Friday, February 25, 2011

Three Similarly Plotted Films - Who Wins?

Okay, so in the last few weeks I have watched three different films that all have a similar, if not unusual plot. They were Fermat's Room, Exam, and Nine Dead. All three deal with a group of strangers placed in a room by a mostly unknown individual (or company) and them having to work together to figure something out and/or survive. All the films take place for the majority in one room and so must rely on characters and dialogue for plot development. So the question is... Which film succeeded at this tactic?

Fermat's Room (2007)
Three mathematicians and one inventor are invited to a party by a man who calls himself Fermat. Their host excuses himself and the group finds out (via a PDA) that they must solve a series of mathematical riddles within a given time limit - as the walls of the room slowly close in on them.

Exam (2009)
A group of eager job-seekers have reached the final stage of one company's competitive interview process. They are placed in a stark, windowless room, given one sheet of paper, and are told that they have one question to answer. The only problem is: their paper is blank. The clashing personalities must work together to figure out the question before their 80-minute time limit is up.

Nine Dead (2009)
The film opens with several different people all getting kidnapped by the same tasering, masked man inter-cut with said masked man preparing a room for his captors. Nine people are each handcuffed to a pole and told that one of them will be killed every ten minutes unless they can figure out why they have all been brought here.

Now I love movies like this. Minimal locations and minimal characters just seem to be more intriguing to me... IF they are done right. Two of the above movies get it right, one doesn't. My favorite was probably Exam, followed very closely by Fermat's Room with Nine Dead just way off in left field, almost not even worthy of being close to the other two.

Exam excels for several reasons. I love the set of the room. Kind of hi-tech looking, bare, windowless, with a single school desk and chair for each person. It is a cold and unfeeling room, obviously representative of the company giving the interview. The characters are not given names, just nicknames given by one of the candidates based on their physical appearance. Some of the characters know more than they are saying about what just what this job with the company is, and there is a backstory of some kind of virus spreading around the country (but not a zombie virus, damn it... that would have been cooler) that affects some of the characters.

But more than the characters and the story, I loved the riddle presented in Exam. They have only one question to answer but there is no question on their paper or anywhere else in the room. The rest of the film is the people using several different methods to try to read the paper. Is it infrared or ultraviolet light? An ink that reacts with chemicals? When the question is finally found, the solution to the riddle can be interpreted two different ways (trust me, I've seen endless discussions on IMDb about which one is right) but either way, it's a good one, and one you might be slapping yourself in the forehead about because of how obvious it was.

"Fermat's Room"
Fermat's Room was also a pretty awesome movie, and it's really neck in neck with Exam. It's also similar to Nine Dead because once the craziness starts with the walls of the room slowly closing in our three characters, making the room smaller and smaller, these people must also figure out why they have been chosen for this deadly game.

I tried figuring out the math riddles the characters are given myself for about ten seconds before I realized they were just zinging over my head. I liked math in school and all... but not THAT much. The real riddle is who their mysterious host Fermat is and what these people have done to deserve this treatment. I liked this movie because there was real suspense with the moving walls and less characters involved - and therefore to keep track of - than in other films like it. They each have their own little secret, of course, and you may not like some of them later on, but with so few chances for survival you need them all to live so the good ones can get out. Highly recommend this one. It's a quick, fun, interesting little thriller with a plot that will keep you watching eagerly until the very end. It's also a Spanish movie, so you can impress your friends with that. Or something.

"Nine Dead"
Nine Dead could have been okay, I like the set up, but the ending and the revealing of the "mystery" of why they are there and why they deserve to die is the most lame and anticlimactic "surprise" ending I've ever seen. Sure it's emotional and all that jazz but the build-up and supposed seriousness of their situation presented in the first half of the movie does not add up to all these people deserving to die for their deeds. One woman's evil treachery that caused her to lose her life was that she identified the wrong man in line-up after her store was robbed. Seriously?

The acting really wasn't all that bad, even by Melissa Joan Hart, but nothing stellar either. There is a fair amount of action to keep you mildly interested to get to the conclusion, because there is an intricate web of riddles to work out how all these people are related. Again though, when the web is detangled it's not as big a deal as you think it's going to be. I say thumbs down. You can skip this one.

So there you go! Would definitely recommend Exam and Fermat's Room, but Nine Dead does not come up to par. Time is obviously an important element in all these films, and you can only go so far with a few characters in one room before it gets boring. Thankfully, all of these are right around the 90 minute mark so you won't waste too much time.

And tell me about any other movies like this! I really dig 'em, I'm tellin' you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Women in Horror Month: Hot Smart Chicks

Women have become more prevalent than ever in horror films in the roles of scientists or otherwise experts in their respective fields. And some of them are hot - so that's a bonus for you dudes, right? Here's a list of some of my favorite hot chicks in horror films who also happen to be pretty damn smart.

Elsa Kast in Splice
(Sarah Polley)

I haven't exactly seen the movie yet, but I love Sarah Polley as an actress. She has a wonderful "every day girl" look to her and is always quite endearing to watch. I'm sure the same can be said for Splice as well. I mean look at her up there, doing some science-y stuff. That's hot.

Dr. Susan Tyler in Mimic
(Mira Sorvino)

Entomologists don't sound all that interesting on paper, but Mira Sorvino handles the role well as a woman who creates a bug to kill off cockroaches carrying a deadly disease.

Rowan in Jason X
(Lexa Doig)

This girl looks like she's about 20 years old but somehow she is the head of the cryogenics lab where they will attempt to freeze Jason Voorhees forever and end his reign of terror. Haven't seen this actor before or since Jason X but she fits the Hot Smart Chick category like a pair of red leggings and a skin-tight bare midriff.

Marisa Kendall in Alligator
(Robin Riker)

Okay, so Ramon the alligator that causes all the trouble in this movie was actually Marisa's pet from when she was little, but who cares. They never figure that out in the movie, anyway. Marisa grows up to be the stunning herpetologist Robert Forrester goes to for help and she's right there with him when Ramon is taken down.

Diane Ashley in Kingdom of the Spiders
(Tiffany Bolling)

Hate it when your lady squeals at the sign of a bug in your house? Spider scientist Diane Ashley might just be the girl for you. She picks up tarantulas like they're cute little kittens and immediately gets the attention of the man himself, William Shatner. 

Starck in Event Horizon
(Joely Richardson)

From the family of Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson is Joely, whom I have loved since seeing her in the phenomenal Event Horizon. She's "space"y in a good way and knows her way around all that complicated spaceship stuff. I love her like pancakes.

Dr. Susan McCallister in Deep Blue Sea
(Saffron Burrows)

She'd be a little too skinny for my taste if I ever swung the lesbian way, but Saffron Burrows in Deep Blue Sea is one awesome chick. She's curing Alzheimer's and gets up close and personal with freaking sharks to get the job done. Tenacity and brains... it's sort of what got her killed in the movie, but at least she looked good doing it.

Dr. Ellie Satler in Jurassic Park
(Laura Dern)

Awww, she loves triceratops and knows about prehistoric plants. That's a "Dr" in front of her name, boys. You better recognize. She's had some hardcore schooling. Plus, Laura Dern? Beautiful woman and underrated actress! Love her.

Bobbi Anderson in The Tommyknockers
(Marg Helgenberger)

There's a different kind of smart here in that Bobbi Anderson is popular female writer of Wild West fiction. And before she got all super-hot on CSI, Marg Helgenberger brought her awesome looks and talent to this character, who is still sexy as hell in this movie even when the alien spaceship forcefields start making her teeth fall out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Movie Review: I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

I Spit on Your Grave was truly and honestly the only horror phenomenon that I thought was safe from the recent remake frenzy. And don't get me wrong, I've liked a good number of the remakes that have come out so far, it's just that I Spit seemed like the kind of movie that critics and censors wanted to forget about. But now it's back and I'm frankly a little conflicted about the outcome.

So the plot is mostly similar to the original - young, pretty writer Jennifer Hills (with almost the same hairdo, might I add) rents a cabin in the woods to write a new book. She meets up with the local hoods at the gas station, embarrasses one of the dudes and rejects his advances, so they get all testosterone rage-y and assault her in various ways one night. They think they killed her, but she survives and comes back to seek her vengeance against the attackers.

The first thing to piss me off was the country bumpkin rapists not liking Jennifer because she was a hoity toity "big city gal." Same as in the original, they say that she didn't come out to the woods to write her book, she went there to have sex. UGH. I am so sick of this plot point. The rednecks always hate the city people because they think they are all rich and snobby. So cliche. Think of something else, for the love of all that is gory.

I almost completely checked out of the movie when the sheriff becomes the main instigator of Jennifer's assault. Maybe I watch too many cop shows but I have far too much respect for police officers to accept all the sadistic, crooked, or incompetent cops that are portrayed in movies. It is 2011, people, and I don't care how backwoods someone is, it is still unbelievable to me that a sheriff would be the ringleader of a brutal gang rape and (supposed) murder.

All right, let's talk torture now, shall we? First of all, the scene at the beginning where Jennifer is running and comes across the abandoned cabin where she eventually carries out her revenge was so unnecessary. They have spooky shots of the bathtub and the hedge clippers, and I'm screaming at the TV, "STOP FORESHADOWING SO MUCH! WE GET IT!" Anyway. Overall, Jennifer's methods of torture and murder were too elaborate for me (although one could argue that she did have a whole month to plan it out), but it was a nice touch that each of the men's demises paralleled the kind of person they were or the way that they abused Jennifer.

Then again, Jennifer herself kept cheapening the moments by repeating back to the men the things they said during her assault. "I thought you were an ass man," "You said, 'Suck it bitch,'" and all that weird "show horse" crap. It became almost comical, and while you were still rooting for the assholes to die, the seriousness of the crime they committed was practically lost.

One thing that made me uncomfortable about the original was how Jennifer seduced her rapists into her revenge traps. It just never felt right and although you could say that she was being clever by catering to their misogynistic attitudes to trick them, it almost confirms their feelings that women are whores and use sex to get what they want. So I'm glad the remake had Jennifer showing up as a total badass and the men being immediately afraid of her and what she was going to do to them. I especially loved how she whacked both Andy and Stanley with a baseball bat and was able to control them both at the same time. She has the power now and that is the real message of the movie.

At times, her revenge seemed almost worse than their initial crime. Although the first rape by Matthew was incredibly brutal, I was squirming in my seat when Jennifer rammed the shotgun as hard as she could up the sheriff's ass. Speaking of this scene, just wanted to say that I know what you were doing here, filmmakers. You're trying to rival the ending to The Last House on the Left remake, aren'tcha?!

OH! Oh, oh, oh, you wanna talk about pissing me off? How about Andy's line about how after the rape, Matthew was acting all strange and as Andy says, "I think he even feels guilty." I about jumped in the TV and ripped the dude's face off. "I think he even feels guilty"??? As if there's nothing to feel guilty about. Angry Michele. Very, very angry Michele. BUT, it was the selling point in making me really enjoy the payoff of him getting his face melted off in a bathtub of lye. 

Final Thoughts:
Not gonna lie - I LOVE how they recreated the original poster art. Grey on white looks awesome for this kind of movie and is quite evocative looking.

The sheriff's daughter's name is Chastity? In a rape-revenge movie? Is that some kind of a joke?!

Meir Zarchi, the director of the original film, was executive producer on the remake. Hm.

Blogger is also pissing me off because the text is not wrapping around the pictures like I like it. Doesn't have anything to do with the movie but it does this every once in a while and it really annoys me.