Sunday, 30 September 2012

An American Werewolf in London - John Landis - 1981

Legendary director John Landis followed up his cult musical comedy The Blues Brothers with this fresh spin on the werewolf legend and successfully packed in enough laughs, scares and new ideas to make the a major milestone in the history of the cinematic werewolf. In the initial sequences on the Yorkshire Moors, Landis relishes playing the monster movie clich├ęs up to the max as two backpackers stumble into a pub of hostile locals, ignore all their advice and end up in a nasty encounter with the mysterious beast. From then on we follow David the survivor (David Naughton, whatever happened to him?) as he hooks up with sexy nurse Jenny Agutter and comes to the slow realisation that he has been horribly changed by his experience on the moors, changes that eventually lead to the most impressive transformation yet seen on the screen. Given that the effects are all created in camera by makeup guru Rick Baker, Landis bravely elects to take the monster out of the shadows and play the scene in wincingly graphic detail, but the move pays off with a scene that emphasises more than any werewolf film how excruciatingly painful the change must be and unlike a lot of eighties special effects sequences, still stands up alongside today's best CGI. The most interesting twist though is the reappearance of David's dead friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) heralding his transformations in various stages of hilariously gruesome decomposition, always at inappropriate moments but best of all in the back row of a porn cinema in Piccadilly. Bubbling over with Landis' often morbid wit, the inherent darkness of the story doesn't always sit perfectly with the rest, while the inevitable ending feels somewhat abrupt, but as a classic horror/comedy this has undoubtedly reigned supreme until the arrival of Shaun of the Dead over twenty years later.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Green Hornet - Michel Gondry - 2011

The Green Hornet is a frankly ludicrous movie, even by comic book standards but the biggest surprise of this highly unanticipated entry into the genre is that occasionally its actually quite good fun. The eccentricities of French director Michel Gondry are curtailed by the material but for his first foray into Hollywood he delivers some impressively flashy action that utilises the 3D effectively rather than simply wasting it on cheap gags. Sadly this isn’t enough though to hide how paper thin the characters are which is unfortunate since he drags the film out to almost a full two hours with repeated teeth-grinding scenes of ‘hero’ Britt Reid flouncing and storming his way around his mansion expecting us to care about his poor little rich boy problems. Seth Rogen is always an entertaining actor but even he can't hide the fact that Britt is a massive jerk Jay Chou as his put upon sidekick Kato can certainly pull off some really cool moves but the character is so derivative of every other Asian action hero to have come West since the advent of Bruce Lee that he actually comes across as quite dull, especially since he can't show any motivation for why he would want to stay with the bullying Rogen. Still the plot does at least attempt to be intriguing and by the time the front half of the car drives up the elevator the film is clearly so ridiculous you might as well just give up and have fun. After all isn't that what comic books are all about?