The Island, Severance, Hot Fuzz, “Manos” and The Invisible Ghost Reviewed

The Island, Severance and The Invisible Ghost

Severance (2006)
This Brit-made slasher flick has a lot going for it, including its slick sense of humor. AND its premise which has a group of office drones from a military supply company break down in the middle of nowhere. Lost without transportation in the woods, they’re picked off one by one by a…well, by a disappointing revelation. There’s some nice gore and the acting is above par for this type of thing, but about halfway through, an attempt at presenting a different kind of slasher, sabotages the creepy vibe that had been sustained up to that point.
** – Recommended with reservations

Hot Fuzz (2007)
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have a unique gift in their ability to take a genre, stay true to its basic elements with a solid story, AND bring the funny. In Shawn of the Dead it was a horror comedy that totally functioned as a solid zombie movie. This time they express their love for (almost exclusively American) cop thrillers (Think Bad Boys, as it is referenced often.). A too-good-for-his-precinct officer (Pegg) makes his co-workers look useless by comparison so he’s transferred to a quaint village where it’s expected he’ll cool his jets. Natch, the quiet town isn’t what it seems and city cop clichés are hilariously blended with small town sensibilities. People try lobbing comedy into other genres all the time and almost always fail. Not these guys. It makes a perfect companion piece to SothD, which it reflects with a wink in many scenes. Ex-Bond, Timothy Dalton, devours his roll as a sinister-seeming grocer. Good show, ol’ chaps! Cheers!
*** – Highly recommended

The Invisible Ghost (1941)
This is one of Bela Lugosi’s above-average cheapies from the 30s. In it he’s a gentle and gentlemanly old guy who would be fine if not for his quiet obsession with his missing and evidently dead wife. Turns out: not dead – it’s just amnesia with a touch of insanity. Drawn home by a returning memory, she lurks around the perimeter of the house, regularly visible out windows to Lugosi as she stands creepily in the rain acting all crazy. For whatever reason, seeing her makes him temporarily psychotic, and he begins racking up an impressive death toll that he’s not even aware of. Almost all of the action takes place in the big scary house and plays a little like a murder mystery that reveals the killer to the audience at the beginning. Sure, the story makes no logical sense, but IG is surprisingly effective anyway. I’d never seen Lugosi play down a roll like he does here. It’s a cheap gritty window to the type of range he might have shown had he been given a chance. The script treats the role of Lugosi’s black butler with respect that is highly unusual for this period in cinema. It’s a central, stand-out character role.
*** – Recommended

The Island (2005)
My initial go’round with The Island left me sneering with contempt. That slick Tony Scott and his slick-ass production values – all oversaturated colors and kinetic action scenes. Psh! But sometimes it takes an accidental cable viewing to put a flick (especially a genre movie) into perspective. Essentially a remake of Logan’s Run, TI presents a dark commodity of the near future: expendable clones for the rich elite. Grown and nurtured in a sterile environment, the clones are unaware of life outside their sphere. The clones, essentially human by definition, develop their own naïve child-like personalities and wait anxiously for the day that they’ll win the mysterious lottery that sends them to the film’s titular location; a paradise on earth where they will participate in the reboot of human society. (They’ve been told that most of the world’s population has been wiped out by a plague.) Except that that’s all bullshit and a trip to The Island is really a trip to a surgery room where your organs are harvested for the customer rich enough to invest in such health insurance. Super-attractive clones, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, suspect that something about all of this is not right so they hatch an escape to the outside modern world where they piece it all together. The film’s second half is dedicated to the clone company’s pursuit of their faulty product. Cluttered action sequences aside, TI’s first half, set in the stark white clone city-in-a-bubble, makes it worth your time. Though easy on the eyes, Scar-Jo just ain’t a very compelling actor, but that kind of wooden performance almost seems appropriate for her role. McGregor fares better, proving again he’s got action chops as meaty as his acting chops. Steve Buscemi is the blue-collar behind-the-city working man that assists in the synthetic duo’s escape. Though, loud, flashy and explosive, the action is incidental and only gets in the way of the movie’s greater rewards.
** ½ – Recommended with reservations

“Manos” the Hands of Fate (1966)
This dreary off-putting mess-terpiece is still fascinating and good for a laugh. A family of three (Mom, Dad, their little girl and their dog) pick the WRONG inn as a rest stop when they find themselves lost (on vacation, presumably). They’re greeted by Torgo, the wobbly, lecherous, gropey, giant-kneed (?!) henchman of his “Master,” the titular dark lord. What follows is a depressing, meandering tale that involves a harem in white nightgowns, hell hounds, ritualistic sacrifice and –ulp! – the death of the family dog. Post-production dialogue never syncs up with the actors’ performance and the entire thing looks as though it was edited in a blender. Where bad movies are concerned, “Manos” [sic…the misplaced quotes are actually part of the title] makes Plan 9 look like 2001. A late-night public-domain fave, “Manos” eventually received the MST3K treatment. For B-movie fans this is a four-star favorite. For all others:
½ * – Recommended for genre buffs only

~ by Number5ive on June 9, 2007.

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