The Sixth Sense

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The Sixth Sense is a 1999 psychological horror drama film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.  The plot follows a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who can see and communicate with the dead.  Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a psychologist who tries to help Cole after failing a previous patient named Vincent.  Malcom’s wife hardly talks to him, and he is constantly troubled about his failure to help Vincent.  Cole’s mother thinks he is delusional and tries to get help for him.  Malcolm tries to understand Cole’s ability, and prompts him to actually try to communicate with the dead, even though he is terrified upon seeing them.  Cole eventually gains the trust of Malcolm and his mother.

This is a very emotional movie, and has an ingenious ending.  Parts of the movie are disturbing, but some of the disturbing scenes in the film end up with an oddly happy solution.  These scenes that end up like this show how Cole learns to utilize his ability to help the dead.  Eventually, his helping of the dead end up with positive solutions for the living.  Shyamalan did an interesting method of displaying certain scenes at random in the movie, such as Malcom’s nightmares, and uses the same scenes later in the movie, but they are extended to show solutions that are essential to the plot.  It is better that the scenes are set up in this way because Shyamalan reveals all you need to know about a certain character in one short scene, but reveals an even bigger truth about them as the scene is shown again later.

Pan’s Labyrinth

YOUTUBE VIDEO: This YouTube video provides an interview of Doug Jones, the actor in Pan’s Labyrinth who played the faun and the “Pale Man”.  In this interview he explains how he put these characters to life by wearing the necessary makeup and animatronic-suit.

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Pan’s Labyrinth is Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 dark fantasy drama film that takes place in Spain in 1944 – five years after the Spanish Civil War.  Ofelia, a little girl, is the main character.  Her stepfather, Captain Vidal, hunts down the Spanish Maquis revolutionaries who fight against the Francoist regime.  Ofelia grows to hate her stepfather as he unjustly tortures the guerrillas and kills the people associated with them.  Ofelia’s mother is pregnant, but is growing sicker as time passes.  Ofelia finds an abandoned labyrinth, where she meets a faun who offers her a chance to save her mother and her mother’s child.  Specifically, she is assigned three tasks by the faun to complete before the full moon is set.  These tasks require Ofelia to remove herself from the human world and bring herself, with the assistance of the faun, to the fairy tale world where she must retrieve certain items that will save her mother.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a very beautiful film, and seems to have an underlying theme of childhood innocence (watch the ending, after the whole movie, of course).  Other themes that I found from this movie was the value of serving others, and the awful repercussions of violence.

Guillermo del Toro did extensive research into Greek and Roman mythology for this film, and also gathered inspiration from several other books and movies, such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.  The film has minimal CGI, and del Toro tried to focus mainly on using real actors and animatronics to make the fictional characters seem as real as possible.  I think it was a good choice for him to use real elements instead of CGI to make his characters come to life because in reality, CGI is commonly overused in cinema today.  Of course, sometimes it is necessary, but many times opportunities are passed up to expand the creativity of a film by making it come to life.  I think that Guillermo del Toro did the best job he could have possibly done with this film, and it is definitely a movie that is very hard to take a break from.

The Evil Dead

ImageImage     The Evil Dead is Sam Raimi’s low-budget 1981 horror film, and is one of the most iconic horror films of its time.  Bruce Campbell starred in this film, and this film ultimately made his career as an actor.  The story? Ash (Campbell) and his friends go to an isolated cabin in the woods so they can live out their spring break in privacy.  The conflict?  An aggressive, possessive, and  unknown evil force lurks the woods.  But why does this force come upon the woods and torment Ash and his friends?  Because they found and unknowingly opened the Necronomicon – the Book of the Dead.  In opening this book, they release all of the evil forces contained inside of it.  Treating it as a joke, one of Ash’s friends decides to play a tape found by the previous owner of the cabin, who studied the book.  The tape contained readings of some of the passages from the Necronomicon, and without even knowing it, they just released all of the evil forces out of the book and into the woods.  The woods becomes possessed by these evil forces, and the woods are the first thing to block off the bridge, which is their only entrance and exit to the area in which the cabin is grounded.  Some of Ashes friends become possessed, die, and come back to attempt to kill Ash and his remaining friends.  The woods also try to kill Ash and his friends.

This is one of my favorite horror movies because it really is a classic independent, low-budget quality horror movie.  The possessed friends of Ash seem like Regan from The Exorcist, and just the idea of the woods being possessed and out to kill you along with your possessed friends is terrifying.  A big horror aspect of this movie is Ash’s survival in an environment that is completely unknown and not of human nature.  Ash’s character is one of good morals, someone who is easily terrified, however he is strong and clever when it comes to survival.

During the filming process of this movie, the crew ran into some problems.  They actually got lost in the woods at one point when they were looking for the cabin.  Also, for the demonic eyes effect, the “possessed” crew had to put in colored glass contacts which took ten minutes to apply, and were apparently quite painful to wear.  Also, Raimi introduced a “shaky-cam”, or “Raimi-cam” effect, which involved the camera operators mounting the camera to a wooden plank and sprinting across the woods to take the “possessed woods” to its full effect.

Saving Private Ryan HanksSaving Private Ryan is 1998 American epic war film directed by Stephen Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat.  The film takes place during the D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, during World War II.  The story follows Captain John H. Miller’s (Tom Hanks) squad as they are ordered to find Private First Class James Ryan, a paratrooper whose three other brothers were killed in action, and tell him that he can go home.  Miller and his squad end up making a long journey to find Ryan, and lose many lives on the way.  The battles and small skirmishes that take place in the movie are incredibly realistic, which is what makes each soldier’s death very saddening.  Spielberg did a great job in his portrayal of a squad during World War II and their endless struggles.

The Shining

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The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.  This film is the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining.  The movie is about a writer, Jack Torrance, who takes a job as an off-season caretaker at The Overlook Hotel in the middle of a bone-chilling winter.  He drives to the hotel with his wife, Wendy, and his son, Danny.  The family settles into the hotel, finding a suitable hotel room and a nice place in the foyer for Jack to write.  All is well until Jack starts to see and hear things that are not really there.  These people and voices that Jack see are people who have been residents at the hotel in past times.  Danny begins to see and hear these people too, and later becomes possessed.  Jack becomes unable to concentrate on his work, and subjects to the will of the nonexistent residents of the hotel.  Jack is ordered to kill Danny and Wendy, and Danny and Wendy do whatever they can to survive Jack in his delirious state.  This is a great psychological horror film, and is genuinely disturbing.  Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of a mad man is very convincing in this film.  Jack’s true portrayal can be easily seen when he is talking to the dead people of the hotel, or when he is dragging himself down the hallways of the Overlook Hotel, wielding an axe and screaming his wife’s name.

No Country for Old Men

YOUTUBE VIDEO: This Youtube Video contains an interview with the Coen brothers on their great production of No Country for Old Men.  In this video, the Coen brothers relate to their greatest aspects of this film – character development, an adequate setting, and underlying themes.        NCFOManton

No Country for Old Men is a 2007 neo-Western thriller directed, written, and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen.  This film is the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country for Old Men.  The film is about a hunter named Llewelyn Moss who comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad.  He finds a case full of two million dollars, and a dying man begging for water.  Anton Chigurh is a emotionless sociopath hitman who has been hired to recover the money.  The entire movie is a cat and mouse chase as Anton desperately tracks down Llewelyn, whose life has been turned into a struggle to survive and stay hidden from Anton.  A theme in this film is fate being brought upon by one’s self.  In Anton’s effort to find Llewelyn, he comes across many other civilians.  He decides their fate with a flip of a coin, and tells the victim to call it.  Whenever Anton is questioned by a victim, Anton always replies in a way that traps the victim into deciding their fate.  The main theme though, seems to be the violence committed by man.  “No Country for Old Men” refers to the savage acts that men commit in order to get their way.  A main character in the film, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, has a long and symbolic dialogue at the very beginning and end of the movie with themes of man’s nature of savagery and violence.  What makes the chase scenes so intense in this movie is that there is no background music, almost no dialogue, and actions are both spontaneous and long and drawn-out.  This is one of my favorite movies, and is definitely a true thriller.