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The Fine Art of Tactical Retreat

Apr. 10th, 2019

11:46 am - For clarity's sake

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Aug. 28th, 2016

07:58 pm - The Dead Lands (2014)

New Zealand before the invasion from the West. Megalomaniac chieftain’s son Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka) attempts to convince his tribe of his glorious warrior spirit and assuage the spirits of his unburied ancestors by slaying a tribe his people were once at war with in their sleeps. The only (male, for women don’t really seem to count when it comes to tribal business of this sort, it alas seems) survivor of the massacre is teenage chieftain’s son Hongi (James Rolleston). Despite not being much of a warrior himself Hongi decides to follow Wirepa and his men and slay them in vengeance.

This plan would most probably end quite badly for Hongi, but Wirepa thinks he still hasn’t proved his worth quite enough, and so decides to make his way back home via the titular Dead Lands, a place once inhabited by another tribe that vanished over night in some sort of catastrophe. The place is supposedly home to a man-eating demon now who kills anyone who dares enter. After a helpful little chat with the spirit of his grandmother (Rena Owen) – or an ancestral spirit he calls grandmother - Hongi decides to try and win the demon’s help for his cause. The demon turns out to be rather human. He is a mighty, embittered Warrior (Lawrence Makoare) who does indeed kill and eat everyone entering his territory; Hongi’s quest sounds like just the thing to him to redeem himself in the eyes of his ancestors (and probably himself, though the Warrior is clearly too much in pain to be able to see it that way). Of course, even together with his new, rather frightening, partner, the odds aren’t terribly in Hongi’s favour, for it’s still two people against a whole war band.

For The Dead Lands, director Toa Fraser opts for a full immersion approach to pre-colonisation Maori culture, shooting the film in Maori, with Maori actors, and trying to look at the culture and its perks and flaws from inside instead of outside, eschewing the eye of the distant observer and with it any attempts to exoticize the culture. This matter of fact treatment of things even like ritualized cannibalism (or in the Warrior’s case, not ritualized cannibalism) works rather well too and makes it easy to get into the right mind set for the film; one might tut at it for not making a stand against cannibalism or the culture’s gender biases but then I don’t really need a film to tell me that cannibalism’s not okay and gender inequality is a very bad thing, or berating people and places long gone for not following our contemporary ideas of what’s appropriate. That’s just not what the film’s about. Instead Fraser does his best to let a past culture come to life on sympathetic terms. How correct the film’s interpretation of Maori culture of that time actually is, I honestly can’t say. What I can say is that the culture – or rather the slice of culture - it presents seems coherent and of a piece, which is all I ask of a film not presenting itself as a documentary or providing the whole historical truth.

Of course, to hook a contemporary audience, a film has to look for the potentially universal among the specific. Unlike a film with arthouse sensibilities would, Fraser (and writer Glenn Standring) seek the relatable by presenting a tale of vengeance as you can find it anywhere from the western through martial arts cinema through the bible, violence unfortunately being one of the big threads running through all of human history and humanity’s stories about ourselves. There are of course some differences in emphasis and presentation depending on the time and place any given tale of vengeance was made in or for but the core of these stories stays basically the same, and should be relatable enough even in film that otherwise doesn’t explain the culture it takes place in to its audience beyond showing it.

This expectation towards its audience to look at and understand Maori warrior culture as it presents it without giving awkward explanations, to be able to see parallels and differences without having them pointed out explicitly is to my eyes one of the greatest strengths of the film. The filmmakers trust in their audience getting it.

The Dead Lands’ other strengths are quite obvious. There’s the visual heft of the proceedings it draws from the beauty of a landscape it sometimes imbues with a haunted quality; strong – if shouty but that seems to be a Maori warrior thing as is expressive grimacing as part of their martial arts – performances throughout; the willingness to take the characters’ spiritual concepts as seriously as everything else about them.

The action scenes are very strong too, with a bloody brutality not really hidden beneath the physical elegance of the fighting that reminded me most of (martial arts film master) Cheng Cheh’s approach to this sort of thing -  in spirit, if not exactly in style. The film’s ending, on the other hand, does not feel like something by Cheng Cheh at all. Where the Hong Kong director bought into bloody vengeance and its results completely, and couldn’t imagine an out from an endless cycle of violence other than death, Fraser’s film finds its now seasoned in the shortest of time Hongi using the same sort of logic and context that births the cycle of vengeance to end it, as much as it is in his power, with cleverness and compassion that doesn’t feel like the film putting its modern values on him but seems like an inherent possibility in everything we’ve seen before.

Technorati-Markierungen: new zealand movies,reviews,action,martial arts,toa fraser,james rolleston,lawrence makoare,te kohe tuhaka

Aug. 27th, 2016

08:42 pm - Things Pray for Death (1985) Taught Me

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,in short,action,martial arts,gordon hessler,sho kosugi,james booth

Aug. 26th, 2016

09:23 pm - Past Misdeeds: Kokkuri-san (1997)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

Mio (Ayumi Yamatsu), a Japanese schoolgirl in her late teens, lives alone with her older sister. Without the knowledge of her friends - who lose at voice recognition - the girl also stars in a well-loved late night talk show, where she is "Michiru", a construct of late teen wish-fulfilment whose life is full of sex and adventure, quite unlike Mio's actual one.

Mio has never gotten over an experience in her childhood when her mother tried to drown her, but only drowned herself, and is now emotionally distant and obviously chronically depressed. She has a few friends, at least, Masami (Moe Ishikawa) and Hiroko (Hiroko Shimada). Both are about as lively and happy as Mio herself. Hiroko (I surmise) has never been quite alright since a childhood friend of hers drowned, and identifies Mio with her dead friend, while we are never made privy to any hints for Masami's behaviour. Secretly, Mio is in love with Hiroko, but is never able to talk with her friend about it.

Though they are nominally friends, Hiroko and Masami don't see eye to eye. They are in a passive-aggressive (and with girls this affectless the emphasis lies on the passive part) fight about a boy perfectly void of a personality.

Still, the three girls decide to have a séance, based on an idea they got from Mio's radio show. They do this by means of playing a game called "kokkuri". Working with a home-made Ouija board and using a girl ghost named Kokkuri as a guide, the girls at first just play around a little, but their questions soon turn uncomfortable. Questioned when Michiru (Mio's alter ego her friends aren't clever enough to connect to her at this point) will die, Kokkuri tells them "at 17"; Mio will turn 18 the same month.

Masami uses the session also as a way to continue her boy feud with Hiroko, until they come to blows, or at least as much to blows as they are able.

After the séance, things begin to get weird. Mio begins to have visions of a girl in a red dress that might be Hiroko's dead childhood friend or her dead self or Kokkuri or all three. Hiroko disappears, only to appear shortly after - but worse for wear - at Mio's, only to disappear again after an argument.

Takashi (or Takahisa, depending on who transcribes the name) Zeze is probably best known for his stark and rather depressing art house-minded pink movies, but as every good director working in genre movies (may they be arty or not), he also put(s) some time in other genres. Kokkuri-san is nominally a horror film, it is however the type of horror film that will just confuse anyone looking for "scares".

The horror here is of a more existential kind. The supernatural isn't there to menace the characters from the outside, but functions as a magnifying glass that helps the viewer see the characters' wounds more clearly, or as a mirror so that the characters can see themselves more clearly. How honest the mirror might be is quite a different question. Zeze uses a doppelganger motif, and as is often the case with it, there's always a certain amount of confusion when it comes to the question if the doppelganger is just more honest about someone's traits or only showing their most destructive urges.

Thematically, Zeze works the same field as in most of his pink films. Kokkuri-san is fixated on alienation, the freezing effects of trauma and the inability to show one's feelings, possibly even the inability to understand one's own feelings. I say "possibly" because Zeze abstains from any closeness to his characters. Like the camera, which tends to keep its distance from the proceedings before it, the viewer isn't truly allowed to get too close to anyone here. Getting inside anyone's head, or identifying completely with any single character seems unthinkable. Even when the viewer shares Mio's visions, the film still keeps up the feeling of distance. The audience is allowed to watch, and to think, even to build sensible theories, but it can never truly know what's going on inside the characters.

At times, I can't help but think that Zeze revels a little too much in being ambiguous. I don't think that empathy based on understanding between people is impossible, something the director seems to disagree with.

When characters are never completely knowable, plot becomes even less so, and although Kokkuri-san's plot makes a lot of thematic sense, someone looking for any form of excitement will be sorely disappointed. It wouldn't be too difficult to argue that everything we see takes place in Mio's head, and that there isn't anything happening "in the real world" apart from (possibly) a teenage double suicide. If you are looking for clarity, or action, you're probably not made for watching Zeze's kind of cinema.

You'll also want to avoid Kokkuri-san when you can't take artistic products of a deeply pessimist worldview, where people's isolation is never broken so completely that they'll be able to live a life of actual closeness to others, and where the only way to connect lies in death. Though I think that the Hollywood way of looking at alienation or trauma and the simple solutions the films even acknowledging their existence offer are deeply insulting to the way actual people are feeling and going through their lives, I can't say that I find Zeze's view of life any more tenable. Of course, his films' hopelessness is probably much closer to the way his characters relate to the world around them, and might even be a method to force the audience into a state of understanding and empathy exactly by refusing it easy ways to empathize. In a way, this seems to me something that more closely amounts to a real act of violence against the audience than most simulated violence on screen does (sorry, Miss Clover).

As you might have realized by now, I find Kokkuri-san in its own, unassuming way much more troubling than many films which are much better at being generic horror films. There's a cloud of stark dread hanging over the film I find deeply affecting. It's not a feeling everyone seeing Zeze's film will share. Some of you might be bored (because honestly, there isn't really much happening here), some confused (because honestly, "ambiguous" and "obtuse" are closely related concepts), and some just plain annoyed (because honestly, the film is so bleak even the idea of people smiling must be preposterous to Zeze).

Technorati-Markierungen: japanese movies,reviews,takashi zeze,horror,depression on celluloid,ayumi yamatsu,past misdeeds

Aug. 25th, 2016

07:21 pm - In short: Starry Eyes (2014)

Like so many young women in Hollywood, Sarah (Alex Essoe) has the dream of becoming not just a working actress but a very traditional star. All that dream has brought her so far are bunch of failed auditions, a humiliating job as a waitress in a themed fast food restaurant, a bunch of friends of dubious quality, and the habit to reduce her stress levels by angrily pulling her own hair out.

Things – and not just things – are certainly going to change for her when she has a breakdown (with hair-pulling, screaming, the works) after a particularly humiliating audition for a horror movie with the puntastic title of “The Silver Scream”. Witnessing this the casting director (Maria Olsen) at once warms to her, inviting her to another session of doing exactly the same in front of her and her assistant. They’re well pleased with Sarah’s following performance/live breakdown. In the following weeks, there are further sessions of appropriately sadistic vigour, all in the name of helping Sarah transform herself completely (which you may want to take very literally). Why, one might even think these people belong to some kind of occult society with sinister goals! All the while, Sarah’s life – inward and outward – unravels around her.

Kevin Kolsch’s (or Kölsch – IMDB and credits don’t agree) and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes is quite the thing, applying choice occult horror tropes to the small yet fine Hollywood horror story sub-genre (or perhaps the other way around) in consequent and increasingly bloody (and pus-sy etc) ways.

This is a film about the will to success taken to its most horrid extremes, a film that views character traits and concepts US cinema very often praises to high heavens as a particularly insidious road to self-destruction. Self-destruction of this type, the film argues, is in one form or the other generally approved of or even expected from actresses trying for a breakthrough that will most probably never come. Being a horror film, Starry Eyes does take the whole self-destruction/total transformation business very literally, not accidentally hitting the core of desperation lying under the idea of turning oneself into a star until it oozes blood and gore.

The whole thing is grounded by Alex Essoe’s terrific performance as Sarah, a full-body tour de force that is as uncomfortable to watch as it should be, including moments of horrible frailty, putting things on display that’ll make you squirm – particularly since the performance has a terrible sense of honesty about it.

Obviously, Starry Eyes is not a terribly easy film to watch – not because it is a bad film, but rather because it is so effective at making the audience look at exactly the things it really doesn’t want to see; it’s brilliant and exhausting.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,belgian movies,in short,horror,kevin kölsch,dennis widmyer,alex essoe

Aug. 24th, 2016

07:49 pm - In short: 7 Seconds (2005)

Super-mega hardcore ex-Special Forces dude turned thief Jack Tuliver (Wesley “What’s a facial expression?” Snipes) has a super-mega hardcore plan to rob twenty casinos at once. Or something. Alas, things become problematic because he accidentally also steals a case with a Van Gogh painting. Soon, his gang is murdered by another gang, his favourite partner kidnapped and he’s on the run from said gang, the police, and other factions. Jack’s only ally apart from a guy named Spanky (Deobia Oparei) who just might not be an ally at all is a disturbingly orange-coloured British military cop (Tamzin Outhwaite). Why should the audience be the only ones who suffer?

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? Simon Fellows’s 7 Seconds certainly does not suffer from the bizarre phenomenon that plagues quite a few direct-to-video action films that causes so-called action films to contain as little action as possible. In fact, 7 Seconds is perfectly action packed, with nary a scene going by without a car crash, shots, explosions, or what goes for martial arts in the world of Snipes. It, therefore, should be pretty fantastic.

Unfortunately, the action direction and editing is so incompetent the film might as well not bother. Some horrifying demon must have convinced the director that there’s never any reason not to cut to a different camera angle, leading to action scenes that cut to a differently angled shot every two or three seconds – I’m not even exaggerating. Not surprisingly, for most of the time it is completely impossible to make out who is chasing whom, in which position chasee and chaser are to each other, or frankly, what is going on at all beyond “car chase”, “people shooting”, and so on.

To add insult to brain damage, about every third cut is accompanied by a whooshing noise and random camera swirling. And sometimes the film just goes completely ape-shit, like this: close up on countdown timer with the number 3 – whoosh-cut – now it’s at 2 – whoosh cut – now it’s at 1 – whoosh cut - etc. It suggests a rather peculiar idea of what words like “editing” or “direction” mean. In this context, it probably won’t surprise anyone that the film also likes to cut into tiny little flashbacks to scenes that happened five or ten minutes ago, just in case some of the viewers suffer from really bad short term memories, had a little nap, or went to the loo.

I could go on, but I really, really don’t want to.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,romanian movies,british movies,in short,action,simon fellows,wesley snipes

Aug. 23rd, 2016

09:14 pm - Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Warning: spoilers eighty decades in the making ahoy!

After a prologue that sees unfortunately named brilliant wax figure artist Ivan Igor’s (Lionel Atwell) life’s work destroyed because his money man (Edwin Maxwell) wants to cash in on some sweet, sweet, fire insurance money, we fast forward to New York, twelve years later.

After she has died under mysterious circumstances, the corpse of a female socialite is stolen from the morgue before anyone can get around to her autopsy. The police thinks her ex-boyfriend, Bland Male Lead #1 is responsible for her death and has hired someone to steal the body. Motor-mouthed, wise-cracking reporter Florence Dempsey (Glenda Farrell) disagrees, mostly because that stolen body is the eighth gone missing in the last few months. Fortunately, random chance – the script is not hip to bizarre concepts like journalists or police investigating something and following clues when it can get away with just putting them where the plot needs them by the hand of the script gods – soon suggests the newly opening wax museum of…Ivan Igor.

For Igor’s getting back into the wax business again. Because his hands and his legs have been badly damaged in the fire that destroyed his beloved wax figures, he has officially hired some deaf mute guy and Bland Male Lead #2 to be his hands. Well, and he’s also killing people and coating their bodies in wax, using a junkie (Arthur Edmund Carewe) as his off-site wax creation front. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, Bland Male Lead #2’s girlfriend Charlotte (Fay Wray) just happens to be Florence’s roomie? But that’s not coincidence enough – she’s also a dead ringer for the masterpiece of Igor’s first museum, Marie Antoinette, so even if you’re from the 30s, you know where this is going.

Mystery of the Wax Museum brings parts of the main team behind Doctor X back together in the two-tone Technicolor horror business, namely brilliant director Michael Curtiz, Atwill, Wray, and some of the other actors. It also replaces the earlier film’s wise-cracking reporter with a female one, leading to the not exactly common sight of a pre-60s horror film with a female lead.

Of course, there’s two caveats to that. For one, despite being the film’s central non-villainous character, Florence’s agency is rather undercut by a script whose dependence on coincidence to get anything done borders on the absurd. So, while Florence certainly always is where things are happening, and does certainly show much more independent thought and action than any of the Bland Male Leads or Wray’s character who is only there to look pretty and scream in the last act – which I suspect is about all Wray was actually able to but I might be wrong – the script never actually does much with her. The second problem, at least to an audience in the 21st century, is that Florence is the most motor-mouthed wise-cracking reporter in a film landscape rather full of them, a character type one needs to be in a patient and tolerant mood to watch for more than five minutes. I found myself warming to Farrell’s performance, though, perhaps because her hyperactive craziness stands in such a marked contrast to the wax figure like blandness of everyone around her not named Igor.

For my tastes, the film also spends too many of its eighty minutes of runtime on showing us Florence finding out things the audience already knows, the film’s mystery elements and its horror parts never gelling very well. There’s also a subplot in which Igor takes revenge on the wax figure burning villain of his past but the film mostly hand waves through it in favour of showing us characters finding out things we already know.

In direct comparison, Mystery is still a much more coherent film than its predecessor Doctor X, but it tends to focus on exactly the wrong things and loses the free-form, lurid craziness that was that film’s forte without finding much worthwhile to replace it.

Of course, there are still many bits and pieces to like about Mystery of the Wax Museum. Curtiz – not unexpectedly – makes the best out of the awkward script, and creates a handful of scenes where the more expressionist of the sets and the colour technique create a creepy mood still effective after all these years. Atwill’s make-up is very good too, as is his over-the-top portrayal of the crazed artist, while Farrell goes all out in a genre that would take decades to give actresses many opportunities to do that, and Wray screams as is her wont. That’s certainly not enough to make the film what I’d call a classic but it is certainly enough to make it worth watching beyond its obvious historical interest.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,reviews,michael curtiz,lionel atwill,fay wray,glenda farrell

Aug. 22nd, 2016

08:27 pm - Music Monday: Herzog Edition

Aug. 21st, 2016

09:10 pm - In short: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Obviously, for someone of my tastes, as goes for Seth Graham-Smith’s rather posthumous cooperation with Jane Austen’s zombified corpse this is based on, you can only improve on books about the Georgian marriage market by adding zombies and martial arts to them. For about the first half of the film or so, I even enjoyed myself immensely but after a time, various annoyances dragged the film down. These annoyances are very specific to my tastes, and are in part based on me taking this shit way too seriously, so any given reader’s mileage will certainly vary.

Firstly, the film sooner or later couldn’t help but land at the point where my dislike for certain elements of Austen’s work could no longer be contained, and not just the part where I’m never quite sure why I should care for whom these upper class people marry or not.

I loathe the way Austen turns their oh-so-important characters’ servants into mere furniture but I can cope with that and understand it as the writer being part of her time and social stratus. Watching a film made in 2016 that does take the time to add zombies to the whole thing but still doesn’t do more with servants (who are of course apart from that guy that gets dragged in the cellar nameless) is quite a different thing. Also not changed from Austen is the general philosophical outlook where characters complain a bit about playing the game of their society but actually not playing it (or at least dying dramatically trying that) is something that doesn’t even cross their minds. I do understand the whys and wherefores of that, too, but I never can get distracted by the writers’ wit enough to ever really get over it and relax into things. As a sort of Austen adaptation, the film unfortunately really doesn’t change any of this.

It even does add a few troubles all its own. I found the treatment of the intelligent still human zombies absolutely wrong, with the idea of finding a way for peaceful co-existence with them something that is relegated to the plans of bad guys (and is there an Austen version that treats Wickham as a person instead of a sexy panto villain?). Even worse, there’s that scene where the audience is supposed to cheer for Darcy’s cunning plan to feed actual human brains to these half-human zombies so that they turn from people into ravening beasts, which is the sort of thing we call a war crime around here. Consequently, I found myself rooting for the zombies.

Now, if you can stop yourself from overthinking all this quite as badly as I do, this is a well-made, well-acted film, though I’d argue one that could have done with doing a bit more thinking itself.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,british movies,burr steers. comedy,horror,drama

Aug. 20th, 2016

08:00 pm - Past Misdeeds: The Dead Outside (2009)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

It's six months after the outbreak of the viral apocalypse (again). This time, a neurological virus in combination with a badly working vaccine (although I'm not sure the film really means "vaccine" and not just "specialized medication") has caused large parts of humanity to become dangerously deranged. Virus victims develop symptoms of schizophrenia which get worse until the only thing they seem to feel is anger. Still, these virus victims stay very much human, most of them are even still able to ramble angrily, so calling them zombies wouldn't feel proper.

Daniel (Alton Milne), who has lost (how and why will be sort of explained in flashbacks and visions) his family, drives through the Scottish countryside looking for a safe place to stay. His car runs out of gas, but fortunately there's a farmhouse close by for him to seek shelter in. At first, the place seems to be deserted, but the next day Daniel meets April (Sandra Louise Douglas), an armed, emotionally devastated teenager, whose grandparents were the owners of the farm. Initially, April doesn't want Daniel staying there, is even close to shooting him, but something changes her mind.

In the following weeks, the girl and the man grow closer, although both need some time to get over the distrust one develops when everyone else is mad and one can't even be all that sure about one's own state of mind. Daniel and April aren't really willing or able to disclose much about their pasts or their feelings to each other. He thinks she might be immune against the virus, while she panics at the mere thought of getting close to any of the remaining medical facilities. Still, there is trust growing between them.

Things get difficult again when another sane survivor, Kate (Sharon Osdin) arrives one day. Her presence disturbs the brittle, unspoken pact between April and Daniel, and catastrophe already waits around the corner.

It seems as if the British isles are the place to look when it comes to ultra-low budget outbreak films. Although this Scottish production isn't as excellent as Colin, my favourite example of the type, it is still a much better film than a lot of its peers are.

It is also a film many viewers won't like for its very slow pace, the conscious lack of clarity in its storytelling and its rather wonderful disinterest in gore. These things aren't caused by any lack of care in The Dead Outside's director Kerry Anne Mullaney, though, they are very much part of the film's design. The film's slowness fits a film about an end of the world that isn't flashy or explosive, but that instead has come slowly and creeping (the same way as the virus works).

The lack of clarity is a necessary part of a film which lets us see through the eyes of characters who aren't at all sure about their own sanity, and who can't and don't want to remember everything they have done too clearly. Mullaney bases some effective moments of dread on the lack of certainty about what's real and what's not her characters live in. I found the way Daniel's dead family and very real danger mingle much more effective than the typical goresplosion.

This is not to say that the film doesn't contain any action at all. There are two (probably budget-stretching) action set-pieces - of course without explosions - that impress through clever editing and the ability to build up a feel of claustrophobia in open, but dark, spaces.

Mullaney is obviously more interested in her characters than in the action or plot. This is not the sort of film that believes in expository dialogue (although there is one large expository monologue late in the film); much is insinuated and hinted at, probably in the hope for an audience willing and able to put a little work into understanding what is going on with the characters. One of the points the film is trying to make seems to be that there really is no clear difference between the state we call "sanity" and "madness". I don't think that's a point it could make by being clear and obvious about everything.

I thought that the actors were really selling their roles quite well. Sure, the acting is a bit strained in a "look! I'm acting!" way from time to time, but more often than not Douglas and Milne project a mix of normalcy and brittleness that is absolutely right for the direction the film is going in. Sometimes, acting that doesn't read as ultra-professional is of help to let the characters on screen seem like everyday people.

I had some problems with the film's visual side. While there are some impressive shots of the farmhouse and the creepy landscape around it (you know I'm a sucker for nature in its less sweet and mellow variations), the film suffers a little from desaturation syndrome. Of course, muted grey and brown colours help emphasize the desolation of the situation, but there's a lot to be said for using other parts of the colour spectrum too, if only to contrast them with all that grey.

Probably even more problematic is Mullaney's decision to shoot about eighty percent of the film with the camera tilted at an angle, as if everything took place on a ship close to sinking. Creepy angles might be a well established way to build mood, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The last point is certainly reached when I find myself tilting my head to the side while watching a movie.

Still, I found these to be minor problems that The Dead Outside more than made up for. I am an easy mark for the film's charms, seeing who much I despise exposition and clarity in movies, and how much I like the ambiguous and the slow, but even people who aren't me could be able to find something quite irresistible in the film's rhythm, in the way it feels like it was made by someone with very personal ideas of what could be interesting about a viral apocalypse.

Technorati-Markierungen: scottish movies,kerry anne mullaney,horror,reviews,sandra louise douglas,alton milne,zombies,past misdeeds

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