Saturday, 28 June 2014

BFI -The “Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder" season.

When the BFI (British Film Institute) announced last year perhaps their most substantial project to date for the Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film four month-long event, the reaction of many of us in the horror community was of deliciously delirious anticipation. The ambitious programme was to begin with a Gothic film festival which would merely be the curtain-raiser for their project which would eventually include the release of some 150 titles and around 1,000 screenings across the UK from August 2013 to January 2014  - and every single one of them was to be Gothic related. Not only was the size of the programme seductively enticing, so was the range of the titles that were going to be made available. 

So apart from the expected and more established offerings going to be made such as the world premiere of the digital re-mastering of Night Of The Demon (1957) and iconic Gothic releases such as Hammer Horror’s Dracula (1958)starring a certain Christopher Lee - In addition there would be cinematic and DVD releases of rare and long forgotten Gothic related productions. Many of these releases were not only being re-mastered, but there would be some titles that would not have seen the light of day in some cases since their original showing in the cinema or transmission on television.

It was quite simply, the most exciting announcement of the year - well that is if you don't count the news of the new supermarket opening on the edge of the nearest town a few miles away (I live in the sticks, you see), and THAT was big news!

To say the Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film was something of a success would be a calamitous understatement. It was a veritable triumph, not just for the BFI, but also (though admittedly in a much smaller way) for this blog, giving me the chance to view and review on some classic examples of Gothic Cinema and television. The Scary Stories collection from the Children's Film Foundation, the simply stunning 1970 Play for Today entry - Robin Redbreast and the legendary 1972 series Dead of Night and Classic Ghost Stories by M R James (1986) were three bog articles I had the pleasure to view once again and write about. Just click on any of those titles in order to take you straight to the article, even better, go out and buy them and believe me you will not regret it.

Due the the very success of the Gothic season the BFI recently made an announcement that excited and thrilled this blogger's (old enough to know better) heart when it was stated another project would run this year. This time the genre of science fiction would be giving the same lavish treatment that Gothic horror had received last year........ be still my beating heart and breathe Stuey, breathe.
The full details have yet to be released by the BFI.  On Thursday 17 July at BFI Southbank,    Heather Stewart, BFI Creative Direct, will unveil the programme for the project entitled “Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder”. In addition, we have been promised that the unveiling will also be accompanied by some very special guests. (Start placing you guesses as to who they might be, here)
Presented in cinemas and online on BFI Player, and in partnership across the UK with the BFI’s Film Audience Network, the project will feature over one hundred film and television titles, plus spectacular events, must-see film and DVD releases, extra special guests and much more. If that wasn't enough then surely the promise that the launch will be followed by Space Age snacks and refreshments in the Blue Room will be more than enough to entice you. Well it worked for me.
Bring your blanket, chair.....or bed

What we do know is that a sci-fi film spectacular in the grounds of the British Museum in London on the August bank holiday weekend will provide the curtain-raiser for the  Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder season.

In total, three science fiction movies will be shown at the open-air venue on successive evenings of the 28th to the 30th of August. The films will be; The 1976 classic of The Man Who Fell to Earth which features a mesmerising performance from David Bowie, the fabulous post-apocalyptic  The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), together with a never before seen restoration specially done for the screening and finally, a new digital transfer of the classic Flash Gordon (1980). Yes we know that Gordon's alive, Brian Blessed.
Once again, we are assured that, each screening will be accompanied by special guests and an assortment of activities.
"Hey mate, the satnav is broken. Any idea how we get to the BFI at Southbank?"
As was the case for last year's Gothic season, the initial screenings are merely the prelude to the main Sci-fi: Days of Fear and Wonder project, which I believe will run nationwide in October through December. It promises again to be an outstanding film season in cinemas, online on the BFI Player and on disc, with more than 100 film and TV titles to be presented in partnership with the BFI’s Film Audience Network. I for one simply cannot wait to get viewing and reviewing this gaggle of beauties!!

Watch this space for regular updates, news and reviews of the project. If you decide not to watch this space and try to avoid this blog, or the plethora of social networks affiliated to it, I will still find you. Oh and by the way, I've been sent an Invitation to the press launch of BFI SCI-FI: DAYS OF FEAR AND WONDER on the 17th July- I know, get me.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Redwood Massacre (2014)

Over the past year or two it has been my pleasure to have been involved in doing what little I can to help promote a whole range of ventures across the genres of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror. It's been a blast, it really has. I've had the opportunity to correspond and collaborate with a number of very talented and highly motivated individuals who are producing a wide variety of astounding material. I genuinely believe that this time will be looked back upon as a golden era of creativity involving all the avenues of potential possibilities that the internet, the WWW and within it, social networking, has to offer. It truly is an exciting time.

The USA, Australia, Scandinavia, Brazil and the good old Blighty (amongst many others) have all provided this blog with a wealth of material and projects to write about. The problem has been (if it is a problem at all) that by the very nature of my home location (high up in the North East of Scotland on the beautiful Moray Firth), there hasn’t been much opportunity to become involved in projects close to home. To be honest, it has for some time been a mystery to me why more movies etc are not filmed in this part of Scotland, it has more than its fare share of suitably creepy and atmospheric places to fill a horror library......and I’m not just talking about Dundee. :-) 
So when I was contacted by Lorraine Keith, a producer from Clear Focus Movies, asking me if I wanted to put a little something together on my blog about a film that had just been produced by their company – The Redwood Massacre. Well I was both devilishly excited and yet initially a little concerned. I’ll explain why concerned in a short while. However, why excited you may ask? Well because not only is the production company based in my neck the woods in the North of Scotland, but they are situated in the city where I work – Aberdeen. Nice!
Of course, I still wasn’t going to lend my (ahem) esteemed name to any old Tom, Dick or Harry tin pot organisation. After all, one has standards. No, shush, I really do have them.......it’s just that they are often a little difficult to locate. So I decided to have a wee look-see for myself at their website http://www.clearfocus-productions.co.uk/
It seems that Clear Focus Movies is a creative advertising and video production agency with something of a global reach. Their aim is to produce innovative films and original content across a wide range of brands, industries and platforms.
In addition to that they specialise in television advertisements, film production, health & safety video, training video, tool demonstration video, charity video, video for web content, 2D / 3D graphic animation. If that wasn’t enough, they act as both Video Production and Service Production Company, and apparently are happy to organise a customer’s video production from script to delivery – no matter how big or small the budget, or how simple or complex the project.
Blimey, they seem to be all professional and all that. I’m in!

After further perusing their website I also noticed they have a track record of film production already, with a previous 2011 movie called Attack of the Herbals . According to the website blurb it is an “Evil Dead/Shaun of the Dead” style of horror comedy, shot on low budget in the North East of Scotland. The film tells the story of a mysterious and unmarked wooden crate that is discovered by locals after it washes ashore. In the crate is rather strange substance which the locals discover makes a particularly nice tea (as you do) – though the side effects on the local population are not quite what they expect. It’s not a film I’m familiar with, but the synopsis alone is enough to intrigue me for a later time.

Anyhoo, enough digressing (I told you to stop me doing that). The purpose of this article is to talk about The Redwood Massacre. Firstly, let me provide you with the movie synopsis.
"Lets go for a walk - what's the worst that could happen?....
“For five adventurous friends, visiting the legendary murder site of Redwood has all the hallmarks of being an exciting and thrilling camping weekend away.

A popular site for revellers and party goers, each year on the exact date of the famous local family massacre, people from around the country head out to the site to have fun and scare each other. The twenty year old horror story is legend in the quiet sleepy part of Scotland and is made even more fascinating by the fact it is a true story.
As the five campers head deeper into the woods they soon discover they’re not on their own. What starts out as a fun camping trip soon turns into a bloody nightmare as they are sadistically stalked by a mysterious evil presence hell bent on viciously murdering his innocent victims one by one.
Events take a bloody turn for the worse when the innocent campers discover the Redwood myth is in fact a horrible reality, which turns the unsuspecting victims into prey for a mysterious axe wielding maniac that has remained dormant for twenty years
‘THE REDWOOD MASSACRE’ is a genre bending horror movie that plays with the rules and clichés of your typical slasher film.”
Now, those of you that have read some of my previous horror musings will no doubt identify pretty much straight away from the synopsis the problem, and why a district feeling of concern slightly diluted my initial reaction after hearing about the film being shot so close to where I live. For those of you that have been foolish/wise/sedated (delete as necessary) enough to have stayed away from my blog, it is quite simple. The ‘young campers in the woods hunted by a vicious sadistic killer’ isn’t one of my particular sub-topics of horror movie, quite the contrary – indeed on most levels it has been done to death, as it were, such is the over familiarity of the format. In fact I would put it only behind the found-footage horror format on my list of movie dislikes.
Yet this doesn’t seem to deter the independent and not-so-independent filmmaker it seems, because the 'rampant slasher in the woods' films are still being made – by the bucket full. Whether it is because it shows a catastrophic lack of original thinking, or possibly because (and this is my personal theory) that the ‘murder of teens in the woods’ sub-genre is simply the easiest and cheapest form of horror to make. If you combine that with the fact there is still something of an audience out there for this type of horror then why would these films cease to be produced?
However as such recent offerings as The Invoking (SEE HERE) and The Lashman (SEE HERE) show, there are still filmmakers willing and able to take an arguably tired formula and inject a whole new element of life into it.
Some Redwood Massacre production stuff going on....
So, once again I was willing to set aside my prejudices and endeavour to find out as much as I can about the movie before its official release date in Aberdeen in September.
Unfortunately I was unable to make the invitation to the early test screening of the movie at an Aberdeen cinema earlier this month due to an important engagement which I was unable cancel (major dental work – don’t laugh, it was bloody painful!). However I’ve been able to glean a few essential elements of information from a few people who were actually able to get their lives in order and attend the screening. I have also had the benefit of seeing the official trailer – which you can also see below.

The Redwood Massacre teaser trailer


If the test preview word of mouth and trailer is anything to go by, I may just have my cynicism thrown back in my smug little face – because it looks excellent. It also looks bloody scary – which for a horror film is always a good thing I suppose. I had already heard good accounts from the test viewing in regards to the cinematography – and judging by the admittedly brief trailer, this assertion is absolutely confirmed. The various camera shots and lighting look sublime and the sound is a suitably in your face (or ears) horror experience.

The acting in low budget independent horror can traditionally be hit or miss (to put it mildly) – however there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about judging from the few excerpts I have seen up to this moment. As for the horror, well lets just say some of the girls can scream!  I will say though that the requisite murdering psychopath looks stunningly chilling and gives a genuinely horrific feel to the proceedings – we may have a new big-time bad boy in town, he is seriously scary looking.

A pensive moment for the homicidal manic.
It is quite clear that the writer and director David Ryan Keith has no intention of making anything close to an original horror film – and to be honest I applaud the honesty. The filmmakers here fully intend to give what they believe many in the horror film audience want – and that is an authentic old fashioned slasher horror with multiple violent deaths and gallons of blood and gore. Who am I to argue with this sentiment? To be honest, it is rather refreshing to see a filmmaker throw the condescending and patronising opinions many people have towards horror and the slasher sub-genre back in their faces.

Indeed, David has promised that “This film won’t be winning any screen play awards or any pats on the back for its meaningful tones or depiction of our society, what they will get is a fun 80 minute bloody movie that will entertain from beginning to end and hopefully give horror fans worldwide something to talk about....”
In addition to the film being shot in a number of locations in Aberdeenshire there is also a wealth of local acting talent potentially on show in The Redwood massacre. At the risk of alienating some names I may omit, just to quickly mention three:

Lisa Cameron (Pamela)

Lisa is an actress based in Aberdeen, Scotland, known from her work within various local independent films including ‘The Redwood Massacre’, ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ & ‘Sawney Bean’ which has since gone on to be nominated for a Scottish Bafta.



Rebecca Wilkie (Jessica)

Rebecca is an actress from the north of Scotland, known for her work in a variety of local independent films, her films have ranged from horror to action to comedy. Rebecca is also an experienced stage actress whose most recent production was the opening show from the newly refurbished Tivoli Theatre






Adam Coutts (Mark)

Adam is a drama teacher at the International School in Aberdeen. The Redwood Massacre is his first venture into film 





I know I’m biased about the area in which I now live (and probably will until the grim reaper comes to take me into that haunted cabin in the woods in the sky – but I will genuinely admit to being just a little bit excited about a local horror film that might just turn out to be also bloody marvellous.

The official Aberdeen premier takes place in September – I fully hope to be there (dentists permitting).  However a little birdie has informed me that there is a distinct possibility that I may be able to view a super duper secret preview online in July, as soon as the final score and soundtrack thingamajigs have been sorted. As soon as I’ve seen it, the full review will appear here.



Important Information

Directed by
David Ryan Keith

Produced by
Lorraine Keith David Ryan Keith

Written by
David Ryan Keith

Production Company
Clear Focus Movies Limited

Executive Producer
Lorraine Keith David Ryan Keith

Starring
Mark Wood Lisa Livingstone Lisa Cameron Rebecca Wilkie Adam Coutts Lee Hutcheon

Running Time: 80 minutes 

Aspect Ratio: 1.66 1920 x 1080p 25fps 

Language: English 

Budget: £150,000





















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Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Ecstasy - La jetée.......The Agony - Psycho (1998)

Firstly the ecstasy: La jetée (1962)

When I received an email from Matt at the marvellous http://www.ukhorrorscene.com
first suggesting the Agony and the Ecstasy season, in which each writer talks about their movie love or hate, I thought that this would be easy peasy. If nothing else, writing a blog goes some way to satisfying my own particular self-indulgent and narcissistic need to bleat on about just how much I love/dislike this movie or that book (or how I dislike most bloody remakes). The fact that some people seem to quite like my blathering is something of a bonus, and not an unwelcome one at that. And do you know what? The task of coming up with my own love and hate was indeed easy peasy.

My own example of an absolute love of film is not meant to be overly high-browed or pretentious in any way, shape or form. But what cannot be denied is that my choice is certainly different in terms of it's style and structure. In addition, the influence that the film has had on filmmakers in both science fiction and horror is also not open to question, though that influence is unknown to many people in the wider public, due in no small measure to the movie's very different construction from the norm. The terms 'great' and 'genius' when describing certain works are often thrown about (by us all) in such abandonment that the descriptions have become passe and irrelevant when addressing the qualities of any production. There are many many good films, there are indeed a large number of excellent films. But there are few great ones.

However, my choice of Ecstasy I would argue IS the personification of pure unadulterated cinematic genius. It is a movie that changed everything for me in regard to me personal appreciation of science fiction, fantasy and horror. I cannot give it more praise than that.

La jetée is the 1962  French short movie that inspired Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys. Chris Marker's original telling of the story that mixes science-fiction, fantasy and horror within a narrative strand of post-Apocalypse disaster and time travel is far less commercial and accessible than Gilliam's (still wonderful) version. It is simply a genuine watershed of science-fiction film making, a 28-minute masterpiece told almost entirely in black and white still-frames. 

Set in the near future, the Earth has barely survived an all-consuming nuclear holocaust, which has driven the remnants of humanity underground. In this new underworld existence the division between victor and vanquished would, one would think, be meaningless under the circumstances that humanity now finds itself in and that in the event of such a catastrophe we would all pull together to ensure our survival. Nope, not a chance.

However, it seems that there are those who are more than prepared to subjugate others to their will and intentions, whatever the cost to personal rights and freedom. With few human and technological resources left after the planets near-destruction, scientists entombed beneath the ruins of Paris are searching to save the last vestiges of humanity through the one single road of opportunity left - time travel.

La jetée tells the story of an unnamed man who is obsessed with his vivid childhood recollections of witnessing an unknown man die on an airport jetty and then finding himself gazing into the entrancing face of a young woman. These memories seem to make him the perfect guinea pig for the authorities to use him in an experiment involving time travel. In due course the man travels though a loophole in time to the past and meets with the mythical woman from his childhood images and soon a relationship is kindled (or is it re-kindled?). Soon the powers that be attempt send him to their future to procure humanity's own future, however, the man wants to simply return to his past where the woman now waits for him and a plan for him to escape is put in place........

The first time I saw this movie it was hidden away on some obscure cable channel showcasing equally obscure foreign movie fare. This short piece of film made an unforgettable impression on me which has only ever been near equalled on a couple of occasions - The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Alien to be precise. In fact it would be safe to say that La jetée has become something of an obsession, a piece of film making that I find myself returning to an a regular basis. It never fails to move me in its powerful depiction of the end of the world, human love and our autobiographical memory - all of which are conveyed in a number of genuinely effective and chilling 'scenes', particularly in the treatment of the people seen as mere disposable means to an end.

In the original, the French narration adds to the poetic subtlety and drama. The English narrative version is still equally powerful and the more easily found online. Hopefully, the original French version with English subtitles will be made online, as it seems to add a little more to the overall ambiance and feel of the movie. Though it certainly doesn't mean that the English translation for this version spoils the experience in any way.

I have heard it mentioned more than once that this film would be best described as avant-garde in nature. To me that description is overly pretentious and disingenuous towards fans of sci-fi and horror- it almost implies most fans of the genre are unable to grasp such complexities as an innovative plot structure which we may actually have to think about. Absolute nonsense, I love mindless SFX and violence as much as the next person, but occasionally it is nice to ponder and muse over what one is watching too. La Jetée is an example of how science fiction, fantasy and elements of horror can be constructed with style and fine distinctions, instead of a reliance on special effects.

This then, is La Jetée, a masterpiece of simple yet immeasurably effective and emotive visual art. If you've never seen this movie, I implore you to watch it.



And now for the agony - Psycho (Remake, 1998)

Hate is a strong word and one that I don’t use very often. I like to think that I’m a reasonably easy-going guy with a healthy dose of a live-and-let-live attitude to people and life in general. In fact I would go as far as saying that there are very few things, and even fewer people, that I would categorise as ‘hating’. I will, just between you and me, freely admit though to hating a few things that make ones blood boil; bullying, aggression, homophobia, intolerance and carrots – boy do I hate those orange coloured vegetable bastards.

As for people, well again there are few that I would define as hating, though I certainly dislike a whole shed load of people who well and truly test my personal policy of non-violence. I pretty much hated a guy at school when I was 10, David Clark (and for many years afterwards as it happened) after he stole my prized possession of my favourite Dobbie marble and then gave it as a present to the girl in our class that both of us fancied. Bastard. I worryingly held onto that hate for many years until I found out that he was married with 5 kids, had turned into an overweight and balding no-hoper who had been in and out of prison for a range of petty crimes. Hows that for Karma, matey Davie boy?

When it comes to Science Fiction, fantasy and horror, there is much I love, much I dislike and only a very little I would say that I hate. In all honesty, it would take a lot for me to hate a movie and in truth the particular film would need to have a number of important elements to fully justify a full hate value. The film would have to be a remake of a classic for a start which no doubt would have to completely and catastrophically miss the point of the original. In addition it would have to be a lazily directed piece of derivative excrement, containing a cast full of performances so abysmally wooden that it would never fail to make me want to be physically sick whenever I merely think of the films title. Oh hello Psycho (1998).

It is virtually impossible to gauge the colossal impact that Hitchcock's original masterpiece made upon it's release way back in 1960. It broke in no small way countless cinematic and social rules of the time; A couple sharing a lunchtime of illicit pleasure on screen & overtly violent murderous acts, to name but two. Psycho (1960) should also be given credit for introducing, or at least re-inventing, a new type of horror film. Here the traditional b-movie plots of Gothic horror in medieval England or distant Eastern Europe were substituted by the possibility of everyday horrors that were real and known to us.

Psycho (1960) isn’t regarded by some as a slasher movie, but it should be. There are many in my fellow slasher-loving fraternity that point out the lack of blood and gore in the film, but does a true slasher film have to be so? Not only does is have a demented murderer slicing up perfect strangers in the middle of nowhere, it is also a lesson in intelligent and thoughtful storytelling and audience manipulation. In addition, the movie's direct descendants in the 1970's of the seminal slasher movies such as Halloween owe everything to the first in their line.

The plot I'm sure is familiar to most - but just in case you have no taste and have never seen it.....

The film begins with an office worker Marion Crane who is clearly unhappy during one of her lunchtime assignations when she realises she and her boyfriend cannot afford to get married. This problem seems to be potentially rectified when, on returning to the office she is entrusted with a huge amount of a client's money to put into the bank. After a few moments of deliberation as to whether she should take the money, steal it she does and absconds from the town immediately.

Looks legit....
As she drives onwards through a torrential rainy night she realises that she needs to rest and so pulls into the remote Bates Motel. Here we are immediately introduced to a shy yet polite young owner, Norman Bates, who offers Marion one of the many spare rooms in the Motel. As they chat Norman tells her that since the recent diversion of the main highway they don't really see much business anymore. He seems nice.............

At first Marion feels in control of the conversation with this pleasant but very nervous young man, even after he also starts telling her about his mother, who Norman reveals suffers from some sort of mental illness. However,  Marion soon starts to regret her immoral actions and after setting on returning in the morning to give back the stolen money she decides to take a shower……… 

And we all know what happens there.....

Soon after, a detective who has been charged with the task of tracking Marion and the stolen money, has been talking to her boyfriend and sister (Sam & Lila)  and eventually locates the Motel. Here he is murdered on the stairs of the Bates house by a shadowy female figure, who has emerged from an upstairs room.

Sam and Lila, after losing contact with the detective decide to take matters into their own hands and make their  own way to the town near the motel. Here they start asking questions about Norman's mother…..

It doesn't go well.

Spot the difference. Oh wait, don't bother......
You may be asking whether this is the original plot or the one for the remake? Well it really doesn't matter because in his infinite wisdom, the director, Gus Van Zandt decided to not just remake a classic, oh no, no no.......He was going to duplicate the hell out of it.

When Gus Van Sant decided not only to remake this, the most revered of all of Hitchcock's films, but also to shoot a great deal of it frame-for-frame, there were many who shook their heads in disbelief. After seeing the finished product on it's release in 1998 there were even more people simply wanting to shake the director by the throat.

There are so many aspects of this version to despise that this particular article could never hope to do it justice. But as I said to myself many years ago when given the chance to spend the evening with Gemma and her twin sister, Rebecca-  "I'll certainly give it my best shot".

One myth that should be dispensed with straight away is the belief that this was a complete shot for shot remake- it wasn't, but it was bloody close. The vast majority of shots, including the way they were angled and lit in the original, were copied exactly, as was much of the dialogue. For the life of me I've never been able to figure out if this was some of misguided homage to Hitchcock or whether Van Sant actually believed that he was adding something new and fresh to the story. I've got news for you Gus, sonny Jim, you were doing neither.

"Hi, I'm a mad bastard, you know".
Then there was the misguided belief which old Gus obviously felt that the late 1990's audience wouldn't be satisfied with the lack of blood that accompanied the original. One of Hitchcock's many master strokes was to make the violence implicit and suggested, so much so that even today when people are asked to describe the much lauded shower scene their descriptions invariably include far more recollections of blood and violence than there actually was. This wasn't just the genius of Hitchcock because there are a plethora of examples of so called blood soaked movies that in reality contain comparatively little; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, to name but two.

However when old Gus went bumbling into the the directors chair he seemingly thought that the audience of 1998 were a bit too thick to understand such complexities as the power of suggestion and the genuine feeling of terror that it can bring. He instead decided to uses oodles of blood in the showers scenes et al in an attempt to placate the appetites of a new contemporary audience.  Fool.

"No, I'm the real mad bastard......"
Then there was the performances of the cast. Oh deary me. The catastrophic mis-casting of the all-important lead actor meant that the film was doomed from the start. Now, one could probably forgive the leading role of Norman Bates, as played by Vince Vaughn, because Vince is, well, crap in everything that he does. It's really not his fault, he's just a bit rubbish. So it's probably fair to say that he was always going to be on a hiding to nothing when being compared to what was to become in the original, one of horror's seminal performances.

Anthony Perkins in Psycho was almost note-perfect in his portrayal of a tortured psychopathic killer that gave us glimpses of textured acting that Vince Vaughn could only dream of. The genius of his performance was to hide the fact that beneath his shy and pleasant exterior lay a monster. You looked at this frail innocent looking boy and failed to comprehend the horror that he could be capable of. Unfortunately, it was also a role that defined Perkins' career and for many fans it defined the actor himself - despite a string of awards and noteworthy performances that succeeded Hitchcock's seminal masterpiece. No fear of that happening to you, Vincy boy I'm afraid.

If we can at least excuse old Vince then the rest of the cast don't get off quite so lightly.  Forget Anne Heche, because she's also pretty rubbish in most things, but for crying out loud; Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H.Macey, Robert Forster and Phillip Baker Hall - these people are bloody good actors! Whether it was the fact that they felt constrained by the directors need to mirror as much of the original's dialogue and scenes is impossible to know. 
"Bugger, I'd rather be in Mordor right now."

They all have the look about them that seems to constantly have the "I thought that this would look good on my CV, but now I think i'm buggered'. Viggo Mortensen in particular seems that he would rather be anywhere else but in that bloody stupid cowboy hat.

There have been a number of catastrophic misguided failures when it comes to remakes - this one for me is quite clearly at the top of that list. It's terrible and I hate it.