Friday, January 12, 2018

The Best Movies of 2017

I honestly had a hard time narrowing down what I wanted to put on this list this year. There were so many good movies that it was tough to choose - in the end I went with 13 movies as opposed to 10. And even beyond that, it was tough to really order the fucking things. I think the majority of films on this list are about equally good, and the numbers are mostly a formality. The top three are definitely in the right order, though.

We got some of just about everything this year, and I was happy to have seen pretty much all of these in a theater. Like every year, these are the films that made me remember why I enjoy going to the movies so much.


13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Marvelous, sweeping, grandiose sci-fi epic. This is the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back, with compelling character development and drama and explosive, fast paced action making for a generally rich, engaging cinema experience like these movies should be.

12. It

Easily my favorite Stephen King adaptation yet. This is a vibrant and evocative film that brings the book to life – with its childish curiosity as well as the creeping horror underneath, It (2017) captures what King was doing perfectly. I can't wait for the second part.

11. The Bad Batch

A unique film from up-and-coming director Ana Lily Amirpour, this film engages in both wanton violence and gore as well as majestic, romantic scenes, and comes out an extremely interesting, colorful viewing experience.

10. The Disaster Artist

James Franco's adaptation of this book about the making of 'bad cinema classic' The Room is several things all at once – a love-letter to the film's bizarro legacy, a mulling on art and success and just a funny fucking movie. Brilliant stuff, especially since I didn't think they'd be able to make a good movie out of the source material.

9. The Shape Of Water

Finally, a Guillermo del Toro movie to match the brilliance of Pan's Labyrinth from over a decade ago. This is just a well-rounded, kick ass movie, with romance and drama and supernatural intrigue all over it. It's a simple story done up with an attention to detail that makes it a full, rich cinematic experience.

8. The Florida Project

A heavy film but an important one, this depicts poverty right on the edge of my home-town Orlando and the famous Disney World. Raw and visceral, this film doesn't pull its punches and delivers a memorable and haunting experience. We all need to do better at helping people and shouldn't need a movie like this to show us that.

7. Lady Bird

Another wonderful comedy this year – Lady Bird is a coming of age story about a teenage girl in a small town, and while you've seen films like this before, they're rarely so well-written or incisive as Lady Bird. This is a film that bursts from the seams with wit and personality and good humor.

6. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright is a great director and Baby Driver – his first totally original script done all on his own – is a marvelous spectacle. Fun action, great acting and inventive, kick-ass music and sound editing make this a treat for every sense you have.

5. The Big Sick

Just a wonderfully written and directed film about the real life of comedian Kumail Nanjiani and how he married his wife – involving his Pakistani heritage and a mysterious illness on her part. There was really nothing wrong with this and it worked because it's funny, personable, warm and very human.

4. Get Out

For those who say there are no original ideas left anymore, I'd offer up Get Out as a counterpoint. Part horror, part comedy and part social commentary, Get Out is tricky to define, but not everything has to have just one genre. It's a powerful film about the black experience and director Jordan Peele is one to watch.

3. I Don't Feel at Home In This World Anymore

A wonderful film that tackles feelings of alienation and unlikely friendship with a very human, down to Earth angle and great character writing. Plus a bizarre crime story. This was a delight from beginning to end and I can't stop watching it.

2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Masterfully complex, this is Martin McDonagh's best film yet. It masterfully weaves issues of justice into an off-beat comedy with a lot of shocking parts. This movie subverts every expectation you have and comes out beautifully, surprisingly human for it.

1. Colossal

My favorite movie this year was an oddball tale so strange I can barely describe it to people who ask. It's about a girl who can conjure up a giant Kaiju-like monster in Seoul, South Korea. But it's also about power, about corruption and about perspective and how men and women navigate power dynamics. It's compelling stuff, and I notice new things every time I see it. It's a singular, unique tale and had a very specific story and goal in mind. I find it endlessly fascinating. Movie of the year for me.

There were also some other movies I wanted to include here, but figured 13 was a nice and neat enough number and didn't want to mess that up, Here's some runners-up:


A killer action flick and a superhero film that digs into the gorier, less marketable side of the genre. A simple story but a powerful and memorable film.

Wonder Woman
With how bad the other DC movies have been lately, this was a breath of fresh air. Really well-written, well-directed and well-acted.

A powerful, classic-Hollywood-style epic about race in the 1940s. This had some slightly Hollywoodish moments as it built to the climax, but the real meat of this movie is the sheer day to day minutiae of the weighted relations of white and black people back then. If this doesn't make you angry, you're not paying attention. A sweeping and powerful film.

Gerald's Game
The best Mike Flanagan film since Absentia, this adaptation of a challenging Stephen King novel succeeds on how suspenseful and atmospheric it is. It's a hypnotic and daring horror movie and one of the best of the year for the genre.

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Disappointments and Worst Movies of 2017

Well, it's that time of year again - when we pass the Godlike judgment on the movies of last year, as if random bloggers' opinions somehow mean everything. But really, none of this truly means anything - it's just the opinions I had all year, and hopefully you'll glean some cathartic entertainment out of this list, if nothing else.

First up is disappointments. There were just a couple of movies this year that I wanted to be good but they didn't live up to what I'd hoped.


Thor: Ragnarok

This wasn't bad, and when it focused on the lead characters bantering and riffing off one another, it was quite fun – director Taika Waititi is good at that sort of thing. But it also had a super generic villain and serious side of the plot. This shit was like someone thought we'd never heard of Hamlet or something. Sorry – I need more than that.

Blade Runner 2049

I really wanted to love this, as Denis Villenueve is my favorite modern director and I've only recently fully “gotten” the original Blade Runner. But this was a lot of gorgeous visuals in service to a boring story that didn't really expand upon anything the original did – 30 years and all we got was a slightly scrambled rehash of themes from that movie. A dull performance by Ryan Gosling doesn't help.

And now the worst of the year - holy shit, there are way more than usual. What a year. Let's not waste any time and just get into this right now!


9. A Cure for Wellness

A truly ridiculous movie that, in spite of its exciting scenes, is entertaining mostly for how dumb it is and how unbelievable every choice the characters make. It goes on too long and just gets worse as it does so. You'll be tearing out your hair at why the main characters don't just leave this insane asylum – because, of course, there wouldn't be a movie otherwise. The ending twist was probably the worst, but the whole thing is a ghoulish slice of over-done cheese.

8. Mother!

I felt odd about putting this very artsy film from director Darren Aronofsky on a list with some of the rest of this – unlike some of these, this had a clear ambition and was trying to accomplish things. But for me this just didn't work. It treated its characters as chess pieces in service to an allegory, and there just wasn't any real humanity in this, no true complexity. After its two hour runtime was done I felt like I had just been preached to rather than entertained.

7. The Bye Bye Man

A basically objectively awful horror film, hitting every box of cliché and bad writing you'd expect. Like a mutant spawn of every piece of trash I ever reviewed. So bad it's almost funny but is then just bad again.

6. Split

People praised this M. Night Shyamalan vehicle for not being as bad as some other Shyamalan travesties in recent years, but rest assured I am here to tell you he's still a complete fucking hack.

5. Free Fire

Like last year's Hardcore Henry, this was a completely vapid and soul-sucking movie that asked the question 'what if we removed all plot from an action movie and just gave you the shooting scenes?' The answer is that you get an unwatchable movie.

4. Downsizing

I reviewed this a few weeks ago, so go check that out – but this was an infuriatingly pretentious, directionless mess, and director Alexander Payne seems to have completely stepped out of his comfort zone... too far, even. To the point where he's risking being eaten by wolves out there. He should come back to his comfort zone.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales

This was a completely soulless Product™ of a movie, and every choice just seemed to be made to pander to the dumbest levels of the audience. There was nothing about this that was funny or exciting in any way. Johnny Depp is superbly annoying.

2. Justice League

Another movie that exists purely as soulless corporate Product™. Basically Zack Snyder playing with action figures again. An enervated, generic plot and bad characters make this a true slog to get through, and even the action gets boring. Pretty much every single thing about this was mediocre and all of them combined make the movie horrible.

1. Alien Covenant

This just sucks hard. A superbly dumb plot that manages to both rip off the original and be stupid in its own way, which is pretty amazing... this is the worst movie of the year simply because it had nothing redeeming about it, and every single choice made contributed to its horrendous, hacky quality. This is just the pits and I hate it. So it is the worst of this year for me.

Well, that's the 'worst' out of the way - and now we can move on to the best movies of the year, as it's usually better to end on a good note, after all...

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

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Right from the title, this is suspect. That's a seriously unwieldy, awkward title – not sure there'll be any T-shirts of that one. And there also won't be any T-shirts because nobody would ever want to touch such an appalling film. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a miserable film and I am here to tell you why.

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller

I guess this is one of those 'evil kid' movies that was for some reason popular through the years – like the Omen, the Good Son, and so on. Only this time he gets to grow up and we see that it's 100% what you'd expect, a violent sociopath that makes American Psycho look like a well adjusted individual. Who needs surprises in a movie anyway, right?

The movie is done in a jumbled fashion where scenes are shown out of order, for no real discernible reason. I guess they wanted to create some kind of tension or mystery, but the effect this creates is just a simulation of walking into a meeting halfway through and missing all context. For like the first 20 minutes, I was just scratching my head – it was too difficult to tell what the actual story was. There are a few scenes of Tilda Swinton's main character Eva being bombarded with red paint on her house and screamed threats that she's a murderer, a few scenes of her and John C. Reilly as the husband playing with small children and some others of Eva in some other country doing activist work. None of it is put together well. It's like if a small child holding a jigsaw puzzle sneezed and dropped all the pieces everywhere, and then we just made that into a movie to placate him.

I guess eventually we start to see the real story – Eva's son Kevin is, shock and awe, a weird, bad kid! He does wacky shit like mess up Eva's paintings and cry all the time when she's holding him. Wow. What a truly horrible thing and you deserve sympathy more than other people. Though there's at least one scene where she's holding him as a baby and says, with real malice, that she was happy before Kevin was born and now just wants to cry all the time I guess. Gee, real surprise he didn't turn out well... we never return to this again, but honestly, I'd love to see a smarter movie actually tackle bad parenting like that. Too bad this one isn't it.

The movie isn't a fan of brevity or getting to the point, as we cycle through endless vague time-hopping scenes, like a drunk Dr. Who episode, switching from a miserable and enervated looking Eva trying to keep afoot when everyone hates her, to Eva with her family and kids in the past. There are a lot of just boring as fuck scenes of Eva in some office building that finally hires her. And there's one set at Halloween when an army of awful children pound on the windows screaming for candy – Jesus. Where do kids act like this? I want to know so I can recommend we quarantine that hellish place for all of time.

When it isn't showing those pointless scenes, you get downright awful and miserable scenes of Eva trying to relate to her hopelessly sociopathic son. I love the one scene where she's telling him he can decorate his own room to show his personality, and he goes “what personality?” The kid's delivery is just so hammy and the line itself is such dogshit that I'm tempted to say the kid could've done better if he wrote his own dialogue.

There's also a scene where Eva is teaching him to count and, to prove he can, counts from one to 50 in a very obnoxious manner, and then shits his pants. I guess the pants-shitting was meant to rebel against his mother. Truly this kid is the next incarnate of punk rock. Then he farts as he's walking away and she throws him against a wall, breaking his arm. More of those amazing parenting skills! I'm amazed this woman could ever create a child who wasn't well adjusted!

Honestly, I get it – the kid is “just evil.” It isn't the mother's fault because this is a stupid movie that doesn't care about actually saying anything. This is just agonizing, dull scene after agonizing, dull scene of the kid tormenting her and, after she breaks his arm, basically blackmailing her. There's a scene where he makes her go home instead of getting something she needs at the store because of that. Wow, what a riveting scene if you're 89 years old and in a coma. A real nail-biter.

It isn't any better when they grow up and there's a second kid born – if anything, it gets worse when Kevin is a teenager because now he is as pretentious as your average dude-bro atheist philosophy “expert,” only also a psycho fuck. There's a scene where he jerks off in front of his mom, if you were wondering if there was. I know you were. And there's one where he gives her computer a virus. All of these scenes are as bad as any bad movies you ever saw. There's no redeeming value.

I especially love the scene where Eva takes Kevin out for a day for them to just talk, because it's everything bad about the movie – there's one part where they're at some outside eatery and Eva totally randomly says she hates fat people because they're just fat due to eating too much and are unhealthy for that reason. It's totally out of nowhere. Like a scriptwriter just had a bunch of hateful shit he wanted to get off his chest.

Then, at another restaurant later, Kevin shows off those college atheist philosophy reading skills again and pompously “predicts” what his mother is going to do – scold him for fucking girls and then cry because she drank too much wine. It's a carnival of dog shit writing, just terrible garbage spewing everywhere like a malfunctioning sewer. But then, that IS the movie.

Perhaps the crowning moment of awful parenting goes to John C. Reilly as the dad. After an entire movie where he has done nothing except scoff at Eva and say she's dumb for thinking Kevin is bad, he gives Kevin a fucking bow and arrow for Christmas. I can see liking his son – but for Reilly to see that dead-eyed piece of shit he fathered no doubt under the influence of alcohol, and give him a fucking weapon – that's insane to me and the biggest plothole in the film. This kid was never even close to sympathetic, even when Eva broke his arm earlier. He's been shown to be a one-dimensional evil psycho from the beginning. There's no nuance here and it's just crazy that his dad is so blind to this.

It's no surprise that the whole thing ends in a school shooting? He takes a bow and arrow to school like the only angry fucker in America to not have money to buy a gun. He isn't even the real deal – how many of these guys get their sole weapon from their fathers? I think this kid is weak as hell.

I'm making a lot of jokes here, but hey, the movie isn't taking this issue even remotely seriously. What's the message here? A bad kid will turn out bad if you parent him in a terrible way, I guess, and even that's a stretch to say there's any message at all. There's no real exploration of why he turned out that way or what we can do about it – all the movie wants to do is show shocking things for no reason. So fuck that.

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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Downsizing (2017)

This movie looked something like a quaint, oddball little sci fi – and it was directed by Alexander Payne, who's made a lot of movies I enjoyed like Nebraska and Sideways. It had an interesting premise and the trailers looked fairly fun, so what could go wrong? Apparently, a lot. Pretty much everything in fact.

Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Matt Damon, Hong Chau


It's about a future world where, to curb the effects of global warming and population overload, humanity finds a way to shrink themselves and drastically reduce their waste, carbon footprint, etc. Which sounds like an interesting concept. The only problem is that this is the kind of movie that doesn't know how to tell that story. Just a little qualm, ya know, a tiny problem.

We start off with a sort of quick rundown of how the technology and science behind the world existed – it was, uh, invented by scientists. Wow. I never would've guessed. Totally worth not just doing a text crawl or having a minute of exposition in the beginning, right? I love that they show the first families who underwent the procedure to become small, which is irreversible apparently. There's at least one family with small children. I feel like that's a form of child abuse – those kids didn't fucking get a say in that. You're just breeding the next generation of angry rebel kids listening to shitty punk and emo music here.

Then we get main character Matt Damon, who is a bland white guy who cares about the environment. There are some throwaway, kind of obvious scenes where he sees small people and kind of is in awe of it, I guess. There are a lot of time jumps – you see him with his mom for about a minute, then it jumps 10 years and he has a wife. Kind of awkward. You wouldn't lose much if you didn't have the scene with the mom. A bit poorly edited maybe.

It takes over an hour for them to get to the point where they're actually ready to shrink themselves. I'd say this was overkill and a poor use of time, but for me this was actually the interesting part of the film – watching them debate over it and really consider the ramifications is actually a bit dramatic and interesting; words I can't use to describe anything that happens later.

I'm serious – after this, it really does just kind of go off the rails. I was wondering if they were just making it up as they went along – there's not much of a coherent story. I could tell you plot points in conversation and you'd think I was kidding or that I was ad-libbing some shit. But no, everything I'm about to tell you really happens.

So, I guess you get a long scene of preparing Damon to be shrunk – you get to see them strip him naked, take out his teeth and put a douche up his ass, which I guess was a fetish of his. Hey, we're all into something.

Then it turns out his wife doesn't end up going through with it – the character isn't written well enough for this to be totally believable, and it mostly just makes her look like a terrible person for no reason. We never really see her again, so it'd almost have been better if he never had a wife. What a clusterfuck...

Then, no joke, you get close to another hour of boring scenes of him just living as a tiny person. It's infuriating to me that he gets a job at a call center. The whole first half of the movie, he had said he wanted to be this great surgeon, and he worked in a medical position in the “big” world. And there's a plot point that money you had originally is exponentially multiplied when you shrink – so Damon's character is essentially a multimillionaire. All that money and all that time he spent bitching about wanting to be a doctor – and he works at a fucking call center when he shrinks? You have got to be kidding me. That was almost enough for me to walk out of the theater right there.

But it keeps going. For some reason, they decide to introduce a plot point about a Vietnamese woman activist who was apparently shrunk as punishment in prison. Now she lives in the same place Damon does, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. She lost her foot due to a disease, I guess, and Damon, being a complete idiot, accidentally breaks it. So now HE has to work as a maid and clean houses to make up for her incapacitation! Oh the hijinks! Did I mention the comedy in this is bad? It's kind of like if your uncle's jokes at holiday dinners mutated in a lab and came to life.

This character also speaks in a goofy, exaggerated way that comes off like how a low-brow 60s comedy would have played an Asian character. The actress, Hong Chau, does an admirable job anyway, but it's funny to me that a film this much about saving the planet and being progressive in that way doesn't care about being racist.

Then for whatever reason, they end up all going to Norway – is this sounding like a terrible improv yet? Honestly, at this point I was so bored and annoyed with this movie, the only way it could have improved for me was a mass killing spree of most of the characters. Just utter carnage. A bloodbath, with most of these characters knifed to death right before they had the best day of their lives and they knew it. That's what would have made this movie better.

… which made it all the stranger when, in Norway, we find out that the guy who invented the 'downsizing' process is now certain that the world is ending. He and his wife say that. The world ending is now part of the plot of this movie about a shrinking Matt Damon. I can't even properly convey how insane all this is.

So, if for some reason you're not drunk into a coma at this point of the film, I guess the plot NOW is about a weird Amish-esque cult of people led by that founder guy, who have built a bunker to go live in while the world ends. I was really wishing this was actually a prequel to The Walking Dead. Wouldn't that be something? They come out of the bunker and then a zombie immediately eats all of them in one bite, like M&Ms.

But instead all we get is Damon, a spineless creature in the end, just joining this cult. He really has no personality or convictions of his own and just goes along with whatever is right in front of him like a dumb animal.

Fortunately, Damon decides against it at the last minute because he's in love with the Vietnamese lady, and also because he finds out it's going to be an 11 hour walk to the bunker these Norwegians built – honestly, the way the movie shows it, it's mostly because of the long walk.

Then, I guess, he just kind of goes back to the normal boring life he was already living. That's really how it ends – no other big revelations or twists or anything. What a wet fart of an ending...

This was just a bad movie. I really didn't know what to expect – it wasn't this, though. There were interesting parts in the first act, but ultimately the film didn't know what to do with its characters or story, and things went way off track as it kept going. Later on, you get non-sequitur plots apparently attempting to be socially relevant, and for that you need to actually be smarter to pull it off – this movie didn't hit the mark. All in all, they should've shrunk this down to a short film. Well, this has been fun. Bye!

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

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.