By G. Michael Dobbs
A future cult hit, a would-be horror film and a great little prison break film are in this week's DVD review column.
In the "making of" extra on this DVD, "The House of the Devil" writer, director and editor Ti West explained he wanted to make a the kind of horror film one might see in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and he really pulled it off.
Set in that era, the film has every detail just right from set direction or costume and hairstyle to the pacing of the film.
That, however, doesn't mean that the film is good. I found it predictable and a little boring.
West's story concerns an impoverished college student seeking to make money so she can get out of her dorm room and into an apartment. She accepts a job of "babysitting" - actually watching an elderly woman - from an odd couple living in a large old house in the middle of nowhere.
The majority of the film contains scenes in which she is exploring the house and trying to figure out what is happening. The plot livens up a bit when she is drugged and awakes tied down to a pentagram.
Yes, the couple who hired her are Satanists and she is their sacrifice. Naturally, the film has a bit more storyline, but it is quite predictable.
Perhaps the reviewers whose blurbs adorn the box honestly haven't seen a movie with a plot like this, but for a horror geezer such as myself, this film seems just a rehash of previous movies.
Although I congratulate West for a very polished and well-realized production, he should have tried to incorporate some originality into his screenplay.
This low budget British film is a compelling watch from its very beginning. Brian Cox plays Frank, a lifer in a grim prison. He has become accustomed to life behind bars until he receives a letter from his former wife - the first in 14 years - telling him his now-grown daughter is a heroin addict.
Frank feels compelled to see her to "make things right" and decides he must escape. He can't do so without help and enlists several inmates to help him.
To write much more about the film's plot would be a disservice as there are some major twists and turns.
This is the first feature film for co-writer and director Rupert Wyatt and it's an auspicious debut. He keeps the film moving right along and structures it in a way for the maximum dramatic payoff at its conclusion.
Cox has had an interesting career - he was the first person to play Hannibal Lecter and he appeared with Broken Lizard in "Super Troopers" - and this was a great star turn for him.
For a gritty, involving drama, check out "The Escapist."
I came to the "Boondock Saints" very late. I only saw the first film, made in 1999, last year and I was impressed with the sheer wackiness of the uber-violence and the plot line that had two Irish immigrants become Mafia-killing vigilantes in the name of Jesus!
Yes, you read that correctly.
Director and writer Troy Duffy's film showed his ignorance of filmmaking at times in the first film - he originally sought his fame as a rock musician - and his style and subject matter was clearly influenced by Quentin Tarantino.
With his long-awaited sequel, Duffy shows that his cinematic story-telling abilities have improved, but his sense of outrageousness has remained the same. If you're looking for a logical or politically correct film, skip this movie. "Saints II" is a blissfully guilty pleasure for action fans.
The two MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) are safely hiding in Ireland on a sheep farm with their dad (played by Billy Connolly) years after they became folk heroes in Boston. When a priest is murdered with their execution technique they are forced to come back to the States to hunt down the real killers.
They pick up a sidekick along the way, played with scenery-chewing intensity by Clifton Collins Jr., and are reunited with the trio of Boston cops who helped them during the first film.
Added to the mix is a new FBI agent and ally played with inappropriate erotic intensity by Julie Benz. I don't blame Benz as she is just portraying a character in Duffy's crazy world. And a crazy world it is, with Peter Fonda playing a legendary Italian assassin!
"Boondock Saints" became a cult hit through its DVD release and I suspect this film will reach the same status. With its mix of idiosyncratic storytelling, abundant gunplay and truly odd characterizations, "Saints II" is quite a ride.
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