Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
May 1st, 2005

Close Your Eyes

Directed by Nick Willing

The British have been the undisputed masters of the mystery genre for better than the last hundred years. And this massive legacy shows forth cleanly and fitly with "Close Your Eyes," a fantastically subtle, if slightly flawed, murder mystery straight out of Great Britain.

So what we have here is the story of a hypnotherapist who sees more than he'd like. Dr. Michael Strother has the capacity to see the inside of his patients' minds. Naturally, you'd think this would be an incredible boon to the whole concept of psychology ("Hey, I see what the problem is! You're a closet kleptomaniac! That'll be two hundred fifty dollars--next patient!"), and you know the HMOs would love a therapist who could perform diagnoses on the fly like that.

And Strother puts his gift to work, helping a detective who wants to quit smoking. Standard operating procedure, right? Well, you'd be absolutely right...until Strother gets a disturbing vision involving a child floating underneath a stream.

Seems Strother's patient is chasing after a serial killer who favors occultic signs and behaviors, and the girl in Strother's vision was one of the victims. The girl's name is Heather, and she's the sole survivor of our serial killer.

She also hasn't spoken a word since.

Which means it's time for Strother to step in and help out with the investigation, which he of course does, with shocking results.

The part that really amazes me about "Close Your Eyes" is that it's a British film. "Close Your Eyes" comes to us from the BBC's fiction arm, BBC Films. Now, if you're familiar with British works, you know they practically invented the locked-room mystery, along with any of a dozen others. The Brits gave us Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and hordes of others.

That's an enormous onus put on the boys and girls at BBC Films to produce an incredible piece of suspense work, and they do seem up to the task. Check out the incredible visual work at the five minute mark--the waterfall and the forest are done entirely by CG, and its a thing of beauty. Even the changeovers are amazingly done--the differences between the scenes are so seamless and of such high quality it's unfathomable.

"Close Your Eyes" also manages to ramp up some incredibly suspenseful sequences. It fully lives up the massive legacy that English mystery has spawned.

"Close Your Eyes" suffers in one major regard--the frequent appearances of various occultic symbols. I know, I know; they're an important part of the plot. But the concept in general has been so overused that the standard occultic symbology has become unnecessary. Other means could have been used--the invention of unique symbols referred to as occultic would have sufficed.

The ending is a real surprise, an excellent thrilling ending to the preceding built-up suspense. Plus, there's an incredible twist that must be seen to be believed.

The special features include cast and crew interviews, a behind the scenes featurette, a theatrical trailer (this was in European theatres for quite some time) and trailers for "Pulse," "Mayor of the Sunset Strip," "Stateside," "September Tapes," and "Unsolved Mysteries." The "Unsolved Mysteries" trailer isn't for a movie, but rather for the various DVD box sets of the old NBC series, offering themed sets "Ghosts," "UFOs," and later, "Miracles."

All in all, "Close Your Eyes" is a worthy addition to the pantheon of British mystery titles. Though it suffers from the unnecessary addition of occultic symbols, it is still a suspenseful, thrilling masterwork.

Corpses Are Forever

Corpses Are Forever

The zombie movie makes its splashy, crashy reappearance following a brief hiatus, now measurable in picoseconds (and for those of you who don't habla, picoseconds are 1 / 1 billionths of a second, or how long Britney Spears' first marriage lasted. Specifically, EIGHT picoseconds.). But they've been on a real roll lately, with quality that can only be described as hit-and-miss. From utterly smashing zombie survival horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead, to the utterly faithless but fair in its own right Dawn of the Dead theatrical re-release, to the utterly without hope Zombies Vs. Vampires, to the utterly surprisingly good Japanese import Junk, it's been a real mixed bag for zombie nuts lately. Corpses Are Forever, from newcomer The Asylum, takes a run at being of the better class.

First off, kudos to Corpses Are Forever for its fantastic opening menu, that parodies the classic James Bond films with its clever moving-sight visual. This is funny stuff right here, and terribly original. What we've got here is the story of Malcolm Grant, a CIA agent who just suddenly for some reason woke up and discovered that the gates of Hell had opened on earth. Which is, by itself, the single most original impetus for a zombie movie yet. Normally, it's a virus or biological agent reanimating corpses. I have yet to see demons responsible. But anyway, there are now hordes of corpses walking the earth, and Malcolm's got to try and fix things by wandering through and experiencing (via a complicated chemical process) the memories of a dead serial killer, which contain the necessary information on how to save the planet and most of the folks on it.

Okay...that right there gets me. I mean, we're trending into some ridiculous ground plotwise. It started off with some excellent innovation and I give Corpses Are Forever all the credit I can for that, but it just couldn't seem to hold it together.

But it's not all about plot, it's also about execution. And the opening ten minutes are a real surprise. This is ORIGINAL. It's James Bond with ZOMBIES. No one's done this before, and I'm incredibly pleased with it. Check out the film style they're using, too...just MORE originality on their part. Although the fight scenes, especially like those at the fifteen minute mark, are such obvious fakes that occasionally the impact sound effects don't match the moment of "contact" on the punches and kicks.

The George Romero influence is heavy throughout, but nowhere more so than at the nineteen minute mark. Check it out and see why. Perhaps the biggest disappointment about Corpses are Forever is the fact that, while there's plenty of "The Cell"-esque memory crawling going on, there's almost NO ZOMBIES. I mean, come on! They hawk zombies on the box like there's no tomorrow and then they show up for ten, fifteen minutes of footage? Talk about your disappointments.

And yet, somehow, despite all this, Corpses are Forever still manages to be a fairly satisfying endeavor. As a spy thriller, it's solidly done. As a horror movie, it's a little on the lower end. But put together, it works. The ending is a cinematic slush pile that leaves more questions than answers, and disappoints on several levels. The plot is left largely unresolved, and with good reason...there's going to be a sequel. The title? Why, what else but "The Corpse Who Loved Me." Oh my. I don't know whether to be roaringly amused or soaked with sweaty dread.

This was, quite possibly, one of the most outlandish yet incredibly original yet shoddily done movies I've seen YET. I can't even categorize what I've just seen, and I'm a professional humorist. Is it horror? Maybe. Comedy? Could be. A spy thriller? Sure, why not? Even more interestingly, check out the outtakes over the closing credits.

The special features include director's commentary and a mind-jarringly boring featurette called "Welcome to Linnea's", involving Linnea Quigley and her cats showing you around Linnea's house for reasons that defy all logic. Plus, we get trailers for "Vampires Vs. Zombies," "Insight of Evil," "Pandora Machine," and the producer's trailer for "Corpses Are Forever."