The Horror, The Horror: Part 7

More random thoughts on random horror movies watched at random over the festive season just gone.

I, Frankenstein (2014)

Aaron Eckhart plays the monster, who in this scenario is pursued by demons that want to get their hands on his body and access the scientific secrets it contains, as part of a nefarious plan to shift the balance of power in their war with the gargoyle clans who protect humanity. After a couple of centuries spent sodding about in the wilderness, Frankenstein returns to civilisation intent on taking the war to the demons, in which aim he is both helped and hindered by the gargoyles. What to say about this film? It’s a slugfest, with individual combats and massed battles in just about every third scene. It’s heavy on the sfx, with gargoyles transmuting into what might as well be angels, and everybody muscled like they’ve spent several years on steroids. It’s a light show, with slain demons catching fire and descending to hell, and slain gargoyles catching fire (but white flame, rather than yellow-orange) and soaring up to heaven. It’s a horror film only by virtue of the famous name in the title, and should more properly be regarded as urban fantasy/paranormal romance. It has a novel idea regarding reanimated corpses, one which, as far as I can recall, I’ve only ever encountered before in the work of Brian Keene. It’s a tale of redemption tinged by sentimentality, with the monster’s acquisition of a soul the key to defeating his demonic nemesis. It’s mostly stuff you’ll have seen done before and better, with nothing to get excited about or feel annoyance over, no truly memorable characters or events. It’s worth watching the once, but I doubt I’ll ever view it again.

Silent Night (2012)

The streets of a small town are filled with costumed Santas for the annual Christmas parade, but one of them is a serial killer. He seeks out those who have been naughty – the local drug dealer, the corrupt man of the cloth, the young girls who pose for glamour photographs, etc. – and visits on them particularly nasty deaths in a series of gory set pieces involving electric chair, axe, flamethrower, wood chipper etc. It’s up to the sheriff (Malcolm McDowell) and his deputy (Jaime King) to catch the killer before the body count gets too high. Yeah, well. I quite like the idea of a festive horror film, and of course there’s something naturally disturbing about the concept of having all our expectations of the season of goodwill overturned, with Santa Claus reinvented as the bogeyman. This squalid little outing didn’t really satisfy though. Most of the characters are ciphers, with the dishonorable exception of McDowell’s sheriff, who is so over the top as to be circling in for a moon landing. There are red herrings aplenty and convenient info dumps to move the plot along, none of which satisfy any aesthetic imperative. We never get to learn how the killer chooses his victims, while the deaths themselves are nothing to write home about. In particular, the prolonged chase of the topless model, who nobody seems to notice and who stays well away from crowded areas, before turning back to allow Santa to feed her into a wood chipper, felt exploitative and presented a challenge to both credibility and my gag reflex. And at the end, there’s the suggestion that Santa has escaped to kill another day, which might well have been chilling once upon a time but nowadays just seems like a hackneyed plot device to leave the franchise option open. It’s in part a remake of 1984 film Silent Night, Deadly Night but also, I learned from wiki, part inspired by real events. It’s safe to say, that as a festive stocking stuffer Silent Night didn’t jingle my bells. I found the viewing experience disappointing and a little bit sad.

Annabelle (2014)

A prequel of sorts to The Conjuring, giving the origin story of the demon possessed doll that featured in that film. It’s 1969, and John and Mia Form are expecting a baby. John buys Mia a new doll for her collection. The couple witness the murder of their next door neighbours by satanic cultists, one of whom dies with Annabelle cradled in her arms, her blood falling on the doll’s face. Baby Leah comes into the world, but from the first there are strange incidents all centred on the doll, which the couple can’t seem to get rid of, even when they give it to a priest. The doll has been possessed by a demon and wants the soul of infant Leah, with a supreme sacrifice required to counter its evil. And so on, and so forth. There’s nothing new here, with plenty of familiar plot tropes thrown into the mix and the requisite number of jump moments, but little to really creep the viewer out. The cast do a competent job of bringing largely uninteresting people to life, and you can feel Mia’s fear, with kudos to John for not going the clichéd route of dismissing her concerns. The doll itself I have to admit is a seriously unnerving and ugly creation – like Chucky’s older, meaner sister. Given that the year is 1969 and the Santa Monica setting, I can’t help wondering if some elusion to the Manson Family was intended, but if so it’s an idea they don’t run with. Overall, it’s your bog standard horror movie, and I can’t help thinking that its huge box office success was down to The Conjuring connection rather than any intrinsic worth. I expect Annabelle 2 will be with us shortly, given the profit margins.

Anyone watched any good horror movies lately?

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