I don't know why, but this movie worked for me. It shouldn't. It's a shaky-cam version of The Hills Have Eyes set in the New York subway featuring even stupider cannibals and a half-dozen annoying twenty-somethings as their fodder. But, I got into it. Though terribly annoying, the shaky-cam enhanced the frenzy of the twenty-somethings' fleeing and fighting. It made things feel more desperate and panicy, headache-inducing or no. The cannibals look like Alan Moore and can only grunt, but this seems to make them scarier; they're wildmen with crazy eyes and gnashing teeth. The setting is also really cool: the abandoned tunnels under New York, filled with all kinds of dark things.
My one major objection is the surprise ending. Mike defeats all of the adult cannibals and finally finds an exit out of the subway. As he stumbles towards sunlight, the forgotten kid cannibal jumps at him with blades drawn. No fair. Mike had proven his marriage worth by beating his foes on his stag night (named after, says this movie, the practice of having to kill a stag before getting married to prove yourself). Having a kid kill him at the end is cheap. C'mon, the dude is a worthy warrior; the filmmakers just felt like they needed to tack on a shocker ending.
And that's it for the two Ghost House Underground movies for this year. At this rate -- 8 in 2009, 4 in 2010 and 2 in 2011 -- it seems like I'll only have one of these for next year. That's too bad, as I feel like GHU is the best of these horrorfest series, generally having slightly more watchable movies than the others. (7/10)
Hannibal Rising (2007) directed by Peter Webber
Better than I expected. I was thinking this would be about Hannibal's career as a serial killer before Graham caught him -- probably peppered with flashbacks to abusive parents -- which would've been completely pointless. We already know that story from the bits and pieces in Silence and Red Dragon. Instead, we see an 8-year-old Hannibal traumatized in the aftermath of WWII when bandits kill and eat his sister. Years later, he seeks revenge on those bandits. As a period revenge story, it's pretty good. I'm partial to revenge tales and enjoy seeing the wicked punished harshly, which Hannibal certainly does. Post-war Lithuania and France are both fascinating settings, neither of which I believe I've seen in film before. The acting and direction in the film are both spot-on.
But, Hannibal's not really Hannibal here; there's a large disconnect between this character and the older version from prior films. Hannibal here carries a katana, samurai-style. He's in love with his dead uncle's wife and seems to possess the emotions that true psychopaths do not. Glossed over is Hannibal's medical career and the development of his love of high culture. Left unexplained is his transformation into a cannibal. Was it because the bandits tricked him into eating part of his sister so many years ago? I can't say that such an event would make me want to eat the cheeks of her killers, personally. Ignoring the cheek-eating, Hannibal here is the hero of the film. He slaughters racists and war criminals only. I can't imagine this same character killing random college girls to use as dinner supplies 30 years later. I guess it feels like there's something missing from Hannibal's characterization in this film. The childhood trauma damaged him, yes, but it doesn't seem like it damaged him enough to turn him into the killer Graham caught. (6/10)