Alternative Winter Set Films to get you in the Mood.

Posted: December 24, 2011 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

P2 (2007)
An office worker called Angela (Rachel Nichols) is pursued by a voyeur psychopath after being locked in a parking garage on Christmas Eve.
I’m a sucker for films where main character just can’t get to their intended destination, The Hitcher, After hours, Judgement Night, Brake down and Hostel to name but a few spring to mind – Films with a minimal cast and a difficult situation to get out of. P2 ticks both boxes here.
First time director Franck Khalfoun builds up the tension here and makes the most out of his two leads Wes Bentley and Rachel Nichols. The score and cinematography is of a high standard and the acting is first rate for this type of thriller but it is let down by its lack of character development by the script.
Angela seems such an unlikable character that you’d like her to get killed off in the first five minutes. That said, who needs characters built? As the film unfolds, after all manner of psychological and physical hoops Angela goes through, you find your rooting for her after all. The effects are realistic and the blood mostly comes from Angela work mate. There’s a nasty scene involving a vicious dog which is not for animal lovers, so beware.
The end is satisfying as to is the film as a whole; all in all it’s a solid little thriller which includes an Elvis Christmas song. You can’t go wrong.

Screamers (1995)
A war ridden apocalyptic mining planet, a small defence robotic weapon known as Screamers have continued to evolve into something more deadly which puts both sides of the conflict survivors at risk.
Alien (1979) scribe Dan O’Bannon delivers an interesting take on the infamous writer Philip K. Dick’s short story, Second Variety.
Both Jennifer Rubin and Peter Weller are very effective as the leads in what could have be just another B-science fiction and the rest of the small cast are adequate enough. Christian Duguay direction is competent and he builds up some genuine tension when the Screamers burrow through the ground, wielding blades and attack their prey, the human war survivors.
Although the special effects are below par and are now dated, the practical effects, chopped limbs, explosions are decent and there are some great matte paintings and the costumes look excellent.
As Joe Hendricksson (Weller) journeys across wastelands to negotiate peace the film becomes more visually interesting and atmospheric with its desolate cold surroundings, sweeping snow covered landscapes and fort complex. An ominous atmosphere is created especially in the darker scenes, which have some nice surprise moments and creepy children.
Screamers is a slow satisfying paranoia sci-fi with guns and robots on a small budget. Overall, it’s certainly worth the watch if you’re a fan of the genre.

The Shining (1980)

A caretaker is isolated with his family in a hotel for the winter season, however they are not alone and the past guests and staff spirits still live on putting the caretaker, his wife and son in grave danger.
The uncut 146 minute version which only reinforced the fact that it is one of the best, if not the greatest tension driven, psychological horror films that has been made.
Thankfully Kubrick doesn’t follow Kings ‘The Shining’ novel to the letter, or we have the hedged animals coming to life and an explosive ending, while grand it would have lost the reality and realism that Kubrick creates.
Jack Nicholson’s antics, Shelley Duvall’s fear, Danny Lloyd’s performance (one of the few child leads that isn’t annoying) is first-rate as Danny. Veteran and voice of Hong Kong Phooey, Scatman Crothers is superb and the array of actors small but memorable parts including, Bladerunners Joe Turkel as Lloyd the Bartender and Barry Nelson as Manger, Stuart Ullman.
It’s not the novel, Kubrick’s the Shining one of the most impressive horror films ever made and on so many levels.

The Thing (2011) 

It is 1982, after a signal is investigated in Antartica a team accidentally find a body and ship. A team of researchers are dispatched to assist and they soon find they’ve discovered something alien and deadly.
From the opening cinematographer Michel Abramowicz frames a shot of a sweeping snow-landscape as a yellow tractor ploughs across the ice and snow with the familiar beats of the originals score. Bearded Norwegian talk in their native dialogue and you feel you’re in good hands from the outset.
Although there are two females roles Mary Elizebeth Winstead as Kate gives it that Alien- esque dynamic with a prominent male cast but over all the look and feel is that of The Thing and it feels like a true prequel.
The recreation of the sets and the 80’s music add to the fan-boy fun and Marco Beltrami score excellently reworks Ennio Morricone original track which packs it’s own punches and chills.
It’s a dark film with lots of shadows possibly more so that it’s predecessor what adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s also bloodier, and gorier with an equally fantastic autopsy scene.
There’s no getting away from comparing directors Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s Thing to the original classic. That said, for new comers watching it cold it works as a stand alone film – as a prequel to the masses its a joy.
The team are equipped bio researchers which adds extra dynamic and pace to the story, like the viewer some of the characters have equal knowledge of what The Thing creature is doing early on like its audience who have already seen Carpenters classic. However, that fact the characters are up to speed on alien creatures purpose it takes some of the everyday down to earth person handling a situation, learning more as they go along away.
There’s some effective tension and there’s a great set piece on a helicopter. Due credit to writer Eric Heisserer and Ronald D. Moore, the Norwegian dialogue adds to the realism and attention to detail. As distrust builds the story becomes even more engrossing. There’s too much CGI nevertheless there’s some nice touches involving arm braces and tooth fillings thrown into the mix and Heijningen Jr. Handles the mix of splitting heads contorted bodies and faces perfectly while creating a great sci-fi horror ride.
The sound is wonderful with familiar moaning, the tentacles flaying noise and eerie screams galore. These complement the practical and computer effects. There are some discrepancies but none that detract or couldn’t be arguably accounted for.
The acting is more than adequate aided by a solid script. There are some notable performances including Ulrich Thomse’s Doctor Sander and Jonathan Walker as Colin. Winstead really carries the film and does it surprisingly well -as a side note she’s as moody and likable as Kurt’s MacReady.
There’s not a joke in sight, it’s serious. It’s a very fast paced film with enough surprises to keep it fresh while paying homage at the same time. The closing act is bloated but arguably so was The Thing’s 1982. But like its classic counterpart all is forgiven with its great epilogue.
Overall, semi-perfect replication -like The Thing organism itself.

The Thing (1982)

After being freed from its ancient crash site an extraterrestrial life form infiltrates an Antarctic research station, imitating taking the appearance of the researchers that it kills.
An atmospheric understated sci-fi at it best. I’ll never understand how Carpenter lost the lustre in some of the other film he made, nevertheless, his Thing is one of his best movies and also once of the best sci-fi movies ever. Despite being based on the same source material (before remakes were popular) the thing has a look and feel of it’s own and is very different from its 50’s counterpart.
The isolated setting, the astounding cinematography and scenery creates intrigue; drawing you in from the very beginning. It’s a perfect horror/sci-fi cocktail of Ennio Morricone’s haunting foreboding score, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston’s benchmark practical effects (which are to-date arguably unsurpassed) Carpenters claustrophobic set ups and Bill Lancaster screenplay.
It’s rare that every single actor is exceptional and supplied with effective dialogue. All the cast from Kurt Russell to Wilford Brimley as Blair are all captivating, great casting by Anita Dann. The characters have their own issues and as the paranoia sets in relationships are forged and other broken, building to a bold and satisfying conclusion.
This is more than just a cult film with a ‘monster’ hiding in warm places surrounded by snow, it’s a finely tuned science fiction horror masterpiece.

Die Hard (1988)

A New York cop’s holiday is cut short when a group of terrorists gate crash his wife’s office Christmas party and hold the workers for ransom.
Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.
It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).
The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.
Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s