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Stephen B. O'Blenis RSS Feed (Nova Scotia, Canada)

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Summer Wars
Summer Wars
DVD ~ Michael Sinterniklaas
Price: $21.96
18 used & new from $12.10

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Original Anime On Par With The Studio Ghiblis, October 1, 2012
This review is from: Summer Wars (DVD)
Asia, and Japanese anime in particular, is prolific at creating hybrids of unlikely genres and themes, but the excellent Summer Wars is one of the most unique yet - crossing a highly quirky and touching Whisper of the Heart-type tale with a visually mindblowing technothriller with apocalyptic touches.

Math genius Kenji is a student who works part-time as one of thousands of freelance programmers for 'Oz', a near-future unbiquitous cyber-entity that basically is connected to everything (imagine if YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Tweet, Google, the world's banks, and all the governments's computer data networks merged into a single huge conglomerate). During holidays, his dream girl Netsuki - with whom he has only a casual acquantaince - convinces him to do a small favor for her - return home with her during the holidays and pose as her boyfriend. (Why she's so frantic to find someone to fulfill this unusual task is part of a wonderful little subplot that unfolds as the movie goes along) This favor is not exactly a hard sell for Kenji, it's more like winning a precious fantasy come to life. Shortly before departing, in an unconnected event that will later have deep reprecussions during the vacation at Netsuki's family country home, Kenji is one of numerous people around the world who receives a mysterious email challenging the recipient to solve a numbers/logic puzzle. Turns out, Kenji is the only one on the planet who manages to complete the task.

Meanwhile, as all this is going on in the real world, you see a lot taking place within the Oz network, where users enter a virtual reality type domain using imaginative avatars for everything from socialization to communication to banking to virtual gaming and beyond. The visuals and imagination and use of color inside the Oz-world are just amazing.

As events unfold at Netsuki's family home (a really cool, unusual tale full of memorable characters, effective drama and the kind of genuine comedy that so many movies in the comedy genre fail to attain) the seemingly impossible happens: the Oz network is hacked, putting everything from personal information to traffic control to the electricity grid and even the codes for nuclear weapons in unknown, ominous hands.

I'm not going to reveal any more of what happens here, I may have said too much already (even though you kind of get most of this from the back of the DVD box); the surprises are better left experienced rather than given away in spoilers. I'll just make a few random observations: Kenji and Netsuki are one of the best couples to appear in a romantic movie, with a rare chemistry that really makes you root for them to get together. The entire cast is quirky and excellently done - one thing I noticed is how the children of the family, often seen doing their own thing in the background, seem so lifelike in their little ways and mannerisms. The visuals are great throughout, and inside Oz they just get progressively more awesome as the movie unfolds. The climaxes to the movie's various plots are tremendous.

Summer Wars is up there with anything Studio Ghibli has done (I consider that the utmost praise) and is one of those movies that makes you wonder why on Earth anime has, outside of Asia and a couple other countries, yet to break out beyond its dedicated cult following (of which I consider myself part) and start being embraced by legions more fans.

The Silent House
The Silent House
DVD ~ Gustavo Hernandez
Price: $19.49
21 used & new from $6.33

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary As Hell, September 30, 2012
This review is from: The Silent House (DVD)
The Silent House (aka La Casa Muda) is an intense, (seemingly) simple story about a girl and her father hired by a friend of the family, to go out to a dilipidated, boarded-up house in the country and spend the weekend getting the place cleaned up and in reasonably good condition for sale. Once there, they find themselves the victims of a terror within the house.

Filmed in one continuous shot (and for a grand total of six thousand dollars), the 'one continuous shot' angle serves as more than an interesting novely or a way to actually make a good movie on such a tight budget: it puts the happenings one hundred per cent in real time and narrows the entirety of the movie into a very tight, intense focus. It's not a 'found-footage' movie (although it does share a lot of the atmosphere and characteristics of the best of that sub-genre), but the camera does stay on the girl and her immediate surroundings for at least 90% of the time, roaming away only for a few key moments. In this way it remains very much a point-of-view film.

This is one that requires close attention and, preferably, multiple viewings. Some very interesting things happened watching this movie. On my first viewing, a lot of things that were going on, especially with the way the characters acted, didn't seem to be making much sense until the end when things started falling into place and I thought I had it pretty much figured out. As the movie finishes, one is left not only shaken but wondering if they pieced things togther right and, as with other mindbenders like The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series), Spider Forest and Shutter Island, you're left wanting to watch it again.

On the second viewing is where it got weird. Watching closely you may see that certain assumptions from the first watch don't really play out or make sense anymore. Some of the explanations didn't seem to fit as much. Here's the strangest part, and something I don't remember ever happeening to quite the same effect with any other movie: as logic breaks down more and more, the movie abruptly gets scarier and scarier. It's like there's something the conscious mind isn't quite picking up on, but is freaking the hell out of the subconscious. Not that it wasn't already disturbing and frightening, but this whole 'subconscious freak-out' thing really pushed it over the top. I've talked to several people who've seen this who generally get different interpretations of things in here, both from me and from each other. It's possible there simply is no 'tipping point' where everything clicks in and makes sense (like with The Sixth Sense) but there's definately something weird going on.

I do generally love 'open-to-interpretation' movies with ambiguous endings, but often times This Much ambiguosness might be overkill. With The Silent House it jusy makes it tremendously creepy and haunting. A great movie, and a great entry for Uruguay onto the international horror scene (they've done a couple of horror movies before, but I don't think any of them got much of a release outside their own backyard; I know I hhaven't managed to see them).

Fright fans have got to get The Silent House.

Wind Blast
Wind Blast
DVD ~ Francis Ng
Price: $13.25
22 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among The Best Of Asia's "Modern-Day" Action Movies, September 30, 2012
This review is from: Wind Blast (DVD)
Wind Blast (original Mandarin title - Xie Feng Lie) is an outstanding action movie set in the harsh beauty of Northern China, where the rocky, arid semi-desert begins to give way to the true desert of the Gobi. A low-level novice gangster has just made a hit, but has seen the face of the crime kingpin who ordered it, making him a target for elimination by the crimelord himself. The gangster and his pregnant girlfriend are on the run from both some of the triad's top guns and from the Chinese police, who are eager to finally learn the identity of the ultra-secretive crime kingpin.

The movie unfolds from the points of view of all three sides - the fugitives, the cops, and the high-level assasins - and adds to its action-packed self a bit more of an emotional/dramatic punch than some of its peers. The Asian action movies seem to hit those chords just right a bit more frequently than some of the ones from elsewhere. The action itself is, admittedly, not the most realistic ever set to film (but then there are far Less realistic examples out there too). What it does is set a context for itself - much like many of the Asian historical epics - where the extraordinarily highly skilled, highly stylized action seems to fit perfectly well within the movie, even if it's not how things would necessarily play out in 'our' world. Maybe this is better illustrated by citing an example where unrealistic action Doesn't work: if ou have a show where the ace bad guy is such a great shot that he can effortlessly nail every opponent dead on every time, but then when it comes to the key scene where a hero is sprinting across an open field for 6o seconds straight and the villain suddenly can't hit him with a machine gun, that comes off terrible. If instead though, you've just set a very high bar for what your characters can manage to do and then keep it consistent, those unrealistically high (though not neccesarily impossible) skills and feats can come off very well. It can also give you room to work in some really innovative, spectacular action sequences without totally blowing your credibility.

Wind Blast departs from the usual route of having one or two underdog heroes fighting against high odds and superior numbers. The good guys are very, very good at what they do, but in general it's the outnumbered Villains this time around who are even better. There's a definate reason why this team is considered among the most dangerous on the planet. The villains, of course, can also play dirtier and don't have to worry about things like not hurting the innocents who happen to be in the way (like the fugitive's girlfriend, who's only recently become aware of his criminal connections).

The movie manages an unusually high level of suspense and psychological tension. A couple of scenes even bring horror movies to mind - the nighttime assault by the assasins on several characters holed up in some old mining buildings is somehow remeniscent of something from Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes (Unrated Edition) (although less gory in this case), and in the scenes in the old smuggler's hideout, there are touches about the place itself that are suggestive of something creepier and more cryptic than just an old lair where bandits used to lie low. I would actually love to see the makers of Wind Blast try their hands at a full-out horror movie.

But I'm getting off track now. The main points are that Wind Blast is a high-impact, suspeneful actioneer with a good story, interesting characters (all well-acted, too), good dramatic weight and very high production values, all set against a backdrop of China's visually striking, rocky grey north. In my mind, this is one of the most essential action movies to come out in a long time.

Battle of the Warriors
Battle of the Warriors
DVD ~ Andy Lau
Price: $3.87
82 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among The Best Of The Big Asian Historical Epics, September 30, 2012
This review is from: Battle of the Warriors (DVD)
In Ancient China, war looms between two major kingdoms. As the more aggressive of the two begins to sweep down toward its rival, a much smaller kingdom stands squarely in the path of the invading army. With that army decided that it'll simply steamroll this smaller, weaker kingdom while it's at it, the small kingdom puts out a call for help, desperately hoping that someone - anyone - will come to its aid before it's pulverized. And answering that call comes forth, not an army like hoped for, but a lone Mozi warrior (Ge Li, played by Andy Lau). That's the setup for Battle Of The Warriors (Mandarin title - Mo Gong; also known internationally as "A Battle Of Wits").

This is based on actual events, as are quite a few of the big Chinese epics, but this one is apparantly a bit closer to what historians figure really happened than some. Of course, going back this far it's hard to be certain about all the particulars, and there Is room in movies for artistic licence. But, even without knowing as much about Asian history as I maybe should, it makes the movie all the more interesting knowing that the Mozi (also called Mohi - a dialect difference, I think) were for a time a real force in the ancient East. They were basically this brotherhood of philosopher/warriors who would try and come to the aid of anyone in need, whether from bandits and criminals or from invading aggressors. (I'm basing this primarily on the movie, although I have heard the name 'Mozi' elsewhere) They would naturally be received well by the besieged party, but in addition to their stance against aggressors, there were other parts of their beliefs that got them in trouble with a lot of powerholders. They believed in things like equality and 'universal love' and weren't big fans of the feudal system that has a ruler at the top of a land, then a small group of nobles, then citizens and finally a lot of peasants or even slaves. So this wasn't received that well by some of the rulers, especially the more tyrannical ones who ruled over the less benevolent set-ups. The central kingdom the lone warrior comes to aid is itself eager for Mozi assistance, but its rulers are disturbed by some of the Mozi creeds, and rather uncomfortable with the abrupt popularity of the Mozi among the general population of the kingdom.

Along the spectrum of the Asian historical epics, there are highly stlized ones with lots of fantasy flourishes and almost superhuman warriors (like the great House of Flying Daggers) and then there are ones where the combat is much more geared toward realism, like The Warlords (also great). Battle Of The Warriors is much closer to the latter, so there's no way that one lone warrior is going to stand against an entire invading army. But that's not what Lau's character brings to the table. Although a great fighter, what he really brings is a master's flair for tactics and longterm strategy, and the intention to train and lead an entire city in how to turn back a vastly more numerous force.

The movie really goes into all the strategy, the shifting alliances, the motivations - both honorable and dishonarable - of various characters (and sometimes both within the same character), and the large backdrop of different kingdoms's bids for power. When it does get into the battles themselves, it certainly doesn't skimp there either. Great production and visual imagery, in-depth plot, tremendous action sequences, and Lau's Ge Li character makes an ideal protagonist for this type of movie. A must see for fans of Red Cliff International Version - Part I & Part II, White Vengeance, War of the Arrows and the like.

DVD ~ Dmitri N. Orlov
Price: $9.99
37 used & new from $0.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best New Slasher Creations In Years And Years, September 30, 2012
This review is from: Trackman (DVD)
One of the first Russian horror movies to make it to North America, Trackman (original title - Putevoy Obkhodchik) is a well-made, well-acted slasher set primarily in an expanse of abandoned subway tunnels beneath Moscow. The title character is easily among the best slasher villains created in the last twenty years.

Trackman doesn't start out as a horror movie, though. It begins as a bank heist movie that takes some time to get into horror territory. That may be responsible for its less-than-stellar reception on these shores, but I didn't think that taking its time with the lead-up story was a bad thing. Remember how From Dusk Till Dawn started out as a criminals-on-the-run movie and took a good long time before anything remotely vampiric came into it? Or how Audition (Two-Disc Collector's Edition), for more than its first half, usually seemed more like a romantic comedy/sweet drama with only occasional jarring glimpses of the horror that would come kicking the doors in later on? This is kind of like those examples, especially Dusk Till Dawn. A bank robbery goes wrong and the robbers narrowly escape, taking with them a small group of hostages, and making their way into the aforementioned subway tunnels to try and find their way to the rendez-vous point with their pick-up man. One thing after another goes wrong, and they find themselves deeper and deeper in the old unused tunnels, where eventually both criminal and hostage encounter a new problem: the Track Man, an urban legend figure said to stalk the old rails beneath the streets (complete with a variety of conflicting theories as to his orign).

The Track Man, a masked figure in layers of thick, dark clothing resembling armor, is a character from the same set of molds as Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, albeit inhabiting a very different envirornment. He knows the city underground, and with motivations unexplained (it's a shame this didn't do that well outside of Russia: it was clearly leaving some stuff deliberately unexplained to explore in a possible sequel) stalks those old tunnels, viciously dispatching any who venture in. He wields some unique weapons of his own design and is a hulking, powerful figure, capable of quite a bit of speed and cunning when the situation calls for it. The criminals and captives end up forced to join forces to try and survive the Track Man, although the way that unfolds is a bit less predictable than it sounds.

In my mind, if a horror movie takes a lot of time getting from its opening to what would be called 'horror territory', that is Only a minus if the lead-in parts are poorly done and/or uninteresting, and neither of those apply here. Good acting and characterization; a story that's well put together despite its relative simplicity; great special effects in the gore department; taut suspense; and an immediately memorable, distinctive villain are all important here, and make for a great, highly underrated horror movie that bodes well for the growing output of horror from Russia and Eastern Europe.

Incidentally, though I watched the subtitled version, the disc also comes with an optional English-dubbed version for those who aren't into the subs.

Highly recommended for fellow fans of F13, Texas Chainsaw and the Laid to Rest (Unrated Director's Cut) movies.

Apollo 18
Apollo 18
DVD ~ Gonzalo López-Gallego
Price: $7.49
116 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SO Much Better Than It Gets Credit For, September 30, 2012
This review is from: Apollo 18 (DVD)
One of the more unusual entries in the found-footage field, Apoloo 18 pieces together footage of a secret final mission to the moon in the 1970s, launched at night under cover of a routine satellite launch. Using tapes and film reels from before the mission launch on Earth as well as material recorded onboard the moon lander, the orbiting ship and even cameras and microphones on and in the astronauts's space suits, the movie follows the events on that fateful mission and reveals the meaning behind the film's tagline, "There's a reason we've never been back to the moon."

The small crew believes they're being sent to the moon to set up equipment that will serve as part of a space-based early warning system against a potential Russian missile attack. After setting down, the astronauts make the surprise discovery of a Russian craft already in the vicinity, apparantly a recent landing, hastily abandoned and with no sign of the cosmonauts themselves. From there, they go from simply making surprise discoveries to suspecting that there's A Lot about this mission that the higher-ups never told them, as findings and unexplained happenings on the moon's surface go from the merely unexpected to the baffling and eerie.

Sometimes a movie rises and falls on how well it can make the really 'out there' seem real and credible. If one was to just write down some of what happens in the movie's final stages it might sound preposterous to someone who hasn't seen the movie, but here the filmmakers make it work. Well, to me they certainly did. Judging by the unexpectedly low ratings the film often receives, obviously not everyone feels that way, but I thought the end stages and resolutions came off far more engaging and authentic than a number of other higher-profile, more widely seen space-based movies.

The small cast does a great job, great suspense, the search for the fate of the missing cosmonauts, the conflict between the astronauts stuck in the unknown and the mission controllers back on Earth guiding them, and the final answers about what was really found on the moon that caused both the US and the Soviet Union to abruptly abandon the largest part of their fiercely competitive, multi-billion dollar space race, successfully round out this imaginative and surprisingly effective horror/science fiction hybrid.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 - The Dream Child
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 - The Dream Child
DVD ~ Robert Englund
Offered by SpReAdLoVe
Price: $4.00
99 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Under-Rated Of The Series By Far, October 6, 2011
When you go back and watch a movie - or a series of movies - that you first discovered years ago, sometimes it can be a risky endeavor: a movie you loved at 13 sometimes doesn't hold up years later. Looking at the horror movies that were among my early watches when I first got really into stuff beyond "Garfield's Halloween Adventure" and so on [hey, you gotta start somewhere, and when you're six some of that stuff can be scary :) ], it's batted better than average though. There are some that I've rewatched in recent years that just don't hold a candle to the way I remembered them (I'll be polite and not mention names), some hold up very well, eg. Friday the 13th Uncut (Deluxe Edition) is still really good, as is pretty much the whole series, with Parts VI and 9 still being awesome, and Night of the Living Dead is still excellent; some are actually Better than I remembered them the first time around - Friday the 13th, Part 2 (Deluxe Edition), Body Snatchers: The Invasion Continues and The Silence of the Lambs being among them (all good to varying degrees the first time around, all of them really, Really great now - F13 2 is one of my favorites in its series these days, up with 6, 9 & FVJ). So after much ado, that brings us to the Elm Street series. A few months back I watched the whole run of them over (except Part 1 and Freddy Vs. Jason, which I've seen fairly recently anyway and remember too well to rewatch yet), a little nervous about how they'd hold up. Some of these I hadn't seen for years, including have only seen the fifth and sixth chapters once. Short story - some on par with years and years ago, a couple not quite as good, some better. I had seen A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child just the once, and I remembered that I liked it but thought it was the least of the original series. Rarely, though, have I been so blown away by how much better a movie was in a subsequent watch than it was the first time.

"The Dream Child" finds Freddy Krueger this time haunting the dreams of the unborn child of Alice (the Dream Master from Part 4) and Dan, and being able to strike successive victims even when they're awake. It's different than when Freddy simply comes into the waking world though; in this chapter things have radically changed - it feels like the Elm Street series is building up a larger mythos of its own where reality, dream, nightmare and imagination can all bleed into one another and blend into something weirder. It's like we're for the first time seeing, in little glimpses, beyond the Freddy Krueger part of this world and sensing that other things inhabit it besides Freddy. I guess it started in Part 4 with Alice's ability to shape dreams. In Part 5, Freddy creates his nightmares inside the dream world with the baby's dreaming mind being his access to the waking world; but we see other 'realities' in there that Freddy actually Hasn't created and doesn't control. The seemingly neverending nightmare that replays the point of Freddy's creation (explained in Part 3) is a dreamworld even Krueger seems to fear.

From early in the movie things unfold differently and more quickly than before. Freddy attacks more readily, and the conventional defense - staying awake - doesn't always work. He can't kill Alice because if she dies her baby does and so does his entry point into our reality - so he torments her by going after her friends and loved ones. Alice, having faced Freddy before, is much more proactive than the main protagonist often is, and attempts to organize a united defence from the beginning, something Nancy did in Part 3. Alice remains a highly effective foil against Freddy, something they had to bring in because by Part 4 he'd become so powerful that it was going to be hard presenting anybody as a serious opposition unless they had some power or 'edge' of their own. She's also possibly my overall favorite protagonist of the series. And oh yeah, Freddy's mother returns, playing a more active role than previously. And the unborn dreamer has a large part to play as well, beyond just being Freddy's entry point.

Some will find certain aspects of the movie a little too weird or over-the-top, including some of the ways Freddy dispatches his victims. I liked how strange it got, and Freddy's seemingly over-the-top powers go with the bizarreness of the dream worlds, the fact that conventional rules of logic don't usually apply in a nightmare, and the way his powers have been growing ever since Part 1 anyway - he basically gets stronger with each kill he makes throughout the series.

The special effects are imaginative (some would say overly so..) and gruesome, and the overall production values are easily the strongest Elm Street had seen up to this point - the movie is also the scariest in the series since Part 1, and I would have to say one of its best chapters overall. If you've been avoiding this one because of its less than stellar reputation, don't; and if you saw it a ways back and were one of the many who didn't like it as much as the others, you may want to give it another chance. I'm certainly glad I did.

Paranormal Activity 2
Paranormal Activity 2
DVD ~ Tod Williams
Price: $5.99
99 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful And Scary - Almost As Good As The First, October 6, 2011
This review is from: Paranormal Activity 2 (DVD)
Paranormal Activity 2 starts out as a prequel to the original movie (starting several months earlier) and then moves forward to where the latter parts of the film are concurrent with Paranormal Activity 1. In the first movie the fact that Katie had a sister was mentioned briefly but she was never seen. In this chapter, the sister, Kristi, and her family are the main characters. Kristi, her husband, and the husband's teenage daughter from a previous marriage, are welcoming a new baby into the family when strange things start to occur. The major incident is an apparant home invasion with the whole house trashed but nothing seemingly taken. After this event, the family has a number of security cameras installed inside and outside the house, and the rest of the movie covers what is caught on these cameras.

Inexplicable events continue happening, and the possibility of some supernatural prescence is increasingly raised by everyone except that the father of the family, who firmly thinks that's all nonsense. Of course, the intensity of these otherworldly manifestaions continues increasing...

Much more backstory is given as to why all this is occuring, and although the hinted origins of the haunting are powerful, on the other hand it takes away a bit of the mystique. In the first Paranormal Activity, I thought one of the things that made it so powerful and eerie was that no reasons were ever floated for what was happening. The prescence fixated on Katie and, as we learned from her relating of events from her childhood, had done so before. But the movie never attempted to explain why, or go in deep as to exactly what the prescence was or what it wanted. Every discovery made, such as the photograph that turned up in the attic, raised more questions than it answered. And I think that really made it scarier, the viewer was a much in the dark as to all the "why"s as the characters, and it feels like there may not even be any "why", at least not that a human could understand. Any motivation or origin behind the entity and the haunting are left not only to the best guesses of the characters, but to the viwer's interpretation.

In Paranormal Activity 2, we get a much clearer picture as to why things are happening the way they are. The explanations as to the origin of the hauntings is innovative and disturbing, but I almost think they should have left the origins here firmly in the 'unexplained' category, and they used the (admittedly cool) origin story in a whole different movie. It looks like they're going to delve even further into the backstory in Paranormal Activity 3, and that could either go too far and rob the series of much of its mystique, or it could throw in some curveballs and restore that little portion that was kind of weakened.

That possible weakening of the air of the unknown is the only weakness here, though. The origin is frightening in its own right, and the whole movie is very well done, tremendously atmospheric and possessing some great jolts. As with Part 1, there's a mix of scenes that unfold very slowly and creepily, where you really have to watch to see the supernatural elements taking hold, and much faster, more explosive scenes where the entity is gaining strength and things are coming to a head. Great acting and characterization. Overall, it may not be quite as great as the first one (on some levels) but it's still a 9/10. Definately one every horror fan has to see for him- or herself.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2011 1:50 AM PST

The Resident
The Resident
DVD ~ Hilary Swank
Price: $9.85
73 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Done Thriller, And Christopher Lee's Return To Horror, September 29, 2011
This review is from: The Resident (DVD)
The Resident has a simple set-up, but it's all in the execution and the details. Hillary Swank stars as a woman coming out of a bad relationship and seeking a new start, who manages to land a lavish apartment in a luxury building she normally couldn't afford. Landlord Jeffrey Dean Morgan is rennovating the entire, now practically vacant, building himself, and explains that rentals are so cheap right now because of all the noise and disturbances from the repairs, and Swank jumps at the opportunity. One of the few other tenants of the building is its third star, Christopher Lee playing Morgan's partially infirm grandfather.

It quickly becomes evident that someone is watching and stalking Swank's character, and rather than keep everything under wraps, the movie makes like a whodunit and puts its possibilities out on the table to try to figure out. It could be Morgan, the landlord with whom Swank seems to share a mutual attraction; it could be Lee, the kindly-seeming but sometimes suspicious-acting old gentleman; it could be an unseen, unmentioned additional tenant inhabiting one of the building's apartments. To me, the movie does a better job at suspense and atmosphere than other recent 'obsessive stalker' movies like The Roommate, and its overall edge is sharper as it gets darker, a bit weirder and considerably more disturbing as it progresses. All three main players give high-quality performances, and the characters, despite the familiar set-up, don't come across as stereotyped or at all dull.

Though definately a suspense thriller, I'd also classify The Resident as a horror movie, and I think it'll appeal to fans of both camps. Speaking of its status as a horror movie - it's SO good to have Christopher Lee back in a horror movie, and it's icing on the cake that it happens to be one of the first films out the gate from recently reformed Hammer Studios. Lee was one of horror's most prolific lead actors from about the late-50s through the mid-70s, with many of his most memorable movies being Hammer productions, then seemed to largely fade from prominence. Ever since his big career upsurge with the Star Wars prequels and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy I've been waiting to see if he'd do another horror movie, and here he has. Welcome back to the genre!

Overall, a very well-made and engaging movie with lots of mystery and style; superior to many of its higher-profile peers. 8/10

DVD ~ Patrick Wilson
Price: $6.99
108 used & new from $0.36

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, September 29, 2011
This review is from: Insidious (DVD)
Now here's a hard one to review without giving too much away, because this is just full of twists and turns. I originally walked into this one knowing next to nothing other than that it was a haunted house story done as a collaboration between the makers of Paranormal Activity and the makers of Saw, which was more than enough to pique my interest, and I had consciously avoided seeing any previews other than the original teaser. Having seen the full trailer a bit later on, I think they actually give a little too much away, despite its leaving lots still unhinted at, and despite the fact that apparantly some people first thought the trailer was actually too vague. So I could just say I don't want to spoil it, it's awesome, it's scary, get it; but I assume people want more than that out of a write-up.

So here goes: upon moving into a new house, a normal, likable family of two parents and two young sons begin to experience strange and sometimes frightening events in their new home. Familiar territory, but still highly effective if done right, as it is here. And as the accidents and apparitions begin to increase, they do something I've never seen a family do in a haunted house movie: they move out BEFORE things reach a critical mass. The reasons used in other movies to justify the family's staying even when everything is starying to go to hell in a handbasket - they've sank every last cent into the new house, a simple reluctance to accept the supernatural, the borderline-'possessive' nature of the haunting gets into the minds of one or more of the family members and makes them strongly and irrationally attached to the house in a way they don't even recognize - these can and have all come off good when done well (and sometimes come off badly instead, true), but it was very refreshing to see that simple and obvious step taken to defuse their supernatural problem (even though not all members of the family are convinced it's supernatural at that point).

So they leave. Unfortunately, it turns out that doesn't make anything better - the hauntings and the incidens come right with them, and continue to intensify. Leading up to the pronouncement seen in the trailer, "It's not the house that's haunted, it's the...." With one of the family's children in deep trouble for a while now, the family turns in desperation to a psychic and her assistants for advice, not at all prepared for what they're going to hear.

I'm not going to get into too many more specifics, but it brings in more new and freakish elements as it goes along. Some of the coolest and most shocking implications are buried in the subtext and in the viewers's own interpretations. One particular possibility just floored me, and opened up the door to other potentials. The visual imagery, the jarring use of innocent music against twisted macabre settings and happenings that makes the music and the smallest sounds seem so sinister, and the impressive use of eerily realistic special effects (even more impressive when you consider the movie's $1.5 million budget in an era when it seems to cost a mint to film a canned soup commercial) are all noteworthy. So is the fact that the movie gets even better - and arguably scarier - on subsequent views, when you realize what's going on in all the seemingly mundane scenes, and the unique meanings of seemingly familiar incidents early in the show.

This is a winner all the way, and an absolute must for all horror fans. Awesome and scary; get it.

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