December Kryptic Army Mission: Confinement!

Is it a new month already? It almost slipped by me! But still the first of December so I’m still on time! This month, we’re going to put the spotlight on being confined to one place, whether it is your house, an apartment, or maybe even stuck at your work for whatever reason. But it is in this place where the horror tries to invade and get to you. It could be a bunch of zombies, or something as simple as a stalker wanting to kill you, or a character losing their grasp of their sanity while home alone and secluded, so the variety of ideas is wide open. Now, I’d like the whole movie to take place in this one setting, but obviously there needs to be a set up to get there, or there could be moments in the story where they leave the dwelling for a short time, but the main setting is where the threat takes place, so I’m not going to get too picky with that. For example, if someone had not seen Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), I would accept that, even though it does take a while to get to the mall. Another example would be Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976). But I think this will be a good concept to really stretch those boundaries on just what type of threat is trying to get to you while you are stuck where you are!

I hope this makes sense, but feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

So . . . you have until 11:59pm on December 31st to find two movies that fall into the concept described above, and then report back here on your findings. Good Luck! Just remember to make sure those doors are locked.

7 thoughts on “December Kryptic Army Mission: Confinement!

  1. Nobody reported yet? Might as well do the honors then. I could do away very easily with expressing my opinions on both movies. Two times in a row my overall feelings can be perfectly summarized in a one-word review: “Meh.” But this is the final Kryptic mission of the year! So let’s put in a little extra effort here …

    RPG: REAL PLAYING GAME (2013)
    – Confined setting: enwalled arena premises –

    Clever title there – RPG is usually associated with Role Playing Games – and a good concept to boot. But alas, the execution leaves things to be desired, especially in the department where it hurts the most: the performances of the cast. We do have Rutger Hauer to rely on in the film’s bookend sequences, but the whole middle section of the film we’ll have to spend more than an hour with 10 players (around 20-something of age) who seem to have been cast rather on their looks instead of acting talents.

    The near future. A company named RPG developed a biotechnology to transfer the minds of people temporarily into the bodies of others. They invented a program that allows old, rich people to be young again for 10 hours. Millionaire Steve Battier (Rutger Hauer) is terminally ill, so he has his obvious reasons to enter the program. Together with 9 other participants, he’ll have to play a game. They’ll be transported to an arena on a far away location – in this case: Portugal, an abandoned urban area in ruins, closed off and encircled by towering walls of death. Their minds will enter into 10 younger bodies, only without the knowledge of who they really are.

    Also displayed in the arena: 10 hologram statues of their older selves, biographies included. These are the only means for them to try and guess their real identities. Now they’ll have to make sure to kill one contender every hour (if not, the program will do it randomly for them). With each death, one of the holograms disappears. The last one standing, will get a chance at eternal youth. At least somehow, that is, as RPG’s program doesn’t exactly cover eternity, does it? And if it’s all about being the sole survivor, does it even matter which oldie you really are? You’ll find out when you’re left standing anyway, right?

    The question “Who will survive?” – which in this case would even add a baffling, unexpected, new dimensional angle to a very, very generic tagline – pinpoints exactly the whole middle hour of confusion you’ll be stuck in as a viewer. With (the younger) characters being this dull and annoying, you can only wish for them to stop talking and nagging. So they can get on with having sex and die. The first, because it’s the only thing they actually seem to care about doing (have sex). The latter, because the game tells them they have to (kill the others). So, there’s your middle-60-pages of the script, in a nutshell.

    Similar concepts have resulted in far better movies, like Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale (2000) and Paul Hough’s The Human Race (2013). Real Playing Game can’t hold a candle to those and it’s certainly not pushing any boundaries with its middle section. Which is a shame, because it does bring a refreshing angle to the concept. The bookend sequences are fine, with effectively minimal VFX and neat-looking set design. We get to see Rutger Hauer at the beginning and the end, thankfully. And the final note even serves up a little twist on both his character and the company.

    HIDDEN aka HIDDEN 3D (2011)
    – Confined setting: abandoned rehab center (formerly an ancient monastery) –

    Similar deal here: good concept, but now the story, events and characters feel underdeveloped. This could have been injected with a lot more originality, as the ideas lend themselves well for it. But alas, they took the bland ‘we’re making a very scary movie’ approach, which often comes populated with ‘stock characters’ that don’t require the cast putting any depth into them.

    A young man (on his way to becoming a doctor but having quit his medical studies) inherits his mother’s medical research facility (a former monastery) in which she was developing experimental drug treatments to rid patients of their addictions. The experimental outcome, however, has their “addictions” grow into biological (supernatural?) aberrations, which after “birth” stay alive autonomously. Surely, this brief synopsis should make any horror fan go: “Wow! I haven’t seen anything like that since David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979)!” Right?

    Unfortunately, whith such fertile subject matter at hand, the film explores fairly little of all that. Or, when it does, you’ll have a hard time explaining it yourself. While some ideas are interesting, the whole film looks and feels too much like any generic, contemporary ghost house movie – or, in this case, a ‘haunted monastery’ flick – where we have a bunch of characters thrown inside to figure out the “mystery” – which we all know already, as the mother scientist’s back story is shown at the beginning – and getting killed off one by one in the process.

    There’s some eerie scenery and creepy shock scares, but all are used and executed to a barely satisfying degree. And how exactly those living aberrations manage to manifest themselves – they appear and vanish at will as both evil children and weird flying insects! – is never explained. The 3D effects usually involve CGI and you can clearly notice (even in 2D) that they’d have the proper effect, but they don’t have much extra purpose aside from showing them off. Fun, intriguing visuals at best, but hardly registering on the scary level.

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    • Hey, Gert! It sounds like you nabbed two that had a lot of potential and then failed to live up to it. I’ve not seen/heard of either of these, but RPG at least has a solid and intriguing premise. (I immediately thought of The Human Race as well.) I love the idea of people occupying younger/different avatars and using them as their vehicles for sex and violence. (Are all of the characters older or is it just Rutger’s? By that I mean, are there different reasons to play the game other than aging? Or do we only get Rutger’s backstory?)

      I just looked up Hidden 3D on IMDb, and with a dismal 3.2 user rating, it sounds like you are not alone in your disappointment. Ah well. I probably shan’t be adding it to my list anytime soon. Thanks for taking one for the team!

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      • Hey, Aaron. With a bit of delay, here’s to answer your question. Aging or suffering a terminal illness are not the only reasons to participate in the RPG program. But it’s pretty obvious you have to be very rich (with money) and/or famous to be able to subscribe for the game. Rutger Hauer is the only actor who gets to play his non-avatar character (with brief background story) for real in the film (mainly at the beginning and the end). We do get to see ol the other rich participants, and their background info is provided as well. But the cast portraying them, merely have to look the part, instead of playing it. They’re all shown as hologram portraits, immobile, but with an additional pop-up holographic biography sheet. Think of it as if you’re visiting a museum, and next to the painting or artwork there’s a panel with a bit of explanatory information. You’ll get a politician, a musician, a diva/actress (or so), a software mogul (or so), etc. It’s all quite random and superficial. Quite pointless too, as throughout the film their younger avatars get to play the characters, and you can’t really tell who’s who, their behaviour and dialogue doesn’t even contain any clues, because they all act like annoying, bickering twenty-somethings anyway. Haha.

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  2. Before I begin my “reviews” I wanted to thank John for this month’s mission. After two months of excruciatingly painful missions that left me weary and battle scarred this month I found two really good movies that I greatly enjoyed.

    1. The Monster 2016
    Synopsis: An alcoholic and irresponsible young mother drives her daughter to visit her father and his new family late at night. After hitting a wolf on a seldom used forest road they are stalked by something hiding in the woods.

    Review: With the exception of the intro to the characters and a few flashbacks, this movie takes place on a small deserted stretch of road. The characters have no means of escape. Like most movies featuring confinement, the cast is minimal, but all the actors here do a top notch job; even the young girl. The movie is not built on gore or shocks but on suspense and dread. While hiding in the damaged car, you know that something is out there waiting; even if you don’t see it and you can feel the characters’ fear and dread. The monster effects are quite good; even when you draw towards the end and get to see it in full. There are a few attacks in the movies and the gore effects are good but again, the movie isn’t designed for the action freak or gore hound. It’s made for those who love suspense and a permeating sense of dread. I would recommend this movie to anyone (unless they need constant action in their movies!)

    2. Silent House 2011
    Synopsis: A young adult woman goes with her father and uncle back to her childhood home that has been boarded up for years with the intent of fixing it up for sale. She soon finds that they are being stalked by someone in the house and the locked and boarded up house holds no avenue of escape. But are the attackers just squatters living in the basement or are they something else?

    Review: While not as good as “The Monster”, this was still a highly enjoyable movie. The dilapidated house gives a confined feel and the shakiness of the camera, the odd angles and overall darkness give the sense at all times that something is not right. The director takes care that you only see what the main character sees when the action occurs, so that your view is just as blocked or incomplete as hers; building the sense of mystery and dread up. The camera bounces along as she runs or swivels as she looks around the room; putting you in her place. Again there are few characters but again the actors that are involved are great. Elizabeth Olsen especially sells her fear and panic so that is infects you as well. I especially like the ending as it made this more than a simple “Stalker” movie. I would recommend this to anyone (except those that get motion sickness from shaky cams)

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    • Chris, I’ve been meaning to see The Monster for a while now, as it’s from Bryan Bertino who did The Strangers and I totally keep forgetting about it! Thanks for the reminder!

      Also, have you seen the original Uruguayan version of The Silent House (aka La Casa Muda) from the year prior? I revisited it this October and it actually held up better than I remembered. I can’t recall how much (if anything) they changed, plot-wise, for the Olsen version, because the subject matter is a little oogey (i.e. taboo) for the original and I couldn’t remember if they shied away from it or not.

      (Review here if you’re interested)
      https://horror101withdrac.blogspot.com/2021/10/la-casa-muda-aka-silent-house-2010.html

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  3. Happy New Year, everyone!!!

    Apologies for the tardy posting – the last weeks of 2021 were unwieldy and did not lend themselves to setting fingers to keyboard. But seeing as how there are only two other entries at this point, I’m assuming others encountered the same challenges!

    #1
    CRUISE INTO TERROR (1978)
    d. Kessler, Bruce (USA) (1st viewing)

    This Aaron Spelling-produced made-for-TV movie has all the earmarks of the medium: an ensemble of lower-wattage “stars” happy to make a buck, slimmed-down production values, some not-so-special effects, and an entertainingly outlandish script allowing for squabbling, snogging, and the occasional shock.

    In this case, screenwriter Michael Braverman, who would enjoy more success as a producer on Quincy, M.E. and Chicago Hope, whips up a fanciful tale of a beleaguered cargo ship’s captain (Hugh O’Brien) being forced to take on the overflow from a luxury cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. His passengers include a minister (John Forsythe) and his sex-starved bride (Lee Meriwether), a corporate businessman (Christopher George) and his sex-starved bride (Lynda Day George), a sex-starved divorcee (Stella Stevens), a couple of sex-starved eligible young ladies (Hilary Thompson and Jo Ann Harris) with eyes for the long-haired ship’s first mate (Dirk Benedict), and a crusty asexual archaeologist (Ray Milland).

    It is Milland’s character who drives the plot, being that he has finally discovered the final resting place of an Egyptian sarcophagus somewheres down Mexico way. Wait, what? What is an Egyptian tomb doing in Mexico, you might ask? Well, according to Braverman, the tomb contains none other than the son of Satan, and he’s been waiting a loooooooooong time to be released. (I love the idea of some enterprising Egyptians squirreling the coffin away and stashing it halfway around the globe, thinking, “Ha! No one will think to look for it here.”) Well, further complicating affairs is the fact that Forsythe’s man of God has divined from his Scripture reading that one of the passenger is not what he or she might seem, but rather an Agent of the Antichrist (which is a good band name, by the way) sent to assist in the bloodstained resurrection of His Unholiness.

    All told, not a lot actually happens in the ways of thrills and chills, with much of the running time being taken up with domestic drama and chaste flirting, but it’s fun to watch this cast of well-seasoned veterans decked out in prime 70s apparel trading barbs through pursed lips and clenched jaws. The Georges are always fun to watch, with Chris munching on a cigar whilst scheming to get his hands on the historical artifact for financial gain and Lynda constantly trying to divert his attentions with her endless parade of evening gowns. (Honestly, she has more wardrobe options than Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island.)

    Meanwhile, it’s intriguing to watch former Miss America Meriwether (aka Catwoman from the 1966 big screen Batman) playing against type as Forsythe’s frustrated battle ax. Latter-day Milland is always a cranky and cantankerous hoot, while Benedict puts to good use the easygoing charm that would make him a TV favorite on Battlestar Galactica and The A-Team. I wasn’t that familiar with O’Brian by name and wondered how he landed the lead role of the steadfast captain; turns out he played the title role in 226 episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp in the 1950s, which earned him enough credit to keep steadily working throughout the rest of his days.

    Cruise into Terror is an adequate time-waster, running on the twin engines of suspense (who is the werewolf, er, Satanist among us) and cheesy effects (watching our sinister mini-coffin actually pulsing whenever the dark forces are at play is quite amusing), and probably best enjoyed among other Turkey-lovers.

    Trivia: Director Kessler is none other than the man behind the camera of the 1971 Andrew Prine (oc)cult classic, Simon, King of the Witches!

    *****
    *****
    *****

    #2
    THE AMUSEMENT PARK (1973)
    d. Romero, George A. (USA) (1st viewing)
    This recently uncovered and restored “lost” film from the Zombie King is a decided curiosity, with as much going on behind the scenes as in front of the camera. I’m sure most of the folks reading this are familiar with the backstory, so I’ll keep it to a thumbnail version: Apparently, Romero was approached by a religious organization, The Lutheran Society, about creating a PSA about the ill treatment of the elderly and highlighting the need for empathy and support. What Romero delivers is an Expressionistic nightmare of an older gent (Lincoln Maazel, who would later star as Martin’s vengeful vampire-killing uncle) trapped inside an amusement park filled with attractions that highlight the ageist plight. (“You must be this old, and a limited fixed income and no preexisting conditions, to ride this ride…”)

    It’s easy to draw a line between Herk Harvey’s 1962 low-budget masterpiece Carnival of Souls (which Romero also cites as an influence for 1968’s Night of the Living Dead) and the dreamlike horrors presented here. There is a sense of the uncanny, with the director’s pointed social commentary in full swing. The performances range from the highly theatrical (Maazel) to amateurish (everyone else), which does hinder the message’s impact a tad. Still, it’s an interesting artifact that fans of the director will consider essential viewing, even if just to check it off their list.

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    • Aha! I’ve seen both! And can only agree with your assessments.

      Around the time he made Cruise Into Terror (1978), producer Aaron Spelling seems to have made some more ‘frights on a boat’ flicks for TV (e.g. Death Cruise, 1974). It made me think as if he’d suddenly got the idea because of his hugely successful Love Boat TV series (at least around these parts the TV re-runs of this series stretched out until well into the ’80s) and just went: Hey! Let’s do the same thing! Throw a bunch of people on a boat, but add thrills and chills to the soapy mix this time!

      I consider myself pretty lucky having had the opportunity to see Romero’s unearthed and restored The Amusment Park at a Brussels film festival last year (during Autumn). It went down the same way for me as you described it. Quite unsetlling, as a PSA, in showing the harsh reality behind the subject matter, which indeed has a surreal nightmarish vibe surfacing in certain sequences.

      But aside some creepy, anxious and effectively disorienting mise-en-scène moments, what got to me the most was some of the social commentary subtext present. One scene has our older gent (Maazel) being approached by a little girl, who doesn’t show any bias towards him, and treats him as an equal human being (or, simply sees him like she would any other member of society, regardless the age difference). It’s the only moment at the amusement park where he feels happy, having a normal interaction with her. Then the child’s parents come along, take the girl away, and look at him as if he’s an old pervert with ill intentions. Harsh.

      The only funny part about all this, is that the commissioners behind this film must have gotten quite a bit more than bargained for. What were they thinking or expecting? Inviting the director of Night of the Living Dead, Season of the Witch and The Crazies to make this film for them? Haha.

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