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Bug * William Friedkin * 2007

Agnes White (Ashley Judd) lives in some sort of motel in the middle of a North-American desert. When a friend introduces her to a rather vague man, the two slowly grow towards eachother. The film starts as a relation-drama, but slowly works towards being a psychological horror. The film is nice, has good camera works and nice colours, weird conversations and the climax carefully builds up with surprising findings towards a predictable, but not at all disappointing end. The film has only five actors, almost no stages, but definately sets an atmosphere. No masterpiece, but a nice example of modern horror.

Saw * James Wan * 2004

“Saw” is the horror-hit of the moment. Even though it is made by a Japanese director, the film is pretty American. As a matter of fact, “Saw” joyously builds further on the trend of dark and extreme horror/thrillers about serial killers. Not too original. What may have caused the popularity of this film, is that it goes quite a bit further than “Silence of the Lambs, “Se7en” or “Ressurection”. But again there is a serial killer loose with ‘moral’, showing his victims what fails in society. The film is about two men who find themselves chained to pipes in an old toilet-room. One of them knows about a serial killer who plays games with his victims. Either they do something terrible or they will die. “Technically he isn’t a killer, since he didn’t kill anyone”, a police-officer says about the “Jigsaw” killer, which is true. “Saw” is a deeply psychological and very extreme film with as underlaying question: “how much blood would you shed to stay alive?” Killing a person, mutilating yourself, the victims get their choices and the Jigsaw enjoys the show.
I don’t think I heard anyone who didn’t think this film is brilliant. Personally I don’t think it is particularly good. The story is not very original, like I said, yet another ‘moralistic serial killer’. The ways the victims die are extreme in their geniosity, but also extremely far-fetched and not credible. Also there are actually two ‘cases’ that we follow in the film, but with flashbacks your get to see about other victims for the sole purpose of Wan being able to show what can come out of his sick mind. Don’t get me wrong, if you want a dark and extreme horror, this is your film, but script is in a way ingenious, but I get a bit tired of all these ‘intelligent horror films’ about serial killers. And then of course a sequal is already anounced, not even by the same director. The lack of inspiration of the filmbusiness…

The Prisoner (series) * George Markstein & Patrick McGoohan

‘Where am I?’ – ‘In the village.’
‘What do you want?’ – ‘We want information.’
‘Whose side are you on?’ – ‘That would be telling.’
‘We want information. Information, information’
‘You won’t get it!’
‘By hook or by crook, we will’
‘Who are you?’ – ‘I’m the new Number Two.’
‘Who is Number One?’ – ‘You are Number Six’
‘I am not a number. I am a free man!’
(manic laughter)

The Prisoner TV series are so old that you have to look for people to remember them. The series was first broadcasted in 1967 en 1968. In came in a flood of secret agent series such as The Saint or The Avengers and after Danger Man in which Patrick McGoohan also played a very special secret agent. Apparently McGoohan wanted something more, since he is not only one of the inventors, but also a director for the series (the last episode, the strangest of them all). I never really knew about the series even though it was smacked around my ears constantly. The “The Girl Who Was… Death” cd of Devil Doll is one big The Prisoner ode and this was even mentioned to me once. Colleagues mentioned it and eventually Collin Cleary wrote a lengthy review of the series in Tyr journal volume one of 2002 that I only got this year. That was the limit, I started to look around and bought myself the series. You can get a pretty expensive American box, an also pretty expensive UK box and the also pretty expensive separate five DVDs. The first four DVDs (I got the separate ones) contain four episodes each, the last DVD the last episode, an alternative version of another episode, a documentary and some other things. The other DVDs have some extras as well.
To the series then. Patrick McGoohan is a nameless secret agent who resigns. This is shown at the beginning of every episode. Because of his resignation, McGoohan is kidnapped and brought to “The Village”, a community seemly with the only purpose to get information from people (mostly secret agents who resigned). In The Village people have no names, but numbers. Number 2 is the outwardly leader of The Village and a new number 2 appears in (almost) every episode. The Prisoner is number 6. In every episode the leader of The Village comes up with a new way of trying to get “the priceless information” from number 6’s head. This mostly involves psychological experiments involving futuristic machines, drugs, hypnosis, etc. This results in marvelously weird situations in which number six always comes out as ‘the winner’. Therefor in the end, he is granted “the gift of individuality”.
In the series you can clearly see some critical views on modern society, democracy and science. Cleary has written magnificently about various elements in The Prisoner. There are -by the way- many strange elements to the series, such as a big white ball that comes out of the sea to punish people, the fact that you never get to know “who are the prisoners and who are the warders”, the strange machine in the control room, the eye-like cameras, weird characters, etc., etc. I think for these things the series have been seen as The X-Files and Twin Peaks of earlier decades. I don’t really agree with this, because The Prisoner is quite different from either series. The strange elements and sometimes the atmosphere (and characters) may remind especially of David Lynch’s masterpiece, but The Prisoner looks much more like James Bond to me than like Twin Peaks.
In any case. Even though the series are considerably older than myself, they are in colour and look “fresh as ever”. They are wonderfully shot, didn’t get oldfashioned and still highly enjoyable today. It is a series that make you think, “what do they mean”, “who is number 1”, “why doesn’t he just…”. They got a great sense of humour, recognisable situations, but also completely over-the-top scenes, philosophy and action. You can lend it to you parents who may watch it as James Bond, you can discuss it with your friends or on the many internet sites dedicated to The Prisoner. It seems that after the DVD release the popularity is raising a little and not without reason. The Prisoner is a magnificent, 17 times 50 minutes of TV. In my opinion maybe not as good as Twin Peaks, but probably a very agreeable second personal place in TV history. Buy and enjoy!

One Hour Photo * Mark Romanek * 2002

A psychological thriller with Robin Williams? Not that strange, because at the same time as this film played in the cinemas, Williams was also a serial killer in the remake of “Insomnia”. “One Hour Photo” is about a man called “Sy” who has been working at the photoshop of a low-price-warehouse for many years. He developed an obsession for one particular family whose photos he had printed for years. When he finds out that the man of the family cheats on his beautiful wife, Sy wants to learn him a lesson.

You often hear that this is a very scary movie, well, not really in my opinion. The tension builds up very slowly, which is nicely done, but doesn’t really reach that peak that you would expect after reading a review or the back of the box. Not that this is a boring film, but also it isn’t the greatest thing from Hollywood of the last year.

Mindhunters * Renny Harlin * 2004

At a ‘three DVDs for E 15,-‘ action I had to pick a third film from a variety of crap, ‘Intollerable Cruelty’ and this film which I didn’t know. I picked ‘Mindhunters’.
A group of FBI-profilers-trainees are dropped on an island for their final task. They have to solve a murder case, but instead get killed themselves one by one. ‘Mindhunters’ is supposed to be a grim, psychological thriller, a variation on the ‘find the serial killer’ theme. In a way it is, but the story isn’t too interesting, the film isn’t too special and the result is disappointing.

Identity * James Mangold * 2003

I don’t think I knew this film until my girlfriend picked it out in the videostore. Mangold, the director of “Girl, Interrupted” and “Kate and Leopold” took the term “psychological thriller” very literary. The film starts with very short and speedily assembled scenes showing how different people end up in the same motel. Bad weather and most of all: bad luck. Then those people start to die one by one. Not too original you may think, but as a matter of fact, Mangold did (in my opinion) something very original. Unfortunately he gives away the clue about halfway the film, but still manages to keep “Identity” interesting and entertaining. I think the dark and rather grim atmosphere of the film adds to this. A very nice script and a good idea to make a not very original fact (people in the same place dying one by one) into a good film. -5/9/05–4-

Das Experiment * Oliver Hirschbiegel * 2001

In a time that the “Big Brother” hype was at its highest and in England there was a similar experiment with prisoners and guards, the director of the German tv-crime-series “Kommissar Rex” and “Tatort” made this film with exactly the same idea as the Brittisch scientists. 20 Volunteers participate in a psychological experiment. At random 12 men are appointed prisoner, 8 as guards. The men are told to take their roles seriously. The prisoners are really prisoners and the guards have a job which allows them to go home at night. All the people will get paid afterwards, which for most is the reason to participate. Of course the experiment runs seriously out of hand.

The good part about this film is that I really got into it. It is filmed the way it would be in reality. In the beginning the prisoners make fun, the guards have to get into their roles and the two groups have to try out what they can, can’t, must or must not do. As in the real British experiment the guards’ power rises to their heads and the atmosphere gets pretty grim. For both parties the reactions are understandable, but Hirschbiegel looked up the extremes a bit TOO much. All in all a satisfactory film though.