Watching: Exam (2009)

Exam_Cover

Works that have an “elimination” premise have always intrigued me since reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. One by one, a character is eliminated until, at last, only one remains. Stuart Hazeldine’s independent film, Exam, depicts this type of story in a new light – within the gripping jaws of a job examination, something I’m sure many of us already find terrifying. Although the film starts as an entertaining story with an exciting premise, it does – eventually – lose its potential.

Slightly reminiscent of the works of Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and Luis Piedrahita (Fermat’s Room), Exam is a unique and interesting film that comments on human nature and the different ways people pursue their desires. Having said that though, it eventually boils down into a mix of different character archetypes, creating an average narrative at best.

The story begins with 8 people preparing themselves for what is soon revealed to be a job exam. Entering the exam room, the applicants are met by the Invigilator, who explains to them the three rules to avoid disqualification. The candidates quickly find that this is no normal exam, as the paper given is blank, and they are forced to find the all important question before finding the answer.

I really had high hopes for the film with its premise. The eight characters – a mix of different backgrounds and personalities – initially seemed to work well with each other in the sense that it gave the film purpose. But they, along with the point of the story, became highly ludicrous and downright cringe worthy. After the variety of antics characters pull to better their chances, the audience soon realises the futility of their actions and the incongruity of the whole selection process. I mean, as I watched the story unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder why the company even considered such an outlandish way to hire a person. And to make matters worse, the applicants quickly become desensitised to morality in the face of a job examination. Although it is suggested that an ongoing pandemic is the source of their strong desire for the job, the whole narrative seems pushed in an effort to intrigue viewers.

To sum up, Hazeldine’s brilliant concept is fumbled into a mediocre creation that manages to entice the audience with the original point of the film – the question. While not a lot of the film can be praised for, it’s without a doubt that the “why” and “what” aspect of the film garners enough interest to warrant a view. If you’re looking for a way to pass the time, or even just a film to play in the background, try the Exam – an easy to digest thriller all within the cozy confines of a single room.

Bry Rating: 2.5/5
Recommended? Give it a go… In your spare time.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English 

The Other Side

I can barely remember a time where the strange intrigued me.

Covering everything from creepy stories to far fetched urban legends, the weird and strange have always fascinated me, intrigued me into learning more. Whole afternoons were spent researching the supernatural, and at night, I would scourge through countless links about “true” horror stories. Stories of hauntings and escaped patients of mental asylums were, and still are, a strong passion.

Horror and I have always been close companions. It’s a strange passion – the very things I love to learn about at the same time scare me half to death. Lights would be (and still are)  my first destination, and I very rarely venture outside groups when I’m outside. Stories of ghosts, hauntings, serial killers… No matter how implausible I convince myself they are, there’s always that uncertainty, the slightest possibility in my mind, that there’s something lurking in the dark.

I recall visiting the video store while my parents where off to do groceries with my brother. And every single time, we would spend the entire time just reading the backs of horror movie cases until they got back. I remember every period in computing class were spent with friend on horror sites, reading user submitted stories. And while those around me have lost their interests in the supernatural, I remain, expanding my knowledge of the unexplainable. Shadow people, the mothman, wendigoes, poltergeists… these are the things I have loved to learn about since I was a child.

I really do love discussing with others superstition, myths and strange creatures. I really wanted to make a post about this only because I was talking about this topic with a bunch of people from my youth group, and it was great hearing others’ own opinions and experiences. And on that note, I’m off to do some more research and see what else I can dig up to satisfy this little obsession of mine.

Goodnight.

 

Playing: Resident Evil 6 (PS3) (XBOX 360) (PC)

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Every gamer throughout the world has at the very least heard of the Resident Evil franchise by Capcom. The latest instalment in the RE saga is Resident Evil 6, the first of its kind to feature 4 different story lines and story intersections. Although arguably the worst game of the series to date, the game still continues the storyline in a much wider scale than ever before, giving fans the world over another hit of one video game history’s greatest franchises.

The game’s storyline spans 7 months, starring familiar and newer faces. Leon and Helena, agents working with the president in the town of Tall Oaks, America are faced with a bio-terrorist attack that has turned the townsfolk into zombies. Chris and Piers, BSAA agents who worked in Edonia, are sent to China to rescue hostages amongst chaos and disorder. Finally Sherry, an agent chosen to escort Jake to safety in Edonia, works with her charge to find a cure for the newly developed C-Virus.

The game is by no means a traditional Resident Evil game. If anything, RE games haven’t being RE games recently. With times changing and video games with it, everything seems to be more action filled, more complex and more diverse. And RE6 is as diverse as they come. The storyline is non-linear which makes it harder then usual to understand the overall story of the game. Old characters are a welcome relief to the game which might as well no longer bear the RE tagline, yet the new characters are both refreshing and provide an exciting edge to the story. Yet amidst the heap of characters you’re given control over and the four full length stories available to play, fans quickly realise that this is no longer a survival horror… but an action horror. And that’s when all the magic disappears.

The game is a third-person shooter with rare hints to what RE games used to be. Although most prevalent in Leon and Ada’s campaigns, the good old puzzle solving aspect of the games is present, allowing players to experience the once shining lustre of the RE franchise. The A.I system is revamped for RE6, not only giving the player the option to command the actions of their partner, but allowing the A.I to be more competent and actually useful. Moreover, multiplayer is new feature added, sporting the unique Agent Hunt and the classical Mercenaries, both of which actually highly enjoyable. Another interesting point about the gameplay is that its four campaigns are distinct in their play style: Leon’s is primarily survival horror oriented, a nod to the original games; Chris’s is clearly action themed, forcing the player to keep their fingers on the trigger; Ada’s is heavily stealth based, especially considering it’s the only campaign that does not have an A.I. partner; and Jake’s is, essentially, a mix of all three.

If every other feature of the game was to be forgotten, the few aspects that shines through are the graphics, styling and music. Graphics are absolutely breathtaking, with each scene taking place in a beautifully created setting that immerses the player into the world. Even dull, underground passageways are designed beautifully, as are the flaming debris and buildings encountered in a crumbling China. The characters and monsters of the game are, as always, uniquely styled and portrayed, acting as one of the highlights of the entire game. Their fluidity and high quality animation are also very deserving of praise. As expected of any RE instalment, the soundtrack of the game is a key feature, making players feel exactly what the producers wanted you to feel. Whether it be the suspense of a creepy mansion, or the adrenaline of high speed chases, Resident Evil 6 doesn’t let fans down with its music.

Although it’s not exactly the great addition fans were expecting, Resident Evil 6 is an average continuation of one of Capcom’s most successful franchises. In my opinion, it wasn’t too terrible, but that being said, it could have had a lot of improvements made story and gameplay wise. It is saddening to see though its great departure from survival horror that many have come to love, and hopefully one day, we’ll see the next instalment going back to its horror roots. All in all, RE6 makes a delightful game to play for simple enjoyment, allowing people to enjoy a mix of the goodness of the RE series and an action packed story.

Bry Rating: 3.5/5
Recommended? For RE and Action Enthusiasts Only
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Capcom

Watching: Sharknado (2013)

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Living in Australia, the hype and controversies of American pop culture frequently falls on deaf ears. That being said, the so-bad-it’s-good film Sharknado is one of the few things to hit our shores that had a relatively big impact. Mostly everything about it is bad – from the acting, to the plot, from the effects to the humour. Oh god, the humour.

Everyone knew it was going to be bad, but that didn’t stop the unique “attention” that people gave to it. It’s an know fact that movies aired on SyFy are generally bad, but why do they gain an overwhelming following? By all logic, films like these should have been rejected and hated by any self-identified film lover. But we don’t.

As the title would suggest, the film is about a tornado. With sharks. After this sharknado starts developing on the coast of L.A (and moves gradually inland), Fin, the lead and ‘hero’ of the group, must lead a group of friends from his pub to higher ground while finding and dealing with his estranged ex-wife and daughter. To make matters worse, the deluge from the storm and the traffic of the city make it almost impossible for the group to reach safety.

To put it bluntly, everything is cringe worthy. The sharks are all computer generated and to be frank, I’ve seen better CGI in films pre 2000. This film is total rubbish, pointless and a waste of my time… but It’s just so charming. On one hand, I sincerely hope  director Anthony C. Ferrante was completely aware the it was unbelievably stupid and an atrocity to film history. But on the other, I really hope he didn’t – it would make it just that little bit better. In the wake of terrible, scripted lines and mundane graphics and visuals, everyone eventually comes around and enjoys the film.

To be fair, the whole point of the film is to simulate the loveable feel of old B rated movies. If it was directed in any other way, I’d probably hate – but it’s that humorous mix of satire and (for lack of better word) ‘terrible-ness’ that makes it so good. Anyone would be happy watching it – but just remember, it’s meant to be laughed at. It’s begging for it.

Bry Rating: 3/5
Recommended? Yes… But don’t take it too seriously.
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Watching: Faces in the Crowd (2011)

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I stumbled onto a trove of Milla Jovovich films a few days ago on Netflix and sifted through what it had to offer. She’s one of my favourite actresses, so I had high hopes for Faces in the Crowd. A little research uncovered a few facts of the film that made sense after watching the film – like how it was a straight to DVD film.

With the leading star being Milla, the high hopes that I had for the film were soon crushed. It was unbelievably saddening – a film with a good premise, great actors and directing style being watered down by the predictable plot advancements and unbelievable character relationships. And when I say unbelievable, I mean it in the sense that they were unconvincing.

The film opens with the idyllic life of Anna Merchant and her boyfriend. She has it all – a loving partner, a wonderful job and a set of quirky and unique friends. Whilst she spends her time playing away on Facebook’s Farmville, a serial killer dubbed “Tearjerker Jack” murders innocent women. In a (not-so) surprising turn of events, she stumbles upon the killer slashing the throat of another victim. A short struggle ensues and Anna, waking up awhile later and suffering from prosopagnosia (“Face Blindness”), must come to terms with her illness and the paranoia of being under the constant watch of the neighbourhood murderer.

Julien Magnat, director and writer of the film, initially introduces an interesting and engaging story. Characters are given life, the setting is incredibly appealing and the story has direction. To give the audience an understanding of what the protagonist is going through, characters are constantly changing their faces, which is both unsettling and unfamiliar. But then it starts going downhill. Why is it that the lead cannot recognise voices or body shapes? Come up with reasonable solutions to help her illness? Why do characters make obvious mistakes, almost immature choices? Questions like these, coupled with the predictable nature of the film lower its value.

Make no mistake, I love Milla Jovovich and I will continue to love her. Although the film isn’t too bad, it is by no means a landmark in film history. The story is annoyingly predictable (I called so many things. Scratch that, I called the entire film), and the acting from most of the cast is in a word, subpar. I suggest watching this movie only if you’re a fan of Milla Jovovich – and even then, don’t expect to enjoy it too much.

Bry Rating: 2.5/5
Recommended? Strictly Jovovich-Fans Only.
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Listening To: Rule Of Rose Original Soundtrack

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It’s been a while since I last heard the soundtrack of the rare Atlus horror game Rule Of Rose. Only a few copies of the game exist within North America and its release in Australia and the UK was cancelled, making it one of the rarest PS2 games in the history of gaming. Despite this, it has gathered its own worldwide cult following, praised for its controversial plot, dark undertones and most importantly, its music. The official soundtrack, which only contains 6 tracks, showcases a mere portion of the musical masterpiece of the game.

The game itself is remarkably complex, filled with a variety of characters (most of which are children, save for 3 adults) that are unique (and nearly always sinister) in their own right. Rather than being a horror game filled with gore and violence, it plays on the mental and suspenseful aspects of horror, as indicative of Japanese horror games. These two facts are translated into the music of the game – all of the instruments used consists of string instruments, pianos and striking vocals rather than electric sounds. Yutaka Minobi, composer of the musical score, attempted to bring out the “human element” into the music as directed by the developers – and completely succeeded.

The result was a track that evoked a harsh sense of despair and darkness, an overriding theme in the game. It doesn’t stop there though – a sense of danger, distress and even paranoia comes through the music. It can be said that while the game already builds suspense through its plot, the music adds depth to our own humanly fear, creating the game into that can only be described as… unhinged.

As of lately, I’m still on my “Video Game OST” high. Sifting through the myriad of games I’ve played through, I immediately attempt to experience their soundtracks once again. Rule Of Rose is that exception – I’ve never played it (As I said earlier, it is banned here), yet I feel enamoured with its music. Although I’ll probably never play it, let alone find a copy, I’ll always have its soundtrack. And that alone is a victory for me.

Songs to look out for:

  • A Love Suicide
  • Piano Etude  I
  • Backbiting
  • Fear II
  • Bullying