Monday, 22 April 2013

The Wolfman

Responding to the unexpected disappearance of his brother, stage actor Lawrence Talbot returns from America to (Victorian) England to pay familial respects and find out what happened. At the old family estate Lawrence is reunited with his apathetic father, both of them still haunted by the horrible suicide of their mother/wife when Lawrence was a toddler. After Lawrence befriends his brother’s fiancée in the woe of their mutual concern, he heads out one night (against his father’s ominous advice) to a passing gypsy camp to investigate an amulet that may have some relevance to his brother’s case. His enquiries are suddenly cut short when the camp is attacked by a swift and indiscriminate beast - panicking victims are torn apart amidst spiralling chaos prompting Talbot to pull out his rifle to take pot shots at the creature. Getting a little too ambitious for his own good he’s attacked himself, saved from a near fatal wound by another armed man, and a subsequent amateur operation to seal the torn flesh. Recovering at the estate from the attack, Lawrence attracts the somewhat hostile attention of the local police inspector, but this is the least of his problems when it becomes apparent at the next full moon that he has become infected by a werewolf, himself now a carrier of the curse.

Taking many elements of the screenplay of Universal’s classic 1941 monster movie The Wolf Man and mirroring them fairly respectfully, this remake injects a dose of contemporary violence and shock cutting to bring it in line with the expectations common in today’s audiences. However, to suggest those are the only elements that make this worth watching is something of an injustice. The film doesn’t exactly appeal to the most commercial of sensibilities: firstly, it is largely a slow moving exploration of the denizens of an almost fairy tale world, with sombre pacing periodically punctuated by brutal and quite exciting action. And secondly, the design of the titular creature is something of a throwback to an era I had long considered dead - quite brave and at odds with the genre’s cinematic context of today. In fact, the creature isn’t too far removed from that of the original film, aside from the much needed enhancements to special effects, make-up, and its ability to stride at a much greater speed (thereby multiplying its threat tenfold). Taking up the reins of the consistently forlorn Lawrence Talbot is Benicio Del Toro: apart from possessing a melancholy appearance surprisingly akin to that of Lon Chaney Jnr. (the star of the 1941 movie), the actor brings a distinctive quality to the role, maintaining an air of solemn believability throughout and contributing quite skilfully to the tragic nature of the character - he demonstrates an amazing look and presence. One cannot help but feel a twinge of disturbed sorrow during his utterly miserable incarceration and torture at the asylum following his arrest (don’t fret too much - this act concludes with a beautiful payoff!). Strong acting remains a staple of the production for its duration, a particular favourite performance of mine arriving in the form of persistently odd Hugo Weaving as the sharp minded inspector. All of this brings verisimilitude to the more complex (than the original) characterisations and relationships established throughout the story, and whilst it is overall quite faithful to its source there are one or two twists along the way to keep things interesting for fans such as myself who know the original movie reasonably well. And enormous appreciation must go to werewolf aficionado Rick Baker and the special effects team (CGI or otherwise) for creating what must be amongst the most effective transformation sequences either side of the perennially stunning experience that is An American Werewolf in London.

The strong gothic backdrop to the scenario is embellished by delightfully crafted compositions of near achromatic cinematography, something I wouldn’t have anticipated from a director as seemingly nondescript as Johnston. The cinema screening I originally attended was unforgivably marred by a slight but perceivable out-of-focus projection, a factor that thankfully does not afflict the Blu-ray, which (containing both the theatrical and extended cuts) presents the film in full HD at 1.85:1 with a lovely artistic image and noticeable (on a very large screen) grain retention.  The DTS-HD MA audio track particularly shines with the deep and emphatic orchestral arrangements, giving you an appropriately cinematic experience if you have surround kit.  The steelbook, which I acquired soon after its release, is very attractive, albeit plain on the inside.  The Wolfman was unfortunately plagued by a troubled production so it’s pleasing to find a gloomy, morbid, violent, and bewilderingly traditional horror story that may not please those accustomed to more conventional modern cinema but will tap some of the right nerves for a few.

Friday, 19 April 2013


Originating from a background where he was surrounded by creativity it’s perhaps no accident that Michele Soavi wound up in constructing images himself of some kind - early on as a painter but after developing an interest in cinema he moved on to acting and, later still, assistant directing. It was from many of cinema’s veterans that he learnt most of his behind-the-camera skills, people like Dario Argento, Aristide Massaccesi, Lamberto Bava, and even Terry Gilliam. His own directorial debut came together, therefore, quite late in his career. Owning it on Avatar’s video cassette for a few years I once thought Stagefright (sometimes known as Aquarius or Deliria) was a fairly average slasher, but at the time I was a lot less informed and less educated in the darker genres than I am nowadays. Viewing it now is a different matter. It outlines a simple scenario but one that’s nonetheless powerful in many respects: a theatre director who’s obsessed with extracting the best performances from his actors is selfish in the extreme, displaying little or no concern for the welfare of the people if the production is suffering. Alicia, one of his leading ladies, damages her leg in rehearsal and she heads out the back door to seek some medical advice at the first place she and her friend come across - a psychiatric hospital. Whilst obtaining a personal touch from one of the doctors there the two girls don’t realise that one of the inmates has overcome a guard in his escape, only to hitch an unexpected lift back to the theatre with them. Going back to the car in the storm Alicia’s friend is butchered by the lunatic before he apparently disappears. The body is found (pick axe nicely implanted through her gaping mouth) before the police show up to investigate and subsequently keep watch. Spotting an opportunity for some media attention the director decides to rename the killer in his play after the lunatic who’s responsible for the real-life murder, and persuading his actors that it will be beneficial to their career he gets one of the girls to lock the door and hide the key. Of course the killer hasn’t disappeared but rather hidden himself inside the place and the only person who knows where the key is quickly becomes the second victim: now they’re all trapped in there and the killer has free pickings of the bunch while a rain storm rages on outside.
The premise itself is exciting - a group of people locked in an inescapable building with a stealthy and insane murderer, and it’s largely on that that the success of the film rests. The opening of the film once comprised my principle memory from the video days and it’s surely one of the corniest openings in cinema history, and not a good advertisement for what’s to come or what Soavi is really capable of. Having been cut in the UK (by the original distributor I believe) the film in its uncensored form is also much more violent than I was previously aware of, some of the attacks almost inducing a wince in more mature viewers. The movie doesn’t follow all of the conventions of giallo but there’s enough there to consider classifying the film as such, although we don’t delve too much into the history of the killer or why his mind is so irreversibly twisted, the explanation of which usually constitutes a giallo’s final act. It might be more accurate to describe the result as a slasher movie, though the two sub-genres have always been close cousins in reality anyway - one a more psychodynamic, stylistic precursor to the other. Soavi does go unnecessarily overboard during the film’s final ten minutes or so, including a pretty silly final shot, otherwise aside from that and the embarrassing opening there’s a lot of material here that would highlight Soavi as the new talent to watch in Italian splatter at the time. He later compounded this auspicious promise with The Church, The Sect, and Dellamorte Dellamore, but would subsequently all but recede from the eyes of the fans. Utilising his acting abilities briefly, he also makes an appearance as one of the police officers in Stagefright; Soavi was a recognisable face in Italian genre movies. The score itself really picks up the pace of some of the chase sequences, however Demons fans might notice a remarkable similarity to the second instalment of Lamberto’s franchise - that’s because composer Simon Boswell was the primary driving force behind both soundtracks. The Stagefright score is not a direct rip-off from Demons 2 but the style is unmistakably the work of the same man. Boswell has since proved himself to be a highly prolific and talented artist, later enhancing many films through his music compositions, for example Shallow Grave and Dust Devil. John Morghen fans will be pleased to know he appears in Stagefright as an amusing stereotype gay - plus he’s brutally murdered yet again, as in just about any of his genre appearances - City of the Living Dead’s drill through the brain anyone? For a thrill trip through homicidal violence and cat/mouse chase sequences this film should provide a good evening’s worth of mayhem.

In the UK the first home video release came from Avatar and was superseded ten years or so afterwards by an uncut tape from Redemption. I believe Vipco may have got their dirty hands on distribution rights some time later too. Released on DVD by Anchor Bay in the US several years later, this Blue Underground edition is basically a direct port of the AB disc, offering a very average picture that lacks real depth and detail. Colours are a little wayward and overall the presentation could and should have been improved for this (admittedly cheap) re-release, so I’m a little disappointed by BU’s laziness. The Dolby EX track has some bite but keeps most of the activity down the front - there’s less to complain about here than with the image although I‘d really like to hear an Italian language track at some point, if possible. There was an EC disc (presented open-matte with a theatrical matte viewing option available) released just prior to the first AB outing - it’s difficult to get a hold of nowadays anyway so the BU is currently the easiest way to check the film out.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chain Saw Massacre had a seriously problematic history in Britain, it’s no secret, and it’s this BBFC-induced reputation that’s helped to tarnish fair opinion of it in many ways: commonly acknowledged as a ‘banned’ film it immediately attracted a certain kind of film fan (and I was that kind for a while), interested in gore and that which is forbidden. There wasn’t too much gore in the film; on the contrary there was hardly any, but one walked away with the impression it was much bloodier than was truthfully the case. Eventually it received a legitimate release in Britain and suddenly attracted another kind of viewer: the average Joe who’s heard about the controversy and wonders what all the fuss is about. Placing a metaphoric ten foot barrier in front of themselves while watching they invariably walked away without having flinched and thinking there was a big fuss for nothing. Unfortunately people’s self-erected barriers these days are so impenetrable it’s almost impossible to shock, plus the controversy itself overshadows the quality of the 1974 film and suddenly a notorious classic becomes a forgotten relic. Fuss aside, the original film is one of my favourites and something that I connect with on a level that’s difficult to describe to those blinded by surrounding politics and expectations, but I’m not particularly concerned because I can always go back and enjoy that amazing piece of cinema. So why remake such a revered (in some quarters) and overwhelmingly known film? Perhaps it was a drive to redress the balance and shock those who are otherwise unshockable. Perhaps the idea was to make a seventies low budget horror accessible to those who can’t sit through something made before they were born. Or maybe it was just a cynical way of making a few million out of a pre-established franchise. Either way the project was something I avoided like the plague for several years until a friend told me it was actually pretty good and I saw it in Birmingham's Music Zone (now closed) for a few quid on DVD.
For a while it follows a very similar path to Hooper’s film: a group of kids are travelling in a small van (to Mexico) for a road holiday when they pick up a hitchhiker that causes them some concern with visible behavioural difficulties. An isolated house is discovered by a couple of members of the group and it’s found to be populated by a retarded family whose homicidal tendencies are inflicted upon the kids. The narrative quickly begins to deviate slightly from the original’s plot specifics with the hitchhiker they pick up, a girl who blows her own head off in front of them rather than playing Army with a knife (the new film being heavier handed no doubt, reflective of the sledgehammer approach of modern genre films). Beyond that, Marcus Nispel's remake zigzags around the original storyline changing a few details to keep us on our feet whilst effectively remaining a retelling at its core. Initially I thought the kids this time around would be irritable, as they often always are in modern slashers, but once their bubble of optimism is burst by the hitchhiker’s suicide things tense up and they become quite realistic in their responses to their very threatening situations. Or at least as realistic as you can imagine people being when confronted with problems such as this - it’s difficult to predict how people will act of course. The family of creeps is realised effectively, topped by a fantastically sinister turn by Lee Ermey as the sheriff - he’s actually quite restrained compared to appearances in the likes of Full Metal Jacket but he’s so convincingly inhuman in his treatment of the kids you can barely prevent yourself from being glued to the screen. His presence is one of the primary factors contributing to the film’s success. The remainder of the cast are usually functional or above so there are no real complaints; in fact I was surprised by the intensity of Jessica Biel’s effort as the equivalent of Marilyn Burns from the original film - whilst not screaming to the point of excess she conveys a believable torrent of unleashed terror, another key to success in a film such as this it goes without saying. Naturally the make up and special effects are utterly gruesome whilst violence and outright sadism top the original in spades. The flesh-clad Leatherface has been developed visually without betrayal of the source ideas (reportedly derived from the exploits of serial killer Ed Gein) and is all the more enhanced for it, similarly the production design is of a high standard and helps draw you into the nightmare. Overall the visual design has amazing impact - style of cinematography is artistically beautiful despite the nastiness that pervades the screen. A level of tension is reasonably well maintained for much of the running time and the result appears to be far from the gratuitous exercise is pointless ostentatiousness it could have been.  My only complaints really are reserved for the final segment, which push it into contrived territories that are somewhat unnecessary.

Entertainment in Video released this on DVD on behalf of New Line over here in the UK, granting us with a smart extra-packed two disc set too. The anamorphically enhanced, correctly framed image was very good for standard definition, ably backed by strong surround DTS and Dolby Digital audio tracks.  I've since picked up the Blu-ray, which improves on the DVD in several key areas.  The visual transfer is immaculate, embellishing the gorgeous colour schemes of the film which mostly consist of green and brown palettes, and containing mountains of detail.  I would suggest the colour is more accurately rendered on the Blu-ray, whilst definition is moderately superior.  Pleasingly, grain levels are intact on the Blu, allowing you to experience a cinematic feel with this disc.  The Blu also runs at the correct speed of 25 frames per second (as opposed to the PAL-sped-up 24 of the DVD), and receives a bump in sound quality via DTS HD Master Audio.  The ratio is 1.78:1 (DVD is 1.85:1), though via direct comparison it looked to me like the frame had been opened up slightly at the top/bottom, rather than being cropped slightly at the sides.  It doesn't especially make a noticeable difference (though EIV could do with swotting up on their ratios - both the DVD and Blu state 2.35:1 on the rear of the box).  A great set for a remake that’s not destined for the dustbin, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Adopting a virtually identical plot to the 1931 version (review here) there are a few differences in the 1941 remake that are worth noting. Spencer Tracy's Hyde bears a more realistic appearance and comes across as a much calmer but calculating individual, speaking in a lower rasp than Frederic March’s raging animal. There’s a long, philosophically engaging conversation over dinner early on where upper-class friends discuss the ethics and validity of Jekyll’s theories (these were outlined in a university lecture in the Mamoulian film) and the film is less daring in a number of ways despite being made a decade later. Whilst it’s clear that Jekyll’s unsatisfied libido plays a large part in his motivation there is less emphasis on the sexuality that otherwise reveals itself to the doctor and viewers throughout (though the hallucination sequences touch on it in a fetishistic manner with Jekyll whipping horses that reveal themselves in a subsequent shot to be the two women in his life: village tart, Ivy, and Jekyll's fiancée, Beatrix). While I very much admire a large portion of Ingrid Bergman’s film acting I think her casting (the role specifically requested by her) was a small mistake - Ivy does come across as a little corny and her odd Swedish-Cockney accent just doesn’t work. Saying that, she does manage to convey dramatic feelings of fear as Hyde’s sadistic hold over her strengthens.
Hyde’s make-up is better but special effects had hardly progressed since the early thirties and the transformation itself is actually less impressive (on several occasions the 1931 film made innovative use of filters to give the doctor’s face the appearance of changing without dissolves or cutting). The movie as a whole comes across as a bigger budget effort, boasting fantastic cinematography, but falls into a shadow when comparing the brutality and sexiness of the 1931 equivalent. It is, however, an accomplished and enjoyable piece.

Packaged with the earlier film the Warner DVD is an excellent buy which you can‘t go far wrong with. 4:3 framed, Black and White picture quality is even better here, featuring remarkably sharp details, near perfect greyscaling and well balanced contrast levels with very little print damage. Sound is as clear as it should be. The only extra for this film is a trailer that’s included on the other side of the disc with the 1931 version.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Innovative professor of science, Dr Jekyll, theorises that the primordial aggressive elements of a personality can be physically separated (and ultimately eliminated) from the benevolent nature that has superseded it through evolutionary development. On a domestic level he is happily expecting to marry the love of his life but his aspirations (and sexual desires) are thrown into disarray as her father continues to postpone approval of their impending marriage. Immersing himself in his work he decides to test his theories by consuming the chemical formula he has developed that is intended to initiate the separation. It does the trick but not in the way he was hoping: a transformation occurs that gives birth to a manifestation of his darker side. Referring to himself as Mr Hyde, this almost Neanderthal incarnation of his inner being goes about making a general nuisance of himself until he begins to form a relationship of sorts with a prostitute that Jekyll helped out earlier, a situation that the girl is too scared to end or escape from due to the escalating horrific behaviour with which Hyde conducts himself. Not realising that Hyde is the alter-ego of Jekyll she goes to visit the (oblivious?) good doctor for help again, at which point he realises what terror Hyde has caused and promises the traumatised woman that she will never see the monster again, determined himself to now leave alone the potion of his own creation. But Jekyll fails to anticipate that the formula has mixed inextricably with his blood and the transformation is no longer within his control.
This wasn’t the first adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s well known novella - following stage interpretations there were a number of cinema versions as far back as 1920 - among them, the John Barrymore vehicle where the star changed into a grimacing monster without makeup, a forty minute film by Louis Mayer, and an unofficial German adaptation (a similar situation to Nosferatu) called Der Janus Kopf. The 1931 movie was the best to date (and possibly the best, period) featuring surprisingly sexual connotations for the period, Ivy the whore being the embodiment of this aspect with perpetually low-cut tops and recurring flesh exposure (even baring 80% of a breast at one point - virtually unheard of in 30s cinema). Jekyll’s science is Freudian in essence - the separation of good from evil is basically a distinction between the id (the primitive aggressive and sexually motivated nature of a being’s driving forces) and the superego (the moral overseer) respectively, though whether that was actually an influence over Stevenson is debatable as Freud was only just forming these theories as the novella was written. There’s plenty of philosophical meat there to think about and the tale itself was highly imaginative given the fact that the text was first published in 1886. With his strange mannerisms Hyde himself may come across as strangely comical on first sight but he quickly proves himself to be a remarkably nasty individual, later on becoming quite sadistic and monstrous (I’m sure he appears to be more animal-like with each transformation throughout the film) - as his relationship with Ivy progresses so does the violence and his visits to her room (the soundtrack usually acquiring foreboding silence) become pretty frightening, accumulating dramatic effect as one empathises with the woman’s increasingly desperate plight (akin to a domestic violence situation I should imagine). There’s an impressive opening sequence where the camera adopts Jekyll’s point of view for several minutes (no mean feat; cameras were cumbersome at the time) as well as technical ingenuity of the (admittedly overused) metamorphoses. A classic of the 30s and very edgy considering the conservative attitudes of the era.

Packaged with the 1941 version of the same story the UK Region 2 Warner disc is excellent value for money. The 1931 film itself, presented 1.33:1 B&W, looks as beautiful as you can expect. Problematic censorship history notwithstanding (footage excised from older films has often been difficult to re-obtain) I also believe that it’s complete at 92 minutes (PAL, running 25 fps) - in British cinemas back in the 30s it only ran for 81 minutes! As a vintage chiller of great worth it’s up there with Universal's Frankenstein and Dracula.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Mountain of the Cannibal God

I wouldn't say I'm especially into the Cannibal sub-genre of movies, mainly put off by the insistence of anyone making them on including genuine animal violence, basically for shock purposes - it was a common staple as anyone knows who's ever seen more than one.  It's a shame because stripping away that aspect sometimes leaves relevant pieces of work I would say, whether it be social commentary of some sort or in many cases just a good adventure story.  Mountain of the Cannibal God (or Prisoner of the Cannibal God as it's sometimes known) begins with a brother and sister duo unsuccessfully going to the authorities for help when the woman's husband never returns from an unauthorised jungle expedition in New Guinea.  They hire someone who knows the region, along with a few native assistants, and head off into the jungle in search of the missing spouse.  Briefly staying mid-trip with a vibrant tribe, their presence brings unwanted attention from masked cannibals sneaking around in the bushes throwing spears at people, and they're forced to quickly head off deeper into the undergrowth towards a mountain that is essentially the place of worship for the primitives, and where the husband has most likely also gone before them.
Produced in 1978 this one was helmed by the unlikely director Sergio Martino, creator of some of the best seventies Gialli, and obviously made to cash in on what was a bit of a money-spinner at the time.  Surprisingly Ursula Andress was drafted in as the lead, even being persuaded to strip off for some of the later sequences.  The opening credits create a sense of trepidation, as plentiful shots of animals going about their ethic-free business create an idea in your mind of what might be to come, while this is underscored by an ominous soundtrack.  As suggested earlier, there is some nasty animal violence for you to fast-forward through, easily the most deplorable level to which any film-maker has ever stooped, and I'm surprised a director of Martino's calibre was sucked into this tradition.  Even preparing yourself for that, there was one sequence involving a pig (not being slaughtered or anything but truly f**ked up nonetheless...) that really astounded me.  Eliminating the animal issues from the occasion what remains ultimately is an adventure story that takes some time to pick up, but becomes fairly epic as the characters take up an increasingly arduous journey across quite a scope of land/water, their numbers dwindling during the odyssey it goes without saying.  Attractively photographed by Giancarlo Ferrando (who had worked with Martino a few times before), and with an emotion-provoking score by Maurizio/Guido De Angelis, Mountain... was from my perspective a number of steps up from the negative reviews I've occasionally seen, though not exactly a roller coaster in terms of excitement.

This review was based on the uncut EC Entertainment DVD.  Despite being over a decade old now it's actually a very strong presentation for standard definition, mastered (as claimed by EC) from negatives in 2002.  The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is consistently pleasing, with digital flaws only really evident on close up inspection or during some of the night-time scenes.  Anchor Bay (and later Blue Underground) released this on DVD also, with similar technical specs but containing improved extras.  It's hard to imagine how it could look any better on DVD than the EC version.  Whilst extras are very thin on the EC disc (basically a couple of trailers and some stills) there is a nice fold-out poster/notes section.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Some time in the future the overpopulated world is overrun with crime (hang on, that's happening now!) so the authorities employ specialists, known as judges, to dish out instant punishment for deeds that warrant immediate elimination or imprisonment.  Judge Dredd is called out to the scene of a multiple murder, accompanied by a psychic rookie, and following an arrest at the monolithic tower block housing 75000 people (sounds like one or two places I know around here) the place goes into shutdown - blast shields that seal the entire building in during event of war.  It's sold to the authorities as a drill, to prevent them from coming out to the scene, but it's actually a homicidal ploy for the gangland boss woman who unofficially runs the place to have chance to have her minions assassinate the interfering duo of judges.
Wisely pretending the 1995 adaptation of the 2000A.D. comic story never existed, Dredd confines much of its action to one building (less of an epic scope than the Sylvester Stallone vehicle), albeit one very big building.  It's a violent mix of science fiction technology/weaponry with high octane action, feeling very adult in nature.  The main character (played nicely by Karl Urban of recent Priest and Star Trek fame) is much more faithful to the source creation than Stallone's version, which will surely be pleasing to fans of the comics.  Most importantly, he never takes off his helmet!  Dredd comes across as a combination of Robocop and Christian Bale's Batman (albeit somewhat more credible), thankfully keeping the temptation for wisecracks in check.  For once, unlike some other contemporary action films, the slow motion (extreme slow motion in this case) is contextually justified, simulating as it does the impact of a drug that's being used and distributed by certain antagonists.  It gives rise to some startling visual effects, which complement the striking shooting techniques employed throughout.

The UK Blu-ray (from Entertainment in Video) grants you a full HD 2D or 3D image, which is stunningly sharp even when surveying the distance of a long corridor; the director's overall compositional approach is commendable.  3D really sucks the viewer into this world, and it's this kind of film that makes investing in 3D equipment worthwhile, rather than some of the crap that has been unleashed on the unsuspecting public in the last couple of years. Some of the interview snippets are worth taking a look at for a change, and you can get a glance at just how bulky the 3D cameras really are in use.  Paul Leonard-Morgan's pounding score is implemented well on the lossless soundtrack, and it goes without saying that the dynamic audio of this film will kick your butt through the wall if you have a decent system.  Demonstrating that the cinema-going public have little in way of sense the film flopped (my theory is the lack of super-star names, which really shows how shallow people are when deciding what to see), but it is surprisingly one of the best movies of the last few years - get it on Blu and show the studios that some of us out here have some taste.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Resident Evil: Extinction

The third live-action film in the franchise that may never end begins with Alice seemingly waking up as she did in the first outing, only to be killed by a booby trap.  She turns out to be part of a cloning experiment at the Umbrella Corporation, the real Alice now travelling across country as a simultaneous means of avoiding the plague while searching for answers/solutions.  She hooks up with a travelling team of soldiers and survivors as they work they way across the deserts, finding hope in the idea that a place in Alaska has escaped the plague.
Resident Evil: Extinction feels more solid than its predecessor Apocalypse where the story is being pushed forward in a number of ways, and the script is superior.  Whilst it may still be a case of the desperately surviving characters ambling from place to place, I do quite like the 'adventure' structure of each episode, and Milla Jovovich's Alice is quite an appealing driving force that ties together each instalment.  Freed of the constraints of Racoon City and its immediate underground, the series can now take off across the globe (as indeed it's announced at the beginning of this film that the plague has spread internationally).  Extinction borrows heavily from movies that have gone before it, most notably Day Of The Dead (Romero's masterpiece of mid-eighties downbeat horror rather than the remake, which doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned) - witness the now-slightly-worried authorities living in an isolated base surrounded by thousands of hungry corpses waiting for entry, and their experiments to domesticate the creatures, in particular the Bub-like monster that is shown items with which it has some familiarity, emphatically reminding the viewer of Bub fumbling with a personal stereo and Stephen King novel as he momentarily disregards his hunger for meat.  And then there is the hint of (or homage to?) Hitchcock's The Birds, giving birth to one of the best set pieces of the series when the convoy come under attack from flocks of infected crows.  I found the Clare-led convoy somewhat difficult to digest - the rather attractive blonde doesn't convince as the leader of a small army and I'd suggest that in such circumstances as those depicted by the franchise tribe mentality would overwhelm leading to the likes of Clare being impregnated and/or dead rather than unanimously followed.  Not a nice thought, but then again that premise would not have sunk well with today's PC audience.  I also got the impression that Jovovich's face had been digitally softened during close-ups - rather than making her look 'perfect', it was odd at best and distracting at worst.  Of course I could be wrong but even the other actors, who were almost certainly plastered in some sort of screen make-up, had visible skin pores for crying out loud.  I also felt that Alice's superpowers diminished from the impact on occasions, being difficult to identify with and making her less human in the process.  Aside from those gripes I found Extinction to be the most enjoyable of the series, with plenty of action, a few nice ideas, and an epic, almost spaghetti western kind of scope.

The Blu-ray is the way to see this film: an incredibly colourful and consistently sharp 2.39:1 1080p image (grainy during the darker sequences), aside from Milla's Gaussian-blurred close-ups.  The TrueHD audio track really wallops, with incidental music grabbing you and sound effects exploding from all directions.  Sony's disc is backed up by a large amount of deleted material (why do they script and film this stuff only to ditch it?  If it's not working you'd get the idea during storyboard stage), plus featurettes and commentary.  An exemplary disc pretty much all round.  P.S. What happened to Jill?