Monthly Archives: October 2012

What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen… Carrie?

As it’s still Horror Movie Month (just, at time of writing), I thought this next What Dya Mean You Haven’t Seen…? should probably be horror related and one of the big horror movies missing from my viewing was Carrie. With news, trailers and images of the impending remake starting to land, I thought it was the perfect time to get acquainted with Brian De Palma’s original telling of the Stephen King novel.

Plot: Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is an unassuming, high school loner who gets teased by her classmates and suffers physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her super-religious mother (Piper Laurie). Odds things start to happen during some of Carrie’s more irritable moments: a light bulb smashes, an ash try flips off a table and a boy falls off his bike after teasing her. However, when a prank at prom humiliates Carrie on front of the whole school, she unleashes a fury that has disastrous results.

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Strip it down and Carrie is a coming of age story but with a horror twist. The film starts out with Carrie getting her first period whilst in the shower at school, an obvious statement that she is becoming a woman. This is mirrored with the onset of her telekinetic powers, symbolising the fear and confusion many experiences when going through that stage in their life. It’s also an excellent example of foreshadowing, a scaled down version of what will happen at the prom later in the film.  However, she grows as the film progresses, standing up to her mother and getting her revenge on those who tormented her. This her sexual awakening, and the sexual imagery throughout only cements this; often an act of torment or violence is closely associated with something erotic or sexual. The opening sequence with Carrie in the shower is a prime example of this.

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Horror movie scenes recreated with Lego

Last month I posted some classic movie scenes recreated with Lego. Well in anticipation for Horror Movie Month, I very cleverly didn’t include any from horror films. Talk about stringing a post out, eh? People seemed to like it though, so I guess there’s no harm in doing another one. So, here are some horror movie scenes recreated through the medium of foot crippling pieces of plastic. Again, I can’t take credit for any of these. If you can, well done indeed.

The Shining

The Shining

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Guest Post: The Strangers

This Guest Post comes courtesy of Daniel over at Daniel’s Film Reviews. Thanks to Daniel for the privilege of using one of his reviews; please go check out his excellent blog.

Release Date: May 30, 2008

Director: Bryan Bertino

Stars: Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward

Runtime: 86 min

Tagline: Lock the door. Pretend you’re safe.

The StrangersThe Strangers offers a spooky and fairly unique experience.

James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) and Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) have just returned to a remote Hoyt family vacation home after a wedding reception. In the middle of the night, they get a knock on the door. The porch light is off, and the young woman is mysterious. Soon enough, they begin to get terrorized by three masked strangers. The couple find themselves thrown into a wicked game of cat and mouse. This violent struggle they have been unfairly plunged into makes them make quick decisions for survival that they never thought possible.

The Strangers offers a fairly unique experience, poor character development, and a fine story that plays out well.

The fact that this film is based on actual events (that happened in the director’s [Bryan Bertino’s] childhood neighbourhood) makes the film about twenty times spookier. That’s really what makes this hit closer to home, because it just makes you more aware than you already were that these sort of occurrences tend to actually happen a lot.

I usually really like watching this film because it often offers an entertaining experience, but I’ve seen it about four times and I think I’ve finally worn it out, and if I ever want to watch it again – it probably won’t be for another few years. Its ups are that it offers an entertaining ride, it isn’t all that time consuming, and it has some effective scares. The real scary thing about this are the masked villains, the true happenings of it all, and it’s a film that has a large abundance of fairly effective pop–out  scares. It is more of a psychological horror/thriller because the killers terrorize the couple, and they really don’t rush to attack them – they just mostly use a whole charade of mind games at the start. Also, the use of music in this film is truly clever and very effective. There isn’t a whole lot of gore, only at a few scenes – so for those who are faint of heart won’t overly mind this one.

There are unfortunately a number of flaws for this one. A huge one is the unruly camera work, it isn’t like The Blair Witch Project bad, but it still isn’t very steady at all. The opening scene isn’t a huge flaw, but it just makes the conclusion really predictable. The character development is really quite awful. I always criticize this one scene, because one character is just so darn stupid (people who have seen this might know the scene I’m speaking of). The said character isn’t a major one, but I should make a commentary for that scene because they’re really that dumb. Anyway, the character development: the beginning doesn’t allow any great character development at all. It isn’t a huge plot point, but here’s your SPOILER ALERT warning anyway. Since Kristen declines James’ marriage proposal, the viewer may just see the female lead as cold-hearted, which in turn, doesn’t allow for a great view on the lead characters. Some of their decisions are just really stupid, too, because they really don’t believe in the buddy system at all.

It’s like they always want to be alone, which isn’t a clever idea in this sort of situation. One thing

I also greatly criticised in this viewing because I was looking for it, the terrorizers always knew wherever the couple was. It maybe took about ten to thirty seconds for them to locate each other. It’s a big property; it just shouldn’t be that easy!

I have three silly theories of how the strangers could find the couple so easily, so you shouldn’t really take them very seriously. The terrorizers must have ran into the couple beforehand, maybe the wedding reception or something, and put tracking devices in their drinks, and when the couple had digested the small devices, the strangers could just track them on a tracker and find them no problem. Or, my second theory, is that the masked strangers must have had a fourth party somewhere in the woods. That person would be equipped with night vision goggles, black clothing and  would tell the strangers wherever the couple ended up. So if either James or Kristen had their back to a door, the person would be like: “Mr. Masked Man, one of the couple has their back turned to the house, so walk up behind them with an axe in a menacing manner.” And my third theory is that the strangers are simply a family of psychopaths who have psychic abilities.

The film is written and directed by Bryan Bertino, and stars Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in the Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, and Glenn Howerton.

The Strangers has quite a few flaws, from character development to pacing to an often lack of realism; but, it also offers some good entertainment, an effective use of music, an effective true story, and a good psychological ride. I did definitely like it enough to be excited for a sequel. I can recommend it to those who like psychological horror a lot, or lots of pop-up scares.

65/100

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Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby

You’re not likely to jump out of your seat or hide behind the sofa when watching Rosemary’s Baby. In fact, there are very few individual moments at all that many would consider scary in the traditional sense of the word. However, there’s something about the film that is supremely chilling and unsettling from the outset that ensures it is an effective, if unconventional, horror film.

Young couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow & John Cassavetes) move into a New York apartment building that has a reputation for terrible things happening. Babies being eaten, that kind of thing. They soon meet their neighbours, the eccentric Minnie and Roman Castavet (Ruth Gordon & Sidney Blackmer) who Guy strikes up a rapport with despite their overbearing nature. Rosemary is thrilled when she becomes pregnant but soon falls ill, has some freakish nightmares and encounters a string of bizarre circumstances that lead her to believe that a group of witches is conspiring against her and her unborn child.

Those who watch Rosemary’s Baby expecting the usual horror movie scares are going to be sorely disappointing. Director Roman Polanski (this was his first American film) dispenses with the usual horror rulebook, which may lead those indoctrinated by the stale techniques that plague other horror films to wonder where the scares are and even question its place within the genre. However, this isn’t our horror. This is Rosemary’s horror. She’s the only one in the film affected by her experiences; everyone else is either oblivious or presumes she’s crazy. As such, it’s much more personal and we feel her terror rather than being directly frightened by scary children, axe murderers or other horror 101 staples.

Polanski uses an ordinary setting of an apartment building as the predominant setting for the film. This brings the horror into a real setting, making it all the more believable and tangible. Polanski also utilises long takes to add tension and help build the growing sense of paranoia and suspicion. These are the overwhelming feelings that develop as the film progresses and we are constantly being challenged to decide what is real and what is happening only in Rosemary’s mind.

And that’s one of the most fascinating things about Rosemary’s Baby – almost everything is up for interpretation. Search forums and message boards discussing Rosemary’s Baby and one of the major topics for discussion is whether the developments of the film are as they are portrayed on screen or whether they are little more than a figment of Rosemary’s imagination. There are those who believe Rosemary is delusional and paranoid, whilst there are others who insist that what happens on screen is exactly how it seems. Whichever way you choose to view the film, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience and one that will have you guessing and second guessing long after the credits have rolled. It is most definitely a film that could benefit from multiple viewings, allowing you to pick up on the subtleties in the plot and performances that really add to the overall experience but maybe passed you by on initial viewing.

The film’s slow burning plot really gives the actors a chance to shine and both Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon do so expertly. Farrow handles Rosemary’s descent into paranoia (or is it?) with subtlety helping to make it feel like a worthwhile payoff following the groundwork laid down before it. Ruth Gordon as the overbearing Minnie is every bit the neighbour from hell, delivering her performance with equals amount of domineering oppressiveness and devilish delicacy. Whilst on the surface her performance may seem a little overstated, there are myriad nuances that give it a deceptive amount of depth make her fully deserving of her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Rosemary’s Baby might not live up to some people’s expectations of a traditional horror film and, indeed, the term ‘horror’ may be the wrong word to use entirely. However, even those questioning where the scares are going to come from after half an hour, it won’t be long before they become absorbed and beguiled by the story’s intrigue and mystery.

Chris Thomson

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Guest Post: Headinavice.com Interviews….. Norbert Caoili

This guest post, kindly lent to me by Tyson from Head in a Vice, is a little different, coming in the form of an interview with Norbert Caoili, co-director of Frayed. Tyson posted this not too long ago on his site, so you may have already read it, but in case you haven’t, do take the time to give it a read before checking out his site if you’re one of the few who already hasn’t.

I am proud to share with you today an interview with Norbert Caoili. Norbert co-directed the movie Frayed (which I loved and you can see my review here) as well as being one of the writers and producers.

We got talking after he found my review, and very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the film. He was very generous with the answers he gave, and as this was my first ever interview, I cannot thank him enough for being so patient and answering more and more questions as I thought of new ones. This was an absolute honour to do, first and foremost because I am a huge fan of the film but also because of how cool and friendly Norbert is. There are even some exclusive details and a trailer for a potential sequel, as well as an excellent behind the scenes making of video. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and please be sure to check out all the videos and links shown here, as well as the movie obviously!

Frayed:

A small town sheriff’s worst nightmare comes true when his homicidal son escapes from a psychiatric hospital. A security guard tries to stop him, only to find himself relentlessly hunted. The sheriff launches an intense manhunt to save the town and his family from his son’s violent psychosis. Their fates and the dark secret behind his son’s evil past are revealed in this stylish and suspenseful film that will leave you shocked and disturbed.

Tyson – Hi Norbert, thank you so much for giving up your time to do this. First things first, how did the title Frayed come about? It is certainly a unique name!

Norbert – That’s a great question. My co-writer & co-director, Rob Portmann actually came up with that title. For the longest time, the working title for our movie was “Alone”. In the behind the scenes shots, you can actually see us wearing “Alone” shirts and hats. Right after we were accepted to Screamfest for our premiere, we learned of a foreign horror movie called “Alone” also premiering at the festival. We decided at that point to officially change the title to our alternate title, “Frayed”. “Frayed” turned out to be a much more original title and better connected with the theme of the movie – to come apart at the edges – much like Kurt’s mind.

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What is… German Expressionism?

German Expressionism is an artistic movement that came out of Germany in the early 20th century. It was part of a wider expressionist movement throughout Europe but was largely confined to Germany due to the isolation it encountered during World War 1.

During the 1920s many European cultures became excited by what the future held and expressed this through their art, particularly in films. There was an influx of the absurd, with bizarre set design featuring strange geometric angles, with much of the detail, including objects and shadows, painted on. The themes of German Expressionist films tended to explore topics such as insanity, betrayal and others that were considered more intellectual that the films that had been made previously.

The war had a generally stimulating effect on the German film industry. Imports were embargoed and foreign film companies had their property confiscated, leading to a number of German film companies increasing their output and taking advantage of the gap in the film market. To highlight this, in 1914  there were 47 prominent foreign films whilst there were only 25 German films, many of which struggled. However, by 1918 the number of foreign films had dropped to just 10, whilst the number of homegrown films skyrocketed to 310. In 1917, the flagship German film studio, Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA), was formed after meetings between the German Government and a few key film companies. This studio went on to make notable titles such as Dr Mabuse (1922), Metropolis (1927) and The Blue Angel (1930).

However, perhaps the most significant film of the time was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), which has since been hailed as one of the first horror films (along with the other expressionist classic horror Nosferatu) and held up as a quintessential example of German Expressionism. Its setting and themes are typical of the movement: set in a fairground and an insane asylum with chases across rooftops, telling the story of the mysterious Dr. Caligari who hypnotises his assistant to kill. It also has an unmistakable aesthetic, with over-the-top costumes and make-up, and fantastically angular sets with stark distinction between light and shadow. See below some examples of the film’s highly stylised art style.


The influence of German Expressionism was huge, particularly on a number of significant directors. In 1924, Alfred Hitchcock was working for Gainsborough Pictures and was sent to work as an assistant director and art director at the UFA Babelsberg Studio in Berlin. The movement’s effect on him was immediate, which can be seen in his set designs for The Blackguard, the film he was working on at the German studio. Following that, it’s easy to see an expressionistic influence in his work, particularly in his themes (madness, paranoia, etc) and use of light and shadow.

Perhaps the most obvious exponent of German Expressionism working today is Tim Burton. There are expressionist ideas and designs throughout a large proportion of Burton’s work, including Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even his more child-orientated films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have expressionist designs in them. Such is Burton’s use of expressionist ideas, that some films, that have nothing to with him, are said to be Burton-esque. Coraline is a prime example of this.

Whilst the German expressionist movement may have been largely localised, it has had a profound effect on the history of cinema around the world. This is only a very brief intro to the subject and entire books have been written on the subject. For those wanting further reading, the books considered essential reading are Lotte Eisner’s The Haunted Screen and Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler.

Chris Thomson

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Guest Post – Drag Me To Hell

This guest post comes courtesy of Fernando from Committed to Celluloid and covers the bizarre, scary, creepy, funny Drag Me To Hell. Thank you very much to Fernando for letting me use his review. Don’t forget to pop on over to his excellent blog. There’s still time to submit stuff to Horror Movie Month if you so wish. Anything old or new is greatly appreciated! Simply email me on chris1039@hotmail.com.

Drag Me To Hell*Quick note: if you’re a native Spanish speaker, ignore the first scene. It lacks most of the impact it should have because the actors’ accents and pronunciation are so weird they’re distracting. The movie would’ve done very well without it, since it’s unnecessary exposition.

Drag me to Hell kicks things off with a marvelous, eerie opening credit sequence, unmistakably influenced by director Sam Raimi’s experience with movies based on comic books (he helmed the Spider-Man trilogy, with varying levels of success).  I watched this movie when it hit theaters almost three years ago and it’s the last horror film I’ve truly liked. All the glowing praise that The Cabin in the Woods has received inspired me to give it another spin.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that weaves horror and comedy together so seamlessly (for the most part, anyway; that goat scene was pushing it) especially when the devices to get laughs or chills are so extremely over the top. An ominous score by Christopher Young, gross-out visuals and ghastly visual effects add to the fun and give it a nostalgic vibe. Alison Lohman makes for a very good scream queen, while Justin Long is pretty decent, playing against type. Like I said, this is a very humorous chiller, but psychics Rham Jas (Dileep Rao; Inception)and Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza) are dead serious. Rao is suitably mysterious and Barraza, who really should get a new agent, is great in her first half-decent role after being Oscar-nominated in 2006 for Babel. The Raimi brothers (Ivan co-wrote) close the show with one of the best endings I can remember; somewhat predictable but not any less shocking because of that.

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Film Review: ParaNorman

ParaNormanThere seems to be a glut of Halloween films for kids this year what with Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie and ParaNorman all fighting for attention. However, despite ParaNorman not having the bigger names attached to it, as with the other films, it has absolutely no reason whatsoever to be afraid of the competition.

Norman is just like any other kid. Except for the fact he can see and talk to dead people, Sixth Sense style. He sees Grandma sat on the sofa, a parachutist impaled in a tree, even fresh roadkill; the only problem is everyone else thinks he’s crazy and treats him as such, including his family. When his old, maniacal uncle tells him that he must stop a witch’s curse from destroying the town, Norman, along with his only friend and fellow bully victim Neil, set off to try and save their town of Blithe Hollow. However, when the undead get brought back to life, things take a turn for the worse and Norman must use his special gift to save the day.

At the heart of ParaNorman is an old-fashioned fairy tale ghost story, something which is rare nowadays. It’s nice to see a more traditional form of storytelling still exists. Adult horror films tend to go more grizzly and gore focused, whilst children’s horror films of this ilk are pretty scarce altogether, and those that are around tend to focus on the laughs more than the scares. ParaNorman manages to balance the two equally and there are plenty of moments that will make children  cower behind their popcorn. It gets pretty tense at times, and whilst adults aren’t likely to be freaked out at all, children, especially the younger ones, just might be. There is still enough there for adults too, as is often the case with these sort of films. There are jokes and references that will go over most children’s heads but will have adults cracking a wry smile or even the odd chuckle.

Norman, Neil, Mitch, Courtney, Alvin, Zombie

Underneath everything in ParaNorman are central themes of tolerance, acceptance and understanding. These are prevalent throughout and can be applied to pretty much every character in the film, giving the story a central theme aside from the main plotlines. Whilst they may feel a little hammered home to (most) adults, they are important lessons for children, so if just a little rubs off on them then it’s a job well done. The film also confronts children with the concept of death and does so from the outset. Obviously the theme of ghosts and the afterlife is one that’s up for discussion, but it doesn’t shy away from presenting the fact that people, and not just old people, die. Again, these are important lessons for children, particularly the slightly younger ones who perhaps aren’t as yet aware. However, for those parents who feel that this maybe a little too deep for a kids’ film, don’t worry. It’s all presented sensitively and with enough lightheartedness not to get in the way of the fun of the film.

Some of the characters do verge on cliche at times, what with the bullied fat kid, the preppy blonde, the non-accepting dad, etc, but this is only really likely to grate with adults; it’s unlikely children will be too bothered with this, and even though the character profiles are a little weary, they are portrayed very well indeed. In fact, it’s Norman himself who comes off worst and is one of the least interesting characters of all. There are also a number of plot holes that, again, will likely go over the heads of younger viewers but adults may pick up on. These are minor points, however, and do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

ParaNorman is from the team at LAIKA responsible for the dark fairy tale Coraline and they have done an equally fantastic job with the stop motion animation. It is flawless from start to finish and the work that has gone in to ensure that is nothing less than staggering. It is a more traditional art style than the Tim Burton-esque Coraline but it still retains some of the German Expressionism-inspired features that give it a spooky, warped atmosphere. The film’s climax is an absolutely stunning mix of stop motion animation and CGI that really tops off an exemplary showing throughout.

ParaNorman is the perfect opportunity for parents to introduce their children to the world of horror films if they so desire, as it offers enough atmosphere and tension for them to find scary but enough comedy to keep it lighthearted throughout. Adults will find plenty of jokes and horror film references to enjoy, and if they can ignore the slightly irritating plot holes and cliched characters, they may enjoy it just as much as their younger counterparts.

Chris Thomson

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TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 1

The Walking Dead

Zombie films a ten-a-penny nowadays but they hadn’t successfully shuffled their way onto TV screens. That is until The Walking Dead came along.

When Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up in hospital having been shot, he finds that everywhere is overrun by the undead, all eager to rip him limb from limb and feast on his flesh. Nice. Believing his wife and son are still alive he sets off to find out what the hell is going on. He heads off into the nearest big city and finds that the place is overrun by zombies but is helped to escape by Glenn (Steven Yeun) who takes him to a group of other survivors. It’s then a battle to survive as they continue to fight off the undead as well as struggling with their own individual issues.

The Walking Dead starts off at breakneck speed with a feature-length first episode which barely lets you catch your breath. However, it does this to its detriment. Simply too much happens in the first episode and by the time it’s finished, it’s difficult to believe it’s a single episode. We start with Rick getting shot and end up with him in a tank being overrun with zombies. There’s just too much going on in between these two events and it does detract from the horror and shock of the situation. A bit of time to digest what’s going on wouldn’t go amiss. Furthermore, Rick seems barely shocked by the zombie apocalypse. One would imagine a sense of shock would set in, an overwhelming disbelief that pretty much everyone has become a shambling bag of rotting meat. Not so; Rick takes it all in his stride with the mild annoyance of someone who has remembered he forgot to put the bins out. Very much a case of ‘pilot episode syndrome’.

After the first episode, things do chill out a little and we get a bit more time to meet new characters and learn of the various subplots going on. There is a healthy ensemble of characters with plenty of variety among them although, inevitably with the season only being six episodes long, some don’t get much exposure. Season 2 will undoubtedly see to that. The zombies quickly become little more than a secondary focus of the show; the characters and the storylines taking centre stage. This adds to the emotional involvement of the story, although those wanting to see relentless zombie action may be left wanting occasionally.

The zombies themselves look absolutely fantastic. The prosthetics and make-up used make them look every bit as repugnant as you’d hope. Rotting flesh, missing limbs, gallons of blood; everything about them is vile and disgusting, which makes them that much more threatening. Every episode has at least a couple of moments that will make you wince or screw up your face; you really will forget that there are real people behind all make-up.

Season 1 does an admirable job of establishing the story and the characters, but it essentially feels like a prologue for what’s to come. However, if this is anything to go by, then there are exciting times ahead.

Words: Chris Thomson

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Guest Post – From Dusk Till Dawn

Mark from Marked Movies is the author of the latest Guest Post for Horror Movie Month. He takes a look at Tarantino-Clooney vampire flick From Dusk Till Dawn. A huge thank you to Mark for letting me use his review; go check out his site, it’s a belter. If you want to have something featured in Horror Movie Month, email me on chris1039@hotmail.com.

From Dusk Till DawnDirector: Robert Rodriguez.
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino.
Starring: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Ernest Liu, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, Michael Parks, John Saxon, Kelly Preston, John Hawkes.

Before their collaboration on the “Grindhouse” double-bill, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joined up to do this crime/horror picture. Both Tarantino and Rodriguez’s choice actors also join the show, with the inclusion of a pre-stardom George Clooney.

Seth and Richie Gecko (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are two murderous bank robbers on the run and fleeing for safety to a nightclub in Mexico called the “Titty Twister” which is reportedly a safe haven for criminals. To get there they kidnap preacher Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) and his kids Kate (Juliette Lewis) and Scott (Ernest Liu) who are travelling in their motor home. Once they reach the club though, they soon realise that when the sun goes down, they have more to deal with at the hands (and teeth) of bloodthirtsy vampires.

If this sounds rediculous or over-the-top then thats because it is. The film starts in true Tarantino fashion with the two criminal brothers dressed in black suits similiar to “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs” and spouting equally impressive dialogue. This however, changes abruptly about half way in and becomes nothing more than a horror B-movie – obviously the work of Rodriguez. As much as this is quite fun, it jars with the cool and dialogue laden beggining. It’s a transition that’s not a very smooth one and feels like two different films cut and pasted together. This a shame really, because the first half of the film is up there with Tarantino’s best stuff. I would have much preffered it if he had just completed the film in that similiar style. What I was most impressed with was the effortless performance of a cool-headed but dangerous killer from George Clooney, who at this time in his career was just fresh from his “E.R.” scrubs. He is absolutely brilliant and this was just the beginning of several fitting performances from Clooney in the future.

There’s no denying that is an enjoyable gore fest with wonderful dialogue but I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been.

* * * 1/2

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