Sunday, 23 October 2016

Mirrors (4 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #23. It was recommended to me months ago by my good friend Henry from Iran as the scariest film he knows. I didn't watch it until now because most of the reviews are bad. In particular, it only holds a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I really should stop taking Rotten Tomatoes seriously. It's a stupid web site quoting the opinions of stupid film critics who sit in ivory towers, far removed from the reality of what cinema audiences enjoy. The Rotten Tomatoes critics wouldn't know a good film if it slapped them in the face. This is a very good film that I'm now determined to watch again.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, an ex-policeman suspended from duty because he shot a colleague in the line of duty. After almost a year of unemployment he starts a job as a security guard at a derelict department store, the Mayflower, previously the most luxurious department store in New York. It was badly damaged in an arson attack five years previously, but it still hasn't been restored due to legal battles with the insurance company. While waiting for the issues to be resolved the store has to be guarded 24 hours a day to prevent further acts of vandalism.

The Mayflower is an unsettling labyrinth of deserted rooms and corridors, damaged by the flames. Only the large mirrors are in perfect condition. Ben begins to see threatening images in the mirrors that aren't in the rooms behind him. This isn't confined to the store, he also begins to see things in the mirrors at home, and so do his other family members. The film becomes terrifying, because mirrors are everywhere, we can't escape them.

As the film developed and it became clear that a young woman who lived in the building 50 years previously was somehow involved I had the feeling that it was a Japanese-style film. I found out afterwards that it's a remake of a Korean film, "Into the Mirror". A quasi-remake, that is. From what I've read the premise is the same, but the story has been rewritten.

The film took a while to build up steam, but by the time it reached the second half I was fascinated and couldn't look away. This is definitely a film to watch again.

Ben Carson reads newspaper clips about the arson attack on the Mayflower. I don't know why he bothered highlighting the text in the first column. It's repeated below, then three times in the second column and yet again in the third column. Click on the picture above for a larger view. Maria Romano is a very poor journalist. Sloppy.

Here's another newspaper clip, also written by Maria Romano, printed on the same day, presumably for a different newspaper. The text is also repeated over and over again. Very sloppy.

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Off-Topic: Internet Censorship

On October 13th, 2016 King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand died. He had the honour of being the world's longest reigning monarch, having been in power since 1946. In comparison, Queen Elisabeth of England has only reigned since 1952. I know very little about this king, except that he was greatly revered by his people. There's nothing wrong with that. I also have the greatest respect for my own Queen.

I wouldn't have commented on his passing if not for news reports I've read in the last few days. A woman who allegedly insulted the king in an online post was forced to bow to a photo of the king in public while crowds jeered her. I haven't been able to find the exact words she posted that triggered this public humiliation, but I've read that she didn't criticise King Bhumibol himself, she merely questioned the suitability of his heir, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, to succeed him. I can relate to that. If Queen Elisabeth were to die today I would have sincere doubts about Prince Charles' suitability to become king.

I believe in freedom of speech. That means the freedom to voice opinions that are different to my own. If someone posted things about Queen Elisabeth that I considered to be insulting or even factually incorrect I would be outraged, but I would respect the person's right to say what he thinks. In my eyes it would present an opportunity to discuss the merits of his words and analyse whether there is any truth to them. Maybe the criticisms made by the Thai woman, whose name I don't even know, were valid. Maybe they weren't. To me that's irrelevant. It was wrong to subject her to public humiliation in this way.

In Thailand there is a law that anyone who insults the king or his heir can be imprisoned for up to 15 years. That's a typical law for any corrupt dictatorship that's afraid of criticism for its rulers. Those of us who live in free countries have to be thankful that we can say whatever we like, usually, and we have to fight for this right whenever we see it eroded in practise. The company Google doesn't see it this way. Google has chosen to support Thailand's government in its suppression of free speech. The Thai government has made complaints about "insulting material" in YouTube and as search engine results, which Google will investigate and possibly remove. According to a report on the BBC's web site, Google has previously complied with 85% of the Thai government's complaints. What does this mean? If it means that YouTube videos are removed, YouTube belongs to Google and has already degraded in quality since it was bought by Google in 2006, so censorship of video content is no surprise to anybody. But what does the complaints about search engine results mean? Will those results be removed, hidden from the search engine for which Google is most famous? That would be a terrible blight on the freedom of information on the Internet.

I call upon Google to rethink its policy of appeasing tin-pot dictatorships in the third world. Freedom of speech should always have priority over national laws. Internet censorship is always wrong, whatever or whoever the censorship is intended to protect.

It's praiseworthy to note that King Bhumibol himself didn't accept the laws protecting him. In 2005 he held a speech in which he said:

"Actually, I must also be criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticised, it means that the king is not human. If the king can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the king is not being treated as a human being. But the king can do wrong".

These are noble words. Obviously the military dictators who have used him as a figurehead for the last 70 years are less noble and reject his opinion. It's in their own selfish interests to punish anyone who speaks out against the royal family. It's in their own misogynist interests to carry on humiliating women in public. The king himself, if he returned to life, would be ashamed of the way this woman was treated in his name. He would kneel on the floor before her and beg her forgiveness.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Mist (5 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #22. I can't believe I only gave it 4 stars last time I watched it. It's an incredible film. Maybe I deducted a star from the perfect rating because it doesn't have much of a plot. It's true, the story can be summed up in one sentence, but does it matter?

People are trapped in a food store while monsters try to break in from outside.

There, that's my summary. If that's not enough to make you want to watch it, the film's based on a short story by Stephen King, and it's directed by Frank Darabont, who also made "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile".

If you buy the film on disc you'll find that there are two versions, one in colour, one in black and white. Frank Darabont wanted to make the film in black and white, but the studios vetoed it, saying that modern audiences only want to see films in colour. For that reason he made the film in colour, but with sharp colour contrasts that made conversion into b/w easy. I've watched both versions, and I can strongly recommend the b/w version. That's the version that Frank Darabont recommends. That's his "Director's Cut".

In the food store David Drayton stares intensely at a newspaper, but decides not to buy it. Maybe he can't speak Latin. Click on the picture to enlarge it. The report on the storm begins with the words:

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh eusmod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat voluptate".

Cicero would turn in his grave. Sloppy.

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Friday, 21 October 2016

Cabin in the Woods (5 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #21. I've watched it a few times already, and I've always liked it, but today is the first time it's struck me just how brilliant it is. It's been called a parody by some, but it's more accurate to say it's a deconstruction of the horror genre. Or rather, it's a meta-deconstruction of the horror genre, because the viewer is invited to watch the deconstruction taking place before his eyes. It also has parallels with reality shows.

This is probably the most intelligent horror film ever made. It's totally unpredictable as it rambles from scene to scene, as the carnage and the dead bodies pile up. It leaves questions open, but they aren't of import. The film is perfect as it is. Of course, it's not a film for everyone. In order to know if you like it you have to ask yourself two questions:
1. Do you like horror movies?

2. Do you like to sit and analyse the films you watch?
If you can answer Yes to both questions it's a film you'll love.

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

I still know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #20. It's a sequel to "I know what you did last summer" and was made one year later in 1998. I've caught up with my schedule very fast after missing a film yesterday. It wasn't that difficult. I was desperate to distract myself from the current sorrow in my life. Apart from that, this is the third time I've reviewed this film since 2010, and every time I watch it I watch it back to back with the original film on the same day. The two films are worth watching as a pair.

I find it difficult to understand why critics have savaged this film. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of  only 7%. The critics call it "boring and predictable". Did they watch the same film as me? Nothing about it is boring. Even after watching it a dozen times I'm still sitting on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

I call this film Iskwiddle, in contrast to Ickwiddle for the first film. If you want to know why I've picked these names check my last review. I'm not going to make it easy for you! Iskwiddle isn't as dark as Ickwiddle in the lighting. Many of the scenes take place on the bright beach of Tower Bay Island in the Bahamas. However, the film's subject matter is just as dark. There are no laughs in either film. This isn't "Scream", far from it.

The body count is higher, and the killing starts earlier. In Ickwiddle there were five deaths, of whom only one person (Max) was killed in the first half. In Iskwiddle there are nine deaths, including the unnamed person placed dead in the road, and four of the deaths are in the first half. This doesn't detract from the suspense in the slightest.

Alongside the Scream trilogy, this is one of the great slasher movies of the 1990's. In fact, it's one of the greatest slasher movies of all time. Why don't they make teen slasher films like this any more? It's time to reunite Kevin Williamson and Jim Gillespie to kick off a new teen slashes franchise for the 21st Century.

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I know what you did last summer (5 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #19. I'm a day late. The death of my faithful companion, my dog Buster, two days ago put me out of the mood to watch films. I didn't really want to watch anything today, but I forced myself, I told myself I had to. I can't let myself spiral downwards by sitting in my room crying all day. I need to distract myself. For a person as deeply emotional as me it's impossible to stop grieving after suffering such a loss. If I think about Buster I'll be sad. The only thing I can do is tell myself not to think about him all the time. I need to distract myself.

I'm happy that my friends, especially my Facebook friends, have shown so much sympathy with me in my time of sorrow. As I'm sure anyone who uses Facebook knows, a typical friends list is a mixture of close friends, casual acquaintances and people you hardly know. There were people from whom I expected sympathy, but I've also received messages from people from whom I wouldn't have expected it. I'm very thankful to everyone who has sent me messsages of support. I find it moving. It's also had an effect on this blog. My post about Buster, which I wrote two days ago, became one of my top 10 most read posts within 12 hours. That has never happened before. Within 36 hours it reached the top spot, maybe because I added extra text to the original post, but it's still something I wouldn't have expected. My top 10 list is based on the number of hits over a 30 day period, so even if nobody reads it for the next 28 days it will remain at the top of the list.

"I know what you did last summer", which I jokingly shortened to Ickwiddle in a previous post, is a dark film. Many of the scenes take place at night. The music is dark and gothic. It takes place on July 4th (in 1996 and 1997), traditionally a bright day full of celebrations, but Ickwiddle shows the other side of the day, away from the celebrations and the parades. The parades are only shown as a contrast.

The film's timing and suspense are perfect. It starts with the ominous music at the beginning and the seemingly irrelevant scene with the young boy on the cliff. I expect that most viewers won't realise who the boy is until the second time they watch the film. It's too subtle.

Overall it's a brilliant film. In the past I've called it the best horror film ever made, and I stand by that statement. It's not necessarily the scariest horror film -- for me that's "Dark Water" -- but it has a power that other films don't have. The murders are terrifying, but the terror is more in the scenes leading up to the deaths than in the deaths themselves. I know that the strength of the film comes mainly from Kevin Williamson's brilliant screenplay, but I'm surprised that the director, Jim Gillespie, has made so few films since. This was his first of only four films so far, and I haven't yet watched any of the others: "D-Tox" (2002), "Venom" (2005) and "Take Down" (2016). "I know what you did last summer" (1997) should have been enough to propel him into the big time.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

R.I.P. Buster

R. I. P. Buster. The best dog I ever knew.

April 10th, 2006 – October 18th, 2016

Addendum on Wednesday, 19th October, 2016

When I made this post yesterday I didn't intend to say more. I didn't think any eulogy would do my beloved dog justice. However, I've had a number of people asking me how he died, so I'll write a few extra words.

Buster was born on April 10th, 2006, the sixth in a litter of seven puppies. His father was a Red Staffordshire Bull Terrier, his mother was a Brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I had already ordered a puppy from the breeder, so I went to visit her a few days later to select the dog I wanted. Buster came to live with me on June 20th, 2006. He was healthy for the next ten years. After his vaccinations and micro-chipping he never needed to go to the vet. He was still healthy on his 10th birthday, but shortly afterwards I noticed he was limping and took him to the vet. He had arthritis in his front legs, especially the right leg. It progressed rapidly, and within two weeks it was no longer possible to take him for walks.

On July 12th I was due to move to Germany. My daughter Fiona was unable to take Buster because she lived as a lodger in the house of someone who didn't like dogs. Fortunately my wonderful friend Rose Wright offered to take him until the end of August when Fiona's lease ran out. Buster was happy at Rose's house because she had various tenants, and everybody loved Buster. Who wouldn't love him?

In September Fiona found a new room and was able to look after Buster, but Rose still had him some days. Buster now had two homes. Despite the arthritis Buster was lively and happy. He was prescribed painkillers which he took daily.

On the evening of October 17th Buster seemed to be his normal happy self. The next morning at 7:15 Fiona found Buster on the sofa, and he was somehow different. He didn't appear to be in any pain, but he was lethargic. He didn't stand up to greet Fiona, which was highly unusual. She arranged to drive to the vet with Martin, Rose's boyfriend, but an hour later Buster died. He peed on the sofa, then he stopped breathing. Even though his body was stiff she hoped he was still alive, but the vet confirmed he was dead. The cause of death was impossible to ascertain without an expensive autopsy, and the vet didn't even venture a guess.

As everyone acquainted with Staffordshire Bull Terriers (Staffies) knows, they are the perfect family dog, but Buster was exceptional in that regard. He felt nothing but love and tenderness for everyone he met. He loved everyone, and everyone loved him. He loved all three cats in my house, even though the cats didn't get on with one another. He was one of a kind, and he will be severely missed.

In a dark place (3 Stars)

This month I've been interweaving two film marathons. On the one hand I'm watching 31 horror films as a Halloween Horror Challenge, or whatever it's called. I'm not sure of the official title, but a few people, including one of my friends, are also doing it. The horror films are my priority, because October is only once a year. On the other hand I started a Leelee Sobieski marathon earlier this year, which I've been stopping and starting all year, mostly due to personal changes in my life disrupting my film watching schedule, but I'm determined to finish by the end of next month. "In a dark place" is a film where the two marathons meet. It's Leelee Sobieski's 19th film, made in 2006, but it's also a horror film, making it the 18th film in my October Halloween Challenge.

"In a dark place" is a ghost story based on the short story "Turn of the Screw", written in 1898 by Henry James. The film takes place in modern day England. At least, I presume it's set in England, which is where the original story took place. Everyone speaks English, but it was filmed in Luxemburg, and there are brief glimpses of cars with Luxemburg license plates.

Leelee Sobieski plays Anna Veigh, an art teacher in a junior school. She considers her work to be art therapy, which is what she studied at university, but the school's headmaster disagrees and encourages her to leave. He recommends her for a job as a children's nanny looking after the nephew and niece of a friend of his, Mr. Laing.

Mr. Laing is the owner of a large international company. Due to a plane crash in which both parents died he has become the legal guardian of two children, Miles (10) and Flora (8). Miles is in a boarding school while Flora is being educated at home. Soon after arriving at the mansion where the children live, supposedly in Essex, Miles is expelled from the boarding school and sent home. The reason for the expulsion isn't disclosed, despite Anna's attempts to find out, but it's the third boarding school that has expelled him, so she assumes that something is wrong.

Apart from Anna and the children only Miss Grose, the housekeeper, lives in the mansion. However, other figures are seen lurking around the grounds. Anna recognises them in photos. They are Valerie Jessel, the previous children's nanny, and Peter Quint, the gardener. Both of them died recently. Valerie drowned in the lake, and Peter, who loved her, hanged himself as a result. The two ghosts repeatedly appear and seem to be threatening the children. At times the children even seem to be possessed by the ghosts.

There's an ambiguity in the novel which has been debated by literary critics who haven't been able to reach a consensus. I shan't say what it's about, because that would involve giving spoilers about the film's ending. All I shall say is that the film sides with the non-literal meaning. A previous film adaptation, "The Innocents" in 1961, interprets the film's ending literally, so the two films tell the story the same way but end differently.

This is an eerie ghost story, with a slow build-up of suspense throughout the film. I found the non-literal adaptation of the book's ending disappointing. Read the book and compare it with the film to see what I mean. However, it's yet another masterful performance by Leelee Sobieski.

If you're wondering why I've included so many photos of Leelee Sobieski, look at them closely. Isn't it wonderful how expressive her face is from one scene to the next? Isn't that the mark of a truly great actress? You can click on the photos to see even more screenshots of her from this film.

In case you're wondering about the sexual stuff in this film, there are passionate kisses between Anna Veigh and Miss Grose. That brings the total to one film that contains a simulated sex scene and three films with passionate kisses. That makes the percentage of films in her career so far with sexual stuff to either 5% or 21%, depending on whether the kisses are included.

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Monday, 17 October 2016

Lying (1 Star)

This is the 17th film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2006. When she looks back on her acting career this must be her biggest regret. How could she have allowed herself to be connected with such a piece of pretentious junk? I usually reserve my one star ratings for films that I'm unable to watch to the end. In this case I did hold out to the end, but only because it starred my favourite actress.

A young woman called Megan invites three of her female friends to stay at her house in the country for the weekend. They eat and drink, they talk, they bore one another and they bore the audience. Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) lives by herself in a large house opposite, spending her time reading old newspapers and practising semaphore flags in the garden. Eventually she visits Megan to find out why her friends are outside playing with black dolls. She gets bored and goes home. The other three girls leave and go to a yoga class. The end.

The film didn't have a script. All the dialogue is improvised. It shows. The actresses are obviously just as bored as the characters they play. The DVD has a commentary track with thoughts by the director (M. Blash) and two of the actresses (Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone). That might help me to understand what the film is about, but I honestly don't care. My suspicion is that the film is the result of a wager. M. Blash was sitting in a bar with his friends, when someone staggered to his feet and said, "I have a great idea. Let's make the most boring film imaginable and call it art. The critics will praise us and we'll be famous". Fortunately, the critics weren't as stupid as they expected. The film was made on a budget of $150,000 and didn't even earn that much at the box office.

Child's Play 2 (4 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #17. It was made in 1990, a sequel to "Child's Play", made two years earlier. Judging by the reviews and the box office numbers, the critics and the public were in agreement that it wasn't as good as the original film. I have to disagree. "Child's Play" might have been good as a standalone film, but it was "Child's Play 2" that launched the franchise.

The main thing added to improve this film and the subsequent sequels -- there have been six films so far -- is a touch of humour. This fits well. After all, the idea that a child-sized doll is running around Chicago killing people is ridiculous in itself, so why shouldn't there be a comedic undertone? It improves everything. The production quality is also better in the sequels, due to the larger budget available. The music is also more pompous and exaggerated in the sequels.

Andy Barclay, now eight years old, returns from the first film. He no longer lives with his mother. She was locked up in a psychiatric ward because she insisted all the killings had been carried out by a plastic doll. He's now living with foster parents. An addition to the film's cast is Christine Elise, who plays his foster sister Kyle in the new family. (I thought Kyle was a boy's name). Unfortunately, this is the only film in the franchise in which she appears. She has an asexual look about her that reminds me of Jamie Lee Curtis.

You might remember that at the end of the first film the Chucky doll was burnt to a crisp. No sequel was intended. Something had to be done to make it possible to continue the story. After all, the serial killers in slasher films have to be immortal. In this film he's given a little help. The remains of the Chucky doll were salvaged by the Play Dolls company that made the Good Guys dolls. The company was supposedly suffering bad publicity because of stories of one of their dolls becoming a killer -- if people believed the story why was Andy's mother considered mentally ill? -- so they repaired the original doll, replacing all the damaged parts but retaining the core, to prove that it was just a harmless doll. Bad idea! Chucky escapes from the factory and the killing continues.

Chucky's first mission is to track down Andy, his only chance of becoming a human again. The family is soon killed, apart from Andy's Jamie Lee Curtis lookalike foster sister. She really should have returned for the other films. The final showdown is in the factory where the dolls are made.

So much about this film reminds me of "Terminator" (1984), in particular the final showdown in a manufacturing plant. If that were all we could accuse "Child's Play 2" of plagiarising, but it goes further. It also reminds me of "Terminator 2", which wasn't made until a year later in 1991. We have a monster chasing a boy and killing his foster parents to get to him. Is that just a coincidence? Maybe, but it's similar enough to be noticeable.

There's one small thing that I'm curious about. The film has an R certificate in America, which means it can only be watched by people over 17. However, the leading actor, Alex Vincent, was only nine years old when he made the film. Does that mean he wasn't allowed to see his own film on completion?

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Hercules (4½ Stars)

"I pray to Zeus and Hera, Apollo and Artemis, Ares and Athena, to Poseidon, Aphrodite, Pluto, Demeter, and all the other Gods and Goddesses. I pray to them one and all and all as one, and to all Gods I make sacrifice; not a sacrifice of blood but of reverence to their nobility, their love, their honour, their courage, their kindness, their justice. But to their pettiness, their wantonness, their cruelty, their savagery, their vanity, their injustice, I make no sacrifice, I pay no reverence. I deny all that is ungodly in them. I will worship the beauty they have bestowed: my fellow beings, the animals, the mountains and seas and green earth, the sky, and the light of the sun and the moon and the stars that keep us from the darkness. I will worship and try to emulate all that is great in the Gods; nothing more. If that is not good enough for them, so be it. When my time comes, they can judge me worthy or not. But if they are truly great and truly just, then they can ask no more of any man than what I offer them".

This speech held by Hercules on the cliff is one of the most powerful speeches ever spoken in cinema. It touches the heart of an agnostic like myself. I don't deny that there is a God or Goddess or even a whole family of Gods. Maybe there's no God at all, but only the most presumptuous of atheists would say with certainty that there's no God when there's no evidence to support his claim. Hercules believed in the Gods, and he praised all that was good in them while condemning all that was petty and cruel. Today it's customary for followers of the world's major religions, Christianity and Islam, to accept everything that their God says as correct, even arbitrary commands, simply because He says so. If you follow one of these religions and you wish to accept God's word unquestioningly, so be it, but please be open-minded enough to accept fellow believers who think about what they're told and challenge it.

This is the 16th film starring Leelee Sobieski, made in 2005. If you've been following the posts in my Leelee Sobieski quasi-marathon you might think think that I've forgotten the 15th film, but that's not the case. I haven't been watching them all in order, so you can click here to find my review of her 15th film, "Max". Don't worry, when I finish I'll add a list of all the reviews of her films in the sidebar.

In this film she shares a few passionate kisses with her co-star, the Scottish actor Paul Telfer. That means that the total of her sexual stuff after 16 films is one film with simulated sex and two films with passionate kisses. That's either 6% or 18% of her films, far from the 90% that she claims. I'll update the total as I continue.

If you want to read a full summary of the film's plot, click here for my original review. I don't like to repeat myself. What impressed me today was the film's plot, as taken from the original tale of Hercules. Did Hercules really live? Probably he did, because Greek historians from the 13th Century B.C. write about him and his military exploits. Was he really the son of Zeus? That's a question for theologians to answer, but he was undoubtedly a very strong man. Did he really do all the things attributed to him in this film? I doubt it. It's such classic drama, a literary masterpiece, that it's too perfect a tale to be true. There are similar legends that are much older, so it's possible that there was a much earlier fictional character called Hercules, as much as 2000 years earlier, and the deeds of the fictional hero were attributed to the real man called Hercules.

This is the most faithful film adaptation I know of the life of Hercules, even though his 12 labours are reduced to six in the film. Even with this simplification of the story the film lasts almost three hours. Family drama is interspersed with the battles against supernatural creatures. Hercules marries a woman who hates him (an arranged marriage), he kills his own sons, and Hercules' mother, a priestess of Hera, is tricked into sacrificing her own son Iphicles, Hercules' twin brother. The family relationships and love affairs are so complex that you would need a flow chart to connect them all.

The premise for the whole story is that there's an ongoing war between Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the Gods. The Greeks may have had one religion, but it was a divided religion. People decided whether they wanted to follow the way of Zeus or Hera. Often there was a division in the family, because husbands preferred Zeus while their wives preferred Hera. Problems like this were solved at the yearly Harvest Festival. Husbands and wives celebrated at night. The men had to stand blindfolded while the women danced. One of the men was selected as the harvest king. Usually the priestess selected a man who was known as a follower of Zeus. The priestess sat astride the man while the other women stabbed him to death as a sacrifice to ensure a good harvest.

In the film Leelee Sobieski plays the part of the wood nymph Deianeira. She's a servant of Hera who watches over the harvest festivals. She witnesses the conception of Hercules when Zeus rapes Alcmene. Despite her allegiance to Hera Deianeira feels drawn to Hercules, and she breaks her vow of celibacy to become his second wife after his first wife Megara leaves him.

There are different versions of this film available with different running times. Originally it was shown as a two-part mini-series on television, and when it was edited into a film cuts were made to reduce it to what was considered a suitable length. I own two versions, the American and the German version, and I find the German version superior. It's 37 minutes longer, but I suspect there are still scenes that have been cut.

The only fault I have about this film is that the low budget limits the special effects. Everything else is perfect: the acting, the story, the cinematography. Just compare this with the awful film that starred Dwayne Johnson in 2014.

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Tormented (1½ Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #16. As you can see by my rating, I'm not very happy with it. It's very rare that I watch a film and then forget it. I mean totally forget it. I know I bought this film six years ago, in summer 2010, shortly before I started writing this blog. I remember that I bought it because it was filmed locally, most of the scenes set in Bishop Vesey's Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield. That's the school my nephew Chris went to. But if you had asked me a few hours ago what the film's about I wouldn't have been able to say a single word in reply.

Now that I've watched it again I can see why I forgot it. It's exceedingly dull, and if I don't write a few words about the plot I'll forget it again.

It's about five days in the life of a high school, in particular the life of the school's head girl Justine Fielding. A boy called Darren Mullet has just killed himself. She holds a speech at the memorial service saying that he was much loved and will be dearly missed by everyone, but the truth is that she didn't even know him. She's all the more shocked when she's given a suicide note in which Darren wrote that he loved her. She tries to find out about him. He was a fat boy who was always bullied by the other children. They even made fun of him because of his feelings for Justine. They knew about it, but she didn't, she was so wrapped up in her own little world.

Now the children who mocked and bullied Darren are receiving threatening text messages from his phone. They aren't empty threats. The ones who bullied or made fun of Darren are slaughtered one by one.

So what's wrong with the film? I have nothing against slasher films. They can be very entertaining if done well. The film has a reasonable body count for the genre: eight brutal deaths, including six of the children in the picture above. I think that the problem is that when someone got killed I just didn't care. The boys who got killed were bullies who deserved what they got. The girls were air-headed bimbos who were little more than love slaves of the bullies. The only good person in the film is Justine (second from the right in the picture), but she was so boring that I didn't care what happened to her.

The film was a total failure at the box office, earning less than $350,000. I'm surprised to see that it's still available on DVD when much better films like "Uprising" and "Tag" aren't on sale. In Germany there's even a Blu-ray release. I'll tell you where to buy the film, but I honestly can't recommend it.

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