Monday, 28 February 2011

Underrated: My cult classics

Equilibrium (2002)

I'm a real sucker for dystopian narratives, so it comes as no surprise that this Orwell-inspired sci-fi action flick ticked all the boxes for me. I'm not going to deny that this movie isn't flawed; it wouldn't be a cult classic otherwise. 

There are issues with Equilibrium's plot at points, and the some of the concepts require the viewer to fill in a few gaps to sustain believability. However, I think this film suffered from some poor marketing during its cinematic and dvd release (the tagline didn't relate to the movie at all), and it didn't help that it was seen as a copy of the already popular Matrix movies, due to its similar visuals and themes.

Why do I love this film? The totalitarian imagery throughout is spot-on; you really feel the oppression of the futuristic society, depicted through the drab blocky buildings, the ruthless visored security forces and the quasi-religious iconography. The film's score is a perfect mixture of pumping techno-classical and soft synth-led themes, driving the action and pulling on your emotions. Christian Bale does a fantastic job as John Preston, the troubled cleric struggling to deal with the effect of outlawed emotions whilst carrying out his brutally repressive tasks for the Tetragrammaton. 

And possibly my favourite aspect of the film - the 'gun kata' martial art. Created by the director Kurt Wimmer specifically for this movie, the gun kata combines Western firepower with Eastern skill, leading to some fantastic action set-pieces and setting this movie apart from The Matrix with its drastically different approach to cinematic gunslinging.

30 Days of Night (2007)

At this moment in time we are drowning in vampire-related films, television programmes and literature, explaining why a movie like 30 Days of Night could very easily get lost in the deluge of blood-sucking and pointy teeth. 

Let's start with the issues plaguing this film. Yes, there are some continuity problems (Josh Hartnett's ability to grow stubble whilst no-one else does) and the ending may seem like a bit of a cop-out to some. Also the plot does feel quite jagged at points, jumping forwards quite abruptly.

Onto the good - the film's depiction of vampires. Compared to the grumpy, sparkly undead of Twilight or the CGI zombie-goons of I Am Legend, this movie does a fantastic job of actually making vampires scary. By ultilising effective prosthetics and believable performances, these ghouls actually put a chill down your spine as they hunt their human prey, lusting after their fear as much as their claret. In particular, Danny Huston does a great job as Marlow, the leader of the brood, seeming to almost pity the poor feeble creatures he seeks to ravage.

Although the movie's concepts obviously come from the graphic novel it is based on, these concepts still make the movie worthy of praise. The idea of vampires attacking during a month of darkness is a great approach to the genre, despite being slightly tenuous. Add some really effective music into the mix, and also some great colour-drained snowy settings to splash blood over, and you've got yourself a vampire film that shouldn't be left to sleep in its coffin.

eXistenZ (1999)

David Cronenburg isn't known for creating anything other than controversial cult classics, and this sci-fi thriller doesn't stray away from his track record.

I would personally say that it's the performances that let this movie down for the main part - but then again, maybe certain actors gave bad performances purposefully to demonstrate that the video game at the centre of the film's plot isn't complete? Therein lies the issue; in a movie as metafictional as this, any flaw can be argued to be intentional, making it difficult to assess its worth.

Once you get over the glaring issue above, there is a fantastic plot to be enjoyed here, discussing virtual reality and the increasingly blurred line between mechanisms and organisms in our world today. The bizarre 'organic' gaming pods add an effective 'yuck' factor to the plot, where a computer virus could actually transfer into your own body.

The film's conclusion is its greatest feature. As I'm sure I've said before, I love an unresolved ending. I think this may be why so many people didn't get on with this movie, because it can be difficult when a story doesn't end in neat 'tied-up with a ribbon' Hollywood fashion. I don't want to give anything away, but this movie's ending will either make you laugh out loud at its audacity, or start punching things with annoyance.

If you like cyberpunk, body-horror or role-playing games - ignore what you've heard about this film and give it a chance.

Post your opinions on these movies below or on my twitter/facebook page, and tell me your favourite cult classics.

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