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Brad Anderson is an American director, producer and writer. He is most known for his thriller and horror films as well as television projects such as directing several episodes for the FOX TV series Fringe (he has also directed episodes for The Wire, The Killing, Boardwalk Empire, Forever, and Master of Horrors). To be honest, I have not seen his first two movies Next Stop Wonderland and Happy Accidents which I hear are romantic comedies, but I have seen every movie he has done since (6 movies in total). It is interesting to note how he seems to bounce back and forth between mainstream and independent movies. I remember Transsiberian getting a lot of recognition, The Machinist has since become a cult classic, The Vanishing on 7th Street got a very small and limited release (I had to go to an independent theater in Santa Monica called The Nuart in order to see it), The Call got a widespread release (probably thanks to the cast being very popular), and his most latest release it seems went completely unnoticed. Because of this, I feel that more so than other directors I talk about, he fluctuates back and forth between mainstream movies that are obviously intended for a widespread audience, and independent movies that have a little more creative freedom and are created more so for a very specific audience.
Session 9 (2001): 8.85/10
– This is probably the most straight forward horror film that he has ever done. For the most part it is executed really well. The story follows a crew of asbestos removers as it is their job to take care of certain sections of a huge abandoned mental institution. The movie takes a dark turn as tensions rise between members of the team and the institution itself starts to take a hold on them. The cast has some names who are not commonly associated with dramas and action movies instead of horror movies, such as Peter Mullan, David Caruso, and Josh Lucas. Despite this, there is pretty good chemistry amongst the group. This is good because the movie has a small cast and they are the main focus for most of the time. There are some brief moments where the acting is sub par and the delivery is laughable, but those moments are very rare. Between those moments are extremely memorable scenes of horror and suspense that will stick with you and make you want to watch it again and again. Not bad for his first horror movie. It also helps that they use a well known asylum as the movie’s setting.
The Machinist (2004): 9.35/10
– Not only my favorite Brad Anderson film, but one of my favorite movies of all time. The movie is well known for starring Christian Bale, who lost 62 pounds (bringing him down to 120) just for the role, before having to bulk up so that he could play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, because I feel this is a great movie to know next to nothing about before you watch. It completely grabs you right from the beginning and doesn’t let go. I will say that Bale plays a person who works in a factory on machines and he has been having trouble sleeping. That’s all I will spoil. It has amazing atmosphere and keeps you guessing who you can trust until the very end. Bale delivers an emotional role (as always) and the movie makes use of subtle references to the works that inspired it (such as The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Fight Club by David Fincher. I also like that Bale’s character Trevor Reznik is a reference to Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.
Transsiberian (2008): 8.5/10
– This is the Brad Anderson film that I have not seen in a while, so my review will not be as detailed. However, what I do remember of it, is that it had a great cast (including Woody Harrelson, Ben Kingsley, Kate Mara, and Emily Mortimer), and a lot of thrills. A couple gets involved in crime and is chased by police as they vacation on a long train ride. Not as dark or psychological as his other films, it is more of a conventional thriller, but still had its fair share of wondering who can be trusted. It is a fast paced game of cat and mouse (a technique which I think he later perfected in The Call).The scenery and extreme weather is by far the most amazing thing of the movie as the characters take trains across the frozen barren landscapes. It definitely adds a lot to the movie and makes the danger seem more present and much more real. I can not remember what kind of response it got when it was first released, but I do remember hearing a lot of great reviews about it much later which is what made me decide to watch it (before I eventually found out that it was a Brad Anderson film).
The Vanishing on 7th Street (2010): 8.0/10
– I thought this was going to be more of a horror film, but like the rest of his movies, this one boarders psychological thriller and mystery more so than straight up horror. It starts out like 28 Days Later following a character in a huge city where everyone just seems to have disappeared. This helps create some great atmosphere, something Brad Anderson is remarkable at doing. From then, it takes a turn of survival as remaining people meet up in a bar and try to stop from disappearing as it seems the shadows are trying to engulf them. The silhouettes do add a sense of horror throughout, but there are not a focus on jump scares. There is more emphasis on the emotions of the survivors and trying to plan a way to survive. However, it does not give much explanation to the events and I remember many people being disappointed with the ending. The movie consists of a small cast, mostly focusing on the characters played by Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, and Jacob Latimore. These are good actors and actresses, but sometimes in the movie their chemistry works better together than other times in the movie, and I wonder if a different cast would have helped. Not one of my favorites by him, but it was still a good watch nonetheless.
The Call (2013): 8.65/10
– This is probably Brad Anderson’s most well known film (though he is more known for being the director of The Machinist because of the following that film has). It got a widespread release in popular theater chains such as AMC, and stars Halley Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, and Michael Imperioli (along with other people that even if you don’t know their names you have probably seen before). The plot is simple. Halley Berry is a police phone operator who is trying to help a girl that is being kidnapped and held in the trunk of a man’s car. Unlike a movie like Buried, this isn’t a claustrophobic movie that takes place in one spot. The police are trying to find this man as he drives all over the greater Los Angeles area. Like Transsiberian, it is full of thrills as you hope for the hero to finally get free. The film takes a darker turn towards the end of the film as you find out more about the kidnapper (the darkness of final act almost harkens back to Session 9 in terms of mystery and atmosphere. All in all, this was a great movie for such a mainstream release. It is a simple plot that feels like nothing new, but Brad Anderson is able to make use of his independent beginnings to have a certain style and charm through it.
Stonehearst Asylum (2014): 8.75
– Originally going to be called Eliza Graves, this movie was released completely under my radar until I discovered it at Redbox. How this movie went so noticed, I can’t imagine. Based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, this movie sports an excellent cast including Ben Kingsley, Michael Kane, Kate Beckinsale and David Thewlis, and Jim Sturgess. This is not a horror movie (I personally think the new name gives it the wrong impression and that it should have stuck with the first name, but I also understand how the new name makes it sound exciting for people to randomly check out). It is another thriller with exceptional atmosphere. What this movie has going for it in addition the beautifully haunting scenery is that this is a period piece. Taking place in 1899, the style, furnishing, and clothing is gorgeous, taking us back to a time when medicine was trying to be civilized but ended up being completely barbaric. This movie offers a great critique of mental health techniques of the past. It also does a great job of taking the basic idea and premise of the original story by Poe while still taking some creative liberties with its direction. This allows the film to feel very natural. The flow is never forced, and I think that is important when adapting something as classic as a Poe story. One of the best movies to come out in 2014.