CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
HAL 9000


Movie Review:
(1959 + 1999) and The Curse of Colorization!

by Christopher Beaubien • April 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

The Black-and-White 1959 Version

The Colorized 1959 Version

When The Price Is Dead Right

Nightfall. It is calmest before the storm as five hearses roll up the hillside carrying five fresh victims. Very much alive for now, they have all been invited by that eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) for his wife’s party… at the House on Haunted Hill. How he spoils her! To make the night more interesting (for himself), he has decreed that the guests will win $10,000 each if they last until morning locked inside the spooky mansion. They needn’t worry about losing by default of death since the money will then go to their next of kin. That Frederick… always thinking ahead.

The guests are strangers to each other as well as their host. More interesting that way. They include a typist and wallflower named Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), the confident pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), the psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), the columnist Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum – Robert Mitchum’s sister!), and the owner of the house Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.) who is visibly frightened beyond his wits. He goes on and on about their imminent doom by the housed evil. Why go in? They all need money, you see.

Just upstairs held up in her room forever freshening her face is Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), Frederick’s scheming wife. Annabelle insists that it was not he who married her, but she. She also makes no secret of the fact that she loves only his wealth and wants it all for herself. Actually, Annabelle is just wife #4, but what’s most alarming is that those last three wives are dead. Frederick knows of Annabelle’s infidelities and can’t prove them. They’re a perfect match because Annabelle is smart and can hold her own. Frederick would surely agree she is a worthy opponent. Oh, how they love implicating their petty torments on one another! It is their mutual hatred that makes their relationship so strong.


Movie Review: THE HAPPENING (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • June 13, 2008 • 1 Comment


It ain’t happening.

How god-awful does M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller The Happening get? Marky Mark Walhberg actually talks to a house plant. I wish I was making this up. Now I realize Shyamalan’s intention for the scene and the film in whole — mankind has pushed Mother Nature too far and the planet uses mind manipulation to destroy its human inhabitants. A near-glib premise that holds enough weight to make a decent Twilight Zone episode circa 1950s, maybe even a successful M. Night Shyamalan feature. It could have worked had Shyamalan made wiser choices that don’t fall with a clunk like the one where Walhberg talks to a house plant.

The greatest failure on Shyamalan’s part is that he has stopped respecting the audience’s intelligence. Everything is spelled out in such agonizing exposition. Even the character’s motives are clumsily explained: “I don’t like to show my feelings too!” The talking points by key characters and news anchors going on about the environment’s biting cause have the subtlety of a running drill against the skull. It is very aggravating to watch a movie that has exchanged much needed ambiguity, menace, atmosphere and compelling characterizations for said exposition — even more so from a filmmaker who has proved himself a smart and skillful one more than once.

The premise is a compelling one: people, for some airy reason, are subject to possession and committing suicide. Scenes of the mass population being driven to inventivelykill themselves are disturbing for the tact strategy that goes into their execution. The blood letting is sparing, and kept to a minimum to maintain its effectiveness without going into overkill. Construction workers fall from a high rise with balletic grace before making sickening thuds. Much ado has been made about this being Shyamalan’s first R-rated feature, though anyone expecting to witness a holocaust will be attending a small-scale spectacle of human annihilation.