Another hit, of short, quick reviews for a few recently digested titles.
Sinister (2012) - C+
Watchable horror film has an atmospheric set-up and promising screenplay, but is letdown by its scaremongering middle portion due to workmanlike direction and repetitious frights. However props should be awarded for the creepy musical score, eerie 8MM cinematography and an ending which admittedly concludes on a brave and satisfying note. Had the movie limited its jump scare quota and attempted something more memorably unsettling during the flabby boo-moment riddled second act it might have been something special. As it stands, "Sinister" is an acceptable way to whittle down 100 minutes, but only marginally rises above the label of so-so.
Jaws 2 (1978) - C
Sequel has some nice moments, but is incomparable to the classic original. Scheider is on fine form as Brody, but the absence of Shaw and Dreyfuss is felt, with the shark stocked final act amounting to little more than "Friday the 13th" with less blood and more fins. There are interesting sequences hinting at Brody's fear of water, but the film-makers tend to overlook these elements in favour of passable but unspectacular action. A lack of community and panic doesn't help, "Jaws 2" opting for backroom wheeler-dealing over the iconic communal hysteria of Spielberg's resort in distress. The animatronic shark also appears much too frequently. Easily the best sequel in the series, but only to be watched by genre historians, completists or those with lower standards when it comes to creature features.
The Raid (2012) -B
Hectic actioner blends phenomenal set-piece direction with an ethos of non-stop carnage, but beyond that feels a little empty. There's not much commentary or deeper meaning to be unearthed here, as a group of police barrel through an apartment complex to nab a crime kingpin. Thin on character dynamics and narrative meat, but the action is shot with a confidence and bravado that can't be faked. Fun, but possibly not worth the extensive hype it's garnered.
Rosemary's Baby (1968) - A
Masterpiece of the macabre, Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" is a chilling embodiment of paranoia. Farrow gives a committed turn as a woman who may have inadvertently become impregnated by the spawn of Satan, Polanski creating a nice contrast between the unusual and the ordinary with an average New York and some searingly disturbing imagery. Dream sequences and demonic sex are all played subtly and with disturbing confidence, the climax even managing to derive some dark, miserable laughs from proceedings. A horror classic and essential viewing for those studying questionable narrators in both movies and screenwriting.
Straw Dogs (2011) - B-
Having never seen the original I was able to approach this retread purely on its own terms. Director Rod Lurie avoids the vapid style most genre remakes adopt, instead looking to lace this update with complicated characters and an admirable stab at wider social commentary. Some of its observations feel dated (I assume they're preserved from the 70s vision) and a tad chauvinistic, but the dynamics and set-pieces are tense without being over-bearing. Kate Bosworth doesn't really have the dramatic chops to keep up with the rest of the cast, who range from competent (Skarsgard) to really rather good (a sensitive Marsden).I'm not sure how fans of the original relate toward it, but for me "Straw Dogs" circa 2011 is a better than average thriller.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013