Since this week is lacking in new horror, we decided to devote part of our time to reviewing some of the films in Fangoria’s Frightfest 2010. Since there are quite a few films, we’re trying to keep our reviews short and to the point.
Fangoria’s plot summary: “Director Michael Staininger’s updated adaptation of the classic Edgar Allan Poe tale The Tomb of Ligeia. Successful writer and scholar Jonathan Merrick (Wes Bentley, American Beauty, P2) falls under the spell of the bewitching beauty Ligeia, who is fighting a fatal illness. Willing to stop at nothing in a quest for immortality, Ligeia plots to steal souls … beginning with Jonathan’s.”
My main problem with this film is the editing. It’s full of unnecessary quick cuts (a personal pet peeve unless it’s done very well), and in general is just very sloppy. Scenes end abruptly, the camera cuts to random items around the set but not ones pertinent to the scene, or cuts to things outside of the scene entirely, only to cut back a few moments later. For example, during one supposedly tense scene between Ligeia and Jonathan, the camera cuts several times from the action between the characters to a black section of the wall. Just the wall. Maybe it was bad lighting, but I’m pretty sure nothing was there. Continuity is also largely absent – characters wear one thing at the beginning of a scene and end the scene with different hair or clothes (or in one case, lack of clothes). Adding to the problems is the director’s apparent need to hit us over the head with his symbolism. I’m never a fan of talking down to your audience. Too much time using the heavy hand, not enough time with the editor.
So while I appreciate the attempt to recreate the feel of the old Roger Corman Poe adaptations in the second half of the film, this one just doesn’t work for me.
Does it pass the Bechdel test? Not even close. Most of the conversations between the main female characters are them fighting over a man. There’s some interaction with a mute girl, but I’m not sure if that counts, since she only talks when she’s possessed by the villain.
Fangoria’s plot summary: Directed by writer/producer Darin Scott (Tales From the Hood), this thriller is a high-tech take on the traditional “haunted house,” featuring a charismatically maniacal performance by horror legend Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, The Frighteners, Star Trek).
To add a little more to the plot summary, the film centers around Claire, a troubled young lady who as a child viewed a horrible series of murders in the aforementioned Dark House, which was a foster home run by the religious zealot Miss Darrode. After the murders, the house is empty for years, until Walston Rey (Combs), the “King of Horror Parks”, shows up at Claire’s advanced acting class and invites all the students to participate in his haunted house. Spurred on by Claire, the students all agree, and then discover that the haunted attractions are all based on high tech holographic illusions. Everything seems fine…until the spirit of Miss Darrode gets into the computer system and takes over all the holograms, making them all real! ALERT! SYSTEM FAILURE!
Taking a cue from the old William Castle films, this film gets more laughs/groans at the gimmicks than scares. The characters are basically throwaways and the kills, while fun, aren’t terribly inventive. A little Grand Guignol action would have served this film well. As for our holographic killers, aside from one that looks creepy, most are just you’re basic run of the mill murderers and miscreants. Though I will admit, Jeffrey Combs twirling his cane and gleefully munching the scenery is pretty great. But even he can’t keep this one interesting forever.
Does it pass the Bechdel test? – Actually, yes. Two of the girls have several interactions that don’t involve boys (they talk about meds and hating each other instead).