Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On DVD/Blu-ray: THE DAY (2012) and THE APPARITION (2012)

(US/Canada - 2012)

Though it lacks zombies, there's a major WALKING DEAD influence on this pointless apocalyptic horror film from WWE Studios.  In a desolate rural wasteland, a ragtag group of bickering survivors led by Dominic "Still Coasting on LORD OF THE RINGS" Monaghan (as Rick, oddly enough, also the name of Andrew Lincoln's character on THE WALKING DEAD) take refuge in an abandoned house, with much talk about it not being safe.  Turns out the world's been overrun by marauding cannibals for ten or so years and the house is a trap, set up to procure food.  When co-producer Monaghan is granted an early exit courtesy of one of cinema's least-convincing impalings, it's up to Shannyn Sossamon, Shawn Ashmore, Cory Hardrict and group outsider Ashley Bell to take on the flesh eaters. Soon, a cannibal family led by THE DIVIDE's Michael Eklund is outside as the film becomes your basic RIO BRAVO/NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD/John Carpenter siege scenario. 

Even a slumming Carpenter could've done more with this than HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME director Doug Aarniokoski, who utilizes the de rigeur jerky cam and quick edits, with a dreary, desaturated look that's practically black & white, which adds nothing atmospherically other than making it impossible to tell what's going on in some later scenes. Luke Passmore's script tries to make some points about the importance of family and how the heroes barricaded in the house aren't all that different from the cannibals outside, but they're obvious and ultimately abandoned. The cannibals aren't rampaging monsters or anything of the sort. They're quite civilized, despite eating their own if need be, and Eklund is even shown to be a doting father (and they're about to concede defeat until Eklund's son is killed by Sossamon). We never get an explanation for why most of the world has resorted to cannibalism or really why any of this is happening. And the heroes aren't particularly likable, though the promising Bell (THE LAST EXORCISM) makes a convincing badass of few words as Michonne, er, I mean, Mary. THE DAY might've worked as a harmless time-killing splatter flick if the visual effects weren't so godawful. We're talking really primitive CGI that wouldn't even pass on a video game. Some of the gore and fire effects are so terrible that they almost look unfinished, like temporary FX shots still in place when the film was screened for test audiences or potential distributors. I really can't stress enough how shitty they look. Even in today's cinema where the new generation of audiences has seemingly just accepted, and may even prefer, bad video-game-inspired CGI as a fact of moviegoing, the visual effects in THE DAY are flat-out pathetic. (R, 84 mins)

(US/Germany/France - 2012)

A decade and counting and the RINGU and JU-ON and other J-Horror-craze ripoffs are still coming.  Dumped in theaters by Warner Bros. at the tail end of summer with no fanfare after two years on the shelf, THE APPARITION isn't the worst horror film of 2012, but it could be the blandest and most uninspired.  TWILIGHT series co-star Ashley Greene gets her own headlining vehicle as Kelly, a veterinary assistant who moves into a parental-owned rental property in an upscale but mostly vacant, still-under-construction subdivision with her boyfriend Ben (Sebastian Stan).  Faster than you can say PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, strange things start happening (doors open themselves, furniture moves, scratches appear on a wall, a cactus and a neighbor's dog die, and extensive mold appears on the floors and ceiling).  It turns out that years earlier, Ben was involved in a research project headed by his buddy Patrick (Tom Felton, HARRY POTTER's Draco Malfoy), who was attempting to bring a spirit into the material world.  Ben has to fess up to what's happening, which leads to, well, mostly pouting from Kelly.  Patrick informs Ben that--wait for it--it's not the house that's haunted...it's him!  Writer-director Todd Lincoln never shifts this thing out of first, allowing it to amble along to feature length with not very much happening, and certainly nothing scary.  It drags badly despite a brief running time, with the closing credits starting at the 73-minute mark and moving extra slowly just to pad the film to 82 minutes.  When we finally get a glimpse of the "apparition," it's essentially the same grimacing, contorted, ghostly figure crawling across a room, which admittedly was a terrifying image the first or second of the 17 times Hideo Nakata or Takashi Shimizu presented it over the course of several Japanese RINGU or JU-ON films and the American remakes THE RING or THE GRUDGE and their sequels.  Of course there's a twist ending involving the apparition's real intentions, but this is just far too stale and too far past its sell-by date to have any relevance in 2012.  Warner Bros. apparently recognized that, not even bothering to give this much of a push with teenage audiences despite a PG-13 rating and the presence of Greene and Felton.  THE APPARITION isn't so much terrible as it's just...there, and even while you're watching, it seems to just completely and utterly evaporate from your mem      (PG-13, 82 mins)

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