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|By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com)||Ver 1.4 2023.05.18|
Deep Blue Sea is the right blend of thrills, chills, and—most importantly—intelligence. It also has a surprising amount of self-awareness, with a lot of that provided by LL Cool J's character: cook Sherman "Preacher" Dudley. His is an intriguing mix of common sense and religion. The other characters are more or less standard for this kind of movie, but they are all performed equally well.
Nevertheless, the film is a great ride because it keeps throwing unexpected twists and turns in an original setting ("We go down to get up.") The film is also surprising as it kills off the apparently sacrosanct characters unexpectedly. Add to that the unpredictability of human-intelligence enhanced sharks, and one is in for a wild ride!
During lunch break, Conner discovers a strange cocoon-like creature on the football field. Accompanied by Profitt, Rosado, Tyler, Hutchinson, and Mitchell—who has a crush on Rosado—Conner shows it to the science teacher, who believes it to be a new species. They all observe that not only does the creature rehydrate and grow in water, but it is capable of self-replication and has a hunger for human flesh! Later, Conner and Profitt sneak into the teachers' lounge to find a story. However, they witness the football coach and another teacher force one of the creatures that Conner discovered into the school nurse, who apparently dies. In their panic, they also discover the corpse of Mrs. Brummel in the closet they were hiding in! The teenagers flee, and call the police. However, Conner and Profitt's claims are dismissed, and they now have the full attention of whatever or whoever is behind the strange happenings at the school!
The Faculty is a unique film. On the one hand, it has an all-star cast and an A-list director. However, it's story is firmly in B movie territory. That said, Robert Rodriguez has plenty of fun with the film, throwing in reference after reference to other films. In fact, part of the fun is trying to identify the classic horror movies in which you first saw a particular special effect or other reference. Perhaps the highlight of this film is Rodriguez's subversive style of film making that makes the movie smart, without taking itself too seriously.
The only drawback to the film is the low quality 90's CG animation in the later parts of the film. They weren't exactly good at the time, and have a tendency to knock the viewer out of the film. Nevertheless, what the film gets right is the portrayal of teenage alienation in high school. This is something that the heroes have a hard time overcoming even when they have to start working together to save the day. It's thought provoking that part of the horror element comes from the protagonists being forced into a world were everyone is the same and gets along, but at the cost of their freedom and individuality.
Another thought provoking aspect is the film's reinvention of the fear of female sexuality. All the girls and women in the film subtly or overtly reveal their hidden sexuality and become more sexually aggressive after being taken over by the invaders. On the other hand, the teenagers in the film have to come to terms with and overcome their fear of the apparently 'monstrous' aspects of female sexuality—in order to become adults and save the day. It's especially telling that the ultimate hero of the film is the male character closest to his feminine side.
What strikes you first is the beautiful cinematography of the countryside that seems like the film is a recreation of autumnal scenes by famous painters. In addition, the colour pallet starts extremely muted—almost monochrome—and grows in breadth and intensity as Crane's journey sees him evolve and acquire a more well-rounded view of the world.
The movie is populated by a pantheon of well known actors and actresses. Admittedly, when I first saw the film I was only aware of a small portion of them. However, decades of film appreciation later, I recognize most of them and can appreciate Dir. Burton's genius at helping the viewer differentiate between the rather large number of similar villagers with them.
The film earns its frights, and has a creepy feeling throughout. There is some gore—making it unsuitable for younger viewers—but it is much more like the stuff seen in a CSI investigation than it is a slasher film.
The only drawback is that the film is a little unclear on who did what for whom in the conspiracy. Nevertheless, the film makes up for that with very clear depictions of the ringleader's motivations and how that person came to be able to control the Headless Horseman.
Species was billed as a successor of sorts to the Alien franchise, even enlisting H. R. Giger for the creature designs. However, despite its best intentions and some good sequences, it doesn't attain that level of greatness. The first two-thirds of Species is good, engaging and suspenseful—especially when Sil is learning how to operate in human society and begins attempting to outsmart her trackers. The last third, particularly when Sil starts being rendered entirely in CG, is disappointing. If the people behind such films as Alien or Predator can fully realize an alien without CG, why couldn't the people behind Species do the same?
Another problem with the film is the near instant development of the alien creature. This film attempts to have its cake and eat it: earlier, it takes months for the human-alien hybrid to develop from a single cell into a child. Later, when the protagonists make it solely with its own DNA, it takes mere minutes to develop into a threatening worm-like creature. What was it feeding on? Air itself? I understand that the production team wanted a suspense-filled scene with two characters trapped in a room with a lethal creature, but the whole premise defies belief.
Nevertheless, what I really liked about the film was when they were tracking the alien by credit cards and other "low tech" (or non sci-fi) means. The film also got the depiction of psychics just right. A lot of the credit for that goes to Forest Whitaker's pitch-perfect performance. That said, the highlight of the film ought to be the costuming—Natasha Henstridge's white top in the nightclub scene in particular.
Tremors is a fun movie. The film is a perfect mix between comedy and horror. Above and beyond that, it focuses on its characters, and not only shares the spotlight with its supporting and minor characters, but lets each and every one of them make vital contributions to the story. As a horror film, Tremors also smartly employs both misdirection—initially suggesting that the creatures are something completely different than what they turn out to be—as well as not explaining what they are and where they came from. The film lets its characters speculate on some possible origins, but as they bicker about almost everything, they themselves can't even agree on an one!
The highlight of the film is the characterization—viewers will be hard pressed to not be able to say something unique about each one, even the minor characters. The practical effects are also especially noteworthy. The concept of a burrowing creature stalking prey in the desert like a shark sounds deceptively simple, but is hard to do realistically. This film's artists have succeed in not only visualizing what it would be like for surface dwellers, but also from a "worm's eye" view as well! The movie also gives the creatures intelligence, and it is great seeing them not only outsmarting the humans, but being outsmarted themselves. Nevertheless, what makes a film a great one is its characters, and despite this film's B-movie origins, its characters put it right up there with the best!