It all started with the death of a mother…
From the mind of Zack Snyder, the director who has also brought us Watchmen and 300, the action-fantasy thriller Sucker Punch is one that truly plays with your mind in the same stunning visual style we’ve seen in Snyder’s previous films.
A young woman (Emily Browning) is institutionalized by her abusive stepfather after a series of unfortunate events (sorry! I couldn’t help myself) resulting from the death of her mother. Upon her institutionalization in a mental facility, we discover her intriguing coping mechanism in the form of a quite enthralling alternate reality.
Chalk full of some very well-known names in Hollywood – including Jenna Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung as Browning’s fellow inmates, as well as veteran actors Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, and Scott Glenn – we follow one girl’s clashing reality and fantasy as she fights to break from her imprisonment.
In true “Zack Snyder” trademark, Sucker Punch utilizes the dynamic compositions, highly saturated color schemes, and speed-up/slow-down action and fight sequences that make the film all the more interesting. Mixed with what some viewers would consider an excellent soundtrack, Sucker Punch was far better than expected.
Towards the end of the film there are some twists and turns that were not foreseen, but of course, they will not be given away here. From a semi-feminist perspective, it was awesome to see women kicking some major ass and fighting back for a change in a film. Carla Gugino’s accent in the film as Vera Gorski, while still unsure why it was needed in the first place, was a fairly believable accent.
The quick changes from one alternate reality to (spoiler!) another can be hard to keep up with at times, however, it is part of what keeps the movie going. Sucker Punch may be a hit or miss amongst various audiences, but worth a shot, especially (but not limited to) fans of Zack Snyder’s previous films.
If there is nothing else that you take away from the film, one line of advice:
You have all the weapons you need, now fight!
“On September 3rd, 1973, at 6:28 pm and 32 seconds, a bluebottle fly capable of 14,670 wing beats a minute landed on Rue St Vincent, Montmartre. At the same moment, on a restaurant terrace nearby, the wind magically made two glasses dance unseen on a tablecloth. Meanwhile, in a 5th-floor flat, 28 Avenue Trudaine, Paris 9, returning from his best friend’s funeral, Eugène Colère erased his name from his address book. At the same moment, a sperm with one X chromosome, belonging to Raphaël Poulain, made a dash for an egg in his wife Amandine. Nine months later, Amélie Poulain was born.”
It is here that the story begins of Amélie, or “The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain” as translated from its full original title. This wonderfully quaint romantic comedy from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was released 2001 and is of French origin. Mistakenly believed to have a heart defect by her doctorly father, Amélie lives a suppressed childhood.
Despite her sheltered life, she moves to the central part of Paris when she is of age and becomes a waitress, although still is “painfully shy.” With the ever popular French actress Audrey Tautou as the title character (who can also be seen in other French films like A Very Long Engagement and Coco Before Chanel), we watch, through a series of events, as Amélie decides to change the lives of people around her. Even if, in the end, she eventually discovers that one of those lives is her own.
Amelie is full of great humor and beautifully shot scenes that provide the film with its “whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life,” a depiction that reflects Améle’s own active imagination and would make any young woman today want to live in a charming Parisian apartment like the protagonist.
The film has a hint of fantasy that is apparent in such scenes as paintings, lamps, and photos speaking to various human characters and a scene in which Amélie literally melts, amongst a handful more. The intriguing music choices and sound effects add a unique touch to the Amélie, really helping us to feel certain the moments, and the film also breaches the “fourth wall,” in which characters directly acknowledge the audience, in a very fun and amusing way.
But beyond these delightful details of what is surely considered an indie film classic, Amélie reminds us of some very important things in the game of life: that there is no better time than the present… that even the smallest things can brighten someone’s day… and that we should live our lives before you are placed in a box just like your childhood relics (a concept you will just have to see the film to understand in all its glory). Even if you are not particularly a fan of foreign films you have to read your way through, Amélie is worth the watch for any film fanatic.
Clap clap. The mother walks down the hallway to look for her children playing hide and clap. Down the stairs. She looks around. Nothing. Behind her, a door slowly opens. Clap clap. She turns and walks to the door; the cellar door. She slowly, cautiously, walks into the cellar by the rickety wooden stairs. A bare bulb illuminates very little of the concrete space, but nothing is there to be seen. She turns- Do you want to play hide and clap?
Her eyes widen as she bounds up the staircase- the bulb shatters. She screams in the dark. The door to the cellar slams shut just as she gets to it, and it knocks her down the staircase. She crawls back up, sobbing, and reaches for a box of matches. She lights one. Panting heavily. Nothing around. It goes out. She lights another. From over her shoulder, a child’s hands burst and clap by her ear. Black.
Just another horror story, you may think, but notice some key differences between this scene from The Conjuring and most other movies you’ve seen. A well-planted game device that reoccurs throughout the film- evidence of good writing. Call outs to previous horror films, evidencing an awareness of “classic scares” and a need to reinvent them. And finally, what is most horrifying about The Conjuring, the door slamming shut and knocking the mother down into the cellar- a malevolent, violent ghost.
Very rarely do the ghosts actually hurt the tenants so early in the film, if at all. This raised the shock value of The Conjuring to such a level that it was rated “R” for being “too scary”.
The story is a classic, with several twists. A family moves into a home that looks remarkably like the home in The Amityville Horror and experiences a malicious presence haunting their home. Cross cut with this flash into the lives of a married demonologist and medium who hunt ghosts named the Warrens. They eventually try to exorcise the home, a la Insidious. And again, violent ghosts.
The director of this film, in tandem with the writers, knew what he was doing. James Wan is a veteran of horror, having given us Saw and Insidious, two very inventive horror films that bent the genre. The evidence of this body of work is all over The Conjuring, from the demonology to the violence.
The writing is top-notch, including an actual plot with the horror motifs. Chad and Carey Hayes, writers, creatively drew from such seminal works as The Exorcist and House on Haunted Hill to fashion this new piece that so cleverly uses classic scares. With these artists working in tandem, we get an actually compelling and terrifying work of film, not just another flick.
The final, and most important aspect of The Conjuring to know before you see it- and yes, you should see it- is that the “true story” behind the hauntings has more weight than most, and ties into the entire history of the ghost hunting movie genre. The Warrens were actual people who in 1952 founded the New England Society for Psychic Research and had the hobby of investigating haunted houses and persons.
They have a number of famous cases to their name, including the Amityville haunting, of which the Warrens were one of the first investigators on the scene. Their work has inspired not only that film and this, but several others, including The Haunting in Connecticut. With so many famous cases behind them, you have to wonder how “real” the content of The Conjuring is…and that alone makes it a film that sticks with you, at night, in the dark, for several days.
The Conjuring, now playing, recommended.