14 January 2011

Dipshit Endings Double Whammy: Skyline, Last Exorcism

Here's two 2010 releases that are relatively decent flicks that just become rather rubbish with their WTF?! and LAME! endings. Read on for more!


Starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, David Zayas. Written by Alex Babinsky & Dennis Clausen. Directed by The Brothers Strause. Release: 12 November 2010. Universal, 94 mins., Rated R

Plot: Six or so friends wake up in a expensive hotel suite to aliens that want to basically destroy the world.

Man, Eric Balfour just can't catch a break.

Them pesky aliens are at it again, demolishing and enslaving the world, harvesting human brains, and all around being a nuisance. This time, though, we the viewers have to deal with about seven incredibly stupid people stuck in a hotel room doing incredibly stupid things and being incredibly rubbish acting-wise. SKYLINE is all visual. Beautiful shots of the, ahem, skyline, as well as the star aliens, but as for the humans - from what's written down on paper to the delivery - each line of dialogue and attempted performance is akin to nails on a chalkboard. Nah, scratch that. It's not ungodly horrible, or intolerable. It's just simply bad. A perfect vehicle for people to sit back and enjoy riffing on the script and actors.

There is honestly not one line of dialogue in the ENTIRE script that isn't just asinine, cliched, or completely redundant. By that, I mean a teenager with no interest in screenwriting or movies for that matter could write this script, pretty much maintaining the same lines spoken here. There's no creativity, originality, or even enthusiasm in the script, and that's shared by the equally rubbish actors. Sure, poor 'ol Balfour is trying to emote his heart out, being full of angst at hearing his impending fatherhood and his thick-headed resolution that he's always right with What to Do When Aliens Attack. Not even seasoned David Zayas of DEXTER fame is any good, doing his best bit in his last scene which is mostly dialog-free. It's a tad disheartening to experience the overall badness of the human front, but at the same time, I can't say I didn't expect it.

After all, I'm watching a movie directed by the two people who made Paul W.S. Anderson's ALIEN VS. PREDATOR look Oscar worthy when compared to their horrendous sequel.

As expected from a directorial team who specialized in SPFX most of their career, the visual effects are amazing, from the cinematography to stellar rendering of aliens, their spacecrafts, and composting digital works in a live action shot. Amazing, amazing, amazing. Hell, and I'm sure I might get some flake for saying this, but it was on par with the aliens in Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS (and yes, that's a compliment, haters). With the Brothers Strause forcing the camera always in some sort of movement, even in the talking/exposition sequences, there is a sense of realism that makes even the dodgy effects nearly believable. From a technical, visually pleasing standpoint, SKYLINE more than delivers.

Even the score, provided by "additional music arranger" (IMDB's credit) Matthew Margeson, isn't that bad. Hits all the right notes, but never reaching anything amazing.

So, the ending, half of the whole reason for the blog post title. Well, if I were to comment positively first, I can say that I give kudos to the writers for nicely portraying how friggin' futile trying to survive a alien invasion force is. For awhile there, it's one hell of a downbeat ending, with our 'protagonists' (SPOILERS) being sucked up in a space craft. Balfour's character Jarrod gets his brain taken out and implanted into a alien while Elaine, being scanned as pregnant, is thrown into another facet of the factory with some other pregnant gals. As some sort of alien device thingy is making it's way towards her, she screams loud enough that the newly infused alien with Jarrod's brain stops what it's doing as Jarrod takes over the creature's body and charges forth to save his beloved. Post saving her, Jarrod and Elaine face the rest of the alien craft as they close in on 'em. Points for originality, sure, but it is sorta stupid. First, yes, Jarrod and Elaine are a couple expecting a baby, but you don't really get a sense of a strong bond between the two, making this grand act of love and compassion rather hollow. Additionally, JARROD'S BRAIN IS 'STRONG' ENOUGH TO OVERCOME THE ALIEN PROTOCOLS (or whatever)? This coming from the guy making the second most dumb decisions next to SCRUBS alumni Donald Faison? Nah, I don't think so. And thirdly, it's just not satisfying. I would have much preferred the single narrative of CLOVERFIELD, where the ending was very conclusive instead of this rather crazy and blatantly obvious attempt at building some sort of franchise.

If the series is to continue, and the theatrical gross and home video revenue just might make it a real possibility, than the best thing for this franchise is for a new creative team to be in charge of the material. Find someone who can blend CGI with the human side of the story well enough, because we don't deserve to suffer through the badness that is SKYLINE.

In the end, SKYLINE is simply a bigger budgeted B-movie that excels in pretty alien ships and blowy-uppiness, but epically fails in the human department.

The Last Exorcism

Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Iris Bahr. Written by Hucko Botko & Andrew Gurland. Directed by Daniel Stamm. Release: 27 August 2010. Lionsgate, 87 mins., Rated R

Plot: Pastor Cotton's last exorcism is filmed documentary-style, and it goes batshit crazy.

The demon-possession field of horror films hasn't had a lot of good luck lately, minus, of course, the success of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies. After THE EXORCIST, universally considered the quintessential demon-possessed film ever made, there just didn't seem much a filmmaker could do with the 'genre.' There needed to be a clever gimmick, and with THE LAST EXORCISM, director Daniel Stramm and writers Botko and Gurland found a nifty device: film it documentary-style, a highly popular craze the last two years (e.g., DIARY OF THE DEAD, CLOVERFIELD, and the abovementioned PARANORMAL ACTIVITY), as the camera captures the action as if it were happening right then and there.

For the most part, LAST EXORCISM succeeds in its premise. Pastor Cotton Marcus is a entirely likable man who has lost his faith and is making this documentary to exploit the sham that is 'exorcisms'. With this rather interesting and unexpected viewpoint - of a man setting out to dismiss exorcisms in general - the film immediately peaked my interest, that plus actor Patrick Fabian's instant charisma. Even Ashley Bell as the possessed-or-not-possessed Nell succeeded in the creepy factor, especially near the hour mark when the cover-worthy body twisting takes place. Nicely filmed and full of tension and utter creepiness, THE LAST EXORCISM features several such well done scenes, such as the scene from the above screencap where the lights of the hour are extinguished and darkness falls. Overall, it works, I dug it. Good script, creepy girl, and a overall interesting angle with a pastor wishing to show off the fraud that exorcism is.

However, in the final closing moments, it all turns to shambles. THE LAST EXORCISM is a testament to how a bad ending can pretty much spoil a relatively decently made film. Those disappointed, even remotely, with the conclusion of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT will be met with something similar, especially the final seconds. (SPOILERS) Pastor Cotton, seeing that most of the townsfolk are in on this demon possession thing to bring the demon Abalam into the world, goes out to confront the evil cross in hand. Meanwhile, the camera crew run for their lives, only for one to be separated and murdered, and the cameraman himself getting his throat sliced by Nell's brother (who was absent for the last thirty minutes).

Alright, alright. I get what the writers were going for. One big, incomplete, epic finale that would in most cases make a viewer exit the theater with their mind blown (complete with a vocal "woah!") and hope and hope for a cash-demanded sequel. But perhaps what the writers weren't banking on was Patrick Fabian's performance of Pastor Cotton. Maybe it's my fault, really. Cotton comes off as a interesting enough character and his attitude is infectious as is, what is for me, the Question of the Movie: will facing this true demon possession reinstall Cotton's faith in God? In the end, we don't get a conclusion to that burning question (which I guess can be talked out of by saying "that's life"), nor do we really get a 'moment' where Cotton fully realizes that everything around him is real and turns to God for guidance and (expectantly) forgiveness. We get resolution and understanding to Nell and how her whole possession and arc came about, but with Cotton, the main character of the story, we don't get enough. The entire film was about him exploiting a fraud, and we didn't get the far more interesting character beat of him realizing his wrongness and the realness of the situation.

Or it could just be me and the ending is totally epic, revolutionary, creative, and flat out A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

That being said, I'd still recommend a watch. As I mentioned above, the field of creative or even relatively spooky horror movies is quickly diminishing, so this quasi-inventive and fresh take makes it something worth watching.

No comments: