Maniac (Remake – 2012): the deranged and murderous owner of a mannequin shop crosses paths with an artist who understands his appreciation for the figures. Not for the faint hearted, this is packed with violence and gore; in all of the graphic scenes you keep thinking ‘they’ll cut away from it now… Now… NOW?!?!’. These gut-wrenching effects are paired with a deranged and explicit sound design, which makes this very unnerving and creepy to watch. Elijah Wood is sufficiently creepy-looking and charming – although he doesn’t get the same chance to push his range as this version is mostly shot from his point of view (POV). Because of the POV shooting, brutal sound effects and explicit gore you feel more like a participant than an observer, which works disturbingly well in the voyeuristic and chase sequences. The original Maniac is great, and still holds up today, but times have changed and this one ups the ante in every aspect, becoming more shocking by comparison, whilst retaining a certain retro ‘video nasty’ / ‘classic exploitation‘ vibe (aided by plenty homages and similarities to the original, and an exquisite post-Drive 1980s synth soundtrack.) On a scale of ‘one to creepy’ this is CREEPY AS FUCK and – like the original – although this is 100% unrecommendable, the Maniac remake is an exploitation and slasher masterpiece.
Chocolate: a retired loan shark falls ill, and her daughter goes out to get the money back to pay for the medical bills. Even though it’s clearly just an excuse for the action, the story is pretty bad, and was in the front seat for too long. Also the sooner Thailand realise that emotional scenes don’t have to feature slow motion filming and hammy cheap pop music, the better. What sets this film apart is the amazing action choreography, stunts and creative fighting. There’s five full-blown fights – Ice / Warehouse / Meat Factory / Showdown and Building – crammed with jaw dropping tricks and set pieces that most countries wouldn’t think about letting you try. As shown in the end credits the heroic (dumb) stuntmen here go through hell to get the perfect shot, and it pays off big time. Despite essentially having to play an autistic ninja, the lead girl does a stellar job and her stuntwork / fighting skills are immense – you can’t believe half of the things she’s doing. If you want to see a good story of vengeance and justice, Chocolate probably isn’t the best example, but if it’s insane stunts and action choreography a la Tony Jaa films, this hits the target.
Drag Me To Hell: An everywoman accidentally insults a gypsy – cue an ancient curse and impending doom for our gal. The five minute prologue is totally old school; OTT music, effects and a huge-ass demon. Fortunately, the entire film stays in this vein, and what I liked best was that while there is the odd big jump the rest of the frights come from good old-fashioned sources; wind, leaves, squeaks and creaks – no wet long-haired lizard women rattling down staircases or other such gimmicks. While it’s Genuinely terrifying this also has some subtly funny motifs like the face-fucking/hair-grabbing corpse, funeral, Goat, Dancing Ghost and even the ridiculous gross outs. There’s the best use of a stapler & ruler I’ve ever seen and a pretty sweet, but obvious, ending. Raimi’s direction is great, really proving he’s a pro by milking every drop of suspense and terror, yet making it fun and watchable – all while he’s pretty much parodying an entire genre. Drag Me to Hell effortlessly walks the line between comedy-stire and terror and I’ve not enjoyed a horror film this much in years. Classic Raimi. Classic horror. Instant Classic, just add blood.
The Proposition: would have been far more watchable if there wasn’t so much violence and gore in your face throughout the entire film. Don’t get me wrong, I like my action, but this is a bit much. The story’s simple and had potential to be powerful, but was drawn out and poorly executed. There were no lasting rivalries, little suspense, no shoot-em-up scenes and no deep characters… basically, no staple Western ingredients! Definitely failed to make the most of the superstar cast, Ray Winstone in particular seemed to think he was playing a gangster. Gets a lot of hype because of the hardcore Nick Cave following, but surely such an acclaimed musician should have nailed a better soundtrack! It looks good, and is atmospheric, but if you like westerns you’ll have seen the story before, just never told this poorly, and with so many boring soliloquies.