Wolf Creek (Greg Mclean, 2005), Dumplings (Fruit Chan, 2004)

Two horror films

Been hearing about Wolf Creek, and on watching it, I have to agree: this is head and shoulder better than Hostel (grimmer, for one--which is all right with me, because here the grimmness is earned), the Saw movies (less absurd by far), and all their flashy ilk. Low-key and moody, it's closer in spirit to the orignal The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a fairly well-written bare-bones script that takes care to define and create memorable characters we can root for, feel afraid for, and care for when they come to considerable harm (that said, John Jarratt is particularly memorable for his affable "g'day mate"-type bushman with maybe a dark side).

My one big reservation is the director's shooting and cutting style--the handheld photography seems more sloppy than gritty, and this is still the same kind of standard-issue jump-cut editing we see in modern horror movies, meant to give the film edgy creds.

Happy to see Roger 'I'm desperate for clues' Ebert give this film no stars. You go, Roger--right up where the sun don't shine.

Even better, I think is Dumplings, Fruit Chan's full-length version of his Three Extremes short. More complex, more breathlessly erotic, with more horrific details fleshed out fully from characters and story. It's perhaps not as intense as, say, Wolf Creek, but I think it's more unsettling--the quest for eternal youth and the ultimate food thrill, in beautifully realized fable.

This is Fruit Chan's first horror film/thriller, despite the many moments of urban horror or violence in his films, and the outsider's perspective and trademark grittiness he brings to the picture helps immensely (despite being better known for depicting the lower and middle classes, he gets the upper class types here just right, down to the various transactions (that's the right word, I think) between wife, husband, and mistress on issues like money, sex, and children). Terrific film, and it helps that Chris Doyle gives the film a lustrous, brightly colored sheen--including the unsettlingly orange filling glimpsed through the dumplings' gelatinous wrapping.

Note: Googled around, and found--to my horror--plenty of slanderous websites accusing the Chinese of systematic and wholesale consumption of aborted fetuses. Chan's maybe tapping into that sinophobic sentiment with his film, which seems both courageous and reckless--like playing with dynamite to entertain an audience (to his credit, he's careful to show that this is strictly a one-woman operation, not some huge government conspiracy).

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