Carrie (2002)

Directed by David Carson [Other horror films: N/A]

Among my more well-known eccentricities is that I’m not a giant fan of the classic Carrie. It wouldn’t make my top 25 horror films from the 1970’s, let alone my top ten, which is a hot take, believe it or not. An even hotter take is that I enjoy this television production more than the 1970’s classic, and while I am sure some might be aghast, I can’t say I feel much shame.

The cast here is spectacular. Angela Bettis (May and Toolbox Murders) was the perfect choice, as she really pulls off Carrie’s character and personality. Patricia Clarkson (who was in both Delirium and Easy A – completely similar movies) was a good fit for Carrie’s mother, and her back-and-forth with Carrie was always fun to watch. Kandyse McClure (of the 2009 version of Children of the Corn fame) was decent as Sue, and a bit snappier here (for good story reasons) than she elsewise generally is.

Emilie de Ravin (who I think I recognize best from Santa’s Slay, but have also seen in The Hills Have Eyes remake and the mystery Brick) gave a good performance as the ultra-bitchy Chris, and related, Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps, Freddy vs. Jason, and 13 Eerie) was great as her ultra-bitchy friend. Tobias Mehler stuck me as somewhat uninspired, but Rena Sofer and David Keith (Firestarter) were very good.

Though he only got one really stand-out scene, I also loved Laurie Murdoch, who played the principal, and though her character isn’t really relevant, I also wanted to mention Meghan Black, if only because I know her as the voice of Rogue in the cartoon X-Men: Evolution, which I watched the hell out of when I was a kid. Lastly, playing Carrie during a flashback, we have a young Jodelle Ferland (the kid in Silent Hill and later in movies such as The Unspoken and Neverknock).

So despite being a television movie, the cast did rather impress me. It’s true that there were obvious limitations in terms of special effects (which can likely most clearly be seen during the prom carnage and later the scene in which Carrie’s slowly walking and bringing the town down with her), but generally, I didn’t think this really harmed the story too much (I think the worst bit may have been the scene right before Carrie snaps – I just think it ran on a bit long).

The story itself takes some daring alterations in the finale, which I didn’t remember from my first-time viewing of this. While it’s true that how they ended this version isn’t novel accurate, I was never a giant fan of the novel, and the fact that this has a less down-beat ending actually sort of made me enjoy it a bit more.

Speaking of the novel, while neither the original 1976 version or the 2013 version did this, the novel has a lot of newspaper articles, journal entries, letters, and various things from Carrie’s life following the tragic event, split in between the telling of the central story. They don’t quite do that here, but the movie is framed during an interview by the police following the prom disaster, which I liked quite a bit, largely perhaps due to it giving David Keith time to have fun with his character.

With all of this said, what issues I have with the other adaptations are still true here – I just don’t love the story. However, because this version has a less depressing conclusion, I can dig it more. Sue me.

Much like how I enjoy the 1997 The Shining mini-series more than the 1980’s film, I enjoy this television production more than both the 1976 and 2013 versions. I’m an odd duck, but I can only say what I feel, and I truly enjoyed this one more. Good stuff, especially with the limitations they had.

7.5/10

May (2002)

Directed by Lucky McKee [Other horror films: All Cheerleaders Die (2001), The Woods (2006), The Woman (2011), All Cheerleaders Die (2013), Tales of Halloween (2015, segment ‘Ding Dong’), Kindred Spirits (2019), Deathcember (2019, segment ‘They Once Had Horses’)]

I don’t have a lot to say about May, because my feelings for this film, both the first time I saw it and just now, can be boiled down to the simple fact that I find the movie uncomfortable and don’t at all enjoy it.

Which isn’t to say the performances are bad – I think that Angela Bettis (who played Carrie in my favorite adaptation, the 2002 television movie) gave a great performance, and really sold May’s awkward tendencies. Jeremy Sisto (Wrong Turn, Hideaway, and Population 436) didn’t wow me, but Anna Faris (Scary Movie) was fun in her own way.

What’s not fun in it’s own way is the story, though, which I just find awkward. It’s uncomfortable and awkward for much of the running time, and when things that I’m more interested in finally get going (let’s say the final thirty minutes), it’s really already too late, because though the ending was much better than the first two-thirds, it wasn’t even all that great.

Certainly there are some scenes here that stick out a bit more, the sequence which most comes to my mind is the classroom scene with the blind children (I think what really elevates that sequence is the choral music in the background). Aside from that, everything else is awkward, uncomfortable, and I’m really not interested in seeing it. I already live an awkward and uncomfortable life – I don’t need to see it in a movie for pleasure.

And that doesn’t even need to be the case. Love Object (2003) had it’s own share of awkward moments, but was also a film that (while it took a few viewings) I legitimately enjoyed. Here, I’m just watching May’s uncomfortable life unfolding uncomfortably and wanting it to be over, deriving little to no pleasure from much of it.

May is a movie that has found a decent fanbase, and I have some friends in the horror community who quite enjoy this film. After seeing it again, though, I’ll just admit that it’s not for me, rate it lowly, and move on.

4/10

28 Days Later… (2002)

Directed by Danny Boyle [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a movie I’ve not seen in quite some time, and it’s always refreshing when a rewatch is just as good as you’ll hope it’d be. 28 Days Later… is perhaps one of the most important zombie films of the modern era, and it’s certainly a well-made movie from the UK, and perhaps one of the UK’s best in the last twenty years.

Most of the main cast was great. Cillian Murphy (who I pretty much only know from Batman Begins) was good as the main character, as he doesn’t really seem the type. Naomie Harris is fun as an action, kick-ass gal. Brendan Gleeson (Lake Placid, fourth Harry Potter film, The Guard) and Megan Burns give the movie heart, whereas Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) gives it pragmatic brutality. Solid cast all around.

There’s a lot of feeling in this one. When I say that Gleeson and Burns really made an emotional impact on me, I’m not trying to exaggerate – that father-daughter combination was great, and much like how they brought Harris’ character some joy, they brought the viewer joy too, which makes the movie doubly impactful past a certain point.

Also, that score is damn phat. Really great score which helps the movie along, especially toward the end.

As far as zombie movies go, 28 Days Later is pretty damn important, and really brought back to life (see what I did there? :P) the dying (OMG HE GOES FOR A SECOND SHOT AND NAILS IT) subgenre of zombies. I mean, there were decent zombie movies in the late 1990’s (one that comes to mind is Bio Zombie, from Japan), but it was 28 Days Later that really made the genre profitable again, for better or worse.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this again, and I feel sort of bad for having waited as long as I did, as it’s a movie I suspect that one wouldn’t really get too tired of. I’d certainly recommend giving this one a look or a rewatch if you’ve not seen it in some time, as it’s great stuff.

8.5/10

Red Dragon (2002)

Directed by Brett Ratner [Other horror films: N/A]

I’ve not seen Manhunter, the 1986 movie which was the first to portray Hannibal Lecter. The film used to get a bit of a bad rap, but in recent years, I’ve heard pretty positive things about it, and when I do get to that one, I generally expect to enjoy it for what it is. Red Dragon is based off that same novel, though, and with strong star power and a decent story, the film stands out well in my opinion.

Admittedly, I like the story in 2001’s Hannibal more than the story here, but I think the cast for this one is of a higher caliber. Anthony Hopkins does well in his limited screen-time, but he’s not near as memorable here as The Silence of the Lambs. Edward Norton, an actor I enjoy in everything from The Incredible Hulk to Moonrise Kingdom, does great here, and it’s always fun to see Norton on-screen, even if he’s played a tortured FBI agent.

Ralph Fiennes (who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films) does a fantastic job as the insane Dolarhyde. At times gentle, at times fierce, Fiennes really put a lot into his performance. Philip Seymour Hoffman isn’t a name I really know, but he stood out as a sleazy journalist. I didn’t like his character, but he did a solid job. Others who are worth a mention include Anthony Heald (from The Silence in the Lambs), Ken Leung (Saw, along with the ill-fated series Inhumans), Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction), Emily Watson (I don’t know her, but she is attractive, with a strong performance), and Mary-Louise Parker (a reoccurring character on The West Wing).

With as many solid cast members as there were, it’d be easy to think the story doesn’t matter, but of course it does. While I appreciated the story in Hannibal more, I did like Norton’s quest to catch the Tooth Fairy killer, and like I said, Fiennes did a great job with his role, especially around Watson’s character, who was an interesting addition.

I’d argue that, cast aside, and some story elements, the film’s not really that memorable, and it definitely doesn’t have memorable kills as Hannibal did (though the wheelchair on fire scene was pretty decent). Really, it’s an okay thriller, but since they went a slightly more psychological route, and didn’t really focus much on Lecter, I didn’t find myself enjoying it as much as I did when I’ve seen it before.

None of this means I find the film bad, as I don’t. I do think it’s closer to average than the series has come before, but I think Norton alone is able to help boost the movie up at least a point. I’d certainly recommend this, but I don’t think it’s really as good as Hannibal.

7.5/10

Ghost Ship (2002)

Directed by Steve Beck [Other horror films: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)]

Ghost Ship is pretty much what I expected – an unique enough story, but due to the very Hollywood feel, it just feels neutered and pretty underwhelming.

I’ll give it props for the story idea (despite occasionally feeling a lot like 1980’s Death Ship), because it was sort of interesting. The opening to the film also got your attention (though some of the special effects there were quite atrocious in a way only early 2000’s horror can be), but as much as I was hoping this would surprise me, I’m not that lucky a man.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I really wasn’t expecting much was due to the fact I knew this was directed by Steve Beck, who isn’t a big name, but he is the guy who did the underwhelming Thir13en Ghosts a year earlier, and the unfortunate thing is that this movie’s quite a bit worse than that earlier effort, which is a wonderful feeling, believe you me.

What the movie has is potential, but that’s the most it has. The setting, a desolate, empty ship, is pretty solid, and like I said, the plot itself is interesting, but the route the movie takes (especially in regards to the finale, which I thought was entirely too expected) just hollows everything out into [insert generic Hollywood horror movie comparison here].

I sort of liked seeing Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), but otherwise, the cast here struck me as weak. I guess both Isaiah Washington and Julianna Margulies were okay (though Washington’s story was pretty poor), but Desmond Harrington’s character, and the route he took, wasn’t at all something I cared for.

Death Ship is a movie I mentioned earlier, and bringing that back for a second, the one positive thing I can say for sure about Ghost Ship is that it’d be an easier movie to rewatch. I’m not saying the movie’s necessarily better, but it’s not near as dry as Death Ship was (and also, Death Ship had a lot more potential than Ghost Ship ever did, which ultimately hurt it). All this said, though, Ghost Ship is still a very weak and generic movie that’s not really worth watching, and I’m just sad to say that I pretty much saw that coming.

5/10

This was covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this film.

Cabin Fever (2002)

Cabin Fever

Directed by Eli Roth [Other horror films: Hostel (2005), Hostel: Part II (2007), The Green Inferno (2013), Knock Knock (2015)]

I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I’ve never much cared for this film. Perhaps it’s the stupid comedy that pops up every now and again. Perhaps it’s due the the last thirty minutes, none of which I care for (from the authorities to the store-owners, to the karate kid, etc.). Something’s just off with this movie, as far as I’m concerned.

Some of the scenes are decent, but most of the characters are atrocious, including the aforementioned authorities and particularly the party-loving cop (which was another element I thought was more than a bit idiotic). Few of the actions in the second half of the movie are logical, and it grew increasingly hard to care for characters who were so stupid. This movie just rubs me the wrong way.

Part of it might be the fact that the idea in itself is pretty cool – seeing a bunch of people slowly realize that there’s a disease in the area that’s highly contagious and they die slowly to it could be a really well-done psychological and serious horror film. But that’s not the direction that they took.

Instead they threw in humor that, for the most part, didn’t work (the ending scene with the black individuals being a case in point) and far from taking a serious, psychological look at how each character is affected by the knowledge of their mortality, we get subplots that make little sense and authorities who, for some unexplained reason, don’t mind if a disease spreads throughout their community. Eli Roth had a hit with Hostel, but it’s a shame his earlier hit misses the mark. Points for Karen (Jordan Ladd) being so cute, at least before her flesh got eaten off.

4/10

My Little Eye (2002)

My Little Eye

Directed by Marc Evans [Other horror films: Trauma (2004)]

Maybe back in 2002, this movie was fresh, but this is the second time I’ve seen it, and still, it doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Horror movies based off reality television can often be risky – you get a lot of bad movies, such as Reality Check (2002) and Cruel World (2005). This isn’t nearly as bad as those two, but it is very average.

Plot twists you see coming a mile away. Atrocious early 2000’s techno music played incessantly toward the end. Unnecessary slow motion scenes. Heck, I don’t even think the conclusion is all that satisfying.

There are some good parts, though – some of the characters are bearable, and one of the kills (though annoyingly done in night vision view) was sort of cool. Overall, though, while My Little Eye is, by some people, called a gem of the time (which may be true), this is the second time I’ve been disappointed by it, and I don’t anticipate that to change with a third viewing.

6/10

Cube 2: Hypercube (2002)

Cube 2 Hypercube

Directed by Andrzej Sekula [Other horror films: While We Sleep (2021)]

I liked this movie far more the last few times I saw it than I did upon rewatching it this time around. I enjoy many of the characters (or at least enough of them to make up for the ones I didn’t enjoy), and portions of the story are perfectly fine, but this film lacks the charm of it’s predecessor.

It possesses fewer trapped rooms than does the original, and while the bright white rooms bring a futuristic tone to the film, it doesn’t do much for a suspenseful vibe. As with the first Cube, though, the strong point is not the surroundings or the story (and certainly not the conclusion, or lack thereof), it’s the characters.

I’ll say that I much preferred the antagonist from the first film, but the characters of Jerry (a kind, thoughtful if not overly cheery, man) and Mrs. Paley (an older woman with dementia/Alzheimer’s) are both great. Jerry was the character who lacked the survival skills likely needed, but is an all-around good guy, whereas Paley’s character brought some pretty humorous moments to the film. This is not to say the other characters aren’t good, but some of them (the blind girl especially) became quite annoying as the movie pressed on.

The ending, while many disliked it, was one I felt was mostly acceptable. I do wish they delved more into the workings of the Hypercube, but the prequel gives us a small dose of that later on. Just a small note, I wasn’t a big fan of the alternate reality/dimensions portrayed in this film – different versions of the same character getting killed multiple times, to me, really dampens the emotional response to the death – but it was certainly an interesting route to take. Not a great movie, and nowhere near as good as the first Cube, but this was passable.

6.5/10