Sunday, April 23, 2017

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews: Life and Cabin Fever (2016)

* Life

The International Space Station is home to 6 astronauts from all over the world. A probe returns from Mars and is narrowly caught flying through space. Exobiologist Hugh Derry sifts through all of the samples and finds the first instance of extraterrestrial life, named Calvin by an adorable elementary school class on Earth. Calvin rapidly grows and turns sinister when it views the crew as a threat to its existence. I thought life would be a complete Alien rip-off, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was quite different and the characters weren't all complete morons as they usually are in this genre (looking at you, Prometheus). Each of the characters has something to humanize them to the audience so we care when they start dying. Sho's child was just born. Hugh shares his feelings about his paralysis and why he wanted to be an astronaut. Rory is the loveable jokester while David is much more serious and obviously more at home in space than on Earth. Ekaterina and Miranda are the type of women I like seeing in these movies. They are no-nonsense people who don't let their emotions get in the way. Both do everything they have to in order to keep others safe. All of them are intelligent people who do everything from following set protocols to even sacrificing their own lives in order to save others.

The alien in the film is unique in that all of its cells act as muscle, brain, and nervous system. It starts out as a single cell and quickly develops into a large multicelled organism similar to a flower mixed with a jellyfish. It turns violent when it lies dormant, possibly dead, in a lab accident and Hugh shocks it to revive it. Perceiving it as an attack, Calvin lashes out and crushes his hand. From there, it's a cat and mouse game to either trap Calvin, suffocate him, or keep him out of the space station. The creature swims through zero-gravity with deadly grace. Blood in this atmosphere looks pretty awesome and is used with restraint. I didn't like that as the creature grew bigger, the front and back are defined and it has a sort of face. There's no reason for that at all, especially when it was symmetrical on all sides up until then. I'm also curious as to how it would fare in Earth-like gravity. The moments of romance between Miranda and David were completely unnecessary and out of character for Miranda. That was at least 10 minutes that could have been used to figure out the problem threatening their lives. Other than that, Life is a textbook sci-fi horror creature feature that ends up being enjoyable but forgettable.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

* Cabin Fever (2016)

Awful teens go to party in a remote cabin, pissing off the locals and inadvertantly spreading a flesheating virus. This is the remake of Eli Roth's 2002 debut film that I enjoyed for all its cheesiness. This version is borderline unwatchable and I'm very confused about some of the choices made. First, the teens are the worst and make the dumbest decisions ever. Bert is the most horrible with his "barely legal" gun that he shoots to stroke his ego even though he accidentally discharges it next to people multiple times. If only he had just shot himself. That gun causes so much trouble. He shoots the drifter infected with the virus. When that drifter goes into their car, Bert succeeds in shooting the car a bunch of times, causing it to break down and cutting off their only mode of escape. The others aren't much better.

In the original, the teens are kind of awful, but they had distinctive personalities plus Paul and Karen were the two to root for. In this one, they may as well be interchangeable. Bert is only distinctive because of his stupidity. Jeff was hilarious in the original with his obsession with drinking beer instead of water and staying away from everyone else. His death was funny because he worked so hard to stay uninfected. New Bert was infected early on and ruined the humor. The Deputy is an attractive woman using similar humor as the last, but the delivery was terrible, making her character boring. The only part I liked of the new movie was the extended view of the locals. When looking for help, they stumble upon a woman butchering a pig, ranting crazily. She actually turns out to be helpful, but also serves them glasses she covered in pig blood. The pig blood gets in her hair, on her face, on her shirt as she obliviously touches things with her bloody hands. It's the only moment of real humor in the whole movie. Everything else is tired cliches, horrible decision making, and paper thin characters. The Cabin Fever remake is a carbon copy of the original with nothing to add. The comparison only makes the remake look even worse than the cult classic that I thoroughly enjoy.

My rating: 1/5 fishmuffins

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