The Hole, Dead Snow, 10 Items or less
I’m not a huge horror fan, but there’s something about zombies I’ve always loved (possibly the frequency with which they tend to threaten the future of mankind – they are a good option for an apocalypse). I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dead Snow and was pleasantly surprised (or as much as you can be when watching a film where one character gets her entrails caught on a tree whilst running through a forest) at the film’s sense of fun, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen in a horror film since Evil Dead 2.
Why should a horror film be deadly serious? I’ve always found the concept of horror fairly ridiculous, even with classics such as Carrie or The Exorcist. I find the whole genre a lot more palatable when there are a few laughs to be had. And once the action starts, Dead Snow has plenty of chuckles.
The film concerns itself with a group of medical students who go for a lovely weekend in a remote mountain cabin and the Nazi zombies (oh yes) who want to make a meal of them. The film has some inventive zombie-action, which is played with just the right level of hysterical abandon to ensure that it works.
The zombies look great and the idea of Nazi zombies is a satisfying enough mash-up to give the filmmakers a good excuse to make what is essentially a fairly straight forward zombie movie, just with enough character and self-awareness to stand above the rest.
The Hole is a horror film on a much gentler scale, since it is aimed primarily at kids. That’s not to say it isn’t a bit scary. In fact, the inclusion of a scary little girl and a demonic toy pretty much guaranteed that I’d find it unnerving.
A single mother moves her two boys to a new neighbourhood (you know the drill, the younger one is pretty cool with it, the older one is livid at moving away from his friends, until he sees the teenage daughter of their new neighbours). They discover an apparently bottomless hole in their basement and soon live to regret removing the numerous padlocks that were intended to keep, well, something in.
The set up isn’t exactly groundbreaking and the ultimate revelation isn’t entirely satisfying, but its good to see Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) making a film that wouldn’t be out of place if it were made in 1986. I imagine the ten-year-old me would have watched this a bunch of times.
Finally, 10 Items or Less was a small film with modest ambitions that proves to be the ideal showcase for Morgan Freemans talents. He stars as an unnamed actor doing research for an unnamed project that brings him to a small supermarket in a Los Angeles suburb. There he is drawn to a checkout girl (played by a Spanish actress called Paz Vega) who seems to know every barcode by heart. They share the afternoon and, despite only being casual acquantances, have a significant effect on each other’s lives.
The film succeeds largely thanks to Freeman’s effortless charm and his (characters?) ability to captivate everyone he meets (Vega as the checkout girl turns in a worthy performance and worked well opposite Freeman). Perhaps it is Freeman’s way or perhaps it was just the character (a distinction between the actor and character isn’t really apparent), but I found his fascination with everyone he meets and the situations he finds himself in to be my greatest pleasure in this film.