Trackman (2007) directed by Igor Shavlak
Tremendously boring. Obviously inspired by My Bloody Valentine, this film follows some bank robbers and hostages in an abandoned mine. Unfortunately for them, the miner from MBV happens to live there and likes to collect eyeballs. Though the movie is only 80 minutes long, it feels like twice that. It doesn't take too long for the characters to flee into the mine, in which there's nothing terribly exciting going on most of the time. There are minutes upon endless minutes of people walking down dank, dusty tracks. The movie's more than halfway over with by the time the Trackman starts doing anything interesting. Granted, the only thing he does is a Michael Myers impression, but at least that spices up the unending walking. Plus, the characters he stalks are so underdeveloped and unlikable, you can't help but root for the guy.
I will say that making the killer a mutant from Chernobyl was a great idea. I've never see any other movie use that concept, though you'd think it would be common in Russian horror. The only other nice thing I have to say is that at least the DP did a nice job shooting in the low light of the tunnels. Otherwise, I nearly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon watching this. (3/10)
The Children (2008) directed by Tom Shankland
It's been a long time since a movie actually made me feel nervous. I'm pretty sure that me being a parent has everything to do with how effective this film was on me. I can hear my daughter crying in her room at the opposite end of the house and one floor up while watching a movie at full volume. You get super-hearing, but only for children's cries, when you become a dad. Consequently, the screaming of the kids in this film was like nails on a chalkboard to me. It sort of plugs into a primitive part of your brain and says: "offspring in trouble! quick!" Hence, one reason for the nervousness. The other reason, of course, is that the horror of the film is a parent having to quickly decide whether to kill her own children in order to save herself and her older daughter. When she does this, first by accident and later on purpose, I found it very jarring. After becoming a parent, my #1 fear of amputation was easily replaced by the fear accidentally killing my own child. This movie is pretty much my worst nightmare.
The film is also put together really well. It's constructed in perfect horror rollercoaster style, with periods of intensity broken by increasingly shorter and shorter lulls. The cinematography is great; they kept finding really interesting shots. I particularly liked the extreme close-up of the flakes of snow stuck to Elaine's lips as she lay stunned in the snow. The ending isn't terribly surprising, but I don't think I'd want it to end any other way. A great slice of horror from England. (8/10)
Offspring (2009) directed by Andrew van den Houten
Well, now I'm not terribly motivated to read the book. A group of cannibals, who look like they split off of the Hills Have Eyes clan, descend on a coastal Maine town and start making steaks out of the locals. It's kind of a neat idea to think about a hunting party straight out of the stone age doing their thing on people in cars instead of mammoths. But, wild kids slamming hatchets into folks can only get you so far in a horror movie. Unfortunately, there's not much else here. There's some kidnapped women in trouble. There's an asshole ex-husband. There's a baby hidden in the woods so the cannibals can't find it. All of this turns out pretty much the way you'd expect (the women escape, the asshole is killed, the baby is saved) after less than 80 minutes of runtime.
At the end, we're shown a shot of the lone cannibal survivor: a baby. I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. That the cannibals will be back in 10-20 years after it grows up? I don't think that baby will survive being abandoned in a cave the police couldn't even find. I can't think of any other reason, though, unless it's just that the producers wanted to reassure us that the hero-lady didn't really kill a baby trying to escape.
I was completely confused when a movie supposedly taking place in Maine had a police car with the distinctive state of Michigan painted on it. Turns out this is one of those movies that was shot in my home state through the new Michigan Film Office. I vaguely remember some controversy, but it seems that's over the proposed sequel. Looks like the Michigan Film Office doesn't want to give van den Houten the 42% tax credit for the follow-up, seemingly because they're uncomfortable having a cannibal movie represent the state. Ah, horror, always the red-headed stepchild of the genres. (4/10)