Director Jeff Wadlow’s (“Truth or Dare”) big screen adaptation “Fantasy Island” is a mess of a genre picture that easily one of the most tonally confused movies I’ve seen in years. Its prologue sets it up as a horror movie, then it becomes a goofy comedy about wish fulfillment, then it’s a character study about a son reconnecting with his father, the next minute it’s a torture revenge thriller, and the next it’s a movie about looking back at what could have been. None of it is remotely creepy, none of it is remotely spooky, and to top it all off, it’s all so painfully boring from beginning to end.
I don’t know what you can chalk it up to. Maybe it was the unfortunate illness of the late great Sid Haig that caused Rob Zombie to re-write a lot of “3 From Hell.” Or maybe he just didn’t know where to take his characters next. For a movie that takes great pains to explaining in detail how and why the Firefly Clan survived, it’s disappointing when “3 From Hell” does absolutely nothing new with them. Rob Zombie has a lot of windows to basically re-invent his characters and present some kind of social commentary, but in the end it’s just Zombie treading water with middling results.
Park chan-wook is no stranger to delivering some of the best character studies that also pack a sense of sexual perversity, and pain within its seams. “The Handmaiden” is one of his most epic in scope dramas that also manages to be one of the most erotic romances I’ve seen in a while. “The Handmaiden” is pure ambition that succeeds in delivering something of a labyrinthian narrative of crime, salvation, and romance that begins as a simplistic drama. It takes a brilliant artist like chan-wook to handle a film that morphs in to various themes and experience various tonal changes without it completely falling apart, but Park chan-wook handles it by making each new turn around the corner absolutely suspenseful.
Jorge kidnaps Isabel and keeps her in his basement hoping that some conditioning and Stendhal Syndrome will make her his. Through torture and punishment, he tries to break her. The brutal story brought to the screen here is written by Marco Tarditi Ortega and directed by Diego Cohen. Together they create a kidnapping story where the victim is brutalized, violated, and tortured in many varied ways. The film brings an imaginative array of ways to make someone suffer and bleed. The way it is shot is relentless, keeping the camera directly on what is happening to victim Isabel at the hands of her captor Jorge who is a medical doctor, giving him better knowledge on how to make her suffer without killing her.
Pascal Laugier’s 2008 “Martyrs” was a grueling experience that masked blatant misogyny and torture as a pseudo-intellectual transcendental tale about the afterlife and the pressing question about where we go when we die. Kevin and Michael Goetz’s remake of “Martyrs” is not only a pointless exercise in futility, but it dodges any and all attempts to improve on the goofy ideas about spirituality by mostly dodging them. By dodging the torture and pegging this as cheap exploitation, and alternately dismissing the ideas about the afterlife and transforming this in to a spiritual horror film, it effectively renders itself pretty damn pointless and dull.
Justine joins Alejandro’s social activists group after seeing that they had real results at her university getting janitors health coverage. Soon she finds herself going to the Amazon forest in Peru to save a small village from being destroyed by a company wanting the natural gas found under the area they occupy. The group goes to Peru, does their thing, and then heads back home. However, they do not make it home as their plane crashes in the Amazon. A part of the group dies in the crash in various horrible ways. As the survivors escape the wreckage, the villagers they came to save attack them killing a few more and taking the six last survivors with them. It quickly becomes clear that the captives are meant to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner as the first member is dispatched gruesomely and cooked.
I think if it weren’t so obsessed with its own self-indulgent pseudo-spiritualism and didn’t stop to tell four different stories simultaneously, “Martyrs” may have been a decent film. It begins as a solid revenge picture, but then devolves in to an absurd campaign in torture and pain. It’s a grueling sadistically boring horror drama with a narrative so convoluted I stopped caring about what was unfolding after the first half hour. “Martyrs” loves to pretend it’s this transcendent statement about our questioning of the afterlife, but in reality it’s just misogynist torture porn painted as art house dribble that will make you feel dirty.
The crux of “American Mary” depends on the performance by Katharine Isabelle. While the film itself is a unique and very entertaining tale about revenge, madness, and masochism, the lead performance of Mary is most important. Almost any other actor probably would have played the character of Mary Mason completely over the top, but Katharine Isabelle’s turn as a slowly unraveling sadist with revenge on her mind is incredible. Even brilliant.