Horror a Trois II: Pandorum, Sorority Row, and The Crazies (2010) [Bonus: Dante's Inferno]
Just like the first time, this Horror [Movie Review] a Trois will focus on three different movies from three fairly different genres. We got a little titillation, a little bit of deep space, and a little bit of anti-government paranoia. Put them together and what's that spell? Total Recall, most likely. On with the show!
Pandorum (2009 SF-Horror)
The pitch? Bower wakes up from deep sleep on board a space ship finds things gone completely awry but due to deep-sleep memory loss, cannot fully fathom just how bad things have become. The only other survivor he finds is Payton, his superior, who also suffers from the same condition. They have an idea about the ship taking a group of passengers to another world to colonize, one of humanity's only hopes. Not only is the ship apparently in deep trouble as-is, but fluctuations in the power grid are only going to make things worse. The swing? Bower begins to crawl across the ship with Payton staying behind to navigate. Soon, Bower comes across some sort of mutants: horrible things that feast on human flesh. He also finds a ragtag group of survivors, most possessing some degree of martial arts skills, which continues to exodus across the ship and to find out what is wrong with the power core while being hunted and stalked.
The goods? Not many science fiction horrors that are not SyFy originals or low-rent sequels to long tired franchises, so any earnest entry into the field brings fresh blood. Bower (played by Ben Foster) makes an admirable lead and the ship design is effectively gargantuan. The bads? Dennis Quaid, playing Payton, is woefully underused until the second half, and then is mostly a series of various hams. For every nice shot of Nadia's cleavage, there is a painful shot of over-acted gleeful music video style martial arts to contend with. Also, well, see below...
The final word? As I said in a tweet immediately after watching it: "First thought after watching Pandorum: 1h48m long Dimmu Borgir video. In space. Not unsatisfying, and the genre is small, just...*shrugs* It's pure popcorn for those who don't like movies requiring an attention span. In space!" That is still mostly my thought. I'd watch it again (heck, I bought it on used DVD) but we are talking about a movie afraid of losing what appears to be an intended audience with an attention span unsuitable for watching a strobe flash. It will start with a creature running down a hallway and then cut a couple of seconds out so it gets there faster. One time, it cut from the middle of a dialogue to the end with no finesse. At least it provides honest thrills and gives answers.
Sorority Row (2009 Slasher Horror)
The pitch? A group of sorority sisters pull a prank on a stereotypically helpless college boy and make him think he has killed one of them. However, in a panic, he actually does kill her with a tire iron while "letting the air out of her lungs". You know, so she will not float in a mine shaft? Good news they had already built up a "let's hide the body" scenario they were ready to act upon. The swing? Some time later (few months?) the sisters have tried moving on from their secret murder, mostly by being a group of barely-hinged bitches to begin with. Then the killings start, featuring a strangely modified tire-iron. And, um...sex and a couple naked breasts. Did I mention Carrie Fisher is in it? Go, her!
The goods? The cast is worth looking at. There are few lulls or digressions to get in the way of the story moving straight ahead. Carrie Fisher with a shotgun. For the men folk: about two pairs of nice breasts. The bads? Even though the movie it remakes (something something something Sorority Sisters) did the whole killers getting killed thing nearly three decades ago, this movie sticks so close to the I Know What You Did Last Summer template that it should probably be investigated for plagiarism. This is not helped by the fact that the main women are all played out about as shallow as can be: you have the utter bitch, the unstable nerd, the pointless Asian, the sensible one, and the drunken cu...um...slut.
The final word? Popcorn flick without the popcorn but extra butter to make up for it. This is not to say that it isn't enjoyable, but it is pretty much devoid of any nutritional value. The background parties are mostly lurid eye candy, and little in the foreground is anything but an excuse to justify the killing. If you can watch a movie about sorority girls getting chased and killed by a modified tire iron, then you might enjoy it. Frankly, and this will sound piggish, but this movie needs an unrated edition with extra flesh and/or extra gore. It is not written in a way to really have room for extra suspense, so I would settle with a little sensory overload. But, hey, did I mention Carrie Fisher with a shotgun?
The Crazies (2010 Infection + Government Paranoia Horror)
The pitch? Small town Odgen Marsh has its first baseball game of the season disturbed by the local [recovering] drunk entering onto the field with shotgun. The likable Sheriff Dutton is forced to shoot him in front of the specators. Soon after, other townsfolk begin displaying erratic behavior, culminating in acts of violence. This seems to have something to do with a downed airplane in a nearby bog. The swing? To top it all off, the army is mobilized to quarantine the town with extreme measure. The sane and insane alike are herded like cattle into fences. This escalates into armed conflict with the government officials and the main characters doing everything they can to escape the confines of their once peaceful town.
The goods? The main character, Sheriff David Dutton, displays a resilience and thoughtfulness usually skipped in horror movies. Too often in movies like this, half of the plot is driven forward by bad calls and worse decisions. Horror, in my eyes, works best when you have a more heroic lead like this. Also, depictions of small town life is just about spot on, giving the whole thing a very earnest feel. It mires you in small town America and then it rips it away. You end up confused about who to root for, and that helps keep the mood pumping. The bads? The carwash scene, however terrifying and effective, is an example of a couple of the scenes that go a little gratuitous for the mode of the rest of the film. Still, it works too well to harsh on it too much. More harshable is a couple of cheap jump scares tossed in with the good ones and I am still waiting for the horror movie that has such a plot as this that does not play off young men and women in the armed services as willing and able to kill off any and all innocent people just because some faceless entity told them to.
The final word? In seems weird that I have two remakes on a list shortly after I decided to avoid most remakes, but this shows everything a remake can be: an updating of setting and sensibilities for an older movie that now feels somewhat out of date and out of place with current audiences. It also shows the best of "updating to a new feel" abilities, with the sensation ratcheted up and some of the talking points ratcheted down. Part of me can't help but think it needs a bit of emotional flavoring to reach a full body, but as a general soup: it's a good mix. Horror fans like it when the main character is a fighter, and this one is. Will likely be one of the stand-out horror movies for this upcoming decade, especially if flashy but empty remakes continue to dominate.
Bonus Review: Dante's Inferno
The all in one paragraph? While it does not surprise me that this veers sharply off the course of its source material; I cannot help but be bemused at what appears to be an hour and a half long thesis about how the creators wanted to have sex with their mothers. It's like they found a book of Freudian psychology and said, "Hey, let's do this!" All the women are bosomly and walk handily into what mostly amounts to rape or at least loss of freewill. Beatrice screams for her man to help her while another saves a husband by taking some Crusader loving on the side. The only other woman to even really grace the screen is an abused wife to a slovenly, fat man. He, I assume, represents the creators' collective father figures. Most of the monsters either some sort of vaginal or yonic significance (including more than one type that literally has a vagina as a weapon and/or passenger space). Even when it is not actually a vagina, then it is a wheel with teeth, so to speak. And don't even get me started on the spider abortions. All this to end with a plot point that directly contradicts that scene immediately before it. Good times. At least the background designs were worth watching. No links. No digs for Satan. (I think that's a pun, in this case)
Pandorum is going to scrape a mid-to high Fair (+0.4) with bonus points if they ever remake it with the missing footage so it doesn't look like it is trying out-micro-cut a Michael Bay film. Sorority Row is going to take a similarly high Meh (-0.6) with as much as a +1 if you are drinking or just too lazy to find a better film one night. The Crazies gets a resounding Great (+1.9) from me. Finally, Dante's Inferno needs to stay in the pit: Blech (-2.4).
Si Vales, Valeo
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