Spring (2014)

Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson. Written by: Justin Benson.  Score: Jimmy LaValle (“The Album Leaf”). Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti. USA, 2014. Budget: unknown, but tiny. Box office: $49,970. IMDB: 6.7. RT: 88%. My rating: 4/4. Love horror deconstruction.

“Just because you haven’t seen something before, it doesn’t mean it’s supernatural.”
(Lilly De Silva from Australia)

“I also highly commend the snippets of philosophy, morality, mortality, religion and science which were sprinkled throughout the film and delivered with just the right amount of wit and depth…”
(Lilly De Silva from Australia)

“The only reason i did not turn this off was because i live in a place without wifi so had no option to download or stream anything else.”
(Nicholaus Hedman)

Okay folks, here a film praised not only by me, but by Guillermo Del Toro himself as “…one of the best horror films of this decade”. If that means something to you, keep on reading, otherwise… otherwise I guess you ended up on a wrong blog! 😲

spring-ice-cream

This scene is not as simple as it seems.

Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead continue to trick the viewers with their second film and deconstruct the movie genres, now in a very romantic and sweet way. “Spring” is irresistible from the very beginning to the last frame. Just like the main characters of the movie, it enfolds you with charming and genuine story. And like “Resolution“, their previous movie, it’s more of a mystery, than horror.

It took me a while to have enough courage to approach this movie since I really adored “Resolution”, the debut picture of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. After reading the interviews and the premise, I was afraid that the directors would not be at a height of their first movie and pay too much attention to the horror genre itself. Oh oh oh. I couldn’t be more wrong.  “Spring” is an incredibly refreshing romantic monsterpiece.

20170401_130229

I could stare at this for hours too. Easy!

The story. After losing his mother and his job, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci – “Thumbsucker“, 2013 “Evil Dead” ), a young American guy, decides to go wild and buys a random travel destination, participating in various parties and other craziness. He is impulsive, but… he simply feels lost. Evan accidentally meets Louise (Nadia Hilker – “Allegiant“), a young Italian girl living in a small Italian city near the Amalfi coast. Soon he founds out that not everything is what it seems and there is some dark obscure truth behind Louise.

spring-pizza

Something creepy must be hiding this charming smile… or is it just my imagination?

The production and shooting. The script, the location and how they intertwine is truly impressive. Justin Benson wrote the script while shooting ”Resolution”, when he was still working at the restaurants. In various interviews the directors mention the difficulties they had in finding the funds even after a successful indie debut – they went to Cannes Festival covering all the expenses by themselves (normally that doesn’t work that way), then scouting the right locations in Italy and meeting some producers. The project was initially thought to be shot in Italy and you can feel it – the city is an integral part of the story and deserves a special word.

”Spring” makes you feel like you are right in the middle of an upcoming spring blossom.

What I liked. It goes without saying how gorgeous is the location (it is actually Polignano a Mare in Apulia), but what is important here is how Benson and Moorhead actually develop the characters in this ambient. The light, the nature, various life forms, the feel, the architecture and the spirit of the place  blend organically with the story.  There is some kind of sense of doom here. Some scenes of the movie were not even programmed, but were a pure luck, like, for example, a couple of dead birds. Benson and Moorhead, it seems, are keeping a secret about shooting something that may sound like a cliche on paper but turns out to be genuine and original. Like ”Resolution”, Spring” flows so naturally that you never look at the watch.

20170401_125733

Bloody, but not disgusting.

Benson and Moorhead approach the actual filming in a very mature way for such young directors. I read about how they both hate establishing shots, considering them waste of time (these usually wide shots show the whole location from a distance preparing the audience). So they used the drones and trying to find some unusual feel and peculiar angles. This kind of approach embraces the whole movie, without becoming an end in itself though (and many directors fall in this trap once they’ve found an original visual style).

20170401_130212

Polignano al Mare, the film’s main location.

The acting. Can’t praise more brilliant performance of Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. Amazing chemistry. They found a perfect tone for the picture, giving you a sense of watching a seed that is breaking the ground and is slowly becoming a tree, deepening its roots. If Evan is a seed, searching impulsively and painfully for something (or somebody), then Louise, with all her transformations, would be the nature – water, sun – that comes and goes as she pleases. Their increasing connection reminds that loving means growing, and growing means taking more and more layers off yourself and the other person that can be painful. I would also like to give a special mention to Francesco Carnelutti, a veteran Italian actor, who played a old farmer. His character was sharp, kind and wise. Carnelutti passed away in 2015. He did his first role in 1969.

20170401_125950

The dialogues often makes you wanna stop and pinch yourself. When Evan arrives in the town, continuing his somewhat of a substance-based journey, he is quickly approached by a charming stranger, Louise… and you know what would happen in most romance movies, right? Here Evan asks whether she is a prostitute.  By the way, it’s the debut film for Nadia Hilker. My standing ovation. Lou Taylor Pucci mentioned somewhere that before being actually contacted by Benson and Moorhead, he was actually searching for a love horror movie (on what his representatives said that such stories don’t exist).

20170401_125933

You think that airplane can’t hit his head? Then you forgot what real sci-fi is.

The music. Jimmy LaValle, a one man band (he performs as “The Album Leaf” – post-rock, indie pop, ambient; check it out if you have never heard of it) created tender and heartwarming tones for the picture. After graduating from college, Benson worked on documenting an album of “The Album Leaf”, it seems that now his past connection bring great results.

The reception. Like ”Resolution”, ”Spring” was greatly received everywhere and received various awards on indie festivals . Guillermo del Toro wrote in his Twitter, ”Just in case I wasn’t clear: Spring is one of the best horror films of this decade. And the only Lovecraftian film that has blown me away.”

Screenshot_20171108-103101

That’s it folks. I guess after reading how I drool over the film, these numbers won’t surprise you…

Spectacularity: 4/4
Acting:  4/4
Directing: 4/4
Originality: 4/4
Final vote: 4/4

Worth watching? Movies like ”Spring” make my faith in independent cinema stronger than ever. Keep in mind – it’s more of a mystery/thriller and has nothing to do with modern jumpscare horror, being a heartfelt, layered and genuine Lovecraftian film, capable of saying lots of things. Surely one of the most refreshing and picturesque love horror stories in many years, ”Spring” actually makes you feel like you are right in the middle of an upcoming spring blossom.

ezgif-5-15c02299cb

What they do in the shadows…

 

***

Here’s a link to the movie on Amazon – digital version / BluRay+DVD. I watched it in streaming version so can’t tell exactly how the package looks like… If someone has it, please share.

 

***

Here you can read my review of Moorhead’s & Benson’s previous movie (“Resolution”, 2012) which I absolutely loved too. Their next movie, “The Endless”, must be out very soon and seems to be a spiritual sequel to “Resolution”.

Frankenstein (1931)

Poster - Frankenstein_02Director: James Whale. Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles. USA, 1931. Budget: $262,007. Box office: $12 mln. IMDB: 7.9. My rating: 4/4. A classic horror tale.

– Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… IT’S ALIVE!
(Henry Frankenstein)

– Would you like one of my flowers? You have those and I’ll have these. See how mine float.
(Little girl talking to the monster)

– The brain which was stolen from my laboratory… was a criminal brain.
(Dr. Waldman)

– That body is not dead. It has never lived. I created it. I made it with my own hands, from the bodies I took from graves, from the gallows.
(Henry Frankenstein)

There is some very primordial feeling in “Frankenstein”. A fear not so much of the unknown, but rather of something (and this word, “some – thing” is crucial here) non-understandable, incomprehensible, irrational. Unlike most post-70’s horror classics (although I am not such a big horror conoisseur), it is not driven by purely evil instincts which normally include only chase, torture and murder, but has a more human face and body. Human soul? Good question. But body – yes, even if it comes in artificially combined limbs and organs. Like a caged animal, it retreats or attacks. Caged in by humans. And created by humans, too.

The background. Tons of literature was dedicated to “Frankenstein” and all that surrounds it. In short, it belongs to so-called Universal Horror films. Officially, it was a period between 1923 and 1960, although it was the Classic Period (roughly 1930-1946) when the best movies were made, like:

You can read in short about the most important things of the Classic Period here.

Two rival actors, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff played a crucial role in establishing the success of the new world of horror and often starred together (Lugosi was even initially casted as the monster in “Frankenstein”, but refused the role claiming that playing the monster is too low for such an artist). What’s interesting, both actors and the director were expats – Boris Karloff and James Whale were British, Lugosi was Hungarian.

stillAnnex - Clive, Colin (Frankenstein)_NRFPT_01

What I liked. So let me develop my initial thought. Most post-70’s Western horror movies create the suspense by jump scares – the film is not showing the fear source for a while and that is followed by an unexpected attack. For example, often the modern Asian horror works, for the most part, in a different way, the atmosphere itself is the swamp of fear you’re drowning in; the shock moment, although important, is not decisive. So if you want a simple comparison. “Frankenstein” was clearly shot in the vein of modern (last 20-30 years) Asian horror, like most pre 70’s horror movies in general.

So if we have to compare, say, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956, an amazing sci-fi metaphorical horror with social subtext, one of my all-time favourite movies) and post-Halloween slashers, “Frankenstein” is definitely closer to the first one. It’s not a movie you’d watch just to get some adrenaline. In first place, it’s a wonderful story to follow with a gloomy atmosphere.

There is a great book “Of Mice and Men”, probably one of most beautifully painful novels ever. In case you haven’t read it, here’s the story. Two migrant field workers are in California on plantations during the years of Great Depression—George Milton, a smart but uneducated fellow, and Lennie Small, a bulky and strong giant with a mind of a child, mentally disabled. As the events unfold, we see that probably there is no place in this rational world for such people as Lenny. What it had to do with the movie? Well, Lenny and Frankenstein share a lot in common. They are portrayed as monsters, but they are just victims.

What I didn’t like. It is clearly visible that the film was shot in a studio with paper backgroungs and that distracted me a little in several important episodes. I wonder why nobody took care of the film and did a proper restoration instead of shooting useless remakes like “Victor Frankenstein” (2015, with James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe) – these things are easy nowadays, just look what George Lukas did with his “THX 1138“. Then there were some occasional weird video editing cuts, but that’s a minor complaint.

Worth watching? Absolutely. “Frankenstein” is a great story. I have enjoyed the film much more than I expected (and my expectations were already high!). And it’s awesomeness lies not only in the everlasting influence, as it often happens with older movies. Just like “Metropolis“, “Frankenstein” doesn’t feel dated. A gloomy gothic atmosphere (hi, Guillermo del Toro), wonderful acting – especially Boris Karloff who portrayed not just a monster but a complex character – and beautiful photography.

The primordial inner shiver definitely works on multiple levels here.

4/4

 

 

 

Alien / goofs

I’ve always considered this film to be a perfect one (and still think so), just these 2 shots bother me each time I see them… The doll of Ash on the left should have been done way more carefully.

Event Horizon

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson. Starring: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $27 mln. IMDB: 6.7. My rating: 3/4. Sci-fi/horror/thriller in deep space.

– Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes to see.
(Dr. Weir)

– You will never be alone anymore. Now you are with me. I have beautiful things I want to show you.
(Dr. Weir’s dead wife)

Darkness, space, hell, madness and obscurity. Such a cheerful company. Welcome on board of the “Event Horizon”.

Before Paul Anderson entered the endless Resident Evil epos, he did some other notable films as well, like “Mortal Combat” and “Event Horizon”. We all know how his films look, right? I suppose almost every teenager (well, I speak mostly for boys) had a period, when he is eager to watch stuff about zombies, strange creatures, space and stuff. So what happens when these boys grow up? Some make movies, others watch them. Mostly, without being too serious about it. If there is a movie for each occasion, so for me these movies are perfect to watch late on a Friday, when the brain protests against any kind of work. Or after a late party, when you come home late but still not sleepy. But… “Event Horizon” is not exactly what you would expect from a typical Paul Anderson’s film.

It’s also has a very curious and bleeding produciton history, probably one of the best I’ve ever read together with ”The Island of Dr. Moreau”.

20170212_04244120170212_04275620170212_04264420170212_042535

Continue reading

Peter Stormare / Constantine

While “Constantine” wasn’t a perfect movie, Peter Stormare’s performance there was a true delight, as always.

stormare constantine

It’s funny though that in a Keanu Reeves’ film – Tilda Swinton, Rachel Weisz and Peter Stormare weren’t even mentioned on the posters – he was easily outplayed by their performance. I think the best Stormare’s role was as a cold-blooded weirdo in “Fargo”, and that was wa-ay different from “Constantine”.

stormare fargo

Well, Reeves’ eternally doleful and dismal face expression barely changes from one movie to another. But we can forgive this guy everything for “The Matrix”, don’t we?

Kong: Skull Island

kong-skull-island-posterDirector: Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson. USA, 2017. Budget: 185 million. IMDb rating: 6.9. My rating: 2.5/4. Giant gorilla vs. giant everything.

– Kong’s a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly. This is his home, we’re just guests. But you don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs, unless you’re picking a fight.
(John C. Reilly’s character)

It’s interesting to note once again the Hollywood’s tendency of last years to invite young indie directors for blockbuster production – Garreth Edwards/Star Wars, Colin Trevorrow/Jurassic World, James Gunn/Guardians of the Galaxy – probably hoping they will deliver a fresh breath.

And forget the bearded romantic from New Zealand, who was responsible for his own beautiful and canonical version of King-Kong. Peter Jackson, of course, was relying on the classical King-Kong story of 1933, even though with a more modern and refreshing approach. New Kong is several times bigger, stronger, more dangerous and more… boring.

20170528_200545

Continue reading

Mimic

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Giannini. USA, 1997. Budget: $30 million. IMDb: 5.9. My rating: 3/4. Gothic gloomy tale about giant bugs vs humans with incredible visuals.

– How come you love bugs so much?
– These guys were building castles while dinosaurs were still wimpy little lizards.
(Mira Sorvino’s character about her passion)

mimic

I must confess that I approached “Mimic” with some kind of suspicion. I adore Guillermo del Toro. He is an incredible artist with unique visual style, but being just his second feature film (“Cronos” was the first one and it had good critical success, by the way), I had a doubt that it wasn’t already that Guillermo del Toro we all know and love. It’s also his lowest rated movie on IMDb. Damn, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A thousand apologies. Darkness blended with acid colours, gothic gloom in Victorian style, church-like sewers, unborn creatures, gore and blood. Pure joy for the heart. Continue reading

Attack The Block

Director: Joe Cornish. Starring:  Jodie WhittakerJohn BoyegaNick Frost, Luke Treadaway. UK, 2011. Imdb: 6.6. My rating: 3.5/4. Black comedy with alien invasion in London suburbs.

– No idea. Not a bloody clue. Maybe there was a party at the zoo, and a monkey fucked a fish. 
(Ron about the alien the boys found)

– You’re quite fit you know? Have you got a boyfriend?
– Yeah.
– You sure about him? Where is he? Cos he ain’t exactly lookin’ out for you tonight. — He’s in Ghana.
– You going out with an African then?
– No… he… he’s helping children. Volunteers for the Red Cross.
– Oh… is it? Why can’t he help children in Britain? Not exotic enough is it? Don’t get a nice suntan. Tsst.
(conversation between two teens)

This one is a true gem with British flavour. A lovely movie indeed and it’s much more than it seems. It’s kind of a bad street teenager with rough manners, but good at heart, sentimental and ready for the next adventure. The story starts with a teenage street gang of mixed race in South London suburbia – they find themselves right in a middle of an alien invasion. So i20170205_210824magine mixing the life and language of street teenagers who try to seem cool and control, as they believe, through fear and minor crimes, with the sudden attack of the monsters. Hilarious, scary, atmospheric and sentimental. And all that wrapped in a social context. Continue reading