Evil Dead (2013)

Evil Dead (2013)

This review should be prefaced by a confession: I went to see this movie with an enormous amount of jet lag. Sometimes you need a movie to keep you ticking over until an appropriate time in order to get your life back in order. By the same token, this review is also being written with the same aforementioned jet lag to achieve the same aims. Therefore, this could be the best Film Phage review you’ve ever read, or possibly one of the worst. That’ll only become apparent in two or three days when I’ve had time to look back on this and wonder why I should / shouldn’t do this more often. So, what movie did I choose to keep me awake following my trip to the Orient? Why, Evil Dead of course… it seems wholly appropriate that a horror movie should keep me alert and awake… shouldn’t it?

Clearly this means read me...

Clearly this means read me…

Evil Dead… the name’s familiar right? Yes indeed, you’re looking at the 2013 retelling / reimagining / regurgitating / re-something-ing of a Sam Raimi horror classic. Is this a horror classic that I’ve seen? Sadly, I’m going to attest to have never seen the original, but I know lots about it and its successors in the franchise. The premise of the film? An unholy book has the power to summon forth a demonic force that’s questing to consume souls in order to unleash an untold darkness on the world. Time and time again, people reopen the book, read its incantations and bring about all kinds of merry hell. So it’s no surprise to find that our intrepid group of 20-something’s have also stumbled upon this book whilst staging an intervention for one of their friends. Can they survive the onslaught?!

Evil Dead (2013)

It all sounds very Cabin in the Woods-y doesn’t it? As that film was intended to send up the genre in its own unique way, then that’s not entirely surprising. However, Evil Dead has tried to carve a niche for itself by billing itself as the most terrifying film of the year. Yawn… something we’ve heard time and time again, from film after film. But does this film achieve it? Well, if terror, for you, means buckets of gore and mutilation, then yes – this is certainly a decapitated head and shoulder socket above the rest. Wow, Evil Dead really doesn’t go lightly on the claret; there are gallons of the stuff. But does this appeal to me? Well, not in a horror fashion, no. As you’ll be aware, The Phage is a fan of cerebral horror that chills you after you’ve left the cinema… this isn’t one of those films.

That’s not to discredit the film as a whole, as it’s shot beautifully and exudes malice and grime in every shot. Especially when the possessions really start taking a grip. This is very noticeable with the lead, Mia (Jane Levy), because when she looks deranged and evil… well, she certainly achieves her aims. Credit needs to go to the effects artists and the vision of director / writer Fede Alvarez who’s done a bang-up job of revamping (re-zombie-ing?) the franchise for the 21st Century.

Evil Dead (2013)

Where the film falls flat for me is the fact that it’s all so very flat and transparent in terms of plotting. The acting sometimes comes across as hammy and the lead characters are as moronic as ever. We currently want our “meat” to have some brains in an attempt to outsmart the encroaching evil before it’s way too late. As I said at the outset, I’ve not seen the original Evil Dead, and I’m aware that this deviates somewhat from that plot, but still… it’s not deviated down a more complex avenue. It sometimes felt like I was watching a made-for-TV horror movie that you’d find on a cable channel late at night. Sure, the effects are lavish enough to merit it being a cinema-wide release, but you just can’t get away from the acting / character’s writing. Why don’t they just leave at the first instance instead of wading in until they’re in too deep?

Ultimately, Evil Dead is a re-imagining of Evil Dead for the new generation – the ones raised on the Saws of this world. You want gore? You got gore! But how about realistic gore, and not the comic kind? Then this is definitely your beast. However, if you’re seeking something more beneath all the blood and gore then you’ll be disappointed. It’s great to see horror relying more on visual disgust than cheap scare tactics, but that’s not enough for me to brand this a great movie… maybe when it’s reanimated in the inevitable sequel?

But maybe I was just too damn tired to really appreciate the film fully? It certainly kept me awake, but so too would a stroll down a street. I could argue that both would be equally scary. Have you ever tried walking along with your head flopping about like one of those nodding dogs that are left in cars? No? Well that’s my jet lag for you. It feels likes it’s wobbling around so much that it’s going to fall off my shoulders; much like some of the dismemberments seen in Evil Dead actually… So there may be some similarities between jet lag and reanimated corpses… or it may just be that I feel like the Evil Dead right now…?

Phage Factor:

3 Star

Advertisements

Dark Skies (2013)

Dark Skies (2013)

The truth is out there… Are you hearing that theme song in your head yet? Yes, The X-Files did wonders for getting the concept of aliens “out there” into the public domain. It triggered an unhealthy fascination in what’s up in the skies for a lot of people. The same people (mainly guys) also developed an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Anderson. Me? I’m just fascinated with how David Duchovny looks almost exactly the same now as he did back in 1992. Whatever alien gloop he’s using on his skin, I want some! Sure, aliens have taken many forms in the movies too – from the horrific “tongue-y” xenomorphs in the Alien franchise to the little guy who’s got a really long glowing finger and is obsessed with going home – but none are more famous than the “Greys”. You know the ones: really tall, long limbs, huge black eyes… oh, and they’re grey. Think Roger from American Dad! or any alien seen in South Park. Got it? Good. So how does Dark Skies, the latest alien horror movie, deal with the deities from the sky?

The Signs of Dark Skies are evident for all to see...

The Signs of Dark Skies are evident for all to see…

Well… have you seen Signs? You know, when M. Night Shyamalan was still delivering top notch movies that you really wanted to go out and see? If you’re with me, then lift that plot up and supplant it into Dark Skies and you’ve essentially got the premise. I know what you’re thinking if you’re a regular reader: “Hey, Phage, where’s the plot summary? I don’t like change – just do things like you normally do!”… but I’m honestly not kidding when I say that Signs and Dark Skies are almost exactly the same film. Replace the farm from Signs with a suburban neighbourhood, whip out Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson and replace with Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton and you’re pretty much on the money.

OK, I’ll give you a summary lest I lose you forever into the void that is the internet: Dark Skies follows the lives of Daniel and Lacy Barrett and their two young boys. Sure, they’re going through financial troubles, but that’s the least of their worries when their youngest, Sam (Kadan Rockett) starts to act peculiarly and attributes his odd behaviour to the “Sandman”. But that’s only the beginning… as soon the whole family is engulfed in what can only be described as an “extraterrestrial” experience…

Dark Skies (2013)

I’m a bit surprised actually, as I’ve made the film sound wholly more exciting than it was. The crux of the problem with Dark Skies isn’t that it’s got a bit too much in common with Signs, but the fact that the pacing is entirely off. Especially for a “horror” movie. I know that I often lament the use of loud noises, camera jerks and cheap startling tactics, but they do at least add some (false) frights into a horror movie. Dark Skies lacks all of these for at least the first 3/4 of the movie. This would ordinarily cause me to commend the film. However, their absence actually exposes the critical weakness of the film: nothing’s happening. It’s not suspenseful – nothing’s happening.

We’re all accustomed to horror films ramping up the tension over their run time. This is especially true with the Paranormal Activity franchise; it’s their calling card. You know the scares are going to get bigger and more intense the longer the run time goes on. Hell, I can still see the ending of REC in my mind’s eye (now that was a horror film!)… that was a build-up punctuated with a ton of scares along the way. It seems that Dark Skies saved all of its material for the final quarter of the film. This wouldn’t be bad, if the final quarter wasn’t quite so poor too. You already know how it’s going to end.

Dark Skies (2013)

The trouble is that the film tries to shoehorn in too many ideas from other films. You have the obvious Signs similarities, then the use of surveillance footage (Paranormal Activity), night vision cameras (Paranormal Activity 2) and emotionally disturbed children (Poltergeist). What you’re left with is a product that isn’t equal to the sum of its parts.

All that being said, I admire the film-makers for being bold in attempting something a little different from the normal LOUD NOISES approach to horror movies; making it unfortunate that the plot is a bit too bare and basic. When I saw that it came “from the producer of Insidious, Sinister and Paranormal Activity“, I thought I knew what I was going to get (clue: NOISES), but I was mistaken. Turns out I wasn’t mistaken about the ending though…

Ultimately, I just failed to be scared or even feel absorbed by the plot of Dark Skies. Even the most “startling” of modern horror movies at least have me hooked into the plot to see how it’ll all play out, but this was stripped away by my overwhelming sense of déja-vu. Dark Skies isn’t for those with short-attention spans, but nor is it for those that want a pay-off in their films. If the skies are dark and forboding outside your house, don’t try venturing out to the cinema for Dark Skies. You’d have more fun re-watching The X-Files.

So back to the real question here… just how does David Duchovny do it? How does he still look as youthful as he did in the early 1990’s? Maybe it was the fact that he played a character obsessed with aliens? Perhaps he actually did encounter aliens and they gave him some magical youth formula… that’d make a lot of sense. Or maybe it’s just the well-documented fact that he was a sex addict for much of his life and he’s actually a vampire absorbing their youth as he goes. Now that’s a film idea! The truth IS out there.

Phage Factor:

1.5 Stars

Mama (2013)

Mama (2013)

Horror. The genre has the potential for producing the most memorable films you’ll ever see. The ones you can’t escape, not even in your dreams; they haunt you and pursue you. For me, it was all about Ghostbusters II when I was a little Phage. That film spooked me something wicked. Every night I’d see Vigor, the scourge of Carpathia, warping his way out of a wall and walking downstairs to get me. That was terror. Since then, I’d say I’d been spooked by the finale of The Ring when I was in my mid-teens and by the closing sequence of Rec, which was intense to say the least. But everything else? Meh. Nothing terrifying has come my way. A horror doesn’t have to be terrifying, but if it chooses not to go that route, it best opt to have one hell of a story. Luckily, Mama delivers in this department.

Mama (2013)

Mama comes with the name of Guillermo del Toro flanking it on every piece of press and publicity. However, it’s important to note that he’s merely an executive producer. Nothing wrong with that, but all too often these types of producers have little-to-no impact on what you’re seeing on screen. But all that being said, don’t let this dissuade you off the film. The premise of the film is quite simple: two young girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) are kidnapped by their homicidal father and taken to a cabin in the woods, where he plans to finish his series of executions. However, something’s lurking in that cabin. Something paranormal. And this paranormal entity doesn’t like homicidal fathers. So once he’s taken care of, the spirit chooses to take care of the girls as its own, as their Mama. So when the girls are found living wild like savages, they’re taken back into the real world. But Mama likes to keep an eye on her girls… even when they’re housed with their Uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).

Mama (2013)

Essentially, Mama struck me as a cross between Paranormal Activity, Poltergeist and something akin to The Ring / Dark Water, all with a very “outworldy”, del Toro-esque layer of makeup. Now, this sentence may have put you off entirely, but that’s just the vibe of the film. What lies within is arguably far better than I’ve made it sound. I use these films as reference points owing to the fact the film focuses on children and their interaction with an ethereal being. It definitely has that sense of innocence about it where children will happily befriend a demon… something they always seem to do in these movies. Funnily enough, I actually befriended Vigor in my dreams eventually. I went for a swim in the pink ooze and all was well. I cured myself of those nightmares forever, but that was thanks to some lucid dreaming techniques that I picked up and less to do with me wanting to be best mates with a ghoul.

So far, so good. But what really held my attention here was the story, and not the scares. Horror movies nowadays are horribly shallow affairs filled with LOUD NOISES and jarring camera angles. This isn’t horror to me. Whilst Mama has some effective scares and some memorable frights, I was just intrigued as to how the film was going to conclude. All too often, you know exactly how a horror will end. Either the killer is demasked and killed, someone will wander away into the distance for the sequel, or the demon lives on. Tick box 1, 2 or 3 right there. Mama is different because I couldn’t predict how it was going to end. And when the climax appeared to be going in the stale “oh, what a cop out” direction, it takes a left turn and catches you off-guard. I like this! Keep me off-guard, please!

Mama (2013)

Typically, the actors in a horror movie rarely merit a discussion. They’re dispensable and are merely bodies for the bashing and slaughtering. Whilst I’m not going to praise the actors here for being a revelation in how to act in a horror movie, it’s all admirably done. Jessica Chastain sports a rocking new punky look, which suits the tone of the movie, and sells you her despair and pain. Similarly, the young actresses playing Victoria and Lilly do their best “creepy child” routines. But yet again… they’re no Pierce Gagnon.  Speaking of which, why is his only upcoming movie Rio 2? Put him in more live action movies!

Ultimately, Mama delivers where so many recent horror movies have failed; it gives you a compelling plot. Whilst I didn’t fall asleep terrified by the underside of my bed or the agape cupboard in the corner, the film did its job. The visual scares are here and the film doesn’t rely on cheap, loud noise scare tactics to get you to jump. This automatically makes me like it a lot more. And if you’ve glanced down and seen the score we’ve given it and are wondering how we can classify it as that…. well, we’ve been constantly disappointed by horrors over the past year or so and this was a refreshing change of pace. No, it doesn’t reinvent the genre or flaunt any conventions, but it delivers a hugely enjoyable ride thanks in no small part to an intriguing plot.

So will Mama give youngsters nightmares, like Ghostbusters II gave me nightmares? Well, I think it could do! Sure, this chick isn’t Vigor, the scourge of Carpathia – she can’t walk out of paintings (Vigor beat Samara to that coming out of an image trick), she doesn’t turn New York into a city of pink slime, and nor can she make a toaster dance with the aforementioned slime – but she does look quite horrendous. So that’ll do the job. Therefore, if you too want to give your kid recurring nightmares in order to teach them how to lucid dream (a neat trick to pick up), then invite Mama into your home… she’ll take care of it for you.

Phage Factor:

4 Star

Sightseers (2012)

Sightseers (2012)

Cinema-goers are an eclectic bunch. The love for film transcends every demographic – old, young, nerd or jock. Everyone’s welcome at the cinema. I’m not sure that should always be the case, as some patrons are slightly more… unusual than others. We’ve all had the misfortune to sit near one. Or maybe you actually are one of those fruitcups that makes everyone else sitting around you either a) incredibly annoyed with you, or b) scared of you. Good for you. Probably. You know the people I’m talking about though; some will guffaw with laughter over the mildest of amusements (replete with thigh slapping), whilst others will actively talk to the screen out loud because I’m sure the characters in the film can hear you and appreciate your feedback. Well, my viewing of Sightseers was definitely one of those viewings and the film lends itself to the screwballs.

Sightseers is a British “comedy” about a roadtrip around the British Isles by Chris (Steve Oram) and his newly-minted and incredibly timid girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe). The couple travel to the most mundane of British amusements (a pencil factory, a tram museum etc.) whilst towing their caravan behind them. However, there’s a twist. Chris is a little bit psychotic… he’s a bit of a serial killer when his patience is tested. Hilarity ensues. Well, it should… but it doesn’t. Not one iota.

Sightseers (2012)

This is an incredibly dark film. So dark that nary a ray of light can penetrate it. I cannot label this a comedy unless you get your jollies from either a) incredibly banal jokes, or b) extreme violence. If this is you… I’d contact someone about that. You’ll know you’re one of these folks if you find yourself talking to a screen at the cinema. If you’re like me however, you’ll leave the cinema feeling incredibly beaten down and slightly unhappy. This isn’t a comedy, so don’t believe the plaudits and opinions some of our bigger and more noticed peers may be throwing at this film.

Whilst I found the initial half of the film incredibly hard going, owing to its humour missing me entirely and the plot blundering along at an incredibly slow pace, I did find my interest improving over the course of the film. The whole “serial killer” vibe is very much a one-trick pony, but I was intrigued to see how the plot would progress and conclude. The two lead actors, Oram and Lowe are fantastic in their respective roles, so nothing can be taken from them. Their characters are incredibly vivid and well-realised, it’s just a pity that I didn’t find myself warming to either of them over the 88 minute runtime.

Sightseers (2012)

I just struggle to get over the humour of the film. A while ago in my Cockneys vs. Zombies review I mentioned a similar phenomenon wherein there was much knee-slapping from certain audience members who couldn’t get enough of the Brit-themed zombie action. I struggled to see how this was funny in the slightest, despite labelling myself a massive advocate of British comedy. I think it ultimately comes down to a divide in the population. Whilst some members of the public love shows like Peep Show and The Inbetweeners, others will find that humour too awkward and instead opt for Two Pints of Lager and Miranda. I fall into the former camp and cannot tolerate the latter. For my non-UK readers, let me put it a different way. The former two shows are a lot like The Office (US and UK) – quite awkward situational comedy, whilst the latter are the classic laughter-track sitcoms that swamp the TV landscape where laughter comes as a result of someone falling over or saying “bum”. As non-cerebral as you can get.

With that being said, I feel that Sightseers appeals to those in the latter camp. For better, or worse, I just couldn’t identify with this film on any level beyond watching it to review. As I say, it’s not a bad film, and will definitely have its audience out there in the world, but it really wasn’t for me. Releasing it at Christmas was also a peculiar choice too. This is definitely an October film – a dark, oppressive season for a dark, disturbing film.

2012 has been somewhat of a stale year for British comedy at the box office, at least by The Phage‘s reckoning. The Wedding Video, Keith Lemon: The Film and Cockneys vs. Zombies all failed to bring me joy and Sightseers has the same fate. That being said, Sightseers is a very different type of film that may have just been mis-labelled as a comedy. It’s more of a thriller / horror with dark humour thrown in for the ride. Whilst the acting is incredibly convincing, the film just didn’t entertain me. And whilst I’m not averse to a downbeat ending (in fact, I quite enjoy them), the whole film was so downbeat that the ending was just a nail in the coffin for me.

But then again, if you were the person in my screening that proclaimed “oh dear” at the top of your voice when someone died, or you asked questions of / warned the characters on-screen, then you probably thought this was a great film. It seems the UK has more than its fair share of the mentally unstable that frequent the cinema at mid-week. I can’t help but feel that Chris and Tina from Sightseers would be two of those characters. Let’s just hope that person X from my screening doesn’t own a caravan and harbor a homicidal rage. We can but hope.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)

Back in 2009, a movie came out that brought something new and refreshing to the “found footage” genre of horror movie made so popular by The Blair Witch Project a decade before. That film was Paranormal Activity. Like its snotty-faced muse, it was very low budget and had a certain simplicity to it. It relied on a single handicam being placed in a bedroom every night to capture what spooky shenanigans were occurring. Audiences loved it, so inevitably the sequel hit screens the following year. And in a pattern resembling Saw, we’re now seeing sequels summoned on a yearly basis to coincide with Halloween. But is Paranormal Activity 4 a devilish return to form, or is it just a pale apparition of what went before?

If you’ve been following the franchise thus far then this film returns back to the “regular” timeline set forth in Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, but does draw on plotlines exposed in the prequel, Paranormal Activity 3. I know, I too wish they’d just called Paranormal Activity 3 “Paranormal Activity: Inception, or Origins, or The Summoning”… just something to make the chronology a little easier to comprehend! Regardless, it follows on from the massacre at the hands of Katie (Katie Featherston) in PA2. And guess what? She’s gone walkabout with Hunter and ended up in a new neighbourhood – a new neighbourhood that houses our lead, Alex (Kathryn Newton), and her family. Inevitably, spooky things start happening and the Paranormal Activity storyline is developed… very, very slowly… and not in an interesting new way.

He’s behind you…

The big “hook” this time is the use of modern technology to capture the activity, namely webcams and X-box Kinect’s detection system. I’ve got to say, it worked, but it wasn’t as effective as it could have been, and nowhere near as interesting as what went before. The main problem is that in previous instalments the cameras were positioned in such a way that you became very familiar with the room over time. The nature of a webcam mounted to a laptop is that it travels and moves a hell of a lot; thus breaking some of this continuity. Sure, some of these cameras are artificially “fixed” to capture the action, but it somewhat removed some of the tension by having them so mobile.

The next thing you’ve got to come to with a horror film is… the horror, the scares, the tension. And I’ve got to say that spare the last 3 minutes, the film is incredibly light on all of the former. The Paranormal Activity franchise has got a reputation as being a “slow burner” and one that gradually ramps up the tension, but this takes “slow burner” to an entirely new level. This is very slow. And the menace is somewhat removed by the silhouette outlined by the Kinect sensor’s projections. In previous films, you’ve come to use your imagination to conjure up what this demon looks like. Hell, in Paranormal Activity you saw those weird trotter / three-toed imprints in the talcum powder, and in Paranormal Activity 3 you had that snorting sound. I was imagining one hell of a demon. All of this is destroyed somewhat in PA4. You’ll see what I mean if you head out to see it.

This is an album cover by a death metal band called Crucifier (thanks Google). But THIS is how I saw Paranormal Activity’s demon. Or something close…

And how could I forget the return of my friend “LOUD NOISES!”. Yes, he’s back and with a vengeance this time around. The majority of the startlings are a result of the loud noises. I’m well aware that Paranormal Activity pioneered this approach, so I’m not expecting it to vanish, but a little more terror would have been appreciated. And god knows I rambled enough about this issue in my review of Sinister, which in retrospect was probably a better film than Paranormal Activity 4. In all aspects. The acting here isn’t bad, as Kathryn Newton is a very likeable lead and carries the film well, but its the shambolic writing that lets the film down so badly. I’m sick to death of the family never believing there’s a ghost until they’re crucified on a clothes line or suspended from the rafters by a dressing gown cord.

The Kinect effect. Not sure if Microsoft will feel a boom in their profits because of this though…

And the plot holes? My oh my are there plot holes! Although some would ruin the film, just ask yourself “who is Katie’s child?” – the one that she initially turns up with, because it sure as hell isn’t Hunter from Paranormal Activity 2. Who is he? Why does she have him? And just why the hell do they bother to record ghostly happenings if they never check the bloody tapes!? I’m half-expecting the already-commissioned Paranormal Activity 5 to deal with the unknown child to be honest. And inevitably I’ll be going to the cinema to see what they’ve cooked up this time. Hopefully something a little more refreshing and interesting…

Paranormal Activity 4 isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not even in the same league as the original. Many of the scares have been removed and the pre-requisite for imagination has been checked at the cloakroom. It was the fear of not knowing what the demon looked like that made it interesting for me. The addition of a witches’ covenant in Paranormal Activity 3 caught me a little off-guard, and was unwelcome in my eyes, but it added a bit of depth to the saga. This instalment does little to develop the plot.

Ultimately, this film’s developments are tantamount to finding out that the horrible black silhouette of a goblin lurking in the corner of your room is in fact a pile of clothes. It removes the fear and intrigue. Maybe I missed the point of the “silhouette” cast by the demon here, but the film certainly didn’t develop this image I have in my head. I certainly won’t be calling the Ghostbusters. Especially if Bill Murray isn’t coming to crack some jokes. Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 – now THEY were scary movies! I’ve never looked at a fridge or bathtub the same since. Probably why I’m malnourished and odorous.

Phage Factor:

Frankenweenie (2012)

Ah, Tim Burton. Tim, Tim, Tim… I’ve never really been a fan of your work if I’m honest. I’ve seen much of it, but never felt that rabid urge to sign up to the fan club. Or even admit to really liking your films. Sure, I enjoyed seeing Edward Scissor Hands as a youth (even if I did get it confused with Lawnmower Man – too many garden appliances), and I also quite enjoyed Beetlejuice, but since then? Not so much. I remember seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas at the cinema and being particularly unimpressed, despite my age. I remember 1993 much more for Jurassic Park – now THAT was a film. A hulking behemoth of a movie, but The Nightmare Before Christmas? It was a little weenie in comparison. A forgettable, little weenie. So when I saw Frankenweenie (see what I did there?) was coming to screens at the same time as ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania, I just lumped them all together as “might see”… then I actually saw Frankenweenie

If you love the retro feel of this, you’ll dig the film itself…

Well well well Mr. Burton, this I did not expect. Frankenweenie is perhaps the finest animated film I’ve seen this year, or in recent memory. The story follows a young, clever and introverted child by the name of Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his faithful dog Sparky. Tragedy strikes when Sparky meets his maker in an untimely fashion, but after some sadness, Victor uses his superior intellect to resurrect Sparky through the use of lightning and electrodes. It’s alive… IT’S ALIIIIIIIVE!!

Ok, so it sounds like Frankenstein, but with a dog, as opposed to a human. And therein lies the genius of this film: it’s very referential to horror and sci-fi films that have gone before it. Whether it’s a toilet scene bringing to mind that of Jurassic Park, the naming of characters such as Victor Frankenstein, Edgar “E” Gore or Elsa Van Helsing, or even the inclusion of footage from Horror of Dracula with Christopher Lee. It’s all there. And there’s probably a hell of a lot of stuff that I didn’t spot. This is a true Easter Egg hunt for horror purists. Search and you shall find.

Although you could probably fit the plot of Frankenweenie on the back of an envelope, it’s told incredibly well. The characterisation is fantastic and definitely Burton. This would normally put me off, but not here. He’s gone back to his roots and brought out that spooky and odd writing of old. All of this is rounded off with true off-the-wall humour that made me think of Mars Attacks! more than anything else. In saying this, I didn’t hear a single child laugh over the course of the movie. Now, I said that ParaNorman had the same issue, but kids did laugh – at physical comedy. Frankenweenie is a much more solemn affair and the humour is aimed squarely at a more mature audience. The film looks beautiful, which will entertain the children, but it won’t have them laughing and squealing with delight. It may therefore be suited to a more intelligent child. But everyone thinks their kid is a genius right? But if you’re being honest with yourself, does your child enjoy being creative and painting vivid scenes with poster paints? Or does he/she simply just mix all the paints into a brown mess and claim it’s a “bunny wabbit”. That child wouldn’t suit this film. Sorry. You child isn’t a genius. But I hear Madagascar 3 is incredibly funny…?

Back on track: I mentioned the visuals. Obviously the first thing that strikes you about the film is that it’s in black and white – all of it. Don’t expect the colour to appear somewhere. I read that Burton was set on having his world shown in this way. It’s a brave move, but it really works. I can’t help but feel that The Artist‘s success made film companies a bit more interested in the nostalgic approach to film making, but regardless – it’s certainly helped Frankenweenie. And the animation? Flawless. All of the characters are very “Tim Burton” – big heads, massive eyes and odd teeth. It’s very stylised and stylish. I loved it.

It’s aliiiiive!

Ultimately, I couldn’t get enough of this film. Some of my US-based critic friends. notably Keith & The Movies and Papa Kenn Media (check them both out) had alerted me that this might need to be seen and I wasn’t disappointed. As I said at the outset, I’ve never been a Tim Burton fan. I think his reliance on casting Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter in everything put me off somewhat. That and the fact that he hasn’t had an original film idea in a good while now. This changes all that. Although I still won’t be signing up for that fan club, I can wholeheartedly say that this film is fantastic. Thoroughly engaging and true eye candy, with enough horror-centric references to sate old school horror fans, as I’m sure Burton himself is.

So Mr. Burton it seems I owe you an apology. Well, not an apology… an admission. Although I think the vast majority of your work is forgettable and ultimately underwhelming, I loved Frankenweenie. It really struck me as a lovingly put together film that really drew upon all of your inspirations as a child. Also, thanks for not casting your wife or Johnny Depp (your other other half) in this film. No disrespect to them, but it made the film so much more refreshing without them.

Might I make a recommendation to you though? Let’s not reanimate the corpse of Frankenweenie. I don’t want to see Frankenweenie 2: Revenge of the Felines. I think it should stay buried, and not in the Pet Sematary, because we all know what happens there too… Cheers, The Phage.

Phage Factor: