AUGUST 11, 2009
Ever since Time Warner decided to be a even bigger pile of fucking douche and drop Fearnet from its lineup, I’ve had almost no use for the On Demand service I probably pay extra for every month (I should probably look into that). The only sliver of hope lies in the occasional horror movie that pops up on Sundance On Demand (trivia - I get the free on demand stuff, but I don’t actually have the Sundance channel), such as Premonition (Japanese: Yogen), which is an OK enough mix of The Ring and Final Destination, filtered through Asian horror tradition (i.e. it’s slow and baffling).
I also wonder if the Sandra Bullock film of the same name was actually a remake of this one. Like that film, it hinges on the film’s hero losing a loved one to a horrific car crash (caused by a giant truck), and then a fragmented timeline allows them to try to prevent it from occurring. But where the Bullock film (which isn’t that bad, for the record) made this the bulk of the film, here it only happens in the film’s final 15 minutes, which suggests a director who wrote himself into a hole more than anything else. If your plot has a gimmick, it needs to be used throughout; you don’t see Bill Murray waking up again on Groundhog Day for the first time during the film’s climax.
Plus the suspense is incredibly deflated due to the fact that our hero is a moron. He knows that the truck is going to hit his car, which is parked on the side of the road, and then his daughter, trapped in the backseat, will be killed by a mixture of fire and terrible CGI glass. So when he finally gets to go back and relive the incident and “save” her, what does he do? He fiddles with her seatbelt for five minutes, before the truck is even in view, rather than drive the goddamn car out of the way. In fact, he does this twice (the first time he succeeds in getting his wife killed instead), which is just incredulous.
And it’s a bummer that the climax spins so far off the rails, because until then it’s not too bad. Yeah, it’s a bit similar to The Ring, with the estranged couple trying to get to the bottom of a mystery (they even, as always, have to go look at old records and visit some remote place for some background information). Creepy videotapes even factor into the story (weird, this makes two movies in a row where someone played a VHS cassette with a masking tape label). But at least it’s similar more in character than plot; there are no vengeful ghosts or haunted electronic devices in this one. In fact, it’s sort of refreshingly old-school in that regard. Despite being made in 2004, the horror element stems from a newspaper clipping instead of text messages or whatever (plus its VHS tapes instead of DVDs).
Two things really irked me. One - he finds out about a train crash that will kill his wife, and he manages to get her off, but everyone else dies (selective heroism). For some reason, they go to the wake of one of the people who died on the train - but nothing seems to suggest that they knew the girl, so how did they know her name? With a giant disaster on a commuter train, there’s bound to be a lot of memorial services in town, so how’d they know which one was hers? But then, some other random person at the wake asks to see the body, and the girl’s mother opens the casket right in front of everyone. Who the hell does that? Plus it has no bearing on anything, so it’s a really odd, unnecessary scene.
The other concerns the opening accident. The car is hit by a big semi truck that makes no sound. I walk in traffic all the time, and I’m sorry, if a big fucking truck is even within a block of you, you can hear it. Yet these damn things are always sneaking up on people in movies. It’s contrived and totally sucks me out of the reality of the situation every time. Plus it’s just a cheap scare. Maybe just think of some other way to kill people, since whenever someone absent-mindedly wanders into a street in a movie, we know they are going to get hit.
Also, is there some sort of petition we can sign or something to get DVD producers to stop being so lazy with their subtitles? The movie revolves around a magic newspaper, but half the time it doesn’t bother providing a subtitle that explains why our hero is so startled by whatever it says. There’s also a scene where it scans over someone’s book collection. It’s a traditional shorthand for character development (so like, if they are all psychology books, we know the character is a shrink), but if they aren’t going to bother translating the titles for us, it’s just making us feel left out. I was about to say that the character development is rather thin, but for all I know it’s quite rich in subtle clues to give us the background, and the sub company deprived us of this information. Yet when someone is saying someone’s name over and over as they look for them, they will translate each and every one of those. Put a little effort into it guys.
I watched it on cable, but if my review has gotten you curious - I urge you to find the DVD (which I should have after HMAD reader Lambert recommended it a while back). Not only will it look better, but it’s probably also at the correct aspect ratio; for some reason Sundance offers us a 1.85 transfer of what appears to be a 2.35 film. It’s nice that they meet you halfway, but it’s a rather lousy (and noticeable) cropping job, and having the opening/closing credits at the correct aspect ratio adds insult to nerdy injury. Plus, if you’re like me and doze off, a DVD is much easier to rewind/fast forward to where you left off, whereas on Demand only allows 4x speed for such things. Which REALLY sucks, because I fell asleep with a half hour to go and it played to the end, so I had to fast forward at 4x from the film’s beginning until an hour in, which took like 15 minutes. I guess it was nice to quickly watch the movie again up until that point though.
What say you?