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Non-Review Review: Pet Sematary

The horror in Pet Sematary is primal and ancient, both literally and figuratively.

The tropes that power Pet Sematary were already familiar and old-fashioned by the time that Stephen King published the book more than a quarter of a century ago. Indeed, there are extended stretches of the novel when Pet Sematary feels like a game of Stephen-King-related mad-libs: a dash of paternal anxiety here, a sense of existential dread about the American wilderness there, a familiar older character to provide exposition thrown in, and a climax where everything gets very brutal very quickly.

“You just take a left at the Pet Seminary.”

Even beyond the sense of Pet Sematary as a collection of familiar Stephen King elements blended together, the novel riffed on familiar genre elements. There was more than a faint whiff of The Monkey’s Paw to the basic plot, the story of a seemingly wondrous device that could resurrect the dead only for the person responsible to realise that their beloved had come back “wrong” – or, as Jud helpfully summarises, that “sometimes dead is better.” (The novel alluded to this more directly with the story of Timmy Baterman, which is consigned to a newspaper clipping in this adaptation.)

Writer Jeff Buhler, along with directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, clearly understand that appeal. The script for Pet Sematary makes a number of major alterations to the book’s plot, but most are logical and organic, rooted in the realities and necessities of cinematic storytelling more than the desire to change things for the sake of changing them. For the most part, Pet Sematary revels in the old-fashioned blend of Americana and horror that defines so much of King’s work, the mounting sense of dread and the decidedly pulpy sensibility.

The purr-fect villain.

Pet Sematary only really runs into trouble in its third act, and this is arguably a problem that is carried over from the source material despite the major branching choices that the script makes leading up to that point. The issues with the third act are not those of character or plot, but instead of tempo and genre. In a weird way, these third act issues make Pet Sematary feel like a spiritually faithful adaptation, carrying over something of the essence of the book, for better and for worse.

Pet Sematary is at is strongest when building mood and mounting dread, when offering its own shading on the familiar iconography of a haunted and untamed wilderness. Pet Sematary is at its weakest when it is forced to shape that dread into a more conventional horror movie climax.

Shades of grey.

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Non-Review Review: Cinderella (2015)

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is probably the safest and most down-the-middle live action remake of a classic Disney cartoon. It is not as heavily stylised or esoteric as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but it is also not as deeply flawed as Maleficent. If anything, Cinderella suffers from a lack of its own identity or energy. It is a well-made and functional film that avoids any truly significant problems, but it also lacks any real edge that might help it stand out.

Cinderella looks lovely. Dante Ferretti’s production design and Sandy Powell’s costume designs are breathtakingly beautiful. Branagh’s direction is clean and crispy, avoiding excessive clutter and trusting the story to tell itself. The cast are great – with Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter doing wonderful work. Even the script does exactly what it needs to do, walking the line between traditional and self-aware with considerable grace. Cinderella does pretty much everything that you would expect a live action adaptation to do.

cinderella2

At the same time, it lacks any real sense of cinematic ambition. It is nowhere near as iconoclastic as Alice in Wonderland or as ambitious as Maleficent. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Alice in Wonderland attracted a lot of criticism for playing more as a Tim Burton movie than an Alice in Wonderland film, while Maleficent tripped over itself in its attempts to re-write the classing story of Sleeping Beauty as a feminist parable. Cinderella‘s problems are much less severe, but its accomplishments are also less noteworthy.

The result is probably the most solid and reliable live adaptation of a classic Disney cartoon, albeit one that never seems to have any real ambition or verve.

cinderella

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Non-Review Review: Disturbia

Yes, it’s Rear Window for the MTV generation, but what’s the harm in that? They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. Disturbia is a movie that is more than entertaining on its own terms, a light bit of fun that doesn’t let itself get carried away with taking itself too seriously. The final third degenerates into standard teen thriller fare, but – for most of its runtime – the movie manages to keep you smiling along enough that you don’t mind that it’s a copy of a cinematic classic.

Yes, even in his dressing gown, David Morse could still take you and use you as cheap building insolation... ((Allegedly...))

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Non-Review Review: Last House on the Left (2009)

Wes Craven is a very odd man. On one hand, you have the luminary who gave us the breathtakingly original slants on the horror movie which we saw in A Nightmare on Elm Street, New Nightmare and the Scream franchise, along with his talent as a straight-forward thriller director in Red Eye. On the other hand you have the king of schlock, the man behind pointless gore fests like the original Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes or even Dracula 2000. And, on a third severed hand you’d probably find lying around his trailer somewhere, you have the Wes Craven who wholeheartedly approves and supports schlokier remakes of his schlokiest films. Like this, the remake of Last House on the Left.

lasthouse

The only thing to fear is the quality of the movie itself...

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It’s For-eign, Not For Americans…

What is the deal with remaking foreign films for American audiences, really? That Akira remake apparently still alive.

Despite the high volume of foreign films being remade, there are comparatively few English films that warrant an Americanised reworking, so I’m going to suggest that it’s not merely the cultural barrier that needs transcending. I think it’s the foreign language barrier. So, what’s the point in remaking and reimagining foreign properties for huge amounts of money – why not simply pay more heed to the original product?

For the record, NOT how you do a 180-degree turn...

For the record, NOT how you do a 180-degree turn...

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The Not-So-Merry Old Land of Oz

Not cool. Seriously not cool.

It’s one thing to mess with my childhood by making a Smurfs movie or remaking Flight of the Navigator or Neverending Story, but it’s another thing to screw with my gran’s childhood. Well, at least it’s not a remake – it’s a long-distance sequel. Yes, Dakota Fanning has been cast as the lead in a sequel to The Wizard of Oz. And not only that, she’s going to be hip and cool while Oz itself is going to be darker and edgier – like every good Hollywood property. I’m cringing inside already.

One crossover I don't want to see...

One crossover I don't want to see...

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The Once and Future King (Kong)…

Wow, looks like those monster movie revivals show no signs of abating. King Kong is apparently next in line, getting the prequel treatment. There’s apparently an adaptation of a book Kong: King of Skull Island. It seems a rather quick revival for Kong, who seems to go through thirty-to-forty-year cycles of popularity.

Quit Monkeying Around...

Quit Monkeying Around...

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