Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seventh Moon

Eduardo Sanchez (one of the Blair Witch Project guys) directs this tale about an newlywed American couple honeymooning in China. They end up lost in the countryside during a festival about evil spirits or the gates of hell opening during a particular lunar cycle or... anyways, some sort of Chinese, mythic voodoo shit where creepy white naked demon men want to chase them down to sacrifice them.

I wanted to like Seventh Moon, I really did. It had a lot going for it. It establishes a likable, believable couple (Amy Smart and Tim Chiou, giving much better performances then we usually get in this kind of fare), has a perfectly serviceable premise, a few good ideas for set pieces and chase scenes, and some creepy as fuck villains. It seems so close to working, but I have to be honest, Sanchez's poor filmmaking sinks it.

In my view, there's nothing inherently wrong with the whole handheld, fast-cutting style popular these days. When done right, as in The Bourne Ultimatum, the results can be exciting. But if you're going to go for the whole intensified continuity approach, you have to know what you're doing. You have to be conscious of your framing to make sure that the subject of your shot is clear. And if you're going to cut fast, you have to be very careful in your shot selection, so that each images clearly and logically leads to the next one, helping the audience to understand the action/geography/progression of each scene.

Too much of Seventh Moon is visually incoherent. Sanchez doesn't go nearly as overboard with the shakey cam as some directors do, but it doesn't matter, too often his shots are too tightly framed, or too dimly lit, and it's hard to understand what they are communicating, especially since they are all so brief. I'm not big on fast-cutting in horror movies in general (not as an absolute, but as a general guideline) because I think it's not conducive to creating the right kind of atmosphere. Seventh Moon is especially egregious. The actual cinematography (sans some of the framing) seemed nice, it was colorful, had a crisp looking image, I thought maybe they were trying to do some interesting things framing ominous details in the foreground, but none of that mattered because the shots were too brief to register. And they weren't edited together to create a coherent whole.

This is not nearly as ugly of a movie as Blair Witch, but it suffers from a similar lack of craft.

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