Don't Worry Darling
As far as I've been reading so far, this is one of those titles I love reviewing so much because audiences are seemingly split right down the middle on it. A split opinion on a movie like this will always make me look deeper into it for some reason. I have to get where both sides are coming from. I haven't exactly deep-dived on it here, but it's enough to see articles with titles like "Jordan Peele's Worst Movie?" and a healthy Rotten Tomato average of 75.5%. For the record, 'Us' averages at 76.5% and 'Get Out' at 92%.
So... it could still be considered his weakest, but it's still a good movie. In the end, it still works out to have a strong underlying social message to it. Also, it's always important to keep in mind that this is the third in an unofficial trilogy. We'll call it the "Peele Horror Trilogy" (bearing in mind there could be more on the way). I say this because, odds are, by a third movie, no matter what you're making, the magic of that original movie has officially worn a bit thin. There are very few examples of third movies that are the best of a trilogy. They exist, but I'll bet you can only think of a few examples. But the bottom line is, I still really think Peele's fans should give this a shot.
Getting to the point now, we open the movie with a very confusing scene involving a chimpanzee attack on the set of an old American sitcom. As with good storytelling, this does come into play later in the film, but I'm also not gonna sit here and spoil what Peele came up with in the end. Then we cut to a ranch where owner Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) trains horses for movies. He runs the ranch along with his dedicated son, Otis Jr; better known as "OJ" (Daniel Kaluuya) and not quite as dedicated daughter, Emerald; better known as "Em" (Keke Palmer), who would rather seek fame and fortune in Hollywood. All is well until, inexplicably, debris starts falling from the sky, which really kicks the movie off.
Before the Haywoods know it, they discover a UFO in their area that seems to be causing mayhem wherever it goes, sucking up farm animals and messing up all sorts of electricity. It's not long until OJ and Em get themselves a security system to try to track the UFO. But, while they receive the help of techie Angel Torres (Brandon Perea) and the older, more experienced "Antlers" Holst (Michael Wincott) they find out that their UFO hunt is a lot more than they bargained for. I won't say anything specific about the big reveal, but I have to give it up to Jordan Peele for his original concept! But when all said and done, you're probably wondering what the actual underlying social theme of the movie is.
For a very brief and simple refresher, 'Get Out' looked at the horrors of slavery, using the "Mad Scientist" storyline ('Human Centipede', 'Tusk'). 'Us' was basically a look at our own human nature and the duality within ourselves, essentially told as a "Home Invasion" story ('The Purge', 'The Strangers'). This one is largely about (as far as I can tell) mankind's obsession with not only technology as it advances - and not necessarily the best parts of it. As far as the type of horror, this is a little looser as it's pretty simply a UFO horror of which there are many examples. But I do find it interesting that the chimp attack scene takes place in 1998; right around the peak of the 90s alien/UFO/'X-Files' obsession. I'm probably overthinking the idea, but it's neat to think that Peele may have made this as a sort of throwback as well.
Back to the movie's theme about technology though, without spoiling anything, a lot of the danger throughout the film comes from simply looking at it. That leads me to think that the obvious message here is about how we rely on these advancing technologies so much that they're slowly sucking our lives away. It makes me think of the humans in 'WALL-E' who basically live in floating chairs that can do anything for them. There's also a lot to be said about the respect of living creatures here, which further makes me think that it's not only about our technological obsessions but about respecting said technology as well.
Anyway, all that has been my own takeaway from the film, but I'm curious to see if others take quite as much away. For me, it worked really well as straight-up horror as well. I've always had a bit of a thing about UFOs, aliens and the like after watching 'Fire in the Sky' when I was maybe 11 or 12. And while I give Peele major kudos for what he came up with here, a lot of that kudos has to do with the fact that some scenes here made me genuinely squirm. He manages to push you to the edge of your seat here a few times, and as far as I'm concerned, I might personally put this one above 'Us'. Although 'Get Out' definitely still holds that top position, I have been entertained by all three of Jordan Peele's directorial works, and I sincerely hope I get to see more!
Where the Crawdads Sing
I'll start this one by saying that this wasn't entirely what I thought it would be, judging by what little I had seen of it. I knew that altogether it wasn't exactly on the top of my list of movies to check out, but I hoped for a pleasant surprise for my review. Unfortunately, this is a title that finds itself on that long list of titles I just plain don't care about. I don't want that to take away from anyone's enjoyment of it if you happened to like it. But for some reason, I expected things to be a little more "riveting" than they were.
As per usual, my general disinterest is probably going to make for a somewhat short review. That's not even to say that the film is that bad, but I do admit to succumbing to boredom a few times while watching it. In short - just not for me. Above all that, there is now a whole bunch of controversy that follows this movie involving the original book's author, and her supposed ties to real-life murder, apparently with eerie similarities to plot points within the film. Having said that, I really don't know what's what about all of that, and how much of what I'm reading is true, so I'm not going to dwell. But when controversy follows a movie like that, it makes you wonder about what kind of lifespan the film will even have.
Just a quick plot summary - the film involves a young girl named Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who, through a series of events, is abandoned by her whole family to live on her own, raising herself in the harsh marshlands of North Carolina. She does quite well for herself, living off of her gardening, and trading fish and mussels for gas to a couple, Jumpin' (Sterling Macer Jr.) and his wife, Mabel (Michael Hyatt). However, to the rest of the community, she gets that "hermit" status, and is referred to as the "Marsh Girl", which in turn, isolates her - that is until two young men enter her life and we start the whole love triangle thing (by the way, have I ever mentioned I'm not the biggest fan of "love triangle" plots?).
The formulaic two men in question are first, Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith); the sweet guy she meets in her childhood who helps her with what she needs and eventually forms a romantic relationship with her until he has to leave for some reason - in this case, college. Second, after turning 19, she meets the quarterback of the football team, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) who is the more sleazy type, trying to make advances on her and other things asshole-type men do. Eventually, one of these guys is found dead, making Kya an immediate suspect and it kind of goes from there to about what you might expect.
So for me, the whole love triangle plotline and overall predictability as to where things were going through the film, I'm not the biggest fan. However, at best, I might suggest that this could work all right as a half-decent romantic murder mystery one can watch from the comfort of their own couch on a Sunday afternoon. As far as comparison to the book, I really can't say anything, but I'm willing to bet that the book is probably better. However all this controversy goes back to that author, so I don't know what to think about this one altogether. But in short, it's almost sure to be (at least for me) one of the big "forgettable" titles this year.
Death on the Nile (2022)
For those keeping track, 'Death on the Nile' is the sequel to 2017's 'Murder on the Orient Express'. This is an updated version of Agatha Christie's book, and it certainly looks as though we've got a pretty solid series in the making here. It's a remake of an old story, yes, but I daresay that a good murder mystery goes a long way these days (with True Crime being so incredibly popular). And why not bring back some classic material for today's generation? Poirot, no doubt, can show 'em how it's done.
The film opens with a bit of great detective Hercule Poirot's (Kenneth Branagh) history, in which we discover why he's got such an awesome mustache. It doesn't feel like it makes a whole lot of sense, but we also get a chance to see his innovation in the trenches and meet his lost love, Katherine (Susannah Fielding), which is admittedly interesting. Fast-forward to 1937, where the real story takes place, we catch up with the now mustachioed Poirot at a nightclub in London. There, Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) performs while, very quickly, heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) steals the handsome Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) away from socialite Jacqueline "Jackie" de Bellefort (Emma Mackey).
Now that we have a good set-up, we eventually get to them all (somewhat coincidentally) on a cruise along the Nile River, six weeks later. Linnet and Simon are there on a honeymoon but appear to have been followed by a jealous Jackie. And while the main case seems incredibly plain, there's a boat full of all sorts of colourful characters who could be behind one particular murder. As one would imagine, it's all a big puzzle to solve, probably doesn't quite turn out as expected in the end, and the real charm of the movie is behind Poirot's character as opposed to the murder mystery aspect.
Now, truth be told, I'm terrible with murder mysteries like this, and tend to confuse fairly easily. I'm the kind of guy who blinks once and misses the entire plot to something like this, but I'm also not unable to find entertainment value in it. As mentioned before, I do find Poirot to be a rather charming character, the film has a mild sense of humour, but it's not altogether silly, and the cast of colourful characters is pretty solid. Among just some of the names included are Annette Bening, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French (who may be a little more obvious to us fans of British Humour), Russell Brand, Rose Leslie, and that's just naming a few.
I think it's safe to say that this will certainly be up other peoples' alleys more so than my own. But I say that very lightly because I was still entertained by this. There's really nothing I would point out as specifically bad about it, and I probably wouldn't mind checking it out again, it only to get a little more out of the story. I'll just say that if you're a fan of the classic murder mystery, this is well worth a watch - especially if you happened to be a fan of 'Murder on the Orient Express'. Poirot may not be any Sherlock Holmes, but I do have to admit that he's up there as one of the all-time great fictional detectives.
See For Me
Theaters are once again closed near me, which means I'm resorting to searching online for new VOD releases. This one's available for rent right now for nice and cheap, and it makes for a pretty decent home invasion movie, if that's the kind of thing you're into. While there's really nothing about it that particularly stands out, it's really not bad for a simple, evening venture if you want a little thrill.
While competing for the Olympics, downhill skier, Sophie Scott (Skyler Davenport) is diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that causes blindness, thus bringing her Olympic dreams to a screeching halt. She becomes pretty bitter about her situation, and gives up altogether, even though her friend, Cam (Keaton Kaplan), seems to really want to help her train for the Paralympics. I have to admit, one thing that brings the movie down for me is Sophie's character. She's blind, yes, but it's hard to feel sympathetic when she ends up being such a jerk.
Anyway, Sophie gets by, cat sitting for the wealthy and stealing things like priceless bottles of wine, to resell on the black market. She answers an ad, and just about goes about her regular criminal routine, but soon locks herself out of the house. After doing this, she contacts a service through an app called "See For Me", which allows the blind to connect with a seeing helper through video chat. In reality, there is something called "Be My Eyes" that works on a similar level. Soon, she's connected to Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and she manages to get back in. But little does she know, she's in for an interesting night.
Sophie is awoken by a break-in, calls 9-1-1, and is told that due to her remote location, response might take a while. Being stuck without sight, she contacts Kelly again. Kelly soon sees the predicament she's in before being disconnected, and as the film continues, she does everything she can to try to help Sophie from behind her computer. Meanwhile, the motivation for the break-in is nothing at all surprising - it's about money. Even the criminals themselves are clichés - Otis (George Tchortov), Ernie (Pascal Langdale) and Dave (Joe Pingue). I forget who's who, honestly, but basically, your leader, your tough guy, and your sensitive guy. They're also lead by a man named Rico (Kim Coates) who isn't there.
So, as one might imagine from a home invasion movie, a lot of it becomes Sophie trying to survive the night in this strange house, while blind, and being guided by someone (when they can connect) on the other end of a phone. This is a movie that's better reviewed than how I really feel about it though, so let's just get into some good. There are some intense moments, the concept is somewhat original (I'm sorry, but 'Silence of the Lambs' did something very similar with night vision goggles), and I do have to say that Kelly is a very likable character. But for me, the bad sort of outweighs the good here.
Now, when I say "bad", I don't actually mean it in the strongest sense of the word. But the film's problems for me include it being a seemingly very standard set-up, the criminals are incredibly bland, the hero isn't very likable, and I feel like it's full of clichéd moments. However, it's that same basicness that makes it what I mentioned in the beginning - "really not bad for a simple, evening venture if you want a little thrill". I get the feeling that others would like this just fine, and perhaps I've just seen too much of the same sort of thing - like your average demonic possession movie these days, home invasion stuff gets pretty predictable. But hey, that's just me. It's a nice and cheap rental right now, if you wanna check it out for yourself.
Last Night in Soho
For those who don't know, and to keep it perfectly short, Edgar Wright = favorite director = total bias towards his films. I am generally of the opinion that everything the man is responsible for writing/directing is essentially gold. Of course, this is all personal taste. For some, it's Tarantino, for others, it's Spielberg. But the point is, with anything I review by Edgar Wright, one must be mindful that I'm basically in love with the guy's work.
He has actually released two films this year; this along with a documentary called 'The Sparks Brothers', about the pop/rock duo, "Sparks". This, however, is the more mainstream one of the two, and once again flexes Wright's muscles as a director by being a more serious-toned thriller. You have to hand it to the guy, he likes trying out a variety of things. And yeah, this is me talking, but he succeeds every single damn time. 'Last Night in Soho' is certainly no exception. And interestingly enough, one might suggest this one leans more towards the female crowd based on overall subject matter. While I'm inclined to agree to a degree, I might suggest it's a good watch for the guys, too, if only as a cautionary tale of sorts.
The film focuses on Eloise "Ellie" Turner (Thomasin McKenzie); an aspiring fashion designer with a thing for the 60s that about matches my thing for our director, here. She loves the music, she loves the fashion, she loves the setting, and she dreams of one day becoming a fashion designer in the Soho area of London, England. She also has a special gift where she can seemingly see her deceased mother (Aimee Cassettari) in her mirror. This is another case of accepting something without explanation - she has this ability, but we can only really guess where it comes from. What's more important here is how her ability seems to come into play.
She one day gets her opportunity to study at the London College of Fashion, and moves from her country home near Redruth, Cornwall to the big city, only to find herself rooming with a snooty girl named Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen). After a night out, and being an emotional punching bag to Jocasta and her jerk friends (you really hate these girls quickly). Luckily, there is one kind student among them; a guy named John (Michael Ajao) Ellie decides to find somewhere new to stay while she goes to school, landing on a charming little room in Goodge Place, owned by a reasonably strict, elderly woman named Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg).
Ellie finds herself having a vivid dream that first night about being in the same area of the city in the 60s, and observing a young blonde woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) developing a professional relationship with a night club owner named Jack (Matt Smith) in order to get a gig as one of his performers. During the dream, Ellie is basically in the role of Sandie, as we see through a very cool effect using mirrors. These dreams, however, have an 'Elm Street' style to them in as much as what happens in the dream carries over to real life. While Ellie is sort of in love with what she's experienced, she keeps the dreams up only to reveal something much more sinister going on behind the scenes.
I will admit that while a lot of Wright's movies do a wonderful job of getting going, this one does feel like it has a bit of a slow set-up. But with that said, I never felt like things were really dragging. For this one, I give Wright a lot of credit for making this a cautionary tale for moth men and women. There's some "woke", #metoo material in here, but what I liked about it was that it didn't feel entirely black and white in the end. It certainly leaned one way, but it's clearly what Wright was going for. Just my opinion, but he did a good job here, right down to the twist ending. I'd probably prefer a good Edgar Wright comedy over this in the end, but I have to give Wright the credit for doing something kind of new with the whole "woke" movement.
Here we have our next dose of horror from director James Wan; the man who sent chills up our spines with the likes of 'Saw', 'Insidious', 'The Conjuring' and 'Fast & Furious 7' (although those chills were different). This was a title that, at least from my perspective, has been floating under the radar enough that I wasn't fully aware it existed until I was looking for something that would be released this week for review. The determining factor was, of course, Wan, himself. Speaking on a personal level, I am a fan. I feel like he's breathed a little bit of new into horror while maintaining a lot of that classic stuff we all know and love.
'Malignant' is another example of a relatively fresh take on a relatively old idea. One thing I will say right off the bat is that, speaking for myself, I found this to be entirely far too predictable. I wasn't entirely sure what the "Malignant" title was all about, but when things start going down in this, it's so easy to draw a conclusion. The mystery is in how this conclusion will play out - and let me just say, it's campy, and a bit reminiscent of a certain 'Simpsons' Halloween segment with hints of... 'Harry Potter' (you'll see what I mean by the end) and even at one point, kind of 'The Matrix'. I didn't think the film was altogether that great, but I can't deny that it was rather interesting in the way it all played out.
Things open back in the early 90s where Dr. Florence Weaver (Jacqueline McKenzie), Dr. Victor Fields (Christian Clemenson) and Dr. John Gregory (Amir AboulEla) treat a psychatric patient named Gabriel who, one day, runs amok, kills a handful of staff, and we discover that this is a kid who should probably be under the care of Professor Xavier. This young man has superpowers, which include manipulation of electricity, and the ability to broadcast his thoughts through speakers. Near the end of this almost 'Jurassic Park'-like opening, we get our first glimpse of Gabriel - some sort of terrible creature who the doctors are trying to subdue.
We fast-forward twenty-seven years where we meet a pregnant woman named Madison (Annabelle Wallis) who comes home to an abusive stereotype named Derek (Jake Abel). There's a fight, and he violently throws her head against the wall, prompting Madison to lock herself in the bedroom away from him for any amount of sleep. During sleep, she has a nightmare about a killer in the house, which may or may not have a sort of 'Elm Street'-like attachment to the real world. Without spoiling anything much, we find out soon enough. This eventually leads Madison down some strange rabbit hole where she learns some gritty details about her own past which could lead to solving a murder mystery that currently surrounds her life.
Altogether, I wouldn't claim this to be Wan's best film, but I might also suggest that Wan could be an acquired taste for most. 'Saw' for example is a series I find altogether hit or miss, but I personally see the first as a horror classic at this point - and that's the only one Wan did. I might also argue that he did the best of the 'Fast' movies with the seventh, and 'The Conjuring' might be the best "haunted house" series currently running. But this is all my opinion, and if anyone were to debate any of this, I wouldn't try too hard to hit back, because I totally get not liking his style just as well. But I do think if you're like me, and a fan (though admittedly not what you'd call die-hard), it's worth checking out. The twist ending will either make you cringe or smile, but if you're lucky, it could lead to both, as Wan's films tend to do.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Let me start this one out by saying that, as one might very well expect, this is really just another 'Saw' movie. You've got your gruesome, torturous traps, you've got your detective who finds himself at the ass-end of it all, and you've got your twist. I will forever consider the first 'Saw' movie the best of the bunch, followed very closely by the second - but from '3' on, it seems to become much more about the traps and how brutally they can make the audience wince.
With that said, I can respect the 'Saw' franchise to a degree in that they were the big new franchise to become an annual Halloween flick after 'Halloween'. Also, like 'Halloween', the franchise went from the proper Fall release to a Summer release, because box office. 'Halloween' did it with 'H20', and 'Saw' did it with... well, this. So kudos to 'Saw for at least outlasting a series like 'Halloween' in tradition. Anyway, after checking this one out, all I can say is that nothing at all is surprising, and you get what you get from the average 'Saw' movie. That's a franchise I dropped after '3', and still haven't seen anything else leading up to 'Jigsaw', which I managed to review somewhat half-assedly.
Anyway, plot-wise, this one brings in Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Chris Rock); he gets the "renegade cop" role here, overshadowed by his father, Detective Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). He gets partnered with a rookie named William Schenk (Max Minghella) and the pair are sent to investigate a grizzly murder. Upon inspecting the scene of the crime, they find out that they are dealing with a Jigsaw copycat killer... again. This one seems to be out for cops, and is seeking some sort of twisted justice. The more Zeke goes down the rabbit hole, the closer he finds himself to the killer, thus potentially putting himself and people around him in danger. Honestly - it's just another 'Saw' movie, tackling a hot button issue in the only way 'Saw' can.
There are a few things to appreciate about this, but not very many. For one, the traps still do their jobs at making us wince, cringe, etc. so, if that's your deal, it works out pretty well - but there are also only a few of them. Of course, Chris Rock being Chris Rock, there are a few laughs here as well. The problem is, I just find Chris Rock really hard to take seriously as far as a role like this goes. I enjoy the guy, but I'm too used to him as a comedian at this point. I hear he does pretty good in 'Fargo', so maybe I should try that. But here, it's pretty much Chris Rock with an attitude, and he gives us a character that's kind of a tough one to route for.
As far as horror goes, this is a franchise I can respect, but it's not entirely for me. The whole torture porn thing just gets under my skin (no pun intended), and I tend to see it as a pretty cheap way to make audiences flinch. But at the very least, things can get creative in 'Saw', and I've always found it interesting that the kills are set-ups for the victim to either suffer horribly and live, or die because they failed their trap. The "killer" never actually does the killing. I've always found that to be the most intriguing twist to the Jigsaw killer, plus when Tobin Bell is on-screen, you can't help but like him as the next big deal in horror villainy.
For as intriguing as things could get (bearing in mind I still haven't seen 4-7), this just made me think of 'Jigsaw' a few years back in that it simply feels too little too late. For me, this is a matter of outdated material, and something that makes you wonder who was asking for it. That said, I've stumbled on the fact that this seems to be Part 9 of a 10-part series, so I guess this just has its handful of dedicated fans, and maybe it's something I don't entirely get. You've got to give it to them for lasting the way they have though, no matter how you feel. Thinking about the apparent, upcoming 'Saw X', it ought to be released in late October, 2024, giving the franchise a solid 20-year run and going back to its roots. Who knows? It could go back to being as good as the first two. But it definitely needs to be better than the last two.
I have to admit that while things have been fun for the most part, the time-loop movie seems to be becoming a bit of a cliche. While everyone and their mother loves 'Groundhog Day' as a sort of feel-good time-loop movie, others like to take the trend of the same day beginning again after death; most prevalent in my mind being 'The Edge of Tomorrow' and 'Happy Death Day'. This one adds a bit of a video game twist to things, however, and becomes another fairly solid video game movie that isn't actually a video game movie. While it remains a bit cliche in its execution, I can't deny the over-the-top fun factor this film still has.
As the film opens, we get an inner monologue from ex Delta Force soldier, Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) who gives us about 17-minutes worth of exposition. He takes us through his repeated day, as several people try to kill him while mentioning that he often slips up and has to do it all over again. Much like several times of practice with any video game, he eventually gets it all down, but I have to appreciate that the film takes slight human error into account - for example, at one point he simply stubs his toe, allowing for just enough distraction for someone to shoot him. While it's a long time before the story really gets going, it's still a fun sequence, and I can't deny a few laughs. In this time, the film lets you know what it is, and the idea of not taking it seriously is almost instantaneous.
On his 48th attempt to survive this day, Roy attempts to call his estranged wife, Jemma Welles (Naomi Watts), but the phone is instead picked up by Dynow Labs' head of defense, Col. Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson) who informs him that Jemma is dead due to an accident. Roy knows that the time loop he's stuck in is tied to Jemma in some way, due to a strange visit they had the day before he got himself trapped. He then spends the time formulating a revenge plot, while getting answers to his questions slowly revealed to him with each trial and error attempt. Some of these answers could spell out the end of the world if Roy doesn't come through.
Things are fairly basic here, and not much comes as a surprise while you're watching it. But if you're a dude looking for a fun action movie with a dark sense of humor and a whole lot of violence, this could be right up your alley. As many like to put it, including myself, this is straight up "dude porn" in that regard. It's just your average balls-to-the-wall action flick that will allow you to throw your brain out the window for a couple of hours, and revel in the shoot-em-up gore that we all find so satisfying after a really bad day. Again, it does it all with a dark sense of humor as well. Although, I will admit that there's a line or two here that might make one cringe and think it awkward - especially when delivered by Mel Gibson at one particular point. You will know it when you hear it.
The film comes to us from director Joe Carnahan who also did 'The A-Team' and 'Smokin' Aces'. So to say that this is a dumb action movie that's perfectly enjoyable just for the fun of it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It's currently available for rent for a decent, non-gouging price online, and I'd actually highly recommend it for anyone looking for such a film. One could almost watch this in place of whatever games they are playing on their PS5's (if, God willing, they managed to get their hands on one). It's a movie to have fun with, not take seriously, and just enjoy the thrill.
Consider the following review a "bookmark" of sorts. In part protest/part not wanting to pay a whole bunch per month, I have gotten rid of Crave and therefore HBO Max. My reasoning; the WB titles streaming on HBO Max as well as theaters are only available in America, thus we Canucks kind of just get screwed. It's irritating to me that WB has what I think is a great idea, but they aren't making it available elsewhere. Last I checked, our theaters were closed as well, so this means missing out on a lot of cool up-and-coming material.
In fairness, the odd rental still might pop up here and there, like 'Wonder Woman '84' did. On a personal level, I'm okay with renting as long as the cost is relatively fair to my wallet ($20 for 'Onward' as opposed to $30 for 'Mulan'). For the time being, however, a lot of these "Now Playing" titles may be either late to the party (perhaps being released in Canada later than the US, like the last 'Spongebob' flick) or quite "Under the Radar" (as many of these have been lately). So, instead of reviewing the Oscar-Buzzing Frances McDormand movie that is 'Nomadland' this week, instead, it's movie that you've probably never heard of until now. But hey, it's "available"!
Diving right in, after some time passes from a tragic incident involving a nurse named Katie and her patient, she becomes a devout Roman Catholic, and starts referring to herself as Maud. She now works as a palliative care nurse somewhere in England, and her next assignment is to Amanda; a minor celebrity in the world of dance choreography. Terminally ill with stage four lymphoma, she confesses her fears of death to Maud, who confesses back that she often feels God's response to her prayers. We see this as Maud responding to things in an almost orgasmic fashion.
As time passes, Amanda is visited by Carol, who acts as a sex worker for her. As a result of this and Maud's devout faith to God, Maud becomes obsessive with the protection of Amanda, and wants nothing more than to save her soul from eternal damnation. Soon enough, the obsession turns sour and, through a series of events, Maud eventually has to question who it is that really needs saving; Amanda or herself. If the opening scene involving Katie/Maud locked up in an asylum is any indication, we certainly know that nothing will end up in Katie/Maud's favor, but it's mildly interesting to watch the events that unfold that got her there... very mildly. Just by reading the review here, your probable thoughts on the film being a little too religiously heavy are 100% accurate.
All in all, it's your standard, run of the mill, supernatural, psychological religious thriller. It doesn't have a lot of the typical imagery, and a lot more of is is psychological than physically supernatural. The film gets you trapped in Maud's life and personal thoughts, all the while delivering some pretty uncomfortable imagery, but nothing so over the top as to truly call this "horror". I'd probably just say it's more uncomfortable than anything, and it really doesn't feel like it has much more of a point than Maud's confusion on what's really right and wrong - again, speaking in the biblical sense more than anything. It seems to combine the issues of mental health with religion, and that's always an iffy area for me as it is.
So, as I expected, there's nothing particularly special here, and I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone in particular. It's not scary, it's not horrifically fun in any way, and it's just too heavy-handed with its religious aspect. I suppose it works out as a sort of hidden gem for some (considering its praise on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 81%), but this is just one of those cases where if you told me I "just didn't get it", you'd probably be right. I guess it's ot without its moments of discomfort, and therefore doing its job, but I can tell that this will be a "forgotten title" for yours truly when 2021 comes to an end.
Death of Me
It took a little planning, but I did manage to get a Halloween themed month going for my Now Playing page, and I'm pretty excited about it. For my first review of the month, I take a look at the VOD title, 'Death of Me'; a cautionary tale about travelling internationally, and another film to add to the new potential trend of "travel horror", with which I took a look at 'The Rental' and 'Fantasy Island' earlier this year. It could be the next step with things like Air B&B. Even though it's not entirely original, it's scary stuff to think about when travelling to an unfamiliar land.
The film opens with vacationing couple, Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) waking up after a heavy night of drinking, in a hotel room on a remote island in Thailand. They have no memory of the night before, but the real problem is that their passports have gone missing. In an attempt to recall the previous night, Neil takes a look at his phone, only to find a video of him brutally murdering Christine, and burying her, giving at least some explanation to the dirt in the bed Christine wakes up in... but not really. Before this nightmarishly mysterious clip, however, we also see footage of a waitress giving them something, which may have the answers to what's happening.
Although often brushed off as collective hallucinations, there's something very real and almost otherworldly that the couple is experiencing. The most unfortunate thing about it though, is that it does get somewhat confusing, as the viewer keeps questioning what's real and what's not; not in a good way, in an irritating way. I suppose to summarize, it's basically 'The Hangover' if it were a horror movie. It's a cool concept, but it could have been executed a little more simply than just feeding us gross imagery that we're not sure is real or not. There are also heavy hints of 'The Serpent and the Rainbow' here, in the sense that these visitors to an exotic land get drugged and their whole experience is a nightmare.
While the gist of the plot remains pretty standard for a trippy horror movie, this one is for those who are after some seriously creepy imagery to knock their minds around a bit. So much of this can come from the local faces of the area this couple is staying, and it's combined pretty well with the idea of not knowing who on the island they can trust. Hell, can Christine even trust her own husband? It keeps your mind going, but again, it somewhat falls apart in the process. All in all, it's effectively scary, and it gives you that dread feeling in your gut, especially when you see some of the lengths the film goes to. If you don't wanna go there with "eye stuff" or "gut stuff", it's not a good one. There is, unfortunately, a torture porn aspect to this.
While it's not quite up there with 'Hostel', it could somewhat be compared to something like 'Saw' - of which director Darren Lynn Bousman directed parts 'II', 'III' and 'IV'. He's also responsible for 'Repo: The Genetic Opera' (a cult hit, of sorts) and one of my new favorite low budget Halloween watches - 'Tales of Halloween'. His works are curious to me, but at the end of the day, works I only need to see once and be done with them. He seems keen on those "take a shower afterwards" movies that make you feel like you were just in a terribly filthy place in your head. For something creepy, gory and straight to VOD, it's not too bad, but it caters to a specific audience as well. For me, it wasn't fun, it was just eerily confusing, and the sad part is that I can't tell if that's a good thing or not. I'm gonna say it's passable for the type of film it is. Perhaps not for me, but not a total waste either.
You Should Have Left
If you're currently on the lookout for a new scary movie, and this title pops up, you should probably be forewarned that this is just another example sample of more of the same. If you think of the typical haunting movie nowadays, certain marks are met over and over again, and it's frankly just getting old. I don't know why I thought this would be anything particularly different. Perhaps it had to do with that Blumhouse logo, or the two big stars involved, but one thing is for sure; this is just repeating things from other movies.
We start by meeting an age-gapped couple, Theo (61-year-old Kevin Bacon) and Susanna (34-year-old Amanda Seyfried) and their daughter, Ella (Avery Essex). Theo is haunted by horrible nightmares, often involving Ella and a strange shadow of a creepy man. Matters are made even worse with his jealousy, as Susanna is an actress who often engages in sex scenes (though it's not clear whether or not it's pornographic). Regardless of all that, the family moves into a new vacation house in Wales, found online, to get away from everything.
While staying at the house, secrets are revealed about Theo's past, explaining why people around him don't like him at all, and eventually the whole thing becomes incredibly predictable. He's often asked about the house, and whether or not he's spoken to a mysterious man named Stetler, a man who once lived there. With that said, I urge you not to check out the IMDb page for this, as the film's big reveal is spoiled very clearly there.
Anyway, much of the film has to do with the overall lingering dysfunction of the family, once Susanna reveals to Ella what her Dad's big secret is. If I say much more on the subject, it might as well be a spoiler, as there's a formula I've seen here in other movies. It borrows from so much, and I could see hints of movies like '1408', 'What Lies Beneath', 'The Others' and any number of current horror movies featuring a black-haired ghoul girl (honestly, once America got hold of the idea from Japan, it just hasn't stopped).
This one comes to us from writer/director David Koepp, who has penned a very hit or miss lineup of screenplays. On the bright side, 'Jurassic Park' and 'Spider-Man' (2002); on the dark side, 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' and 'The Mummy' (2017) - the film that both launched and annihilated the "Dark Universe" (what were they thinking?) So it's not entirely surprising that this film turned out to be very average at best.
The film is ultimately predictable, and it goes through the motions of your standard haunting/spook house film. None of the three leads were particularly interesting to me, either, save perhaps Ella who is somewhere before the age of 7 and knows what a trial is, among several other adult words and terms. She's never painted as a book smart girl or anything, just an average little girl who wants to go back home. Maybe it's personal, but I found it hard to buy into. I'm not a parent, so for all I know 5 or 6-year-olds understand the concept of a judge, jury, courtroom etc. I mean, I was playing with my Ghostbusters and He-Man action figures, myself, but I'm just nitpicking.
It honestly surprises me that I haven't seen a lower rating on this one from critics. It's a low-rated film, but if you pop over to the tomatoes, you see the audience a little more disappointed with it. This fascinates me, because as I was watching it, I kept thinking to myself "okay, now it's stealing from this movie" or "that movie", and it's very clearly unoriginal and uninspired with an ending that actually confused me quite a bit. I may not be difficult to confuse, but honesty, check it out for yourself and see if you can tell me what happened.
Again, this is just another example of a movie that, while on its own isn't terrible by any means, takes from better titles. It makes me wonder, had this had a theatrical release as originally intended, would people have more to say about it? To me, this would have worked much better if it was meant to be a straight to DVD, TV, or streaming project. One can get more out of similar titles, but if you feel so inclined to indulge your horror desires, it's a quick and easy watch, but not at all scary. The worst nightmares you may experience from it already belong to Theo.
For the past few years, I have actually been pleasantly surprised with the titles that have been getting dropped off in January. You see, this is widely considered a "dumping" month, where a bunch of throwaway titles that so few care about get a release. But counting back, one by one, we can find some good, hidden gems. 'The Kid Who Would Be King', 'Paddington 2', 'Split', all great flicks that had a January release over the past 3 years that I've run this site. However, the month kicked off with a single title that only made us as "why in the hell is this happening?"
First let me just come right out with it, the plot is a bit convoluted. I ended up digging into the order of how things go in this movie, but it's really all over the damn place. This is the same idea as 2004's 'Grudge' in which a cursed spirit, haunting a house, rubs off on a bunch of people and there's a bunch of disturbing imagery that goes "boo!" It's a convoluted waste of time, seemingly trying very hard to be horror's 'Pulp Fiction' (good luck) in the way the story is executed. It's basically four separate stories that intertwine.
The Landers Family story is about Fiona (Tara Westward) leaving the cursed house, disturbed by events, going home and reuniting with her husband, Sam (David Lawrence Brown) and daughter, Melinda (Zoe Fish) while the curse follows her. This is followed by real estate agent Peter (John Cho) and Nina Spencer's (Betty Gilpin) story, involving an unborn baby who will most likely have ALS. Peter tries selling the cursed house to get his mind off things, but then the curse hits him, and no good comes of it.
Dementia sufferer Faith (Lin Shaye) and husband William Matheson (Frankie Faison) move into the house a year after the previous two cursed events took place. The curse hits Faith to such an extent that an assisted suicide doctor is called to the house. A year after that is Muldoon's (Andrea Riseborough) story. She's a rookie detective, and upon checking the house out for several previous crimes, she finds herself intertwined with every previous story. If this was all told in the order I wrote it out, it wouldn't have been as messy as it is. But it goes back and forth pretty confusingly, even revealing stuff about itself that ought to be spoilers. As I mentioned, it's just a mess.
Now, you're probably wondering, is this another soft reboot title? or final title? one of those annoying sequels that keeps the name of the original, even though in canon it's the more recent chapter? Well shit, how about all of that? No seriously, I tried looking this up, and Wiki suggests the following: "At first announced as the reboot of the 2004 American remake and the Japanese horror film 'Ju-On: The Grudge', the film ended up being a sidequel that takes place during and after the events of the 2004 film and its sequels, and is the fourth installment in The Grudge film series." So yeah, it's a bit confusing, but that's where this one fits, apparently.
Now, I kinda get what they might have been going for here. Every character who gets affected by this curse has a big, personal issue going on, which is somewhat its own curse. It could have made some interesting choices in all of its symbolism, but instead we just get a very mean-spirited movie that will crank your depression dial up to 11. I wasn't big on the 2004 version either, but I can at least admit that the imagery in it left a pretty deep impression, regardless of its story. This one only showed be how desensitized I have become as far as the whole ghost thing goes. It's just not that scary anymore, even if it borders on moments of fright. Bottom line, this is a throwaway, plain and simple, and it's kind of a shame to see such a talented cast going to waste here. The first movie of 2020, is a hard, cruel and depressing dud.
Let me start this one out by saying that I appear to be in a sort of minority when it comes to this film. It currently stands at a whopping 97% critic and 92% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and holds three Golden Globe nominations, including Best Motion Picture, Comedy/Musical. And do not get me wrong, it's totally enjoyable, I just don't find myself offering all that praise towards it. I liked it, I just didn't love it, and I feel like I've seen better this year.
With that said though, it's a nice, impressive feat for writer/director Rian Johnson, fresh off of 'Last Jedi', which clearly didn't go over very well with the horrendously toxic Star Wars audience. Good on him for making something he can take pride in. Despite me sort of going against the grain on this one, it's another case of perhaps just not personally being a member of the audience this was made for. Murder mystery movies were never really my thing, and if I'm perfectly honest, without spoiling anything, I just felt like all was revealed too quickly. It catches us off-guard, and becomes much more about cover-up than the mystery itself. We know what's up, but the characters don't. But that might also be what's so good about it - the untypical telling of a murder mystery, making it a mystery for the characters, but not for us.
Our basic plot here involves the discovery of a dead, but wealthy novelist named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), found just after his 85th birthday party. Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called to the scene to investigate and interrogate, but he's unaware of who hired him for the job (which kinda ends up being the bigger mystery for the audience than the murder). One by one, he interviews the family and house staff to find out the truth behind Harlan's death.
Among the all-star cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette and several others. Our main character here is Harlan's personal caretaker and dear friend, Marta (Ana de Armas) an interesting piece to the puzzle due to a condition in which she tosses her cookies if she lies. That was definitely something I found hard to take seriously, but upon taking a Google, it seems like it's plausible, just not probable. We do briefly get an explanation that it has something to do with a past event, but not much more. So we roll with it, especially as she's basically a human lie detector to herself, which is an interesting idea.
I think I appreciated the idea of a different execution for a mystery film like this. This had some interesting ideas, twists and turns, and it was neat that it gave us a parallel, and much more interesting mystery to the murder itself. The characters were all pretty solid, but I don't think any of them truly stood out to me as any kind of "favourite". Really and truly, the only character I genuinely liked was Marta, and even then, that's mostly 'cause she carried the weight of this movie on her shoulders.
There's plenty to appreciate here, but despite all my praise, I'm not entirely sure I fully appreciated the mystery switch-a-roo when I noticed it. With some time to sit and think about things, I have gained an appreciation for how it all unfolded, as they did something different, and this wasn't just and old fashioned who-dunnit story. Still though, I just can't seem to cross that line to loving it. It's just not the type of thing I gravitate towards, typically. But I do still highly recommend checking it out for yourself at some point, as your opinion may very well differ for the better. It seems that way with he vast majority, already.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
To kick things off with this particular review, I should probably mention that this was one of those series of books I never owned. But I do remember them, all the same. I'm not sure if I knew anyone who had them, but I definitely saw them at libraries, and remember some of the spooky images pretty plainly.
Apparently, the imagery had a lot to do with what made this series stick out. These were a set of books more or less directed at kids as a sort of campfire horror story deal, and evidently they were pretty effective. It was a good way to dip your toes into horror, because for as eerily creepy as a lot of these stories and images were, they were relatively tame, playing largely on the imagination. It was perfect for impressionable kids, and I know of some people out there who even made it a Halloween tradition, right into adulthood, to read these stories. Speaking of which, I'd have to say that this is pretty much the first true Halloween movie we have for this year, too. In fact, we open on Halloween night here.
Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), and Chuck (Austin Zajur), are setting out for their last trick-or-treating session. They have a run-in with neighborhood bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams), provoke him, and hide at a drive-in theater, in the car of some guy named Ramón (Michael Garza). They eventually get away, thanks to Ramón's help, and decide that since it's Halloween, it's about time they did something cooler than trick-or-treating.
They soon find themselves at the allegedly haunted Bellows house. The story goes that young Sarah Bellows lived a tortured life, and kept some scary stories in a book. When Stella takes the book home to check out, she finds that it's writing itself, and causing real, but unnatural things to happen to her friends, perhaps even killing them off.
The film takes from a few things, and throws it all in a blender. It's a little bit 'Goosebumps', a little bit 'Neverending Story', and a little bit 'Final Destination' with just a hint of 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?'. But if i really wanted to compare the movie more specifically with something, I'd just call it a ballsier 'Goosebumps'. If the 'Goosebumps' movie was more aimed at kids, then this is sort of the next step up. I'm 37, and there were a few images here that even gave me the shivers a little. Of course, that's the brilliance of Guillermo Del Toro's creature designs - which by the way are just about 100% faithful to the books, as far as I've seen.
But for as decent as this was, it kinda hit me with that 'World War Z' vibe. What I mean by that is that I wish it played out as more of an anthology instead of what it ended up being, which was still good, just not quite what I'd hoped for. A 'Creepshow'-like anthology would have suited these stories well, and the multiple trailers really made it look like it was gonna go that way. Basically what we have here, though, is a re-imagining of what they did with 'Goosebumps' (the essential book coming to life idea).
It's still not at all a bad film though, and has the potential to become a new Halloween classic of sorts. It has done very well with audiences so far, and I could see it becoming a traditional Halloween movie to check out annually for yours truly. I didn't love it to pieces, and I wish it had gone a certain way, but I have to say that things could have been much worse. This at least has some potential to grow on me, over time.
Love it or hate it, 'It' was a huge success, and it kinda started to set the path for new remakes of old Stephen King adaptations. Next in line is 'Pet Sematary'.
It's pretty much the same overall deal as the original, if you're familiar, but replace Gage with Ellie, and show a few more gruesome things for horrific content. More on that later. If you're NOT familiar with the story, here's a rough breakdown.
Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) moves to Lulow, Miane from Boston, Massachusetts with his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and two kids, Ellie (Jeté Laurence) and Gage (Hugo Lavoie). The family cat, "Church" also comes with. That bit's important. Anyway, one day, Ellie goes off into the woods to wander and stumbles on a funeral procession. She later finds out there's a pet cemetery when she runs into their neighbor, Judd (John Lithgow).
Anyway, potential spoilers, but tragedy strikes when Church is run over by a speeding transport truck. Judd offers a solution to Louis that can bring the cat back from the dead to be with Ellie (as it seems to mostly be her cat), but with the risk of drastic change in the cat's personality. For those who know the story, it extends from there, without giving too much away, with the thought that maybe we can do the same with humans. But then again, the trailer kinda shows us everything we need to know. I honestly don't know where the "spoiler" line is drawn with this story, so fair warning on more potential spoilers ahead.
All in all, this pretty much copies and pastes the original, but with the change in roles between Ellie and Gage (as mentioned before). That said, I personally wonder if it was for the better. In the original, Gage is mostly done with a doll or kinda weak practical effects. Still a lot of fun to watch, but it's not altogether creepy (at least not anymore). Now as far as Ellie goes, I have to give it up to Jeté Laurence's performance. She's a little older so more of a dramatic act can come from her, and she turns out to be just the right amount of perfectly creepy. To me, this is her movie.
As far as the other performances go, everyone's decent, but no one really blows me away. Other criticisms go to the abundance of Zelda scenes (Rache's sister, who's death haunts her) which give Rachel a reason to be uncomfortable, but here it's kinda drilled into the ground and takes away from the main plot. It's damn near 50/50 with it here, whereas in the original, it's just a quick back story.
One thing to really appreciate about this film, however, is the atmosphere it provides. It's just downright spooky, and kinda reminds you of something meant for Halloween - especially when they head off into the outskirts of Pet Cemetery where the native burial ground is. So I guess for everything bad there seems to be something to enjoy.
Personally speaking, I have to say that I enjoyed the original better, but perhaps for the wrong reasons - it's just classic material at this point, and a lot of fun to watch as a sort of spookhouse movie. This was probably far creepier altogether, so works better as an all around horror movie. But not everyone will enjoy this for the same reasons I did. I'd almost fully recommend watching both back to back and seeing which one you prefer. But of course, if you've read and enjoyed the book, you might wanna stick to that version altogether.
Happy Death Day 2U
I'll just come right out and say it - I enjoyed the first 'Happy Death Day' quite a bit. It was essentially the 'Groundhog Day' concept (living the same day over and over again), but with a horror twist. It was also a pretty self-aware comedy of sorts (full review here).
With that exposition out of the way, let's just dive right in. This picks up where the first leaves off. This time around, it starts happening with Ryan (Phi Vu), roommate of Carter (Israel Broussard) and all around secondary (maybe even tertiary) character in the first film. Anyway, he ends up passing the curse it back to Tree, and things start all over again.
This time around, however, we're involving science fiction and experimenting with different dimensions. The murderous baby mascot guy takes a complete back seat. So, if you wanna see more of the same idea, you're not gonna get it. It's really hardly even a horror of any sort so much as a sci-fi comedy with horror, and even some surprising drama elements.
For the most part, the whole idea is that Tree ends up having to make a very difficult decision as to which dimension she needs to stay in. It ends up hitting you in the feels pretty nicely, and it's easy to empathize with her situation. All the while, it still remains a mystery story, as Tree, Carter and Ryan team up to figure out how to break this loop of perpetual death.
It's a difficult film for yours truly to rate. Hand down, I think I liked the first one much better. It just did its thing without need for explanation as to why it's all happening. It was really just a bit of horror/comedy slasher fun, and didn't need to do much to be entertaining. This, however, just goes too deep with things as far as the sci-fi element goes. It kinda blind-sides you. On the other hand, I can't help but appreciate that it tried something different - especially as a movie that's ABOUT repetitiveness.
I considered how I felt about the two movies on the whole, and wondered if, in a way, this was just as good as the first. But then I considered my DVD/Blu-ray rack. 'Happy Death Day' might end up on there, if I find it for cheap. 'Happy Death Day 2U' probably won't, unless it's in a combo pack with the first film, also for cheap. Apparently, a third is also in the works, and it's apparently set to also go off the rails a bit more. So there's definitely a side to this wackiness that's intentional. But that doesn't mean I have to just go with it.
The first was a lot of fun, but this was kinda just weird to me. Points for the emotional side of things, but that's about all I took away from this that I REALLY liked. Otherwise, it's just a bit over the top for yours truly. I came out of it not knowing at all what to think. It's passable, but it's no 'Happy Death Day'.
Try to imagine taking the general concept of 'Saw', and giving it a PG-13 rating. That's essentially what we get here with 'Escape Room'. One might think that the lack of blood and/or gore would take away from the whole deal, but truth be told, the film actually still pulls off a great deal of suspense. It's far more of a psychological thriller than any sort of horror movie.
We get introduced to six main players, all of whom are randomly gifted a puzzle box. A physics student named Zoey (Taylor Russell), a stockboy named Ben (Logan Miller), a trader named Jason (Jay Ellis), a war vet named Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), a former miner named Mike (Tyler Labine) and an escape room geek named Danny (Nik Dodani). Once the puzzle boxes are solved, a clue invites them to the Minos Escape Room Facility, with $10,000 up for grabs upon successful completion of the puzzles.
Once the group meets up, the film pretty much takes off, and does a pretty damn good job with playing on psychological fears that could potentially lead to death. While the main fears at play here are obvious, you can also spot things like claustrophobia, or even the fear of losing one's mind. The overall premise is actually quite enjoyable, and does manage to keep you on edge for the most part.
All that said, the unfortunate downside to this is that as far as likable characters go, there are so few. Between the six, I only really enjoyed Zoey and Mike, while Amanda and Danny had their moments, and Jason and Ben just got downright irritating at points. However, we can chalk that up to a nitpick on my part, seeing as when all said and done, I suppose that's providing contrast. However, there is one part of this otherwise decent movie that I cannot overlook, and that's the ending.
Without spoiling too much, the ending turns the film on its head from a rather decent psychological thriller to a straight up Saturday morning cartoon. So as I sat in the audience, ready to leave, and pretty well satisfied with the results of the film, it asked me to stay put, in an attempt to set itself up for a sequel. Again, no spoilers, but as a slight hint, IMDb includes "sci-fi" as one of the genres it covers. It's downright silly.
There's still plenty to like about the film, though. The atmosphere, the overall tension, the designs of most of the rooms, it really does show the flexing of creative muscle. While at the end of the year, I feel that this will pretty much be forgotten about, it can still be a fun time for anyone interested. Overall, it's not entirely disappointing... that ending though? I'm curious to see if it will lead to anything in the near future - but my money's on "probably not".
Here we have yet another case of a movie claiming to be something along the lines of the "most terrifying thing you'll see this year". The reviews have come in, and they are generally positive, looking at how the movie works with the horrors of emotion, loss, coping, etc. Its partly symbolic, partly psychological, and truth be told, altogether really quite creepy. But at the same time, I have to admit, pretty over-hyped in my mind.
The film starts out with the Graham family heading to a funeral for Annie's (Toni Collette) mother. We find out that the family wasn't entirely close with her, save for the daughter of the family, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who was her "favourite".
After the events of the funeral, however, strange events start to unfold, beginning with the desecration of Ellen's (Annie's mother's) grave. However, with that said, if you're going by trailers, this movie doesn't turn out the way you'd expect... like, at all. So if you're the kind of person who needs to be fed what the trailer feeds you, you're in for some disappointment. But what does this movie have going for it that makes it so special?
Well, to be honest, this one turned the tables on me as well, but mostly in a good way. Not that far into it, there is an unexpected even that happens, which I won't spoil for you here, but it makes the movie change its track pretty abruptly, and then starts working on what makes the movie really cool.
This is one of those horror movies where its also sort of a supernatural mystery that keeps you guessing as to whether or not it actually IS a supernatural horror movie, or a psychological horror movie. It kinda kills two birds with one stone in that regard.
I think for the most part, I can end up giving this a positive review from my own perspective, but I won't lie in that there were a few choices made that I wasn't much a fan of. Not the least of which involved the overacted crying scenes. When tragedy hits home for Annie and her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), they kinda go off the rails in a big way with a sense of overacting. And I really hate to say that because when they aren't losing their shit, they're both doing fantastic acting jobs.
On top of that, this is another one of those horror movies that has a pretty original and interesting ending, but it's so out there that not everyone is gonna just accept it. In fact, it might even ruin it for some. I felt the same way here than I did coming out of 'Cabin in the Woods', trying to analyse whether or not I loved or hated the ending. But whereas 'Cabin' had something I eventually considered bad ass, and made the most sense for what the movie was doing, this was quite a bit slower and stranger and creepier.
As far as horror, where this movie does well is mostly lies in its psychological scares. It does do a great job at getting various emotions and feelings across, but does so in a successfully creepy way. We start to wonder if its all in a certain character's head the whole time. The end result is... well, interesting to say the lease. It all comes together, but it's up to you whether you like how it goes or not. All in all, a solid, slow-burning horror flick for this day and age, but not one I'd personally rave about to the masses on its awesomeness, either. I'd like to have given it full points but the parts I didn't like kinda brings it down. Still, I could see this becoming a cult hit for some.
I was about to allow this one to slip by, because frankly, it didn't look that great. It seemed to be one of those standard goofy comedies with probable bad writing, and jokes that fell flat. However, reviews came out for this, and to my surprise, they have mostly been positive, so I decided to check it out. While it's not the perfect comedy by any means, it's still a bit of a hidden gem right now, sitting among a bunch of serious dramatic thinkers.
The opening credits tell about how couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meet and get married. From this, we learn that they're both kind of amazing at games, and they host a game night every now and then, involving their close friends. When Max's rich and successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to one, he decides to host one of his own to show them a "real game" - a kidnapping mystery game, staged by professional actors. The lines of reality are blurred, however, when a group of real kidnappers come for Brooks, and the comedy ensues as Max, Annie, and the rest of the group continue trying to solve the "game's" mystery.
The whole idea behind it is somewhat obvious, but it's kinda fun to watch how oblivious these guys are with things. Truth be told, the highlights of the film are in the side characters. For example, one of the friends, Ryan (Billy Magnussen) plays the over-eager dummy, and often gets a laugh. But surprisingly enough perhaps the best character here is the creepy neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons). I generally don't have anything nice to say about Plemons, as he's ALWAYS playing a character I love to hate whenever I see him. In this, however, there's something about his overall creepiness that's actually kinda hilariously off-putting. He represents that one guy you just don't wanna ever invite to anything, but he knows full well how it is, and he keeps dropping hints about it. You almost feel bad for him, until you take a look at yourself and realize you probably wouldn't invite him out either.
The comedy in this is kinda hit or miss. It mostly comes from the basic stupidity of these otherwise quite smart characters. There are some gags that don't work altogether well, but I feel like most of the jokes landed pretty well, given the whole situation. Bateman's actually pretty great at sneaking in those random one-liners, and McAdams makes for a good partner going along for the ride. Both are fiercely competitive, and things get pretty funny when they find themselves in more-dire-than-they-realize situations.
Again, this isn't the perfect comedy or anything, and it is pretty over-the-top silly for a lot of the climactic stuff. But it's a fun time, if nothing else. It's definitely a dark comedy, which is something I tend to be very appreciative of as well, so there may be a slight bias here on my part. But to be honest, for a movie that looked like it wasn't gonna be that good, it was actually a pleasant surprise.