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 (2004’s 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: N/A]

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