Horror Marathon: Pulse/Kairo (2001)

And we’re here! The final review of the horror marathon! This year’s definitely been a much better success than last year even if we hit a little bumpy patch the last few days! I’ll do a recap on the changes and such for tomorrow. I have a little new thing lately and this opened up a whole new trove of horror movies to check out which means I’m not really taking a horror movie break after the marathon ends as you’ll still see them scattered about. For the last movie was the original of a remake movie that I like quite a bit (even if others don’t), Pulse. I’ve never seen the original Japanese version of Pulse before so I’m pretty excited to check it out especially when I have quite the treat for you  in about a week related to the director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It just seems like everything is aligning to work out perfectly.

Let’s check it out!

Pulse (original title: Kairo) (2001)

Pulse 2001

Director & writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Cast: Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo

Two groups of people discover evidence that suggests spirits may be trying to invade the human world through the Internet. – IMDB

I guess its important to mention that we are big fans of the remake of Pulse. Perhaps it has its issues but we like it because it does have a nice creep factor and there are some scenes that truly do get us. However, Pulse was also one of those first horror films that I watched eons ago and haven’t revisited so maybe after being exposed more to other horror films, I’m like it less now. I’ll have to review it one day for here. However, from what I remember of the remake and this one, it does take the same story and uses a different approach. There are some scenes that seem to reflect each other however, it still sends off a different vibe. For those who like slower, psychological and a building suspense and creepy atmosphere, the original Pulse does it so well. I didn’t even know I was scared until after the movie ended and I was scared to go into dark rooms (I’m already afraid of the dark so it doesn’t help) and then looking deep into dark corners and the whole thing. I’m writing this piece up at night so the images of the movies are scaring the heck out of me, by the way. Excuse me if there are no images. I just can’t… I guess that is a testament on how I feel about the movie, which is that it is done pretty great.

With that said, I do think the idea of reading subtitles (which usually doesn’t bother me) did hinder the experience because the translation was a little odd. I also thought that some of the story was pretty slow and a little predictable. So slow movies and subtitle reading can sometimes have its issues. Pulse does keep you engaged as you try to figure out what is going on. You might know the story a little or not but from our memories of the remake, this does shed a different angle to that story. If anything, this one has a more mysterious vibe to it. It gives you less of a back story but more like some scientific stuff and spiritual talk and images to piece what the whole deal that these people dragged into the mix make their own conclusions. I like movies that don’t shove everything in your face and let you decipher the story.

Perhaps what I like the most about Pulse is the atmosphere and just how it portrayed the spirits. Everything feels so uneasy. It keeps teasing you to expect something to show up or happen and it may or may not. It plays around with your anticipations and expectations and I love that so much. Talking about the spirits (just a little), the introduction of the first one is feels a little weird but I’m telling you, perhaps its the weirdness that has it stuck on my mind right now and whenever I think about it, it just downright creeps me out and makes me incredibly uneasy.

With that said, quick review for Pulse, see it if you haven’t. If you hated the remake and have no interest in the original, I’d say to give it a go anyways. Its pretty neat and takes on a different angle from the remake. It is a tad slow and there’s some scientific talk and its rather dated, but there are some effective creepy moments and the whole tone of the film and atmosphere works really well.

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Horror Marathon Wrap-up & Overview!

And we are at the end!!! Happy Halloween!

If you missed any of the posts, the Halloween Horror marathon page is updated with this year’s movie reviews and TV binges. You can find it HERE.

Its been quite a month. Hooray to slight organization! I won’t lie that I started the Saw franchise in mid or late September because I was anticipating the work craze in the last week and still, it wasn’t quite enough to not skip two days. However, I am pretty happy with it. We discovered some great movies and TV series. The Autopsy of Jane Doe being the indie that scared me a lot even if it wasn’t perfect and one that I honestly love a lot. Unfortunately, books and recipes didn’t quite get their appearance because I took on a huge task however I did work hard so I am near the end so those reviews will go up and I will proceed to try and complete my Goodreads challenge which is incredibly behind because of IT. As for IT, I plan on working on some compare and contrast piece of the adaptations/remake/source material.

The overall feeling of I have of Saw is pretty underwhelming. Yet again I remind you that gore and blood doesn’t impress me. Making me sick and making me scared or anxious are two very different things. I loved the direction of the first one a lot and the last two did alright but everything in the middle was really meh. I’d have to say, after so many years of these marathons, I like even the most nonsensical slasher films in Halloween or Friday the 13th over any of the Saw films in the middle. Plus, Saw has to really been considered as an entire story since we spend each movie catching up with Jigsaw and his grand plan. It does show his genius and in a certain way if you look at it, it does make sense since the 7 movies aren’t really that far apart from each other on a timeline. It would be interesting to see how it would measure up if put on a timeline and see if it all makes sense. That was the original plan but work took over and here we are, struggling to get this final wrap-up before the clock strikes midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone.

With that said, I’ll keep this short and sweet since I’ve wasted enough time trying to record a video and having that fall apart.

My top 3 faves of this year in terms of movies would be (in no particular order): The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Pulse & IT (2017) & Saw is somewhere there but I can’t decide which. As for fave TV series, Stranger Things takes that one for sure. Actually the TV Binge for Stranger Things Season 2 should be coming up also. 🙂

That’s it for this Horror Marathon!
Any suggestions for next year’s horror feature?
Are you a Saw franchise fan?
What movies are your horror marathon picks?

TV Binge: Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark (2014)

**I’m currently in a work deadline rush due on Halloween. The horror of it all! Sorry for skipping on the posts. The intention was there to write. I just couldn’t find a moment. So here is yesterday’s post and if by any luck things go well today at work *fingers crossed* I will have two posts for tomorrow, one review and one special Halloween post that I always do every year for wrap-up. **

With all that out of the way, I am yet again changing directions on the horror marathon and chose quite the rare appearance in Taiwanesw series which is set with a horror background with something of a And Then There Were None vibe called Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark.

Lets check it out!

Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark

close your eyes before it's dark

Cast: Man-shu Jian, Bryan Shu-Hao Chang, Allen Chen, Blue Lan, Yen Tsao, Chun-Haw Hsu, Ke-Fang Sun, Sheng-Ping Chu, Tammy Darshana Lai, Shang-Ho Huang, Di-Yang Huang

While vacationing at a mountain cabin, a group of longtime friends uncover an old scandal that could have deadly consequences.-IMDB

Where to even start with this one? Lets just get this fact out of the way in case anyone here is a Taiwan movie/TV series connoisseurs: I don’t know watch as many of Taiwanese productions as I’d like and if you have any of these Taiwanese horror/thriller genre movies or TV series, please go ahead and recommend them to me. With that said, Close Your Eyes (as I will call the series from now on) is pretty refreshing to see. Just like TW series won’t work for everyone, the same applies here. There are some odd choices they make here and to me are missteps however, they have a whole different that they overall nail and for the most part, it actually feels more like a thriller with horror elements which isn’t a bad thing because that is one of my favorite movie genres/subgenres (not sure which its considered). Thrillers are hard to get down good especially with trying to instill ineasiness in its audience and lets just say, not everyone can be Pretty Little Liars. I draw this comparison because when the show started it, these young actresses were quite fresh faces just as the cast in Close Your Eyes are. The story does take the stance of backflashing to the last time they were camping at this cabin before the group had a fallout. Part of it is looking at what broke them apart and also what keeps them together as friends in both the past and present and gives it something of a parallel.

Whats works here:

  • The atmosphere: Close Your Eyes is set in the rather cliche stranded in a country cabin and the storm had blocked the road and knocked out the only cell/telephone line so no communication outside and can’t go out either as they are also located on a mountain. However, the proper use of this and its sounds and knowing when to just let silence and subtlety take its place is done well enough here to get its audience a little tense. The lighting and such are also done pretty well here to give it some creepy vibes here and there. Its a little cliche at times but it still works alright. However, for hardcore horror fans, this one might still be lackluster.
  • Opening & Ending Theme: It sounds really stupid to talk about the themes but the way they play with the sounds actually makes the subtle soundtrack as the ending theme so effectively creepy! The opening does a really cool creepy sequence which shows the tone of the show and where its headed.
  • Suspense: I have to be on record to be a little hesitant on using this as it works for the most part.  A lot of the reveals and twists work relatively well however, there are some parts where it hints a little too much to lose its suspense. However, it does well to keep the audience suspicious.

Close Your Eyes

What  doesn’t work so much:

  • Acting: There really is only one thing that took me out from the show a lot of times and that was the acting. Some of the actors here and the expressions they made were really hilarious and overexaggerated. It felt like they were trying to portray something but the plot never gave their character the plot that justified it. I’ve explained before that unlike American television, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Chinese/Korean/Japanese series are all done in self-contained series so when a season is done then the story is wrapped up. If there were to be a sequel, then they’ll take another story arc. However, this one, there are a lot of characters and some of the characters don’t seem to get the depth they deserve, making them mean less and in a show like this, you need to be able to cheer on the characters and want them to survive. However, some of these ones here are a little lacklusters. One of the characters that show up later on are actually the worst. I actually laughed at some of his expressions really hard and that really took me out of the immersion as that was nearing the ending episode where the whole thing would reveal itself. I have to make the exception that the older actress here who plays Fang, the mountain cabin owner is a more seasoned actress and does pretty good.
  • Voice-overs: The worst part of the show and some of the most head-scratching moments as to why they chose to do this is give voice-overs to the corpses. The corpses would have conversations and sometimes it would be little hints and clues however, it was these brief moments that made the show feel nonsensical. I didn’t see the purpose of it and would have rather that they didn’t. Think of The Autopsy of Jane Doe (although I won’t or I’ll get nightmares) but non-talking corpses wins the creepy factor any day.

Close Your Eyes is not too bad. It had its good and bad elements. Like I said before, its more of a thriller more than anything. It tries to get in a few twists and for the most part, succeeds even in its cliched moments. You can see the effort was made to get the atmosphere and the tone down while trying to highlight the significant relationships here. However, it does need a little work to piece the clues a little better although it did surprise me a few times, so I’m pretty pleased with that also and gave me a few creeps. If you like a quick Taiwanese series and explore what could hopefully be a first step into some more horror Taiwanese series, this is pretty decent. I was expecting it to be much worse. The surprise has to do with why I think its alright and probably worth a watch if you are into some suspense and mystery along with some light creepy setting.

Horror Marathon: Monster House (2006)

We’re in the final week of the horror marathon! Maybe its a little late to slow down the gears and change our pace to something less serious and thats why I decided that it was time to finish Monster House. In that sense, I had to rewatch it completely because I had started it ages ago and then somehow the DVD got lost somewhere at my mom’s before my move so I never ended up finish it. Now that its landed on Netflix, I decided it was a good time to give it a go, plus all those intense films from brutal gory traps to creepy clowns was getting to me.

Let’s check it out!

Monster House (2006)

monster house

Director: Gil Kenan

Voice cast: Mitchel Musso, Spencer Locke, Sam Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Kevin James, Jon Heder, Kathleen Turner

Three teens discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. – IMDB

Maybe for kids this movie would be a scary selection, however for myself, it was a fun movie which some cool moments but never truly scared. Monster House is an entertaining animated film set on Halloween and includes a haunted house and a creepy house that is alive along with a cranky neighbor. These kids are suspicious about it all and are the only ones who believe that the house is evil and are determined to prevent any kids from getting caught in the trap. Best friends DJ and Chowder along with a girls scout Jenny end up taking up the mission in their own hands. While them and the house are the main characters of the story, we also saw the goth babysitter and her boyfriend.

Monster House

Just looking at the voice cast list up above, there are some names that definitely pop out and having them on the team here really does add to it even if some of these roles are quite short. The kids are also done quite well. There’s a level of believability to it. Monster House follows all the moves of the making of decent animated Halloween story however, it lacks that element that makes it truly soar. However, Monster House will get a few chuckles in there with some lighthearted fun.

Monster House

Where Monster House does really well is in its visuals. The house coming to life always makes for a fun time. At the same time, the best moments are when they are inside the house as we don’t know much about why this house is alive. I do wish that they had spent a lot more time with shenanigans and other traps and flesh out the backstory for the house and perhaps it would be more catchy. It would be a cool possessed home story with lots of danger. It felt that they didn’t quite manage to hit that potential . Some of the best moments are after they manage to get into the house.

Overall, I’m a pretty neutral with Monster House. I remember liking it more the first time I had seen it (or the little bit I did see) however watching it again now, I feel like it doesn’t quite expand on where it should. There are some fun laughs here and there and the voice cast is fantastic. The story could have been a little better to give it a bit more excitement. But then, it is a story for kids so I guess it works in that term.

Horror Marathon: IT (2017)

If you missed yesterday’s review of the 1990 miniseries IT, you can read it HERE.

IT is easily one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. The images and the atmosphere and seeing the Bill Skarsgard transformation was all really captivating. It may be the horror genre of films I’ve chosen lately but I’ve been struggling to be truly frightened by a film and seeing as I have a deep-rooted fear of clowns, this seemed like one that would do the trick.

IT (2017)

IT 2017

Director: Andy Muschietti

Cast: Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicolas Hamilton, Owen Teague, Stephen Bogaert

A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children. – IMDB

IT is everything that you can imagine it to be. It does atmosphere and the horror really well. IT himself portrayed by Bill Skarsgard and his eye tricks are downright creepy. This movie is the IT that I had expected from the 1990 miniseries. However, with that said, I have to say that IT also suffered from a great PR team. Maybe not so great and also why I usually try to stay away from horror movie trailers because a lot of the effective scares were shown off in the trailers making all the scares rather expected with a few exceptions. Still, the experience of watching IT was a tense thriller with horror elements. And that hits my soft spot because I love movies that gives me a lot of thrill and has me anxious and tense.

IT 2017

For this remake, I can’t do this write-up without first talking about Pennywise. The 2017 Pennywise finds a balance between the friendly clown and striking all those horror elements perfectly. Bill Skarsgard has had some supporting roles here and there, even for myself, as I looked through his filmography, those roles didn’t quite leave any impressions because it wasn’t significant enough. The only one I know him from is as one of the main characters in Netflix Original Hemlock Grove and that show is plenty odd. I have a love hate relationship with it on various elements and thats why I haven’t finished the final season yet. However, my impressions of Bill Skarsgard stems from there. I think he is a fine looking guy so its hard to imagine him as Pennywise and actually pulling off this role so remarkably that we can forget the man is behind all this makeup and that is the most impressive. Ten out of ten for Pennywise!

IT

When the film finished, we had a huge discussion about this and 1990 miniseries. It was a long one so maybe I’ll finally do the adaptation, remake and source material idea that I never followed through with (yet). One of the main talks was about how the kids were played. Both has a commendable cast and very convincing portrayals of their respective roles. In short, my husband enjoyed the 1990 version of the kids and I thought these kids did a great job. In fact, The Losers had a lot more individuality in this one. You can really tell them apart as they accentuated how these characters are supposed to be. Perhaps having just seen Stranger Things helped and didn’t for Finn Wolfhard as it got confusing with the bike scene however he did a great job at being Richie Tozier especially with his speedtalking and the accentuating his fears. The Eddie character stood out especially with all his concerns and fears which had some comic relief in various parts. In general, there was a decent balance of action, thrills and a little humor. However, whenever Pennywise showed up in whatever form was always creepy and tense. The star of the Losers is Sophia Lillis playing Beverly Marsh. She was so convincing and fantastic. It was a lot of fun to watch her.

IT 2017

IT 2017 has some parts that stayed more true to the source material (and I’ve read the majority of what happens here) and does the parts the miniseries couldn’t. At the same time, they did make some changes that still made it effective. Changing up what the original or source material had never bothers me as long as it adds to it and still makes sense. In here, it does make sense. IT is made up by a lot of moments however, there is still a strong feeling of the bond they have created in The Losers. There are some nice effects and the atmosphere works really well. Pennywise is creepy and fantastic. Its a mostly tense movie. If you have avoided the trailers up till now, continue to do so, so that this movie becomes much more effective with each of the build up to the tense moments feeling fresh. Other than that, sit back and be thrilled by IT. It may have gotten a little overhyped by its PR and the trailers revealed too much but the film itself hit all the right notes for me. There were some parts that slowed down a little but it picked right up in the next scene so it never quite feels like it lingers.

Overall, IT packs the perfect horror thriller experience. Yet again, Stephen King has created some great characters and in this, we get a much more deeper look at the hints of how Pennywise came to be. We get to see his lair, which is captivatingly much different in a good way. The Losers are great because they feel like they are their own individuals and bring a certain something of their own skills to the table. My favorite is Sophia Lillis who plays Beverly. Now, I’m just sitting around wondering who will be cast for Part 2 and their adult roles. Its one I’m looking forward to a lot!

Have you seen the remake of IT?

Horror Marathon: IT (Miniseries 1990)

It’s time for another Stephen King adaptation! We’re finally looking at the 1990 miniseries IT which I’ve never seen before today. Perhaps a good way to justify why I haven’t is that I have a GIGANTIC fear of clowns. I can remember exact moments of being a little girl and the clowns that scared the heck out of me. However, I watched this one to have a comparison with the new IT movie that had hit theatres earlier this October and that review will be up tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the book.

Let’s check this out!

IT (1990)

IT miniseries

Cast: Richard Thomas, Tim Curry, John Ritter, Tim Reid, Annette O’Toole, Richard Masur, Dennis Christopher, Harry Anderson, Jonathan Brandis, Brandon Crane, Adam Faraizi, Seth Green, Ben Heller, Emily Perkins

In 1960, seven pre-teen outcasts fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. Thirty years later, they reunite to stop the demon once and for all when it returns to their hometown. – IMDB

This miniseries turned out to be quite a lot less scary than I imagined it. Its probably because it didn’t age well and Tim Curry brings that very comedic clown feeling even when he gets his sharp fangs out. It originally aired in two episodes. The first part was focused on the kids and the adults heading back to Derry on a promise after their friend calls them back and the second part focuses on the adults who now need to face the reality of the reoccurence of the terror that has struck Derry again and how they plan on dealing with it. This is a long piece with the two episodes combined of over 3 hours. I guess that isn’t so bad considering we frequently get 3 hours blockbusters (close to it) so its doable to just watch the whole thing in one sitting. IT is a pretty good time to be honest. The ending is a little lackluster and I’m wondering if the actual book ends the same way.

IT

Part 1 is definitely the highlight of the movie where we focus on the kids and shape how they’ve turned out as adults as we take a peek into their lives. All the actors are quite good and there are a few familiar faces. Since this was made for TV, there are some parts that were taken out and modified which makes sense to me and for the most part, it still flows pretty well. What makes the first part intriguing is its familiar structure to the source material which helps us not to only see how the story started for each of The Losers but also how they became friends and also to see their characters at the same time. The Losers each had skills and added individually to the story and the group. The kids here are very believable and they hold a naive sense to them despite their struggles.

IT 1990

Its length here has its pros and cons. For one, it allows it to stay more faithful to the source barring the moments that may be too much for general TV audience. The con however is that when the story isn’t moving, it feels like a bit of a drag. However, those are fairly rare moments. IT also uses its length to give more substance and create more of the moments. The effects are definitely dated but it is to be expected in a 1990 film however, it still is quite entertaining.

IT 1990

Tim Curry has taken on a lot of daring roles and some not so much. It really depends on what tone wanted to be created here. Pennywise is what will bring in those creeps as he is the villain. While Pennywise is quite entertaining and  clown-like with a slight darker edge, he or the tone of the mini series never manages to get into the horror elements well. Perhaps it is the first viewing being now that I feel this way and that if I saw it back in 1990 (unlikely since I was 4 and all I watched was Mr. Dressup and Ghibli films) that it would have scared me a lot more. The scenes had its intentions of being scary and creepy but it never sinks in.

Overall, there are some great elements here however, to say this was a scary movie experience would be inaccurate however, it is still very entertaining and has its moments. Tim Curry’s Pennywise also delivers a good performance.

Horror Marathon: Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)

And we’re finally here! The Final Chapter of the Saw franchise! Its been one rocky journey and I mean literally seeing as it went on a downhill slope for a little bit before slowly redeeming itself a little at a time. After the ending of Saw VI, I did want to see how they would end it. I guess I should mention, although its called 3D, I saw it in normal 2D.

Let’s wrap this franchise up (seeing as I’m still unsure whether I should see Jigsaw)!

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter

saw the final chapter

Director: Kevin Greutert

Cast: Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell, Costas Mandylor, Sean Patrick Flanery, Chad Donella, Laurence Anthony, Cary Elwes

As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen, a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror. –IMDB

The end is here. The sixth one ended with an injured Hoffman (Damn! Why does he just die?) and he’s onto Jill being a part of Jigsaw’s big plan. Call it a test or whatever, but it was one deadly one and he definitely passed it since he survived and now rather vengeful. The seventh one starts with a rather ambitious and grandiose game for a love triangle and its the first time its been out in the open (at least on screen). Of course, its disgusting and the choice the players make here are rather obvious and I’m going to be honest that watching these back to back has been really nauseating so I already felt incredibly sick at the first game and those are usually just introductions to the movie, which didn’t bode well. However, the story does really come together for this one. It brings back familiar faces from previous films and also takes for that moral journey that I had talked about in this final game also. At this point, its already noticeable that the script does reveal its intentions for the game fairly obviously however, the backstory with Jigsaw and Jill and Hoffman is where the mystery and twists all come out and its in the intricacies and extremities of each of the tests/games.

Saw VII

With that said, the main game focuses around Bobby, a man who has gotten his fame for his outlook on what he’s learned from surviving Jigsaw’s game. When he gets reeled into this game, we get flashbacks of how he met Jigsaw and all the pieces fall together in some ways. His tasks, much like the last film, are a huge puzzle where he is lead to go from one room to the next where he needs to save the people he knows in order to move forward to save his wife. The story is so similar to the sixth installment. However, his finale is one that we see coming a decent point before that or at least its definitely in your suspicions. While that is the case, its really is just one freaky test to the next. Its a bloody affair over and over again. We get a look at each of these characters before in a few scenes. Not enough to care too much about them but if you buy into this fellow Bobby’s role, then its alright.

Saw VII

What does make up for it is the idea of finally seeing how every fits together with Jill, Hoffman, and Jigsaw. Of course, we also bring in another agent into the formula. He does a fairly decent job. They even manage to seek out where the game is being played as they track down Bobby and fall a step behind. As I write this, I feel like its not as memorable as I’d like it to be for the whole investigation. However, the whole Jigsaw, Jill and Hoffman parts are the key twists here as they fill in those gaps of how it works which makes sense for the most part.

Honestly, I’m out of things to say about the Saw franchise. It has a formula and every time I feel like I’m saying similar things except now its just what works in the formula and doesn’t. The Final Chapter works for the most part and the way it ends it is quite awesome. There are twists that work and some that don’t. It really isn’t too bad although this one is incredibly bloody and gory.

Have you seen Saw VII? Did you see it in 3D? What are your thoughts on the franchise? Which movie is your fave?
Finally, do you think I should go see Jigsaw?

As an ending note here, I just thought of something that I’m going to work on as a final piece for this franchise. I feel like its needed to justify it more. One to look at how I’d rank each of these films, as well as a review of the entire story here in general. Either way, that’s coming up soon!