Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The best way to enjoy this film would be to experience it knowing as little as possible. I've tried in this review to say just that, however there is a chance I may have said too much. You may wish to consider seeing the film first before proceeding.
The problem with this movie is that unless you go in and take it for what it is, with no preconceived notions, odds are you are going to be disappointed. For me, seeing this after reading some less than stellar reviews I was ready for a film that was going to disappoint. To my shock and amazement I was surprised to find that the film is a flawed masterpiece, and probably one of the best films of 2006.
The story of a young writer who ends up stuck in her own novel (literally) and has to find her way out is being marketed as a horror film pretty much across the board. The problem is that after the first twenty five minutes of creepy-scary build up, the film shifts gears and becomes something else. Certainly there are still horrific elements, but the film is more a mythic quest along the lines of Alice In Wonderland, or one of the other classic quest tales, or perhaps even Andre Tarkovsky's Stalker.
The bulk of the film set in The Re-Cycle (the film's English title) a place were everything lost or forgotten goes. People, toys, characters, city blocks, memories, everything goes to this place. It's a jumble of places and people, many half-remembered. It's a place that is visually stunning to look at and is often amazing. The film's storyline is also a jumble of pieces that refer back to other films or comics or books (for example Neil Gaiman's Sandman, What Dreams May Come, Spirited Away, Night of the Living Dead). Some have said that the film makes no narrative sense and is more candy for the eye instead of the head, but I would argue against that, since a world as jumbled as this would create a series of quests as equally jumbled. It's as if you dreamt about the five different movies you watched before bed, and then linked them in your mind as you slept. The structure and seemingly referential nature of the set pieces seems to support this idea.
As I stated at the start, the film is not set on being a straight horror film all the way through. There is more than just the notion of scaring the audience at work here. Yes, the film has a couple of good scares, and a few moments where your stomach knots in unease, but it's actually about something else. What that is isn't really clear until towards the end, so the film ends up shifting tones three or four or five times in it's two hour span. I know this shifting gears and recreating itself as something else is probably going to disappoint hardcore horror fans, but ultimately it allows for a growth of characters and storylines into places you might not fully expect.
This is a masterpiece.
In the interest of full disclosure I do have to say that the film isn't perfect. Some of the creatures are a bit too rubbery and fake, which is at odds with much of the fine work on things like the long necked corpses. There are also a few lapses in the visual effects where it's clear that things are not real, which is often glaring considering that many of the films vistas (from deranged amusement park to mountains in the sky) are so real as to be almost matter of fact.
I really loved this movie a great deal. It's a rare film that not only tries, but succeeds in being more than just one thing. It manages to take old things and turn them into something new. It's just a wonderful experience for those who are willing to be open to what it is, and not what you think it should be.
Currently out on DVD