Starring Hilary Swank, Idris Elba, AnnaSophia Robb, David Morrissey, Stephen Rea
In the beginning, there was nothing (much like this past February for good horror movies). Then God got bored of floating around alone and made the earth, the animals, the plants and the sky, and from that came the Internet, the Ipod, porn, the Hello Kitty Waffle Iron, Hybrid Cars and the ultimate evil … George W. Bush. *cue creepy music* When the silly little man-monkeys got out of line and forgot who the boss was, God would come down and mix it up a little. Usually these supernatural events were warnings. Occasionally it was flat out divine retribution. In either case the message was made clear. You are given one hundred gifts along with your right to life. Abuse them, and punishment will be swift. One such town in the South has strayed from the path, so once again the riders of the apocalypse saddle up … and Hilary Swank shall lead them!
The Reaping has a plot that will take all of three minutes to sum up, without spoiling anything you haven’t seen in the trailer or 4 different commercials running around the clock on any given TV station. A blue eyed, blonde haired, angelic looking girl seems to have stirred up the wrath of God in her quiet little town. The death of her brother has set off a string of plagues which are instantly seen as biblical in nature. Having no solution other than the death of this demon-child, the townsfolk call in experts from a nearby college who just happen to specialize in unraveling what appear to be supernatural occurrences that threaten people’s lives. CONVENIENT!! So it is with this knowledge that a woman of lapsed faith and her counterpoint compatriot, a man with renewed strength through religion, make their way through the swamps to uncover the truth and hopefully save the town.
Our heroine, Katherine Winter (Swank), endured great personal loss and has forsaken her religious beliefs as a result. This makes Katherine the perfect person to travel to foreign lands and debunk any supernatural occurrences, thereby revealing the true nature of the horrors inflicted upon a people. Swank’s stern faced depiction doesn’t leave much room for sympathy, which could have gone a long way toward attaching yourself to her character from scene to scene. In a movie where some odd happenstance could be around any corner, you would want your audience to tie themselves to one character and then hang on for the ride, correct? This seemed hard to do as Professor Winter doesn’t seem to need anyone, including you. Even her partner Ben (Idris Elba), while providing comic relief, gets left behind several times which only further separates your point of view. Ben is a former inner city kid, shaken violently from his gangster dreams by gunshots that left him for dead. Now he is a grown man, a refocused upstanding member of society and partner to Katherine who wears his religion on his skin for all to see. Any time you need a biblical reference, he’s your go to guy. CONVENIENT!!
Following Katherine around like a lost Liam Neeson voiced puppy is Doug (Morrissey), whose role only seems to be to take Katherine from place to place and introduce you to everyone in town. The character is very one dimensional, even after the film attempts a hackneyed pull at your heartstrings as Doug has a midnight conversation with his dead wife. You lost a loved one too? Aww. Let’s have sex. Let’s not forget little Loren McConnell (Robb), who does her very best to stand motionless and stare at you…reaaaally, really hard. Robb plays this slightly jumpy, seemingly unhinged little girl to perfection, though sadly, amidst a film packed with lackluster performances all around her. Let’s hope Robb is given more of a challenge next time! Lastly, and it seems in the new tradition of modern horror, we have our doomsayer, the always recognizable Stephen Rea as Father Costigan who, while totally believable in his part, is given little screen time and a pitiful role. What a waste.
Now I’d like to outline the primary problem with The Reaping. You are a movie company, billing your latest epic as a horror movie. You’ve got to start with a good bag of tricks from which you’ll pull out your scares, correct? I’m going to break down the 10 plagues for you, just to give you an idea of what you are inevitably in for. This is by no means a spoiler, and if you take issue, call Moses. For all you heathen commie bastards out there, here’s a little history. God thought it was time for his people to be free of the tyrannical rule of the Pharaoh, so he passes word to Charlton Heston who delivers the message “LET MY PEOPLE GO!!” The Pharaoh, much like big business in America, refuses to give up his cheap labor force (LESSON!) so God sends down 10 plagues which he will inflict upon the Egyptians until his will is done. Now granted, these plagues would be horrific to live through, but up on a screen and compared to the Kathoga monster tearing through the Museum of Natural History in the middle of a party … well, we aren’t exactly talking terror here. Let’s go over the list:
1. River Turns to Blood – OK … bloody river. Good for a single shot effect at best. The Reaping explores this occurrence for 30 minutes at least.
2. Plague of Frogs – So, frogs rain down from the sky. Other than splattering all over the place which would make kids freak out, is this scary? I think I saw this in a Troma movie once. Moving on …
3. Plague of Gnats – Hi, I live in New Jersey. Pleased to meet you.
5. Plague on Livestock – Cows die, chickens die..all the cute little farm animals become worm food. Again, horrible if you are the farmer, but unless they come back to life and start eating the townsfolk, I’m not impressed.
6. Plague of Boils – Hi, I live in New Jersey. Just kidding. NOW we are getting somewhere. We are talking puss, blood, ooze … all your favorite flavors … none of which are exploited in this movie. ~sigh~
7. Plague of Hail – I don’t recall this one even happening in the film so we’ll skip it, although having seen The Day After Tomorrow, I’ll agree it looks painful, but again, not scary.
8. Plague of Locusts – Ooooo. We like insect attacks! Will they eat everything in sight, including the flesh right off a human bone??!! Hopes dashed. Beyond that river of blood, there is barely a single drop to be had in the rest of the film. This one sort of made me sad.
9. Plague of Darkness – And then God said “Yay and verily, I will bring unto you General Electric and the power of light shall be at your fingertips! And for the lazy among you, I shall unleash the holy power of … the Clapper!!” And he did so and it was good. Amen.
10. Plague of the First Born – So this Angel of Death sweeps through the village and snatches the life from every first born child. This is recreated in The Reaping, to hilarious effect. Some of you have witnessed the chaos in behind-the-scenes previews running on several TV channels, but I won’t ruin it for the rest of you. Let’s just say, they found a way to work explosions into the film’s climax. Yee haw.
The Reaping is a beautifully shot film that wraps you up in a dream-like embrace. It then locks you in and begins to toy with you. You start to question what is a dream and what is reality. A chill rises up your spine. At the first, and I’ll admit, very effective jump scare, your expectations are high, but alas, that’s as good as it gets. The creep factor spirals down into oblivion as talk of demonic influence abounds. It is further squashed as the film’s soundtrack goes, quite literally, to hell, complete with leftover tracks provided by The Omen Tabernacle Choir™.
Scenes drag out to the point of boredom; a hidden plot is dropped in your lap like a plague-ridden pig, jump scares go nowhere and then comes a climax that left our audience laughing out loud … and not in a favorable way. Melodrama abounds!! If you are a huge Swank fan, I know you’ll be out there taking in her tiny little hips regardless of what I say. If you are a horror fan looking for the lowdown, my advice is to sit this one out. Demi Moore in The Seventh Sign is more enjoyable, and you know that’s not saying much.
2 1/2 out of 5
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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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