Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Gary Ross
The 1954 original Creature From the Black Lagoon is considered a watershed film for Universal’s golden age of horror films. It featured what is still one of the most impressive monster designs to be seen on screen, a story that shows the dawn of intelligent script writing in horror, and characters that were actually believable. Fans of classic horror know that it’s pretty much the be-all end-all of monster movies, and it’s pretty much untouchable in the cannon of Universal’s films.
So of course, now that it’s the 21st century and digital technology is making the once unthinkable now immediately possible, they’re going to remake it. For a long time Spanish wonder Guillermo del Toro was attached to make it happen. Since he’s just a big geek who also happens to be a fantastic director, fans were more than happy to let him have his chance. Due to schedule conflicts, and most likely a rush by Universal to get the film done before horror starts loosing money again, del Toro has moved on. Enter a script by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasentville) that, instead of setting the story during the exploration of the Amazon as Del Toro had intended, takes place in the present time and features an excessive amount of modern day technology.
Unfortunately that’s only one of many, many problems with the script for the remake of Creature From the Black Lagoon. The story opens with a preview piece of what the Creature is capable of, as he kills some natives searching for gold. The scene, like so many other aspects of this script, there for no reason other than to throw a scare at the audience right off the bat. Not a bad idea, considering almost nothing even remotely scary takes place within the next 50 or so pages (roughly 45 minutes of film time). And when those “scary moments” do come into play don’t worry, there’s nothing scary about them at all outside of cheap jumps.
So on with the story; a married couple has hired a boat to take them up the Amazon to spend some time in a tree top resort, the sort of thing only rich people can do. The husband, John, is a psychiatrist and the wife, Carrie, is apparently a former patient (though this is never said explicitly) who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome. In other words, she got tired a lot. So now she’s all better and wants to travel up the Amazon, but John is still overly concerned about her well being, so much so that for the bulk of the script he’s yelling at her to not to do something crazy or whining that she’s leaving him behind when she’s doing the crazy stuff. The both of them are annoying and useless for the most pat and have no point in this tale save to serve as the “normal” people in the mix and an excuse for everything to be explained to the audience.
John and Carrie’s boat has problems and they’re left behind by their guide, but luckily for them a high-tech barge is on its way up the Amazon to search for new plants to utilize in pharmaceuticals or something, so they’re quickly picked up. They’re shown around the boat, with special attention given to the features on it that will later factor into the plot (such an overused Hollywood plot device it made me want to chuck the script across the room), and told to make themselves at home. The barge features all the comforts of home, including temperature controlled facilities, a rec room, lab and a full kitchen and is staffed by a division of corporate types (the “evil” ones) and university students (all the morality) who luckily for the American couple are all English-speaking Anglos. Both groups have co-funded the construction of the boat so there’s constant bickering as to who owns what, which ends up coming across as a way of building up useless tension between the crew members. It would’ve been more effective if said tension came from the impending monster attack since this is a monster movie.
For no discernable reason they decide to park the boat in the titular lagoon, which they utilize the diamond saw on the front of the boat to get to, cutting through all those plants they insist they’re there to study. Once in the lagoon we finally start getting those trademark underwater POVs that made the original Creature so creepy to audiences of its time. The issue I had with that method is we already know what’s down there, it is a remake after all; why not build the tension by having crew members disappear? Or showing the creature stalking them from a third person perspective? They’re trying for the big reveal, which does come eventually, and good thing is that if the Creature is anything like I picture it being from the description in the script, it might be the best thing about the movie. Actually, it had better be the best thing about the movie since the original design was spot-on and needed no improvements.
This time out they decided to go heavy on the evolutionary theories behind the Creature, as the rest of the jungle around it has evolved “differently” than everything else. Why? Because it’s the only unexplored area of the Amazon? Is that even valid in this day and age, that any part of our planet is still untouched? Who knows, but that’s what’s used to explain the fact that no one’s ever seen the Creature aside from the locals, who of course have legends about it, and increases the greed of the corporate types who want to get this new form of DNA patented and make all the money the can off it.
Eventually the ship is stuck in the lagoon and all those evolutionary jumps come back to bite the crew in the ass as nature decides to take over the boat from the inside out. A leaf brought back from one of the mangroves re-grows the tree it was once attached to and pretty soon they’re without all those amenities they’ve gotten used to. During this time, of course, the Creature is stalking the newcomers but not really doing much. He does take the time to save Carrie when she’s attacked by a snake while swimming in the lagoon. This shows that finds her attractive, or at least mate-able, which holds with the original, but that’s pretty much as far as they go with that plotline as Carrie ends up hiding in the trees with the University students eventually.
Chaos ensues, people (finally) start dying and, of course, the ones you think are going to survive, do. I’m sure you’ll figure out who will make it out alive within the first 20 or so minutes of the film, but we’ll see.
My biggest problem with the script overall is that it’s so cookie cutter, so Hollywood archetype, that there’s just simply no reason to make this with a big budget. Give it a different title, set it in Romania, and hand it over to the Sci Fi Channel to make. It won’t piss off nearly as many fans of the original as this hackneyed, stereotype-riddled remake would, and might actually be a tad more entertaining because of the bad CG that I’m sure will permeate it. Better yet, scrap this whole idea all together, put it on the proverbial back burner, and wait for Del Toro to have the time to make it. It’d be well worth the wait and wouldn’t waste nearly as many fans’ time or money when it comes out.
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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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