Film Review: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Also known as: Les yeux sans visage (original title), House of Dr. Rasanoff (alternate title), The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus (US dubbed version)
Release Date: January 11th, 1960 (France)
Directed by: Georges Franju
Written by: Georges Franju, Jean Redon, Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Claude Sautet
Based on: Les yeux sans visage by Jean Redon
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Pierre Brasseur, Édith Scob, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

Champs-Élysées Productions, Lux Film, Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France, 84 Minutes

Review:

“My face frightens me. My mask frightens me even more.” – Christiane Génessier

Eyes Without a Face isn’t what I would call a scary horror film, as much as I’d call it a chilling one.

It’s sad, it’s tragic, it has great atmosphere, solid cinematography and incredible performances and all that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

There is something deep and introspective in this motion picture. It’s unsettling but it’s somehow sweet in a very twisted way. Yet that sweetness comes naturally and while you should hate the antagonists of this film, you understand that the horrible things they do is out of love. That doesn’t excuse their horrible acts but for a horror film released in 1960, it makes you sympathize with evil, which wasn’t too common back then.

That being said, it’s still great to see the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end, especially since it comes at the hands of the one they loved most.

The story revolves around a surgeon and his daughter, who has had her face completely destroyed. In an effort to restore his daughter’s beauty, he has his female assistant lure in young girls only to abduct them and steal their face. A lot of the scenes are terrifying, as all the girls seem sweet and innocent, as you know that they are being pulled into something horrible.

What makes things more difficult, is that the disfigured daughter, Christiane, is also a sweet girl who exists within very tragic circumstances. She becomes aware of what’s happening and it’s a sad realization and hard to watch unfold on the screen. But Christiane’s face is obscured by an almost faceless mask for most of the film. Édith Scob was able to convey Christiane’s emotions quite well though, considering that all she had to work with were her eyes and body language.

The surgeon’s assistant is played by Alida Valli, who you will recognize from the original Suspiria, as well as the near perfect film-noir The Third Man. Valli gives a stupendous performance here as she uses her charm to trap the young girls and deliver them to the mad surgeon.

The film also has an incredibly effective and very unique score done by Maurice Jarre. It has a real contrast to the tone we see on screen, as the music is lighthearted and almost comical in certain moments. I think that it was used to make things purposely disjointed and more unsettling in specific scenes. It may seem out of place and strange at first glance but by the end of the film, it works amazingly well.

There are also a lot of really stellar shots in the film. The scene where we get a bit of the face reveal of Christiane, when she comes face to face with one of her father’s victims is incredibly powerful and creepy. Also, the scene of Christiane walking outside, after releasing the savage German Shepherds and caged doves is beautiful.

Eyes Without a Face is more of an experience than a movie. It probably won’t resonate with modern audiences as well as it did with people in 1960 but if you love a film with an interesting atmosphere and something with real emotional depth to it, then you’ll probably dig this picture.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s pretty unique but I like watching this with 1962’s Carnival of Souls.

Film Review: Vampyr (1932)

Also known as: Adventures of David Gray (alternate original title), Castle of Doom (US dubbed version), Not Against the Flesh (US), The Strange Adventure of David Gray (Brazil English title), The Vampire (US copyright title)
Release Date: May 6th, 1932 (Germany)
Directed by: Carl Theodore Dreyer
Written by: Christen Jul, Carl Theodore Dreyer
Based on: In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu
Music by: Wolfgang Zeller
Cast: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Jan Hieronimko, Sybille Schmitz, Henriette Gerard

Carl Theodore Dreyer-Filmproduktion, Tobis-Filmkunst, Vereinigte Star-Film GmbH, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Why does the doctor always come at night?” – Gisèle

Just as Nosferatu was the quintessential vampire movie of the silent German Expressionist era, Vampyr is probably the quintessential vampire movie of German Expressionism once it moved into sound.

This film has aged incredibly well for what it is. It is still quite terrifying, at its core, and it has an ambiance that is chilling and rich with dark folklore.

It’s unsettling as it rolls on and the plot develops. It’s well written and strange, as it doesn’t necessarily follow the typical vampire fiction template. It feels as if it were ripped from old folk tales, as opposed to taking its cues from Bram Stoker’s Dracula like nearly all vampire fiction.

I thought the performances were very dramatic and very reminiscent of the silent era but they were all pretty good. This feels like a stage show put to celluloid, as things feel very confined like the walls are always closing in. I’m not sure if that was the intent of the filmmakers but the scale of the film works to serve the main character’s story, as he keeps falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.

While German Expressionism isn’t really associated with films after the silent era, the style is alive and well here or at least the spirit of it is, as it has evolved. But this does, in my opinion, fit well with the more famous silent horror films that Germany was pumping out in the 1920s.

Vampyr is definitely worth your time if you like films like the original Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: NosferatuThe Cabinet of Dr. CaligariThe Golem and the Swedish film The Phantom Carriage.

Film Review: You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Also known as: A Beautiful Day (Germany, France, Italy)
Release Date: May 27th, 2017 (Cannes)
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Written by: Lynne Ramsay
Based on: You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts

Film4 Productions, British Film Institute, Why Not Productions, Page 114, Amazon Studios, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Where you spend your time? What do you do?” – Joe’s Mother

I heard a lot of exceptional things about this film and it sort of came and went without much fanfare, even though it premiered last year at Cannes. It’s an Amazon Studios film and they’ve been putting out a lot of great indie pictures, as of late.

While I enjoyed this, it didn’t blow me away like it seems to have for so many others.

To start, Joaquin Phoenix is damn good in this. He plays this character almost in monotone and it’s an understated performance but it works so well that it gives the character more depth and meaning than being overly emotional or rampaging against the vile scum in the film.

Phoenix is almost sweet even though he becomes a one man killing machine in his effort to save a very young girl from high profile sexual predators. The film is similar in a lot of ways to Taxi Driver but the main character is almost the antithesis of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle. Granted, both men are damaged but Phoenix’s Joe is a lot less outwardly emotional.

Young actress, Ekaterina Samsonov, was also pretty stellar and her performance was understated, as well. It makes me wonder if things naturally flowed this way or if it was the director’s choice to have her two leads perform in a more subtle style. Whatever the case, it works for both characters and the tone of the film, as it feels more organic and natural than what’s typical in these types of pictures.

I thought that the cinematography and mise-en-scène had an enchanting quality from shot to shot. There was a lot of detail to absorb but the stylistic choices really supported the narrative and the overall tone.

All the parts came together quite nicely but if I had to nitpick, I’d say that this did lack some excitement. It’s hard to see a picture like this and not expect some good action. There almost is none, really. This is more about the emotional journey of the characters within the story than being an uber violent revenge flick.

I’m all for artistic license but I really wanted to see Pheonix actually go ape shit on the evil bastards in the film. But I’m also a child of the ’80s and devoured ’80s action films like an old lady at a bon bon buffet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other modern vigilante films: the Death Wish remake, the Taken films, Death Sentence.

Film Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Also known as: Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Insurgence, Resident Evil: Rising (working titles)
Release Date: December 13th, 2016 (Tokyo, Seoul premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 106 Minutes

Review:

“We’ve played a long game, you and me, but now it’s over.” – Dr. Issacs

I think that the things I’m looking for in these movies are different from what others are seeking. The reason I say that is that I’ve heard really bad things about this chapter in the series yet this was the best movie out of them all, as far as I’m concerned.

I think that the extended break mixed with the experience of what worked and what didn’t over the course of the five previous films, allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to weave his best tale yet and frankly, this one surprised me and took things in a direction I wasn’t anticipating.

Also, I watched all of these movies over the course of a week and didn’t have a decade and a half to ponder this series, its direction and the reveals that each chapter brought to the series as a whole.

As an action movie with a lot of horror and sci-fi thrown in, this was satisfying. Also, it did give the audience fan service but it didn’t trip over itself like the previous movie, which was bogged down by too many cameos and a mostly incoherent plot.

By this point, I’ve accepted the flaws that bothered me in the earlier movies. Six deep into this series and some of those flaws have really become tropes. Especially the Hong Kong style wire work during fight scenes, the imperfect CGI and the overabundance of green screen scenes. In regards to the CGI, it does get better with this movie.

I liked how this film was structured and the longer running time gave it a bit more room the breathe. It felt like it had more of a three act structure than the other chapters. First, you have the beginning where Alice wakes up in D.C., gets her mission and then runs into trouble on her way back to Raccoon City. Then you have a second act where she and a group of heroes defends Raccoon City from a literal zombie army. The third and final act sees Alice and some of the survivors storm the Hive to end the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

The plot isn’t complicated but it’s well layered, is more dynamic than some of the other RE films and it has a good MacGuffin with a satisfying ending that leaves the series on a hopeful note, as opposed to the doom and gloom each previous film left you with. To be honest, I’d like a seventh film featuring Alice on her last adventure before the Earth resets. But the ending is still fine on its own.

Seriously, I am baffled by this movie. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, all things considered. Maybe the fifth one set the bar really low and I didn’t expect much from its follow up. But again, this is my favorite Resident Evil film in the series.

Also, zombie dragons.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Also known as: Resident Evil 5, Resident Evil 5: Retribution (working titles), Re5ident Evil: Retribution (alternate spelling)
Release Date: September 3rd, 2012 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Tomandandy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shawn Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Oded Fehr, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Screen Gems, 96 Minutes

Review:

“You were the only one to successfully bond with the T-Virus, to fully realize her powers. Well, now I have need of you. The old you. So I’ve given you back your gift. You are the weapon.” – Albert Wesker

Well, it took five films but I got to the chapter that was a big step down in overall quality. That being said, this was still entertaining and fit well within the film series, even if all its predecessors were better.

My biggest gripe about this one is that it is a total clusterfuck from the writing to it wedging in characters from every previous film and in some cases, multiple versions.

This one was hard to follow. I mean, I got the gist of the plot but dead people have been cloned, there are two Michelle Rodriguezes because when one can ruin an entire movie, maybe having two will cancel that out… I don’t know. But this was a narrative mess.

The special effects and fighting scenes are pretty consistent with the other films. It’s all a mixed bag of sometimes shoddy CGI and an overabundance on Hong Kong style wire work. I’ve learned to accept these flaws, at this point, because I’m five films into this and how dare I have expectations.

The highlight for me was Alice fighting two of the axe/hammer wielding behemoths, as opposed to just the one from the previous movie. However, this fight was over way too quickly and it does what this series has always done and that’s to take the big hard challenge from the previous film and turn it into a joke. I’m not sure if this is to show how badass Alice has evolved from movie to movie or if the filmmakers just don’t give a shit. It feels like the latter.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far into the Resident Evil films series, you might as well just finish it up. This isn’t a total buzzkill, it’s just not a coherent story and felt more like poorly crafted fan service.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Also known as: Resident Evil 4 (working title), Resident Evil: Afterlife: An IMAX 3D Experience (IMAX version)
Release Date: September 2nd, 2010 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Screen Gems, 97 Minutes

Review:

“You weren’t too hard to find. Our satellite system is still operational, and there aren’t too many people flying now days. Besides, I always knew you would be drawn to your friends. Loyalty – Highly overrated.” – Albert Wesker

Well, I’m now four films deep into this franchise that I never watched and as I said in an earlier review, I’ve only ever played the first video game in its entirety. That being said, I know a lot of hardcore Resident Evil fans don’t really like what these movies did with the property but I am not bound by those same biases.

So seeing this, as its own film, without much knowledge on what this movie series is trying to tap into or borrow from, I thought that this was actually another decent chapter in the series. I’m surprised by that, as I figured these wouldn’t be very good and that they’d quickly drop off into pure shit pretty quickly.

While I like parts 2 and 3 more than 1, I thought that this was more on par with the quality of 1 and maybe a hair bit better. Paul W.S. Anderson has got his ducks in a better row here, even if they aren’t still perfectly lined up. But I think he’s learned from the first film, which he directed, and from the work of the directors that did 2 and 3. Plus, his writing seems less clusterfucky.

Milla Jovovich also seems a lot more comfortable in the role of Alice than she’s ever been. We even get to see multiple Alices in this one due to the clone cliffhanger of the previous film. Although, the clone plot thread is quickly wiped off of the slate, as they all get destroyed by a massive bomb after they take down the Tokyo HQ of the Umbrella Corporation.

This picks up the storyline about the caravan making its way to Alaska in the previous movie. Once the real Alice gets there, she discovers that shit isn’t what it seems. She reunites with Claire and the two of them end up in a prison in Los Angeles with some other survivors. Their goal is to escape and reach a ship off the coast.

There is a really cool monster in this one. It’s a giant hulking zombie thing that carries around a massive weapon that is part axe and part hammer. I thought that the battle against this new monster was the highlight of the film. The big finale on the boat was okay but the CGI effects really stuck out like a sore thumb.

Also, the well-known Resident Evil villain Wesker plays a huge part in this. I’m not sure how his personality was in the games but he’s a total cock and overly theatrical here.

I don’t really know what these films are working towards but I am pretty invested in Alice and her vendetta and want to see the two films after this one.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Also known as: Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil 3: Extinction, Resident Evil 3: Afterlife (working titles)
Release Date: September 20th, 2007 (Las Vegas premiere)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Mike Epps, Iain Glen, Ashanti, Christopher Egan, Spencer Locke, Jason O’Mara

Constantin Film, Impact Pictures, Davis Films, Capcom Co. Ltd., Screen Gems, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Climb the Eiffel Tower with a high-powered rifle. A few years ago, that would’ve caused a stir. Well… Let the good times roll!” – Chase

This film series keeps surprising me. The reason I say this is because I didn’t have high hopes for it. The first one was decent though, then the second one was a bit better and then this one was even better than the first two. Now I don’t think that this trend will continue but being three deep into a six film series, it’s an impressive feat.

However, I think it might have something to do with the direction of the films.

You see, all of these are written by Paul W.S. Anderson. However, the first, the weakest of the first three, was directed by him. Then two and three were directed by different people before Anderson went behind the camera again for the last three. I’m not trying to knock Anderson but maybe he’s just got that George Lucas thing. He can direct but he’s better being the architect and then handing it off.

From what I hear, the back half trilogy of films isn’t as good as the first three. I’ll have to see if my Anderson theory is correct, once I watch those in the very near future.

I guess I really liked this one the best, so far, because it mixes Resident Evil and Mad Max, as our survivors traverse the desert in an effort to find something better than post-apocalyptic wastelands and deadly threats. We even get to see our heroes go to post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and fight hordes of zombies there.

Eventually, the survivors make it to the Umbrella Corporation’s secret bunker in the desert, an Area 51 like hideaway with labs and all types of crazy shit. The evil scientist from the previous movie returns and becomes a creature similar to Nemesis.

The big discovery of this movie is that Alice has been cloned dozens of times over. I’m not sure what that will mean beyond this film, if anything, because where the characters were at the start of this chapter was very different than where they were at the end of the previous movie. There was a time jump but some key characters are missing without any explanation.

Anyway, most of the action stuff was okay. The CGI still isn’t great and my Fire Stick (or Internet) had a hard time with the bird attack scene. My TV looked like a pixelated shit show. The rest of the film looked okay but I’m still not crazy about Alice’s Hong Kong fighting style, as it pulls me right out of the movie.

But for what this is, it isn’t bad and I’d watch the first three films again.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.