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Cinderella (DVD)

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Cinderella DVD review (click to see it bigger)Starring Do-Ji Won, Shin-se Kyung, Gyu-ryun Ahn, So-min Jeon

Directed by Man-dae Bong

Distributed by Tartan Films


I really don’t see why this keeps happening. For whatever reason Korean and Japanese filmmakers seem to not be able to get past their fascination with ghosts; that, or they think they’re easy subject matter for the quick buck. Though Cinderella isn’t nearly as cliché-ridden as some other Asian output, it suffers from some logic issues and an unclear resolution.

Our story is about a female art student, Hyeon Su (Kyung), the daughter of a very successful plastic surgeon, Yoon Hee (Won). Her friends love that her mom has chosen this career path because they feel they have a direct line to continually improve their looks, something that’s hugely important to girls of all ages but especially rail-thin high school girls. Seriously, can someone give these girls a freakin’ hamburger now and then? Maybe a big bowl of spaghetti or something? They’re just freaky thin, man.

Anyway, as the movie opens one of Hyeon Su’s friends is going under the knife for a facelift, pretty standard stuff, but as the drugs start to take effect she thinks she sees the standard damp, longhaired ghost crawling across the operating floor right to her. But really, who hasn’t had a vision like that at least once? She wakes up and recovers (very quickly, so much so that it’s a bit disorienting) and though she thinks she’s prettier (she was no dog beforehand), she’s also experiencing increasingly terrifying visions and hearing whispers telling her “that’s not my face”.

Cinderella DVD review (click to see it bigger)Yeah, that’d put me off any kind of surgery for a while.

As she loses it, Hyeon-Su begins to uncover more and more evidence that something is very wrong with what she knows of her life, which starts with a picture she finds of a horribly burned face from 12 years previous with her name on it. She tracks down her father to try and find out what it means, all the while the other friends that have had procedures by her mom (or so we have to assume, we never actually see them go under the knife or hear them discuss what they had done) start to have similar hallucinatory visions and an overwhelming desire to damage their (ridiculously thin) faces.

What sets Cinderella apart from most of its ilk is the bloodshed featured throughout. One would hope that a movie with plastic surgery at the core of its story would have a good amount of flesh mutilation, and in this director Bong doesn’t disappoint. It’s never excessive and mainly used for shock, but what there is of it is effective.

However Cinderella jumps around in time too frequently, which is off-putting and more than a little annoying. It’s bad enough that the mother looks young enough to be one of her daughter’s friends (seriously, it’s weird), but when you’re bouncing around from past to present without any film or style differences, it’s very easy to get confused as to what’s going on.

Cinderella DVD review (click to see it bigger)A combination of sloppy editing and badly lit scenes make the big reveal towards the end more jumbled than it had any need to be; luckily my wife was there to bounce around her ideas of what we saw so we could piece it together. The actual ending, however, is quite powerful with some real emotions coming through. We’re not exactly emotionally attached to the mother or the daughter throughout, though we do see the extent of the mother’s agony at the horrible things she’s done, but it’s enough to give the end some real impact.

Still not figured out the title? Me either, though it has something to do with the dark fable the eventual Disneyfied titular character is based on. Various times throughout the supplemental making-ofs, which were broken into five separate five- to seven-minute segments, the title is brought up by cast and crew and they seem to understand it, so I guess that’s all that matters. The subtitles in this feature, the only one outside of the film’s teaser trailer, are either badly done or the director makes no sense when he’s talking, so don’t look for any big revelations there.

Cinderella’s not as trite as some other Asian horror entries. It possesses a great sense of style and an interesting vision. The bloodshed and twisting storyline will likely keep viewers with the film from start to finish; I think the biggest issue with it is that fact that, upon reflection when the facts are in place, it still doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense. But it sure looks good!

Special Features

  • Five behind the scenes featurettes on the making of Cinderella
  • Teaser trailer
  • Movie

    3 out of 5

    DVD

    2 1/2 out of 5

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    The Crucifixion Review – Should’ve Left This One Nailed to the Cross

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    Starring Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Ada Lupu

    Directed by Xavier Gens


    Claiming to be inspired by actual events, director Xavier Gens’ The Crucifixion forgoes the affecting shocks and awes, and instead beats its audience into the ground with a laundry-list of ho-hum dialogue and lesser-than-stellar instances…forget the priest, I need a friggin’ Red Bull.

    A 2005 case is spotlighted, and it revolves around a psychotically damaged woman of the cloth (nun for all you laymen) who priests believed was inhabited by ol’ Satan himself. With one rogue priest in command who firmly believed that this was the work of something satanic, the nun was subject to a horrific exorcism in which she was chained to a cross and basically left to die, which ultimately resulted in the priest being stripped of his collar and rosary…how tragic. Enter an overzealous New York reporter (Cookson) who is intently focused upon traveling to Romania to get the scoop on the botched undertaking. After her arrival, the only point of view that seems to keep sticking with interviewees is that the man who sat close to the lord killed a helpless, innocent and stricken woman, that is until she meets up with another nun and a village priest – and their claims are of something much more sinister.

    From there, the battle between good and evil rages…well, let me rephrase that: it doesn’t exactly “rage” – instead, it simmers but never boils. Unfortunately for those who came looking for some serious Father Karras action will more than likely be disappointed. The performances border on labored with cursory characters, and outside of some beautiful cinematography, this one failed to chew out of its five-point restraints.

    I’d normally prattle on and on about this and that, just to keep my word limit at a bit of a stretch, but with this particular presentation, there just isn’t much to bore you all with (see what I just did there). Gens certainly had the right idea when constructing this film according to blueprints…but it’s like one of those pieces of Wal-Mart furniture that when you open the box, all you can find are the instructions that aren’t in your language – wing and a prayer…but we all know what prayers get you, don’t we, Father?

    My advice to all who come seeking some hellacious activity – stick to The Exorcist and you’ll never be let down.

    • Film
    2

    Summary

    The Crucifixion is one of those films that needs the help of the man above in order to raise its faith, but I think he might have been out to lunch when this one came around.

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    Black Christmas Blu-ray Review – Making Its U.K. Debut From 101 Films

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    Starring Keir Dullea, Olivia Hussey, John Saxon, Art Hindle

    Directed by Bob Clark

    Distributed by 101 Films


    There is only one Bob Clark Christmas movie I watch each year and it doesn’t feature Ralphie and his Red Ryder fantasies.

    The endurance of Clark’s 1974 legendary slasher, Black Christmas, can be chalked up to a number of factors but the greatest is this: it is a disturbing film. I frequently come across horror message board topics asking for genuinely scary titles devoid of jump scares and excessive gore, but oddly enough Black Christmas doesn’t get many mentions. Maybe because it has been relegated to the “seasonal viewing only” heap? Regardless, fans will agree that the unsettling events portrayed don’t diminish with repeat viewings; if anything, subsequent watching serves to reinforce that it is a standout among a sea of imitators. The film is also a noted influence on John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) – arguably the granddaddy of slasher films – adding a bit of prestige to its legacy.

    The girls of Pi Kappa Sig are throwing a holiday party before the Christmas break when, toward the end of the night, they receive a phone call from a man they’ve been calling “The Moaner”, who has a habit of calling and making unusual noises. Jess (Olivia Hussey) initially accepts the call but also allows her other sisters to listen in, prompting outspoken Barb (Margot Kidder) to jump on the line and goad this mystery man. She and Phyllis (Andrea Martin) argue over the possibility this guy may be more threatening than anyone realizes. Unbeknownst to the ladies partying downstairs, however, moments before the phone call came through an unidentified person (very likely this same caller) snuck up the side of the house and into the attic. And once the party wraps up that same person is found hiding in Claire’s (Lynne Griffin) closet, whereupon she is strangled and placed in a rocking chair in the attic.

    The next day Claire’s father comes to the campus to meet her and is understandably stood up. He heads to the sorority house and reports her missing, at which point the girls and their housemother, Mrs. Mac (Marian Waldman), agree to help him locate her. The file a report with the police, led by Lt. Fuller (John Saxon), and Jess also wrangles in Claire’s semi-boyfriend, Chris (Art Hindle), who helps bolster the search by raising hell at the station. Jess, meanwhile, is having problems of her own after confessing to her boyfriend, Peter (Keir Dullea), she is pregnant. She wants an abortion; he is vehemently against it. Claire’s absence grows more concerning when another missing girl is found dead in a nearby park, prompting the cops to ramp up their efforts. The girls are being picked off one by one as the unseen assailant remains hidden in the attic, continuing his phone calls that come after each murder. The cops suspect Peter may be a person of interest, as his interactions with Jess have become increasingly aggressive, but everyone is in for a shock when a tap on the line reveals the true source of the calls – they are coming from within the house.

    With the film having been around for over forty years, and fans having been sold one “upgraded” home video version after the next, I suspect most readers are more interested in how Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stacks up against similar editions – which is basically my way of saying this review is a bit glib. For the uninitiated, however, let me say that I cannot overstate how exceptional Clark’s film is – never giving the killer an identity, an entire subplot concerning abortion, a palpable sense of grief for Claire’s father, a cast of interesting, unique people who don’t ever feel like archetypes, and a potentially downer of an ending. Some of his moviemaking tricks are brilliant, like the decision to create Billy’s voice from a combination of three different people (one a woman) and using interchangeable actors to portray the killer so you’re never quite sure who is in the attic. Carl Zittrer’s score is disorienting and minimal, making use of odd instrumentation to add extra unease; it also appears infrequently, giving the movie more of a real life quality. Black Christmas was a reasonable success upon release, more so commercially than critically, but time has been kind to this old gem and many now view it as an outright horror classic.

    Hell, it was Elvis’ favorite Christmas movie.

    Cult label 101 Films is giving the film its U.K. debut, presenting a transfer that is nearly identical to the remastered version Scream Factory released last year in North America. That 1.85:1 1080p picture is very likely the best this film can and will ever look. Black Christmas has a long home video history of looking very grainy, murky, dulled, and soft. I can’t say the new disc’s results are far off that mark but there are clear improvements. For one, grain has been resolved in a tighter field that looks less “noisy” and more “grindhouse-y”; do not expect an image clear as a crystal unicorn by any means. There is still softness to many faces and objects though detail looks far better here than it ever has before. Colors are more vibrant, too. Black levels run on the hazy side but they’re more stable than ever. The only noticeable difference between the Scream Factory and 101 Films versions are the latter is a touch brighter, allowing for a little more detail to filter through.

    Audio is available via an English LPCM 5.1 surround sound track or a 2.0 stereo option. The multi-channel effort grants the unsettling soundtrack and Billy’s insane vocalizations more room to breathe, ratcheting up the creepiness thanks to the sense of immersion. Unlike the Scream Factory edition, the original mono track is not included.

    Only a handful of extra features have been included, all of which can be found on the Scream Factory edition, too.

    “Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle” – Hindle, who still owns that jacket, talks about being a working actor in Canada when there wasn’t much work, as well as how he wound up auditioning for Clark for a different role.

    “Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin” – The actress who is most famous for having a plastic bag over her head tells a few tales from the set.

    “Black Christmas Legacy” – This is a lot of interviews from the film’s actors and notable fans. I found it to be a bit tedious.

    A handful of original TV and radio spots have been included, along with the “40th Anniversary Reunion Panel: Fan Expo Canada 2014”.

    The package also includes a fold-out poster, reversible cover art, and a DVD copy.

    Special Features:

    • Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle
    • Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin
    • Black Christmas Legacy
    • Original TV and Radio spots
    • 40th Anniversary Reunion Panel: Fan Expo Canada 2014
    • Black Christmas
    • Special Features
    4.0

    Summary

    This is an easy recommendation for purchase if you live in the U.K., since this is the film’s Blu-ray debut. Stateside readers may find this region-free version attractive due to the price, but know that it does contain significantly fewer extras than the in-print Scream Factory release. Either way, fans on both sides of the Atlantic have a version worth buying.

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    Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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    Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

    Directed by James S. Brown

    We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

    Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

    Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

    As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

    With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

    8 out of 10.

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