Thursday, November 16, 2017

All Hallows Eve 2 (2015)

The first All Hallows Eve movie may not have been for everyone, but it was notable for the unusual savagery and violence it had compared to other such cheesy and campy Halloween flicks of its type – it was actively uncomfortable to watch. Then I guess someone wasn't happy with that, so they made a sequel and said 'okay, change absolutely everything, take out your cool clown mascot character, and also make it fucking terrible.' Here's All Hallows Eve 2!

Director: Various
Starring: A ouija board and a glass of wine

Co-written with Nathan.

Like the first one, this is an anthology of short horror films, each by a different director. But the first one had three fairly fleshed out stories with clear plots and development from beginning to end. This one has about four billion shorter stories and none of them are that good – in fact, the whole thing is like a wet fart, with no worthwhile moments and nothing of substance. They didn't even bring back their clown mascot, Art, from the first one. Instead, we get the jackass pumpkin-faced killer on the cover, who's never given a name or any kind of storyline. Just look at this piece of garbage:

Don't you just hate it already? It's like a watered down, dollar-store knock off version of a nationally well-known brand. It just sucks, reeking of pandering and not trying very hard. He is probably the kind of guy who bums rides off of his friends and then makes fun of them in a way that he thinks is much more charming than it really is, all while smoking in the car even though you asked him three times not to. Anyway, let's move on...

The wrap-around story is already a step down from the first one. This time, rather than the babysitter and the kids exchanging actual dialogue like real characters, we get a random mid-20s chick sitting at home alone drinking wine, playing with a Ouija board, asking it whether her boyfriend is going to come over or not. You know, I don't blame her boyfriend for not being there – this chick is kinda lame.

Yeah, fuck all the cool Halloween parties at bars, THIS is where the fun's REALLY at!

Then a mysterious haunted video tape is dropped off at her doorstep. So she starts watching it... wow, is that the entire set-up? How much lazier can you get?

The first story is about a babysitter carving a pumpkin with some dumb kid, in a world that recalls the 1978 Halloween with the Halloween imagery turned up to 1,000. You could overdose on the amount of orange colors and pumpkin imagery just in the first scene.

What season is it again?!

I guess they try to bake some pumpkin seeds for whatever reason, and the little kid accidentally starts choking on one. Here's where Nathan and I tried to play a game: who's dumber, the kid for choking on a fucking pumpkin seed, or the babysitter who's first idea for first aid is to take a knife to the kid's throat to try and get it out that way? I think I'm going with the babysitter. I mean, fuck calling 9-1-1, am I right? What can THOSE jackasses do?

What was her plan for when this kid's parents come home? "Sorry guys, I had to cut your kid's throat"? I have a feeling she wouldn't be called back.

Then I guess it turns out the pumpkin seeds start mutating into some kind of vague Alien-like chest-burster thing, which is the end of the story as both of them die from it. Wow. I am so amazed that this cliché deadpan sarcasm is all I can muster up. If this isn't the worst fear-mongering I've ever seen about GMOs, then I guess it's just a shitty horror story.

Second story is about a bunch of kids trick or treating in some weird post-apocalyptic hellscape. They come across a heavily guarded house that turns on its lights just to tell them to go away. Wow, sounds like you already had your mind made up, huh jackass? Inside, I guess, it's a dude and his wife, both kind of sick looking, pondering if it's even Halloween at all. Because the best Halloween movies are set in dreary dystopias where you don't know if it's Halloween. Ah the spirit of the holidays.

Yeah, I'm sick of the movie too. Maybe go get some Mucinex.

The kids find their ways inside, only to turn into a bunch of actual monsters for, uh, no reason that I can see. Seriously, there's no explanation. This shit is the equivalent of homework turned in with no explaining how you got the answer to that math problem. It's basically like an unfinished plot. I guess we do get some decent makeup for a few minutes?

I'm also calling bullshit on the devil in this one - I saw the first All Hallows Eve, and the devil in THAT movie's story about a cult that impregnates women in the sewer looked nothing like THIS guy. Clearly this is a sham and I want my money back. Is this the kind of shitty service I can expect from this establishment???

It's Satan's make-over day here at All Hallows Eve.

It ends with, I dunno, the wife sitting in the dark and then disappearing. What does it mean? Who knows - maybe her contract expired before they could finish shooting.

"My contract didn't cover speaking more than two lines, or even really getting up from kneeling. Too bad!"

It really doesn't get any better from here on out – there are a lot of half-baked stories with no good characters, story ideas or scares. It really just seems like there wasn't much thought put into these – I hate to dump on a bunch of indie filmmakers probably trying their best, but they're just kind of bad all around. I love how you barely ever even go back to the wrap-around story about the girl with the Ouija board. What was the point of even having it then?

I'll try to say something positive here... uh, it's less misogynist than the first movie? Maybe? However I don't get why that means they had to make this one so boring. Honestly, I was hoping for a shot of Art the murderous clown from last movie in therapy for his horrific crimes. It would be stupid, but at least it would tie together the two movies.

Like, one story is just a three-minute thing where some idiot teenagers go to a carnival and the first thing they see is a booth where you're allowed to throw deadly weapons at a person tied to a board defenseless. I always loved doing this the moment I walked into a fucking carnival too:

I guess doing this in public where anyone can see is no big deal... oh who am I kidding, trying to nitpick at something this vapid?

And it turns out one of the kids is the son of the guy tied up, and the guy apparently abused the kid. So then you just get a few quick shots of them throwing knives and spiked balls at the guy's crotch and stuff. Wow. I have no idea what we're supposed to gain from this except that child abuse is BAD and only SPAWNS MORE VIOLENCE LATER... oh, wait, it doesn't even really mean to say the second part. Never mind. Forgive me for accusing this movie of ever having a point.

Another one is absurdly long and focuses on a little kid afraid of a monster under the bed. There are absolutely no surprises here – it goes exactly as you expect. The kid is afraid of a monster, his mom tells him it's not real, there is some tragic backstory about his dad dying in the war so he is obsessed with his dad's old dog tags. All that's missing is Christopher Walken with a solid speech about how there was a watch up his ass for years.

Man I wish there was a watch-up-ass story in this. It would be one thing that actually came out from up its own ass in this story.

Honestly, I was so bored with this, I just used it as naptime before the next story. It's by far the longest one for no reason at all. How does it end; the mother getting sucked under the bed and the kid screaming like every single story like this? ZZZzzzzzz...

Of special ridiculousness is the final story, which is an absurd Spanish horror story about this guy who finds a ghost on his computer. Weird, usually that's just called porn ads. Are you sure you had your ad blocker running, dude?

Ah yes, the greatest social media site, Unnamed Facebook Knockoff Because Copyright. I love it so.

It's just another boring-ass story – nothing at all of interest happens, and the ghost kills this dude and his girlfriend at the end and that's it. It's straightforward to the point of being completely uneventful. But why is it in Spanish with no subtitles? The movie itself is all in English otherwise. It just feels like someone put this whole anthology together at the last minute after a cocaine binge once he realized it was almost time to turn it in.

Then in the wrap-around story, we get a very quick, watered down version of the ending of the first one - the girl tries to turn off the evil videotape, only it doesn't work. Instead, the pumpkin-faced killer appears and then comes into real life and kills her! Wow! All those other dumb movies that had EXPLANATIONS and STORYLINES for their killers sure are suckers! Who knew all you needed was a quick two-second shot of your killer murdering someone at the very end of an anthology that had nothing to do with him? It's SO FUCKING EASY.

That's All Hallows Eve 2. It's so boring and dumb that I don't even want to finish this review properly. It would be more effort to do that than anyone put into this movie... so, bye!

Images copyright of their original owners; we own none of them.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Year Movies Got Stephen King Right

This has been a great year for Stephen King movies - three in a row based on his stories have been killer: It blew through like a storm in theaters and became the highest-grossing horror film ever made, then on Netflix we got Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game, dripping with dark and enticing imagery, and finally 1922 - a sad, horrific period piece.

I loved all these as King’s written macabre tales, and I like them as movies almost as much.

And it really is kind of a breath of fresh air for me, as I never thought movies based on King’s stuff were always very good - I went on record as hating the original It movie back in 2016, and others like Pet Sematary, The Stand and more were underwhelming at best. I suppose there were some good ones too, but the disappointments as compared to the books were too great for me to get past.

And I think the tone was just never quite right - King has always been such a big name for the unique imagination and style he had, which wasn’t really ever translated right before this year. It’s not something that can be described in a word or two, but just the feel his stories have - the dialogue style, the focus on emotional heartstring-tugging character development, the strange and surreal supernatural world-building that doesn’t draw from any one established school of myth… it all just comes together into a uniquely King-like piece that he has forged over the years into a signature style.

Finally, with these films, I think they got it right. In the new It movie, the way the kid main characters interact and talk and jive with one another is just magical. It’s great to watch because they’re actually funny and have memorable interactions - not like the old one where I honestly can’t remember one conversation between them. These kids are seriously charming and the writing combined with their acting skills produces a wonderfully enjoyable energy. And when things get dark and the visions they see draw them together to fight the evil, you really give a shit. That’s how you make a good story. King understood that, and now a movie based on his work captures his unique writing style well.

In Gerald’s Game, a husband ties his wife to the bed for some sex games, but then the husband dies of a heart attack, leaving main character Jessie to fend for herself. One thing King did with the book was create such a rich story even despite the fact that the character is tied to a bed the entire time. He did it through flashbacks and inner dialogue and a whole story about what led to Jessie’s current predicament. Flanagan masterfully weaves this stuff together by putting in ‘ghost’ versions of Jessie and her dead husband that converse with the real ones, as well as flashbacks with wonderfully macabre, ominous imagery. The level of introspection and character layering is in-line with King’s specialty.

1922 is a newer story, a tale of murder and greed set in a farmhouse in the early 20th century as a farmer plots to kill his wife for the land she’s inherited. It was one of my favorite stories King has done recently, and an especially brutal and punishing read. The movie pretty much sticks to exactly how the story went, not missing a beat. Thomas Jane is excellent as main character Wilfred James, and the creeping, slow-burning horror and guilt of this story rolls over into a crushing wave by its end. Like a lot of good King stories, the horror comes from the human evil and the perils of greed upon his own actions. The pacing and atmosphere are just perfect - chilling stuff.

As I’ve been writing this, I noticed all the reasons I’ve given for appreciating these movies - good characters, layered writing, chilling atmosphere and the human evil - aren’t necessarily groundbreaking or original things that make King’s work good. They’re things that make any fiction good and lots of good fiction does these things well. But as I said, King just has his own unique touch and I am glad these movies are doing him justice finally. King has been a cultural icon and institution for decades and I’ve enjoyed his work for well over 10 years now myself. Do yourself a favor. Check out these movies this Halloween season.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Monday, October 16, 2017

All Hallows Eve (2013)

All Hallows Eve is a 2013 horror movie that I had never heard of until I bought it at the Spooky Empire convention last year. I then watched it when I got home and it was one of the scariest fucking things I’ve ever seen. Here’s a review of it.

Director: Damian Leone
Starring: Katie McGuire, Mike Giannelli

Co-written with Nathan.

This is a sick fucking movie, and I mean that in a literal sense… the thing is that it really doesn’t do anything terribly different from the generic horror movies you’ve seen a hundred times, but just does things in a more depraved manner. It’s an anthology story with a wrap-around about a babysitter watching two kids on Halloween night – you could easily get the impression it’s just a straight rip-off.

But then they find a weird unmarked video tape – not a DVD, a video tape, because I guess the sick perverts of this town are not up to date with things. Or maybe just every time you need a haunted media in a horror movie, it’s something old. A haunted iPod or DVD doesn’t have the same resonance. And a haunted mp3 file? Fucking forget it.

The tape has a bunch of shorter movies on it, which the babysitter, after some hemming and hawing that ultimately goes nowhere, agrees to let them watch. You’ll start to see how amazing that really is when you see the fucked up shit on these stories – though the kids keep claiming they’ve seen “much worse stuff” on the internet. I guess they’re busy scouring the Dark Web for snuff videos or something.

The first story is about a girl who is sitting alone in a train station when a clown approaches her, initially seeming annoying but harmless, like any weird asshole you see on a train. But then things get weird when he pulls out a syringe and sticks her with it, kidnapping her – right there, it’s already fucked up.

Is he medically licensed to do this?

She wakes up in a dungeon with two other women, all of them chained up by their necks. They wander around a bit, often hysterical – it’s weird how the main girl is suddenly brave and badass. Earlier, she was scared of a cockroach she saw.

Then they find what I can only describe as what conservatives think Planned Parenthood is:

"THIS is what's happening to YOUR WIVES AND DAUGHTERS when they even GO NEAR a Planned Parenthood!!!"

I guess it ends with the devil raping the main girl – surprise, happy ending! I’m glad that babysitter let these kids watch this…

To be fair, she does finally make them stop watching it. The little boy she’s babysitting throws a tantrum over it but eventually relents. Then she goes back and watches it by herself with a glass of wine – choosing this over Night of the Living Dead by the way. Yeah, I’d also choose a creepy random video someone slipped in a child’s Halloween bag that could be a real-life snuff torture movie over a horror classic. I understand her.

The next story is about a woman alone in a house at night, talking on the phone with her friend about her boyfriend, who randomly woke up in the middle of the night and painted a horrific nightmare painting that he doesn’t actually remember. I love how they just talk about this like it’s normal, never really spending much time on it. You know how those artists are! They’re fucking idiots, right? Just painting stuff they don’t remember…

Anyway, that’s not even really what this story is about – it’s actually about an alien that looks like a child’s drawing come to life stalking her in the dark. As silly as this thing looks, I have to admit, I actually find it pretty creepy to look at. It’s just…eerie.

Just something about that big face and those dead, expressionless eyes.

The boyfriend eventually gets on the phone and tells her to call the cops – but she’s a black woman, so justifiably, she’s afraid the cops will shoot her in her own house, and doesn’t call them.

Instead, the alien ends up dragging her away, probably just to throw her a party, I dunno, I'm naive and have never seen a horror movie. I’d say this probably goes on too long for its own good, but even then I still like it – there’s something dark and hopeless about this story that I don’t get from other, similar ones.

Finally we get the last story, and this is the one I was actively kind of avoiding watching again – it's the most gruesome and gross one by far. I haven't really had a reaction like that to a horror movie in, well, maybe ever, just to illustrate that.

It’s basically a pretty straightforward old horror tale of a young woman alone at night running into the killer clown from earlier. She stops at a gas station where she finds out from the one dude working there that a clown has shit and pissed all over the walls of his bathroom – you know, the old clown trick book in play. He gets run off, and the guy is trying to help the woman find her way back to the highway when he gets distracted by some loud noises. And really, aren't you guys tired of non-vegetarian clowns? I am. I sure fucking am.

End the mutilating of gas station attendants! Eat at your local vegan coffee shop!

From here it just gets more and more depraved – there’s a fairly routine chase scene made creepier by the rawness of it. I guess the gritty looking, grainy camera style adds to it. And it’s just super uncomfortable and bleak at every turn, moreso than your garden variety Friday the 13th ripoff or whatever. She gets into a car with a stranger passing by, which, if you don’t know, is always, 100% of the time a bad idea in a horror movie. And like clockwork, the clown drives up to them and pulls out a random gun and kills him:

The clown is a licensed member of the NRA. He believes in the second amendment.

I don’t even know what it is with this scene. It’s so bizarre it’s almost comical that this fucking clown is using a gun – but nah, it doesn’t quite hit comical and stays weirdly menacing instead.

Then the car crashes in a horribly violent manner, but that isn’t even the worst part – the worst is what happens next, which is really so awful that I'd call it up there with the worst things I've seen on film, how this story ends for her. It's fictional, yeah, and they don't dwell on it much, but the visual is disconcerting to say the least - and to say what it really is, it's fucking horrific shit.

Back in the real world – or the wrap-around story – the babysitter tries to turn off the video, but it won't turn off, instead showing a mirror image of the babysitter standing in the living room, but with the clown behind her in the reflection. This, if you remember, was why they had to discontinue VHS tapes. It just wasn't working out with all the demonic clowns appearing in people's rooms.

Then, I shit you not, the clown appears in real life and kills the two kids she was babysitting. Wow! I wonder what she's gonna tell their parents! This clown has really put her in a pickle!

I am limiting the things I censor on this blog to one per post... sorry.

And that's the movie. Dead kids! Happy Halloween!

I don't even know what to say here. It's a sick, demented fucking movie and one of the scariest I've ever seen. It's just the way everything is done in this – it all feels super helpless and deranged, and the tone is as if it was made by a real life psychopath who was filming things he'd really done. It can be silly, sure, but I think the silliness just accentuates how depraved it truly is, as everything has that diabolical, dark air to it even when you're giggling. Every second of this is uncomfortable as fuck and deeply disturbing.

I don't even really know if I like the movie. It's that fucked up. But it did work as a horror film - they're supposed to effect the viewer, which this one did. So I can at least say that much. It is an unavoidable thing once you've seen this film - it will stay with you.

So with that said, I recommend it if you want something to watch this Halloween.

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Death Note (2017)

Death Note is a new adaptation of a well-liked anime series from Japan, based on the premise of a book that kills anyone whose name you write in it, and also that the two smartest people in the world just happen to be Japanese teenagers. Though here, it's done in English and with all American actors in an American high school setting.

As you all know, anime fans traditionally love it when American directors put a bunch of loud white kids in adaptations of their favorite things, so I'm sure this went over really well. Let me check the internet comments and reactions to this and I'll get back to you!

Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Nat Wolff, Lakeith Stanfield, Margaret Qualley

Co-written with Michelle.

Okay, it turns out I was wrong and a lot of people really hate it – and for a lot more reasons than the generalization I just made in the first paragraph. I sure didn't know that before sitting down to do a review of it!

This thing starts off with a normal American high school, with people cheerleading and playing football while a sappy alt rock song whines over-top. It's not really all that befitting of this story.

How did the anime start again?

Huh. A bit different, then. But I am not one to dwell on petty differences. Let's move on to extreme differences, like main character Light, now played by Nat Wolff of Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars. Those were great films and he's a very promising actor – who also happens to be completely unfitting for this role.

I mean, he just isn't at all what this character should have been. I wouldn't be complaining that much if it was a well-written role, but instead of the cunning mastermind of the original series, he kinda acts like a character out of a Judd Apatow film. He's just kind of a bumbling goofball, and doesn't come off as terribly smart or interesting in any way. One of the first scenes is of him getting in a fight to defend this girl from bullies, and then the school rewards him for that by giving him detention for having a bunch of papers he was writing for other kids in his backpack. Some people just have no chill.

Then he finds the Death Note, the magic book that lets him kill whoever he wants as long as he writes down their name while thinking about their face. Gee. Hope he doesn't mistake this for a diary and write about any crushes of his, right? That would be a real fuck up. Apparently there are like 100 different “rules” in the Death Note, which must be boring as fuck to read. I mean, I'm surprised Light just doesn't skim through it in a “TL, DR” way. Why don't the Death Note makers just put it in Instagram form instead? That would truly reach the millennial generation.


The death god Ryuk then appears in the school, the only supernatural being that looks exactly like Willem Dafoe. I find it funny that Dafoe voiced this character and did not act as him – considering Ryuk is one of the only characters in existence, along with the Green Goblin, seemingly written specifically with Dafoe's distinctive face in mind.

Dafoe was too talented to actually appear in the movie.

This causes Light to scream like a little girl and hide underneath a desk for a scene that goes on quite a long time for a movie that seems to want this character to be cool or badass. Not really a great way to show THAT...

I guess he to write down the name of this idiot bully at school, having him decapitated by a ladder that falls off a truck after a crash – did we just slip into a Final Destination movie?

At home, Light gets into a totally natural and realistic conversation with his father, who is a cop. They talk about how Light's mom was killed by a random mafia gangster type of guy at some time in the past, because that happens all the fucking time in America in the modern day.

Then of course there's that old clich̩ family drama that only happens when a gangster kills your mom Рthere are no other ways to create authentic drama between family members, after all. I hope you liked this bit of pointlessly transparent exposition Рbecause it won't lead to any meaningful character development. Light has the gangster guy killed off a few minutes later in a horribly violent way while eating dinner at a fancy restaurant. Glad this was in the movie at all!

The dad comes to see him a few minutes later, barging into the room without warning, and it's like geez Dad, I could've been either masturbating OR writing in a death book in here, don't you know the meaning of privacy?

The next day he decides to tell this hot chick he likes, Mia, about the Death Note and how he can kill people with it. He's lucky she is absolutely batshit insane and sociopathic. Most girls would have walked the other way, but due to the lazy writing, she's a crazy girl and wants to kill people too – and also apparently has no problem with Light talking to an invisible death god. He sure got lucky with this one.

I guess after this, the movie turns into Natural Born Killers for idiots, with the two of them scheming and plotting and killing a bunch of bad guys all over the world. Honestly, this is where the movie lost us – do these kids really seem like the types to care about bad guys all over the world? Do they even seem organized enough to pull that off? They seem to me more like they'd be sitting behind the gym smoking weed than anything else.

"Hey, want to make out while listening to My Chemical Romance albums?"

I guess Light's dad gets pulled into the investigation, because why wouldn't a random city police detective be working on a worldwide mass-murder investigation? It just makes sense. There's a few other characters introduced, like L, a super detective mastermind who is hell-bent on catching Light because... I guess he has nothing better to do. There's also his right hand man Watari, who gives out business cards with nothing but his own name on them:

Yup. No contact information. No description of what services he offers. No titles... just a name. That's all this guy needs because he is super cool.

L is a weird, quirky detective who has oddball mannerisms, and he's actually pretty cool for the most part – until Light mind-controls Watari to go find his name. This leads Watari to go to a random house in the middle of the woods, where L was once an orphan trained to be a master detective there. If this is all sounding like drunk mad libs for a parody of a crime thriller on South Park or some shit, well, that's because it very well could be. Except here there's no self awareness. Actor Lakeith Stanfield, playing L, is actually very good, and I hope he gets into more things that utilize his talents better than this mess.

More press conferences should be given by weird ninjas with the American flag behind them.

Except, uh oh, it turns out Mia has gone rogue and wants to keep killing, so she just lets him die by hails of gunfire, I guess! This is really the conflict in the last half, Light and Mia now against each other. It isn't done terribly well – but we'll get back to that in a minute.

For now, let's just check out the super long-ass chase scene between L and Light, which has finally boiled over into the proper action-movie stylings that a story about a teenager getting a notebook that kills people deserves. I'm amazed at how long this chase scene goes. Marathon runners wouldn't be able to do this shit – Usain Bolt would be tapping out for a break at some point. These guys, who spend most of the movie sitting down, are now apparently amazing athletes!

But that isn't really the point of the climax here. The climax gets to a head when Light meets Mia in this random ferris wheel at the dock, and the two fight it out over who's really going to get the book. This results in a comically over the top fight between them that really just sounds like any other teenage couple fight. I fondly remember fighting with my high school girlfriend over who was going to kill people more efficiently. It's totally ridiculous and almost impossible to take seriously as any kind of drama.

I suppose their fight was so ridiculous and terrible that it actually breaks the wheel down and causes it to fall – Mia to her death, I guess, and Light to hospitalization.

I guess, in one of the only moments in the film that actually recalls the source material, Light has actually masterminded everything so he could keep control of the Death Note, even going so far as to get some other guy to write names in it for him while he's in the hospital! Wow! Now that's a message in this fucking movie I can get behind finally – get somebody else to do the hard work for you.

So, yeah... it sucked. Bad writing, no clear character motivations, characters that seemed to change through the film purely at the whim of how smart the writing dictated them to be, and a lot of quite funny attempts at drama. This is just a bad movie. I guess I've seen worse? I mean, if that's a positive for you, that worse movies than this exist. But if you're looking for a good movie, look elsewhere.

And if you're looking for a good anime adaptation, uh, maybe stay far away from this, as if it were some Chernobyl-radioactive piece of cinema threatening to deform you and make you sterile. I don't get how these directors keep fucking up these anime movies. It'd be one thing if they made good films that were just different, but this kind of goofy shit is just bizarre – anime is from a different culture and maybe we just shouldn't try. It's OK to admit something is just different from your own world-view or culture - you don't have to fucking remake every single thing, you know.

But who am I kidding? I'm just screaming in the wind here. They're gonna keep making them.

Images copyright of their original owners, we own none of them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cinema Freaks Live: It (2017)

Here's the review Will, Nathan and I did for the new Stephen King's It movie. We did this about two weeks ago, but a hurricane in our home state of Florida forced us to reschedule it and then other things got in the way. I know, I know - what could be more important than this?

The answer is that nothing can be. Nothing.

Enjoy the review!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mother! (2017)

Darren Aronofsky's Mother! isn't a film I liked much at all, but one thing you have to give it is that it's worth talking about. At the very least, it's interesting – so I guess I'm saying this is the cinematic equivalent of a guy wearing a clown costume and alternately blowing a trumpet while screaming Bible verses on the street corner. It's annoying and pretentious, but at least it isn't boring.

And yeah – there are gonna be SPOILERS in this one!

To be fair, there are some decent parts to this... the directing is nice and can have a rather uncomfortable claustrophobic feel to it, and the acting is good. The first half or so is a decent enough curiosity, telling an odd story of a couple trying to keep up a perfect house and stalled writing career when a stranger (Ed Harris) comes to the door and ends up staying with them. Everything is creepy and foreboding enough that you want to see where it goes – though later on, when the guy's wife shows up, it turns out the scariest thing in the movie is really just marital insecurity over whether or not Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are going to have kids.

Mostly, the tension in this comes from how much everyone treats Lawrence like shit – her character is just constantly stepped on in this. It's revealed that Ed Harris is a big fan of Bardem's poetry, I guess – and he's also dying of cancer.

Then things take a bizarre turn when Ed Harris's two psychotic sons come to the house and have no problem at all getting into a violent fist fight over their father's will, or some shit like that, and it ends as one of them kills the other. Bardem and the family go with him to the hospital while Lawrence cleans up the blood. What a good wife she is. I would have just fucking left.

And this is really where the movie starts to lose me and the problems start to become apparent. What happens next is a pretty crazy parade of people who know Ed Harris' character come and stay at the house to mourn the dead son while waiting for the funeral. They partake in all kinds of merry funeral activities like having sex in the bedroom, having sex on the stairs and trying to have sex on an unstable kitchen counter that explodes through the wall and rains sewer water everywhere – just good that these assholes are keeping things proper for the funeral mood. They have no logic or reason to it of course; they're just unrealistically nasty, because they have to be for this to work at all.

Lawrence, after like 20 minutes of screentime trying to get them to calm the fuck down and listen to her, finally melts down and screams for everyone to leave. I guess this was all it took. Why didn't she just lose her shit earlier then? Apparently that's the only thing these people will respond to. Not the dead guy they apparently knew – just a random woman losing her shit.

But seriously – this is one of the movie's problems, honestly. I just can't see the character or logic in what she's doing here. She's way too passive about everything. And I know – it's the metaphor of it all, about how she's supporting her husband even though it's tough. But that just doesn't make a good movie for me. Her actions, and the plot as a whole, only seem to exist to serve the metaphor. Everything is just about that message; there's no actual insight into the character. Lawrence is just moved around like a chess-piece so Aronofsky can say look at this message I have, and while all fiction is sorta like that, it really does come off as too transparent here. It's just too easy of a story when you can handwave away anything by saying it's the message! I just find stories more interesting when they're well-constructed around how people actually act in the modern civilized world around each other.

Then things get even worse and more insane when Bardem completes his work of poetry and then, without apparently sending it to anyone or advertising, people begin coming there on a pilgrimage to worship him for his art, even going so far as to set up churches and start treating him like a God. And before you get any crazy ideas, no, this has nothing to do with how Aronofsky sees his own art...

Things do get slightly out of hand when bombs start falling on the house randomly and people get lined up and executed like some kind of African jungle war prisoner ritual or something. Yes, I'm serious – you didn't click into another movie review. It's all very over the top and, while it's entertaining for how batshit crazy it is, you start to check your watch after a while. How long is this gonna go, anyway? I'm an American – we see this shit on TV all day.

Lawrence has the baby and Bardem insists on taking it from her to show to the raving hordes of religious nutballs who now worship him as a God. Within like, a few minutes, they tear the baby apart and eat it, which I am really curious if they got the anatomy right. We should consult some scientists. It would be a shame if the movie got this part wrong – would totally ruin its credibility.

Lawrence, after she gets the shit beaten out of her in a gruesome scene even I have to admit was effective, burns down the house and finally kills everyone except for herself and Bardem – curiously without a scratch on him. He carries her through the house burnt to a fucking crisp, and then takes her heart, the last thing she has left to give him.

Then it turns out Bardem is actually using her heart to restore his entire home to exactly how it was before - he is some kind of vampire or something, I guess, and while I get what the movie is saying here, about artists feeding on others' generosity, it is kind of funny, you have to admit. I think it's humorous that this is how this movie ended.

And I get it, okay – I get the message here. It's saying a lot about the tenets of marriage, especially to one so drawn to art, and the differences between how the archetypal Man and Woman act. Some of it is at least passably interesting commentary, not coming off as anything too dumb or base-level.

But there's just no real meat to this as a movie – all there is is the message. Everything is totally in service to that message. And that means basically nothing that actually happens in the movie has any significance. It's all just metaphoric, anyway; every bit of what happens. The rude people treating Lawrence like shit, the bombs falling, the execution, the eating of the child – it all just passes over with the airy, transparent feel of a ghost, because it doesn't matter. Nobody talks about the repercussions behind any of it, and the people don't act like real people, because they're all just chess-pieces and mouth-pieces for Aronofsky's message. It all exists only because Aronofsky needed to get a point across, which consequently comes off extremely heavy-handed.

I just find this a dull, almost immature way to write a movie. Personally it didn't gel with me. I know some people really liked it – such is the nature of taste. I like movies that treat the characters as more nuanced and complex beings. This one didn't do that for me.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cinema Freaks Live: A Ghost Story (2017)

Here's our Cinema Freaks Live video for the movie 'A Ghost Story.' I've been preoccupied with other things like the pursuit of money to pay bills and shit lately. So I hope this will tide people over. More reviews soon!