Friday, December 19, 2003

.:Lots of Movie Reviews!!!:.

As promised, here are some of my movie reviews. This is a REALLY long entry, arguably the longest non-Philosophical entry I've ever written. I have essentially written reviews for a bunch of horror/suspense films, including the likes of Ju-On, The Phone, and arguably the most horrifying (Or is it horrible?) movie I've ever reviewed, Zhou Yu's Train.


Ju-On: The Grudge
I guess you won’t be sleeping with blankets any time soon…

Ju-On is definitely one of the scariest horror movies ever made in this decade. Japanese seem to have this knack for wanting to scare moviegoers, and we never seem to tire of it. Nonetheless, in spite of the severe lack of good special effects and other technical things that could’ve enhanced the whole film, I really think The Grudge still managed to tell a horror story extremely well.

Ju-On strays from traditional linear storytelling and instead gives different accounts of a particular phenomenon from various points of view. While the names of the characters do escape me, I think that the overall feel of the film was one of mortal danger all throughout. You could feel really scared because the ghost story was not just a ghost story that tried to spook you, but there was actually a monster out there that will not rest until all those who make the fatal mistake of stumbling into its domain are eliminated, one way or another. This feeling of mortal danger was what set it far apart from “Dark Water”, which, while scary during the climax, did really nothing to make one feel an actual amount of danger.

Nonetheless, the story starts off by explaining why such a monster exists. Apparently, a man killed his wife brutally, and the wife, who was consumed by hatred upon her death, carried her hatred beyond the grave, which results in the husband dying as well, and their son to disappear. The house is eventually inhabited by a different married couple, along with the husband’s mother (Who is amusingly enough named Sachie.), who is already senile. Strange things are happening at their house, and it wasn’t long before all three of them die mysterious deaths. But we all know how they died: it was the grudge.

Different people have run into this household for different reasons. There was a policeman investigating a mysterious disappearance. There was the policeman’s daughter, who stumbled into the house with three of her classmates, who ended up being killed sooner than she did. There was this cute caretaker named Rika who realized the secret of the grudge, only to still be killed by it in the end. The whole film revolved around terrifying the audience with creepy-looking characters who, while certainly looked stupid with the very BAD attempt at covering them in blood, managed to evoke an eerie aura with their blue/gray skin. That kid in the film was simply horrifying to see, especially when he pops up on so many different occasions. His mother was no less scary, even popping under the blanket of one of the victims, which sure added blankets to elevators, mirrors, and televisions as objects of unreasonable fear.

While my review may seem a bit vague, this doesn’t mean I didn’t like the film. I kept it vague because I didn’t want to try and make a linear outline of the entire film’s flow. It was fine as it was, considering how great the scary feel of the film was. I’d even daresay it was scarier than Ringu as a whole, since you could be terrified out of your wits by Ju-On as early as ten minutes into the film, whereas Ringu banked on making people curious about the tape before scaring the bejesus out of you halfway through the film for a while, then at the end. I simply love this film, and I suppose any guy whose movie date would end up clutching him in terror would, too. But I digress.

This is a must-see. I really can’t say much else about it, because it’s simply a film that needs to be seen to be believed.

Marcelle’s Evaluation: A

Zhou Yu’s Train
There are two things you look for in a Chinese film: good story, and/or good sex. This film had NEITHER.

Zhou Yu’s Train is the tale of a young and industrious woman named (duh) Zhou Yu, who painted pottery. She ended up meeting a striving poet named Chen Ching, and the two of them hit it off quite well, since both of them are artists. Zhou Yu loved Chen Ching’s poetry, and this was what won her over. One thing leads to another, and while the two are happy together, Chen Ching wishes that Zhou Yu didn’t have to travel (By train. How else can this title be any less subtle?) so much. It came to a point that Chen Ching’s desire to be a good poet was being overwhelmed by his desire to become a more successful career person, and this led him to take a job elsewhere, leaving Zhou Yu alone.

At this point, through Zhou Yu’s frequent trips via the train, he gets to know a veterinarian named Hua Ling (I think.), and while Hua Ling has it bad for her, Zhou Yu doesn’t really reciprocate the sentiment at all, until they got to the point where Zhou Yu was all alone already. She ended up with the cliché of being torn between two lovers, and this further fanned the flames of chaos in her life. And yes, this also fanned the flames that shot this film down into a severe disappointment.

This film was being hyped as a very sensual yet deep film. After trying to justify the depth of the Matrix franchise, as well as the Spageti Song by the Sex Bomb girls, you’d think I’d be able to do such a simple task for Zhou Yu’s train. Instead, I was left scratching my head with the horrible flow of the story that did not even pretend to want to keep the viewer in the loop on what was happening. The story changed back and forth between Zhou Yu and the point of view of the new girl in Chen Ching’s life, who was trying to find out what happened to Zhou Yu. And yeah, Zhou Yu died. Big deal. We never even knew what happened to Hua Ling.

Between the idiotic transition and the confusing story, there was also the fact that none of the artists looked remotely attractive, and THIS is coming from a guy who’s infatuated with anything Chinese. Gong Li was not acting well, nor did she look attractive, to begin with, as even Heart Evangelista, whom I sorely, sorely hate, would sooner appeal to me than Gong Li or her rather limited range of emotions, or at least, her limited range in this film. Tony Leung, whom I heard girls swooning over for, seemed to have taken the ugly stick and beaten himself all over it. Same with the other leading male. In fact, Chen Ching looked nothing short of gay, and I don’t mean this in a complimentary way, like maybe he looked bishounen. I just mean that for a leading “man”, he sure looked pretty damned gay.

And as I did say, if the film had bad story, I can at least forgive it because it had great umm… money shots. That’s why though “The Fruit Is Swelling” had a horrible and cartoonish storyline, I managed to still sit through it. Too bad for me. There goes my sixty bucks and two hours of my life that I want back. Zhou Yu’s train is further derailed from this aspect. Not only do we not see anything worth seeing as far as that goes, but do we really even WANT to, considering what I just said about the looks of the cast?

Call me a superficial guy who’s after matinee idol-looking actors and actresses, but if, at the very least, they knew how to act, and knew how to deliver a good story, I would’ve let that slide. But no, we were treated to a film that Quark Henares could do while drunk and blindfolded, and even churn out a better product. The storyline was not only tired, it was trying to pretend so much it confused the Hades out of anyone watching, there was nothing worth seeing among their “bed scenes”, and worst of all, I paid good money to vituperate about this crap, when I could’ve been vituperating all I wanted about something else without shelling out a single cent.

Oh, boy. You know what a film like this, with little to no redeeming value, is going to get. I won’t give it an F because at the very least, it still tried to tell a story, and the film’s title actually made sense. Otherwise, this is the worst film I had attempted to review in my entire life so far.

Marcelle’s Evaluation: D-

The Phone
Hey! Where’s Colin Farell?

A lot of people were actually misled by the title of this film and simply thought that it was a re-release of that splendid Colin Farell film shot in only one location. In spite of that, this film had its merits, and I really think I didn’t regret watching this movie for one moment.

Let me start this review by saying that though this movie was a horror film, it entailed solving mysteries more than scaring viewers. Since I forgot the names of the lead characters, I’ll just assign some arbitrary names to them as I go along, but I’m pretty sure anyone who watched it will gladly give me the appropriate names… ah, well.

The movie starts with a girl who is alone in an elevator. For some strange reason, the elevator goes haywire, and then she receives a phone call. Her agony over the phone call becomes very visible, and in what proves to be a rather disturbing sight, she claws around the elevator with her nails breaking. We have no idea what happens to her after that.

Fast forward the story, and we have Kanako, who is doing an investigation on a syndicate for child pornography or drugs, whichever the case may be. I think she’s a journalist. Anyways, she manages to do the expose, and she receives some death threats through e-mail, and people following her every move. She then decides to change her cellular phone number when even that is beginning to be the venue for more threats. It wasn’t long before she ended up moving houses, to the house where her best friend, Miaka, as well as her husband, Takako, intended to live in with their daughter, Rei. Interestingly enough, Rei is actually Kanako’s daughter because it was HER eggs that were harvested for Miaka to be able to have a child, since she didn’t have any herself. Soon enough, strange things happen with Kanako’s phone, and at one time, Rei takes her phone, and then begins to act strangely. She seemed to have a major crush on her own father, and began to despise her mom. Call it a REALLY bad case of Elektra complex, if you will. Soon enough, Miaka realizes the truth about the whole thing.

Apparently, the number she changed to once belonged to a schoolgirl who disappeared. Question is: what does she have to do with all of this?

At this point, you begin to realize that instead of a ghost story, you are now being given a whodunit, and considering Takako’s cold reaction towards the story of the schoolgirl, you suspect that he had a hand in this. And yeah, Takako looks like Julius Babao.

Anyways, Kanako discovers that while Miaka was away, Takako had an affair with this girl, Kasumi. When Miaka returned, he wanted to break up with Kasumi, but she was already pregnant. Kasumi gave a cellular phone to Takako so they could both keep in touch. Her best friend knew about this, and as such, she realized that the phone would certainly kill a person one way or another eventually. To avoid this, she blinded herself so she wouldn’t get mesmerized by the phone any longer.

So we know that Kasumi was probably dead. Question is: who killed her? Logically, by now, we’d suspect Takako. But is he? Maybe. Maybe not. You’d find out the culprit at the end of the film, and not only does it fall into place, but Kasumi gets her retribution after all of it. Apparently, the house where Kanako was living in all this time was Kasumi’s makeshift grave, where she was plastered behind a wall, wrapped in plastic to hide her. By the end of it, she is revealed behind the wall, and for some strange reason, her hair has grown to be so long. Nonetheless, when the culprit is about to kill Kanako for knowing too much, you see the plastic covering Kasumi to have already been opened near the face. It was REALLY creepy, and no, Kasumi’s body did not decompose, but that’s just a technical gaff that I can overlook for the sheer shock value of this climax.

Overall, this film worked for me. It was scary to some extent, but I liked how it tried to make me scratch my head in puzzlement over what was going to happen next, and what was really the whole story behind it, It was simply amazing how they pulled this film off, and I was very content with it. Of course, the title left a lot to be desired, as it seems most horror films nowadays have two words for the title, with “the” being one of the two words (Though Ringu had to be adapted in the U.S. for it to become “The Ring”). I know there were some technical gaffs in the film, especially the fact that Kasumi’s hair continued to grow long after she was dead, but I can overlook that. What was more disturbing to me was the part where Rei, who was about five to seven years old, kissed her father Takako goodbye, it turned out to be a pretty bloody torrid kiss. Oh, good Lord. Shades of Ato. That was worse than the scariest scene in the film, as far as I was concerned.

Oh, and this is the one film since The Others whose twist completely took me by surprise. I was trying to solve the mystery as the film went along, only to discover that I was completely mistaken by the end of it. Best of all, I was extremely satisfied with how they played out the whole twists and turns of the film, effectively making this one of my favorite non-American horror films ever.

Marcelle’s Evaluation: A-

I never knew. I never knew.

Identity is one of those films you just have to see a second time to realize how everything falls into place. It’s a classic whodunit film that really has more twists and turns than intestines placed in a washing machine.

The film starts off with some psychiatric babble, and it seems that somebody is going to be executed for multiple murder. Then, inexplicably at first, the scene cuts to a motel, which may mean that this is a flashback to the multiple murder. Many points of view are given here, until eleven people get together in the motel, stuck under a stormy night. There’s a policeman and his ward, there’s the motel owner, there’s a call girl, a family of three, a newlywed couple, an actress, and her chauffeur.

One by one, each of them die, just about each of them with a key number by their carcass. The number starts with ten, and then it goes down and down. Apparently, there is a countdown going on until only one of them is left. Nobody knows who the culprit is, but the deaths are quite gruesome. The first death is someone who got beheaded. The second one was someone who was force-fed a baseball bat. Then the husband in the new couple was killed, though I forgot how. I think it was a stab-fest or something. Then the mother in the family of three died, presumably of bleeding to death, as she was run over at the start. Then the father in the family of three was run over. How the numbers could be placed near their bodies seemed impossible, but it’d all make sense at the end. Then, a car carrying around two people exploded. At that point, they had to realize who the killer really was.

Here is where the ingenuity of the film is further enhanced. We are then taken to a seeming connection between all the people in the motel: each had a family name with a state at the end, and each had the same birthday. BUT THEY’RE NOT REAL. They are all different personalities in the head of a man who will be executed for multiple murder the next day, UNLESS they find the killer personality, isolate it, and destroy it. All of this has been no more than a battle in the man’s head. When he realizes this, he then goes and sends himself back into his mind as the chauffeur, and then it becomes clear that the policeman was NOT a policeman, because he was also a convict, just like his ward, and this was their escape plan. A confrontation kills the chauffeur and the policeman, and the motel owner was killed prior to this because he was the one who discovered the policeman’s secret.

And then there was one: the call girl.

So they send the man to a mental institution and cancel the execution because the killer was no longer there in him.

And then at the end, he kills his psychiatrist and escapes.


He kills his psychiatrist in the truck carrying him to the mental hospital, as well as the other policeman, and escapes.

Apparently, everyone overlooked the fact that it wouldn’t make sense for the “policeman” to be the killer. He was trying to escape with his friend, who posed as his ward, for one. Why would he kill him?

Secondly, all bodies, before they disappeared come the first twist in the film, were accounted for, EXCEPT for the two that were in the car that exploded: the young kid who was the son in the family of three, and the wife in the newlywed couple. Apparently, the wife died. But the kid didn’t.

“Whoah. This is preposterous,” you might say. But it’s not, when you think about it. During each murder, the kid was nowhere to be found in the scene. Even more interestingly, the answer is being hinted at throughout the movie, as the man who had the multiple personalities was traumatized as a kid, and the kid’s name was written over and over in a notebook at one point in the film. Also, what seemed to be an accident, the dad getting run over, was clearly not, when you realize that he was trying to save the kid at the time. The mom also died while the kid went into her room. And yes, the sole survivor, the call girl, was killed by the kid in the end, leaving the only personality in the man to be that of the crazed killer.

Simply amazing. This film was definitely a nail-biter for me, and I couldn’t help but appreciate the sheer ingenuity of the plot, though I ended up guessing that the kid was the killer. In spite of that, it completely made sense how the kid did all of the murders, by the time you get to the end of the film. The plot was laid out well with no plot holes to speak of, and it was a thrilling movie from start to finish. Few films can elicit this kind of admiration from me for sheer ingenuity, and I do believe that Identity deserves it. Telling the story alone already speaks volumes of the intricacies they employed in telling a very suspenseful yet believable story.

This is the way killer flicks should be done. Twists in films are expected by now, but Identity still managed to pull the rug from under one’s feet by making a discarded notion suddenly become reality. This is one film that any mystery buff cannot possibly miss. And as I said, watching it from top to bottom is the only way to go, as was clearly illustrated by the fact that the killer’s identity was already being dictated to you from the start, yet you can still actually turn oblivious to it.

Marcelle’s Evaluation: A+

To recap, here are the rankings of the films:

Ju-On: A
Zhou Yu's Train: D-
The Phone: A-
Identity: A+

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