it took me a while to get through all the films in this year’s afterdark 8films2die4, but last night i finally finished up the last one and i thought i’d share what i thought. is this third set of eight to die for, or did i waste $70 at best buy purchasing a shiny set of coasters? let’s find out…
the butterfly effect 3: revelations (2009)
a butterfly effect sequel seems like a really odd choice for this film series, but it actually fits in quite nicely. apart from the “i can travel back in time and fuck everything up good and proper by changing one small thing” (which can be found in other earlier works, such as ray bradbury’s “a sound of thunder”), the third film in this franchise borrows little from the earlier films, thankfully. it could have just been called murder mystery time bouncing fun time and, apart from the stupidity of the title, it probably would have done better as a stand-alone film.
anyway, this film isn’t bad at all. it involves time travel and a serial killer and some clever plot twists, which is probably a whole lot more than anyone was expected from the second sequel to an ashton kutcher movie. the rules of physics and probability take a back seat to the time jumping antics, but that’s to be expected. you probably won’t remember much about this film a year after watching it, but it’s enjoyable enough at the time.
the broken (2008)
very similar in many way to aja’s mirrors, the broken is the far better of the two. lena headey plays a young woman who catches a glimpse of her own doppleganger and follows it home. while there’s nothing quite as brutal as the jaw ripping scene from mirrors, there are some great mirror-related scares and imagery in the film, but make no mistake — this is a slow, engaging mystery that asks more questions than it answers. this is not an action film, and if that’s what you’re expecting you’ll likely dislike the broken. for me, i loved the molasses-esque pacing and conservative parceling out of clues. i actually see the lack of a solid resolution as one of the film’s strengths, as any answer given would ultimately be unsatisfying. many horror films ignore that fact, over-explaining things to the point of annoyance (i’m looking at you, silent hill) instead of following the example from tremors — sometimes giant, multi-tongued killer sand worms show up in your town, and it doesn’t really matter whether they came from outer space, the government, or nature gone awry — you’ve still got to deal with them.
perkins’ 14 (2009)
this isn’t just one of the better entries from the afterdark film series this year, it’s one of the better entries from any previous year as well. you’re never really sure what direction this film is about to go in, but it begins by asking the question “would it be better or worse if your kidnapped child was still alive ten years after being taken by a psychopath?” in many ways this is a revenge tale with an elaborate scheme that requires some serious long-term devotion to pull off (similar to king’s story, “dolan’s cadillac”), but this is a bit different as the person seeking revenge isn’t who you’d expect. the film exudes a tangible air of creepiness that’s punctuated with copious amounts of gore and violence. i don’t know the full story behind the making of this film, but apparently it was sort of democratically created as fans decided by voting what script would get made, what actors would be in it, and even what poster art would be used. that sounds like a terrible way to make a film, but i have little evidence for that opinion because i really liked perkins’ 14.
from within (2008)
from within reminds me of specific buffy and the x-files episodes, each which dealt with witches and paranoia. given the tendency of people to band together and burn witches when they come around, it’s not a big shock that from within also has paranoia as a central theme in its witch story. the film plays out a little like the ring in that people are seeing visions of things that kill them and, once they’re dead, the curse gets passed to someone else. however, this curse isn’t much of a technophile as it just uses physical proximity to decide who to kill next instead of a vhs tape or cell phone address book (one missed call). apart from some serious implausibility to its ending, this is a fairly decent little witch movie primarily aimed at teens and people who think religious intolerance is dumb and a really bad way to advertise your town to potential homeowners.
dying breed (2008)
this is another of those “city folk go into the country and get devoured by hillbillies” stories set in australia. it stars leigh whannell, who it turns out can walk just fine despite having written a role for himself in saw that required standing in one place for ninety minutes. there is absolutely nothing original, new or groundbreaking in dying breed‘s treatment of the traveler’s cautionary tale, but despite being a copy of several other films, it’s a good copy. of all the subgenres of horror, survival horror has the biggest effect on me — and while this is no where near as effective as other similar films like the strangers and eden lake, dying breed is suspense-filled movie that’s well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the films it borrows so heavily from.
i think it’s also worth noting that this is, quite possibly, the least accurate poster art i’ve ever seen. it’s like if the poster for schindler’s list featured a giraffe in a toupee eating yogurt. exactly what does an eyeball in a martini glass have to do with a group of kids heading into the outback being attacked by some country bumpkins?
perkins’ 14, dying breed, and slaughter are the strongest entries in this year’s afterdark film festival. part single white female, part the texas chainsaw massacre, slaughter takes a little while to get going but ramps up the violence quickly once it starts. in an attempt to avoid her super-stalker ex, a young girl moves in to the farm house home of a female friend she meets in a bar who enjoys life to the fullest, which means, of course, that she’s a slut. the friend has a habit of bringing home a different suitor each night from the bar that usually end up mysteriously disappearing by morning. when our non-slut heroine stumbles across something nasty in the woodshed, things go from good to really, really crappy in about 3 seconds. there are some definite obvious flaws in this film, particularly in regards to the ending, but overall slaughter is an effective thriller.
at this point in the afterdark films, i started to get really worried. given the average quality of the films of the first two years (16Films2Die4?), it breaks all the rules of probability and nature that the first six films i watched would be good. with less exceptions that i’d hoped for, the films from previous years were usually just “meh” or insultingly bad. maybe i’m just in a more forgiving mood these days, but i really enjoyed all the ones from this year up to this point. luckily autopsy was there to put things back on track by sucking hard. now i would be remiss if i didn’t let you know that the very smart guys on the bloody-disgusting podcast hated pretty much every one of these films except autopsy. i don’t know what that means, but i personally just didn’t enjoy it. yes, it has a great scene where robert patrick does a spinal tap and then drinks the fluid, but overall the film had a surreal quality and characters that behaved in ways contrary not just to logic, but against common sense. the closest thing i can compare it to is the feel of some of the old tales from the darkside episodes where realism was not considered very important. that’s fine for fairy tales and metaphorical storytelling, but it makes it very difficult to scare an audience when they simply don’t believe in what they’re watching. however, maybe that’s not true for everyone, so perhaps you’d have a different experience with autopsy.
i was hoping that autopsy would be the only anomaly, but voices really, really wanted to be different from the majority and succeeded completely. this was, by far, my least favorite of the eight films. worse than not being scary, which it wasn’t, voices doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. like all westerners, i occasionally have problems with eastern storytelling, but this is ridiculous. i followed ju-on, ringu, and the majority of takaski miike’s efforts just fine (with the definite exception of imprint). but voices pulled some david lynch antics on me, giving me the distinct impression that they’d just pulled a tyler durden ending, but leaving me with no understanding of what happened. it’s possible i just missed something obvious or maybe i shouldn’t have been twittering while trying to watch a foreign film, but voices is definitely not my bff, and i wouldn’t recommend anyone else even try to get to know it, let alone become close friends.