Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a few looks at some of the Frightfest flicks from a couple of our spies, including the good Dr. William Weir. Don't ask me how he watches these movies without eye-balls, but he does it, even hearing it over the backwards creepy Latin that is always running through his head. Anyway, this spy is here to tell us about DAYWATCH, the sequel to NIGHTWATCH, and THE ORPHANAGE. We got another report about THE ORPHANAGE immediately following! Enjoy!
Dear Dr Harry, Life can be boring on the Event Horizon. Not much to do, aeons spent waiting for people to arrive to throw one of my special parties... so sometimes I like to kick in the drive to go "back in time", as it were, and enjoy some historic events. One of these was heading down to London, Earth, to enjoy the Fright Fest, where I caught both Daywatch and The Orphanage in their UK cinema debuts. Now, in the case of The Orphanage, this is quite a big deal. I mean, this movie went on to win the Oscar at the 2008 Academy Awards for best foreign film in my timeline and it's hard not to write about it without fear of spoiling its gothic goodness. It's possibly the best ghost movie I've ever seen, surpassing lesser films like The Others and rivalling Asian horror movies like A Tale Of Two Sisters in both the chill and shock stakes. In fact, the latter, along with Lewis Gilbert's Haunted and the darkness of made-for-TV The Woman In Black, are the closest in tone to how The Orphanage plays out. To be perfectly frank, and more than a little controversial, I personally found actually a stronger movie than anything Guillermo Del Toro has produced and I'm sure you won't be able to wait to see what director Juan Bayona does next. Certainly, although I find it the better film, despite having children at the center of its story like Pans Labyrinth did, the two aren't really comparable. For one thing, it's a movie of understatement, with an essentially clever but twisted plot, saving its shocks in between well-written character development and good use of breathing space to create tension. There are some true "holy fuck" moments in there amongst the crisp cinematography and tender writing and although some of the devices have been seen in other films, here they fit without feeling contrived. I can't say I've ever felt so disturbed since my wife poked my eyes out with her thumbs all those years ago, particularly during a seance/ghost hunt sequence that's so well played it's hard not to tense up at the slightest sound. The movie also pays off. Sometimes ghost films can be rather oblique, but as Ringu had a superb climax, The Orphanage also pays off with an ending that truly twists the knife in as the viewer works out the mystery with the protagonist. During the coda, I felt what I thought was a trickle of blood seeping from my tearducts but was suprised to find that, yes, I was actually crying. The Orphanage is destined to become a classic (let's face it, I already know it is), hopefully inspiring more movies that take their time in crafting atmosphere. Naturally, I'm a fan of shocks, but it's refreshing to see a director utilise silence and excellent sound design to invoke dread in the viewer rather than splatter the scene with gore. Daywatch couldn't be any more different that The Orphanage. It's loud, brash, in-your-face madness and chances are if you didn't enjoy the first, there's very little hope you'd get into the second. Beginning with a rush of frenzied and confusing editing, it doesn't really let up from the get-go and grips the viewer with increasingly surreal and hallucinatory concepts and visuals all the way up to the apolcayptic finale. There is more character development than the first and more breathers in between to allow the plot to develop, but it's business as usual for director Timur Bekmanbetov who doesn't let a little thing like budget get in the way of some of the most genius action scenes I've ever seen. Most of you have already seen the trailer with the car racing along the side of the building, so if that excites you, then you'll be glad to know it's rammed with equally impressive scenes. However I've heard people who've seen the Russian version may have had a different experience to the film we had at Frightfest. The first movie was cut down for western audiences, shaving away some plot explanation and throwaway scenes (the couple on the plane, for example), and this may be the case here. One hasn't seen the Russian DVD, as I've heard it doesn't have English subs and the only other language I know is Latin, but allegedly the ending doesn't have the same sense of closure as the movie screened at Frightfest. Weir would love to know if this is true. Anyway, I must depart. The wife is screaming, souls need to be tortured and Captain Miller is trying to get away again. Yes, yes... he survived, but only because I'm keeping him alive for my own personal amusement. Kind regards, Dr William Weir, Esq.
Our next reviewer doesn't take his name from a Paul WS Anderson movie, so points for the combination of Cronenberg and Romero. I give you BrundleFlyboy with his thoughts on ORPHANAGE!!!
Hi there Quint, I know there was a review of this up on the site already but I thought I'd write mine anyway as my take on the film is not quite the same. If you do use this then my name is 'BrundleFlyboy' So, after making a list of films to see at this years' FrightFest, unforeseen events resulted in me only making it to the closing film of the festival... but it was one I had been anticipating for quite some time now. Sergio Sanchez and Juan Antonio Bayona have crafted a very fine addition to the relatively small number of genuinely creepy and haunting horror films out there and every review I have read now by folk who have seen this have unanimously heaped praise upon it. In fact, I don't think I have read a single word of criticism aimed at it. This is by no means a negative review of 'The Orphanage' but I must admit, my initial reaction wasn't as wowed as everyone else's ... I am not going to go over the synopsis again as I assume if anyone is bothering to read this they will have already read the other review posted here. Firstly, I wish people would stop being so fucking lazy and calling it 'this year's Pan's Labyrinth'...c'mon leave that phrase for the newspapers and mag critics to flog to death ! It is a very fine film and ,yes, Del Toro was involved in it's production but it shares a lot less with 'Pan's Labyrinth' than people would have you believe; it's a much more subtle beast lacking the visceral impact and fanciful effects and make-up of that film... the missing child element had echoes of 'Poltergeist' about it (which was acknowledged afterwards in the Q&A) and I was also reminded of 'The Dark' (which was not acknowledged....probably because it is a bit crap.) These guys love their creepy films and the influence of many can be found here, (The Innocents, The Haunting, etc.) ... it is a testament to the makers that the film retains a look and feel all of it's own. This is a very handsome production in every respect, the lighting, cinematography, music and sound effects are outstanding and the acting is also superb and lends it a realism and emotion that few genre pictures can boast of. The problem I had with it? I just didn't find it that scary. Or, at least, the power of it's sentiment has taken a good full day after seeing it for it to sink into my noggin'. Now I am feeling the urge to see it again, but on the night I just wasn't getting the chills. With that said, I did jumped a couple of times and the one gruesome scene is a peach... and all the more powerful for being the only 'Euurgh!' moment in the entire picture. But I was never really all that scared or disturbed through the film like I was when I first saw, say, 'A Tale Of Two Sisters'. Now I saw that on my own in the middle of the day in my flat and after it had finished I felt like a child seeing a horror film for the first time (A few times I had not wanted to watch what was happening and I was not happy going out to the kitchen or upstairs on my own!). This film is mostly all about the coda which I will not spoil for you... for me it has only become more potent in the last day and a half upon reflection. I think I was expecting a little more malevolence from the haunting aspect of the film and wanted the characters to feel like there was more threat or menace to their well-being... again, without buggering it up for you I will say that after the film finished I could see why I never felt this... I just want people to know that this is so much more of an understated film than I think they are going to expect now that it is getting some hype riding on the back of the involvement of, and love for, Del Toro. His vision is entirely his own, and it is not a subtle one. It is, however, one of often lyrical and poetical beauty; and that is what this film has too as it's strength. So, like I said, this is not a negative view of the picture at all... in fact, as a fan of haunted house films, I heartily recommend it! I'm just not gonna gush all over it and blab on about it being "the best horror film in (insert number of years)!!!" or parp on about it being up for Oscars because, as much as I am now looking forward to revisiting 'The Orphanage', my initial reaction upon leaving the theatre was not one of utter amazement and whooping of accolades. If you like your horror films to slowly creep their way into your psyche, to whisper with haunting melancholy into you ear you'll love this (of course, I'm partial to a horror film that twats me in the face with a shovel and rams a fucking screwdriver into my ear too!) but I just thought I'd try and keep this one grounded... it's a beautiful, sad and atmospheric chiller, but it isn't going to rewrite the rules or anything. Sorry if I have waffled a bit as it's my first time writing a review... I'll see you in the talkbacks!