14 posts categorized "SHOCKTOBER!"

September 30, 2023

HOUR OF THE WOLF — SHOCKTOBER!

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ColeSmithey.comGroupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comIngmar Bergman's haunting 1968 psychological thriller is, at heart, a bold reflection on the lasting effects of childhood abuse.

Filmed on the island of Fårö, Bergman announces the minimalist movie with a flourish of self-referential artistic expression to set up the bizarre narrative that follows.

Sounds of its stage set being built, under the conversation of a film crew, give way to, "Camera."

"Action."

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Liv Ullmann speaks directly to the camera as Alma. She speaks of revelations she has discovered from reading her husband's diary.

Alma has given birth to a child on this lonely, desolate island. Her beloved artist husband Johan (Max von Sydow) has vanished.

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Suicide perhaps. A victim of murder? We may never know.

The couple have come to the island for Johan to paint. Their love is strong, but ghosts from Johan's past haunt him. Johan's place in the world as an artist reveal subtexts of Ingmar Bergman's own self identity.

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Johan is unable to find peaceful sleep in the couple's cold water cottage.

Dreams and nightmares blur with harsh reality.

Suspicion and regret hang in the air.

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A dinner invitation by a coven of insulting aristocrats inhabiting a 14th century castle, leads to an explosion of social anxiety for Johan. Are the blue-bloods real, or merely composite figures from Johan's troubled imagination?

A quote from "Rosemary's Baby" springs to mind.

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"Witches, all of them witches."

The subconscious and conscious minds of our lonely couple reveal cracks that all married couples experience.

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Only we, the audience, can decide where the truth lies — that will take time.

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Impeccably conceived and executed, "Hour of the Wolf" is an eloquent thing of cinematic perfection. Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann provide stunning performances.

What is this nightmare called love?

Not Rated. 87 mins.

5 Stars ColeSmithey.com

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

March 03, 2019

THE NINTH GATE

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ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comThe Ninth Gate is a well-crafted and entertaining horror film. While director Roman Polanski chooses to lilt over the horrific trajectory that tugs mercenary book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) toward the gates of Hell, rather than embrace his protagonist's terror as he did with such shockers as Rosemary's Baby (1968) or The Tenant (1976), Polanski stakes out his own ground rules and adheres to them flawlessly.

The sense of suspense is formal as it is purposeful. 

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From the film’s textbook opening scene in which Polanski's subjective camera discerningly divulges aspects of a millionaire's library in which imminent death approaches, to the thorough European pacing over which the devilish story unfolds, The Ninth Gate takes the audience on a joyfully evil descent into perplexing other-worldly shadows.

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Based on Arturo Perez-Reverte's best-selling novel El Club Dumas, this is a modern gothic horror story woven from the proposed power of satanic literature to conjure up the Devil himself. Dean Corso is an unscrupulous book broker hired by Satan scholar Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to travel from New York to Toledo, Portugal, and Paris to compare Balkin's recently acquired 1666 edition of a rare, hand-bound manual of satanic invocation, supposedly written by Satan himself, against the only two other copies in existence to verify the tome's authenticity.

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Balkan tells the amoral Corso: "There's nothing more reliable than a man who can be bought." Corso's cynical character trait of temptation is written in the sanguine fluid of money from the film's beginning. Corso wears death on his sleeve like a war zone journalist hot for action. Johnny Depp uses a vocal texture that rumbles from the screen in a dark pitch that catches you off guard. His economic but heavy timbre establishes a hollowness in his character, dying to be filled with some unknown organic passion. At times, Depp seems to recede into the film's creaking metal and dry tinder-in-a-box settings. He suggests a precise mortal puppet being manipulated by collaborating evil forces to trace steps he cannot help but follow.

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Polanski and his two collaborating screenwriters, John Brownjohn ("Tess") and Enrique Urbizu, orchestrate their Faustian script in a cinematic shorthand that magnifies tiny details like subtle differences in the nine diabolical engravings which comprise the murderous puzzle that Corso attempts to unravel amidst the three volumes. Polanski drops in sudden repulsive images that give terse nods to such horror films as Hitchcock's Frenzy, and Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now. He allows scenes to play without the ersatz aid of musical accompaniment, resulting in a delightfully intimate game of call and response for the audience to conceive while the action unfolds. There are so many highly polished cinematic elements to enjoy in every frame of the movie that repeated viewing beckons.

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Pauline Kael said that "great movies are rarely perfect movies," and this truism certainly applies to The Ninth Gate. Actress Emmanuelle Seigner's (Frantic) sub-plot as Dean Corso's mysterious, dark guardian angel slips through the film as a sexy and enigmatic mascot that Corso accepts too easily. There are plenty of silly bumps and loopy twists that don't sufficiently fulfill a dynamic dramatic arc for the film's slightly long running time, but no jolting scares. Still, there is plenty to enjoy in director of photography, Darius Khondji's ("Seven") hand-in-glove association with the masterful vision of a director who believes that content is more important than form.

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In the end, Dean Corso could readily be an alter-ego fugitive that Polanski recognizes in the mirror of the camera lens. It's an image you can almost imagine.

Rated R. 133 mins. Three Stars SF SHOCKTOBER!Cozy Cole

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February 23, 2019

GHOST SHIP

      ColeSmithey.com    Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

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ColeSmithey.comWhile Ghost Ship may not provide much more than a series of cursory scary moments over its 88-minute length, the movie's over-the-top opening sequence is worth the price of admission alone.

Bright pink lettering introduces the film as if it were a campy romantic comedy. Gentle lounge music plays from a '50s-style nightclub aboard a glamorous Italian ocean liner. Well-dressed travelers dance to the ship's band and elegant chanteuse, oblivious to the impending danger about to snap at their twitching bodies.

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The following moment of gruesome surprise is drawn out with such gleeful prolonging that the scene goes from shock to horror to comedy and back to shock and horror without missing a beat. Audiences wanting that old-fashioned "Boo!" surprise of a Halloween spook-house experience can get a few good thrills in the safety of a darkened movie house with Ghost Ship, at least in this opening scene.

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A tugboat salvage crew gets an unexpected opportunity when Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington of Boiler Room), a Canadian air force pilot, shows them black-and-white aerial photos of an abandoned ship floating off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea. Led by Captain Sean Murphy (well played by the ever reliable Gabriel Byrne), the crew of the Arctic Warrior tugboat agrees to allow the pilot to join them in their salvage effort to claim whatever riches the ship still holds and give the messenger a 10 percent finder's fee for his trouble.

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Once on board the giant floating rust-bucket cruise liner known as the Antonia Graza, the crew encounters a few ghosts, some truly scary food supplies, and a huge shipment of solid gold bars valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The crew team leader Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies) communicates exclusively with the ghost of an attractive young girl named Katie (Emily Browning), who survived a little longer than the rest of unfortunate people on the dance floor when death paid a visit to the ship in 1962.

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Blood oozes from bullet holes inside the ship's old swimming pool as the crew struggle to repair a gaping hole in the ship's hull. But the cold claustrophobic fear that should creep off the screen like a dense San Francisco fog never catches on because director Steven Beck (Thirteen Ghosts) can't match the timbre of the movie to the tone of the ship's foreboding atmosphere. Beck never instills the proper mood of dislocation into his actors, nor does he use the camera as a conspirator in building the audience's sense of anxiety.

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Tugboat crew members meet with sudden deaths that occur off-screen half of the time, leaving the audience to wonder why we weren't included. The ship's ghosts turn out to be not as vengeful as your typical ghosts. Still, a  gruesome flesh-ripping sequence make sure that our attention is held while the true face of evil presents itself.

Ghost Ship won't rock anyone's world, but it's still an improvement on another recent horror flick, The Ring, from which audiences walk out scratching their heads as to what they saw and why they spent their hard-earned money to see such a morass of cinematic boredom.

Rated R. 91 mins. 

3 Stars SF SHOCKTOBER!
This review was originally published in the Colorado Springs Independent in 2002.

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

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