Monday, June 18, 2018

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary got a lot of press early on as one of the scariest, most intense films in a long time, and it's actually all true. This debut film from director Ari Aster is seriously something else, a brutal, hypnotic concoction of terror and grief.

Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff

This isn't the spoiler part of this review, so I'll just say the way Aster put these scenes together, attaching such weight to every glimpse into the macabre, every bizarre gross-out scene, makes this a very different experience from others of its kind. The things he chooses to linger on are horrific and impactful, and the scares that come out of nowhere truly feel surprising. Even when it's doing things you expect from a horror movie, they just feel fresh and new again, done with this caliber of directing. There are some horrifying images here, some scenes that just hit you where you live. But I couldn't look away.

This was billed as a horror movie that's also a family drama, and there's a fair bit of that. The acting is very good. Toni Collette delivers an incredible performance, throwing everything she has into it, and Alex Wolff as the son, Peter, is just great. Even the father character, played by Gabriel Byrne, manages to be engaging despite being given comparably less to work with. There aren't very many other characters in this, as in many horror movies, and so it's hyper-focused on this family as they deal with the grief of losing first their grandmother and then the little sister, Charlie, in a gruesome accident. You've seen stories about dysfunctional families before, with secret resentments coming out, and so on, and this movie does what you expect, with perhaps more bile and fury than usual for a horror film's dramatic parts.

The quality of the acting, and the way the movie just keeps throwing stuff at you, gives this the weight of the world. It's in the way the movie shows you the darkness and then just holds your head down in it. Most horror movies like this would usually have treated the darkness like a quick gimmick or a joke, just quickly flashing something scary and then cutting away, often playing with expectations by showing that the eerie jump scare was just, like, a cat moving too fast. But Hereditary dwells in darkness and stays there. It's in the magnitude of it.

In the end, the story becomes a more conventional horror tale despite the claims in early reviews that this was something truly different. But it does add a lot of texture and nuance to the film and makes it more of a relatable, human experience. Horror is best when you care about the characters, and the levels of grief here make the movie a more whole experience than just another empty jump-scare fest. When traumatic things happen to Peter, the cries of Alex Wolff, the fear on his face, make it real and make it stick with you. A lot of horror films can't achieve this so well.

A lot of this would play almost like a fan-fiction pandering to horror fans, if it wasn't so well done. There were so many years when we got nothing but dime-a-dozen flicks, and it's why I made this blog in the first place, to lampoon those terrible films. To get something like this just has every single good thing about the genre, turned up to 11, from eerie supernatural whispers in the beginning to outright screaming Satanic horror and hellfire at its climax, feels like a reward for sitting through all of that dreck. From its drama you also get a bunch of really good scares, just over-served to you for two goddamned hours. It's too much, it's excessive, but man is it glorious. I couldn't get enough.

Okay. So I think that's enough with the non-spoiler part. I actually wanted to talk about some other stuff. SPOILERS from here on out!

What eventually unfolds is a kind of Rosemary's Baby-esque conspiracy involving cult members and a demon king, who Peter is revealed to be at the end, the entire movie basically being the build-up to his initiation and change into this hellish entity from mythology. It's been done before, though not always with this level of ominous atmosphere. But it had the intended effect, and was executed with proper intrigue and coiling suspense and confusion.

I think it's important that we're getting new stories like Rosemary's Baby. That film was of undeniable quality. But in this new era of #MeToo, I think a lot of people are really being hit with the full force of how little we actually need pieces of shit like Roman Polanski in the popular lexicon. Enjoying works by people like him now feels guilty and odd, and even if that isn't the case for you, there are so many other, new quality artists out there you could be partaking in instead. Hereditary offers a well-done take on the Rosemary's Baby formula, with similar quality of suspense and drama, a family being torn apart by grief carrying the same kind of weight as Rosemary's motherly anguish over her unborn child.

Another one is Karyn Kusama's “Her Only Living Son,” a short film, and part of the XX anthology that came out last year. That one was even closer to Rosemary's Baby, with a story about a mother losing control of her son as he wants to live with his “father,” who ends up being Satan.

Both of these are seriously good entries into the horror genre, and they serve as ways to almost "repurpose" the good things about Rosemary's Baby. It is a primarily symbolic thing. It would've been interesting if they hadn't done it this way, and instead gone all the way with a non-supernatural kind of story, relying solely on the decay of a family as a way to bolster horror. But it went with a traditional story and did that better than anybody has in decades. I'm not sure if anyone would really try something so conceptual like a whole horror movie just being a family drama. I hope someone does, but I haven't seen that kind of thing yet as of right now.

But it's great that we're getting some new blood infused into horror, which for so long has been a kind of archaic old boys' club where the classics are lionized and everything newer is looked at with the “not as good” skepticism, even though for years now we've been getting plenty of amazing entries that are easily as good as many classics. Some people will always have that kind of "nothing can ever top the classics" mentality. But for everyone else, Hereditary is the most recent new film that absolutely fucking nails what it wants to do.

I walked out of the theater at 2:30 a.m. Saturday feeling like I'd just gone through a legit ordeal. I felt like there were dark, bizarre things in the world and like I had just come out of some parallel dimension. Those are whimsical and fantastical feelings, but if a piece of art isn't affecting you in some similar way, what really is the point?

Image copyright of its original owners, I don't own it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Truth or Dare (2018)

Well, I can't even say they've reached the bottom of the barrel for horror movies yet with a stupid plot about the game Truth or Dare. Because the moment I say that, we'll get a totally serious movie based on Hungry Hungry Hippos or Pogs, and then that will be the new bar for the barrel's bottom. But what I can tell you is that this movie is seriously rotten from the inside out.

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Lucy Hale, Violett Beane

Co-written with Michelle.

Truth or Dare, if you haven't seen the absolutely bonkers trailers that have been out for months, is about a bunch of kids who go to Mexico and contract a deadly spiritual curse that forces them to play the game Truth or Dare forever until they all die. Personally I would've rather had an STD.

It starts out with a bunch of models for a fancy skin cream solution – oh, I'm sorry, did I say that? I meant our main characters. Seriously, they look like they just came out of a fucking factory line for a commercial, only to be stuffed back in the box after it's over. Was there something wrong with having them look like they had ever been out of a locked laboratory room, or do physical imperfections scare Blumhouse Pictures more than anything?

They're all going to Mexico for Spring Break, and the biggest hurdle they had was convincing their Habitat for Humanity-loving friend Olivia to go, as she wanted to go build houses and other boring, stupid shit. What a dork! So they cancelled her trip to do that and instead now force her to go to Mexico. I guess they promise to help her out later, but eh, I wouldn't trust these people further than I could throw them.

In Mexico, you get some dumb shots of them partying and stuff. You know, the best part of any horror movie; the meaningless shots of hot people having fun. Truly essential. Olivia meets this guy Carter, who entices her to get all her friends to follow him to a creepy abandoned church in the middle of the fucking night for vague reasons. Honestly, my biggest question is how this girl made it to college if she was dumb enough to do this, because literally no sane person would meet some dude sitting alone at a bar, get an invite to come to some desolate broken-down-ass church at 2 a.m., and then think 'sounds like a fun vacation!' Even the most low-standards, base-level people would start to shy away from you if you suggested leaving the fucking bar.

But nope, they play Truth or Dare sitting in this filthy fucking hovel, like a bunch of idiots with no imagination. It's about what you'd expect, some lap dances and make-out scenes and other nonsense. But then Carter surprises them by saying he wanted to lure them all there to trap them in the supernatural curse and FORCE them to play! What a weirdo. Gee, it sure is bizarre that this stuff happens when you follow creepy strangers in the middle of the night.

I guess the rule is that if they DON'T do their truth or dare, they die. So it's kind of like It Follows, except it's terrible. When possessed by the game, the characters' faces turn into demonic, cartoonish Joker-ish grins, which is never explained and has no function outside of looking kinda spooky if you're under 15. I guess that's a weak nitpick. But I dunno, it's weird and doesn't make sense and the movie sucks overall, anyway.

So then they all go home and everything seems to be getting back to normal. Only then, they start seeing creepy things like 'Truth or Dare' etched into desks, fliers and even Olivia's car! She finally chooses truth, and ends up blurting out in the library that Markie, her best friend, has been cheating on her boyfriend. Wow, what a great scare – bullshit teeny-bopper drama! That's scarier than anything.

So from here on out, you get a bunch of just plain goofy scenes. The most annoying guy in the group gets dared to take his dick out at a bar. When he doesn't, the game kills him by making him fall off a pool table and break his neck! An equivalent punishment, at last!

Another guy, a gay dude, picks 'truth' and is forced to come out to his strict conservative father. Apparently it goes pretty well and things are alright. Wow. What a nuanced and surprisingly level-headed plot choice for a movie like this. I sure hope it doesn't get ruined later.

A few more of them die – this one guy, who seemed to be doing an Anthony Jeselnik impression, lies to his grad school interview about selling pills, so he then has to stab his eye out I guess.

And the great bitter rivalry between former best friends Olivia and Markie continues – oh the humanity! Markie gets dared to break Olivia's hand, I suppose. She does it when Olivia makes a crack about her dad, who committed suicide recently. This plotline, by the way, is just dropped randomly in our laps, like a piece of dried up dog shit.

Eventually they try and figure out what's going on. I can't imagine why; they've all been having such fun playing! They track down this girl who was dared to light a woman on fire earlier in the movie. I guess she was now dared to murder Olivia. I love the variety in the dares. Some people are dared to show their dick, while others are dared to murder people! Totally makes sense!

If you can believe it, the last 30 minutes actually try to get serious on you and start foisting a bunch of ludicrously over-dramatic plots. Like remember that plot about the gay kid coming out to his father? Well, it turns out the game dares that kid to steal his father's police gun and make him beg on his knees! And then the other cop comes and shoots the kid, thinking the dad is in trouble! Wow. With the current climate of police in this country, I'm glad this movie is bringing a sensible take on the issue.

Then we find out that Olivia actually had seen Markie's father right before he killed himself! And he tried to have sex with her and probably actually raped her! And she then told him he'd be better off if he died!

Movie, you know, it's not good to pretend you're something else than what you are. You're trying to shoehorn in these ultra-serious tragic plots, when really you're the kind of movie people watch when drunk off their asses at 2 a.m. while eating Cheetos. You're background noise. You're really not a serious film.

The climax is an over-long, ridiculous sequence involving a Mexican curse that “summoned” the game in the form of a demon. They find this out by going to visit a stereotypical old Mexican ex-nun now living secluded in the desert, a stereotype so cliche and redundant it almost feels new again. But instead it's just kinda racist hack-work. Then they learn they have to cut out that guy Carter's tongue from the beginning of the movie to stop the demon. This is so ridiculous that even the characters openly admit they have no clue how it's going to work.

I guess they try to, but the game, being a little bitch, cheats and makes them accidentally kill Carter instead. Then Olivia and Markie are forced to keep playing, so they broadcast a Youtube and make the entire world play, thus enacting Armageddon basically. I always knew the end times would come as a result of hot coeds and Youtube videos.

Truth or Dare is a garbage fire of a movie, and I DARE all of you to buy the DVDs and burn them in a mass grave. Am I doing it right?

Image copyright of its original owners, we don't own it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Fantastic Four (Unreleased, 1994)

With the impending release of Marvel's gargantuan Infinity War spectacle, it's kind of hard to believe there was a time when superhero movies weren't these million-dollar blockbuster productions with huge actors signed on for years at a time. But there was! And while the Tim Burton Batman and the 70s Superman were viable successes, they were outliers and didn't blow up into a huge trend like we have now. The Fantastic Four from 1994 is a film that was never even released and can be legally watched on YouTube just like you're searching for a Kendrick Lamar video or something. And it's, uh, really something.

Director: Oley Sassone
Starring: Alex Hyde-White, Rebecca Staub, Jay Underwood

Co-written with Nathan.

The history behind this thing is that, apparently, Executive Producer Bernd Eichenger wanted to retain the rights to the characters before they expired, so he had to have this at the 11th hour in 1994. So he teamed up with famous producer and director Roger Corman and they ended up putting this movie together, full of a bunch of actors you've never heard of.

It wasn't required that it would be released, just that it existed. And though some people like Stan Lee claimed it was never intended to be released, Eichenger and Corman denied that and claimed that it was. But if you believe the myth, essentially, this is an entire movie with a full cast and crew made just so some guy could make other Fantastic Four movies. Wow. If you ever needed a reason to feel worthless... there you go.

The thing is, it's not even too bad of a movie! Sure, the budget looks pretty low and the effects are goofy as fuck, but it wasn't like this was the top of the crop in terms of that for 1994. The acting isn't bad at all and the story is honestly pretty standard for these kinds of movies.

You get Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom, the latter of whom surely had the most punchable name in school and got beat up all the time, driving him to science. They try this wacky experiment as a comet is passing by, but I guess their numbers were off and Victor gets horribly burned and electrocuted. Whoops! I hope the kid from Species III still gets to do his stupid experiments and the science lab isn't a martyr to this cause now.

Years later, Reed recruits these two random people who lived near him, Sue and Johnny Storm, to go into space and try to do the experiment again. Because they would totally let him do this after his first experiment left one guy maimed. How did he even get to do this at all? What coke-addled executive let this yoohoo go into space again? And it just makes sense to take two random, un-trained people in space, because why would I want ASTRONAUTS going on my super cool science mission? Fuck expertise! Give me amateurs!

But it doesn't work, because a hideously deformed man wearing a monocle and a fedora, called The Jeweler, breaks in and steals their magic jewel thing from the spaceship, which was apparently the only thing keeping them from being fried and their genes rearranged. He replaces it with a replica of the same jewel, you know, just the kind of thing you carry around!

So then they get shot out of the sky and crash-land in a random field, somehow coming out mostly unscathed and with no major injuries. They did get superpowers though, which Reed is mostly nonplussed about. He's just like “yeah, whatever, guess we'll see what happens.” Never even an iota of concern even as the other three are all freaking out. I guess the thought of taking Sue to bed is his main concern.

They get taken in by a lab run by Dr. Doom, who sits on a throne surrounded by flaming pyres and speaks in constant community-college-Shakespearean tones. It's pretty goddamn silly. It's obviously Victor, who was presumed dead by Reed but apparently spent his time after being burned turning into a supervillain with his whole lab and trying to blow stuff up. But Reed didn't know. It's crazy to me that these guys were friends and then after the accident, he's just like nah, I'm not telling anyone where I am, WORLD DOMINATION TIME!

Meanwhile, the Jeweler guy plots to kidnap this blind girl, because I guess he's so delusional that he thinks the reason he can't get a date is because of his looks. How silly! It's because of his shitty personality. I can't even believe they're doing a 'kidnapped woman forced to be a bride' plot. What is this, the fucking 1960s? They do it later with Dr. Doom, too. It's like why not make the same dumb, cliché mistake twice in a row?

And it's so surreal every time this Jeweler character is on screen, because the music gets all campy-goth-style like a musical and he talks like an even worse Shakespeare imitator than Doom does. It's really like they took this character out of a whole different movie and put him in this.

Ben gets mad and ends up leaving, fearing he'll never fit in, as back in the 90s, giant orange rock men just weren't accepted by society. He just kind of wanders the city and it doesn't take long for him to run into the Jeweler's weird underground society of deformed-looking people, feeling that this is the only way I guess. My favorite part is that the others don't even try to find him. They're in the middle of making up a name for themselves, the Fantastic Four, and making costumes! But finding one of their actual team members that make up the 'Four'? Nah, fuck that! Who cares if we have to turn it into 'Fantastic Three' and spend money doing that?

Through some more convoluted events, they find The Thing and then end up fighting Dr. Doom. Doom fires a laser to destroy New York City, motivated no doubt by its obscene rent prices. Johnny does the whole Human Torch thing and the CGI here is actually gorgeous in how silly it is – it turns basically into an early computer game animation, and it looks amazingly silly. But it is a bit endearing. I bet they put as much work into this as people nowadays do on Marvel movies.

Okay. That might not be true. But I'm sure it's true compared to the writing in a DC movie.

That's Fantastic Four, ending with a shot of all of them coming out of a church after a wedding – they're all married now! Or maybe just Reed and Sue. Oh, and Ben and the blind girl he saved from Doom/Jeweler, too. Because I guess saving a girl means she is yours as a prize! People can be prizes! Isn't that great?

That's the movie though. It's silly, it's utterly ridiculous, the budget was clearly low... but it ain't bad. I've seen worse. I mean, most of this is pretty average so far as writing goes. It may be full of cliches and dated bullshit, but I'll take it over any non-Wonder Woman DCEU flick any day.

Image copyright of its original owner, we don't own it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Species III (2004)

It's been a few years since I did a Species review. After I did the last one, way back in 2015, my entire life changed and I didn't get around to doing the third one. But fortunately I still had this lying around! So that's great and it makes up for all the other things that have happened between then and now. I thought about saying this was just how long it took for me to work up the nerve to review another Species movie. But the truth is that this was destined to happen. It has to happen.

Director: Brad Turner
Starring: Robin Dunne, Robert Knepper, Sunny Mabrey

Co-written with Colin.

This one starts out with a truck ride with a dying Eve from the other movies. She has a baby before she dies, which the driver goes rogue and steals for unknown reasons, fleeing into the woods as the military pursues him. Apparently he's good at hiding, because they don't catch him.

Then, at an unspecified later time, a cocky college science lab geek is showing people around his fancy lab, talking about mumbo jumbo and science that nobody cares about. Something about a power plant? Who knows. He questions his professor, who is the same guy who ran away from that truck and I guess is now working at a college? I dunno. The professor, aggravated at the kid's science projects, tells him that “who are you to decide who lives and dies?” Which, you know, is just how professors are; constantly wanting to crush the spirits of their students, subjugating them to their will.

Then that kid, Dean, finds out his science projects have been cancelled by the college dean, who proclaims that he can “do whatever he wants” and acts about as insane and power-hungry as a third world dictator. Is every faculty member at this fucking college an egomaniac seeking validation for their shriveled soul?

Meanwhile, college professor/military truck driver, whose name is apparently Abbott, on the run is actually hiding the alien at his house, who is a little girl right now obsessed with Red Lobster. Literally, they show a Red Lobster commercial on TV and the professor dude, I guess, has to go spend his hard earned money on fucking lobster for this alien brat, as if he just has money falling out his GODDAMN EARS!

I guess Abbott is approached later by the other alien who'd been in the truck, who has now grown up to look like a bloated Comic Con attendee with a swollen head. The alien tells him he's a halfbreed and, as such, is dying. And that there are others like him out there. This prompts Abbott to want to save these aliens... for some goddamn reason. Weren't they killing people in the other movies? Oh well. Anything to distract from actual HUMAN causes he could more easily be helping, right?

Meanwhile the girl alien grows up into a gorgeous woman, physically perfect in every way of course. I guess she's like the last true full-breed alien, or some shit like that. Hmm. The only perfect specimen to this movie is white, blonde people. Where have I heard that before? Nah, probably nothing important.

If that troubling allusion isn't your cup of tea, how about the series' tried and true theme of the aliens being sex toys? I mean, the alien girl in this never grows up past her early 20s with a flawless body, even though the aliens are supposed to like, keep growing at a very fast rate. Eve, from the other movies, was always physically perfect and young, too. I'm SURE there's a reason for this that isn't sex appeal! I'm sure it's a deeply entrenched plot point.

The dean of the school shows up at Abbott's house, for some reason having access to get in, and finds the alien chick, naked of course. He abandons every other reason he came there when she seems to want to have sex with him. I guess it's not suspicious at all if some random woman answers the door at a house you're going to and tries to have sex. I'm sure that'll end up fine... actually she kills him, which is fine as he was an asinine character.

I love that Abbott's reaction is just to shrug and be like “he had it coming” to the dean's death. Oh really? Tell us more about who ELSE deserves to die, crazy professor man. How did you even get this job anyway? Weren't you on the run from the US government? I guess the college just doesn't have very high standards.

I guess somewhere else in the movie's rolls of corpulent fat, we get one of the other half-breed aliens trying to fuck everyone to stay alive. So we get scenes of this physically perfect brunette woman wearing very scant clothes going around to have sex with dirty losers at biker bars and such. This is totally a legit plot point. It's not at all a thinly veiled way for the writer to get out his own fantasies about what women should do to regular average Joes. NO. THIS IS A REAL PLOT THREAD DONE FOR STORY AND NOT SHAMELESS NUDITY. WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK OTHERWISE???

Like I'd love to get a window into some of these actress's stories. I bet she held a dream deep inside her heart for years to be an actor. Ever since she was a child, she'd wanted to be one. In school she was in all the productions, every play, working her way up to a starring role. A Midsummer Night's Dream, in middle school. Then in high school she was in A Streetcar Named Desire, playing the Stella role, and all her friends and family came out and it was the greatest night of her life. I bet she wanted to be an actor because it gave her the opportunity to explore the richness of life and the complex minds of other people and various characters. I bet she wanted to become famous and one day inspire OTHER little girls like she once had been, showing them that with hard work and determination, THEY TOO can do anything they want...

Anyway, then she landed her first “big role” and it was for this, and the director told her to take her clothes off and pretend to fuck some hairy guy in a gas station bathroom. Such is life I guess. Fucking tragic.

Oh, and somewhere in all this, Abbott dies – what a tragedy that this ridiculous character is gone. Eh, fuck it, sarcasm's a bit passe anyway.

The roommate of the main dude gets involved, because apparently he REALLY wanted to be a character too even this late in the film. He gets suckered in by this other alien chick, who ends up kidnapping him and making him do some science mumbo jumbo for her, I guess trying to further the species with more science – honestly, the science here matters almost none at all and it's pointless to explain it.

Fortunately, though, the heroes get there – well, it's just the main kid Dean and this random-ass detective who's done nothing all movie. The final battle scene is somewhere between a Star Wars and Terminator ripoff with the scenery. I guess it's OK since nobody associated with those franchises knew Species existed at this point...

Man these Species movies are just exhausting and hilarious. It's horrible filmmaking but it's also funny to watch and even funnier to make fun OF. They fill me with such complex emotions. And for as bad as they are, you have to give these movies credit for finding a way to basically make pornography marketable as a legitimate horror movie not found in some special interest section. They hid it in plain sight! It's genius!

Image copyright of its original owners if they even give a shit.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Snowman (2017)

This has to be a record for the least amount of reasons I actually wanted to review a movie, and that's just down to the name of the main character: Michael Fassbender IS... Detective Harry Hole. That name is so insane that I had to see this shit to see if it was as goofy.

Director: Tomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson

Co-written with Tony.

And it wasn't. Seriously. This is an insanely boring piece of shit with no point to it. If you wanted to stop reading now, you wouldn't be missing out on much – except for my razor-sharp trademarked wit, anyway. I guess the director has said the reason this was so botched up was because they didn't have time to shoot 10-15 percent of the script, and had to start unexpectedly early. And I get that. But at the same time, I'm just not that sure this would've been that much better anyway.

It starts off with a flashback of this kid trying to learn schoolwork and whenever he gets it wrong, his asshole stepfather (or whatever the character is supposed to be) smacks his mother in the face. Not sure that's part of the accepted curriculum. Then after finding out the stepfather is sleeping with someone else, the mother and the kid go on a drive when the mother gives up and tries to kill them both on thin ice! The kid escapes, but the mother dies – what a cheerful opening that also reveals so much about the movie we're about to see.

Then we're introduced to Detective Harry Hole, a complete lazy degenerate who somehow keeps his job even in spite of constantly drinking after work and falling asleep in snowy alleyways that should probably kill him. He's just a fucking loser, and Michael Fassbender's talents are wasted. Hell, he barely even has any fucking dialogue. There are scenes where he just walks up to people wordlessly staring at them, and we're just kind of supposed to dissect and analyze what that means even with zero real clues.

I guess she's his ex girlfriend and has a kid who isn't even his, but for some reason he's still involved. And there's a new guy in the mix who acts subtly snooty but isn't really a bad guy. Wow! Disconnected family drama! What a new, exciting thing!

Oh, okay, that was sarcasm. But you know what IS super fresh? A younger, motivated partner who joins the force and starts really trying to idealistically solve crimes that her jaded older partner thinks are impossible! Oh wait, shit, that's cliché hack garbage too. Fuck. Maybe this movie isn't so good.

The story is quite amazingly, infuriatingly directionless. It just seems to ramble on and not get to the point at all. I guess there's some scraps of a story when a woman goes missing and there's a mysterious snowman in the yard. But that should've been like, the first scene. Instead, it sort of just lazily drools through the film over the first half hour and there isn't much resolution or drive to solving it. There's a bunch of other fucking bullshit about Hole's ex-girlfriend's family, some camping trip, a hockey game, honestly, it's all just shit and we don't need to focus on it. The movie does enough time-wasting so I don't have to.

At least the young woman detective has pertinent theories about why the killer is doing stuff, saying the snow probably sets him off. That's fucking stupid because there's literally no evidence to support it – and the movie seems to agree with me, as it proves to be false anyway.

Oh, and got to love how it's set in Norway but every single character exclusively speaks perfect English in a British accent. You know, the usual lazy way to show a foreign country. Just have everyone be British! I mean why wouldn't I ever want to see a different culture or anything like that?

Eventually, after like 45 minutes of film – near half the runtime – we FINALLY get a real story starting to emerge, which is so asinine I'd throw the movie into a ravine if I hadn't rented it from Redbox. Some lady is reported missing, to which Harry Hole and his partner go and try to figure it out. But she's actually just fine, chopping off chicken heads in the dead of winter, like you do. Then they leave and before they even get very far in the car, they get ANOTHER call about the same lady, missing again! How inconsiderate to waste resources like that. Don't you know gas is expensive now?

I guess Harry Hole wanders around a bit, with Fassbender wearing a permanent expression of zombielike uncaring, and he finds a hole to look down in! Hey, Harry Hole is looking down a hole! Yeah, that's about all the humor I can mine from this dead, dried up well. But you do get to see a woman's severed head on top of a snowman! It's too bad that isn't as funny as it sounds. A better movie would've played it for campy laughs. But not The Snowman. This is mercifully free of any entertainment.

The movie sluggishly slogs on, with some other random story about JK Simmons playing some creepy doctor who takes pictures of women without tops on to blackmail them, or some shit like that. I dunno. I was falling asleep during most of this plotline and was only woken up when something fell off the refrigerator in my apartment and loudly made noise as it hit the floor. That's really how I finished the rest of this movie, because that happened.

A lot of other very dull things happen, and then it's revealed that the bad guy is actually Harry Hole's ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend! DUN DUN DUN! What a nonsensical twist! It turns out HE was the kid in the beginning of the movie with the jackass stepfather or whoever that was. And he says he's been killing women because he's judged them for getting abortions, not knowing who their kids' fathers were, and other things. I'm sure a better movie could've made this compelling, developed his character or added social commentary, but The Snowman was just like “fuck that!” and didn't do it at all. And seriously, 'guy who was totally inconspicuous and nice the whole movie is actually the killer'? That was the BEST you could do? Even people in comas for the last 30 years would find that trite and overdone.

So instead we just get a dumb final battle scene where Harry Hole chases the killer out into the wide-open icy field. When he loses track of him somehow – there doesn't seem to be many places to hide out there – Harry just stands in place and screams for the killer to come face him. Real badass! Except the guy instead just shoots him from far away. Man, people just have no honor anymore.

Then the killer comes close, making some bullshit speech no doubt, and falls through a hole in the ice, dying instantly in the freezing cold. So really, Harry Hole didn't do all that much of anything to stop the guy. If this had been happening in the summertime, he would've just been murdered point blank. What a hero!

There wasn't really anything worth watching in this. Two hours of complete bullshit, nonsense time-wasting. In the interest of ending this review and not wasting YOUR time anymore, avoid the movie. There. Done!

Image copyright of its original owners; we don't own it.

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Open House (2018)

Today's movie is The Open House, a film that seems to pose the question 'how can we take out everything that people would like in a horror movie and still have a movie?' You may not want to stay for long, but come and see the open house tour of... the movie The Open House. I also accept it if you hated that joke and never come back.


Directors: Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote
Starring: Dylan Mynnette, Piercey Dalton

Co-written with Tony, Nathan and Michelle.

I guess this thing is a Netflix original that they put up for anyone to see – which honestly makes me wonder who at Netflix was mad that day and why he felt the need to take it out on us.

This thing is just puzzling because, for much of its duration, it's kinda hard to tell even what it's supposed to be about. Is it a supernatural ghost story? A serial killer slasher? There are really no clues. Hearing that without seeing it, I'd hope there was just enough ambiguity and subtlety to keep you guessing. In reality, it's more like they lost the script during production and just winged it for most of the time while an underpaid intern was dispatched to go find the script. Clearly he never did...

The basic plot of the movie is that this kid Logan, played by 13 Reasons Why's Dylan Mynnette, is at the gas station with his father when a car hits and kills the father within the first five minutes. Wait, stop – we barely had a chance to be annoyed at the shallow writing of that character! At a funeral later, the mom's sister comes over and barely wastes a second on condolences before offering them to come stay in the empty mountain house she's trying to sell. Wow. How saintly of her to come down from her gold palace in the mountains to spend time with these fucking peasants. I just love how sudden it is – she barely says two words before going into that pitch. Like she only came there just to offer them that and not actually to grieve for her brother-in-law, and it was just convenient that the funeral was going on and gave her an excuse.

So I guess they're off to the mountain house now... I guess the reasoning was that it would help them heal or whatever, but they never attempt to talk about the father or anything, and never look like they're even trying to deal with their grief. Logan just grouses a lot about how he's missing school. GEE, I'm SORRY you're missing out on the mundane school classes to come stay at a COOL MOUNTAIN HOUSE, Prince Persnickety! What a travesty! Somehow I doubt this kid was ever gonna be a fucking surgeon or the President anyway. I doubt he's missing much.

Perhaps the greatest character in this movie or in any movie is Martha, the sweet old lady who speaks solely in cryptic, ominous horror movie quotes with a smile on her face while the characters just look at her dumbfounded. It's seriously the best thing ever. Her first appearance has her recognizing Logan and his mom without ever seeing them before. It takes a few more lines of dialogue for them to figure out that, apparently, the aunt sent along a picture and their names ahead of time so Martha would know them. That's not weird at all... and that's how real people talk, right? In awkward cryptic dialogs that are stretched out for no reason?

Then Martha starts talking about her dead husband and says every day she feels the eternal void of darkness – you know, just regular gas station chat for a Wednesday night!

THEN she closes the conversation by saying how they're “never really alone” out there and the silence “can get loud” out there, which is either pleasant talk from a neighbor or the words whispered by a serial killer right before your car goes off the road and then you're knifed in the woods a few minutes later. I mean, I can barely tell the difference now.

Most of the movie after this is just this numb slog through absolutely nothing. They mope around in the house and don't really do any kind of healing or character development or even anything remotely interesting. They have a whole secluded mountain house that's nicer than anything I ever stayed in. And they use it for, what, just sitting there staring at the walls? That makes me so angry. What small minded boring clod actually thought the best things he could do with his movie was have Logan prowling around in the basement playing with the power switches for most of the movie? Oh, he also jogs a bit – my bad, wouldn't want to misrepresent the insane levels of drama here. But those things are really the bulk of the film. I think the director probably finds waiting in line at the DMV to be titillating. He watches the DVD menus of movies and that's entertaining enough for him. I mean who needs any actual scares in a fucking horror movie?

Oh, but don't let me deprive you of the bizarre dialogue between those scenes. Like the one dude at the store who for some reason feels the need to say this line talking about how the mom is pretty, which I'll just copy and paste whole: “I just mean the mountain folk can get a little, uh... scruffy at times. And I am not talking about the men.”

Thanks for that tidbit, dude! You truly are a bastion of poetic thought. A real Keats for this generation. What would we ever do without your witty, quaint observations on modern small-town life, your flippant yet honest quips that reveal as much about you as they do the audience?

Then we get Logan's treatise on the idea of an “open house” in general: “I mean, you give your keys to someone you hardly know, they stand in one room and welcome in a bunch of complete strangers, and those people just roam around the house. And the realtor doesn't check the house when it's done, right? They just... turn the lights off and go?”

Wow! What a revelatory insight! Are you going to walk us through airplane food next? I mean, while you're working on that Tight Five.

Then we get a big fight between Logan and his mom that seemingly erupts out of nowhere after over an hour of screentime with no other such developments. She says the dad had been irresponsible with money and left them nothing when he died. He says he hates her and wishes SHE had died. Wonderful! My favorite part is how this never comes up again! Yup – it was never brought up before, and this is the last time we hear about any of it. Character development by masters, clearly. Why didn't Vince Gilligan sign these writers up to help with Better Call Saul?

The climax seemingly comes out of nowhere – while the open house is going on, apparently someone broke in or something. The cops weren't called by the realtors, because they're the real estate company that doesn't care about their properties! Instead, the mom has to call them – only, typical of small town cops, they don't really do anything.

Later on, the killer just sneaks in and starts fucking with them. I guess 'killer' isn't really the right word. He knocks Logan out when Logan finds a dead body outside, and then pours gasoline or water or something all over him... and then just leaves him outside. Then he finds the mom and lies in her bed for several minutes without her noticing. She even gets up and goes to the bathroom, comes back and looks at a picture of her dead husband... and doesn't notice the guy! Wow! That can't even really be HIS fault anymore after a point. Not to victim blame – but he's not so much an intruder as a very weird roommate at this point. He was probably feeling dejected that she didn't notice him faster.

Then again maybe she just has a rare disease where she can't feel anything and the world in general is just numb – I like to call it 'the feeling of watching this fucking movie.'

Anyway, he ties her up and breaks her fingers! He doesn't kill her or anything... just breaks her fingers. You know, I'm starting to think this guy has no plan and is just an especially aggressive prankster. Lame.

Then Logan goes down to the basement and stabs who he THINKS is the killer, but it turns out, whoops, it's his own mom he just stabbed by accident! Silly Logan. Just one of those common mistakes for clumsy people! Also it's a complete dog-shit, run into the ground cliché and I think anyone doing this in a movie should be BANNED FOR LIFE FROM MAKING MOVIES. Or, you know, just made fun of for being cliché. Do what you feel is appropriate.

Logan then runs around in the woods for a while aimlessly. Martha shows back up for one more hurrah and the final good moment of the film, where she just stares blankly ahead and smiles like she thinks she's at a tropical island resort, which, honestly, this character probably does really think. Oh if only...

Then the morning comes and the killer finds Logan and unceremoniously strangles and kills him. Why did he wait that long? Logan could've easily found some cops or another person and alerted the authorities – it was only by the sheer grace and immensity of his idiocy that he didn't. Either way, what an underwhelming and shitty garbage-ass final kill!

This movie is an amazing cobble of ridiculous and bizarre choices. It's so ludicrous in its slow pace and lack of anything happening, and the silly dialogue on top of all of that makes me actually kinda like it. This is basically cut from the same cloth as The Room or Troll 2. And by God did we need another like that! Hats off to The Open House!

Image copyright of its original owners, we don't own it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

The basic formula for Cloverfield movies now seems to be to take some totally unrelated idea and just add a monster in, and bam, instant franchise! Both 10 Cloverfield Lane from 2016 and now this, The Cloverfield Paradox, have been exactly that, taking unrelated scripts and turning them into sequels to the 2007 monster movie that was a hit for about a minute back then. I remember liking that one pretty well as a kid. These new ones, eh, they're good for a laugh. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a movie that posited that while giant monsters might be scary, they're no match for an out-of-breath and aging John Goodman, who is the real threat here by a country mile. And now let's talk about The Cloverfield Paradox.

Director: Julius Onah
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki

Co-written with Tony, Michelle, Will and Jonathan.

This thing was released on Super Bowl Sunday, and judging by its quality, it was finished about an hour before its release and nobody ever bothered to watch it to check what they were releasing. This shit is like a school project slapped together the morning of, no effort or planning at all.

I guess you can't say the first 30 minutes is uneventful – there's so much stuff happening that it's actively confusing to watch. It's a lot of shouting and running around and solving random little problems only for other ones to immediately pop up, all while annoyingly peppy film scores play in the background. There's no real characters introduced so much as just sped by you like mass-introductions at a crowded party, and everything is so fast that you can barely follow it.

Somewhere in this mess, a story does seem to emerge – apparently, this scientist named Ava and her husband, a doctor, are having problems because their children died in a house fire. I guess Ava sees going up to this space station to work on a solution for energy as good martial therapy, and who am I to judge? Sounds like you guys have a handle on this for sure!

Other characters include rich and deep writing like 'sneaky looking German engineer,' 'loud annoying Russian guy' and 'Brazilian religious guy who has no dialogue except talking about praying.' Wow, I sure am glad we've evolved past thinly veiled racism in the future.

The movie just kind of... keeps throwing shit at you, I guess; not content with just sticking to one bad sci fi cliché and instead trying all of them, like an indecisive shopper at a JCPenney's trying on everything. They find some random woman buried in the wall – damn, I hate when you forget about those. Apparently she's someone from a whole other dimension who worked on that version of the ship. I dunno. It's confusing and not explained well. Yay science fiction!

And then the Russian guy, who has been the worst and most annoying character in the whole movie, starts losing it and then vomits a bunch of worms everywhere – like, a comical amount of worms. Not the normal amount of worms people usually vomit at all. He dies, which is a mercy because we don't have to listen to him bitching anymore. I guess they have to clean up all the worms, but they don't show this part out of brevity. Good choice, movie.

There's other weird shit that happens... like a wall of the ship that, for whatever reason, eats this guy Mundy's arm – why? There's really no explanation! There's also no blood – it's a clean cut and ends up looking like a cartoon.

What's even weirder is that the arm comes back as a living, sentient being and writes to them that they need to cut open the Russian guy to find this part of the ship they need – I guess the Russian guy had eaten it when he was hungry. I dunno. Like, why would these people listen to some disembodied arm with no questions? Are they that starved for ideas? This shit might as well be a game – who are we going to cut open next to see if there's anything inside? It's like 'open up the box and see what mystery prize you got!'

Then we have the only Chinese woman on the ship – nobody speaks Chinese to her except for the German guy, so honestly it seems like nobody else can even communicate with her at all. That seems like a weird set-up really. She gets trapped in some kind of chamber where water starts flooding in... because this movie is random enough to seem like it actually has a plan. Honestly, the fact that the Russian and Chinese characters were killed off seems vaguely political to me. This movie has an agenda!

All of this weird stuff that happens on the ship seems to be totally without explanation except 'they went to a different dimension!' And after this, it pretty much stops happening, sooooo... good on the movie for having so much of a point, I guess...

I guess a lot of the rest of the plot revolves around the main lady, Ava, finding out that her kids are still alive in this dimension. Apparently in the original timeline, she turned on this light thing in their house and it set the house on fire, killing her kids. Here, they're still alive – and I was so hoping for a Rick and Morty-style plot where she goes and kills the alternate version of herself and then takes over in a new life. For a while, it actually looks like that's what she wants to do – but nope. Biggest disappointment in the movie.

Instead we just get more dumb shit happening – more screaming and shouting as random stuff goes wrong on the ship as an excuse for the movie to keep going. They for some reason send the one-armed guy up there to fix it, because if I trust anyone to fix a delicate situation, it's a man who just lost an arm less than an hour ago. He seems like the best choice! If you're curious, what he does results in the ship blowing up and losing half of the entire goddamn thing. Awesome plan, guys.

Then the ship is about to self destruct AGAIN – honestly, you'd think they would be used to these things by now. This guy Kiel, who has barely been a character the whole movie, decides to sacrifice himself to fix it... they tell him there is DEFINITELY a way to do it remotely and he doesn't have to die, but this motherfucker has to play the martyr. Or maybe he just really hates everyone else on the ship. Or maybe he realized what this movie was doing to his career.

Then, because this movie is just a series of random catastrophes with no rhyme or reason, the blonde parallel-universe chick, Mina, flips her Evil Switch ™ and goes nuts, shooting everyone on board in some attempt to stop them from taking the energy source back to their own dimension. I guess just asking nicely is out of the question. She kills Random Brazilian Religious Guy and then shoots the German engineer a few times, only he somehow survives - I guess he just took more vitamins that day. They end up killing her by jettisoning her out of the ship and into space – disappointingly never using that severed sentient arm to do anything about the problem...

Finally we get the end – they return to Earth only to be surprised by a huge, giant-ass monster popping up through the clouds, apparently brought on by the stuff they were fucking around with up in space. Those idiots! How will this monster EVER stand-out when we already have Godzilla and Pacific Rim in today's world? It'll be a total social outcast and reject. Fuck.

This movie is ridiculous and terrible. Everything was total nonsense and the whole thing felt like it was put together in a rush just to get it out quick... the story was incoherent and the tone was all over the place, with some funny parts and some “dramatic” attempts shoved haphazardly with no real sense of direction. It just all sucks. But at the same time, it was funny as hell and we had fun mocking the fuck out of it, so it wasn't a total loss!

And it only barely ties into Cloverfield, really... these movies are just random scripts turned into a “franchise” by inserting monsters into the last acts (or last scene as in this one). You could do that with anything. Tune in for my next Cloverfield movie, which is just The Big Sick except I threw in a giant monster destroying the city at the end. It'll be a scream.

Image copyright of its original owners; we don't own it.