The Week In Screenings Part XXXIV

Wednesday, November 16 2011
The Week In Screenings Part XXXIV

Our regular screening correspondent Alex Kidd has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again over the past seven days in his never-ending trawl of blockbusters and obscure films among the screening rooms and multiplexes of London. Here’s his latest missive from the front line…

Like a lot of people, the 1982 version of The Thing is a firm favourite of mine, in fact I’d go so far as to say it would easily make it into my Top 10 all time favourite films, it’s one of the few films that I’ve watched multiple times and will keep coming back to over the years. Itself a remake of the 1951 The Thing From Another World, it actually proves that remakes, or re-imaginings can be good, when handled well,; you can also look at it not being really a remake, but being a new version based on the original short story Who Goes There?. So for quite a few years I’ve been following rumours and stories about a remake being made, a thought that really intrigued me, how would the next filmmaker tackle this famous story? If Carpenter did such a good job 30 years after Nyby, who helmed the original, what would a current director do with this subject almost 30 years on from Carpenter?

So how did I get on with the new prequel/remake of The Thing? Sort of average really, it’s actually got some interesting things within it, but it sadly never reaches the highs of the two previous versions. It’s to be commended for its look and recreation of the Norwegian’s base from Carpenter’s film, the acting is very solid, but it never really captures the paranoia and terror of the 82 version, or the man vs monster adventure of the 51 version. The film does feel a bit muddled as well, though it is a prequel, it’s go so many beats from Carpenter’s version that it feels like a remake, a decision that muddles the film from the start. There are things to be enjoyed here though and without spoiling anything the ending is very clever and probably worth a trip to the cinema just to see that.

Then it was from one extreme to the other, as next up was the premiere of comedy horror thriller: Kill Keith. Yes the Keith in the title is Keith Chegwin, that loveable TV presenter who finds himself mixed up with a serial killer who’s knocking off the candidates for a high profile TV presenting job. This UK thriller is a mix of broad comedy stokes and goofy killer thrills, which also throws in a young romance, a dose of horror and cameos by a host of well know TV faces.  It’s a film that will sell itself via the premise alone and should find an audience via its home entertainment release.

Next up was The Rum Diary, an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-biographical novel about a journalist’s adventures in Puerto Rico. What was a real stand out for me about this was seeing the Johnny Depp that I’d always enjoyed back on screen, here you feel like he’s really trying and not hiding behind his Pirate character or a recent Tim Burton creation. This was the Johnny that I’d always enjoyed back when he was appearing in more character based roles, not the current blockbusters. His also obvious love for the material and for playing Hunter’s alter ego once again shows through in a very naturalistic and invigorating performance. It’s also great to have director Bruce Robinson back behind the camera, his last film Jennifer 8 was nearly 20 years ago and this is only his 4th film in total. Strong support comes from Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard and particularly Giovanni Ribisi as the perpetually out of it journalist Moburg.

I’ve always loved haunted house films, the anticipation of what’s going to happen as the poor unsuspecting inhabitants begin to be haunted and deal with paranormal events always gets me interested and wanting to know what’s happening. So I was really looking forward to the new UK ghost film The Awakening. When a strange figure is seen around a private boys school and is suspected of causing the death of a pupil, ghost detector and paranormal debunker Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is called in to investigate. A firm believer in the world of science, Florence slowly starts to think that she might be onto something far more real with this case, a case that might change everything she believes in. It’s a strong ghost story, one that’s handled very skilfully by first time feature director Nick Murphy, who shows a strong understanding of how to build atmosphere and suspense. The cast is also very strong particularly Hall in the lead, who’s ably support by Dominic West and Imelda Staunton.