Horror – US vs RoW Round Six

At the end of Round Five of this epic fight for horror film supremacy, the RoW managed to pull ahead of the US (mainly owing to the really crap contender for the US).

Will the RoW be able to extend that lead in Round Six?

The Monk (2011)

There’s a true international feel to this one, a French/Spanish production, based on the famous Gothic novel by English writer Matthew Lewis (which I still have tucked away somewhere to read, whenever I find time). Vincent Cassel plays saintly seventeenth century monk Ambrosio, whose preaching has reinforced the faith of many people. A badly burned young man is taken in at the monastery where he dwells, but turns out to be a woman in disguise, sent by the Devil to seduce Ambrosio, and he seems quite happy to be seduced, falling completely after only a token resistance and then turning into a total fuck monkey.

Meh! I thought this was okay, without getting blown away by it. Cassel is always a pleasure to watch, and the Spanish landscape is evocative, the heat of the terrain seeming to mirror human passion. On the negative side, while it tries to go for a brooding atmosphere and sense of otherworldly menace, with colour filters on the lens and meteorological grace notes, I felt that at times tedious and slow would be a more accurate description, and the story is entirely predictable. I wasn’t at all convinced by Ambrosio’s surrender to the charms of the flesh; the gentleman did not protest enough, and his leap to rapist was even more problematic, with the subtext that if you’re horny you are also potentially a criminal, or at least less moral. But I think the biggest problem for me was the grounding in faith – I simply couldn’t get behind the idea of equating chastity with spirituality, though I guess you could make the case that Ambrosio did hold to that belief and so his fall from grace was organised along those lines. Maybe I was in the wrong mood at the time of watching, but for me it was all pretty but superficial, more style than substance.

And representing the US we have:-

Quarantine (2008)

I caught this at the cinema when it was released. Again, there’s an international flavour, with the film based on a Spanish original, REC. Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter’s sister) plays a news reporter out for the night with her cameraman recording the activities of a crew of fire-fighters. This activity takes them to an apartment block where a virus that turns its victims into flesh eating savages has taken hold, and JC finds herself stranded when men in hazmat suits arrive from the CDC to quarantine the building. With the lights off, the residents and their visitors all have to crawl around in the dark and get picked off one by one, with the viewer seeing it all courtesy of night vision and shaky cam.

This is pretty much standard horror fare, a small scale end of the world scenario, taking in the usual suspects of bio-terrorism and ruthless authorities, with the little people stuck in the middle and getting it from both sides. In an attempt to generate some tension and work within budget constraints, it’s all done in real time and with the shaky cam, though not as offensive and in your face here as elsewhere. The characters are well drawn, and the cast do the best they can with them, while the monster in the attic is suitably repulsive. It’s not a horror classic, and there’s nothing new on offer, but it entertained me for the time that it was on screen and had the good sense not to outstay its welcome, while the bleak ending was faithful to the prevailing mood (and mode) of the piece.

This time I’m going to make the US the winner, albeit the game may have dragged into injury time.

We’re at three all. Exciting, isn’t it?

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