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Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Hellboy (2019)

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

I’m not gonna totally contradict the conventional wisdom that HELLBOY (2019) is bad. I kinda thought it was bad for a while. But then it sort of won me over. I had more fun than expected, and talking about it with other people made me realize that yeah, overall I think I liked it.

Yes, it’s sloppy and choppy and takes itself less seriously than I’d like. I wasn’t surprised to read that there were tensions with the producers and that director Neil Marshall (THE DESCENT, but also DOOMSDAY) didn’t have final cut. The many rock ‘n roll needledrops (including a Spanish version of “Rock You Like a Hurricane”) and electric guitars on the score by Benjamin Wallfisch (IT, SERENITY) make it seem like it’s making a joke out of folk tale stuff that I think would be much cooler if treated respectfully, and the combination of a lower budget and higher volume of digital FX than Guillermo Del Toro’s two movies make it look chintzy by comparison. But there are tons of cool monsters, funny lines, colorful bits of mythology, and a splattery, lowbrow rowdiness that’s pretty fun whether or not it’s in the Hellboy spirit. (read the rest of this shit…)

Crawl

Monday, July 29th, 2019

Both the weakness and the strength of CRAWL is how simple and slight it is. On one hand, I felt like it was already dissipating from my brain by the time I got home. On the other hand it’s refreshing to see something that just gets in there and gets it done and says “okay, bye.” It’s a monster movie meets disaster movie – alligators attack a house during a hurricane – but it doesn’t fuck around with any before and after or unneeded explanations.

When Haley (Kaya Scodelario, CLASH OF THE TITANS) gets out of the opening credits swimming practice, the hurricane is already approaching. When she tracks down her not-answering-his-phone dad (Barry Pepper, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA) in the crawlspace under her childhood home, he has already been bitten by a huge alligator. I think only one sentence of dialogue is spent on speculating how the gators got in there (later confirmed visually), and not one word on why they’re so big. It takes place over one day, it’s all over in 87 minutes and it concludes with a freeze frame. No wind-down, epilogue or sequel tease. That’ll do, pig. (read the rest of this shit…)

Midsommar

Monday, July 8th, 2019

MIDSOMMAR is the new one from HEREDITARY writer/director Ari Aster. It’s about a group of drugged out (and in some cases horny) young people running into some craziness during a summer vacation, so hopefully nobody will pretend it’s not a horror movie.

It’s very much in the vein of Aster’s first one, because it has weird and ridiculously detailed cult rituals, meticulously designed sets and camera moves, slow ominous dread building to big/crazy/gory payoffs uncharacteristic of modern arthouse horror, superb acting performances, an emphasis on tense relationships and heavy emotions, and an undercurrent of dark, uncomfortable humor that got a bunch of big laughs in the audience I saw it with (though, if HEREDITARY is any indication, people will tell me I imagined that). So it’s a similar template, but a very different palette, because there’s nothing supernatural and there’s not much darkness. It takes place in an old-timey village in Sweden where everyone wears white, it’s sunny all day, and the nights are short and never get all the way dark. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Dead Don’t Die

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy THE DEAD DON’T DIE is… I mean, it’s a zombie comedy by Jim Jarmusch. Which is unexpected. When the trailer came out I couldn’t tell if they were trying to mislead us or if Jarmusch had made something totally different from his other movies. The answer is in the middle, leaning toward the first one. It feels closer to normal Jarmusch than to, like, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It’s high on oddness and quirk, low on concept, plot structure or traditional resolution. Compared to ZOMBIELAND or TUCKER AND DALE or something the humor is bone dry and the pace is molasses slow.

But by LIMITS OF CONTROL standards it’s an action packed thrill-o-rama. It has a whole bunch of zombies digging out of graves like Thriller or RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, pulling out people’s intestines for a snack, and getting their heads chopped or blown off. They’re respectable zombies, too – o.g. slow shambling style, some personality to them, one played by Iggy Pop (DEAD MAN, THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS). There’s one pretty distinctive touch in that they emit puffs of dust from their wounds. I imagine Jarmusch worked with more FX people on this than on all his other movies combined. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mom and Dad

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Brian Taylor is the former camera operator and guy who played “Young Man” in THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN who, with partner Mark Neveldine, wrote and directed CRANK, CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE, GAMER and GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. The CRANKs are beloved by many, and feature some fun ideas and a game Jason Statham, but when I watched them a decade ago I could not abide their intentionally obnoxious why-are-you-hitting-yourself-why-are-you-hitting-yourself stylistic and comedic fart-in-the-face. GAMER I despised even more because it tried harder to work as a high concept action movie and tried less to make it possible to have any clue what you are ever even looking at. And GHOST RIDER I don’t think they were happy with and it’s not very good but I liked some of what they did.

But in 2017 Taylor made his solo directing debut with MOM AND DAD and for my money this is his best movie. (He has subsequently done two seasons of a SyFy series called Happy! which I’ve heard some good things about.) It’s not like he’s changed what he’s about. He’s still using gimmicky camera moves, cheeky needle drops and spastic cutaways, and you better believe he’s gonna repeatedly slap you across the face with bursts of rockin guitars and blip bloopin dubstep electro-burps (score by Australian DJ/producer Mr. Bill). But it feels more under his control, more like a storyteller strategically employing chaos in service of a story, less like a dude with no pants on blowing two airhorns in your face and uncontrollably giggling about how funny it is that he’s doing it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Child’s Play (remake)

Monday, June 24th, 2019

You all know the story of the 1988 horror classic CHILD’S PLAY: a single mother buys her son the talking doll he wants for his sixth birthday, she brushes it off as imagination when he claims the doll is telling him weird things, a babysitter gets killed and because of the tiny footprints at the scene the police suspect the kid did it. We only see glimpses of what the doll is up to, but we know that a cornered serial killer named Charles Lee Ray performed a voodoo ritual and his spirit is hiding out in there. And the mom goes from worrying about what’s wrong with her son, to worrying she’s losing her mind for starting to wonder if he’s right, to the total shock of seeing the doll walk around and talk to her and stuff. And now she has to stop this supernatural threat that no one will believe her about before the killer transfers his soul into the body of her son.

This new movie called CHILD’S PLAY that is officially considered a remake is not that story. You still got a single mother (Aubrey Plaza, INGRID GOES WEST) trying to make ends meet working at a store, and she still has a son named Andy (Gabriel Bateman [ANNABELLE]), who she buys a doll named Chucky. But Andy is 13 years old (huge difference) and the doll is an A.I. infused walking and talking robot (also huge difference) and he is not possessed by Charles Lee Ray or anyone else (hugest difference). So there’s no secret, everybody knows it walks around and talks to you and stuff, and the kid is not young enough to be confused by it. Instead of dealing with the classic “no one believes me” theme (until it’s implausibly shoe-horned in near the end) the tension comes from the kids (he has friends in this) making the poor decision to try to hide things from the adults, even though Andy is friends with a nice cop who could help him (the great Brian Tyree Henry from Atlanta, WIDOWS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Us

Monday, March 25th, 2019

If you haven’t seen Jordan Peele’s second movie US and you’re just wondering if I recommend it, the answer is yes. Personally, I loved it. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same, or as strongly.  Not everybody’s gonna be looking for the same things. The record breaking opening weekend proves Peele is still playing to more than just the people who go to lots of horror movies, and it’s hard to know what anyone will demand from the followup to a small horror movie so broadly popular it broke all rules by being nominated for best picture.

I think this is one with all kinds of fascinating things going on beneath the surface, as we now expect from Peele and his “social horror,” but that’s not the primary thing I’m looking for. It also really speaks to me just with its directorial style and the bugged out horror ride it takes us on.

I don’t want to write anything tip-toeing around those things they held back in the marketing. I’m thankful the trailer didn’t give away the whole game. So I’ve written a VERY SPOILERFUL review for after you’ve seen it only. I hope if you haven’t seen it you’ll come back after you have. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Ranger

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

THE RANGER is a pretty solid, pretty simple little horror movie about some punks in a remote cabin running afoul of a psychotic forest ranger. It’s a little more serious than that sounds, but in an interesting way, not a pretentious one. I believe it takes place some time in the ’80s, because there’s a Walkman but no cell phones, but otherwise it could take place any time in the last 35 years or so. Punks are timeless.

The story centers on Chelsea (Chloe Levine, The Defenders), whose family owns the cabin. She was there as a little girl when her uncle (Larry Fessenden, the Stan Lee of indie horror) died under grisly and not-yet-fully-explained-to-us circumstances. Now she gets pushed into bringing her friends there to hide out after her shithead boyfriend Garth (Granit Lahu) stabs a cop during a police raid at a punk show. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back

Monday, February 25th, 2019

I remember REST STOP (2006) being a decent DTV horror movie. I remember nothing else. I thought maybe it was about a slasher who hides in a rest stop restroom or something. I don’t know. So the opening of the sequel, REST STOP: DON’T LOOK BACK (2008) was a little befuddling. It starts in 1972 on “The Old Highway,” when a “Yes Jesus Loves Me” singing family picks up a hitchhiker in their RV. Weirdo mother Diane Salinger (CREATURE) ends up seducing him and then screaming in delight when her husband (Michael Childers, SOUTHERN JUSTICE) catches them together and kills the guy. The family – also consisting of twin sons and a disfigured dwarf – delightedly bury the body at a (the) rest stop, but suddenly the guy they’re burying appears, chops them all up, and buries their bodies.

Okay, so it’s a ghost movie, I don’t remember this at all. (read the rest of this shit…)

Happy Death Day 2U

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

HAPPY DEATH DAY was a well-executed take on a fun premise: a slasher GROUNDHOG DAY where mean sorority girl Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe, LA LA LAND) has to keep reliving her birthday until she figures out who the fuck keeps stabbing. As she investigates everybody around her she starts to understand their lives better and be nicer to them. Except the one who killed her, who she kicks out a window. I wished it had been Rated-R to take gory advantage of the “heroine dies repeatedly” gimmick, but they made it work, largely because Tree is such a compelling character. Like Bill Murray in that other time loop movie she gets to be a fun asshole, which is so rare for a female lead.

In the sequel we get to see a little bit of the creepy baby mask, but the mystery of who’s stalking her is pretty much irrelevant. Sure, they revisit it in alternate timelines where it’s different people behind the mask, but there’s not as much suspense to be wrung out of it, so it shifts a little away from the horror comedy and more into sci-fi comedy, again made fun by the character of Tree and the performance of Rothe. If anything she’s even a little better in this one. (read the rest of this shit…)