in Die Hard Dracula, and worse, there's castle CGI so bad that the Nintendo-era opening from Castlevania 64 looks better! And then there's the inside of the castle, which looks more akin to a friggin hotel room!

A Descent into a Maelstrom

Ugh, let's start of with the fact that this short has almost nothing to do with the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. That was about a shipwrecked mariner's desperate struggle in a raging ocean. There were no zombie ghosts present, of the aquatic variety or not!

After the relatively grounded first couple of minutes, the plot to this short gives into chaos almost immediately, and when it finally stops, we're delivered an abrupt and cliched twist ending, that has nothing to do with the Poe story. Worse still is that the short has the balls to have the lead quote Poe's 'Dream within a dream' poem verse, as if quoting Edgar Allen Poe will somehow magically make this movie relate to him.

The writing, when not a total entropic mess, is repetitive like crazy!

Jackson Gutierrez is a passable actor, but the repetition in the beginning and ending really screws over his performance. Christopher Pennock lets his overacting side loose for this short, and the result is exactly what you'd expect-Bad! And finally, Kelsey Hewlett (another Faraj regular I've spoken of positively before) is wasted. At least I'm sure she had fun being a sea wraith, even if the short did nothing with the concept besides point the camera at her while she cackled evilly.

The direction here is bad! I'm aware that the film's middle section is meant to be chaotic, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a jumbled, eye-straining mess. Especially irresponsible is the flashing at the start, which is sure to be uncomfortable for anyone with epilepsy (and that is the second GODDAMN time that I've had to give an epilepsy warning for one of Ansel Faraj's movies!).

The effects are nothing. The mise en scene is again a small dark room. Surprisingly, however, there's extremely little green screen work here! The film still looks like cheap garbage, but it at least looks like real cheap garbage!

Another bad effect is a brief shot of the ocean's depths. With it's immobile fish, and the friggin' visible window, it looks like a still image of a museum exhibit trying and failing to pass itself of as the ocean!

The Happy Home of the Murderous Mahones

Wow, this sure is a sudden detour for Theatre Fantastique! We've suddenly gone from ooky Gothic tales to a suburban American black comedy!

As this short actually has a plot, I can actually give it a summary! An old married couple are at each-other's throats, literally. Intent on murdering one another, things are complicated when they accidentally kill a visiting church member...

The plot here is bare and over too quickly, with no surprises in its ending. There are also some annoying aspects, like-Why do the couple want to kill each-other? Never explained. Also, they keep getting interrupted by a neighbour friend as they're trying to dispose of a body, and this is presented as a big deal, even though this problem could be easily solved. Just tell her you can't see her now, and to come back another time! It's not that difficult!

There's nothing worse than an unfunny comedy, and thankfully this short isn't quite that bad. Don't get me wrong, it's not funny, but it's merely boring, rather than absolutely wretched and unwatchable.

This movie's sense of humour is very poor, and it seems to be hoping that the situation alone can carry the humour throughout, along with a load of swearing, as if that will make the movie funny, rather than merely immature.

The acting isn't that great, but it's not terrible either. As for Ansel Faraj regular Nathan Wilson, he isn't that good, but due to his 'aw shucks' type character, there's at least life in his performance, unlike other roles I've seen him in.

This is the second-best entry in Theatre Fantastique, courtesy of it actually having a plot, and not having terrible effects (that is to say, it doesn't have any to begin with). It's still crap, though, and its story and tone are incredibly ill-fitting for this series.

Madame LaSoeur

This is by far the best short in this series. At sixteen minutes long rather than seven or eleven, it's long enough to develop its plot, and the story is, *GASP*, actually decently written! It's even got a neat twist! Sure, it's a bit cliche, but not painfully so, and it wasn't really obvious!

Unfortunately the atmosphere to this movie is what drags it down. Part of it is good, but the constant 'scary face' jump-scare flashes aren't frightening, but rather annoying! Also not so good is the end of the conclusion, which didn't make much sense. I guess demons are just untrustworthy dicks.

The actors in this short awesomely includes both Kelsey Hewlett, and Kelly Erin Decker! Woohoo! Of course, also in the cast are Christopher Pennock, Jerry Lacy, and other Faraj regular Derek Mobraaten to weigh things down. Thankfully, the latter three, as well as Lara Parker, act decently, and while Lacy's delivery sometimes stumbles, he's not bad.

Kelly Erin Decker is stylish as the titular spiritualist, and acts well. Kelsey Hewlett is this short's villain, but that doesn't mean she's utilized a lot. She's incredibly wasted, to the point that I feel really bad for her. We don't even really see her, as basically all of her appearances are brief transparent flashes.

The effects here are quite decent, and there's little-to-no use of all-encompassing green screens!

This short isn't great by any means, but it's a more than serviceable way to kill a quarter of an hour! I recommend it!


This is a pretty rotten set of shorts! The adaptations are barely middling to dreadful, the acting ranges from decent to mildly annoying, the direction is oftentimes not-so-good, and the effects are completely embarrassing! It's especially annoying when you consider other extremely low-budget TV shows and movies. Classic Doctor Who, The Final Sacrifice, Lo, and many other things I could name all had extremely minimal budgets, and oftentimes Who was barely allowed just one take to film in because money was so tight, but they pulled through to provide its audience with a visually appealing production, with its decent, albeit sometimes laughable, effects. Classic Doctor Who did use green screens here and there, but never for whole locations (bar one episode) all the time, and when they were used-and I can't stress this next point enough-they didn't FUCKING glitch out! Ansel, dude, get your goddamn green screens fixed! So yeah, the effects in Classic Who were sometimes bad, and sometimes hilarious, but they were always really there, and they never fell apart on screen!

There's one episode left of Theatre Fantastique, and it comes out on December the 5th, so I'll watch and review it then. Until then, this collection of Theatre Fantastique shorts is listed on its Youtube and Vimeo home as Season 1. Please God let there not be a Season 2!...