Tuesday, July 5, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Dead Silence, The Last Circus, and 13 (Tzameti)

Its been a ride. Insomnia is still here, as is the humidity. Had a 4rd of July party that was pretty nice, lots of friends and plenty of cooking on our home made grill. Had to re-arrange the list a bit around these events, and today we finally catch up with a three movie review post. These will be short reviews, blurbs really, because I'm still incredibly tired and thanks to having three to review. So lets hit the ground running.

Dead Silence is a movie that draws heavy inspiration from a segment in an earlier movie on our list, Dead of Night. This here is a ghost story that operates primarily through a Dummy, which is always a delightfully creepy premise. Who doesn't get just a little creeped out by ventriloquist dummies? Much like James Wan's other movies, most notably the Saw franchise, this is a bit of a love or hate affair. It has a classic horror premise with a unique twist, excellent effects, creative sound design, a stunning gothic color and set design at times, and a wonderful lack of newer cliches like shaky cameras and a washed out PG-13 delivery. Its an R, but it doesn't go out of its way to earn that rating, the gore is visceral and believable without being over the top.

Yep, creepy dolls and stuff.
That being said, we also get some delightfully wooden acting from the characters, not counting the dummy, who also love to make stupid horror movie decisions that will have you moaning and shouting at the TV. If you come into this with popcorn and friends, then its good fun to yell in annoyance at stupid people in the movie, but it is unfortunate that the movie needed to fall back on people getting stupid for the sack of plot.

The story revolves around a childhood legend about Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist. Just to skip a bit here, she of course dies in an unjust way and dire curses are made. You know the drill, you have seen enough movies with this premise already, the truly guilty parties being Stay Alive and Darkness Falls. Whats nice about Dead Silence is that the characters aren't stuck in the situation though some convoluted rules. When the movie first begins, our protagonist's wife is the first victim, which motivates him to investigate the legend and the creepy doll that was mailed to him.

Not many good shots of this movie on Google Image search.
Where the movie shines is when the ghost is going to kill someone, you see, you only die if you scream. To highlight this element, all sound stops besides the breathing and heart beat of the characters. Its delightfully creepy and makes for some good moments in the movie. Where it doesn't shine so well are when people try too hard to act, or the script makes some abrupt twists.

I'm tired. So lets just cut to the chase on this one. This is a fun popcorn movie that does more things right then wrong. Ultimately, if you are tired of PG-13 outings about curses and teens dying, try this movie for a more enjoyable version of that crap.

The Last Circus was a surprise addition to the list due to the party. Had to watch something that would interest the group, so I opted for something no one had heard of! A Spanish movie that only recently started making ripples online. This film is a little more then crazy, at times it has the surreal and dreamlike atmosphere of such French films as The City of Lost Children and Amelie, while also being reminiscent of darker Spanish magical realism movies like Pans Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone.

Its a movie about heritage, family, career, lust, love, revenge, self loathing, identity, and pride. Its a movie about clowns. In the midst of the Spanish civil war, a circus is doing its best to keep the children happy and unafraid. Until the war find them, that is. The Happy Clown of the show is forcibly recruited, like many of his circus fellows, and handed a machete and forced into combat. In the terror and madness of the moment he mows through a regiment with his companions, cutting down countless rebel soldiers. However, when all is said and done, the rebels win and our Happy Clown is captured and forced into labor camps. He tearfully tells his son that he will see him soon, and that the labor can't last forever.

Such a strange and fantastic movie.
It does, and years later while visiting his father, our warrior clown is still in irons mining under harsh conditions. Half mad from years of abuse, he tells his son to be a Sad Clown, as he has known too much sorry to ever make children laugh. He also urges his son to seek revenge, as the only means to cleanse his sole. So, our young hero attempts to free his father with dynamite and a pistol. His father tragically dies, a commander loses an eye, and our hero still only knows sorrow and horror.

Fast forward, and we see a defeated and timid man joining the circus as the sad clown, the partner act of a happy clown who also happens to be a sadistic and violent drunk who beats his girlfriend. The girl our sad clown of course falls for, a girl who loves to manipulate and loves danger. You can never tell where this movie is going, and once you think you do, it will shock you. Its brutal and unrelenting in how cruel the world is to our sad clown, and once the strain of it all finally breaks him, the film pulls another twist and shocks you all over again.

I can't being myself to tell you about those twists, about where this movie goes in its drunken tumble through the soul of a clown. You really need to live it for yourself. To tease you into it, enjoy the trailer.

Did you see that? You know you need to see this movie now. Its a surreal look into the darkest corners of what makes us human. Where our motivations come from and what it means to truly be alive. If you like the stranger things in life, then you NEED to see this movie. Now to the last review! Hooray!

13 Tzameti is listed as horror just as often as it isn't, but for those of you who know what this movie is about, I'm sure you can see the argument for horror. This French film shares aspects with crime thrillers, but only just. You won't find shootouts, fest and witty dialogue, or car chases here. This movie is slow and deliberate, nothing is contrived for the audience either, dialogue and scenes are wholly natural. You won't find exposition of people talking so you can understand whats happening, you are meant to be as frightened and confused as the protagonist.
The poster gives nothing away unless you look very closely.

The movie follows an impoverished 22 year old roof repairman, the sole provider of his family leaves him constantly looking tired and worn-down. Every job he finds is essential, and the one he is on now is just that. Except when his drug addicted client dies and he is won't be paid, he find himself at a new level of desperation. Recalling overhearing the man talking about a shady way to make some big money, he sneaks off with an important letter of the dead man's and follows the shady instructions within. I'll tell you what happens next only because the marketing for the film does, but honestly, if you have the chance, see it fresh. Stop reading here and go in as clueless as possible.

Unknowingly being tailed by, and giving the slip to police, he follows an increasingly shadier series of instructions until he arrives at his destination. One which he cannot turn back from. He and twelve other men are part of a game on which other men gamble, a game where each man points a gun at the man in front of him, spins the barrel on the gun, and pulls the trigger.

Don't get in the car if you see this.
This part of the movie is incredibly intense, especially because of that lack of exposition I mentioned. We don't know who these people are, arguably the monsters of the film, nor why they organize the event. Likewise, besides our hero, we have no idea why anyone else is participating in the suicidal game of murder. The tension is immense, as round after round more men die and more bullets are added to the chambers. Our hero at first struggles and resists, and after it becomes clear the only way out is to play, he becomes withdrawn and sickened.

This section of the movie is undeniably horror, our hero forced into a lethal situation where only chance dictates if he lives or dies, if he is innocent or a murderer. Even once its all said and done, his safety is never certain and keeps the tension alive. See this movie now, before the American remake arrives to ruin its name.
"Do I have something in my Hair?"

Sleep now! For more reviews and future movies, see 150 Days of Halloween.


  1. Wow, awesome post.
    Looks like a lot of work, keep it up!
    Have a nice day.

  2. Ugh, why do you always show films that creep me out =D

    Awesome review, very detailed and accurate.

    And as for your comment on my RPG blog, I did play mount and blade when it was free, damn it was awesome. Never got around to buying it when they released it officially though =(

  3. I've watched Dead Silence... didn't like it very much, I found it quite a stupid film. But I really enjoyed Balada Triste De Trompeta by Alex De La Iglesea. A great movie imo

  4. I remember when I first saw this movie it scared the hell out of me.

  5. I've rented Dead Silence twice and just can't bring myself to watch it. The entire premise just seems like a rehash of an old Tales From The Crpyt episode. I just can't take seriously a movie that seemingly ripped off a tv show 20 years later.

  6. I think I'm going to make a friend watch the second one, she's terrified of clowns.

  7. Very interesting blog. Going to follow.

  8. All these creepy films are awesome!