Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

How beautiful they really are. And that there’s no need to hide, or lie. And that it’s possible to talk to someone without any lies, with no sarcasms, no deceptions, no exaggerations or any of the things that people use to confuse the truth.

Year Released : 1995large_1uRKsxOCtgz0xVqs9l4hYtp4dFm
Director : Victor Salva
Cast : Sean Patrick Flanery, Mary Steenburgen, Lance Henrikson, Jeff Goldblum and Bradford Tatum

On this website I regularly write about films that didn’t get a cinema release and the few that don’t fit into that rule have not been financially noteworthy, barely breaking the five figure mark, and yet here I am about to review a movie that made more than £30 million worldwide in the 1990s, which was quite large at the time.

Now, I can already see the raised eyebrows asking what this is doing anywhere near this site and I’m not going to lie, I was watching this film for the first time in seven years recently and thought it would be good to review it as I didn’t think it was well known. I wrote out two pages of notes, only then to come online and see it was actually relatively well known at the time, but I’m not going to waste my effort and I don’t think that the film is well known today, so here we go.

I read an article about Jeff Goldblum today that stated that he is one of the most bankable actors in history, and it’s hard to prove that wrong given his consistency at the box office during the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve mentioned previously (in the review for Rehearsal for Murder) that Goldblum is one of my favourite actors and during the 90s he was one of the biggest. Big releases included science fiction films, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park : The Lost World and Independence Day, as well as romantic comedy Nine Months, sports drama The Great White Hype and horror Hideaway.

His career on the screen has slowed down since the late 1990s, most appearances coming in small budget films and only a few high profile ventures, including The Grand Budapest Hotel. Powder came in the middle of his run as a major Hollywood star, and even though he has a small role in this film, he fills he stereotype delightfully. More on that later.

Plot

Investigating the death of an elderly man, Sheriff Barnum (Henrikson) discovers a young albino living in the basement named Jeremy (Flanery) in the man’s basement. Jeremy’s mother had died during child birth and his father has abandoned him. His grandparents took him in but it became apparent that Jeremy had the ability to manipulate and be affected by electrical signals.

Following on from successfully convincing Jeremy to leave the home, he is placed into a boarding home where he is soon bullied due to his pale complexion. During a science lesson with the charismatic Donald (Goldblum), a Jacob’s Ladder is activated and soon shoots a constant stream of electricity into Jeremy, causing panic amongst all involved. As well as that event, Jeremy records the highest ever record IQ score, causes a hunter to feel the pain being experienced by a deer that he has shot and help Sheriff Barnum communicate with his comatose wife.

His impact on the community is met with a mixed reaction and as time goes on he starts getting threats on his life, all the time wanting to simply return to his home.

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It sounds like a very strange film…

The reason it sounds strange is because it is in a way, but in a good way. Powder is a great, mysterious science fiction film that is done with respect to both the subject matter and the audience. I’ve mentioned previously that films that want to scare you whilst you’re most tense will give a sharp sound and you’re more scared by the sound rather than what you will see, and Powder respect it’s audience by not doing that sharp sound. Now, I would stress that Powder isn’t a horror film, but there are moments where they could have easily done a horror cliché and I love that.

Salva did an excellent job setting up the right atmosphere. You’re never entirely sure what is going on and it’s not spoon fed to you. That is what makes a great science fiction/mystery film. This is greatly helped by the character of Jeremy as he remains silent for large sections of the film, and the few things he does say don’t really take away from his sense of mystery. Even after watching the film again there are still so many aspects to the Jeremy of character that are shrouded in mystery that it is actually enjoyable. Early on the film it becomes obvious that a classmate is interested in his but he never acts on this, possibly due to his lack of experience with social skills.

Jeremy’s inexperience of dealing with people makes it understandable why people get frustrated and scared of him, and even when he is getting bullied it is done in a way where his refusal to answer pretty innocent questions actually encourages them to escalate their treatment of him. This continues throughout the film as his refusal to adapt to the outside world causes the concerns of many to increase, and this only continues after an incredibly emotion filled scene when Jeremy helps the sheriff communicate with his seemingly-comatose wife.

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The scene is probably my favourite in the movie as the acting on display is incredible. The scene isn’t too dissimilar to when John Coffee cures the prison warden’s wife in The Green Mile, but the acting in the scene in Powder beats that for me due to the fact that the seemingly comatose wife’s interactions with the other two. Now, I say seemingly comatose because she can’t open her eyes or communicate in any way, but Jeremy’s interactions with her and his ability to read her mind allow her to communicate with the sheriff and you see her facial expressions change as the conversation changes tone on a regular basis and in the near ten minute scene you feel connected to a character who doesn’t actually say a single word during the entire film.

For me the stand out character has to be Donald, played excellently by Goldblum. Jeff Goldblum is one of the most typecasted actors in Hollywood, often playing a character who charismatic scientist of some variety, but it works. Jeff Goldblum is one of the few typecasted actors that you never get tired of watching in that role and he carries every single role as it is it his last. Jeff is an actor like no other and that’s why I have a lot of time for him, and this role is perfect for him.

He plays a science teacher and it’s one of the few times in a film with a school setting that you see the kids paying full attention, although this is obviously written into the script, Goldblum plays the role in a way that makes you understand why he has the class’ undivided attention. His unusual delivery of lines means you are transfixed by what he was saying and he makes you understand a Jacob’s Ladder, which is all down to his way of structuring sentences.

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So are there any negatives about the film? Well there are some films that do well despite a lack of pacing but in some ways Powder is all over the place. There are times during the film that there are long, drawn out scenes that don’t really add a lot to the story, and yet some films that could have been longer are just skipped by very quickly, with a good example being when Jeremy is threatened with a gun by John. This scene doesn’t last very long at all but it was an interesting dynamic between a man who wants someone out of his life but isn’t entirely sure if murder is the way to go, his friend that is trying to convince him not to do it and Jeremy. This scene could really have gone on a lot longer.

Several subplots just disappear and are never referenced again and other than Jeremy, characters have long gaps between appearances and by the time they do show up again, you’ve pretty much forgotten their previous appearance if there wasn’t a major event involved.

Other than those small issues, I quite enjoyed Powder and for a mysterious science fiction film, you could do a lot worse.

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Summary

A nice science fiction film that had problems with it’s release due to the stigma surrounding it’s director. Infact, the film came approvedextremely close to not being made at all when the cast found out about the director’s past, but I’m glad that it did.

I’m not going to lie, Powder does have some problems but thankfully the way the film is made does make these problems seem relatively insignificant. Don’t go in expecting a fast paced film, it’s pretty much the exact opposite.

It’s definitely worth while though and for what it is, it is a decent enough attempt at what is a unique film.

 

 

 

Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever. United against life as we know it

Year Released : 2000uploads_d4c488cb-55a6-4b14-9397-4cb1114482dd-5y3uNrwngp8PGamS5heuDUbhsHL
Directors : John Fawcett
Cast : Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche and Mimi Rogers

For a while I classed “Ginger Snaps” as one of my favourite films and quite possibly was top of that list at one point or another, but at the time of writing this I haven’t watched this wonderful gothic horror in several years. This is a big shame as I used to have the poster (specifically the one on the right) on my bedroom wall, and for a time I even considered it one of my favourite films.

Ginger Snaps isn’t a high budget film by any stretch of the imagination but it is a wonderfully made Canadian indie film with a small. This is down to numerous factors, including an excellent cast and some of the best make up that you are likely to see in any film where a character is slowly transforming into an animal.

With each cast member putting in a near perfect performance, even the minor characters, a unique story and one of the more unusual examples of character development in the 21st century, Ginger Snaps is an incredible indie film that keeps you wonderfully entertained throughout.

Plot

Ginger (Isabelle) and Bridgette (Perkins) are outcasts at their school and make no attempt to hide their macabre approach to life, which includes a rather morbid, if somewhat incredible, art project where they portray a gallery of death as a class project.

One night they are walking home together and Ginger gets attacked by a large animal but manages to survive. Although everything seems fine at first, she soon starts portraying behaviour that even Bridgette finds strange. It isn’t until Ginger’s body starts changing that they realise that the animal was infact a werewolf and Ginger is now transforming as the next full moon approaches.

As well as trying to hide it from their overly keen mother (Rogers), the girls try and find a cure for Ginger’s condition, although as it takes a tighter grip on her, Ginger suddenly starts to rebel against efforts to stop what is happening to her, even to the point where it puts innocent people at risk.

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So what sets it apart from normal monster-flicks?

Well unlike most monster flicks, the monster is actually one of the protagonists and it is gradually growing inside of her. The film isn’t a full on action packed horror film, it has many different elements to it and in some parts of it the transformation into a werewolf takes a back seat to the great on-screen relationship between Ginger and Bridgette, which I would class as one of the strongest sibling bonds that I have ever seen in a film.

Despite being gothic and incredibly morbid about life, the sisters are extremely close and loyal to each other, and the tradegy of the film is watching that relationship slowly break apart as Ginger transforms and Bridgette struggles to come to terms with what is happening. Right from the outset they have plans of committing suicide together and are completely against the idea of relationships.

That opening scene is followed by one of the greatest montages in indie horror film history as the sisters present a unapologetically gruesome gallery of death for an art class, presenting pictures of themselves being impaled on fences, taking drug overdoses, drowning in a bath, run over by lawnmowers and far more gruesome things are done with such care and attention it makes you wonder why their teacher was so appalled when it was over given that it was evidence of excellent art and photography skills. It is also helped by a remarkably morbid violin (at least I think it’s a violin) theme.

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I don’t give out praise lightly, especially to the point where I say something is the best of anything, but there are very few opening credit scenes as eye openingly exceptional as this. I can think of many accomplished open credit scenes to films, such as when you follow a bullet’s journey from being made in the factory to being shot into a child’s head in “Lord of War”, right through to the nostalgia inducing epic that is the intro to “Watchmen”, but neither come close to this. It may be simplistic in nature but even now, 13 years after I first saw the movie, it sticks with me.

“Ginger Snaps” also likes to use itself as a metaphor for when a girl goes through pregnancy and her body starts changing. There are heavy themes of the female puberty throughout, even to the point where Ginger thinks that her pains from changing into a werewolf internally is the result of period pains, and then the not so subtle character of the mother.

The mother is very worried that Ginger, a girl of 15 in the film, hasn’t started having periods yet and couldn’t be more delighted when she finds some of Ginger’s underwear with bloodstains all over it. Infact, the mother is one of the more complex characters in the film as she doesn’t know what’s happening but will stick up for her daughters against her better judgement, even when she discovers a body of a student that upset Ginger in the freezer.

It’s really hard to think of a character even remotely similar to the mother, who takes delight in discussing the menstrual cycles of her daughters at the dinner table, much to the uncomfortable displeasure of the father. Despite being exceptionally one dimensional, the mother character is actually quite refreshing to watch and unintentionally adds a comedic level to things.

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Grim attributes continue throughout the film to the point where you wonder where they’re going to go next. There are the more obvious elements such as when Bridgette falls into the remains of an animal that has been torn apart, right through to when Ginger eviscerates the school janitor and takes joy it in.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a gross-out film, far from it. Yes, I know the fact that I’ve mentioned characters being run over by lawnmowers, Bridgette falling into dog remains and many other similar things, but it’s all done with the intention of adding to this eerie masterpiece of a film. Infact, if anything the landing in a dog reveals a lot about the character of Bridgette because for all of her morbid fascination with death, the first thing she does when she lands in the dead animal’s body is to give a very visceral reaction, and at that point you get to learn that Bridgette might not be all that she has seemed.

Infact, both have an interesting level of character depth. Whilst they both have a great level of the macabre about them, giving the impression that they don’t give a fuck about anything at all,  yet both are probably more like your stereotypical teenage girls than they’re prepared to admit. They spend their time on the sports field bitching and making fun of another girl, coming up with plans to embarrass others and Ginger not knowing how to react when she is asked out on a date rather than just outright saying no, which is what you would expect.

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Ginger’s character develops exceptionally well and you wonder if her personality changes are down to just her transformation into a werewolf or the onset of puberty. Her increasingly sexualised nature, willingness to become more popular and abandon her sister and near enough completely abandoning her previous gothic tendencies, any of them could be by natural causes or the result of the transformation, you’re never entirely sure.

One of the most dramatic changes emotionally is evident when Ginger is being barked at heavily by a dog in the school and she responds by kicking it in the head. Nothing before that suggests that she is a violent person, especially not towards animals, yet now she is willingly attacking animals in front of people. It’s an interesting switch around and the first time that you’re made even aware that her personality is changing.

The transformation into a werewolf is intriguing in it’s own way and done in a completely different way to other films on a similar nature. In most the character only has to worry about transforming when a full moon is present, but in “Ginger Snaps” Ginger, and the characters she infects via methods of sex, gradually transform during the month before completing it on the full moon, and what’s even more terrifying is that from all of the evidence presented, the transformation is permanent and the characters will never turn back into their human form.

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Just so you’re aware and not expecting a lot, the final transformation scene is done mainly in the shadows and you don’t see a lot, but that actually makes it more effective. The changes before her final transformation are subtle and tiny things change each time she is on screen and it’s an exceptional level of detail and attention that has been put in by all involved.

It isn’t just what’s happening to Ginger that is interesting through as after a while she infects a guy called Jason, from that point onwards you see that the genders act differently the transformations. Jason develops a severe itch, grows several noticeable warts on his face and starts urinating blood, as well as several  other minor things that Ginger doesn’t experience and when I review the second film I will go into a point regarding the Jason character that most probably haven’t thought of, but I can’t really mention it in this without spoiling something about a major plot element in the second half of the film.

 

I will end this section by talking about the ending. Now, I’m not going to give away what happens but the final scene strikes up numerous emotions, none of them happy, and in many ways it’s the perfect end to this aberrant horror film.

I’m not even entirely sure if I would classify it as a horror film as there aren’t that many horror elements to the film, but it’s the closest genre I can fit this into as there are so few films anywhere like this. I wouldn’t call this a genre-defining film, mainly because it’s not very well known, but this is definitely something you won’t have seen before and that makes it completely unpredictable, which is what you want from a movie. I hate predictability in films and this film certainly keeps surprising you as it progresses.15-ginger_snaps

Summary

I don’t use this term lightly, especially when talking about low budget films, but I would call “Ginger Snaps” a macabre masterpiece. approvedFor the purposes of this review I watched the film for the first time in several years, at least five, and I loved it as much as the first time that I saw it. It is wonderfully morbid.

The attention to detail to even minor things is such a refreshing change and it’s very rare you see a film that fits so neatly into a genre but is completely unlike any other film in that genre. I’ve never seen another film like it and I guarantee that you haven’t either.

Regardless of your preferred choice of genre, I would recommend this as it is unlike any other film you will ever see. I’m not going to lie and lead you on with any false pretences, this isn’t a film that is full on action all of the way, there are long spells where things don’t happen, but if you want 103 minutes of your life filled with something completely unique, this is the film for you.

Can you believe that? What’s he supposed to do, you tell a teacher and they tell the bullies off and that gives them an excuse to come after you. You tell your parents and they just say stand up for yourself. Darren couldn’t stand up for himself

Year Released : 2009poster_tormented_poster2
Director : Stephen Prentice
Cast : Alex Pettyfer, Tuppence Middleton, April Pearson, Calvin Dean, Tom Hopper and Dimitri Leonidas

I mentioned in a previous review that I used to work in a cinema and one of the perks of doing so was that I could watch films for free. During my 11 months working there I watched many films that I wouldn’t have considered seeing otherwise and Tormented was one of them. It’s not that it looked like a bad film (that despite it’s current rating of 5.2/10 on IMDB) but rather that it wasn’t my type of film.

It turned into a rather pleasant surprise and whilst it isn’t one of the best horror comedies that I have ever seen, I would certainly recommend it for a few hours entertainment.

Several of the cast have since gone on to bigger and better things, with Alex Pettyfer starring in several Hollywood films such as Beastly, I Am Number Four, Magic Mike and several others, whereas Tuppence Middleton is in the upcoming film adaptation of Jupiter Ascending.

Plot

Soon after the funeral of pupil Darren Mullet (Dean), school head-girl Justine (Middleton) starts dating the popular Alex (Leonidas) and finds herself suddenly thrust into the popular group in school. The group is mainly mixed towards the inclusion of Justine due to her previous “good-girl” reputation, especially Bradley (Pettyfer), the leader of the group.

Whilst everything seems normal at first, several students start getting tortured and killed by the ghost of Darren. Although they refuse to believe what is effectively right in front of them, the group continues to be troubled by Darren’s ghost and after initially not understanding why this group has been targeted, Justine soon discovers that the group were actually responsible for his death after bullying him for several months, with the main aspect of the bullying coming from his attraction to Justine.

Justine must choose between leaving her new group to their fate or helping them.

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So why do I like it when most don’t

Well for me it’s very different from the American style school based horror films, such as “The Faculty” and any number of slasher flicks that are filled by identikit characters , each of these characters is actually written quite well. For example, Justine is written as a girl that you’re never entirely sure if you actually like her or not. Early on she is revealed to someone who tries to say the right thing, even if she literally has no idea what she’s talking about when she mourns Darren Mullet at his funeral before seconds legend being called the fact that she didn’t know who he was.

The casting for the role of Justine was tremendous as she is definitely upper-middle class and you definitely believe that Middleton would be an excellent candidate for not only her school’s head girl in real life, but also that she is generally viewed as a geek from the popular kids in school. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, it was almost perfect casting for that role.

Bradley is also very well cast and after a false dawn with Stormbreaker in the mid-2000s, this film arguably restarted Alex Pettyfer’s career as his next two pictures were “I Am Number Four” and “Beastly”, were two relatively high budget films for their genres and both relatively enjoyable. Pettyfer is brilliant as Bradley, really showcasing that ego of the “big guy in school” that usually accompanies the most attractive men in the the school. He seemingly plays the role with ease and makes you route for a character who is portrayed as an antagonist. The charisma he brings to the role, even when saying something threatening, was actually refreshing to see.

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If you know British schools and the way that the social aspect works, it actually makes you look at tormented and realise that, ignoring the part about the ghost, the film is actually very realistic, although there is definitely a high level of stereotyping. For example, the character of Marcus, Bradley’s best friend, is stereotyped as the athletic but rather stupid

One of my favour aspects about the film that make it stand out are some of the hilarious death scenes. One in particular always makes me laugh and that’s the first one. Sophie, played by Georgia King (daughter of actor Jonathan Hyde of Titanic, Jumanji and many others) is the first main character to bite the dust when she thinks that a teenage boy is watching her get dressed, approaching him before realising it’s the ghost of Darren, falling into the pool and then the ghost proceeds to sit on her, not allowing her to move and eventually drowning. All the deaths are imaginative and really well put together considering the budget.

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However, despite all of the above, the aspect I enjoyed most about the film is that as the film progresses you do actually stop feeling sorry for Darren, who is supposed to be an protagonist, and actually start wanting the antagonists to survive. It’s quite an interesting play and whilst at first Bradley the group are very easily to dislike, you soon find yourself routing for them and at the end you actually realise that Darren, despite what happened to him being a tragedy, it isn’t really until how the film ends that I realised when watching it that he was actually a very vindictive and twisted individual. It’s not many films that make you question who you should actually route for, the supposed protagonists or the obvious antagonists.

Despite all of it’s good attributes, there are a few negatives.

I appreciate that the film didn’t have a high budget, even by British film standards, but the ghost of Darren wasn’t even slightly convincing, nor scary. I know the film is a horror/comedy but even then it has to look realistic to become a believable film. One of the key successes to films like Ghostbusters, obviously ignoring the huge difference in budgets, is that their ghosts looked realistic, even the puppets. Darren, although played with gormless excellence by Calvin Dean, is just not convincing and even when you seen the posthumous clips of him being bullied, you never actually believe that the character would be capable or willing to go around killing people who bullied him.

There is also the problem with the sub-characters. Characters such as Nasser and his group of emo-stereotype characters aren’t developed at all, and Jason, Darren’s best friend before he died, is your stereotypical nerd. He is always whinging, complaining and has a definitely “the world is against me” attitude, and if anything it puts me off getting behind him as a character as well.

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Summary

It’s certainly not a bad attempt at horror for a relatively young cast. There are many positives about the approvedfilm and it is genuinely enjoyable, afterall, where do you get to see someone try to subdue a ghost in the showers with a cricket bad? It’s never going to get any film of the year awards but I found it to be a pleasant movie experience.

With a rating of just 5.2/10 on IMDB (at the time of writing), it would be easy to be put off by this film but I would recommend hanging in there as this isn’t just your typical horror/comedy, the moral message of don’t bully people because you never know what might happen is excellent and very well portrayed.

I won’t make light of the fact it is clearly aimed at a younger audience (25 and under), but I thoroughly believe that you don’t have to be young to enjoy it.