Archive for Nicole Kidman

Top 5 Haunted House Films

Posted in Best Of, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by smuckyproductions

I have a special place in my heart for good haunted house movies. So, in honor of an age-old genre and in anticipation of my new book that uses many of its tropes, here’s a few of my favorites.

5. The Changeling (1980)

This film, extremely influential in the genre, creeped me out beyond words. While not the most well-crafted movie, the storyline is inventive and very chilling, with a great twist and heart-pounding climax. The mansion is perfect, full of hidden rooms and cobwebs. Certain scenes – those who have seen this movie will remember a rubber ball – are wonderfully spooky, and the seance sequence is one of my favorites of all time. A must-see, especially around Halloween.

4. The Woman in Black (1989)

This isn’t really a haunted house movie (the ghost can travel) and it isn’t even a movie, as it was produced for TV, but I forgive this discrepancies. I enjoyed the remake, actually, but the original is one of the only films to manifest its ghost in a truly creepy way – most movies, when they reveal their spirit, loose tension because it just doesn’t look right. The titular character is just terrifying. Again, the atmosphere provided by Eel Marsh House and the misty English countryside is spooky as hell. This movie proves that nothing can beat the British in the 80’s for sheer eeriness. Impossible to find, but worth the search.

3. The Others (2001)

While arguably not a horror film, this quiet tale is horrific enough to include here – at 13, this movie scared the crap out of me. The atmosphere and setting are all perfect, claustrophobic but also large enough to cause fear of the darker corners. Kidman is brilliant, and her character is wonderfully complex. The children’s performances are shockingly good, too. This movie is much more creepy than frightening, but I’ll be honest, the piano scene sends chills up my spine. The ending could have been cheesy, but it’s subtle and beautifully done. A fantastic movie in every sense, and the perfect ghost story for a cold night.

2. The Innocents (1961)

An obvious addition to the list. This film, with its chilling music (can’t go wrong when you have a little girl singing) and dark themes, is fantastic for any genre. Here is another film to make its physical ghosts terrifically scary – when the first apparition appears to the fabulous Deborah Karr in the window, it’s impossible not to be creeped out. The mansion is gorgeous, full of atmosphere. The ambiguous ending – was it real, or is she crazy?? – is ahead of its time, and brilliant. It’s a unique movie, so much so that I was a little put off at first, but when you learn to appreciate it, it will never let you forget it.

And, DRUMROLL PLEASE….

1. The Haunting (1963)

Four years after I saw it for the first time, this movie remains one of the scariest I’ve ever seen… and nothing happens. There are some strange noises, some creepy wallpaper patterns, and a hysterical leading woman (a brilliant performance by Julie Harris), but that’s it. It’s a brilliant piece of cinema. Not only does it raise interesting questions about the nature of ghosts, it also introduces some terrifying ones. Hill House is beautiful and frightening all at once. The cast is amazing. The script is genius. I could go on. Skip the awful remake and see this one – arguably the scariest ghost film of all time.

Honorable Mentions

– Poltergeist: My first real horror film. Would be on this list, but it’s just a little too much for my taste now.

– Full Circle: A great performance by Mia Farrow, wonderful score, cool story – worth a look.

– The Amityville Horror (1979): Rather terrible in some senses, but who can forget Jody? Great memories with this one.

– Dead of Night (1945): This isn’t a 100% haunted house film, but I love it too much to ignore it – one of the stories, after all, involves ghosts.

– The Entity: Very cheesy but very scary, it’s dated but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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Stoker (2013): Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2013 by smuckyproductions

stoker-poster-us

Director: Park Chan-Wook
Writer: Wentworth Miller
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
7.5/10

“Stoker”, directed by the mastermind behind “Oldboy” and “Thirst,” generated plenty of buzz before its early March release for a number of reasons – great trailer, great cast, great crew. I was fortunate enough to see it at a pre-screening, and the experience was definitely worth the wait in line.

The film tells the dark, twisted story of the Stoker family. After India’s (Wasikowska) father dies, her uncle Charlie (Goode) comes to stay with her mother Evie (Kidman). His appearance is surrounded by strange and mysterious events, which build up to the ending that may not be exactly shocking but is certainly chilling enough. India, as Charlie brings her into his world, begins to learn what it means to be an adult (something revealed in the gorgeous opening sequence). The mystery is not shockingly unique, but it takes the tropes and uses them to the fullest extent. The suspense is high, and the twists will certainly cause goosebumps.

Watching “Stoker” is like witnessing a moving painting. Park Chan-Wook’s sumptuous style influences every shot, and he crafts each frame with the care of a sculptor. I found my breath taken away several times by the sheer beauty of the cinematography. I’m a sucker for color schemes, and “Stoker” uses them to the fullest extent, pairing pale greens, blues and yellows with rich blood-reds. The visuals evoke the perfect mix of Southern Gothic and decadence, blending together to make a crisp and engaging atmosphere. If there is one reason to see “Stoker,” it is to give your eyes a treat. I would go so far as to compare the cinematography to that of a Kubrick film.

A surprising bit of brilliance can also be found in the sound design. As India is constantly hyper-aware of everything around her, the design must pay special attention to detail, bringing out every footstep and movement of even the smallest objects. The film uses this to establish her character, and also to give the audience a sense of unease. In the more gruesome scenes, the sound design becomes downright disturbing.

The performances are wonderful as well. Wasikowska brings India to life in an almost transcendent way, and even when she’s not speaking, we know exactly what’s on her mind. Kidman is also transformed as the beautiful but rather unstable Evie. Goode can be a little too blank at points, but it works most of the time. The supporting characters are fantastic as well.

The script, however, is rather flawed – there are certain pieces of dialogue, especially in the first third of the film, that become cringe-worthy. That being said, parts of the script are kind of brilliant, particularly Evie’s monologue about parenting that is hinted at in the trailer. I find the flaws excusable, considering that it is Miller’s first effort, but it may detract from the visuals and story for some.

As a sensory experience in general, it’s hard to get any better than “Stoker.” It has its flaws, but the visual and auditory aspects are incredible. As a thriller, it works well too, building tension and delivering twists that will satisfy. The ending leaves it ambiguous, and will promote discussion, though I won’t say about what. I recommend “Stoker” for any fans of beautiful works of cinema, or anyone who just wants a good old-fashioned mystery.