Monday, September 04, 2006

I love a good horror film. It's the genre that led me into my interest - some would call it obsession - with movies.

Recent horror films have left me cold. The best one I've seen recently was "The Descent" by Neil Marshall, the director of another good monster movie, "Dog Soldiers."

The two most recent horror DVD offerings left me scratching my head and wondering what I am missing.

Final Destination Three

In the third and possibly last of the "Final Destination" series, another group of random teenagers try to out-wit fate. I have not seen the others in this series, but by the lengthy documentary on the second of the two-disc set, the producers and directors speak of the challenge of keeping the franchise true to its format, while coming up with something fresh.

Remember the game "Mousetrap" from the 1960s? Or the great wacky inventions by cartoonist Rube Goldberg? In either case an outcome takes place through the apparently random interaction of unrelated events. This is the hallmark of these "dead teenager" movies.

In the third film, a group of graduating teens realizes that Death has them on his list and they try to figure out ways to cheat fate. There is no characterization. The actors are fulfilling horror film prototypes not giving well-rounded performances.

The thrust of the film is staging these elaborate and quite gory demises. The shocks come from the unexpected quality of these deaths.

For me it's not very involving and the only real entertainment is how the deaths take place. Viewed as abstractions, they're sort of interesting as a rolling ball triggers something else that propels a shelving unit - you get the idea.

The best thing about the DVD is the animated short discussing probability. It's quite well done, as is the documentary that looks at the whole "dead teenager" sub-genre of horror film.

Silent Hill

I'm always dubious about movies based on video games as that genre doesn't seem to have too good a track record, but "Silent Hill" looked very interesting.

And the visual style achieved under director Christopher Gans - the man who directed the over-the-top horror delight "Brotherhood of the Wolves" - is impressive. "Silent Hill" oozes atmosphere and dread.

Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean play adoptive parents to a little girl who sleepwalks and has vivid nightmares. Mitchell decides to take her daughter back to where she was born, a town called Silent Hill. The town has been deserted for years because of an underground coal mine fire that still burns on, but Mitchell doesn't know that, nor does the suspicious police officer who follows her into the sealed off community.

What the two women don't understand is that they are no longer in the "real" world, but have descended to the gates of Hell because of who the little girl really is.

Although its look and action held my attention, the conclusion of the film was just a disappointment.

Look, I know that Roger Ebert will come to my office and slap me if I reveal an ending, but I'm tired of contemporary horror film in which good people suffer. What I always liked about horror film was their element of a morality play. These days the good guys get as bad a fate as the bad guys do.

What does that say about society?

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. These are just my wrods.

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