Thursday, September 20, 2018

Terrifier (2018)

A few years ago, Damian Leone came out with All Hallow's Eve, a movie about a sadistic clown named Art who really just got his rocks off murdering people for no reason. But the problem was that it was a trilogy of anthology films and didn't just have him killing in a straight line for almost 90 minutes. Now we have Terrifier, which fixes that problem as surely as a master carpenter could.

Director: Damian Leone
Starring: Jenna Kanell, David Howard Thornton, Samantha Scaffidi

It's hardly the stuff of master poets. Two young women are drunk and decide to get a bite to eat before trying to drive home. But that's when they meet the guy in the black and white clown costume. He's quiet and smiles a big red bloody smile, and for some reason only the one girl is creeped out. The other one is having fun with it, and although she's supposedly drunk, she doesn't act like it. Just seems more like she's a big clown fan.

The clown kills a bunch of people in the pizza place, which you'd think would be a sort of Switzerland for killers – who doesn't love a pizza place? Fucking savages.

Then he's chasing people around in an abandoned apartment building for some reason. Did he just not have any other plans? I guess it's good that he can think on his feet. He's really quite versatile, using elaborate torture methods for some people and others he just hacks up with a knife. Once, he rides around a little tricycle like the doll from the Saw movies, which I guess is good, we all need cardio. I wonder if he just has some kind of miniature roulette wheel he uses to decide how he'll kill someone. There's certainly no character development, no motive, which is surely an essential thing for an 80s style slasher. I really think they missed an opportunity here to explore the true depth and morality of a killer like Art the Clown, to really dig into his psyche and explain his humanity, that of a man who dresses up in a clown costume and kills people.

Instead, we get a scene where he literally saws a woman in half. Oh well. Different strokes. If you could tell an artist how to create, then it wouldn't really be their art, after all.

The movie chugs along and mostly becomes a fairly cliché slasher. Every trope is used, and by “every trope,” I mean the movie constantly does that thing where they have a character who could help the main girl, but he can't hear for whatever reason, and then the clown kills him from behind as the main girl screams. They do that a lot.

The only real change is the one scene where this crazy delusional homeless woman, who's been walking around with a baby doll all movie, confronts Art and acts like a mother, cradling his head and soothing him. It almost seems like it's going somewhere – but he kills her, as we find out a few scenes later, and as far as I can see she had no positive effect on him. Boy, what a hard sell. Truly stubborn, like a lot of guys his age. It's the tragedy of what society does to men, rendering them incapable of showing feeling except for cutting up horrified murder victims.

At one point he even pulls out a gun and shoots someone. That's just funny to me. This guy with all his fucking knives and weirdo torture methods, and he just has a gun for backup. I hope the NRA is ready to defend this guy's 2nd Amendment rights. I wonder what it was like when he went in to buy the thing. Did he show up in full clown makeup and pull out his wallet and pay with a Visa card? What did the background check come back like? I mean, I'm sure every way he got that gun was totally legit. There's never any issue with that in this country.

Pretty much the rest of it is fairly stock. It ain't terrible, but at the same time, there's just so little imagination to it. It's all just a lot of gory kills like you've already seen. Oh yeah, except the one surviving girl, the sister of one of the other girls who died – try and keep up with me for this Shakespearean plot – gets her face eaten. This ties back to the beginning of the film, in which a snobby newscaster is interviewing her with her face all mangled, and then the disfigured girl tears out the newscaster's eyes. I gotta say this doesn't make much sense. Is the movie trying to say that having a disfigured face and being chased around by a clown for a few hours makes YOU a killer? How offensive to that extremely niche community.

Or maybe she was always a killer and that was a secret twist that even the movie couldn't be bothered showing us! OOOOOooooOOOOOOOooooh! Scary!

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Happytime Murders (2018)

This movie fucking sucks. I might as well just put that on the table at the top here. I know, right? A movie that took 10 years to get out of development hell and is about a puppet police detective is bad? Stop the presses.

Director: Brian Henson
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta

Co-written with Tony.

SPOILERS ahead!!!



It's just so, so bad. It's like a distillation of a bunch of horrible jokes you'd hear at a bad comedy open mic vomited onto the screen with a bunch of puppets saying them. It's the kind of humor you'd hear from a 14 year old just trying to be edgy by making a bunch of raunchy jokes with no context or talent to do so. It's every internet troll going 'oh, you don't think these jokes are funny? Stop being so offended, snowflake!'

Like, even from the start, you get a bunch of stupid perverted voice-overs in the main character, Phil's, head as he's investigating this case from a hot woman puppet who says she's being blackmailed. In the first five minutes, she's already promising Phil she'll have sex with him if he solves her case. Calm down, movie, god; we barely have characters defined yet. And they don't waste time getting to a puppet sex shop, either, which only leads to more embarrassingly bad jokes. Get it? It's puppets, but they're talking about super raunchy things! It's funny because puppets are usually for kids! Do you get it yet?

I guess Melissa McCarthy is playing this other detective who has bad blood with Phil. You can tell because they argue and fight like idiot children every time they're on screen, bringing the plot to a screeching halt several times, spitting terrible roast jokes and insults at each other. Some of the backstory is shoved obnoxiously in your face... apparently, years and years ago, Phil was the first and only puppet cop and he was unable to kill this guy who had captured McCarthy. Then everyone thought he did it on purpose because 'puppets don't shoot puppets.' And then puppets were forever banned, by law, from becoming cops anymore.

All of this shit just shows how bad the writers were at crafting a plot. Really, none of it makes sense. What parallels are there to real life at all? Why would they ban all puppets from being cops or think he did it on purpose? It's never really clarified, instead just made out to be some kind of hamfisted racism allegory, because people all hate puppets in this world for some undefined reason. I guess I can see why they didn't care about plot; I mean a bunch of bad puppet sex jokes probably took a long time for them to come up with. They were probably too tired to make a plot.

The plot, if you can call it that, is that someone is killing off the cast of this old show called the Happytime Gang. Though the movie barely focuses on that. Instead we get a super long scene in this biker bar where McCarthy does puppet coke and fires a gun off a few times, then gets mad at some guy for using the word 'bitches' and beating the shit out of him for that. It's cute that this movie is seriously trying to shoehorn in a feminist message when everything else about it is trashy and low-brow as fuck. It's like if someone took a giant steaming shit on your car window but then lectured you about how you shouldn't say 'cunt' because it's rude.

Oh, and there's a hacky romance scene between Phil and his old girlfriend played by Elizabeth Banks where they talk about what could've been. Every fucking thing in this movie is playing the most rancid, tired detective movie cliches straight, without even trying to be satire. It's pretty amazing that I can't even tell if this movie is even a little bit self-aware. It seems to think it qualifies as 'satire' since they're trying to make jokes in the movie, but how does that make sense? Just having eggs and flour separately doesn't mean you've made a fucking cake.

Perhaps the real low point, though it's hard to choose, is the sex scene between Phil and the lady he accepted the case from, in which there's an extended scene of Phil ejaculating Silly String all over the place for far, far too long... I think Silly String should really reconsider how their product is used in media from now on.

I just can't believe any functioning adult wanted to put this in a movie. There are a bunch of people watching, too, including Phil's secretary Bubbles and a bunch of cops, and none of them seem to make much of a big deal out of it. Bubbles even grabs a bunch of cleaning supplies like this happens all the time. That's really why so much of this is such bad comedy – why would she stay around after the first time her boss jizzed all over his own office and made her clean it up? Just because it's a comedy doesn't mean you can just stop making any logical sense. Part of good comedy is people's reactions to bizarre or over the top situations. Here, this gross, weird nonsense is just treated like an every day thing.

The rest of the movie doesn't improve at all. More bad sex puppet jokes, and they throw in some physical gags about McCarthy's appearance for good measure, which is weird since I thought the movie was trying to be all feminist or whatever. But because it's comedy, it apparently doesn't have to make sense, so I guess I'm the jackass here.

Oh, and did you want to see a children's puppet portrayed as a strung out dying drug addict in a grimy, dark hellhole? You're in luck. The movie provides this soul-killing image with the exact amount of tact you've come to expect, which is none. Seriously, what reason would anyone have to want to see that image?

I guess they find out the real killer was that hot puppet lady from the very beginning, because the bullet Phil fired while trying to kill the guy who'd captured McCarthy accidentally killed her father all those years ago. It's a real stretch. But they make it work by not trying to give this character a personality in any way. Phew! That solves that problem!

The movie ends, finally and mercifully, with Phil asking out his secretary Bubbles, despite there being no romantic connection between the two at all for the entire movie. Does she even want to go out with him after she's had to literally clean up his jizz at the office multiple times? I guess it's consistent in that it's totally unfunny garbage just like literally every single other frame of the movie.

The jokes were bad, the story was bad, I really didn't see even one thing to like here. It's been a while since that happened. The humor in this is solely based on stupid juvenile shock value shit that is bad even by that standard. There's basically one joke idea: puppets swearing and talking about dirty things = funny. And it can't even do that remotely well. Everything in this is overly simplistic low-brow crap and doesn't try to use its creativity for anything but the easiest, lamest jokes possible.

It's actually kind of amazing how truly worthless this movie is, and I really doubt there will be anything worse this year. But if you like terrible jokes and no plot or character, go nuts with The Happytime Murders!

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Meg (2018)

Well, it seems like the B-movie is finally getting its day among the A-listers, as this is a movie so schlocky and ridiculous that it would have SyFy execs salivating and beating people down like it's Black Friday at a Walmart. Yet this was directed by Jon Turtletaub, of National Treasure and other things, and features actors like Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson and Ruby Rose. It's like a merging of worlds.

This whole thing is about as over the top as you can get and it revels in that like a shark in a bucket of fish guts thrown in the water. I like that it's a Chinese-American co-production though, and that adds some different vibes to it that would be absent in something like Sharknado, for instance. It's Shark Week, too, which is like a national holiday for people who like garbage movies. So that makes it perfect to review this thing now.

Director: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson, Li Bingbing

Co-written with Tony and Nathan.

It starts off with Statham, playing his usual character of a man with 5 o'clock shadow permanently imprinted on his face to the point where I think it might just be a tattoo. They're underwater and playing the usual bad sci fi movie game of 'run around urgently, shout a lot and then it will all seem important,' only they all end up dying somehow except for Statham.

Then we flash forward to years later. A billionaire named Jack Morris, played by Rainn Wilson, arrives to see the underwater station he's bought apparently without asking any questions about anything. He exchanges in the kind of humor where he talks to the daughter of the Chinese ship captain, Suyin, and just makes up gibberish trying to sound Chinese. What is this, a 1980s comedy? Are we going to talk about the difference between men and women next? Maybe show a tired hack gay stereotype, too? I mean, while you're at it...

They're in the process already of sending down a crew on a submarine to explore a yet-unforseen depth of the ocean, which is great, I'm sure. What's NOT great is how the crew, led by Statham's ex-wife because it's always a very small world in the movies, is attacked by a monster down there almost immediately. It's weird that they don't have protocol for this kind of thing or even any way to see what's attacking them. No, seriously, they can't even see it. Is this an ancient submarine from like World War II or some shit? Seems counterproductive.

Anyway, they're all at the brink of death, which frees up a lot more time for the rest of the crew to exchange jokes and cute moments with Suyin's tiny daughter, who for some reason is allowed on a ship where they undergo serious underwater operations? Who knows. I can't judge anyone's parenting. It's 2018 and who even knows what happens. Take your kid to a volcano expedition or to the house of a known serial killer for a cop investigation. Show 'em you're a badass working mom and you don't take shit. Why not?

They go and find Statham's character Jonas Taylor, now living in Thailand as a beach bum who does nothing but drink all the time for the last five years, as far as the movie shows us, yet he still has the ripped body of an action hero. They bring him back for his expertise at getting people killed, so I guess that's what they want to happen. To get everyone killed.

Statham and Suyin, like total loose cannon maniacs, just go off on their own, separately, to try and save the entire ship, with really very little of any plan or anything – fuck it, they're mavericks! They do manage to save SOME people, but not before getting the dude who played Hiro from Heroes killed off in a blaze of flames. Who would've thought this would happen after bringing Statham, who got all his friends killed underwater, on board? They mention the guy a few more times in the movie, but honestly nobody seems broken up. It doesn't even stop their jokey banter. I guess he wasn't that well liked.

So I guess they begin to discover what the monster is, a prehistoric giant shark called the Megalodon, which got its name from how big it is. Their plan is, I guess, to do a series of Jackass-style stunts, pointless and dangerous, where they just send one person down into the ocean in a cage to try and shoot a dart at it to tranquilize or poison it. This is hilarious because you'd think an apparently professional mission they'd have some better way of doing it than putting their own people in mortal danger.

But I guess it wouldn't make for as good of a movie if they had the proper channels and had everyone filling out paperwork and dreaming of that bar at 5 pm to stave off suicidal thoughts. Better to just court death in a more exciting way, on screen. It's amazing how many of them fall off this boat. I think this science team was the one everyone else scoffed at and pretended not to know. “Oh, I haven't heard of THAT division, how weird... anyway, let me show you my college degrees.”

I guess Suyin's father dies, and she has what's probably the most cliché scene I've ever seen where he tells her he was ALREADY proud of her and she can clear her conscience as he dies, yadda yadda. It's pretty lame. I want to see a movie where the dad was like “actually, I'd wanted to go to LA and be a musician, shame I knocked your mom up by accident,” then he gasps and dies.

I mean, I know that sounds horrible, but it isn't like they dwell on his death or even seem to give a shit after the scene ends. Instead they want to focus on other bullshit like a budding cliché romance between Jonas and Suyin. There's one scene where Jonas finds Suyin's daughter and his own ex-wife hanging out, and they both try to tell Jonas to get with Suyin. He says “I think this is the worst moment of my life.” Yes, even worse than the time all his friends died underwater and it was his fault. This movie astounds me. I'm speechless... well except for the words I've written here.

Then Rainn Wilson's character decides to go drop a bunch of nukes in the ocean trying to kill the shark. The only problem is that he's so dumb that he gets a whale instead... so I guess he's a fucking ocean terrorist now. He is like ISIS to whales and sea creatures. Fortunately the actual shark has an acute sense of morality, and eats him instantly after this, because in horror movies, anyone who does a bad thing dies pretty much instantly. That technically means horror movies are more optimistic than real life.

Fortunately, we have a batshit insane climax in which the shark decides to go to the beach. Yes, one of the most popular beaches in the world, Sanya Bay in China, and the shark was just like, yup, better go there and kill a lot of people. It's pointless to point out how the shark wouldn't just go attack people out of nowhere. No, instead I just think it's funny to imagine it going to the beach. Does it pack its towel, sunscreen and beach chair? What if it rains? Will it have been a wasted trip? The Meg is just itching to get in that water though...

From here the movie just gives up any pretense of even trying to be serious, though to be fair, that actually probably happened 45 minutes ago. We get a crazy climax full of people at the beach running, the shark attacking them – there's one time it eats an entire bubble thing with a kid inside it. And there are some helicopter explosions. And Statham is almost eaten a few more times, since he apparently gets a real thrill out of that. What is that, like five fucking times now? Is it a fetish or something? I have to admire that their aesthetic here is just 'THROW MORE CRAZY SHIT IN! NOW! WE NEED IT!'

That really sums up the entire movie. It's insane and hilarious. I actually think it works pretty well at what it wants to be, and it gives the audience exactly what they want, which is insane bullshit with sharks happening. As ridiculous as the plot is, as lame as some of the dialogue is, The Meg actually works pretty well and I can respect it for that.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I Don't Like Hanging Out With Nerds

...or, "How Time Corrupted the Nerds."


I remember being a kid in the late 90s and early '00s and getting picked on for being something of a nerd. It was already starting to turn over, though, with the culture becoming more and more mainstream the older I got. It wasn't like I got beat up for liking Batman. I got made fun of here and there and sometimes, occasionally, it was because I had some sort of nerdy stuff around, but more often than not it was just because kids are fucking rude and they would grasp for any straw. So maybe I'm not the be all, end all of experience here, but I'm doing this anyway just because I'd love to say that being a nerd doesn't seem like all that proud of a thing now.

Honestly, I don't even like hanging out with nerds anymore. I think too often, that turns into a pissing contest of purity. You say you like a thing and then some idiot has to chime in with “YEAH BUT DID YOU SEE THIS OTHER THING? IF NOT THEN I JUST DON'T SEE HOW YOU'RE A REAL FAN!” And it's like, Jesus, turn it down, buddy. It's just a movie. Not like we're at the Conference of Nations here. If I like a thing, that just means I like it. Not looking to join the fucking debate team here.

And in recent years, with the ballooning of Marvel, Star Wars and Disney into a grotesque blob devouring everything in sight, it's hard to be sympathetic to this kind of aggro fan posturing. It's cool to like the stuff, I've enjoyed some of it, but at some point you're also basically getting pumped up and angry defending the 1% of entertainment. You're basically like “don't be so mean to this untouchable billionaire behemoth!” This especially applies to Star Wars. Jesus, the bitching I've heard and read about these new movies, you'd think they had paid for these people's housing and food needs for years.

That isn't even the worst of it. You hear worse things from women who try to enter the nerd kingdom's gates. Awful tales of sexism. And I'm glad I don't have to suffer the annoyances of any minority trying to wade into the public discourse. Just look at any time Marvel or DC tries to introduce a new incarnation of a character who's black or a woman or gay. Online, things have gotten perilously toxic at times, such as the 'Gamergate' fiasco that really showed how awful and toxic these people were, sending death threats, screaming misogynist garbage.

Nerds got to the top and then proceeded to act like the exact people they hated, discriminating and pushing people around. One thing nerds love is a quote from a nerdy movie used in some other context. So for me this whole thing is like when Harvey Dent said, “You either die, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The whole predicament is basically the story of so many “I'll show them” nerd fantasies. We all had 'em, the whole idea of “they're making fun of me now but I'll get rich and punish them someday,” but it's become a reality for some people. There's a NYT editorial that goes into this with more finesse than I could, about people like Elon Musk. There's a dark side to every kind of person, and any ideal is somewhat corruptible, unfortunately.

I get how it happens. Nerd-dom is basically just liking something in a real, intense way. You don't just watch or read or play the thing passively, but actively consume, sucking up every morsel of information like Kirby from Smash Brothers (see, another reference). A lot of the time, that kind of devotion comes with a loneliness or something missing in real life, and a lot of young teenagers have that because life is tough to put together when you have almost no autonomy. But most of us grow out of that and become productive and well-rounded adults, to some extent anyway.

But some people don't grow out of it, and that portion seemed to grow more vocal as the internet got bigger. They turned their loneliness and social ineptitude into a weapon. Who knew how they'd gotten there? They just never seemed to click with real life. Never fit in. I guess we used to laugh at people like this for being fat Star Trek cosplayers who lived in their mom's basement. Now, I guess they're the same people, except they're angrier through a lot of time spent behind a screen reading conspiracy theories and getting angry at 'PC culture' for leaving them stranded in the dust. But the world has never been totally fair and at some level, if you're born into a first-world country to a family with money to afford the internet for you to read those conspiracy theories, you have to take some responsibility.

So I barely ever even refer to myself as a nerd. I enjoy a lot of 'nerd media' and don't care if people know it, but I stop short at calling myself one. I don't like the context anymore. I think it's given birth to some toxic shit.

And honestly, with the proliferation and mainstreaming of nerd culture, what do bullies even make fun of kids in school for anymore? Is it back to race, socioeconomic class, the simpler stuff of days of yore? I dunno.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fantastic Four (2015)

The creation of new Fantastic Four films is like some sort of mind-bending thriller plot where they do the same thing over and over again in some bizarre torture-loop. Like, when they become aware of the awful hell they've been subjected to, a switch is flipped and then it's like 'go back to the start, make another origin story, show again how they got their powers. You won't remember any of this when it's over.' Then the screams are drowned out by forcefully canned, "triumphant" opening credits music and the sound of Reed Richards trying to coerce his friends into space again.

This one is the worst one. And probably one of the worst superhero movies ever made at that. Josh Trank, who made the excellent Chronicle, directed this, which is a shame as he deserved more than the studio meddling he got here.

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan

Co-written with Tony.

I mean, hell, it's barely even a superhero flick to begin with. Calling it a movie is even a bit of a stretch. You start off with like, 20 minutes of Reed Richards as a kid. Apparently he's a creepy little fuck in this who spends all his time making a doorway to another dimension. I love how even the teacher in his class is sarcastic at him and doesn't even support him a little bit. Dude, you're teaching 5th graders, quit acting like you're Simon fucking Cowell, you weirdo.

But to be fair, Reed is the kind of kid who waits in a car at night like a horror movie villain outside the junkyard, where his classmate Ben lives. Ben, being a total idiot, apparently considers this to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. They begin that night using parts from the junkyard to make Reed's science thingy.

Oh and Ben, by the way, is apparently just bullied by his big brother, who says “It's clobberin' time” to him as he's hitting him. That's where that catchphrase came from, kids!

Reed and Ben then go back to Reed's garage and put the finishing touches on the whole dimensional gateway machine that every kid had in their garage back in the 90s – oh the nostalgia. I love that there's really no explanation of why he wanted to make this or, really, what it even does. He could be trying to become the new Adolph Hitler for all Ben knows. Maybe the door to dimensions opens up the door to the DC Film Universe, which would at least explain why this sucks so bad.

Oh, and they shut off power in the entire neighborhood. You would think this would be enough for people to ask questions as to what he was doing. Or for his parents to keep a closer eye on him from then on to make sure he doesn't burn down the house or isn't torturing anybody in their garage. This could almost be an interesting plot point or character moment... WHICH IS WHY WE THEN SKIP SEVEN YEARS AHEAD!

Yup. Seven year skip just out of nowhere. Reed is now closer to college and still making the same dumb dimension door thing, and Ben is still helping, because why would anything change in your life in the most formative years of said life? Everything always remains the same during that time of your life.

Incidentally, a dimensional door, huh? I guess this is how Stranger Things happened... either that, or it's just bland chopped-up sci fi cliché stew, delivered lukewarm, and with a few mysterious hairs in it that make you question whether you're hungry at all.

There's a scene where Victor Von Doom, who is portrayed here as a greasy neckbeard weirdo with a fascination with Sue Storm, and the other dudes all decide to go into the door and fuck around in the other dimension. It goes horribly and they blow everything up. All hail white dude mediocrity, right? I love that they don't even bring Sue with them, but she gets hit by radiation anyway even just sitting back in the regular world. I'd be so pissed. I'd be like 'goddammit, motherfuckers.'

Most of the rest of this sinks into an insufferable muck of boring crap. It's trying to be all dark and “mature,” in the way that only a kid listening to Nine Inch Nails and death metal while mad at their mom at age 15 can be. I guess director Josh Trank had this whole vision that was ruined due to re-shoots, since honestly, all art is always improved by constant last minute tinkering by guys who wear sandals with socks. YOU KNOW BEST, CORPORATIONS!

But it really just comes off as silly. They have a bunch of scenes with them strapped to tables in dark, creepy lab rooms with scientist guys in dark glasses not answering their question. It's like if Stephen King wrote a Firestarter spec script while drunk off his ass. How do you like these scenes for your kids, parents? Don't you love that the happy-go-lucky Fantastic Four have been turned into this vague, dark pile of bullshit? Wasn't THIS how you always pictured these iconic heroes?!


Then they just skip ahead a year again without really exploring the characters or the world. This whole movie is like they just filmed the Wikipedia summary of a plot. There's really just zero character development. They don't bother to explore even the littlest parts of who these people are or why we should care. I know that's like expecting a McDonalds to carry high-class cuisine at this point, but eh fuck it, I'm already critiquing everything else anyway.

They find Victor Von Doom in the other dimension, who got lost there before. He's now turned into some kind of weird fantasy monster, like a shitty D&D creature made by the kid your mom forced you to play with because he didn't have anyone else. He comes back and tries to, I dunno, destroy the world or something? He says some vague things about 'sucking the world into his own dimension and making a new dimension.' This is all a bunch of gobbledegook and the kind of thing a 10 year old would find too lame to even play with his action figures.

They beat him, I guess, and they're really only acting as a whole team for like, what, 10 minutes of the super goofy, lame CGI-fest climax? Otherwise, this isn't a Fantastic Four movie. It's a 'random dark action movie where people have strange, silly powers for no reason.' Hooray for that? Meh.

This movie sucks and anyone who likes it, I strongly think is a foreign agent against their own government. Be suspicious of them.

Pictures copyright of their original owners, we don't own them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

47 Meters Down (2017)

47 Meters Down is yet another 'shark horror movie,' and I should be annoyed with them by now. But honestly, there's something strangely endearing about the optimism here, of people thinking they can still do better than Jaws after all these years without massively changing up the formula.

To be fair, this does offer a different take on a shark movie. In this one, they're trapped underwater in a shark cage and are running out of oxygen surrounded by bloodthirsty, serial-killer-ish sharks, each ready to devour them whole. But strangely, they barely even do too much with THAT concept. It's a weird waste of potential. "Here's an original idea," I can imagine these writers saying, "now, just fart out a script. I am gonna take a nap."

Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt

Co-written with Michelle.

This starts off with our main characters Kate and Lisa, on vacation at a ritzy, gorgeous looking beach in Mexico. There are several pointless but nice-looking scenes that end very quickly, looking less like a horror movie and more like a travel agency's commercial. Or a hotel's commercial. Whatever it is, you know looking like a commercial is very much against what most horror movies should be about. Hint, guys – they're supposed to make you want to stay AWAY from places.

I guess we find out that Lisa's long-term boyfriend Stuart has just dumped her and that's at least partly why they're vacationing. They talk about how he got bored and left... I guess he had the attention span of a tiny baby. Did you try waving car keys in front of his face? Also, it's weird that they have all these short, pointless scenes and are just now dumping this on us. What prevented them from just opening with it? Maybe the contract for the cinematographer included 'must film footage that looks identical to a travel commercial in case this horror movie thing doesn't work out.'

Then they meet some guys late at night at a bar, partying and stuff, and the guys invite them to go shark diving the next day. As far as the movie shows, they barely exchange two words before agreeing to this. Later on, we see that Kate, the younger sister, is super adventurous and has a penchant for doing crazy stuff. I guess in this movie, that means she just agrees to whatever the weird guys in the bar invite her to do. Good thing she didn't talk to the OTHER guy at that bar who wanted her to play Russian Roulette. Or the third guy who was just a fucking rapist.

The next day they all go do exactly that, shark diving. There are a few scenes where the crew on the boat seems slightly suspicious and weird, like maybe they'll do something creepy and horror movie-ish. Nope. It's just a normal shark diving trip, with all the lack of regulations or rules that an off-the-beaten-path beach in Mexico promises... this movie just has such a lack of any imagination. It's barely even trying to tell a story. We were just waiting for something super creepy to happen, like right before the girls went under, one of the guys leans over and whispers that they've been stalking the girls for weeks. But nope. I guess that was too much to ask. Or, really, anything remotely interesting.

I'll throw the movie a bone here: it's pretty cool when they actually get underwater. It's a dark, isolated and gloomy setting. There isn't much else quite like it for horror. Most movies would wimp out and set a lot of it above the water, but this one, to what little credit I can give it, creates a definite mood by setting the entirety of the movie way deep down underwater.

Too bad they barely make use of it! There's very little in the way of scares. Most of this is just them talking in frantic tones about how to escape. There's a few scenes of very mild suspense that might make a nursing home grandma who's never seen a horror movie jump. Otherwise it's all a big old flatline. Like oh, really, they want to get out of the ocean? Tell us more, Shakespeare. Regale us with these mindblowing concepts.

They don't utilize the setting very well and there's maybe one scene where they go off and explore the darker parts of the ocean in any way. The sharks are bad at being serial killers and don't sneak up on them well or provide much tension either. Maybe they should've looked this up on WikiHow. Overall this is a limp tension-free slog much like the feeling of a deflated balloon.

They start running out of oxygen, though much later than I had thought. They get in touch with the douchebag who got them down there to begin with, who sends down some new tanks. The problem is, because they've been down there so long, they might start to hallucinate. Now, this was the point where I thought things might finally get cool and interesting. Here was an opportunity for the movie to truly show off its creativity and put in some badass, insane hallucinations under the fucking water...

Nope! That doesn't happen. Instead, Kate gets attacked by a shark and then Lisa manages to get free from the bars of the cage pinning her leg down and save Kate. Then the both of them ascend from the water on their own – which was really an option the whole time and I'm not sure why they didn't just try it even in spite of the danger...

...then it turns out all of THAT was all a hallucination and they WEREN'T saved! But don't worry, the national guard was coming down right at that time and saves them for really real.

Wow. That is some weak ass “horror.” You had the option to have fucking hallucinations under water and you did jack squat with it. This should have been a fucking freak circus like the climax of The Shining set underwater, with hallucinations used to their full effect and escalating until the characters lost their mind. I wanted to see the darkest recesses of their psychology. I wanted to see gore-streaked apparitions and creepy figures lurking in the shadows of the sea.

But nope. Nothing. There's no imagination here. This kind of stuff is the reason why nobody ever took horror seriously for years in the 2000s. All in all, I recommend just going diving in open water with sharks rather than watching this silly stuff. I'm gonna go watch Jaws again instead.

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

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.