TIFF 2013 Review: Intruders

Intruders“Intruders” is a taut thriller from South Korea that is one of those movies that is much better if you see it without many spoilers. It takes that simple Cabin in the Woods horror premise, and writer/director Noh Young-Seok has a lot of fun with it. But not quite as much fun as Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin in the Woods,” mind you. There’s an overlapping news commentary throughout that comments on a brewing war between the two Koreas, but I won’t go into it. (I think that’s what the news was about – all I remember it was political.)

This film has a lot of surprises. It might stay close to my heart because it was the first movie I ever saw that was part of a film festival programme. If I just saw it at the theatre, I still would have liked it. It’s immensely entertaining. It has plenty of scares and it’s an edge-of-one’s-seat experience. It’s great for that. It also has plenty of great laughs, if your sense of humour is dark. I like the type of Young-Seok’s type of humour.

Intruders 2His characters are simply characterized. There’s a funny comic relief character who is friendly and oddly insistent. There’s a timid writer who is the main protagonist that goes to an isolated lodge to finish a screenplay. When he begins to feel relatively terrorized by a duo of hunting locals, he jumps at the chance to rent a room out to a small group of skiiers. It went from one person at a cabin in the woods, to the traditional five. It always interests me to see American horror tropes have a cultural cross-over. This film makes it unique, as it blends solid thrills and black comedy. The way Young-Seok gets laughs is simple, yet so effective.

I’ll let you be surprised for the rest of the experience. I liked the characters. I laughed, I didn’t cry, and I almost jumped a few times. It’s a fun experience. I have a few nitpickings about the ending – but eh, what can you do? Young-Seok achieves what he sets out to do; he puts his small cast in a  blisteringly cold village, and everyone involved seems to be enjoying themselves. The tension-building is impressive. The finale drags a bit, making it feels like a movie that is over 100 minutes, rather than 99 minutes it actually is. Those are my minor complaints.

Intruders 3It was an interesting experience to watch the film with the director sitting in the audience. It was a great gesture that everyone was really kind to him and applauded his film. I don’t usually applaud after films at my local theatre, but the applaud was deserved. Well done, Young-Seok. It’s a fun film that’s rarely as obvious as it seems.

Score77/100

Re-review of Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldReleased: January 18, 2008. Director: Matt Reeves. Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller. Runtime: 85 min.

Dave over at Dave Examines Movies asked me some time ago to re-watch “Cloverfield.” He asked me to watch the movie in a different light; as he thought my score of 66 was a bit too low. I watched this on July 10th, I believe, when I was getting excited for “Pacific Rim.” I wanted to get a bit more excited for it, so I thought it was the best time to re-watch this, one of the only monster movies I own. I watched it with an open mind,

The film revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

It’s impressive to think that J.J. Abrams kept this project for what it truly was secret for so long (many thought it was another Godzilla movie), especially in a society where even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym isn’t safe. It’s also an impressive directorial debut from Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” is a really good flick, too) and features some good writing from Drew Goddard. It’s rarely boring, and the movie doesn’t last too long — so that’s pretty good if the viewer isn’t liking it so much. I’m usually not a big fan of found footage movies, as I think a found footage flick gem comes around only so often (“Chronicle” is my favourite of the bunch), but the insane camerawork of this film captures the true chaos of this situation. They’re like real people, and this is a seriously terrifying situation, even if there aren’t many big scares. The tiny cast carries the film well.

This is a fun monster movie with a cool, you know, monster; even if I’m not sure I’ll re-visit it again after watching it twice. The ending is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, as well. Maybe I’ll have to check out some of those Godzilla movies soon, before that remake comes out next year. Admittedly, this does seem like a movie that gets better with each viewing, and it helps that I was in the mood for a monster flick.

Score75/100

Here’s my original review of “Cloverfield.”

World War Z (2013)

World War ZRelease Date: June 21, 2013

Director: Marc Forster

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz

Runtime: 116 min

The zombie sub-genre is a successful one. (And The Walking Dead shows it’s wildly successful on television, as well.) We saw that with Warm Bodies earlier this year, that brought about a unique film to the the zombie sub-genre. World War Z is a more straight-forward zombie movie that doesn’t try to reinvent anything. Apparently movie-goers don’t tire of watching zombies or the world end, either, as this is the second zombie movie and umpteenth apocalyptic flick of 2013.

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

World War Z mashes genres of action, drama and horror together in this zombie feature that’s a little more in the vain of 2007’s I Am Legend  and less TV’s The Walking Dead. If your favourite part of any zombie movie is all of the blood, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The only blood presented are in the form of cuts and bites from the zombies, for the most part. Even when the zombies are shot, there’s hardly a realistic shot of blood – mostly because the majority of the zombies are CGI-animated. It is never, ever gory.

Half of the kills even happen off-screen. That could take half of the fun out of the movie for fans of people getting mauled by zombies. The movie is surprisingly human. That isn’t saying that the zombies themselves are human, even if some have senses of humour. Some tease their victims by clacking their teeth together like Pac Men. It’s funny, yet menacing. Anyway, the human part of this is in Brad Pitt’s character. He, Gerry Lane, is an average UN worker, who others think could play a critical role in stopping this epidemic. His motivations are driven by his family. He wants to find a cure, or at least something to save some of the human population, as quickly as he can so he can keep his family from turning into those monsters. I really like Brad Pitt’s honesty in his portrayal.

One might get the vibe from the trailer that all of of the zombies will be in the form of CGI. Thankfully, that is not the case and there are quite a few humans actually playing the zombies. This movie probably does hold the record for tallest CGI-zombie doggie pile. Generally, the visuals are decent. Some of the movie suffers from shaky cam, which just shouldn’t be present in a big budget movie – because, really, one would think they could pay for cinematographers without Parkinson’s disease. The majority of the scenes are in the dark, and a lot of the camerawork is generally busy. A few scenes, generally near the beginning at the start of the hectic epidemic, are eye sores. I don’t see how 3D visual effects would add anything to the movie; it might even make the movie more excruciating to the eyes.

The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. This film is adapted from the book of the same name written by Max Brooks. I have not read the book, so I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional ‘find the cure’ type of film, that doesn’t become complicated. If you do miss a few lines of critical dialogue, however, you might be out of the loop for a few minutes. Director Marc Forster brings his A-game, but he could be more aware that his movie suffers from shaky cam. It doesn’t add to the experience at all. Nor would the 3D; but this is the film industry, so they want to make money.

The make-up for the zombies is good, at least those who are human. I wouldn’t exactly call this a horror movie. You might jump once or twice, but not constantly. There is a constant tense and suspenseful atmosphere. You’ll appreciate how the screenplay keeps you guessing (but it’ll be less predictable if you haven’t read the book – I’d assume). The cast is good. James Badge Dale and David Morse are memorable in petite roles. Mireille Enos has been appearing on the small screen since 1994, but this is only her second movie role. Nonetheless, she performs well. Even if her character makes a few unfortunate decisions, that don’t exactly affect her.

The entire feature won’t stand out prominently in memory by the end of the year, but there’s one particular air plane scene that is good, intense fun; if not entirely realistic. This movie isn’t exactly a good horror movie, per se, but it does have scary aspects. It’s mostly just an effective actioner. I also like how it is character-driven and is never boring. For a big-budget action movie, the cinematography is too shaky. I wasn’t anticipating this heavily – so it’s a nice surprise.

75/100

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods

Release Date: April 13, 2012

Director: Drew Goddard

Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: You think you know the story.

As I’m not very experienced at reviewing films just yet, I thought the best way for not spoiling that much of the film is by keeping it kind of short and sweet.

A group of young adults go for a getaway vacation to a, you guessed it, cabin in the woods; where things start out alright, but they soon turn into a wicked nightmare.

It’s quite admirable that this has some reminiscent themes of two extremely different films: Scream and The Truman Show.

It does have some delightful twists and turns and was a real pleasant and fresh surprise, and is the greatest horror gem of 2012 I’ve seen thus far. It’s one of those films where I walked out of the theatre and wanted to watch it again, and told all of my friends to see it, and searched the DVD release date (which by the way is September 18). If I had to pick a flaw I guess I’d saw the pacing was a bit off. All of the cast fitted their roles perfectly, so the casting director shall get a gold star from me. This film was filmed in 2009 and was put on the shelf because of budgetary issues and the studio wanted to convert it to 3D, but I’m so glad they didn’t do that because I would have hated to see this great horror flick to have potentially bad 3D effects.

The film stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford (that schmuck from Billy Madison) and a sweet cameo from a horror icon (seriously, don’t even do research, you’ll want to be surprised when you watch it).

You don’t want to miss this horror treat from the minds of Drew Goddard (Cloverfield) and Joss Whedon (The Avengers), and is Goddard’s directorial debut. It’s a must-see, has big scares can be really funny at times, and is the most original horror film I have seen since Scream.

90/100