Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Shoot Me Twice: Friday The 13th

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review spends the night with the four original Friday The 13th films and their 2009 remake

Gear up, campers! This week, we salute the ominous convergence of the summer holidays and a real live Friday the 13th. If you are striking out into the wild with your pack and lantern, don’t forget to throw in a snakebite kit, a guitar to ward off bad vibes, and a working knowledge of the following films. Knowing the paths to avoid may save your life. You’ll be fine, of course. Just count your tent stakes and pitchforks before going to bed. And if you were planning for a weekend of fooling around in the woods with someone special, you may want to reconsider. Abstinence and meditation might be better ways of keeping your head attached.

More prolific than Halloween or Hellraiser, or even A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th originated one of the longest-running film series in popular horror. Much credit is due to the creation of Jason Voorhees, an undisputed icon among movie killers. Another probable reason for its longevity is that among well-known movie franchises, its content is the cheapest and easiest kind to mass produce.

Friday The 13th (1980)
directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Kevin Bacon meets early doom in Friday the 13th
Six Degrees Of Mutilation! The Crystal Lake curse makes bacon of Kevin Bacon
© 1980 Paramount Pictures

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Movie Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

by Dan Fields

Iko Uwais brings more brutal justice in The Raid 2
© 2014 Merantau Films / XYZ Films

We Built This City On Pencak Silat

In 2011, Welsh director Gareth Huw Evans left scorched bootprints on international cinema with his third feature film, Serbuan Maut, also known as The Raid, released widely as The Raid: Redemption. Many of us had never before seen the elegant brutality of pencak silat, the martial arts of Indonesia. An action thriller chronicling a police raid on a crime-infested slum, The Raid transcended expectations with its deft juxtaposition of sustained, extreme violence and the satisfying rhythm and artistry of a well-staged ballet. True, it was a ballet of broken backs, split skulls, exit wounds and shattered glass, but the results were astounding. Now, with the running time nearly doubled and a full cast of bizarre characters lined up to scrap, The Raid 2 (subtitled Berandal, meaning “rogue” or “thug”) blows the storm of justice from an isolated fracas to the merciless cleansing of a city gone to hell.

The Raid 2 begins on the same day as the events of the previous film. Elite cop Rama (Iko Uwais), still battered from the catastrophic siege, has brought his corrupt superior officer and a cache of incriminating evidence to Chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara). Bunawar, the head of a task force to root out corruption in Jakarta’s police force, enlists Rama to infiltrate the highest ranks of the city’s criminal class.
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Shoot Me Twice: The Fly

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review turns a compound eye on the 1958 and 1986 versions of the Fly

Marrying human flesh with the cold spindly tissues of an insect, The Fly weaves its eerie charm by positing our ability, through our own technological brilliance, to forfeit our very humanity. The concept works astonishingly well as both a high-camp creature feature of the late 1950s and a timely confrontation of addiction mentality in the anxious 1980s. In each film, science fiction turns to horror when a far-seeing scientist leaves a tiny, negligible possibility out of the equation. The slightest detail out of place, no larger or more remote than a single humming pest, gains the monstrous power to change human destiny.

The Fly (1958)
directed by Kurt Neumann

All eyes are on Hélène (Patricia Owens)
© 1958 20th Century Fox

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Shoot Me Twice: Robocop

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review dissects the 1987 and 2014 versions of Robocop

Part man. Part machine. All cop. There’s your tagline, and what better introduction to the original and remade versions of the iconic RoboCop?

RoboCop (1987)
directed by Paul Verhoeven

Peter Weller as Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop brings law to a city in chaos
Alex Murphy, a.k.a. RoboCop (Peter Weller) saves Detroit with tough, blood-soaked love.
© 1987 Orion Pictures

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Shoot Me Twice: Black Christmas

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review dials up the 1974 and 2006 versions of Black Christmas

The original Black Christmas shares 1974 with the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, preceding both Carrie (1976) and Halloween (1978) – films commonly credited with shaping horror movies as we know them today. Black Christmas seldom gets the same acknowledgment, though its structure arguably makes it more influential on the slasher genre than even Chain Saw. At very least, it gave rise to its own distinct branch of the tree. Whereas Chain Saw honed the conventions of the psycho-redneck road saga, Black Christmas made the world unsafe for sorority sisters, babysitters, camp counselors and other teenage miscreants in such milestone movies as Friday The 13th, Prom Night, and once again, John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Black Christmas (1974)
directed by Bob Clark

Classic Billy has an eye on the naughty list
© 1974 Ambassador Film Distributors

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Shoot Me Twice: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review compares the 1956 and 1978 versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers has seen four high-profile adaptations to film, but only the first two share the essential link between film and remake. Abel Ferrara’s noteworthy Body Snatchers, and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s less noteworthy The Invasion, riff on different themes than the two versions fully titled Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Though their styles diverge sharply with the decades in which each was produced, these movies mine contemporary social anxiety to the same terrifying effect, thanks to skillful directing and acting in both cases. Given the number of disappointing remakes to be covered in the coming weeks, it seems like a good idea to begin the series with an unqualified success.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
directed by Don Siegel

Kevin McCarthy battles the Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in Don Siegel's original film
Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) pitches in.
© 1956 Allied Artists Pictures Corporation

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Shoot Me Twice: A New Series From Fields Point Review

The world of remakes, reboots and sequels is a dark and fuzzy realm. This is especially true with the recent wealth of horror franchises dubiously revived by such production companies as Dimension Films, Twisted Pictures, and Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. In the midst of an unprecedented remake boom, Fields Point Review presents a new featured series entitled Shoot Me Twice. Each article will examine a film that someone, for whatever reason, deemed ripe for re-interpretation. The primary goal is to examine such works side by side. With any luck, trends and patterns will emerge to tell something ediyfing about the artistic motivation of a remake, the success rate of the practice, and so on.

With a topic so fluid and open to definition, there will be unavoidable pitfalls. Guidelines will be needed to keep a manageable scope on the discussion. The author hereby declares these guidelines, with the intention of following most of them, most of the time. Mostly.

First, the selection of examples will keep to a minimum of twenty years between the original film and the remake, reserving the right to the odd exception. The spirit of this rule is the keep the focus on a certain type of remake. Hollywood’s practice of remaking successful foreign films virtually overnight is not new, but it it recent years it has seen a distinct rise in popularity. This may be a fascinating subject for another project, but let us leave it out for now.

Another sticky point is the question of source material. More films than you or I know (take my word for it) have been adapted from novels and short stories. Sometimes a remake will cast aside the original film almost wholesale in order to re-interpret the printed word in new ways. This is not always a bad thing. This series emphasizes cases in which the later film seems substantially inspired by the prior film, and is not merely a new, free-standing adaptation of the source novel or play.

The diversity of practical and creative variables that shape a remake will make patterns or trends difficult to identify. The context of the original film, the artistic vision of the directors and producers involved, and the circumstances giving rise to the homage may differ drastically from case to case. The common factor in almost every case is that one filmmaker saw unexplored potential in the work of another filmmaker, and made a derivative work either exploring those divergent ideas or copying the first work in a new style better suited to contemporary audiences. In some cases the motive seems more complicated, as in Gus Van Sant’s experimental staging of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but it holds true as a rule. Despite the confounding variety of factors that cause one film to share a title and basic plot elements with another, subtle patterns of execution do emerge in an extended study of the phenomenon.

It is usually safe to presume that greater resources, production methods and special effects were available to those who remake films, and that signs of these advantages will appear in the finished work. However, time is not strictly linear in the world of moviemaking. For a lesson in how fabulous new technology can set an industry back, revisit Stanley Donen’s Singin’ In The Rain. Also, there is no accounting for deficiencies of talent, craft, or pure timeliness which can spoil any well-conceived work of art. The permissiveness of modern times, in all its fluctuating inconsistency, plays a large factor in any film’s execution. Pictures made before the Motion Picture Production Code circa 1930 enjoyed a rare freedom to showcase bad behavior, while a remake of such a film, made ten or twenty years later, might be shocking only in the degree to which the Code’s censorship dulled its edges.

The arbitrary curiosities of the MPAA rating system, successor to the Code, is also a matter of public record. While restrictions on strong language and graphic violence are at a permanently low ebb, certain taboos do re-assert themselves. There are elements of tone in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, for example, that no modern slasher no matter how transgressive has the audacity to replicate (including its actual, regrettable remake, which we will cover). No matter how sexually liberated today’s movie teens have become, they will probably never be as delightfully vile as spiteful as they were in John Carpenter’s Christine or Brian de Palma’s Carrie. In some cases, such as rising global awareness of culture and race, these changing trends of content serve a reasonable goal of intelligent good taste. Just as often, however, a powerful story falls victim to artless expurgation by shortsighted moralists. Hypersensitivity to valid contemporary issues like youth violence, terrorism and economic inequality are marking today’s films for good or ill, as surely as world wars and Red Scares marked their own eras. Hopefully more filmmakers of this age will find ways to channel our anxieties into good science fiction and suspense thrillers.

The point of all this hair-splitting is to state that there are no hard and fast rules in film analysis, and drawing up criteria for the topic of remakes is especially tricky. Have no fear that the analysis will only cover films considered wonderful and edifying by many. There will be ample pontification on an unspecified quantity of toxic cinematic waste as well. This is a critical work, after all.

Although remakes are especially popular in the horror market, this discussion will cover a wide a range of genres. From Sabrina to King Kong, The Jazz Singer to Friday The 13th, we are going to probe the topic nice and deeply. Discussion, dissension, comments and tasteful arguments are welcome and appreciated. Forgive us our inconsistencies in advance. We will not abuse the privilege.

Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 4)

The hour draws near to upend your buckets and devour the annual trick or treat plunder. Together, we’ve spent another October stacking up horror movie programs for your Halloween enjoyment, and what fun it’s been to make up the menu!

Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Four:
I Put A Spell On You!

In Week Three, we spent the evening in some of our favorite haunted and possessed places, having already tackled two weeks of mutants and bloodsuckers. Sometimes it takes more than the right monster and the ideal setting to chill an audience’s blood to perfection. A close cousin of the traditional haunting is the good old fashioned curse. Whether a broken convenant, a vengeful malediction, or just a bit of spiteful magic, the very best spells and curses are difficult, often impossible, to break. They can be used to trap, terrorize, or hideously transform all manner of unsuspecting victims. The target of a curse may have earned it by cowardice or criminal trespass, but might just as likely have stumbled into it by accident. The lesson in all cases is clear: be careful whom (or what) you cross. Damned careful.

The most popular entries in this category are a diverse and disturbing bunch. Universal’s 1941 classic The Wolf Man set the standard, pitting Lon Chaney, Jr. against the indwelling rage that plagues mankind… with the help of a cursed wolf bite. Lycanthropy, like vampirism, is a special sort of curse that eventually merited its own special genre. Author and filmmaker Clive Barker tackled a number of nasty curses, including those that resulted in the demonic romance Hellraiser and the sleepover game turned inner-city gauntlet Candyman. Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead proved that chainsaw cannibals are far from the worst thing roaming cabin-filled woods. Infamous if less fondly remembered is the Stephen King yarn Thinner, if nothing else a memorable throwback to the classic notion of the gypsy curse.

And now for you unrepentant graverobbers, trespassers and meddlers where you don’t belong, here is a delicious triple jinx of our own devising.

First Course: Drag Me To Hell
(dir. Sam Raimi, 2009)

Sam Raimi curses the careless with demonic torments in Drag Me To Hell

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Movie Review: Escape From Tomorrow

by Dan Fields

Randy Moore brings horror to Disney World in Escape From Tomorrow
© 2013 Mankurt Media / PDA

You’re As Welcome As Can Be

Randy Moore has made a most unusual stir with his debut film Escape From Tomorrow. A modest, low-budget feature running 100 minutes in black and white, the movie gleefully and savagely punctures one of the world’s foremost entertainment franchises. Beginning as a bland family vacation chronicle, it spirals into a feverish ordeal of suspicion, obsession, sexual frustration, conspiracy and existential horror in the turreted shadow of a Disney theme park.

This is no glib inference. The movie mainly consists of footage, shot guerrilla style without permits or consent, within the working parks of the Walt Disney World resort. Rounded out with whimsical set pieces and rear projection effects of which the late Walt Disney might otherwise be proud, this horrifying fantasy is inseparable from its candy-coated setting. Apart from omitting key music and audio tracks that would surely have made legal trouble for the finished film, Moore and his crew make no attempt to disguise the location. Indeed, the iconic identity of the park is essential to the story’s disturbing effectiveness. Escape From Tomorrow is a grim and bizarre film, bound to strike the tastes of its audience in unpredictable ways, but for subversive originality alone, it deserves the respect of those who will inevitably hate it. Mingling morbid speculative fiction with keen insights about the trials of well-intentioned family outings, it shows a certain understated brilliance. Continue reading

Halloween Home Video 2013 (Part 3)

And so we gather once again at Fields Point Manor, to munch on the macabre. As before, we have a three-course horror marathon lined up to tide you over as the Halloween excitement really starts to build. Remember, a good scream is the best way to ease the grip of fear, keeping everything else inside you where it belongs.

Fields Point Review presents a new series of horror movie reviews with Halloween Home Video

Week Three:
We Gotta Get Outta This Place!

Last week we dined on blood and lots of it, in the company of vampires and other thirsty ghouls. But not every nightmare scenario can be solved with stakes, garlic or sunshine. Sometimes evil oozes out the very walls, floors, furniture and doors we count on to keep bad things away.

James Wan scored a victory this summer with The Conjuring, a haunted house thriller with modern intensity and classic storytelling sensibilities. The fear that we are not safe in our own beds is a timeless and potent soft spot on the human soul, and filmmakers of all sorts have eagerly probed that spot for decades.

Thinking outside the box on this topic was a challenge. Haunting stories make up a goodly portion of almost any top-10, desert-island horror movie countdown, and great ones have been made to suit every taste. The Shining is bleak and lavish, Poltergeist playfully hideous, The Haunting and The Innocents each a parade of good old-fashioned dread, and even those in the mood for the madcap have choices ranging from William Castle’s The House On Haunted Hill to the surreal Japanese freakout known as Hausu (House). If you have not had the pleasure, stop what you have going on and make room for these movies in your life, too. Meanwhile, we adjourn to the brandy and popcorn lounge for tonight’s features.

First Course: El Orfanato
(The Orphanage)
(dir. J. A. Bayona, 2007)

J. A. Bayon's The Orphanage tests a mother's love and sanity to their limits

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