Film Review: The Ring (dir by Gore Verbinski)


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(SPOILERS BELOW!)

This weekend, I will be seeing Rings, the second sequel to the 2002 film, The Ring.  (Of course, The Ring itself is a remake of the Japanese film, Ringu.)  Since it’s been a while since we’ve had a new installment in the Ring franchise, I decided to rewatch the first film tonight.

I have to admit that I had a few concerns before I rewatched The Ring.  When I first saw The Ring, it scared me to the extent that I actually had nightmares afterward.  Even after all these years, the image of that little girl emerging from the well and then crawling out of the television still makes me shiver.  But even with that in mind, I still found myself wondering if The Ring would live up to my vivid memories.

After all, it’s been 14 years since The Ring was released and, since that time, it’s been copied and imitated by literally hundreds of other PG-13 rated horror movies.  Would the shocks still be effective, now that I knew they were coming and that I would no longer be surprised to learn that the little girl in the well was actually evil?

Add to that, there was the question of technology.  In 2002, it seemed all too plausible that people could be trading back and forth a cursed VHS tape.  The Ring was made at a time when DVDs were still considered to be exotic.  When The Ring first came out, YouTube didn’t even exist.  But today, both VHS tapes and VCRs are artifacts of another era.  DVDs have been replaced by Blu-rays and Blu-rays are in the process of being replaced by streaming services.  For The Ring to work, you had to be able to relate to people watching a VHS tape.  Today, all of these people would be too busy watching cute cat videos on YouTube to fall into The Ring‘s trap.

In short, would The Ring still work in the age of Netflix?  And would the film still be as scary as it was when it was first released?  These were the question that I found myself wondering as I sat down to rewatch The Ring.

And the answer to both questions is … for the most part, yes.

Here’s the good news.  All the important things still work.  The performances of Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, Amber Tamblyn, and especially Naomi Watts hold up well.  Gore Verbinski’s direction is still effective and, as I rewatched the film, I was surprised to see how many odd and quirky details that Verbinski managed to work into the film.  (I especially enjoyed the magic-obsessed desk clerk.)  The cursed video was still creepy and compulsively watchable and I still felt uneasy while watching Anna Morgan (played by Shannon Cochran) comb her hair in that mirror.  Even more importantly, the little girl in the well, Samara Morgan (Daveigh Chase), was still incredibly frightening.

Admittedly, The Ring is dated and some of its effectiveness has been diluted by imitation.  Unfortunately, that’s something that happens with any financially successful horror film.  Beyond that, as effective as the entire film was, there were parts of The Ring that did feel undeniably silly.  There’s a lengthy scene in which Naomi Watts, while on a ferry, attempts to talk to a horse and the horse reacts by jumping into the ocean.  I understand that the scene was probably meant to establish that, as a result of watching that videotape, Watts was now cursed.  But, still, I kept wondering why Watts was bothering the horse in the first place.  I mean, I love horses too but I know better than to disturb one while on a ferry.  As well, the film’s opening sequence — in which Amber Tamblyn is menaced and ultimately killed by Samara — no longer felt as effective as it did when I first saw it, largely due to the fact that it’s been copied by so many other horror films.  Imitation may be the ultimate compliment but it does tend to dilute the effectiveness of horror.

But, in the end, The Ring held up well enough.  The film’s storyline — characters watch a cursed video tape and then, seven days later, are killed by Samara — was simple but enjoyable.  And, when David Dorfman delivered his classic line: “No.  You weren’t supposed to help her,” I still felt a chill run down my spine.

Will Rings hold up as well as The Ring?

I’ll find out this weekend!

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Stage Fright: THE HYPNOTIC EYE (Allied Artists 1960)


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The Hypnotic Eye (1960) Directed by George Blair Shown: Lobby card

Evil hypnotists have been a movie staple since Svengali first mesmerized Trilby in 1911, but THE HYPNOTIC EYE is in a class of its own. This demented little tale is sufficiently creepy enough to overcome its meager budget limitations, and features the Ice Queen of Horror, Allison Hayes, in the pivotal role of Justine, assistant to master trancemaker Desmond.

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We start with an opening shot of a woman, thinking she’s washing her hair, sticking her head directly into the flame of a stove pilot. That’ll get your attention! A series of horrible self-mutilations have left a dozen beautiful women disfigured and the police scratching their heads. Detective Dave Kennedy discusses the bizarre cases with police psychologist Phil Hecht: “One of them stuck her face in the blade of an electric fan. Thought it was a vibrator. Another one sliced her face with a straight razor. Thought it was a lipstick brush”.

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Dave’s girlfriend Marcia…

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A Merry Christmas and Enjoy the Greatest Christmas Film Ever Made!


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We celebrate the 7th year anniversary of the site and we continue a yearly holiday ritual over here at Through the Shattered Lens. I present to all of you readers, visitors and passer-byes the greatest holiday film ever created since forever, ever. I know it’s one that resident anime contributor pantsukudasai56 looks forward to each and every Christmas.

It is a film full of joy and happiness. Of giving and sharing with loved ones that which matters most. This is a film that best describes what Through the Shattered Lens stands for and works towards.

It even has a scene straight out of a Disney classic.

So, from all of us at Through the Shattered Lens….

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

A Few Thoughts on …. The Walking Dead 7.5 “Go Getters” (dir by Darnell Martin)


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So far, season 7 of The Walking Dead has been pretty inconsistent.

Often times, I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, vainly defending the season premiere and continuing to hope that, at some point, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal of Negan is going to become something more than a one-dimensional caricature.

Like a lot of people, I kind of enjoyed the second episode but, in retrospect, that was mostly because of the weirdness of King Ezekiel and the majesty of Shiva.  The episode itself was extremely slow and featured one of those overly sentimental musical montages, the type of thing that never holds up particularly well on repeat viewing.

The Cell … oh, I tried to enjoy The Cell but basically, it was just an hour of Daryl not speaking and Negan doing his Negan thing.

And then there was last week’s episode, which appears to be going down in the history books as the consensus pick for the worst episode of The Walking Dead ever.

So, with all that in mind, I am going to cautiously state that I think that the latest installment, Go Getters, was a definite improvement over the last few episodes.  It was hardly a classic.  It certainly wasn’t The Walking Dead at its absolute best.  But, at the very least, it held my attention for 60 minutes, it seemed to actually move the story forward (as opposed to just being a stagnant portrayal of doom and gloom), and it left me looking forward to seeing what would happen next week.  Coming nearly halfway through an uneven season, Go Getters provided just a little bit of hope for the show’s future, telling us,  “The Walking Dead‘s not dead and growling in Herschel’s barn just yet!”

Of course, it helped that Go Getters was centered on Maggie, the only one of the main characters who has not left me pissed off or disappointed this season.  Following the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, Maggie and Sasha are hiding out at Hilltop Colony.  Gregory wants to kick them out, Jesus wants to protect them.  Eventually, the Saviors show up and we get to know Simon (Steven Ogg, investing the role with such menace that it’s hard not to wonder how different the season would be if he had been cast as Negan), who is one of Negan’s liuetenants.  Simon collects his tribute, humiliates Gregory, and leaves.  Meanwhile, Carl and Enid show up at Hilltop, having run away from Alexandria.  One-eyed Carl has decided to take revenge on Negan and who can blame him?  At this point, he has to know that his red-eyed, sniveling, neutered father isn’t going to do anything…

(Which brings up an interesting issue: we’re supposed to look down on Gregory for being so weak and subservient to the Saviors but really, he didn’t do anything different from what Rick did last week.  We’re supposed to give Rick a pass but not Gregory, which doesn’t seem quite right.  Gregory may be an ass but, as we should all know by now, nice guys don’t survive the apocalypse.)

So far, each episode this season has featured a different community being harassed by Negan.  I’m assuming that these communities are eventually going to come together to take out the Saviors.  If that’s the case, I can understand and even respect the deliberate build-up.  At the same time, this season is moving so slowly (and has been so repetitive) that it’s hard not to get frustrated when you’re watching on a weekly schedule.  One gets the feeling that Season 7 will be better when binge-watched but, for now, I find myself wishing the show would pick up the pace.

But, with all that in mind, I liked Go Getters.  I love the fact that Maggie refuses to surrender.  Despite all of the terrible things that have happened to her and the people that she loved, Maggie has not given up.  She hasn’t turned into a weak shell, like Rick or Daryl.  Nor has she retreated to a world of fantasy, like Carol.  Instead, Maggie lives, Maggie fights, and Maggie endures.  Glenn may be dead but Maggie the Cat is alive.

GO MAGGIE!

A Few Thoughts On The Walking Dead 7.3 “The Cell” (dir by Alrick Riley)


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I’ve been on twitter, reading everyone’s reactions to the latest episode of The Walking Dead, and I’ve noticed a definite pattern.

People who read the comic along with watching the TV show seemed to be pretty excited by tonight’s episode.  They were happy that Dwight (played by Austin Amelio) and his wife, Sherry (Christine Evangelista), were prominently featured.  I mean, make no mistake.  This episode may have technically been a Daryl episode but, for the most part, it was pretty much set up to highlight Dwight and Sherry.

Of course, it was also set up to give us some insight into the way that Negan runs things.  We got to see the Sanctuary, the home base of the Saviors, and it’s not really that surprising that it turned out to be the testosterone-fueled Hellhole of everyone’s nightmares.  On the plus side, the Sanctuary has power.  It has music.  It has a TV, though there doesn’t appear to be any good programming.  Is a world where the only available entertainment features Tony Danza a world worth saving?

And Negan — well, Negan’s still an asshole.  He’s still strutting around with Lucille, bullying everyone that he comes in contact with.  Obviously, we were meant to compare Negan’s leadership style to King Ezekiel’s.  Ezekiel rules through fantasy.  Negan rules through fear.  No wonder Gordon tried to leave.

(Gordon’s execution would have been far more powerful if we had more of an idea of who Gordon was meant to be.  Then again, that scene was more about Dwight than Gordon.)

Negan is also trying to brainwash Daryl and it’s obvious that Dwight is more than a little jealous.  I liked the fact that Dwight didn’t seem to know if he wanted to kill Daryl or beg Daryl to be his best friend.  Watching Negan and Daryl, I couldn’t help but think about Merle and the Governor.  Of course, that didn’t end well as far as the Dixon family is concerned…

As I said, those who read the comic appeared to enjoy tonight’s episode.  On the other hand, viewers who weren’t familiar with the comic seemed to be a bit disappointed.  On twitter, they complained that tonight’s episode was too slow and anti-climatic.  Interestingly enough, a lot of them said the same thing about last week’s episode with King Ezekiel.

Myself, I have to say that The Cell didn’t do much for me.  Last week’s episode may have been slow but, after all the shit that went down in the premiere, I was kind of thankful for a slow episode that featured at least a little humor.  But with The Cell, The Walking Dead essentially followed one slow episode with another slow episode, the difference being that this one didn’t really accomplish much.

As I watched day-to-day life in the Sanctuary, I couldn’t help but think about Lost.  You remember when Jack, Sawyer, and Kate ended up spending a handful of episodes living with The Others?  The society of the Others was genuinely interesting.  You could actually imagine watching an alternate version of Lost where the Others would have been the main characters and the Oceanic passengers would have been the rarely seen villains.

You really can’t say the same of The Saviors and life at Sanctuary.  The Saviors may be scary and menacing and dangerous but they’re also more than a little boring.  I’ve praised Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance in the past but, with tonight’s episode, I started to wonder if there was anything more to Morgan’s Negan than what we’ve already seen.  Yes, Negan’s a bully.  Yes, he’s an asshole.  Yes, I’d love to see him devoured by a walker.  But I could say the same about a lot of the characters on The Walking Dead.  What is it about the television version of Negan that sets him apart from every other wannabe dictator on this show?

To a certain extent, it reminded me of when Colin Hanks showed up as a serial killer on Dexter.  I watched him and I thought, “Yeah, he’s pretty fucked up but who isn’t on this show?”  At this point, just being fucked up isn’t enough.

What the show needs is one episode — just one — where Negan isn’t bellowing and threatening everyone that he sees.  We need one episode where we can see who Negan was before the zombie apocalypse and who he is now when he’s not hiding behind Lucille.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a seriously talented actor and he’s capable of a lot more than just playing a one-dimensional villain.

I hope that The Walking Dead eventually gives him a chance to show everyone how true that is.

I do want to end this review on a positive note so I will say two things:

  1. This episode was directed by Alrick Riley, who previously directed several episodes of an intriguing British spy show called MI5 (a.k.a. Spooks).
  2. That scene with the walker falling out of the sky totally freaked me out!

 

 

Film Review: Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories (dir by Nathan Thomas Milliner, P.J. Starks, James Treakle, Sean Blevins, John William Holt, Jon Maynard, and Justin M. Seaman)


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You may remember that, last year, I raved about an independent horror film called Volumes of Blood!  Did you take my advice and track it down?  DID YOU!?  It’s available on Amazon and, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re running behind because the sequel has just been released.

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories opens with the following warning:

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That warning pretty much tells you everything that you need to know.  Full of clever references and call backs to previous horror films, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories was made by people who love horror and it will be best appreciated by other horror lovers.  Like the first film, it earns the title Volumes of Blood because the blood never stops flowing.

Like the first film, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is an anthology film, telling 8 different but inter-connected stories of gore and horror.  Things start off with a nicely done little slasher parody called Murder Death Killer.  Directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner, Murder Death Killer deals with three small-time crooks who make the mistake of visiting a junkyard that’s haunted by the vengeful spirit of Atticus Crow.  Murder Death Killer is nicely directed, with Milliner exploiting that junkyard for every ounce of ominous atmosphere that it has.  One of the crooks, Mr. Dawson, is played by Thomas Dunbar, an actor who gives off a welcome Sid Haig vibe.

Murder Death Killer is followed by Haters, which is directed by the film’s producer, P.J. Starks.  Haters deals with two horror fans who, after watching a remake of Murder Death Killer (one that we’re told stars Vin Diesel and Eric Roberts), make the mistake of pissing off the wrong usher.  Haters features many references to my favorite part of the first Volumes of Blood, a fictional movie called The Dewey Deathimal System.

The atmospheric and gory Trick or Treat (directed by Sean Blevins) picks up directly where the first Volumes of Blood ended, with the town of Owensboro, Kentucky coming to terms with the massacre at the local library and the first film’s mysterious murderer continuing to seek fresh victims.  You’ll never look at candy corn the same way again.

Trick or Treat leads directly to Killer House (directed by James Treakle).  A mysterious realtor (played by Christopher Bower) leads a couple on a tour through a mysterious house.  The realtor is quite insistent on visiting the cellar but the couple wants to see the upstairs first.  However, regardless of where the tour leads, each room triggers a different story.  The highlight of Killer House is the wonderfully creepy performance of Christopher Bower.

Feeding Time (directed by John William Holt) is a nicely done little film about an insurance salesman who is desperate to make a sell on the day before Thanksgiving.  The house that he visits doesn’t appear to be occupied by anyone other than a mysterious teenage girl (Shelby Taylor Mullins, giving a memorably off-key performance) who swear that there’s a monster in her closet.

In Blood Bath (directed by Jon Maynard), a man fears that his bathtub may have eaten both his wife and his best friend.  Is the bathtub truly possessed or is the man just suffering the side effects from having forgotten to take his medicine?  Blood Bath will keep you guessing.

Fear, For Sinners Here (directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner) was my personal favorite of all the stories in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.  On Christmas Eve, Carol (Jessica Schroeder) sits in her living room and she wraps presents while melancholy Christmas music plays on a record player.  Carol is wrapping toys for someone name “Joey.”  She’s sad, sometimes crying and sometimes growing angry.  I don’t want to spoil too much of this story, beyond saying that it’s superbly done.  It starts as a poignant look at holiday depression but then there’s a twist and then another.  Jessica Schroeder gives a great performance.

And finally, Death Day Party (directed by Justin M. Seaman) follows a seemingly sweet elderly couple as they celebrate a birthday in a definitely less than sweet way.  Full of rude humor, Death Day Party will appeal to those with an appreciation for the morbid and macabre.

Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories ends with a dedication to Wes Craven, Angus Scrimm, Gunnar Hansen, and Herschell Gordon Lewis.  It’s an appropriate dedication because Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is a film made by people who love horror for viewers who love horror.  Mixing humor with gore, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is a fun celebration of the macabre.

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Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 10: Halloween Leftovers


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Halloween has come and gone, though most people have plenty of leftovers on hand, including your Cracked Rear Viewer. Here are some treats (and a few tricks) that didn’t quite make the cut this year:

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ISLE OF THE DEAD (RKO 1945, D: Mark Robson)

Typically atmospheric Val Lewton production stars Boris Karloff as a Greek general trapped on a plague-ridden island along with a young girl (Ellen Drew) who may or may not be a vorvolaka (vampire-like spirit). This film features one of Lewton’s patented tropes, as Drew wanders through the woods alone, with the howling wind and ominous sounds of the creatures of the night. Very creepy, with another excellent Karloff performance and strong support from Lewton regulars Alan Napier, Jason Robards Sr, and Skelton Knaggs. Fun Fact: Like BEDLAM , this was inspired by a painting, Arnold Bocklin’s “Isle of the Dead”.

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THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS (Allied Artists 1954, D: Edward…

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