Nasty film, this. The experiment in question is of the social behaviour type. A small cross section of

Effectively builds a sense of dread

male Germans - newspaper seller, teacher, executive, etc - are offered payment by a university psychology department to become guinea pigs in a prison simulation scenario. Two thirds of the group are stripped, put in smocks and locked in cells, while the remainder are given uniforms,

handcuffs and truncheons and instructed to ‘maintain order’. With shocking speed, the guinea pigs

lose their sense of identity and assume the role of guards and prisoners, the former abusing the latter and the latter excepting their lot. The dramatic climax is bloody and horrific.

Although director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film is adapted from Maria Giordano’s novel Black Box, its

basis lies in fact: the infamous 1971 experiment conducted by Professor Philip Zimbardo. So distressing were Zimbardo’s findings that he abruptly ended the experiment.

Hirschbiegel’s film might act as a warning about the direction televised social experiments such as Big Brother and Survivor could take, but there’s an altogether more disturbing parallel: the rise to power of Nazism. It can’t be accidental that the individual singled out by the guards at an early stage for abuse is a member of an ethnic minority: a German Turk named Tarek (played by Moritz Bleibtreu, last seen in as the dumb boyfriend in Run Lola Run). Other prisoners who suffer everything from the humiliation of being stripped naked to outright beatings are variously a weak-

willed loner, a homosexual (at least that’s how he’s perceived by the guards) and a woman. And the

guards have a ringleader, the not particularly charismatic Berius (Justus von Dohnanyi), who takes the opportunity to grasp power and manipulate his fellow blue shirts.

Hirschbiegel effectively maintains an oppressive atmosphere and builds a sense of dread, although early scenes are overly concerned with style: Bleibtreu’s taxi driver-cum-undercover investigative reporter is given one too many ‘cool’ profile shots. But the cast are good and the subtext nicely underplayed. (Miles Fielder) I Selected release from Fri 22 Mar. The List is giwng away 100 tickets to The Experiment at UGC, Glasgow.

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What is that thing called charm? And why is it so lacking in this latest animated adventure from 20th Century Fox? Could It be that soinr-zone's more interested in capitalising on the success of Toy Story and Shrek than in creating a purposeful piece of animation lust for the love of it?

Whatever. there's a faint air of the cynical in this story of a inorose mammoth. a bumbling sloth and a Wlly tiger who j()lll

forces. despite all their better instincts. to return a human baby to his father. As the planet gets colder. they head in the opposite direction to the animal migration to battle snowdritts. volcanoes. ice caves and predators. eventually to deliver their charge.

The animators. under director Chris Wedge. try desperately to make you fall in love with this unlikely band of creatures. to make you see the good hearts beneath the frosty exteriors. but they don't deliver that all important charm. Fair enough to avoid cuteness. but also to miss out on the kind of wit. flair and imagination that makes. say. Monsters Inc such a pleasure is a real loss.

The result is a kind of Junior Lord Oi The Rings with iokes. though oddly less Visually engaging. Or. more likely. it's been built as a kind of Slii'ek-Iite. following Virtually the same story and aping the character

relationships. but with poorer animation and nothing like the originality.

It doesn't help that the realism afforded by computer animation (for some reason applied more to the animals than the clunky humans) sits uneasily with the surrealism of the traditional cartoon. The film veers uneasily between the slapstick violence of Tom And Jerry and the naturalism of Lassie Come Home. There's one rule for the bit-part players and another for the leads. One minute a squirrel is being flattened like a pancake. the next our heroes are fighting to the death. Going further down the fantaSy route might have paid greater dividends.

One further gripe: why is it that in a newly minted story. there are just three female parts. one of them drowned in the first ten

minutes and the other two empty-

headed dolly birds? (Mark Fisher) I General release from Fri 22 Mar.



(18) 91 mins 00

In the opening sequence of this remake of the old William Castle schlocker we find eccentric ‘collector' Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) in a junkyard on a dark. stormy night (as is the way of many things horror) hunting ghosts. Aided in this by young supernatural expert Kalina (Embeth Davidtz) and spook- weary psychic Dennis (Matthew Lillard). Cyrus aims to trap ghosts in specially constructed ‘containment cubes' but is killed in the process. Or so it seems . . .

It soon transpires that the sole heir to Cyrus' estate is Arthur (Tony Shalhoub). a widowed father of two with more than his share of money trouble and a hopeless housekeeper (Rah Digga. who raps with US hip- hopper Busta Rhymes). Arthur, thinking his luck has changed. takes the family and said housekeeper on a tour of the property he has inherited only to find the house is more than he bargained for. Evil uncle Cyrus has not left his nephew a house. but a macabre machine: built by the devil, powered by the dead. and (of course) with the ability to unleash diabolic powers. Uncle Cyrus' psychic colleague. Dennis. aids the soon-to-be—well-and-truly spooked family as they discover the nature of the house.

Formula horror

From here Thi'r73en Ghosts follows a well trodden horror path through suspense and gere to its explosive destination. In true genre tradition the protagonists manage to split up and even take a trip down into the basement. The makers of Thir73en Ghosts. director Steve Beck and co-

writers Robb White and Neal

Stevens. certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel. and the film bares more than a passing resemblance to the evil, mechanical imagery and ideas forged by Clive Barker's Hel/raiser films. The main strengths of the film are the special effects. make-up and sets. although a fine performance comes in the shape of Lillard's thoroughly freaked out psychic. If you like a bit of formula horror in your bag. this should do the trick.

(David Allan)

I General release from Friday 75 Mar:

14—28 Mar 2002 THE LIST 31