Thursday, January 12, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: You were right to be afraid of the dark.

Daemonium: Soldier of the Underworld (2015): This Argentinean SF/action/horror film directed by Pablo Parés and apparently written by half a dozen people consequently features a nearly unintelligible and wildly overambitious plot that includes everything you might think of - from battle androids to rebellious arch angels –, characters whose design looks cheap yet awesome in all the right ways but who mostly lack any visible reason to do the things they do, and a running time of nearly two hours where eighty minutes would have sufficed.

Yet this is also clearly a labour of love that looks and feels like the adaptation of an especially bonkers European science fiction comic. It throws visual clichés and inventiveness at its audience with great vigour and enthusiasm, features some wonderfully chosen and framed locations (Argentina apparently looks like a weird far future post-apocalyptic wasteland), and has action scenes that are bloody, clever and much better staged than you’d expect. So, despite its flaws, I find this one impossible to dislike. This was clearly made by my people.

The Frontier (2015): Oren Shai’s deeply 70s cinema and noir inspired and 70s set crime movie is a bit of a mixed bag. Jocelin Donahue’s main performance is excellent, and Kelly Lynch and Jim Beaver lend equally good support, but the rest of the acting is very hit or miss, which is no surprise seeing as the film demands from its actors to approach 70s-style naturalism with a conscious distance. This also follows from a script which at times can feel stilted and too interested in demonstrating its knowledge of gestures taken from other movies than in making its own. The result is a film that often feels artificial for no good reason beyond demonstrating the filmmakers’ ability to make it so. Which, ironically enough, is the polar opposite to the kind of 70s cinema it can’t stop telling us it is inspired by; while the noir way of stylisation (the film’s other hallmark) never was interested in stylisation as an end in itself.

Legend of the Phantom Rider (2002): In theory, Alex Erkiletian’s western/horror mix about two ancient spirits – one good, one evil, of course – doomed to be reincarnated again and again to murder one another this time around having their little spat in the Old West, sounds like a sure enough bit of entertainment. At least if you like your westerns and your horror films and like them even better when they get together (that is, if you are me).

Unfortunately, practice finds this direct-to-video film to be rather tedious, giving us scene after scene after scene supposed to prove to the audience how evil the bad guy is but which mostly demonstrate that watching a bald guy who can’t act for shit (Robert McRay) being a bit off a sadist gets boring pretty damn quick. I have no idea how his henchmen cope with the boredom.

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