[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 26 [Happy 15th Birthday!] Open Water (2003)

Director: Chris Kentis

Cast: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein

Screenplay: Chris Kentis

79 mins. Rated R for language and some nudity.

 

Open Water is based on true events, but that doesn’t really make it good.

Daniel (Daniel Travis, Thank You For Smoking, Last Time Forever) and Susan (Blanchard Ryan, Beerfest, Good Bones) are a couple looking to get away from the stress of daily life. While scuba-diving deep in the open water, they are accidentally left behind. Now, they are forced to fend for themselves in the dangerous ocean water, fending off infection, exhaustion, and sharks.

Open Water is, I’m sorry to say, one of the most boring exercises in film. I can understand the idea of a bottle episode in the middle of the open ocean, but neither of our lead characters is compelling enough to carry the film. The inciting incident is derivative, the characters are given no obstacles to overcome, and they have nothing to do but complain and scream. The film comes to an abrupt end without any real catharsis and really, no ending worth talking about.

Open Water doesn’t work. The film isn’t exciting nor fun. It doesn’t feature anything of real merit. It’s just bad. Real bad.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 17 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

 

Director: Marcus Nispel

Cast: Jessica Biel, Jonathan Tucker, Andrew Bryniarski, Erica Leerhsen, Mike Vogel, Eric Balfour, R. Lee Ermey

Screenplay: Scott Kosar

98 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language, and drug content.

 

Remakes are a touchy subject, I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to say. People expect their remakes to suck, especially in horror, where it seems almost sacrificial to destroy one’s expectations with a terrible remake. I actually saw remake to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before watching the original, and it bothered me. There’s one scene in particular that truly haunted my nightmares for years. It stays with me while I write this. The movie is…actually a pretty solid remake.

The year is 1973. Five young adults are on the way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when they almost run into a young woman walking along in the middle of the road. When they let her board their van, she begins to tell them that all her friends are dead, and that they cannot keep driving the direction they are going. The five are about to discover that the young woman is absolutely correct to be terrified. They are traveling through a remote town in Texas. The town’s law enforcement is run by Sheriff Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey, Full Metal Jacket, The Watch), an inept and strange man. When Erin (Jessica Biel, The Illusionist, Hitchcock) and her boyfriend Kemper (Eric Balfour, A Midsummer’s Nightmare, TV’s Haven) get separated from the others, they find an old house in an empty and unkept field. Erin and the others are about to find out exactly what the young woman was so scared when they come across a towering man with a chainsaw known as Leatherface (Andrew Bryniarski, Street Fighter, Mother’s Day).

The remake is strong because it doesn’t follow the plot of the original to a T. The main characters fit archetypes but they are the archetypes of the original. I would go as far as to say that the remake implores more likable character, but the performances are still just okay. Jessica Biel is a fantastic scream queen in the film, and she makes for a terrific lead overall. The inspires choice to use Bryniarski as Leatherface was terrific. His performance is quite good as the darkly tortured and mentally unhinged Hewitt boy. Perhaps the best casting in the whole film is R. Lee Ermey as Sheriff Hoyt. Hoyt is absolutely terrifying. His performance is so dark and sickening that he steals the movie.

Director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th) uses a terrific dark and dreary tone throughout. The depressing look of the film leads to the draining experience of watching these likable characters become tortured and attacked by Leatherface. I just love the look of the film. It’s unique enough to stay with you.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best horror remakes in memory, and while it isn’t as strong as the original, it’s a damn good experience. It’s hinged by a couple good performances in an otherwise underwhelming pool of actors, but the visual storytelling from its director make the film so much more watchable. This is a fun time even with all the dreariness.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th, click here.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 30 – Final Destination 2 (2003)

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Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Tony Todd, Michael Landes

Screenplay: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress

90 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity.

 

Sequels are tough. Sometimes tougher than the original. Especially when it’s the first sequel of a big franchise, which Final Destination ended up becoming.

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Final Destination 2 begins on the first anniversary of the explosion of Flight 180. Kimberley Corman (A.J. Cook, TV’s Criminal Minds, Mother’s Day) and her friends are heading to Florida for Spring Break, but when she has a premonition of a major traffic collision, she inadvertently saves multiple lives. Now, though, she and the survivors are dying one by one, and the only person who can help her is the lone survivor of Flight 180: Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, TV’s Heroes, Resident Evil: Afterlife), who resides in a psychiatric ward where she can be safe.

Final Destination 2 makes the fatal error of breaking the rules of the first film multiple times and insinuating that there are ways to cheat death when it regularly breaks its own rules. Death’s motives and methods change drastically in the film. The decision to bring back Larter and series regular Tony Todd (The Man From Earth, Hatchet II) were good choices, but to play with a pre-established set of rules really messes with the series.

I personally didn’t like many of these characters who came off as caricatures of normal humans. Kimberley is a nice lead and Thomas Burke (Michael Landes, Burlesque, 11-11-11), the Deputy Marshal, is a nice male lead, but most everybody else is rude, unlikable, or generally cartoonish.

Final Destination 2 definitely ratchets up the body count and style of the first film in spectacular fashion, now if only we liked the characters enough. The screenplay from J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (TV’s Kyle XY, The Butterfly Effect) gives us little in terms of character development other than interesting but fizzly Rube Goldberg-esque deaths.

FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line
FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line

Final Destination 2 is a fun movie, but one that is picked apart quite easily. This movie has straight-up flaws, and most of them could be fixed by just understanding and respecting the mythology. Director David R. Ellis (Shark Night, Snakes on a Plane) would return to helm the fourth entry of this franchise to similarly misunderstood results.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 3 – Darkness Falls (2003)

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Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield

Screenplay: John Fasano, James Vanderbilt, Joe Harris

86 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror and horror images, and brief language.

 

Have you ever watched a horror film in your youth and thought it was scary as hell only to find out that when you revisit the film as an adult, it had no effect? What does that have to do with today’s film, you ask? Oh, nothing.

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Darkness Falls is the site of a horrifying urban legend chronicled in the town’s past involving Matilda Dixon, nicknamed the Tooth Fairy (for some strange and unrealized reason) who was burned and then later murdered in a bizarre series of really bad days for Matilda. Later, she returned to haunt the living, murder children after they lose their last baby tooth, and basically be a big bitch. Now, in present day (2003), Kyle Walsh (Chaney Kley, Legally Blond, Jimmy and Judy), the only surviving child of Matilda “Tooth-Fairy-Disfigured-Ghost” Dixon’s murderous rage, has grown up and returned home to help childhood friend Caitlin Green (Emma Caulfield, TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TiMER) whose younger brother is being targeted by Matilda.

Darkness Falls was moderately scary to 13-year-old Kyle some time back. 25-year-old wants to go back in time and slap 13-year-old Kyle for being such a wuss. As a youth, I remember finding the opening chilling. As an adult, I kept wondering how Kyle Walsh aged very strangely into Chaney Kley. Seriously, who cast the child actors for this thing? I’ll forgive them for Emily Browning. They saw some talent there and probably thought, nobody’s going to notice that she looks nothing like Emma Caulfield.

As far as the story goes, I felt like for a film this convoluted in its plot, it should feel more mysterious. But nope, we’ll just tell you the story in three minutes in front of public domain historical looking pictures of people while placing fire in the background to show you the whole burning in a fire theme we are going with. Matilda Dixon is overly complicated and most of the facts that bare interest get shoved to the background and quickly forgotten. I had spoken to some colleagues who explained that the finished film is drastically different than the original screenplay. There was a lot of work done, getting rid of the original actor playing Matilda (Doug Jones, losing him is a travesty unto itself) and putting the creature in more of the film (originally, it was planned to do a Jaws approach and show very little of the wicked spirit until the very end) by adding effects genius Stan Winston to the mix. It ended up being an incredibly underwhelming bit of nonsense.

I think what bothers me the most is that I got bored. The film’s runtime is a meager 86 minutes including its 12-minute end credits. For a film barely over an hour in length, there was so much rushed over yet the film seemed to drag on for ages.

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To end off, I find that director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Wrath of the Titans) has shown in other films that he has a little bit of craft to his art (not greatness by any means, but at least slightly honorable work at times). I think Darkness Falls is the kind of film you remember, but you don’t really want to.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, click here.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Seas Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, John Noble, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm

Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

201 mins. Rated PG-13 for epic intense battle sequences and frightening images.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Director
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Costume Design
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Makeup
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Original Score
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Music, Original Song (“Into the West” by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, Annie Lennox)
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Sound Mixing
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Visual Effects

 

After pouring years of his life into an ambitious project, director Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones, King Kong) finally saw his vision receive the recognition it deserved after winning 11 Academy Awards (making it the most nominated franchise in history), tying the record. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the final chapter in the trilogy based on Tolkien’s novels, and indeed one of the greatest films ever crafted. Equal parts grandeur and tragic masterpiece, our third trip to Middle-Earth.

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Frodo (Elijah Wood, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Cooties) and Sam (Sean Astin, TV’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Goonies) have gotten back on the path to Mount Doom, with Gollum (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Arthur Christmas) in tow, though Gollum’s path is becoming increasingly more treacherous. Is he leading them down a trap?

Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellan, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Prisoner) and Pippin (Billy Boyd, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Dorothy and the Witches of Oz) are heading to Minas Tirith to warn the Steward of Gondor, Denethor (John Noble, TV’s Fringe, Superman: Unbound), of the war that is on his doorstep. The only problem, Denethor, who also happens to be father to Boromir and Faramir (David Wenham, 300, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole), has grown insane and weary in grief over the loss of his favorite son.

This is a spectacular film achievement, visually perfect in every way. The performances are stellar. The plot interweaves and closes off all loose ends. The cinematography is sweeping, epic in scope, and perfectly crafted.  The film’s 200-minute runtime goes by smoothly, not a moment to stop and catch one’s breath. Even the visual effects have not aged in the dozen years since its release. The film even contains the largest prop ever built for a motion picture in a battle sequence containing giant creatures called oliphaunts.

The film features another wonderful battle sequence overcut with Pippin singing a song to the eating Denthor. It is beautiful and chilling and everything that this series is all at once.

As a note to casual fans at the completion of this review for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, check out the extended editions. As terrific as the theatrical cuts are, the extended films are the supreme version of the story. They feature cameos and performances not seen in the previous incarnations, such as The Mouth of Sauron, a wholly chilling character unfortunately cut from the film.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is perhaps the greatest fantasy achievement in filmmaking that we will ever see. It excels on every level and continues the tradition of high-fantasy movies in a glorious fashion. I doubt we will see an equal for a very long time.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, click here.

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, click here.

 

For my review of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, click here.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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Director: John Singleton

Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser

Screenplay: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality.

After Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) walked away from his role as a cop, he was forced to betray everything he knew. Now, in Miami, he’s been caught by the feds and charged with catching the villainous Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, Good Will Hunting, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire) in return for his freedom. Brian recruits former friend and law-breaker Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson, Transformers, Black Nativity) to assist him in his quest.

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Paul Walker is very similar to Hugh Jackman in that he gets slightly better as the series progresses. His acting here isn’t what it will be and not as good as he could be, but still much better than anyone else here. Gibson and Hauser come off as spooflike in their cheese factor, as does Eva Mendes (Hitch, Lost River).

2 Fast 2 Furious comes off as the bastard son of the original film. There is just so much that goes wrong here. First off, the exclusion of Vin Diesel. If nothing else, it proves that Vin Diesel understands how to make a sequel because he gets the factors that work and the factors that don’t. The editing comes off as real choppy. There are freeze frames, dissolves, and all manner of dull piecework. Director John Singleton (Four Brothers, Abduction) can’t control his races. These are bland race sequences, providing nothing cool to the aesthetic of the series. In fact, did I see a green screen 15 minutes in? Seriously? In fact, Singleton doesn’t get much right here at all. He encouraged improv from a bunch of non-improv actors. Seriously.

There are some things that work here. Roman Pearce as a character has potential (though it wouldn’t be fully realized for some time). Tej, played by Chris “Lucacris” Bridges, is another character that works much better than it would have been had not been rewritten for him. It was originally written for Ja Rule to return, but he was “too big” for the role. Seeing as how the character evolved with Bridges, the audience won here and Ja Rule lost, and the music is better with Bridges. Luda!

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2 Fast 2 Furious wasn’t enough to kill this franchise, but it didn’t do much to keep it alive either. There are a plethora of problems with the action racing sequel, but it did some right. Not much, though. Not much at all.

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s Shaft, click here.

[Short Film Sunday] Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)

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Director: Philip G. Atwell

Cast: Paul Walker

Screenplay: Keith Dinielli

6 mins. Not Rated.

Hey everyone, and welcome to a brand-new column I’m doing called Short Film Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest in many cultures, and what better way to do so than to review some short films. These are meant to be quick analysis on short films, which ones are worth it and which ones are not. We start today with a short created by Universal Pictures to bridge the gap between The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. It doesn’t really have a title, so we will go with the Turbo Charged Prelude.

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Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) is on the run from the cops. He broke a hell of a lot of laws by letting Dominic Toretto escape his grasp, and now he has nothing. He begins street racing for cash to keep himself out of the public eye while using the very thugs he was infiltrating to keep him out of trouble. His journey takes him to the streets of Miami where it leads right up to the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious.

This short is quite worthless to me. We see no character development for Brian which is bad since his character at the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious is quite different from the one we met at the end of The Fast and the Furious, but he seems to enjoy the fact that he has left his entire life behind him and essentially failed in every way in his previous mission. There is no internal conflict, though that can be blamed on the poor script utilizing no dialogue and quick images of events that don’t appeal whatsoever. Shame.

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The Turbo Charged Prelude is meant to bridge the films, but it does nothing that the opening on 2 Fast 2 Furious didn’t do by itself in less time. It feels like filler meant to sell DVDs, because it is. Not worth your time.

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

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