Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Criteria

Well, as I said, I will be reviewing movies at some point (I've worked out my first few reviews, I just need to type them up and post them soon). But before I start my reviews, I've worked out a way to basically quantify what I am saying about the movies. I will be judging each movie on 5 categories that I have chosen for no real reason. But hey, it's my blog, so I can do what I want right? In any event, each category is out of a possible score of 5 (stars, hearts, clovers, horseshoes, whatever you want) and are fairly tailored towards horror movies, so these aren't the same criteria I use to judge, say, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (a great movie). In any event, here are the 5 categories and my interpretations thereof.

Please note: I titled them pretty generally and explain them in more detail, so "Cinematography" is more than just cinematography, but I try to explain that. I may change the titles of the categories later, but for now, this is what I've got.

Cinematography: With this I am talking about things like camera angles, movement, framing, and scene setup. I like to see if there are cliches from within the genre, such as the wide angle close-up to signify craziness, the shaky cam to hide poor effects, herky-jerky character moves to show a ghost, and other things that have started to appear to hide a poor director. I do take into effect budget of a particular movie, knowing that a shaky cam may be employed because that's all a director has to use due to budget. I also include the Mise-en-scene, basically meaning (in this case) the look and feel of the movie (Tim Burton's films all have a certain mise-en-scene). I also look to see if the movie looks like another movie or if it's got a style all its own. I will try to take into account if it's meant to have the look of another movie on purpose or not.

Execution: I want to see if the movie is an original idea or falling into a well defined niche. If it is in a format I've seen before, does it bring any new elements to the table or is it at least well done within the format? Slashers have been done and done to death, but you can still make a good slasher film that follows a lot of conventions with the right tools (though I dislike slasher films to begin with). Are the characters believable or at least well done enough to be engaged with them? You may never have a person that is as over the top as some characters are (like The Tall Man in Phantasm), but is the character at least well done enough for you to not look away when they are on screen? And finally the acting in the movie. Is it at least ample? Budget has a big effect on this usually, but you can still find people to do the part and not blow you away for a good budget.

Sub-genre Comparison: Exactly what it sounds like: how does it compare to other movies in the same sub-genre? Horror is the overlying genre, but how does it stack up against something in the same vein? How does Diary of the Dead hold up agains the original Night of the Living Dead? How does Let The Right One In compare to John Carpenter's Vampires? What about Dog Soldiers vs The Howling? I will compare the movie to the heavy hitters of the sub-genre (ie. for possession films The Exorcist, The Evil Dead, The Shining) and to recent releases. How does The Signal compare to The Happening or Pulse? Does it do what it should well? I mean, few (if any movies) are going to compare to the classics, but can they at least do the things justice? This will be taken into account with remakes as well.

Production Value: How are the Special FX? Is the gore well done? Is it used sparingly and to good effect or over done with little lasting impression? Was there CGI or traditional effects and did either work out well? Will it have staying power? Will it look good now but 10 years down the road look ridiculous? I take into account that newer technology makes things look better and everything, but things like poorly done CGI now looks as bad as poorly done CGI 10 years ago. I mean, look at Jurassic Park. Those effects still hold up well today (better than Jurassic Park III, in fact). Movies like The Exorcist and The Omen have some effects that look a little dated, but that isn't enough to detract from the movie itself (and most of those effects still aren't that bad). I will also take into effect budgetary constraints for this as well.

And finally, Scares: Does the movie build tension well? Does it make you constantly cover your eyes? Does it rely too much on the jump scare (a cheap scare that if used sparingly is okay)? Does the movie actually take time to establish a brooding atmosphere and suck you into its world? Too many movies don't establish a scary or unsettling atmosphere and that detracts from the scare factor. For me, the 1 thing every good horror movie does is create a sense of isolation, regardless of the setting. You can do this by putting people in remote locations (tundra, desert, space), by a catastrophic event (zombies, infection, mass extinction), or by removing them from society with a specific incident (possession, haunting). This can occur in an area surrounded by people, like in The Exorcist or The Orphanage. Plenty of people around, but because it's such a specific occurence that no one has ever experienced, no one can relate, thus isolating the character even though they are not alone.

I don't cover everything, but these are the things that are important for me to have a movie succeed at. I may add to this list eventually, but that's something to refer to when you read my reviews and need a frame of reference.

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