Cinemania

It’s been a while since I’ve talked much about movies, so I hope I can be pardoned for indulging in a “here are some movies I watched you should watch them too!!!!” post.
I’ve actually seen a relatively large number of movies lately, as in Michele’s absence (and on her advice) I’ve been renting films that I suspect wouldn’t interest Michele much. Here are the movies I’ve rented and watched in the last several weeks, along with a few of my thoughts about each.
Session 9: this is a relatively low-budget psychological-horror film that has spent quite a while on my “check it out one of these days” list. It’s about a restoration crew working in an abandoned mental hospital/insane asylum–a massive and incredibly creepy structure that seems tailor-made for this sort of film.
Things start normally, but wouldn’t you know it, as the workweek goes on, Scary Things start to happen, one of the crew disappears, and in true psychological-thriller fashion, tensions flare and everybody starts suspecting everybody else. The movie works well to a point–several scenes in the depths of the asylum are very effectively scary. It also plays its cards very carefully as the plot unfolds, leaving you questioning whether the badness at work is the result of human action or the supernatural workings of the “evil” asylum itself. Unfortunately, the tension (and the movie) sort of collapses towards the end, as if the effort of ratcheting up all that suspense in the first half somehow exhausted the film and left us with a hurried and unsatisfying ending. A really silly gross-out scene ruins the use-your-imagination scariness of the movie’s first half, and there is an attempt at a “big plot revelation” at the end that fell flat for me.
So Session 9 it wasn’t hugely impressive, but nor was it horrible. If you’re in the mood for a good “evil building drives inhabitants mad” movie (and have already seen The Shining, of course) it’s worth a rental.
Pulp Fiction: yes, it’s true, I had never seen Pulp Fiction until about a week ago. Yes, it was amazing; I went out and purchased a copy to add to the Rau family DVD collection (and you know only the best movies make it into that collection). But I don’t know what else to say about the film that hasn’t been said by people more insightful than myself, so I’ll say that I loved it, but feel somewhat uncomfortable about liking it so much.
Underworld: yeah, with Kate Beckinsdale. It’s a cheesy B-movie about trendy vampires fighting werewolves. It was pretty goth-tastic. It’s a summer popcorn flick at best, but I enjoyed it for what it was worth. I watched carefully for evidence that the film rips off ideas and plot elements from White Wolf’s Vampire roleplaying game (White Wolf has sued the Underworld creators over this) and concluded that, yeah, it’s a pretty blatant Vampire rip-off. Whether it’s enough of a rip-off to make for a successful lawsuit, I’d say probably not, but I shall leave that to the professional lawyers.
Below: this one was a very pleasant surprise. It’s also a horror movie of the psychological bent (which I suspect got lost or overlooked in the wake of The Others, The Ring, and similar films). Its catch is that it’s a ghost story set on… a submarine. I thought that was a cool enough premise that I gave it a chance, and wasn’t disappointed.
It’s not the best horror movie you’ll ever see, but I’d put it about on par with the two flicks mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The basic premise is that an American submarine in World War II picks up a handful of British survivors from a torpedoed medical ship, and it’s not long before Scary Things start happening. Like many other popular horror movies these days, it’s pretty non-gory, and relies heavily on the old “you turn around and AHHHHH there’s a pasty white corpse right behind you but when you look again it’s GONE!!!!” trick, which is a bit tired but still pretty fun. And Below features what I believe is the single creepiest mirror scene I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Yikes, I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.
Below also gets points for being the first submarine movie in the history of submarine movies which does not include a scene in which the submarine must descend below its design specifications–you know the scene, where everybody stands around tensely while somebody reads off the submarine’s ever-decreasing depth and somebody keeps ranting about “she’s not designed for this depth!” and mysterious rivets* start popping out and spraying water all over the place, and then we all breathe a sigh of relief as the boat remains intact. So Below gets an automatic +35% bonus for not having that scene.
(*I’ve always wanted to know: do submarines really have rivets, and do they really pop out when the boat dives too deep?)
Oh, and Below features a hilarious conversation between crewmembers (who are proposing theories about What’s Going On) that I suspect is a playful nod to Richard Matheson’s wonderful story “Death Ship,” or perhaps a light-hearted mockery of The Others and The Sixth Sense. That earned it a few Cleverness Points.
So there you have it. Pulp Fiction is the only one of the four with lasting artistic merit, but they were all worth the rental fee for one reason or another. Which of these movies have you seen, and what did you think of them?

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2 thoughts on “Cinemania

  1. pcg

    Pulp Fiction was very good, and I bought it. However, watching it again after having left it for years, it underwhelmed me. I kinda got tired of the ultraviolence, male rape, incessant drug use, etc. that seems to pervade lots of movies these days. But, to be sure, Pulp Fiction is (still) one of the better movies of this genre.
    It *does* still have some great dialogue, even though some of it has passed from quirky to cliched over the past years.
    Below sounds interesting. I must take umbrage with your choice of “scariest mirror scene”; I *still* have trouble looking at mirrors in relative dark because of The Boogeyman. However, like The Hand, I strongly suspect Boogeyman doesn’t maintain the same hold it had over me as a child.

  2. pcg

    P.S. I saw Underworld as well, and thought it was a great pulp movie. It was certainly better than that other piece of garbage she was in, Van Helsing. Neither was Oscar material, but at least Underworld didn’t make me angry at having spent one red cent on it. (Actually, neither did Van Helsing–my wife is much the fan of crap movies. So it was still worth it. 🙂

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