Horror films get back to basics in four new arrivals on DVD.
If Wolf Creek centers on the horror of nature, Hostel, like all classic American horror movies, foregrounds the horror (and allure) of bodies. Full of both sex and gore, it aims right at those young males who are always the genre's main audience. Despite its exotic locale, its sex/violence axis recalls Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street more than anything post-9/11.
Surprisingly, the film squanders its creativity on its memorable setup, and its payoff feels rushed and vague. One lesson Hostel can learn from Wolf Creek: If you hate the characters, it's hard to care about what happens to them. C
Includes: Four (!) commentary tracks (all featuring egomaniacal director Eli Roth), making-of featurette and more.
You'll Like It If You Like: Frat boy stories, '80s horror movies.
If Psycho's the model for Western horror movies, Ringu casts its long shadow over Japanese horror, which wants to be more creepy than gory. In these environments we're living with a whole parallel universe of spooky spirits, not just the possibility of stumbling across human evil.
Ringu (1998) gave birth to The Grudge (2003), but how many of those spirits are left down there? Looking at Pray and Marebito-two almost identical Japanese horror movies recently released on DVD-filmmakers are now just sleepwalking through this formula.
In Pray two hipsters kidnap a little girl, except it turns out she's-you guessed it-a ghost. And she's got a secret.
In Marebito a photographer becomes obsessed with the image of a terrified man and discovers a whole world of creepy spirits living underground. He winds up taking one of them home, where she turns out-yup-to have some secrets, even though she can't speak.
Ultimately the photographer decides her silence seems like a good idea: "From now on I'll never speak because I need no human words." Too bad he didn't decide that 90 minutes earlier, before we had to sit through the static, stagy interior monologues that take the place of action and dialogue in this movie.
Most of these two movies consist of people wandering around. There's the little girl ghost. More wandering around. There she is again. More wandering around.
When this formula was new, it evoked a powerful friction between a placid surface and the busy, angry spirits beneath it. Now it makes us feel like ghosts ourselves, doomed to watch the same movie over and over again for the rest of our lives. Both: C-
Includes: Interviews, making-of featurettes and more.
You'll Like Them If You Like: Ringu, The Grudge, ghost stories.
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