FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

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Ju-On

By EdwardHavens

July 21st, 2004

After some time of underground hype, thanks to its availability on import DVD's and peer-to-peer networks, the Japanese horror film "Ju-On" (film has lost its subtitle, "The Grudge") finally makes its belated American theatrical debut this summer, a few months before the release of the American remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Promising a mixture of terror and excitement to rival "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the "Evil Dead" series, film instead comes off as a nearly bloodless and scare-free exercise in futility, jumping from scene to scene with very little continuity and even less comprehension of the concept of true fear.


After a short title card explaining the concept of "Ju-On," in which a curse is born of a grudge held by a person who dies in the grip of a powerful anger and recreating itself with every subsequent victim, the story begins as Rika, a volunteer home-care worker, is assigned to visit the house of a bed-ridden older woman, after the previous home-care person goes missing. Rika discovers a filthy home and the old woman lying in a soiled bed, perceptibly horrified of an unseen force. Investigating the two-story dwelling, Rika finds in an upstairs bedroom a closet covered with duct tape, where she finds a young boy and a black cat. The boy disappears, and Rika soon sees a spirit floating over the old woman, sending her into a deep shock. Thus begins a series of incidents involving the old woman's son, his wife and younger sister, a close friend of Rika's, the detective who previously investigated a murder at the house, his family and a group of his daughter's friends, all whom fall prey to the vengeance of the spirit where the grudge began.

Like a number of Al Adamson's movies from the 1970s, the film does not deliver on its promises. Like far too many low-budget independent horror films, the scares are few and far between, with the filmmakers sadly substituting extra loud sound effects in place of scenes of real terror. It also does not help that there is not a single character developed to any degree to actually care about their situations. Despite the explanation at the start, there is little attempt to tie most of the characters or storylines, told in a series of Tarantino-esque bouncing back and forth through time sequences, together. Some characters come and go, disappear and presumed dead, only to reappear moments later. Others only show up to help torment specific people at a specific time, despite not having anything to do with any of those previously falling victim to the grudge, before disappearing, never to be heard from or spoken about again. A true deus ex machina.

Not that incoherent storylines and one-dimensional characters are seen as detrimental to an audience's enjoyment of a film. Sometimes, it's fun to just sit back and enjoy a horror movie without complex themes or intricate depictions of interesting people. Provided, of course, the film has genuine scares, an interesting visual motif or effective sound effects. However, this may be the very first time I've seen an R-rated (for some disturbing images) horror film that did not shock me once. A remake of his 2000 direct to video feature, hopefully director Takashi Shimizu will get it right the third time around, being the director of that previously mentioned American remake.

My rating: D