Two Horror Films from Alliance
Apollo 18 (January 1/12)
An astonishingly incompetent and interminable piece of work, Apollo 18 details the chaos that ensues after several '70s era astronauts encounter a malicious entity during a routine trip to the moon. Apollo 18, which is presented as yet another found-footage documentary, proves unable to grab the viewer's interest virtually from start to finish, with the movie's unreasonably deliberate pace effectively highlighting its myriad of problems. Ranking high on the film's list of unconscionable deficiencies is its complete and utter lack of compelling characters, as filmmaker Gonzalo López-Gallego, working from Brian Miller's script, is simply unable to transform any of these one-dimensional victims-in-waiting into wholeheartedly (or even remotely) sympathetic figures. López-Gallego's ongoing efforts at perpetuating the film's found-footage conceit results in a visual style that's almost never not obnoxious and irritating, with the admitted authenticity of the movie's look rendered moot by the uneventful storyline and pervasive atmosphere of tedium. (There is, however, exactly one relatively decent sequence here, in which a survivor pleads with his superiors to bring him back home.) By the time the laughable cause of the astronauts' problems is revealed, Apollo 18 has certainly and unequivocally established itself as a misbegotten misfire of epic proportions - with the film's massive failure hopefully signaling the death knell of what is, more often than not, a consistently underwhelming genre.
The Woman in Black (January 26/12)
Based on the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black follows Daniel Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps, an early 20th-century lawyer, as he arrives in a small village intending to settle the estate of a recently-deceased individual - with problems ensuing as it becomes increasingly clear that a malicious, malevolent ghost is haunting said estate. It's a decidedly conventional premise that is, at the outset, employed to promising effect by director James Watkins, as the filmmaker, working from Jane Goldman's script, opens the proceedings with a striking pre-credits sequence that immediately sets a tone of low-key eeriness. It goes without saying, then, that the familiarity of what follows is initially not as problematic as one might've feared, with the ongoing emphasis on Radcliffe's character's deliberately-paced exploits - eg Arthur must contend with several suspicious villagers, Arthur explores the creaky old house, etc, etc - generally allayed by Watkins' solid directorial choices and the periodic inclusion of creepy images and interludes (eg Arthur is confronted by a little girl who's just swallowed some lye). There does reach a point, however, at which the repetitive nature of the narrative becomes impossible to comfortably stomach, as much of the movie's midsection is devoted to one scene after another of Arthur's investigation into the spooky happenings within the house. It's inherently tedious stuff that only grows more and more problematic as time progresses, with the increasingly oppressive atmosphere dulling the impact of the film's climactic revelations and ensuring that The Woman in Black ultimately overstays its welcome to a distressingly demonstrable degree.