Friday, March 12, 2021

Legion (TV show) and how to resolve stories without fighting

I want to talk about the TV show Legion, which I finally finished all of a while ago, but also more in general about the concepts of superhero stories and action and all the other ways you can tell a story than what we get.

NOTE - MILD SPOILERS FOR LEGION AHEAD

Legion, the Noah Hawley vehicle, ran for a few years in the late 2010s and came to an end in 2019. The first season, I bought in 2018, and I found it interesting and visually colorful, but I’d be lying if I said I really connected with the characters. I put it in mind to check the rest but it wasn’t a priority.

But now, of course, I had more time. So I delved into the rest of the show. I found season 2 to be an arresting display, arthouse cinema meets superhero fantasy. I’d never seen anything like it from a superhero medium. It was like they'd taken influence from the old avant garde filmmakers of the '60s and '70s and applied it to this modern thing. I found the ways Hawley and the writers portrayed the various characters and showed development to be kooky and off-beat but also artful, communicating truths and ideas in vivid ways. And the action scenes were interesting because they were pretty much the inverse of what you would expect. In one scene, two characters do an impromptu old-school wrestling match in a dream realm. In another, you get singing, a dance battle and cartoon animations laid over what’s really happening.

It’s all very conceptual. Me describing it here won’t do it justice. But it’s like taking the essence of conflict itself and just doing these creative things with it. Instead of typing out a lot more word salad, I’ll just paste what Hawley himself said, which has in turn inspired my own creative juices for writing recently…

"A fight is a very black and white, two-dimensional thing. We're fighting and I'm trying to beat you and you're trying to beat me. But what if the scene is... part of it is peacocking and part of it is a courtship dance and part of it is fighting because 'I hate that I have to work with you' etc. You can't express that in a fight sequence, but in a dance fight you can.”

I’m just drawn to the idea of conflict being resolved in other ways beyond fighting. Fight scenes have long been a weird thing for me. I like action, sure – but for a long time since I was younger, some types of action just came off perfunctory, even boring. I found myself longing more for good dialogue and themes. You can show a big fight and it’ll look good on the big screen for everyone with their popcorn, but that doesn’t always stick with you forever. Or it doesn’t for me. A lot of the recent MCU movies have this problem – I just find myself sucking in breath and waiting for the fight to be over. Like it’s just obligatory, a fill-in-the-blanks thing that has to be there. They’re also so bloodless and predictable that it isn’t like it adds much anyway.

Don’t get me wrong here. I like violent media as much as anybody. I like stuff brutal and quick and realistic. I love Sicario’s pitch-black bile, and Mad Max Fury Road is a high octane burst of insanity. Blue Ruin is more my speed for a revenge film because it shows you how ugly violence and revenge really are. There's an underlying reason for every horrific thing that happens. That’s worth a lot more to me than your John Wicks, polished and pristine to the point where I just can’t really get invested.

The essence of stories is always one where things are resolved at the end. And not everything needs to be resolved with a big fight scene, as the shows and stories from our childhood told us. I grew up watching a lot of anime – all these big flashy colorful fight scenes to determine everything. In the end, though, it becomes a formula, rigid and ramrod-stiff. Maybe this sounds like me trying to tell you your taste is shit. But really it's more that I am trying to break my own biases from when I was younger. Freeing from a thought-cage, if you will.

As I got older, other stuff just became more compelling to me. Twin Peaks: The Return has a few scenes of utterly warped, psychedelic action in its last few episodes, but that isn’t what the whole series hinges on either. That’s another example that’s inspired me lately. The conflict is fluid and metaphorical, and gives me ideas of transformation and righting the wrongs of the past. The violence is never the focal point. 

Legion ends with its third season, which is the most action-packed of all of them, with the most traditional fight scenes (though I guess ‘traditional’ for this show is still utterly weird for any other one). They’re well done and don’t take away from anything. But the actual end isn’t based on violence – the characters end up subverting things pretty blatantly, and love and forgiveness wins out. That sounds like hippie shit, I know. But it allows the story to come full circle, and makes a stronger point about damage done through the years, about the ways we can grow and change and maybe everything bad isn’t permanent after all.

More interesting ending to me than ‘good guy beats the bad guy,’ you know? This is the kind of thing I’d like to explore more. Stories are damn fascinating to me. There are infinite ways to do them.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Possessor (2020)

This one got a lot of good reviews, but man do I ever not like it! Apparently, this was a movie made by David Cronenberg’s son Brandon Cronenberg, who probably grew up surrounded by surreal body horror props and scenes and it bled into him, and this is what came in lieu of seeing a therapist.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Co-written with Michelle.

Possessor is the kind of movie I haven’t seen in a while, got to say. It’s the kind of thing that made my friends and I keep doing these blogs all those years ago, so inept and infuriating that there was nothing to do but crank up the snark. It was fun, and came with an easy outlet for creativity. In recent years we’ve fallen off a bit, sure, and the general premise seems dated now. But every once in a while – hoo, boy, sometimes something just comes along that reignites the fire.

This is about a weird alternate 2008 – according to Wikipedia; it’s never said in the movie. Why 2008? I can't think of that much interesting about that time period. But then, maybe that reflects the movie as well. Might as well be consistent with the uninteresting-ness of everything.

The main character is a dead-eyed weirdo of a woman who works as a professional assassin. The twist is, her company has this convoluted technology where she can jump into the body of someone else to carry out the kill! I seem to remember decades of time in which hits were carried out by the person themselves, who was unknown to the target. Those were better days.

There’s really no reason to do the body jumping, and also, nobody ever seems to acknowledge that they’re wrecking random peoples’ lives when they do it since those people get blamed for the crimes. The main character Tasya, never shows any conflict with this aspect, nor do any of the people she works with. This could be interesting with deft writing, it could show moral conflict or corporate soullessness and such. But guess what’s missing from this movie?!

I guess they try to sell you that Tasya misses her family who she separated from to do the job, and her boss wants her to cut off any human attachments. Tasya goes back and has sex with her husband and sees her kid again, too, before taking a new job. All of the “character development” is just stated blankly in the dialogue, while the movie and actors do nothing to actually convince you. It’s like the script is the shitty public defender for the most irredeemable defendant alive, the worst, guiltiest and least likable person imaginable.

The main plot is that they want Tasya to jump into the body of this guy Tate who is dating the daughter of some high-up business guy. The job is to kill the daughter and the business guy so the assassin company can buy the business guy’s company? Is that even possible? Sure does seem like a lot of nonsense to go through for this fucking goal, and there's no stated reason what the real endgame is or who's behind it all - just Jennifer Jason Leigh's mid-level management character who barely gets any real dimension to her. It’s like the 80s comedies where dorky scientists would invent these whole complex contraptions that just ended up like, making toast or some shit.

The whole movie is like that – I’m sure she could just get into this business asshole’s office somehow and shoot him and be done with it, but then we wouldn’t have a whole movie of art-school bullshit hallucinating scenes for no reason. Yeah – there are a lot of weird trippy scenes just shoved in seemingly whenever the movie was at risk of getting (more) boring, just eyes being pierced and odd hazy blue people screaming and colors flashing like an epileptic nightmare. They do this like half a dozen times in a less than two-hour movie. I guess it’s supposed to represent something. Really it just comes off as the movie equivalent of filling out your term paper with more white space and periods to inflate the character count.

But yeah – despite this being a fairly clear-cut assassination goal, they can’t just go and do that. There has to be this endless soul-sucking drag of random other shit. Tasya as Tate goes to some weird job where he has to look at curtains in peoples’ houses? It’s never really explained but is an excuse to throw some random sex in there. Then he goes to a party where they all have the worst inane conversations rejected from a Tarantino film. Then some more sex, this time with Tate and his girlfriend. If you really need to see this much sex and nudity in a thriller movie, why not just go watch porn? It's not cool, fun sex. It feels weird and gross in the context of this movie.

The party comes, and the idea is for Tasya as Tate to get thrown out of the party and then come back in and kill everyone. Why not just kill everyone right away? If you already went through the process of doing the whole body swap thing, do you need even more pointless rules? Oh, right, I forgot, padding is needed to give this thing a decent runtime. My bad, so silly of me.

If you like gore, I guess the scene of Tasya stabbing this dude in the mouth and wrenching teeth out is something. But I like gore when it's fun - this movie is about as fun as reading tax documents. It's dour and unpleasant. Everything from the sex to the gore is just lifeless, weird and lame.

I guess the story from here is that Tate fights back against Tasya possessing him and stabs himself to stop it – why was that a possibility? Seems like your tech sucks ass. Just go kill people regular next time. It's DIY. Small business, artisanal stuff. It's more all-American, classic style and we need some of that sometimes.

Anyway, it leads to a fragmented mind where he’s seeing a bunch of stuff from Tasya’s life and feeling like he’s going insane. He kills a few more random people as he tries to figure out what the fuck is happening. These scenes of him with his face twisted in agony, not knowing what’s going on and realizing he’s fucked up his life by being associated with what’s happening now are the only relatable scenes in the movie.

There’s at least thirty minutes of meandering nonsense left. It’s amazing how awful the pacing is in this thing. Everything is so slow and yet there’s not even the minimum attempt to endear you to any character or situation. If you wanted to simulate the feeling of being stuck in rush hour traffic, with the sun beating down as you move an inch every five minutes, and you’ve had to piss for the last twenty minutes, fantastic job.

With the whole mind-swapping thing, there’s a super long sequence of Tate taking some mold of Tasya’s face that looks like it was burned in a car accident. It’s not scary but it is weird and gross and makes me hate living a little more. I love that it's superimposed over scenes we already saw in the movie. This thing is less than two hours and we're reusing scenes. it's like being at a party and trying to avoid the annoying guy who won't quit talking to you. When does it end?

Somehow it ends with Tate finding his way to Tasya’s house and killing her husband brutally with a knife. No real reason for all this, but hey, gore! That’s something, right??? It also turns out the boss lady from Tasya’s job takes control of her son and gets him shot too. There’s a lot of screaming, guns firing and a little kid dies – is this an edgy adult dark movie yet? Please, this is all that’s left in life. It doesn’t matter if the motivations are unclear, there’s no discernible character development and the plot is fuzzier than an out-of-focus 1995 disposable camera. All that matters is that the movie is dark and edgy.

Finally it’s over, leaving me with the vague feeling that I’ve seen some weirdo’s school shooter manifesto translated somehow to the screen. It’s not that I’m against dark films, or avant garde shit. I spent quarantine last year watching every David Lynch and Gaspar Noe movie I could find. I’ve seen David Cronenberg’s old material several times. But Possessor is just so awful in every aspect, from the stiff, vague plot to the deadened, nonexistent characters and right down to the stale, too-cold settings and expressions on the character’s faces. It’s just unpleasant in every single way. I truly didn’t enjoy anything about this at all. No exaggeration.

And sure, in old reviews, as was the case in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was en vogue to bash the creators and make all these hyperbolic statements, this is the worst thing ever, et cetera. And I’m not as about that anymore. Brandon Cronenberg is probably an OK guy and I like his dad’s movies. Nothing personal here. I just think Possessor is the void where any kind of hope goes to die, the thing that fills me with nothing but hate and misery towards everything. But nothing personal. You know how it is.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Frankenstein (2015)

Am I still doing these? Let’s see what happens. I'm posting this with very little editing. I don't know if anyone reads blogs anymore. But this is still here, still heaving onwards like a strange misshapen behemoth forgotten by time. Here we go.

Director: Bernard Rose
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Carrie-Ann Moss

Co-written with Michelle.

Frankenstein is a new adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel from so long ago, because I guess somebody really wanted more stories like this after all this time? This version starts off with very little backstory, just a couple of scientists making a 20-something white dude in a lab. There’s no real info on why they did this, no real details on who they are. Just a fun science experiment. The creature can barely walk and shows no discernible skills, but they take a lot of shots and inject him with sedatives a lot! Then he gets some boils on his face randomly so they decide to kill him.

Sorry, so what was the point then? Doesn’t seem like a very good experiment to me. Luckily the creature, who calls himself ‘Monster’ in this, just breaks free and kills everyone. He gets out and sees sunlight for the first time, and the cops just appear from nowhere like vampires and start firing guns without even asking questions. I give the movie points for a realistic portrayal of cops.

He goes out into the world and makes friends with a dog like it’s a fucking Disney movie from the late 90s. Then he finds some little girl to race sticks in the water with – truly this will be one of cinema’s all-time greatest scenes. He throws the little girl in the water for no reason, which is actually kinda hilarious. She gets out, but there are more cops there almost immediately ready to shoot him without asking questions – these guys are real desperados, man! Living on the edge!

He traipses through some fairly nice looking scenes of the city, until he finds Tony Todd, the Candyman himself, hanging out as a bedraggled blind homeless man playing a guitar under a bridge. This is actually a portrayal of how he's been doing since Candyman!

Anyway, he’s also cool, accepting and can do a lot of shit despite being blind, but doesn’t really have a character aside from that. It’s about as cliché as a movie can get. This stuff is like they were playing Mad Libs in the studio. It’s like they were trying to angle for an Oscar but didn’t know how to make the whole movie, instead of just individual scenes. It’s actually charming in a doofy kind of way.

Tony Todd introduces him to your usual cool, down to Earth hooker who wants to have sex with him. They go to a hotel and the hooker continues to treat ‘Monster’ like he’s a regular dude who just doesn’t talk much, even though he’s actually a catatonic freak show. It’s one of those dumb movie things where it doesn’t make sense why anyone doesn’t just see he’s an abnormality and treat him as such – the movie’s writing isn’t clever enough to sustain it. The bridge is giving out. You can feel the free-falling air meeting you like an old friend…

Anyway, he comes out of the shower naked, completely fucking scarred and with no dick. She freaks out and says she doesn’t want to do anything anymore, and he accidentally kills her. Then Tony Todd’s character comes up and ‘Monster’ kills him, too. The issue with the movie is just that he’s so strong he can do fucking anything. How is this an interesting plot if nothing hurts him and he can just swat anyone around like a fucking King Kong impression? Not very, I think.

He ends the movie by going back to the scientists as they’re about to have sex. They interrupt their good times to go down to the basement and care for him yet again. The dude tries to kill him yet again, also showing him a newer model of the same thing – still no reason why they’re doing this by the way; it might as well be gibberish. The woman scientist then tries to stop the dude from killing ‘Monster,’ but the dude ends up slashing her gut and killing her. They were having sex before this – that’s just funny to me now. What a tumultuous volcanic relationship. What a weird dynamic.

Anyway, that’s the movie I guess. It’s at least not a straight re-telling. I liked a few of the scenes’ camerawork. But overall it was kind of a joke. Why would you make this and title it Frankenstein and then just do it so unpretentious? Why was there no backstory to anything? I don’t need a huge amount – but this literally had nothing explaining any aspect of why these things were happening. That would be fine if the movie was gripping, but really, because he can just beat the shit out of or kill anyone he wants, there’s no drama. It’s like half of a premise became a movie with no vetting.

But maybe the pointlessness is just reflective of how life is now. Of how looking for meaning is really just naive and not constructive at all, and we might as well just go along with whatever weird tides life throws at us. Yeah. Maybe that’s it.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Cinema Freaks 2020 New Horror Recommendations

Enough talk about bad movies. Let’s relish in the good. Halloween is almost here in this year of 2020 when everything is a mess. Why not have some fun with some of the more creative horror you can find recently? Here are a few of my recent favorites.


Scare Me


This is really like nothing I’ve seen – not because of anything it does, but because of what it omits. It’s a horror anthology film like others you’ve seen (Trick ‘R’ Treat, Tales of Halloween, etc), and it references old horror films gratuitously. But unlike a lot of these things, it focuses only on two characters just acting out their stories in a snowy, stormy, candle-lit cabin at night. No cutaways, no other actors. No adornments. It’s just pure storytelling. The movie functions as a love-letter to horror storytelling and to the old classics stretching back decades, digging deep into what worked and what’s been done and why it’s all so captivating. And the way the two leads play off one another is great, with wonderful dialogue. But it also goes the other way too, and works in some modern gender politics and themes. If you’re dead-set against thinking about any of those things, or if anything related to those themes just sounds like woke-scold feminist virtue signaling or whatever the fuck, go ahead and skip this movie. Your loss. More for the rest of us. This made me think and I love watching it do its own absurd thing.


Host


This was made during the pandemic, and is a story pretty simple, one you’ve heard before – some people do a séance, it goes wrong. Only this time it’s done over Zoom and with all the usual things that come with that mess. It’s mostly all women and they’re all good at what is needed for this movie. There’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but refreshingly, the movie cuts out the bullshit and the fat. No cliches or dumb unnecessary parts. Just a solid ghost story. What I appreciated about this is the slapdash, spontaneous creativity. It was made during this awful pandemic. Human creativity shone through the worst of it and made something enjoyable of it. I dig it.


Spiral


Two gay guys in the 1990s move to a mysterious small town where nothing is as it seems. This is a very traditional sort of psychological horror, but we haven’t seen much like it in a few years now. There’s a real sense of darkness and paranoia to this that just works. It’s fun to watch and eerie because you get in the main dude’s head. I’m glad to see more inclusivity in horror movies. Plus the climax is cool as hell. This is just all-around solid.


The Color Out Of Space


Outrageous, vivacious and bombastic, this Richard Stanley comeback and Lovecraft adaptation is entertaining all the way through. Eschewing the idea that all horror films have to look dark and grungy, this is bright and alien - almost obtrusively so. With some climate change references, it's timely enough. But the main draw is the insane roller-coaster ride of the plot and pacing, and the nightmareish way it escalates. This is a funhouse of gleefully occult, indescribable horrors. Check it out.


La Llorona


A very different sort of horror film, about the family of this aging, disgraced Guatemalan dictator dealing with the fallout of his criminal trial. This is about politics and the larger implications of generational violence. It's artful, quiet and subtle. For long stretches it doesn't even seem to be a horror movie, so much as a drama. I think this is inscrutable, poignant and layered stuff.


Find all of the previous movies listed on: Shudder


SiREN


Back in 2011 or so the first V/H/S movie seemed really kick ass, compared to some other shit coming out then. It had a certain fun, schlocky, dark factor to it. This is a whole movie version of the first story from that first movie, about a bunch of guys at a bachelor party who run afoul of this demon chick. It’s fun because it’s just a back to basics horror story. It’s not artsy like some things now, and the writing is still solid no matter what you like. There are a few weird elements – I was surprised to see a psychic element to some of the characters. But that’s cool because overall the whole thing doesn’t rely on tropes too much. Just macabre, creative horror. Go see it.


Find it on: Netflix

Monday, September 21, 2020

Antebellum (2020)

Yup, I'm still doing these things. It's been a while, but we're back.

This is a new horror movie about a modern writer who seemingly finds herself back in the times of slavery somehow. This was billed as something like other recent black-centric horror films like Get Out. But that isn't really accurate in the least.

Directors: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz
Starring: Janelle Monae, Eric Lange, Jena Malone

Co-written with Michelle.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

We start right off in the thick of it – slavery times, complete with some Confederate generals killing a few slaves trying to run away. The main character is Eden, who we see subject to a horrific branding at the hands of this one guy. It’s all hard as fuck to watch. You’re really just sitting there at these parts going boy, this must be building up to some really grand point to make us watch all this horrible torture and killings; I wonder what cerebral, intelligent things this movie is going to give us to make up for showing this!

One girl is pregnant and asked to go and fuck this one soldier, who is made fun of for not being able to talk to her. At first it seems like she’s going to be OK and maybe make a connection with this guy, maybe he could get her out or something. Nope! He goes apeshit and hits her a few times, including kicking her in the stomach. What a completely heinous scene to watch. All these scenes with the Confederates are only gratifying if you picture these guys having bad things happen to them. Get creative! Maybe this guy always feels like he left his oven on and is thus never at peace with the world.

Eventually, after like 30 minutes of this horrific shit, we switch gears and the main girl wakes up in bed, a successful writer named Veronica, living in the modern times with a husband and a kid and everything. Wow! What kind of unpredictable twists are we gonna see to make sense of this? We get a few fairly nice scenes of the family doing regular stuff, which are really just relieving because I didn’t need to see any more fucking slavery scenes. You could have showed paint drying and it would’ve suddenly seemed like a relief.

There are a few weird things happening, though – what’s up with the strange Southern white lady who Skypes her and says a bunch of cryptic stuff? I dunno, and neither does Veronica. And what’s up with the strange little girl in period clothing who says cryptic stuff to Veronica in the hotel elevator later like “you shouldn’t be talking”? Boy, white people sure are cryptic, huh?

Then there’s a scene where the mysterious Southern lady from the Skype call enters Veronica’s hotel room while she’s away and uses the toilet without flushing apparently. And these fucks think they’re the superior race… please…

There’s a fairly elongated scene of Veronica and some friends at a restaurant, in which one friend schools this guy trying to buy them drinks because he sent over something other than champagne. Personally if this happened to me I’d cut my losses and go find someone else to talk to. I dunno. These scenes are well-acted and all, I guess, but the pacing is so slow. It’s like the pacing of waiting for your mom to finish talking to a friend at the grocery store. Get to the fucking point!

Leaving the restaurant, Veronica gets in a weird Uber where the driver cranks up the music super loud and, on the phone, she finds out that there wasn’t an Uber called for her after all. That sends the panic flaring. This is one of the only really effective scares and it’s barely even a scare. The one Confederate jackass pops out from the back like a fucking Freddy Krueger scene and slams her head against the window.

Aaaaaand here’s the big reveal – the whole thing never took place in the 1800s. Actually it was all just in modern times and a bunch of jackass rich people kidnapped black people to simulate slavery, like the world’s most repugnant Civil War reenactment. Why would you want to pretend to live in the 1800s with no electricity, modern toilets, etc? Seems miserable as fuck even if you’re the one in power. I guess the racism is such a powerful drug that they’re willing to wipe their asses with tree bark and sweat all day for it. Anything to own the libs, right?!

Long story short, Veronica kills all the racist conservatives – one of whom is actually a politician, surprise surprise. It’s gratifying to watch her burn them alive and then punch that one white lady in the face a bunch of times. But really, this was what it was building up to? All the torture, rape and whatnot, all for a few passable scenes of violence against the bad guys? That’s kind of like setting your house on fire and then throwing water on it, expecting to get accolades and praise. It wasn’t worth it.

Also, the characters were pretty much undefined. What did we even know about any of them? No real distinct traits aside from racism (for the white characters) and not wanting to be a slave (for the black characters). What a masterpiece of literature.

What was the message here, anyway? Slavery was bad and there are racists in the U.S. who want to keep black people down? Not exactly deep, and the film doesn’t say anything unique or layered about what to do or what the root of the problem is. The twist is that everything was taking place in a section of a preserved plantation owned by this politician guy. How did they kidnap that many people and force them to comply? Were they drugged or threatened somehow? How did nobody with a conscience know about this and stop it almost immediately? The politician guy would’ve had to take a fuckload of time off work to come role play. But hell, a lot of conservatives don’t care about shit as long as their guy is suitably racist, so touche, movie.

Mostly it just seems like an excuse for aimless racist violence. I get it, sometimes art has to show uncomfortable truths. But the second you revealed that plot twist and nothing was actually taking place in the past, what the fuck was the point of any of this then? Mostly torture porn and pointless violence against black people, it seems.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Friend Request (2016)

Friend Request is a horror movie about what happens when you turn down a friend request from a crazy witch on social media.

Director: Simon Verhoeven
Starring: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Connor Paolo

Co-written with Michelle.

If you’ve seen Unfriended, you basically know what you’re gonna get here. It’s one of these ‘college’ movies written by someone who’s whole idea of college was shaped on like, 1990s cheesy sitcoms or whatever. The main characters are all the cool popular kids who have expensive parties, and they post dumb pictures on Facebook of them at the beach, kissing, eating and drinking and smiling!

It’s funny because, while I guess it’s accurate that they’d do this kind of stuff, the writing is bereft of any kind of character or personality. So the whole movie has the effect of being like a bunch of shallow Facebook profiles came to life. That’s pretty funny if it was intentional; but you know it fucking wasn’t.

I'd also like to point out how random the main group is... you've got the one blandly popular white chick, an overweight mixed-race-looking girl, a somewhat fat comedic relief guy, a blonde Karen type girl, and another dude that looks like a stereotype of a 'loner' with a weird haircut and tattoos. It's like a fucking focus group. Make them feel like real people! That might actually lend your movie some humanity.

I guess the story is this girl Laura, basically a wax mannequin that talks, befriends this weird girl with a black hoodie always over her head! The girl, Marina, immediately gets weird as she starts commenting and liking everything Laura posts, sending her strange messages and all that – oh and she has zero other friends. Who the fuck has ZERO other friends? There was nobody else?

It would be easy just to press the ‘block’ button, but don’t tell the movie THAT… instead, they just have Laura unfriending Marina and then going to a big luxurious party that’s about as expensive looking as your average presidential candidate Wall Street fundraiser. Like holy shit. How are we supposed to care about these people? Not really leaning on sympathy here, movie. It’s like this was made by those jackasses that think $170K a year is “middle class.” “Oh, they’re so relatable, they only have TWO pontoon boats!” “You only drink $600 a bottle wine? You fucking pleb!”

But yeah, then the Marina girl kills herself on video after ripping up a picture of Laura! I guess the ghost of Marina posted the suicide video on Laura’s Facebook, too. This causes the police to investigate in the best way possible – by calling Laura into the principal’s office and interrogating her about it. The cops say the video posting thing means she should delete her account, which is the funniest thing in the movie bar none – just the cops officially ordering this college girl to delete her social media. I love that. I'll never write anything that funny.

They also inquire if she knows where Marina's body might be. Isn't that YOUR fucking job, you assholes?

Then all Laura’s friends start to die off. This one guy dies from banging his own head on an elevator wall. Another chick commits suicide in the basement of a hospital – oh, and here you get the requisite Creepy Hospital Scene (TM) that every fucking horror movie has to have, with dark halls and stuff. They all see weird zombie hallucinations and wasps and shit before they die, too. Wasn’t this a movie about a Facebook ghost? Were the writers drinking moonshine the whole time?

There is also this other guy, Kobe, who looks like some kind of weird tattooed drug addict with bad hair. This guy is the stereotypical hacker character who just types in nonsense on any computer and brings up a bunch of technological gibberish and then delivers monologues on how ominous it all is. What a deus ex machina of a character! He also learns about the occult as soon as it’s revealed that Marina is a witch using black magic. Boy, this guy is just a veritable swiss army knife.

Speaking of that, yeah, that’s the origin story for Marina! Her mother was apparently a witch who lived in an orphanage and burned it down – or some bullshit like that. I honestly don’t know. The movie goes through the process of telling us that her pregnant mother, burned to a crisp in the fire, was kept alive just to give birth to her! What a pleasant image for a throwaway back story in a shitty ghost movie!

Then when she was growing up, a bunch of young boys assaulted and attacked her for years. The voice-over says she was doing pretty well against them as it shows them punching her, which is kind of funny. Though apparently later, she had them mutilated or whatever. Good. Fuck those little twerps anyway.

In the real-time again, more of their friends die – including one girl who falls out a window just when Laura and her boyfriend are driving up in the car. Convenient. Nice and snappy. An efficient death... thumbs up on the app rating for the algorithm, for sure.

Oh and I love the gimmick this movie has of showing Laura's declining FB friend count as the ghost posts more things to her account without her consent. It does it even when the fucking camera shows Laura watching her friend in the hospital with broken bones, covered in fucking bandages. Priorities, ladies and gentlemen! Fuck the immense pain. HER FRIEND COUNT IS LOWERING!!!

Then they all have to go to the ruins of this orphanage or whatever, and do you really even care? These dumb ass movies always have the characters going to some erroneous journey to some foreboding looking place. It really just makes the places so much less cool, because now they’re associated with the nonsensical writing and mundane, rote plotting. It’s like the opposite of a travel guide.

One of the only interesting parts of the whole film is when that Kobe guy turns on Laura because the ghost only wants to kill all her friends, not Laura herself. Kobe tries to kill her, thinking it could save his life. This is mildly clever at least, and could have been a kind of subversion from the usual nonsense these movies always have – oh, look, an actual character with a motive that contradicts the protagonist’s! But really I think this was just like a dying gasp of intelligence before the script just goes totally senile; like a brief, painful moment of clarity that something better could have been possible.

I guess Laura then gets killed by the ghost, and the final shot is HER in a weird black hoodie now with a laptop! Implying that the whole thing was actually transferrable. I thought the first girl was just a witch on her own. Now I guess it’s a ghost/possession/transfer sort of thing. I don’t know. I am positive whoever made this just wanted to get it over with to get the money and go save his family from the mafia or whatever.

This movie is just nonsense. The whole thing is all the cliché you ever knew from movies like this, but somehow even more disoriented and droll, like a senile grandpa just wandering in the street. Help this movie get back to its nursing home. It doesn’t need to keep straining itself.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Perfection (2018)

I… uh… you know, I don’t have an intro for this. Just read on and I’ll explain what this is.

Director: Richard Shepard
Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning

Co-written with Michelle.

This one starts off with a girl named Charlotte, whose mother has died and so she can finally go back to playing the cello like she always wanted. She meets her teacher’s new protege, Lizzie, who has been in the New York Times, so that’s cool. Then through a rapid-fire series of scenes of them playing the cello, they drink together and then have sex and are in a relationship enough to go to China together!

Well, you can say a lot of things about musicians. Apparently they move fucking fast. Charlotte says this is the first time she’s ever had sex, since she spent so much time with her dying mother for years. Well, so far so good. I’m sure this will just be a movie about a romance. How sweet.

In China, the two almost immediately have problems when Lizzie starts getting sick. It quickly begins to escalate when they’re on a bus in the middle of nowhere and Lizzie begins to vomit up worms. She wonders if she has that virus that had been reported in China (… you know, I’m not going there for this), and, no, my friend, what you have is apparently much fucking worse. Vomiting up worms – this is some Exorcist shit.

So, OK. It’s a body-horror flick. Cool.

Then the bus driver kicks them off and they just have to wander around in the middle of the mountains with Lizzie dying. She sees bugs exploding out of her arm and Charlotte then immediately produces a giant meat cleaver out of nowhere and goes “you know what you have to do!” Uh, anyone who carries around a fucking meat cleaver and just pulls it out at the ready is nobody I want to be around.

But then the movie ‘rewinds’ itself in a very weird and stupid manner to SHOW US WHAT REALLY HAPPENED! Apparently, Charlotte actually got some hallucinogenics and slipped them to Lizzie, suggesting subtly that bugs were in her skin. Then she also stole a meat cleaver from a restaurant just for the right time to use. This is some psycho shit, man. The character from Single White Female is going “wow, that’s fucked.” Why’d she have to go all the way to China to do this? How did she know the bus driver would just abandon them? I have so many questions. If they had taken her to a hospital, none of it would’ve worked and the whole plan would’ve been shot. I guess it’s just dumb.

So, OK… now I guess it’s a weird revenge/sociopath type of story! Cool! Are you done trying on different genres of films like it’s a department clothing store? I mean, Jesus Christ, this has more personalities than the homeless guy down the street from me.

Then we flash forward a few weeks to back in America, as Lizzie shows up at the music school like a lost orphan with one hand. The teacher, Anton, immediately shows no regard for her well-being at all and basically kicks her out for losing her hand. What a class act! “You suffered a traumatic injury, now GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY SIGHT!” This is the kind of guy who grades child cancer patients’ drawings as ‘mediocre at best.’ What a douche!

So instead, she goes and fights Charlotte at her house in the suburbs – wait, so Charlotte’s whole big plan went like:

1. Go trick girl into sleeping with you.
2. Go to China and drug her and make her cut off her own hand!
3. Go home and live in a suburban home and do nothing.

What a plan! She sure is keeping busy these days. I guess it’s good to have a full calendar. That’s the spice of life.

Then Lizzie kidnaps Charlotte and takes her back to the music mansion where Anton the weirdo music teacher just invites them both back in. It’s revealed through some weird flashbacks that, actually, this music school is a weird rape cult where the teacher makes you have sex with him if you mess up the music! What a twist! We also learn that Charlotte was apparently institutionalized before, likely because of the rape cult stuff, and had electroshock therapy.

What a tasteful plot. I’m glad this movie is really shining a light on the plight of sexual assault victims by showing us a bunch of sensational gaudy bullshit twists. Actually it's trash and uses heavy subjects as fodder to be shocking and garish, making it really very immature.

Like this shit is crazy – Anton and his goons, with Lizzie on their side, have Charlotte shackled to a chair and threaten to rape a little girl if she doesn’t do well. What the fuck am I even watching? Who wrote this down and said ‘yeah, makes sense’?

Eventually, we get the OTHER big twist – that Charlotte and Lizzie had actually teamed up to beat Anton, tricking him into thinking HE had the upper hand!

Christ, this movie is full of twists. It’s like three different movies; a romance, a body horror film and then a rape revenge film. I’m not opposed to the genre switching, but the way the movie keeps on throwing twists in and then retconning everything before it makes this a very frustrating viewing. It's not clever if all you're doing is going "oh, yeah, that thing you thought happened? That didn't happen. I'm smart because my mom said so!" Just tell the fucking story!

But yeah – Charlotte and Lizzie team up and kill Anton, eventually severing all his limbs and making him watch them play the cello together. Just imagine clicking on this part as a random point in the movie after seeing the beginning with the two girls kissing and sleeping together. I know that’s not a hard hitting critique, but man is it funny to imagine.

Also, Charlotte apparently did all the stuff about cutting off Lizzie’s hand to save her from the brainwashing of the rape cult thing. I wonder if she EVER just tried talking to Lizzie calmly about it before pulling off that whole scheme. That would be my big problem if I was in Lizzie’s shoes. “Uh, you couldn’t have just talked to me about the brainwashing and the rape cult over our morning coffee? There was no point where you could’ve brought it up civilly? You had to jump straight to CUTTING OFF MY FUCKING HAND???”

But then, that’s our Charlotte – always such a cheeky rascal!

I just wonder why Charlotte had to do everything the way she did. Couldn't she just have killed Anton immediately at the beginning? That would have probably been easier. Or better yet, find some way to expose him or something. So much could've been avoided, including loss of limbs and PTSD-related trauma. But I guess it was more fun to do the whole hand-cutting-off, rape-revenge elaborate plot!

This movie is terribly bad, but I just find it more fascinating than anything. What brain mash thought this crazy shit up? I want to study it under a microscope and find out what secrets lie within. Maybe it could cure cancer.

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