We’ve got this thing here in Amsterdam, called the ‘Night of Terror’. It’s an annual event (tangentially related to the Imagine Film Festival), where scores of horror film fans come to see a number of fairly recent horror films. What’s fun about this particular gathering, is that these people don’t so much ‘watch’ the films, as they do shout obscenities at the screen. The first time I was kind of shocked and annoyed by the lack of respect and attention for the films on display, but after a while I started to enjoy the crowd’s humorous contributions and the event’s participatory nature. Sadly, I didn’t have time to attend this year, so (together with a couple of friends) we organized our own little Night of Terror a few weeks later. Even though we had to do without the rowdy crowd, there were marked improvements to the seating, smell and food prices. Two of our friends bowed out early (around 2 in the morning), the hardcore managed to sit through three films and finished up at 5. Let me tell you about our selection for this year’s low-budget Night of Terror.
I Saw the Devil (2010)
Though not technically a horror film, this Korean thriller was just twisted enough to serve as a decent opener (one severed Achilles tendon deserves special mention in that regard). The film starts when Min-sik Choi (of Old Boy fame) brutally murders a young woman. The woman turns out to be engaged to a well dressed man from the secret service (Byung-hun Lee). Which is good for Lee, his vocation grants him the necessary skills to make Choi’s life a living hell. What’s interesting about this film is that it smartly shares its allegiance with both characters. It’s even capable of making you feel quite sympathetic to Choi’s plight as he is continually set upon by the equally psychopathic ‘hero’ of the story. Trying to cause as much pain as possible, Lee waits for Choi to get comfortable with new, unsuspecting women before he strikes. Just as Choi unzips, Lee proceeds to beat the poor guy to within an inch of his life. He then patches him up, sets him free and repeats the process. A pretty bizarre form of cock blockery that was actually kind of hilarious to watch. My only complaint is that towards the end, like most other Asian films, I Saw the Devil could have done with a little more subtlety. Other than that, it’s a fun and aesthetically pleasing film: lots of pretty colors, carefully composed shots and of course: Choi’s incredible hairdo.
The Divide (2011)
While this film’s post apocalyptic premise seemed appealing, it turned out to be a total dud. As New York is leveled with nuclear weapons, a group of people make their way down a few flights of stairs were Michael Biehn patiently awaits them in a fallout shelter. Among the group we find a Rosanna Arquette (looking like a drowned cat), Milo Ventimiglia (Petrelli from Heroes) and Michael Eklund (whom I recognized from a Fringe episode). Long story short: cabin fever takes hold in about five minutes, Arquette is raped repeatedly, Ventimiglia chews the scenery and Eklund takes a dump on the floor. Biehn was actually tied to a chair for most of the time, a shame really. I think the film would have been much better if they had just thrown out the script and made it a 90 minute interview with Biehn on the making of Terminator.
The Loved Ones (2009)
Ending on a high note, The Loved Ones was entirely satisfying as an Australian take on the ‘portrait of a twisted family’ film. It’s a bit odd to have this typically American story set Down Under, but after a while you stop noticing how all the pick-up trucks are suddenly Japanese, and white. Robin McLeavy plays a deranged girl named ‘Lola’, once the protagonist (Xavier Samuel, ‘Brent’) politely refuses her as a prom date, she has her dad kidnap him for a private party. Which turns out to be a lobotomy party. Meanwhile, Brent’s friend Jamie (played by Richard Wilson) seems to have stumbled into a John Hughes movie. All he had to do was smoke pot and sit back while a pretty black haired girl performed all sorts of pleasant acts on him. Doesn’t seem fair, though I suppose Brent’s lucky he suffered at the hands of a good looking brunette instead of Leatherface. Look out for a little Mad Max homage near the end.