Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reflections of Murder

"Reflections of Murder" starring , and is a 1974 made for TV movie remake of the French Film "Les Diaboliques".

At a boy's school on an island in Puget Sound Washington, the headmistress, Claire Elliott (Hackett), is trying to run a successful school in her family's large seaside mansion that was left to her.  Her husband the headmaster, Michael Elliott (Waterston) has other ides - he wants to sell the house and property to developers so they can earn millions of dollars.  Claire will not sell and because of this Michael is doing everything he can to make her divorce him so they will have to split the estate.

Michael is a horribly abusive husband to Claire and to his mistress, Vicky (Weld) who is another teacher at the school.  Vicky has the idea that they should kill Michael so they can enjoy life again and stop living under his constant abuse.  Slowly, Claire is convinced.

The plot to kill Michael is rather involved and consists of the women taking the ferry into Seattle and calling Michael there to kill him and then bring him back to the island to drop into the school's closed for the season pool.

Of course for movies like this, nothing works out as well as it was planned and nothing is as it seems.  This movie is good overall.  The scenes of the abuse faced by Claire are cringe-worthy and the twists and turns add some good suspense.  The friendship between should be rivals Claire and Vicky is actually rather tender even while plotting and committing murder!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Wicker Man

"The Wicker Man" (1973) starring  and    is a classic cult horror / thriller that is also a musical!  A police sergeant travels to a remote private island off the Scottish coast to investigate a reported missing child and finds more than he bargained for!

Sergeant Howie (Woodward) receives an anonymous letter from the island of Summerisle which claims a young girl named Rowan Morrison is missing.  As soon as he arrives to the remote island he faces resistance from the local residents. They claim they don't know the girl and he should talk to Lord Summerisle (Lee) who owns and governs the island.

The Sergeant immediately starts investigating in a heavy handed approach which only gets worse after he starts witnessing the strange goings-on around the island.  Sergeant Howie is a devout Christian and what he sees on Summerisle horrifies him.  People at first lie about Rowan and when he finds evidence of her they finally claim she is dead.  He witnesses couples having sex openly outside the pub. He sees naked dancers jumping over bonfires in strange ceremonies.  The bar maiden, Willow (Ekland), tries to seduce him.  They even teach the children about phallic symbols in school! When he finally meets Lord Summerisle, he learns that the islanders believe in Pagan beliefs and practices which help their crops grow.

This is a thoroughly unique horror movie that actually incorporates music and song into the scenes in a way that doesn't seem out of place.  The songs are either ancient songs or folk songs and they add a lot to the film. "Willow's Song" is sung by Willow the bar owner's daughter, who sings a hauntingly beautiful song while she is nude and in the room next to the sergeant's.  He must use all his reserves of devoutness to endure this haunting siren's song.  The "Maypole Song" is sung a male teacher while the boys are tethered to the maypole in an ancient ceremonial dance. All the music and songs are something you will definitely enjoy and remember about this film.

"The Wicker Man" is a horror movie that you should see at least once in your lifetime and after that you generally will want to watch it again and again.  The beautiful island scenery, the quirky locals, the Pagan costumes and masks, the songs and dance, the suspense and mystery all add to the atmosphere of this film. When Sergeant Howie finally finds out the truth about Rowan Morrison and the island and its people, he definitely finds something stranger than he would have ever imagined!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Haunting of Helen Walker

"The Haunting of Helen Walker" (1995) is a made for TV movie starring: , and .  It is another remake/retelling of Henry James' Turn of the Screw.

Valerie Bertinelli plays the title role of Helen Walker, an American widow in England who applies for and receives the job of live in nanny to two children who live in a old country mansion sometime around 1900. The children's uncle and guardian lives in London and his lifestyle doesn't have time to take care of two children.  He puts Helen in charge of all the children's affairs and upbringing.

The house is run by Mrs. Grose the housekeeper and some other servants. She and young Flora welcome Helen to the household.  Shortly after arriving, Helen learns that young Miles is coming home from boarding school because he has been kicked out for bad behavior.

This film stays close to original classic story except for changing the nanny's name and making her American.  There is some sinister secret in this large foreboding house.  The previous nanny and caretaker who are both dead continue to haunt the large estate.  Helen digs deeper into the mystery to determine why this is so she can ultimately save the children.  This doesn't go so well for her.

This is a good ghost story and Valerie Bertinelli even does a good job pulling off acting in a period piece.   

Sunday, June 9, 2013

6 Souls

"6 Souls" (2010) starring   is a supernatural horror thriller about a forensic psychiatrist investigating a man with multiple personalities.

Cara Harding (Moore) is a forensic psychiatrist who is also a devout Christian.  She is able to balance the sometimes conflicting beliefs well in her life even though she is put to the test being a single mother to her young daughter after her husband was murdered.  Her father Dr. Harding (Demunn) is also a psychiatrist and calls her in to consult on one of his patients.  

Cara meets the patient David (Rhys Meyers) who is wheelchair bound and after conducting some tests doesn't find anything wrong with him.  While watching through the window, her father calls him and he answers and after violently convulsing, he is Adam.  Cara digs deeper into his files and is soon deep into an investigation that will lead to discovering more of his personalities.  

She discovers his personalities are actually based on real people that are dead.  She will discover that maybe it isn't just a shattered mind in this patient's body but something that will put her scientific and religious beliefs to the test.  

"6 Souls" is a pretty good supernatural thriller.   It has its creepy moments.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers is excellent playing the multiple personalities including some sinister characters.  Julianne Moore plays a smart woman in jeopardy who will do what she can to save herself and her family.  It's a good movie to rent for the evening.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Beautiful Creatures

"Beautiful Creatures" (2012) starring  and    is supernatural romantic drama about witches in the South.

Teenager Ethan Wate (Ehrenreich) has always lived in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina.  He yearns to get out of the town that stifles his creativity and bans all the books he finds interesting.  When new student Lena Duchannes (Englert) arrives to town, things start to get interesting.  Lena lives with her reclusive and very eccentric Uncle Macon (Irons) in a mansion just outside of town.  The townsfolk imagine all kinds of strange, un-Christian goings-on at the mansion and that attitude immediately reflects on Lena who has a hard time fitting in at school.  Of course Ethan, even though he is popular at school, feels like he is an outsider and immediately falls for Lena.

He soon discovers Lena isn't the usual girl next door!  She is a witch, or as they like to be called in this film - a caster, who is trying to learn to control  formidable powers.  Lena will soon turn 16 and on her sixteenth birthday her true nature will come out and her powers will thereafter be used for the light (good) or dark (evil).  All her extended family is coming to town for a caster holiday and they are a very eclectic bunch.

Ethan soon discovers from family friend Amma (Davis) that his family and Lena's are connected in the past and a curse from that past may soon affect Ethan and Lena.  They must race to find a solution to this curse or Lena may inevitably go toward the dark.

"Beautiful Creatures" is a visually appealing movie with lush settings and eclectic characters.  It has lots of supernatural powers, interesting characters (including Emma Thompson playing a local religious woman who tries to direct the townsfolk against Lena and her family) and teen romance.  If you like the "Twilight" movies, you'll probably enjoy this movie too.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunset Boulevard

"Sunset Boulevard" (1950) is a classic film noir drama starring , , .

 Joe Gillis (Holden) is a struggling screenwriter that can't seem to write anything that the studios want to buy.  He can't afford his rent and he's behind on his car payments and men have arrived to repossess his car.  While trying to get away from the repo-men, he hides his car in the driveway of a rundown Sunset Boulevard Hollywood mansion.  As he gets out to survey the house and estate, he is called inside by the butler Max, who says they have been expecting him!

Joe is sent upstairs to meet Norma Desmond (Swanson) who thinks he is the undertaker there to bring the coffin for her dead chimpanzee.  We soon discover that Norma is a washed up movie star from the silent film days.  She excelled in the silent pictures and worked with directors such as Cecil B. DeMille.  Norma had a hard time making the adjustment to the films with sound and dialog and shortly thereafter faded into obscurity and became a recluse in her mansion with only her butler to keep her company.  Speaking to Norma though, Joe discovers that she doesn't think of herself as washed up, she actually believes she just needs to make a return to the screen that everyone has been waiting for. 

Long story short, Joe comes to live with Norma and helps her edit the script she wrote for her comeback movie.  Norma showers him with fancy clothes and attention - much to his dismay.  She also readies herself for her return to film.

Gloria Swanson is masterful as the wonderfully over the top Norma Desmond.  Her facial expressions are grand and exaggerated, honed from years of having only her face and body to express her emotions on the silent screen.  She still has a grand sense of style and keeps the inside of her mansion extravagant as opposed to the decrepitude on the outside.  But Norma has a rather obsessive personality and how does that go over with the very independently minded Joe?  Plus add into the mix some jealousy when Joe tries to strike out on his own and you'll see the result in this masterpiece of the film noir genre.