Sanctum

sanctum-peruvian-movie-poster

It seemed like a good idea. An adventure movie with input from James Cameron, set in the claustrophobic world of underground caves and which promised unique visuals, thrills, and realism. That world is not one we see nearly enough of, and you can count the number of good films with such a location on one finger – hint – it’s called The Descent. So what the hell went wrong with this then?

It’s pretty clear early on what the problems are and that they’re unlikely to be overcome. In the opening scenes we are treated to the terrible delivery of some pretty bad dialogue and it becomes increasingly apparent that we’re dealing with a shoddy screenplay and some less than desirable actors – either that or they’re horribly miscast. It’s not hyperbole for me to state that every line in the opening 20 minutes is stilted and delivered in a knowing, winking way, almost as if it’s a first read through. In fact, it felt like a porno or a Carry On movie, but without the sex. We meet a group of explorers who are investigating a labyrinthine subterranean cave system. There’s the fun-loving billionaire who…. likes caves? He brings along his girlfriend – an avid something or other, and a teenager called Josh who looks like he walked out of a gnarly amateur skateboard video – fish-eye lens and all. Josh’s dad is the world renowned, never heard of him, diving expert Frank McGuire – a man so dedicated to fingering caves that he has had no time for fingering (hugging) his son. He’s a complete asshole. There’s a bunch of other explorer types helping out. You can already tell how these relationships are going to go, and the beats they’re going to take along the way. There isn’t an ounce of originality in the script when it comes to character or drama. The stupid thing is – nobody in the real world speaks, acts, or behaves like any of these buffoons. Early on one character says to another ‘Promise me you won’t let me fall’ – I wonder if that’s going to come back and bite them.

It all feels more Congo than Jurassic Park. Those movies at least had a sense of fun – this is all very po-faced or making jokes in that self-aware manner. So, they’re down this cave, hole thing, and – wait a minute – all these guys are divers? So that’s where Jimmy Cameron comes in. In order to explore the cave system they have to dive, so we get all of this wonderful dialogue about diving equipment and safety and fuck it there’s a giant storm coming so rather than climbing out lets forget all about that and plow ahead. Oops, now somebody’s dead. Seriously? I’ve no idea why or how this woman dies – I know nothing about diving – but basically she is swimming along, something happens and she immediately freaks out. She tries to share air with Frank, but this is beyond her abilities and Frank takes the breather from her and watches her drown. This kind of makes sense, but it’s filmed so horribly that it’s not clear what happened. Everybody blames everybody else. Josh decides to climb out before the storm blocks them completely. Why anyone decides against this is a mystery. Why some of the group do leave, never to be heard from again is a mystery. Why Josh decides to turn back and join his father is a mystery. You’ve just accused each other of murder and hated each other your entire lives, but maybe sudden death will bring us both together.

You can guess how the rest goes – the cave picks off the group one by one in increasingly pointless ways and arguments continue to get heated. Someone gets the bends, not sure why, someone refuses to wear a wetsuit, someone cracks their skull, someone’s hair gets caught and everyone freaks out inexplicably because they try to free themselves, someone drowns, and as expected, someone falls on a stalagmite. It’s all very very silly. It is watchable, barely, thanks to some great visuals. Not amazing, not what they are hyped to be, but certainly not the sort of thing we’re exposed to frequently. The action is sparse and lacking in threat, the film moves slower than a bubble on a lake, and we’re given no reason to care about anything that happens. Some day, someone will make a good film set in this sort of location – with the claustrophobic tension and characters it deserves, while retaining realism. As it stands, this is mostly a shambles and one to skip.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Sanctum!

Aliens

Aliens

James Cameron made his second masterpiece with this, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic space horror show. Cameron, a director who will always ensure he gets exactly what he wants, extremely talented and ingenious, brought the series in a new direction, keeping much of the tension of the original, but upping the excitement and action.

After Ripley went into hyper-sleep at the end of Alien, hoping that someone would find her floating through space and pick her up, she travelled for over 50 years before being picked up by ‘The Company’. She wakes up and tries to come to terms with all that has happened since she was asleep-her daughter grew up and died, ‘The Company’ has become more interested in the alien she claims to have encountered, and the planet where she found the alien has become a mining colony. During interrogation she tells the suits what happened to her, and expressed the need for someone to investigate the ‘alien’ planet. They charge her with the destruction of her previous ship. However, when they receive a distress call from the planet, a group of marines is ordered to investigate. Burke, a company Rep persuades Ripley to come along as she is the only one to have encountered an alien, and because her recurring nightmares are stopping her from living her life. We are introduced to each marine, all tough, hardened fighters, seemingly well-equipped for any danger.
Aliens must surely rank as one of the most exciting movies ever made. At well over 2 hours it is a testament to Cameron, the script-writers and the cast that the pace of the film never slows. Every time the characters think they may have a chance, something happens to make them think otherwise. Everything is giving the most acute detail, from the marines’ garb, to the miniature sets and craft designs. The score is militaristic, keeping with the charge and feel of the movie, and the action is very strong and brilliantly edited. The aliens themselves are still terrifying, and The Queen is awesome. The famous power-loader fight scene is excellent, just one of the many highlights. The planet itself is grim and dark, the perfect place for the creatures to be, and the darkness and tight corridors of the colony add to the tension, atmosphere and claustrophobia.

There is a wide range of characters here, each distinct much like the first film. Even if we do not get to see them for very long, we are given a strong impression of their backgrounds because of their own personal dress and dialogue. Every performance is worthy of mention too, and Weaver’s performance was definitely worthy of the Oscar. Ripley progresses here, becoming one of the strongest female characters in movie history, learning and adapting with the Marines, but retaining her maternal instincts and disgust for the company. In fact, the fight and chase involving the Queen, Ripley and Newt is almost like custody battle, a fight to see who is the best mother. Burke begins seeming friendly, but of course his interest is in bringing back a specimen. Bishop is a brilliant inclusion remembering Ripley’s last encounter with a Droid. Hicks, played by Biehn is an excellent character, strong marine but not an emotionless, stupid grunt. Paxton steals many scenes as Hudson, spitting out some of the film’s best dialogue, at times tough and terrified. Henn as Newt is a revelation in her first performance, dealing with the script and content perfectly. Vasquez must go down as one of the best cult action characters, equally as strong as any of the men, even if she has a short fuse. Goldstein is very good in the role. Apone as the ‘Sarg’ is also good, and Gorman begins as a fool but redeems himself later. The rest of the cast are all good, even if most are only their to be killed. With such a good cast, Aliens becomes even better.

This film cannot be praised enough. Although there are those who feel it is inferior to the first because it has more action and supposedly weaker characterisation, it has to be said that the two films are different entities, the first a horror, the second a sci-fi action. Like The Terminator, Cameron puts in many effective scares so that it transcends the genre, becoming something more. Cameron says he wants to return to Sci-Fi. Please make one as good as this.

This Double discer has everything an Alien fan would want and the presentation is perfect. Essential.

Feel free to leave some love for the movie here, share your thoughts and let us know if you think this is the best of the series.

Aliens: Not nearly as good as the First, very dark

Riply Scott’s prequel to this film was a tale of intergalactic terror. Seven friends and their Bumbling Side-kick Jones were travelling home after a long vacation when they encountered a monster. Hearing its distress call, they let it board their ship, but rather than show its gratitude, it decided to kill off the friends one by one in a terrifying game of cat and monster. The survivors from that film appear again here, namely Captain Ridley and of course Jonesy our heroic side kick. Ridley wants revenge for the death of her friends and recruits a team of super tough marines (that’s soldiers to the lay person) to go to their home planet and wipe out the monsters once and for all. This darker tone is in stark contrast to Riply Scott’s original, and it continues throughout. This leads to a series of let downs- Jones disappears without explanation early in the film, without explanation so much of the comedy from the first film is lost. Add to this the lack of Cyborg Ash, whose little dance was a hilarious highlight of the first, and there are few laughs to be found here. Bill Pullman’s marine Ernie ‘Dry Heat’ Hudson attempts some improvised one liners ‘Hey Vasquez- you look like a man!’ and tries some banter with his Sergeant. ‘Can I wear your slippers, Sir?’ he asks ‘LOOK AT MY EYES!’ Capone riplyies. I didn’t really understand this comeback, but I assume The Searg was in no mood for fun and games. This is obviously because the film was under the fierce stranglehold of famous control freak Jim Cameroon, known for a lack of humour in all his films. Cameroon reluctantly casts Paxman in all his films as they’re cousins and there is a definite tension between the comic genius of the actor, and the ultra serious ‘I’m The Daddy’ mentality of the Director.

Ridley and crew fly down to the planet to hunt down the monsters but are shocked to find a survivor- a little boy called Newt. This is a deliberate attempt to soften the almost unrelenting darkness of the film, and possibly bring in a wider female audience who may enjoy the mother/son relationship which develops between Ridley and Nuke. The child doesn’t talk much which in fact adds to the bleak tone, and the fact that he carries around a decapitated doll’s head is rather disturbing. I mean, everyone knows boys don’t play with dolls. Newt mumbles things like (in response to Ridley asking if he’s hungry) ‘I’m mostly scared. Mostly’ and the bizarre ‘Hi, Firmative!’. Presumably Firmative is some imaginary friend, or possibly futuristic slang. Throw into the mix the fact that among the marines is a geeky science geek who wants to steal one of the monster eggs to bring home and experiment on or sell or something. Indeed, he hatches a plan to impregnate one of the gang with the egg so that no-one suspects anything. I think if I woke up with an 8 foot monster mounting me in an attempt to give me its seed, I might suspect something was not right. But back to the film. The gang underestimates the sheer number of the monsters (at least 25) and the fact that their King is on the island too, and soon it is the humans that are on the run. Cameroon is clearly adding a subtext here about man’s destruction of nature and of other species, and that eventually it will turn around and we will be on the receiving end. I have studied film studies for at least a year, and have over a year’s experience in social anthbiology, so I know what I’m talking about. The last half of the film is really a series of chase scenes- in the alien base with tanks etc, in a bedroom with spider monsters, through the living quarters, and then into the sewers until The King wakes up. That’s not to mention the super robot fight at the end which was a precursor to Cameroon’s next film Terminator 2. So yes, there is much action and excitement, and lots of mistrust between characters which lends another level of tension.

Most of the characters are killed off, but all fight well and you really feel like you got to know them. Ridley is a true mother- fighting for her family and friends, strapping on a grenade launcher to take on the bullies, Hudson is a comedian but also a bit of a moaner, Capone, Hick, and Vasquez are all super tough and ultra cool. There is also Bishop, a cyborg who doesn’t dance but preaches the Gospel and does magic tricks with knives. Perhaps if Riply had directed this he would have let some more comedy in, and it would have been a stronger film. At times I wanted to jump into the TV, grab a gun and help out my chums, pumping bullets into skulls. ‘Come on, man! Shoot them! Here they come, quick, let’s blow them away and get out of here! ARRGH!’ I would have been shouting like that. Because the film is so dark and depressing though, I didn’t have the energy to jump in and help. So all I could do was sit back and watch each of my friends get eaten, killed, or worse. Overall this is an excitement film, but Cameroon needs to relax and let some light in. I mean what’s the point in having all these characters only for the planet to blow up at the end and kill them all?

Best Scene: When the soldiers are walking through the alien corridors, and all the bleeps are getting closer, but no-one knows where they’re coming from. It was quite scary, but would have been better if Hudson had jumped out with his underpants on his head and shouted ‘ONLY ME!!!’

GAME OVER, MAN!