Category: Thriller


It is a cinemagoer’s honor to watch the masterpieces created by legendary directors. Sitting with a couple of friends, a discussion started around Hitchcock and his world-renowned film-making techniques. This is when I realized, being as crazy a movie-lover as I claim to be, it is actually embarrassing to not have seen his work. I had a couple of his movies lying with me for a long while. I finally declared to myself: it’s high time; and decided to pick up one of those movies for after-dinner watch, which brings me to today’s movie review.

Though Family plot makes its mark as this celebrity’s last work, I will always remember Family Plot as my introduction to the world of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. Apparently, it seems to be a wrong choice on my behalf to select this movie to get the beginner’s flavor of Hitchcock’s intense work. Whereas Hitchcock is known for the high-intensity mystery based drama along with use of mood setting and grasping sound and camera work, Family plot while following the basic premise of crime and mystery, borders on humor and contains the elements of comedy to a good enough extent.

Family plot is the plot of two couples whose lives intersect in a suspense based yet fun filled setting. Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris) is a fraudulent psychic reader, whose livelihood is based on other’s quest for the unknown. While Blanche uses all possible techniques like voice-makeover, possessed over and generic monologues, prompting the clients to reveal their hidden secret and drop some hints, George Lumley (Bruce Dern), a cab driver and his accomplice does all the dirty work of developing the leads. One such case comes their way when an old-rich lady seeks their help for locating her disowned nephew, in order to make him the heir to her property and put her guilt to piece. Eyeing a fortune-hunt and opportunity to make a huge cut, Blanche puts George to put the jigsaw pieces together and find a probable match.

Around the same time, we follow one of the many kidnappings where precious jewels are demanded as ransom. Here, the strings are pulled by a jewellery retailer Adamson (William Dewane) while her pretty girlfriend Fran (Karen Black) plays the careful negotiator in disguise for all such deals.

As George begins his research to spot this to-be wealthy guy and give him the good news, he himself gets tracked and
traced for his inquisitiveness. All his work leads to digging a very dark and horrendous past of Adamson. As Adamson gets the news of the sleuthing activities, he devises his own strategy to get rid of trouble-maker. Finally, Blanche and Adamson come face to face, neither aware of the other’s intentions. Is truth revealed in this strange encounter or it becomes even more bizarre? Does George succeed in saving Blanche from this criminal’s grasp or does he also fall prey to Adamson’s plans?

 

The movie is a crime based thriller with a full serving of comedy. It is difficult for me to write anything about Hitchcock’s work in general based on this movie as it does not exemplify his regular work, but I can still appreciate his commendable way of creating superior-work. Family plot presents a strange but welcome deviation from Hitchcock’s regular modus operandi as well regular grim thrillers. That being said, the movie instills the grounds of a crime thriller very efficiently and keeps you involved throughout. Most charming character would invariably be that of Barbara Harris with all his tantrums and psychic dramas. Notwithstanding critic’s comments on the treatment of this movie, I will not hesitate even for a second to give good ratings to this light-hearted thriller. I enjoyed it thoroughly and so would you.

I had a tough time believing that Changeling is inspired from a true story. As soon as I finished watching the movie, I immediately began a secondary research on its content. From what I gathered, I found it a pretty close depiction of the reality. Changeling has all the elements of a suspense thriller, drama and emotions in absolutely the right amount, and yet it’s not fiction. All the elements in the movie get woven so intricately and delicately that makes you challenge its origin.

Changeling is the story of a woman and her un-deterred resolution to stand against the system for justice. First “A might heart” and then this movie, Angelina Jolie definitely seems to be revamping her image as the tomb-raider and I can’t deny that she is doing a great job at that.

The story takes us back to Los Angeles in 1928 when LAPD ruled like a dictator, crime-rate reached an all-time high, media and newspapers question every move made by the federal agencies and common public was nothing but mute spectators. This is the time when Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother to a 9 yr old boy (Walter Collins) and a hard-working & dedicated employee at the telegraph company does it all to maintain a balance in her personal and professional life; on one such day, when Christine gets home after her shift, she finds her son missing and untraceable. After neglecting the case for a while, desperation to establish a positive public image encourages LAPD to picks this up as the right opportunity to do some damage control by tracking down this lost boy. As lucky as they could be, they succeed in their endeavor to locate Walter, and decide to bring him home under all media-frenzy and attention. Ignoring all the fanfare, as Christine waits to be united with his son, she realizes, to her absolute horror, that the boy in front of her eyes is an impostor, or so she feels. Afraid that the whole episode might turn upside down and cause them negative publicity, police persuades Christine about the boy’s identity and so does the boy. In her deluded state, Christine takes the boy home, but with every passing moment she is more convinced about the boy’s mistaken identity. As Christine struggles to take her case ahead, she gets supported by Rev. Gustav (John Malkovich), a popular radio preacher who fights against the LAPD. Christine gets thrown in the mental asylum for her display of audacity and undergoes physical and mental humiliation, where she learns that most of the patients in that ward are admitted on account of similar reasons as hers.

As Christine struggles in the asylum, around the same time, somewhere around US Canada border, a juvenile gets picked for illegal trespassing and is taken into police custody. What look like a simple illegal entry across US borders has a horrifying story behind it and as the terrifying story unravels, we come face to face with one of the most outrageous murder massacres in history, known as “The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders”, named after the chicken farm where the heinous crime was committed.

Once the reality is revealed to the common public, Christine and many other victims are freed out of the asylum with the help of Rev. Gustav. As Christine struggles to get hold of the reality, she decides to stand against all the injustice done to her and move the whole system. We witness court-showdowns, a psychotic killer’s capital punishment, the LAPD’s shameful state and a grief-stricken mother’s never-ending search for his son.

Years pass-by and Christine continues the search for her missing son. The year is 1935 and Christine is working late in the office when she receives a strange phone call from another victim of the massacre. What Christine hears and sees probably becomes an inspiration for her for a lifetime. It touches my heart that a woman has forever been in search for her most-prized possession and secretly I want her optimism to be awarded.

Yes it’s a woman oriented movie, which by itself gives it a huge shot at success. Yes it has Angelina Jolie, who, surprisingly, does a good job at playing a grief-stricken mother from yelling to howling, desperation to rage. But still it’s not “any other movie” for me. Clint Eastwood definitely deserves credit for some excellent direction work. The star-cast is superb, with each character playing its part just flawless, be it the lunatic murderer or the corrupt police officer. The colors and theme are just appropriate to set the mood for that era and the movie, though based on a slow pace, keeps you wondering “What’s next”. However, there are certain scenes that increase the tension and then break it without delivering the expected; that makes you wonder at the necessity of certain long and dragging scenes, one such to mention is the scene where the murderer is being hanged.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t come as a surprise at all that the movie was nominated for 3 Oscars for art direction, cinematography and lead role actress.  For the brilliant art-work, acting and direction, and the terrifying tales from the past, this movie definitely deserves to be watched.

As I watch yet another sequel, my mind is bogged down to one thought only. What a sequel is for, basically? My guess is – it’s an attempt to take the story ahead where the character graduates and moves through different phases of life, like in Godfather, Batman etc; sometimes, it might use the same characters for a different storyline coz the audience loved the chemistry between the characters like Hangover, or it might just be a repetition of the original script because the director, for some reason, believes that the audience just wants to see the ditto, as in Hostel and Descent. But most of all, I have come to the conclusion, it’s an attempt to reap benefits of one successful blockbuster and carry it forward. There’s no guaranteed success for the same movie with a distinct and different name and it might not appeal to as many audience as adding “2” to a pre-existing movie title would.

As I watch Basic Instinct 2, I can vouch for the director’s desperation to create huge numbers and high success for a lame and lousy script. I might have missed this movie for sure had it not been for the “guilty pleasure” aura that surrounds basic instinct and for the sensuous and steamy chemistry between Catherine Trammel (Sharon Stone) and Detective Nick(Michael Douglas).

15 years later since the original movie, if for nothing else but for the audacity displayed in the original movie, Sharon Stone is still retained as the rich and controversial novelist Catherine Tramell who gets a high by living on the edge. The movie starts with Catherine and a sports star moving in a speeding car and doing “the thing”, we are here to watch. An uncontrollable car in an underwater crash leads to the death of the sports-star and voila! Our pretty heroine gets in trouble again.

In order to assess her mental state and gauge her threat levels for herself and others, Catherine is sent to criminal psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) for a psychological evaluation. Michael, himself is going through a rough phase of life – a divorce underway, his wife having an affair with a reporter and the guilt of the murder committed by an accused whom he gave a clean chit. As with Basic Instinct 1, our pretty Catherine knows it all and uses it aptly to manipulate this guy. Michael presents a shady analysis good enough to let her go free, but Catherine can’t let Michael go. For some mysterious reason, she wants to make him her shrink and reveal her body and soul (literally!). As the vague and absurd sessions continue, since Sharon is already old enough not to do a steamy sequel performance, our Michael is turned-on enough to take on any and every girl in the movie and in the end, Catherine too. As Michael is drawn to her sexual and intriguing demeanor, a series of odd murders begin to take place.

As the movie goes on to create a sense of heightened drama and reveals the mystery – Boy do you feel any sense of awe or shock. Neither the script nor the climax manages to develop and maintain the expected sense of a passionate mystery and you are actually glad when the movie comes to an end. Back in 1992, when Basic Instinct was among the first ones to venture into this arena, to 2006, when there is nothing extra-ordinary about any such theme, the script here is too weak to stand on its own and definitely needs the crutches of a sequel tag for creating a buzz. The movie showcases sex-scenes and erotic dialogues without any heat and passion. Sharon appears too old to create that shady and dark image as the original movie and actually gives a low-graded image to the character. Michael too is not able to deliver much in terms of performance. It doesn’t come as a surprise at all that the movie got nominated for 7 Razzies in 2007 and won 4 of them – for worst actress (Sharon stone), worst picture, worst sequel and worst screenplay.

After creating a hullaballoo for her performance in the earlier movie to getting a “worst actress” razzie for this movie, Sharon really must be thinking about her basic instinct for picking up this movie.

28 Weeks Later (2007)

28 weeks later is for a certain class of audience – Audience with affinity towards bloodshed, brutal bloodshed and some raw violence. Fortunately for me, it doesn’t get as bad as Hostel, so I can atleast watch the whole movie. Nevertheless the movie grasps your attention and keeps you involved till the end.
A deadly “rage” virus has attacked Britain, and is spreading exponentially, turning everyone in contact with infected into a flesh eating killer.
The movie starts with a handful of survivors in a closed dark house – Don (Robert Carlyle) and Alice (Catherine McCormack), along with few others in hiding. Immediately after, group of Hannibals like creatures attacks the occupants. In a state of fit, Don runs to save himself, leaving behind his wife, screaming for help.
28 weeks later (this is where the movie begins), US army takes command of the situation, removes the deadly virus, quarantines some area and creates District 1 in London for re-population, with all amenities (even a pub!!). Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), Don and Alice’s children, are brought back to District 1 and reunited with their father. Life seems to be settling down for everyone, until Tammy and Andy decide to go on a casual visit to their old house, only to find their mother-Alice still alive, and help her get rescued. Alice shows miraculous immunity to virus despite being an infection carrier. This makes her a valuable resource for research to develop a vaccine. As Scarlet (Rose Byrne), the chief medical officer discusses her special case with the army chief in command, Don, unaware of her infected condition, decides to meet her.
Well, here-on the script doesn’t seem to stop. Don gets infected, spreads it like a wild-fire, the condition gets out of control and the US army decides to exterminate the whole population. The only hope for Scarlet-the doctor, is to save Don’s children, who she believes, might be carrying their mother’s immune genes. Scarlet and Doyle – a sniper, take responsibility to save the kids. The camera goes from one deserted area to another, from one mode to another, until the kids are the only survivors left.
The film attempts to touch certain behavioral and humane issues like Don’s guilty secret of having left his wife, ironical display of US army’s strategies to deal with exigencies. Notably, this is the exact time of US Army’s presence in Iraq. But soon enough, the movie lost in the crazy zombie mess. Not much fan of the “zombie” genre, I hardly find the movie entertaining. But I would still call it a decent zombie movie, if not good. The movie presents a good plot, with a good preview of the plot, to the shaky cam scenes and the night-mode shots. The film for sure, makes London look like a deserted and abandoned land.
Everything being said, the movie is a sequel to the Danny Boyle’s horror hit “28 days later”. Though directed by Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the movie follows pretty much the same premises but lacks the compassion. If you liked 28 days later, you can give this movie a watch, with not so high expectations.

Basic Instinct 1 (1992)

What distinguishes this movie from the other similar run-of-the-mill stuff is its distinct timing. Released in 1992, Basic Instinct was first of the kind to venture into the bold and daring world of exposure and exploitation. From suspense to drama to every minute speculation and of course passion, this movie has all that it promises. So if you are looking for more, you will be disappointed. What starts as an investigation of a brutal murder case runs superficially into an attempt to uncover a psychotic killer. Of course it is senseless and shallow with fake characters, but it delivers to its guarantee of sensual performances by top rated stars.

A former rock-n-roll star has been ruthlessly murdered during sex and found in a compromising position in his house at night. The murder weapon – ice-pick. The prime suspect – his girlfriend/sex-partner Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a filthy-rich seductive writer, whose leisure time activity is to have sex. At the centre of the investigating team is Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), who has a notorious record for having taken a few too many innocent lives. Nick is under constant behavioural and psychological evaluation by the police-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. As the investigation proceeds, the murder traces its genesis to a novel written by Catherine, highlighting uncanny similarity to the murder case under scrutiny. This makes Catherine either the perfect suspect (using the novel as the alibi) or the perfect victim (she would not be dumb to write a book and then commit a crime on the same line of thought). Nick is convinced of Catherine’s criminal intentions. Catherine’s past connection with deaths and murderers convinces him all the more. Catherine’s current work on a novel about a detective who falls for a wrong woman and dies, her collection of old newspaper containing articles on Nick, her thorough knowledge of his personal and professional life, and obviously her sexual charm do nothing but cause Nick to fall for her desperately. A couple more murders and a series of sensuous and passionate scenes lead to a climax (pun intended) where all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit-in to reveal the mystery murderer.

The script has some of the most bold scenes and dialogues of all times. Catherine’s “crossing over” the legs became one of the most talked about scenes in the history of Hollywood. Her shady character comes alive with her impactful one-liners throughout the movie. “You gonna charge me for smoking”, “You know I don’t wear underwears”, “I only f***ed him” are a few to mention. To add to that are the dark characters of Roxy and Hazel Dobkins, Catherine’s girlfriends with criminal records of their own.

All in all, the movie successfully establishes a fast-pace passion thriller with not a single slag moment. Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone present a sizzling duo, with talked about forever scenes, not to forget Jeanne Tripplehorn as the good yet manipulating and deceptive doctor.

With the series of sexually explicit content that followed Basic Instinct, it would appear to be just another cheap thriller, but back then it was a trendsetter of its kind; no doubt it earned huge box office profits. My suggestion – Like it or hate it, but you got to watch this discussed, debated and ever remembered flick.

For Bollywood Lovers – Bollywood movie Chocolate (Starring: Anil Kapoor, Tanushree Dutta) makes a lame and disastrous attempt to copy the famous and “talked about” Sharone Stone shots.

Unbreakable (2000)

All of Shyamalan’s movies have a distinct psychological suspense tone. The audience finds it impossible to predict the next turn in the script until the very climax of the movie. This movie exhibits his same flavour for cinema. It is the story of two individuals at the extreme ends of the same spectrum, with an element of supernatural.

On one end is Elijah Price (Samuel Jackson) who is born with multiple fractures (the very first shot of the movie) and suffers from osteogenetic condition which makes his bones brittle and genetically susceptible to fractures. Being stuck to hospital beds for a third of his life, he finds salvage into the world of comic books and is a high-end collector and seller of vintage comic books. Hugely inspired by comics, Elijah is searching for the person on the extreme end of his condition, one is unbreakable. On the other end is David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who lives his life as low-profile security personnel. He has never been sick in his life or being injured; But he does not know that about himself yet.

The movie starts with David in a train which gets derailed and meets a catastrophic crash, leaving behind no survivors other than David who has miraculously escaped the tragedy, even without a scratch. This makes David a tabloid celebrity instantly. This brings him into Elijah’s attention, who makes David aware of his supernatural impulse, which he denies immediately. Trying to rebuild his broken marriage with his wife Audrey (Robin Wright) and convincing his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) about him being a natural being, David takes a long time (read the rest of the movie!!) to discover and confirm this fact about himself. He also becomes aware of his weakness being water (remember every hero has a weakness!!). He recognises his special instincts to read other people’s life history or recent events by being in physical contact with them. Using his special powers, he goes on to become an under-cover hero (Batman style) and save people in danger. Once he establishes his gifted powers, he becomes friends with Elijah, only to find the darker side of him.  

At no instance does the movie get slow to boredom. It makes your mind tick all the time about what will happen next. But the climax lets you down completely. I felt it leaves you wanting for more. The camera work is excellent and beautiful. One of my favourites is the train shot of the conversation between David and a female agent through the gap between the immediately front row. The use of the comic book to establish the age-old concept of villain and hero is also different and unique. Of course there is sure as hell expected cameo from Shyamalan as the probable drug seller frisked by David. Overall a good movie with a different perspective on superheroes, though after watching “The Sixth Sense”, you always feel, there could have been something better.

Signs (2002)

I wish I could say “Here’s one more masterpiece by Manoj Night Shyamalan”; sadly it’s not. It’s not even close to one. Surely it gives you spine chills at times but it does not maintain them throughout. What starts as a sci-fi thriller, actually turns out about the deep-rooted issue of trust and believe on your life incidents rather than about extraterrestrials.

Graham (Mel Gibson), a priest, is deeply shaken to question his profound faith on God when his wife dies in a road accident, causing him to abandon his roll as a reverend. He is left with two kids, a son and a daughter, to be taken care of, with his brother Merril (Joaquin Phoenix) – a baseball player with good as well as bad records, to help him survive the hardship. His 10-11 year old son Morgan (Rory Culkin) suffers from asthma, and his 4-5 year old daughter, Bo (Abigail Breslin) has a thing about water wherein she leaves glasses of water at every corner of the house throughout the movie.

The movie starts with the emergence of crop signs in Graham’s field as well as across the continents, leading the audience in believing it to be the main theme of the movie. The movie then rambles on about the possibilities at hand from pranksters to hostile aliens about to invade the planet who poison the humans through some secretions. In between the eerie atmosphere, the director introduces all the plot members, describing their characteristics and weaknesses. Finally the aliens start to make appearances through UFOs with the crop signs being their landmarks. The family hides in the attic, where hysteria causes the son to have an asthma attack which he leaves him in a critical condition. After a night spent in the attic, the radio announces the alien’s departure from the planet, spreading a sigh of relief. But when the family comes out of the hiding, exhausted yet happy, they see that an alien is still in their house and has captured Morgan.

Now here’s the climax of the movie, “The Signs” as to say; the signs that existed throughout their existence help the family to fight this crisis, establishing the fact that there are no coincidences in life and that everything happens for a reason. This incident establishes Graham’s faith back in God, making him believe that everything happens for a reason, everything is a Sign, and the movie ends with Graham starting back his services to the church.

Surely, the movie has a great story but the execution gets a little tedious. I understand that subject like the one in hand need a slow treatment but the movie gets to the point of boredom and certain scenes absolutely draw yawns from the audience. The good background score establishes the eerie environment but fails to heighten it. The introduction of the characters in the storyline gets too obvious rather than implicit. The acting by all the actors is commendable with the expected cameo by Shyamalan as Ray Reddy, the man who kills Graham’s wife. The movie won a lot of awards and accolades at several ceremonies.

The movie is a yes from my side. But watch it when you are in the mood for some slow and deliberate thriller and enjoy the build up patiently.

For those of you who don’t know – Scary movie 3 is hugely inspired from this movie.