Poltergeist

May 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris
Directed by: Gil Kenan (“Monster House”)
Written by:  David Lindsay-Abaire (“Oz the Great and Powerful”)

The original “Poltergeist” film from 1982 boasts none other than Steven Spielberg as its co-writer, and the king of 1980s suburbia on film has his fingerprints all over the classic horror movie.  Spielberg’s influence is so heavy that rumors persist that he was the real director of the film, taking charge when credited director Tobe Hooper was indecisive or slow to react. With height-of-his-powers Spielberg behind the camera, the influence of the film reverberated through the horror genre for years, so much so that the remake hitting theaters in 2015 feels less like a retread of the first “Poltergeist” and more like a cheap copy of the dozens of films that followed it, borrowing and re-arranging the formula along the way.

After financial hardships necessitate move to a smaller house, the Bowen family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie Dewitt) start to notice strange things happening in their new home. Strange noises come from the walls, comic books stack themselves in intricate house of cards formations, and a box of creepy clowns falls from the rafters. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kenndi Clements) begins talking to some unseen voices in the TV, and is later sucked through a portal that appears in her closet. In an effort to get their daughter back, the Bowens enlist the help of a university paranormal research team and a TV ghost hunter (Jared Harris) to rid the house of the evil spirts.

Dull and uneventful, this remake seems to be going through the motions more than anything else. Plot details are changed from the original film for no reason other than to be different, and the setting is changed to the present day, a difference that renders the strange alien static of old analog TVs moot. Director Gil Kenan and producer Sam Raimi were chosen by the studio to create a “revisionist” take on the story, but all they’ve managed to do is further cement the original movie as a horror classic.

Jared Harris & Olivia Cooke – The Quiet Ones

April 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

Continuing the “revival” of horror films released by Hammer Film Productions, a company known most for its contribution to the horror genre between the 1950s and 1970s, “The Quiet Ones” is only the third film to get a full theatrical release since the studio resurrected in 2007 (the first two were “Let Me In,” the remake of the 2004 Swedish vampire film “Let the Right One In,” and “The Woman in Black,” a gothic horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe).

In “The Quiet Ones,” actor Jared Harris plays Dr. Joseph Coupland, a university professor who carries out a series of unconventional experiments on a young girl, Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), to prove or disprove the existence of the supernatural.

During our interview, Harris and Cooke talked to me about their experience with the horror genre, what they personally believe when it comes to supernatural occurrences and what they know about the true story that inspired their new film. Harris and Cooke also discussed the other horror film each of them will be in this year, Harris in the remake of “Poltergeist” and Cooke in the Hasbro board-game inspired “Ouija.”

Being that your both British, how familiar were you with Hammer horror films? Where those films you grew up watching?

Jared Harris: Yeah, there is a fantastic library of Hammer horror films. They did Frankenstein films and Dracula movies and they even did a Jekyll and Hyde story. They did one of my favorite versions called “Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde” (1971) where the guy turns into a woman. They were really, good entertaining movies. They were sort of in the same spirit of the great [filmmaker] Roger Corman, but the British version. We watched them growing up as a kid. My father had a 16 mm projector and we used to rent them. He loved westerns and we loved horror movies.

Olivia Cooke: I wasn’t really that familiar. My mom and dad were. My mom was very excited when I told her I was going to be doing a Hammer film because she used to watch them and loved them as a kid. I’ve seen revivals like “Let Me In” and “The Woman in Black,” but I wasn’t familiar with the original ones.

Do you remember the first horror movie you saw when you were little, Olivia?

OC: Yeah, I remember walking into a friend’s house and her older brother was watching “The Ring.” It scared me so much! I had a TV in my room that was on this dresser and I had to keep the top drawer open in case Samara [the evil entity in “The Ring”] fell out of my TV so I would have time to run away.  Now, horror movies are spoiled for me forever because I know how they work.

So, Jared, stylistically, how is a horror story like this different from another movie you’re going to be in later this year, the remake of “Poltergeist?”

JH: They’re only similar in the sense that they’re in the horror genre. [“The Quiet Ones’] is the kind of film that has certain kinds of themes where you have to commit 150 percent or it won’t work. You have to leave your inhibitions in the trailer and prepared to step off the diving board and trust that it’s all going to work.

What about you, Olivia? You’re going to be in another horror film, too, later this year called “Ouija.” How is something like “The Quiet Ones” different from that?

OC: “The Quiet Ones” is definitely more of a psychological horror. It’s from a scientific point of view. I think the old-fashioned element makes it feel very authentic and feel like there is more at stake because you can’t blame what is happening on modern technology.

I know you watched Hammer horror films growing up, Jared, but is the horror genre something you followed as you made a name for yourself in this industry?

JH: I mean, “Jaws” is one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it’s a fantastic genre. In a way, it’s sort of similar to comedy because you know right away if it worked or not since you get a very visceral reaction from the audience.

Right, with a horror film you’re either scared or you’re not scared.

JH: Right, you’re either gripped in that way and have this instant visceral reaction or you don’t. It’s the same with comedy. You tell a joke and it’s either funny or it isn’t.

When you watch “Jaws” for the hundredth time, do you still get that visceral feeling you’re talking about?

JH: Definitely. But I watch that and admire the filmmaking also. I admire the construction. It’s fascinating to watch the way [director Steven Spielberg] constructed those scenes. They are often in three or four setups, which is astounding. He’s an absolute genius.

What about the first time you saw “The Quiet Ones?”

JH: I was rung out like an old sponge! I was drained by the end of it and I knew exactly what was going to happen!

Do either of you believe in the paranormal? Have you experienced it yourself, maybe?

OC: I’m always opened to it, but it’s never happened to me. Until it does, I can’t really believe fully.

JH: I haven’t experienced it myself, but I’m open-minded about it. (Laughs) I feel a bit left out, like they’re avoiding me or something. I have several family members who have experienced something and I’ve quizzed them on it rigorously to find out what it was or what they think it was. It’s fascinating. It’s baffling.

Care to share a story a family member told you?

JH: My brother told me a story of waking up one night and seeing a woman sitting at the end of his bed. He thought he had an intruder in his house. He was terrified. He woke his girlfriend up and she saw the person sitting on the bed. He called out to her, “What are you doing here?!” The woman stood up and leaned over them. He started waving his arms for her to get away and she disappeared instantly. I don’t have an explanation. That’s what is so fascinating about these types of stories. The human mind always wants to come up with an answer. Even without complete information, we’ll still try to come up with a theory.

So, I’m assuming the first question you asked your brother was about what medication he was currently taking, right?

JH: (Laughed) I asked all those questions!

Would either of you want to see a ghost in your hallway at 3 a.m.?

OC: (Laughs) Sure! Why not!? (Laughs) I’d love to experience that! I’d hope the ghost would think I was worth scaring!

JH: I would say yes, but with a caveat. I hope I wouldn’t turn into a complete coward and run out of the room screaming. You never know how you’d react to something like that.

I’m sure ya’ll know there is a lot of skepticism when it comes to horror movies like “The Quiet Ones” that market themselves as a film that is “based on a true story.” What do you know about the “true story” this film is based on and why people should believe this actually happened?

JH: Well, it’s based on a real experiment. That experiment was the sort of spark that fired up the writer’s imagination. All movies are a “what if” scenario, so that story set him off. The basic premise behind the experiment and the movie are the same. What is the supernatural? Does it exist? Where does it come from? Once they started constructing the story, they pulled in a lot of different sources. The biggest difference between the original experiment and this movie is that in the original experiment, the person in charge was a responsible and descent human being. When the sessions started getting sinister, he ended the experiment and sent everybody home. In the movie, of course, for dramatic effect, they put someone completely irresponsible in charge who says, “Keep going! Go deeper!” when bad stuff starts to happen.

OC: Yeah, Jared’s character is the one that goes to extremes. Nothing can really stop him. You have to take artistic license with that. But these experiments did happen in the 1970s. Scientists were experimenting on people to see if they could purge negative energy out of them. It’s quite scary. Obviously, it’s unethical. We wouldn’t dream of such a thing today.

Olivia, is it challenging on a physical level to play someone who is presumably possessed? The role itself must’ve taken some energy to complete if it called for screaming and contorting and things of that nature.

OC: There’s one contorting scene where I sort of flip and something comes out of my mouth. Apart from that, the demonic possession was more in the performance. The character was like five characters in one. For some reason, it was very easy for me to tap into all those different emotions inside. It was such a feast for an actress.

Jared, I wanted to get back to “Poltergeist” for a bit. It’s such a classic horror movie. Some people would say a movie like that doesn’t need to be remade. What would you say to them?

JH: I love the original. I remember it fondly when it came out. It sets a high bar. The remake definitely has a lot to live up to. I saw [the remake] recently and it definitely holds up. I tend to agree, but we’ll see.

Olivia, did you play with a real Ouija board for your role in “Ouija,” which we’ll see later this year? Isn’t that something most people are usually afraid to do in real life?

OC: Yeah, we played with a real Ouija board. I was always told not to mess with things like that. I often left the set wondering if I attracted some sort of energy I shouldn’t be messing with. Hasbro [Toy and Board Game Company] got me a Ouija board for the Wrap Party. I was like, “Oh. Thanks.” (Laughs) I really didn’t want to take it home with me. I think I left it in my hotel room.

Jared, you mentioned “Jaws” earlier. You got to work with director Steven Spielberg in “Lincoln” a couple of years ago. As an actor, what do you try to get out of an experience like that going in?

JH: First of all you’re privileged to be there. When you’re working with someone like Steven Spielberg, you’re trying to absorb as much of his knowledge as you can. You’re trying to learn about filmmaking. His knowledge of films is encyclopedic. His understanding of what works within a frame and what conveys momentum is completely instinctual. You’re in the hands of a master.

Olivia, you’ve been picked up for a third season of “Bates Motel.” What can we expect from your relationship with Norman as this second season wraps up and we get ready for a third one? How do you hope that friendship grows?

OC: I think their friendship will just get deeper and deeper. As Norman switches into this psychosis, I think Emma will play secondary to his mother. Emma is the closest girl he’s got besides his mother. As Emma tries and taps more and more into his life, I think it’ll effect Norman, especially if something ever happens to her.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

December 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris
Directed by: Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes”)
Written by: Michele Mulroney (“Paper Man”) and Kieran Mulroney (“Paper Man”)

The past couple of years have been kind to Sherlock Holmes fans, provided said fans don’t consider Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s text to be holy writ. Between the outstanding modern re-imagining TV series “Sherlock” from the BBC and director Guy Ritchie’s 2009 big-screen action/comedy take “Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, the characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson are coming across as dynamic and exciting. No longer are they just the tweedy bores of the books, baffling the readers of today by repeatedly tossing out the word “ejaculated,” which in the 19th century was apparently a socially-acceptable way of saying “exclaimed.”

Ritchie returns to direct Downey as Holmes and Law who reprise their roles in the sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” an entertainingly self-assured adventure that follows the lead of “The Dark Knight” by pitting our hero against his classic arch-nemesis. In this case, it’s the evil Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is the thorn in Holmes’ side. As the movie begins, Holmes is on Moriarty’s trail, attempting to solve a puzzle that began with the murder of the Crown Prince of Austria — and Moriarty knows this. The Professor is every bit the intellectual Holmes is, only completely without conscience. Moriarty doesn’t hesitate in targeting the people Holmes cares for, from old flame Irene Adler (Rachael McAdams) to Watson and his new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly), in an effort to send Holmes a message.

While it still remains odd to think of a story about Sherlock Holmes being an action movie, there’s no denying the thrilling kinetic energy Ritchie brings to the action scenes. The slow-mo fight sequences, thought out in advance and then carried out by Holmes, return with an immensely satisfying bonus, joined by a thrilling gun fight/train escape sequence and a disorienting race through the woods as mortars blast through the trees.

But the reason to see the movie remains the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law. As Holmes, Downey puts an affably oddball spin on a character typically portrayed as unknowable and aloof, while Law’s Watson is a not-so-reluctant foil to Holmes, wryly self-aware of the danger his adventures with Holmes will bring. As Moriarty, Harris brings an disquieting normalcy to the part, the popular professor who know one, outside of Holmes, would expect is also an evil criminal mastermind. And while the always-delightful Stephen Fry enriches the film’s world with his comically offbeat take on Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, Noomi Rapace’s gypsy fortune teller Simza is left with little to do. The middle of the film, focusing on her and her gypsy clan, drags along slowly. The fact that it takes place in the countryside and is peppered with an over-long gag about Holmes’ fear of horses makes it feel like a deleted scene from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel. Rapace even appears to be wearing Penelope Cruz’s hat from “On Stranger Tides.”

While there are no signs of magnifying glasses or deerstalker hats, and no one utters, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” the team of Downey Jr., Law, and Ritchie have once again managed to crack the case, discovering the secret to updating classic characters to entertain modern audiences.