Welcome!

If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Before I Wake (2016)

JANUARY 12, 2018

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: STREAMING (NETFLIX INSTANT)

If you were unaware of Before I Wake's long journey to release here in the US, you might be baffled by the "Introducing Jacob Tremblay" credit that appears at its end, since, you know, you've seen him in like five other movies. But it's (mostly) true; when the film was shot in 2013, Tremblay had yet to work on Room and become one of the most acclaimed child actors in ages (though he was already in Smurfs 2, which came out before Before I Wake was shot, so I dunno), and it's a shame that the film didn't get the benefit of the wide theatrical release it was once promised. I still recall seeing its trailer quite a few times in theaters, but the bankruptcy of its original distributor (Relativity*) left it in limbo until it was rescued by Netflix, which is rapidly becoming the exclusive place to find Mike Flanagan's films.

Unlike Flanagan's other films this one is only really a horror film in a tangential sense. The plot concerns Cody (Tremblay), a foster child who is bounced around and has seemingly finally found a good home with Tom Jane and Kate Bosworth, who lost their son in an accident (he drowned in their bathtub). However Cody has a strange gift - when he dreams, his visions come to life in the real world around him, sort of like an inverse Freddy Krueger. At first the things he conjures up are pleasant enough - starting with butterflies and eventually their dead son, who gives the grieving parents fleeting moments of reunion until Cody wakes up in his sleep and pops another soda open. See, the kid knows of his gift and seems afraid of it, and it's not long until we know why - his nightmares also appear in the real world, and they're dangerous. So every now and then we get a perfectly good scare scene (in fact I got jolted twice, which is more than I do for most traditional horror), but there's no traditional enemy to overcome or anything like that - it's just a race to help this kid.

So it's more of a fairy tale, possibly slightly closer to horror than Shape of Water (which I loved, by the way) but in that same ball park of "this will be of interest to horror fans, but isn't exactly a horror movie". And I want to stress that, because I'm seeing lots of negative reviews on the film and I can't help but wonder if it's partially due to the fact that the trailers suggest something more in the vein of Boogeyman or even Flanagan's own Oculus. Ever take a sip of a glass of lemonade that you thought was plain water and end up spitting it out? It's not that you hate lemonade - but when you're expecting something else the brain doesn't register it in time. That can happen with movies too, and it's a disservice to the film to sell it as another supernatural creepfest when it's something more dramatic and touching. I couldn't help but remember the film Dragonfly with Kevin Costner, which was also sold somewhat as a horror movie but ultimately, like this film, wanted to dig deeper and maybe make you tear up instead of shriek.

On that note, I'm happy to report I was not as much of a wreck as I have been in the past couple years when it comes to dead kid stuff. I choked up at a particular moment I can't spoil here, but I had no problems with the earlier stuff, where Jane and Bosworth are dealing with their grief in ways both overt (she goes to therapy) and subtle (before we even learn how their son died, Jane installing railings in the bathtub to prepare for Cody's arrival and looking weary at their presence pretty much tells the story, i.e. "Why didn't we put these in for our first son?"). Hopefully this means I'm just adjusting more to being a father and not worrying AS much of the time as I was in the first two or three years, though it's also perhaps due to the fact that this was not a surprising plot point - the trailers tell us that their son died and that Cody's dreams bring him back, and he's also gone when the film begins, sparing us the trauma of getting to know him a bit before he is taken away. Kind of like John Wick; I knew it was about a guy getting revenge for his dog, so I didn't tear up when the poor pooch died like I might for, well, Wonder, which also has Tremblay.

(I haven't seen it yet, but I frequently check DoesTheDogDie.com to prepare myself for such things. I don't even have a dog!)

The other thing that made this subplot work for me was the smart idea of Flanagan to not assign blame to either parent. At first it seemed it might have been Bosworth's fault, because she seems to to be the one having more trouble dealing with it and also is more concerned when Cody takes a bath for the first time, but later on she pins some blame on Jane, who replies "Not fair", suggesting it was actually under his watch that it happened. We never know the full details (and they don't matter), but this allows us to never start to see either parent as "lesser" the way some (including me) probably would for a movie where a child finds his dad's handgun and the inevitable happens - dad's fault, bad dad! The different ways they deal with their grief is what's really important, and it's heartbreaking to see unfold. Jane wants to move on and "replace" his son with Cody by trying to do fun things with him (if you've ever wanted to see Tom Jane tout the capabilities of the Xbox Kinect, this is your movie), while Bosworth knowingly uses Cody's ability by exposing him to multiple photos and home videos of their son so that his dreamed up version will be more accurate. I don't know how I'd deal with this myself, as I suspect most viewers would (and will hopefully never have to find out), so by keeping the blame neutral, we can sympathize in equal measures.

All that said, it's not a home run, and ultimately ranks low in Flanagan's filmography. Not that it's a bad movie, but something's gotta come in last and this might be it (or neck and neck with Ouija 2, another movie that overall I liked). The main issue is the third act, which is where the film's "on the fence" status with the horror genre gets to be a concern. Some of Cody's nightmares cause harm in the real world, and it's a plot point that is never wrapped up satisfyingly, which is quite odd when you consider that one of the nightmare vision's victims is one of Cody's classmates. After the kid is taken, we are treated to not one but two scenes with the police showing up to ask questions, and both times it's completely skipped over how it's handled. One time it cuts from the cops showing up at their house to a little while later when Jane and Tremblay are building a bed together as if nothing happened. What did the cops ask? Why are they suspicious of Cody? Where are the kids' parents in all of this? It's a major development (it's the first time we really see how damaging his nightmares can be) but it's treated with as much fanfare as Jason offing some random in a Friday the 13th sequel.

It also feels a bit like Flanagan (and his frequent collaborator, Jeff Howard) came up with a fantastic premise for a movie and didn't quite know where to take it. When it's contained to just Cody and the parents, it's all good, but as the world opens up more (and, in its most horror-y element, Bosworth goes to talk to one of the former foster parents in a mental institute to get some exposition, which is more cliche than any of the jump scare setups) it just adds questions the movie doesn't feel like answering in a satisfying way. Cody is also put into deep sleep which manifests enough shit to swarm the clinic he's in, so Bosworth running through this place and seeing all sorts of creepy things threatens to not only fully cement it as a horror movie, but a lame one at that. For its first hour we're not quite sure how it will end up, so seeing it end up in a generic CGI-addled landscape is kind of disappointing. As I've said a bunch, a movie can suck for a good chunk of the time but still be salvaged by a great final reel - but a movie that works for a while and then sputters out won't always have enough goodwill to keep it in the "win" column.

But again, it's worth seeing, and didn't deserve the fate it got, though I guess Hush and Gerald's Game being Netflix releases hasn't really hurt their chances at success; that's just my traditionalist mentality at play. Still, as a longtime fan of Tom Jane's I was hoping this film's success could provide a little comeback for the actor, who hasn't toplined a wide release in nearly a decade (The Mist, where his kid's death was DEFINITELY his fault) - he's too interesting a presence to be relegated to all this VOD stuff, dammit! But however it came along, I'm just happy to see him in a normal role again, and now that this has been cleared off my plate I can finally check out 1922, his third Stephen King adaptation (he's a good fit for King's characters - he's easily the most comfortable one in Dreamcatcher, which is no easy task). As for Flanagan, he's already cemented lifetime curiosity status, so a minor entry isn't really the end of the world. In six movies he's made three great ones, one really solid one (Oculus), and two that are pretty good and worth seeing (this and Ouija) - an enviable track record no matter what order they were released.

What say you?

*They had a choice between this and The Disappointments Room, and they went with the latter. I suspect this film might have grossed more than $2.4m.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

JANUARY 4, 2018

GENRE: GHOST, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)

After the confusingly titled Insidious: Chapter 3 - which was a prequel to the other two films - it would be hilarious if there's another entry after Insidious: The Last Key, as the title suggests a certain finality which has traditionally meant nothing in the genre. But unlike the previous prequel, this one leads up directly to the original's opening (in fact, they overlap a teeny bit), so any future Insidious films would have to be prequels to these two entries as well, or abandon the Elise Rainier character played by Lin Shaye, who died at the end of the first film. I guess they could let her help people as a ghost (in fact, such a thing was set up at the still unresolved ending of Chapter 2), but they'd need a living person to pick up the slack, and I'm not sure if the series could retain its appeal of Elise/Lin being a grandmotherly asskicker helping people with their ghost problems if she was one herself.

As I've said a zillion times on this site, the scares in these type of movies don't really do much for me. I can appreciate a well-crafted one (there is indeed a pretty great one here involving a shadow that is supposed to be Lin's, but careful viewers will note that it isn't hers before they make it obvious), but the occasions that I actually jump or even feel my pulse raise when they set off the scare (i.e. have the ghost jump out, usually behind someone) are so rare that I wish I was famous enough for filmmakers to see it as a challenge. "Let's try to scare Collins!" they'd say, and I'd be like "Just rip off The Eclipse!" and they'd say "The third Twilight movie?" and I'd go "No, THE Eclipse, with Ciarin Hinds!" And yes, the first Insidious was one of those exceptions (I still get a few goosebumps thinking about the angry pacing ghost who charges into their room), but even Wan himself couldn't get me again with the second film, let alone his successors (Leigh Whannell on 3, Adam Robitel here), as they all follow a similar playbook when it comes to the spooky stuff and now I can always see them coming. The crowd was jumping and shrieking in all the right spots, of course, but I'm not there to be scared (just hoping they could get me off guard), so as always I just use their reactions to know if the film is "scary" (apparently it is!).

Unfortunately one of the things I AM there for is the ongoing "mythology" of the series, but after part 2's polarizing reaction (even though it's the highest grossing entry, it's the lowest rated one at Metacritic - go figure) they've shied away from the goofier/plot-heavy stuff in favor of letting Shaye and her co-stars walk around dimly lit rooms saying things like "I can FEEL something is in here...". The ties to the other films (more of them here than in Chapter 3) could be removed without it affecting the main part of the film in any way, so if you've never seen the other films and opt to make this your first, you should be fine. Sure, you might find the sudden appearance of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne (in old footage, they didn't bring them in to shoot anything new) to be a bit baffling, but that stuff is confined to this film's closing moments, after its own story has been resolved, so you should be able to use your common sense (i.e. "I am watching a sequel to a film I haven't seen, which must be what this scene is referencing.") to figure out that it's just bridging this film with one of the others. I kept hoping for a bigger twist, like that the demon/ghost/whatever going after them in this film would be the original's Lipstick-Face Demon or something, but accessibility seemed to be the order of the day.

That said, I can't fault any decision-making that leads to "we get to keep Lin Shaye as the star of our successful horror series". Shaye has been an ace scene stealer for over 30 years and rarely got lead roles even in DTV stuff, so to see them avoid the obvious route and follow the Dalton family around in sequels after her character died, they made prequels so that she could not only be kept around, but turned into the lead of this big screen, high-grossing franchise. The gamble has paid off; in fact, if you watched the movies in chronological order (which would be 3, 4, 1, 2) you might even get a bit more suspense out of them, because then you wouldn't know that Elise (as well as Specs and Tucker, her assistants played by Whannell and Angus Sampson) made it out of these two entries unscathed. There's a scene here where Tucker sticks his hand between two blades of a non-functioning fan, and thankfully Robitel doesn't play it up as a potential catastrophe because we know damn well Tucker has his arm in the "next" movie - but a non-privy viewer might cringe all the same (indeed, a couple of audience members did vocalize their concern).

In fact she's even more front and center here than she was in the third film, which still split its time between her and the people being haunted in that film. Things kick off with a slightly overlong prologue featuring Elise as a little girl, with Collector star Josh Stewart as her abusive father. He's not too keen on her ability to see/talk to ghosts, and tries to beat the affliction out of her; a trauma that carries over to the present day (well, 2010) and makes her hesitant to help out a man who lives in that same house and is having a ghost problem. The man is played by familiar character actor Kirk Acevedo, so you might expect him to take on a bigger role once he's introduced, but we stick with Elise and her crew as they investigate his/her house, with Elise finding her old things and drudging up painful memories. He may have made the call, but it's really her personal demon(s) to suss out and banish, and so even before they make it a plot point (minor spoiler: Acevedo's character isn't someone that needs "saving") you'll probably forget about him and not really care if he gets to go back to his normal life once Elise is done her job.

It's an interesting approach, and a big part of why the film is an improvement over Chapter 3. The novelty of "The Further" has worn off, and with the prequel element reducing most of the danger level for our heroes, it was smart to give the film a more character-driven slant than its predecessors. The abuse subplot is not something I was expecting, and not only is it surprisingly harsh (for a PG-13 franchise entry, at least), but it gives the series its first true flesh and blood villain in Elise's father, whose secrets are uncovered throughout the film. Unlike Patrick Wilson's possessed dad in Insidious 2 (i.e. someone we like and who will likely be healed), it seems this guy was just an asshole to start with, and the film's best little twist occurs as a result of his actions (for those who have seen the movie - it involves the woman Elise sees in the bathroom). The new creepy ghost (played by Javier Botet) does his thing effectively, but it's the human villains that stand out and give the film its most true sense of danger. It also boosts the comedy a bit, courtesy of Specs and Tucker, who each get their funniest moments in the series yet (for Tucker it's a would-be hero moment that he abandons; for Specs it's a shockingly good ET impression). Their running gag of hitting on Elise's nieces is a bit odd (especially since she treats them as surrogate sons - doesn't she find it icky?), but the two are so likable it's easy to forgive. The chemistry between the three of them is so endearing it's almost a shame that they spend relatively little time together on their ghost "hunt" scenes - can we get a movie of them just hanging out? It also made the movie kind of melancholy in a way; we see her confront her past and find the strength to move on from it - and we know she's gonna be dead in a week or so when the film ends on her getting the call from the Dalton family.

As for the ghost, his name is Key Face, though Key Hands would make more sense. His signature trick (besides popping up and making BOO! faces alongside the expected musical sting) is to turn his fingers into keys that "lock" his victims' voices, and damned if it's not an effective trick. The sound design in the film is quite impressive, both in these scenes where our characters are muted, and in another sequence where Tucker uses some gizmo to make his and Elise's voices sound like they're on the other end of a shitty phone (so they can communicate with the ghosts on the "other side", I guess). It's also much quieter than most horror films you'll see (well, maybe not A Quiet Place); Robitel and his sound team are happy to take a minimalist approach to even some of the scare moments, and Joe Bishara's score is also less pounding than I recall it being in the other films (take with a grain of salt though, as my memory is poor and I haven't seen the other sequels since theaters). I kind of love that a part 4 of a series that has made over $400m worldwide is notable for being quiet, in a world dominated by franchises that often try to deafen the audience with STUFF! to try to hide the fact that they're not very good.

If this is the end of the series, at least it goes out on a relative high note. None of the sequels may have lived up to the original, but let's not forget that it was an unassuming low budget haunted house kind of movie from a time where Wan was still known only as "the director of Saw" (now he gets his name on the posters for movies he only produces), and it was also before Blumhouse dominated the horror landscape as it does now, seven years later. Now that we get these things every couple of months or so it's harder to get that sense of fresh air that we got with the original, and I can't fault them for shying away from the weirder stuff that was offered in the first sequel when so much of the audience was opposed to it. No one's forcing me to go back for more when I know it's going to be more of the sort of thing I've never exactly shined to, but the fact that I'm still entertained (I even stayed awake, for a 10pm screening! Very rare) and would happily see another suggests that it will be an even bigger winner for the audiences who do jump at the scares and won't give a shit about mythology (the annoying kid next to me certainly didn't seem to understand that the film was taking place before the original). The real world scares and further development for Elise's characters more than make up for the been-there, done-that supernatural business (that said, why is The Further so sparsely populated in these? I liked the Haunted Mansion approach of the original), and I'm glad they closed the timeline loop to challenge themselves if there is an Insidious 5.

Long story short - it doesn't deserve to be in the traditionally red flag "first weekend of January" slot! This ain't no Forest!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Preservation (2014)

DECEMBER 15, 2017

GENRE: SURVIVAL
SOURCE: STREAMING (NETFLIX INSTANT)

As a big fan of Chris Denham's previous film Home Movie (an HMAD book entry, even!), I spent a while looking forward to what he did next. But post-daily HMADing I lost track of a lot of those one-time guys that impressed me, and therefore somehow I didn't even realize his next film was not only on Netflix, but a couple years old at this point. Doh! Of course, if the film was better it probably would have been on my radar, so I chalk up my being late to the party more to the fact that no one had thought to recommend it or even mention it to me (though once I found it I think I remembered Sam from Shudder saying something about watching it ages ago) than me just being out of the loop. Still, it's no fun to be reminded once again that I can't keep up as well as I used to - why is this forgettable movie making me feel old? Screw you, Preservation!

To be fair it's not a "bad" movie by any means - it just didn't do anything I hadn't already seen in other movies, and again - my input isn't as exhaustive as it used to be, so someone who IS keeping abreast of all the films that pop up on Netflix and its peers might even find less to be surprised about here. The best surprise happens in the first few minutes, when we see a pair of brothers driving off to the woods, talking about their dad and letting us know how different they are (one brother is into silly internet videos, the other doesn't even own a phone!). They're talking for a few minutes before we discover someone else is in the car with them: the wife of the cell phone-loving brother, played by Wrenn Schmidt, who I liked a lot on Outcast and was happy to see showing up earlier than expected. Given the brothers' subtly dysfunctional dynamic I was thinking maybe Schmidt would be playing someone they met up with in the woods and perhaps fought over while they battled whatever terror awaited them, which might give the film some interesting angles (i.e. one brother letting the other come into harm's way to better his chances of getting together with this lovely woman), but nah. Like most of the movie that followed, nothing about the dynamic is either novel or even integral to the narrative, because even my 3 year old could tell you who'd be the first to die and who'd be the only survivor out of this trio.

Ah, but the killers might be unique, right? Wrong again, and I'll have to spoil their nature so skip this paragraph if you want to be surprised. At first our obligatory woodsman murderers wear masks that conceal their identity, with Denham choosing his angles carefully so as not to give anything away. But near the end of the second he lets us in on the secret - the trio of killers are actually teenagers, DUN DUN DUN! For casual horror fans this might be mindblowing, but a lot of us have seen Ils (Them), and therefore we've already seen this movie set in a house instead of the woods. We've also seen Eden Lake (which was in the woods to boot), which never tried to hide the nature of our heroes' tormentors, and also had the inspired twist on Last House on the Left's third act to add some more flavor. Here, the killers are teens and... well, that's about it. Nothing else really changes once our character(s) discover this. Even when it comes to fighting back, there isn't any debate or even much hesitation. In fact, the two most excessively violent acts against the killers occur after the hero in question has realized how young the antagonists are, with any delay being more of a "Can I kill this person?" kind of thing rather than a "Can I kill this CHILD?" one (which perhaps would have had more ambiguity if the character hadn't already dismissed the idea of hunting earlier in the film). And when you add in standard self-defense protocol, there really isn't anything shocking about it - it's just another mild-mannered vacationer being driven to kill a woods-dwelling psychopath in order to survive.

It doesn't help much that all three characters are fairly stupid. The brother is a war vet who can figure out how many attackers there are and what direction they came from/where they are headed from the way the grass and branches on the ground are bent, and can make a weapon out of found materials within seconds - i.e. a badass who can handle himself. Yet at his first opportunity he inexplicably turns his back to his attacker after subduing him with a few hits, opening himself up to what could have been an easily preventable attack. His brother and sister-in-law both do the same thing in other scenes (and every time, they pay for it) but at least they could chalk it up to being naive in such situations - how the hell did this guy survive the war if he is capable of making such a rookie mistake? It would have been way more interesting/exciting if he did everything exactly right and managed to get killed anyway, to suggest that even a trained soldier couldn't survive these dudes let alone our yuppie other heroes, but when he is taken out primarily because he's a dumbass, it doesn't really do much of anything except give the movie one less character to worry about. It also quickly kills the chance that he snapped and is doing this himself, which his brother believes is indeed the case - even if it wasn't actually believable (to me anyway) they could have milked the idea for a while, rather than kill him off almost as soon as the idea was introduced.

There is one slightly unique thing about it though: cell phones work! True, the hero's phone is only used for a different cliche (the workaholic whose phone will of course ring when his wife's already complaining about how he's always working), but at least the idea that they could call for help should the need arise gives it something. But most of the cell use is for something else: the killers use them to communicate even when standing right next to each other (yep, it's the horror movie version of a sight gag from Clueless, 20 years ago), letting us into their heads a bit as they never speak (with one pointed exception I won't spoil). It's through the phone that we see they're fans of a shooter game, giving us an entry-level "It's just a GAME to them!" motivation for their crimes and letting us know that they're not off-the-grid rednecks. I mean, it's fine, but I've seen it before in earlier movies, so I'm baffled that out of the entire crew no one told Denham that someone had beat him to the punch. Granted, horror movies have always borrowed liberally from one another, but the key is that they usually offer variations or tweaks that give it is own personality. The only time we get that here is in the final scene that briefly returns us to civilization, where most of these films end in the woods.

Obviously, I doubt Denham sat down and said "I'm going to do the same thing people have already done but add a short epilogue!", but I had to wonder (frequently) if he was aware of those other films (in particular Eden Lake, since this film has a port-a-potty scene that recalls that film's sewage moment). I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he hasn't, or otherwise he probably would have done more to distinguish his film from those (and no, adding a brother to the usual couple doesn't count). Even the (more) recent Killing Ground - which I did not care for - spent some time with the villains in their normal day to day life and also had the flashback structure to make up for its generic story (once again, people in the woods being murdered by locals), which is the sort of wrinkle(s) that could have benefited this film. I certainly don't need to be blown away by every choice in a horror film, but I would like something to remember about it in a few years (months?) if someone were to ask about it, especially when it comes from someone I know is capable of delivering. I can't see that happening here; my biggest takeaway is that the main guy was the lead "actor" in LA Noire and it was weird to see him in the flesh instead of the robotic Uncanny Valley version I'm used to (I know he was on Mad Men as well but I never watched it, so LA Noire is my main go-to for the guy. Deal with it!).

A filmmaker friend of mine frequently uses me as a sounding board about horror ideas, asking if this or that idea has been used in a movie, and I can't help but wonder if this should be standard protocol for the genre: ask around a bit and make sure you're treading new ground, and if you're not but really want to make that film, find ways to rise above the older competition. You don't need me to tell you that there are more horror films than any other genre, due to their "cheap to make" nature and, with all due respect, less discerning target audience making them easy to lead into profit. As a result, this means there are more copycats - intentional or not - and thus it's more likely that the great idea you have has been done before. There's no reason that a similar film can't be made, naturally, but again - it would be beneficial to everyone if the film had a few ideas of its own, especially in the survival sub-genre where the plots tend to be thin and the mortality rate is usually higher than slasher films (how often do you see two or three people get away from hardcore killers on a mountain range?), which makes them much less suspenseful than they ought to be as it seems like there's a rule that all but one of them has to die. I mean, look at the "Die Hard in a ______" sub-genre - the location changes, the villain's complicated plot changes, the stakes change, etc. There's room to make it your own, even if the basic concept is the same. With these kind of movies, the concept is pretty much all there is to it, reducing the ability to make it your own. Ironically, Home Movie STILL stands out as an anomaly in the found footage sub-genre, and maybe I was expecting too much here, thinking that he'd be able to really put a stamp on these films. Alas, it's watchable and well made (the scenery is gorgeous), but there was not a single point in the movie where I was wondering what might happen next. If you haven't seen the films I mentioned, I'd recommend starting with this stripped down version and then check those out, pretending they came later and wanted to improve on the basic idea.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Little Evil (2017)

DECEMBER 13, 2017

GENRE: COMEDIC, RELIGIOUS
SOURCE: STREAMING (NETFLIX INSTANT)

There aren't a lot of movies about evil children that I dislike (hell, it's hard to even disappoint me), and as Tucker & Dale was one of my favorite movies of the year I saw it (2010, though it was delayed for a bit and didn't come out until the following year if memory serves) I was eagerly looking forward to Eli Craig's followup, Little Evil. The premise seemed like a winner, basically a comedy version of The Omen (or a more supernaturally driven Problem Child) but with the always great Adam Scott in the (step)dad role (bonus, my beloved Evangeline Lilly as the child's mother), with the added bonus of Craig proving that he's able to wring plenty of laughs out of well-worn material while also adding some creative tweaks and even satisfying the "horror" part of the horror-comedy blend. Alas, the film simply didn't work for me; I barely ever laughed and found even less to enjoy about the storyline itself, which despite its R rating (for language only, as it turns out) is shockingly toothless and rarely steps outside of Omen's narrative. So it's The Omen but not scary or funny, basically - what's the point?

I'd be very curious to extend some benefit of the doubt to Craig and read the original script that was sold to Universal a few years back (Uni is not involved with the final version, which was released as a Netflix exclusive), as it seems like they had to chop some things out that maybe their non-Universal budget couldn't handle. For example, the film starts incredibly awkwardly, with a pointless flash-forward and some talk about Scott and Lilly's wedding being a disaster long before we see some brief footage of it from the videographer (Dale himself, Tyler Labine, in one of the film's few good scenes), making it feel like the film's first 20 minutes were excised/reworked. I could be wrong, but either way it puts the audience at a disadvantage for no good reason, and the flashforward spoils one of the film's central mysteries, which is whether or not Lilly's character was evil as well or if she genuinely didn't think anything was wrong with her son. There are other things throughout the movie that feel "off", such as a clown Scott rents for the kid's birthday party - they keep making a big deal about how he did a bad thing by hiring this particular guy, but we don't see him hiring him (when it's too late to care anymore he finally mentions that he just found the guy online), making it all feel like the punchline to a joke with no setup.

The other weird thing is that it keeps building up reveals to certain characters, like the kid's real dad or a hunter named Gozamel who will help them, seemingly setting up some stunt casting for these brief cameos. But no! They're just random guys! I mean nothing against the actors, but when you keep mentioning someone in an irreverent comedy and build up their first appearance, we're kind of trained to expect them to be someone that will make us laugh when we see them. Maybe Will Ferrell is the legendary hunter, or the child's father is an A-list "serious" actor from some previous devil movie having a little fun with his legacy (Gabriel Byrne would have scored the most points from me, obviously). The movie does indeed feature a few notable quickie roles (Sally Field as a child services agent, Clancy Brown as a priest who believes the end of the world is coming), and Scott's stepfather therapy group is rounded out by familiar TV stars like Donald Faison and Chris D'Elia (who scored the film's biggest laugh, in my opinion), but their appearances aren't really built up in any way. Again, it's just kinda "off", like they took the movie out of the oven before it was done baking.

Curiously, the film's wiki page notes that they didn't reshoot anything and it had a fairly brief schedule, so I can't help but wonder if it was one of those things where they rushed it into production to secure a certain actor (Scott has his own show on Fox, so I'm guessing his schedule was packed) and they simply didn't have time to rework things, let the actors fuck around to secure better improv takes, etc. I mean, the movie is definitely a comedy with supernatural elements, not a traditional "horror-comedy", so if it failed as a story that'd be almost forgivable as long as I was laughing a lot. The recent Ghostbusters update is a good example - I laughed a lot at the movie, so I at least enjoyed watching it the one time even though the story/villain were dogshit. Little Evil doesn't benefit from the same thing; I swear I only laughed I think five times throughout the movie, and I'm not exactly hard to please when it comes to comedy, especially this particular kind (irreverent/ironic/random). This is the kind of movie that seems tailor made for my sensibilities (killer kids! Dad stuff! Evangeline Lilly in a sundress!), but it just never came together for me.

Luckily, it did have a few bright spots that kept me from giving up entirely. The aforementioned scene with Labine as the pretentious wedding videographer was pretty funny; his chemistry with Scott was solid and it earned my first real laugh of the movie, where Scott seemed more concerned with the guy's lack of a tripod than the fact that his wedding was destroyed by a tornado that might have been caused by his Antichrist stepson. Craig gets some mileage out of Scott's fellow stepdads treating the whole "Antichrist" thing as yet another common issue stepdads have to deal with, and I liked that Craig worked in nods to other creepy kid moviess (Poltergeist, Children of the Corn, Rosemary's Baby...) without turning it into a ZAZ-style parody film. Plus I was happy that the devil really was involved, and that they didn't go the cop-out route and chalk every weird thing in the movie up to paranoia. Then again, Netflix spoils the happy (and lame, and like most other things in the film, clunkily established) ending with one of the screenshots that accompany the film's page (the ones that scroll past while you're reading the plot info), so it seemed like they didn't even want the audience to be surprised by anything.

Oh well. I watched the trailer a while back and was a bit concerned that there weren't any laughs, but I was hoping it would just be one of those deals where the trailer can't quite sell the movie's tone (and thus laughs) in the traditional way (one of my favorite comedies, Drowning Mona, doesn't have a funny trailer either). Alas, the trailer was dead on - the gags just keep falling flat for a variety of reasons, and while the kid is good there's not enough genuine menace for it to work as a black comedy either. It's just kind of there, leaving talented performers stranded and showing none of the spark that made Tucker and Dale such a winner. Hopefully I'm right and it just wasn't made under the best circumstances, and Craig can come back to my good graces with the next one. Until then, I trust someone can satisfy my evil child itch, comedically or otherwise? I can't just keep watching my Cathy's Curse blu-ray.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Satan's Blade (1984)

DECEMBER 8, 2017

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

Even if I've heard nothing good about it, there is no slasher film from the golden era that I would refuse to see, and it's also the only kind of Blu-ray I will still blind buy, because good or bad I know I'm more likely to revisit something like Satan's Blade than a big budget action movie I enjoyed in theaters but haven't thought about since (that said, I still bought the last Fast & Furious movie even though I know I can't bring myself to see the crew let Jason Statham come to the family BBQ after he killed Han). But my friend Matt gifted me this one last year, because he figured it would be up my alley and shares my passion for seeing/collecting slashers from this particular era - alas I only now got around to finally seeing it, which makes me sad. If I'm not someone who will drop everything to make time for a random early 80s slasher, who am I?

So in a weird way I feel better that I didn't like it all that much; if I had this perfect gem sitting around for a year or so I'd kick myself for all the time I could have spent tweeting my praise (see: Cathy's Curse, which I have been championing before I even had Twitter to do it!). It's not unwatchable or anything, but the lows greatly outnumber the highs, and so it kind of exists in that middle ground where it's not actually good, but it's not insane/inept enough to watch for a laugh (like Sledgehammer) either. You can find more of that sort of thing on the bonus features, like the 30 minute interview with the director where he shows off a few props, the VHS cover, a Fangoria issue the film was covered in, etc. - all while standing up at a camera aimed at the chair he was sitting in when the interview began, so you spend most of the time looking at his mid-section and also his wife (?), who is still seated and looks annoyed. If whoever shot/edited the bonus feature made the film, we might have something for the "WTF" crowd, but alas.

That said, it has its own identity, thankfully. For starters half of the will-be victims are adults (the two men are lawyers, in fact), and there are two groups with minimal intersecting. It mostly takes place at a "ski lodge", where there are the lawyer dudes and their wives, and then five college girls in the adjacent cabin, so the killer is able to take out the group in one cabin while keeping the others from noticing/caring/going into a panic in the other. And when I say cabin I mean "Suburban Townhouse", because that's what it resembles; for a cabin, there's a distinct lack of coziness to the two domiciles - I mean their bedrooms have linoleum flooring and cement walls, which doesn't exactly sell us on the setting. If you fast forward over the exterior establishing shots you'd probably wonder why all of the neighbors didn't hear the ruckus once the killings finally begin in the film's final 30 minutes, as the idea of being isolated never really comes across. Worse, pretty much all of the killings are indoors as well, which not only minimizes the potential for chases (a key part of a slasher film), but their ill-fit makes the climactic scenes awkward where they should be tense. The homes are fairly small, so the actors have to behave unnaturally in certain scenes, like when the killer smashes a window and grabs one of the women and it somehow takes like 20 seconds for her husband to get there when she was only like ten feet away. He also looks puzzled when she screams, as if she was too far away for him to see what was happening, but based on the layout of their two positions, he should be looking right at her! Also, I'm pretty sure they just slightly redressed one cabin to make it look like a second, as the layouts seem identical and they have the same shitty paintings and tapestries on the wall (albeit in different places), so it can be a bit disorienting, while also keeping the film visually flatter than it should be.

(That said, the Blu-ray is presented open matte when it was intended to be masked down to 1.85 or whatever, so you see the boom mic a lot and lots of unnecessary headroom. Use your TV's zoom feature if you can!)

The pacing also hurts it. The killer has very little presence outside of his (again, chase-free) kill scenes, so after the opening scene kills it's like a full 45 minutes of horror-free tedium, save for one of the film's few bonkers highlights, where an old lady with a broken arm tells about some spooky legend. The rest of the time we're just watching people go in and out of their cabin to go fish or ski (we don't see any skiing footage), or drink without doing anything crazy. Hell, the male lead actually rejects the younger ski bunny girl who is hitting on him, prompting a five minute discussion about how much he loves his wife instead of a sex scene that could have resulted in a kill right when the movie could have really used one. This is followed by an endless sequence where the guy goes back to his lodge to have sex with his wife (after another long talk about how much he loves her), intercut with scenes of the spurned ski bunny walking around the woods. And if you're thinking we're watching this because it will end in her death, guess again, as all parties survive the sequence. In fact she's the closest thing the movie has to a Final Girl, making her one of the rare ones whose primary character trait is wanting to bang another woman's husband.

The kills aren't worth the wait, either. They didn't have the money/skill to do anything interesting, so it's mostly like a shot of the killer's knife swinging and then a cut to the victim holding the spot where they got hit, with blood dripping out from a pack they're probably squeezing in their hand. As for the killer himself, due to the (not particularly successful) attempt at a whodunit angle and the fact that no one involved seemed to understand that the cliches of slasher movies were there for a reason, he has no mask or anything, we just see his hand or leg or whatever during the kill scenes. This is probably why the box art promises a demonic thing that kind of looks like a Lego Bionicle (Tahu, specifically), as the titular blade wasn't enough to entice anyone, I'm sure. Final Exam (another maskless killer, though he still had a physical presence) at least had the creep silhouette thing instead of showing off their bland guy and/or lying outright.

Basically the only reason to watch the whole thing is to get to the insane killer reveal. Not his/her identity, because that's kind of obvious, but why they did it, delivered in a speech that appears to be overdubbed from someone's living room even though the scene takes place outside. It's the sort of moment you wish the movie had more of, because it's got that "holy shit what were they THINKING?" appeal that is very much missed from most of the rest of the movie. I even watched it a second time to see if it was just my mood or whatever, but nope, it just didn't work for me. Someday I'll go nuts like Rivers Cuomo did when he tried to find the scientific formula for the perfect pop song, but I will try to solve the mystery of why some of these inept indies delight me so much while others just leave me bored. I don't know if there is a specific thing to pin it on, but I sure as hell know I'll have fun trying to figure it out. Until then, I'll keep this in the collection out of habit, but against the odds described at the top I don't see myself revisiting it again (on the flipside, I'm watching Disconnected again today for the dozenth time), though I might pull it out to show someone the insane interview.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Cult of Chucky (2017)

DECEMBER 5, 2017

GENRE: PUPPET, SLASHER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

Universal has a weird knack for keeping series not only going longer than anyone would have guessed, but in some ways IMPROVING as they go on. The Fast & Furious series is only now starting to fall apart (largely due to the real life death of its main character), but in those sorry post-2 Fast days, who would have guessed that part 5 would be the apex of the series and that part 7 would gross over a billion dollars? Or that there would even BE that many sequels? Likewise, when Child's Play 3 came and went without fanfare, it should have been the end of the series, but they revived Chucky seven years later with Bride of Chucky and have continued to make new sequels that people eagerly look forward to (even demand), a far cry from some of its competition where sequels are made only to retain the rights to make more of them (cough, Hellraiser, cough). Cult of Chucky is the newest entry in this consistently surprising series, and while it doesn't quite hit the mark as well as the previous entry (Curse of Chucky), it's a more than worthy addition to the franchise.

Plus, to be fair, Curse was blessed with a bit of a handicap - no one was expecting "Child's Play 6" to be any good, especially when it was going direct to video (the others were all theatrical releases). But it turned out to be a terrific restart for the series, and it did so without "rebooting" or ignoring entries - what appeared to be a largely unrelated entry (or the dreaded "True sequel to the original" approach taken by pretty much every Texas Chainsaw movie) turned out to be very much tied in with the established mythology. When Chucky washed makeup off his face to reveal the scars on his face from his previous injuries, I got downright giddy in a film I was already very much enjoying, as it was a return to the original's suspenseful roots, and director Don Mancini was essentially making an old-school "Old Dark House" movie (complete with a fight over inheritance!) with Chucky standing in for the usual fake ghost or whatever. This time, we KNOW these films can measure up, so the element of surprise is diminished a bit.

At least, when it comes to the overall quality - its narrative is very much on par with the last few sequels, in that you probably wouldn't have guessed where the plot would go. At the end of the last film, Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad "as the Voice of Chucky" Dourif) was sent to an institution after being blamed for all of the murders Chucky committed there, while our favorite Good Guy doll got his head blown off by his old nemesis, Andy Barclay. When this one begins, we see Andy going on a disastrous date, then going home to forget his troubles with a beer and a blunt that he shares with... Chucky's disembodied head! Turns out Andy aimed a bit to the side, so while Chucky's looking pretty terrible he's still alive, and the two have a weird co-dependent "friendship" of sorts. Honestly I could have watched a whole movie of this, but before long we're off to catch up with Nica, who was just transferred to a minimum security institute and is seemingly starting to believe that she really did commit the murders, not Chucky. However, her psychiatrist wants to make sure she's really over her fear of the doll, so he buys one (from Hot Topic!) and introduces it to her and her fellow patients. But Chucky's soul is with Andy, so there's no way this one could be alive, right?

Well, if you're wondering what the title was referring to, now you have your answer. Seems Chucky found a way to spread his soul across more than one doll, and once that's established, the movie comes off almost like a Thing variant of sorts, as you're wondering if he's been able to possess any humans along with an increasing number of Good Guy dolls that have found their way to the hospital. Not only does this allow for suspenseful scenes that Chucky isn't even present for (her shrink is seemingly crazier than Chucky, something even the doll notes), but also gives Brad Dourif a chance to have a couple scenes where he talks to himself, as Chuckys argue over who gets to kill someone or whatever. The stuff with the psychiatrist can drag a little in spots, but it's offset by the other patients that he's in charge of, one of whom takes a liking to Chucky because she thinks it's her dead son (leading to what might be the series' first truly horrifying moment). Mancini has a knack for creating characters that are almost automatically interesting, allowing him to quickly get back to Chucky (or Nica, our hero) without having to spend too much time making sure we know/care about these new people. I particularly liked the orderly, Carlos (Zak Santiago), who in one brief scene tells us more about who he is as a person - both with dialogue and actions - than I've ever learned about the main characters in certain Jason or Freddy films. It's testament to both Mancini and the actors that we don't need Chucky on-screen every second to be invested in the story.

But naturally, the film is at its best when it's letting Chucky do his thing. Dourif's as good as ever (his delivery of "I just CAN'T with this guy!" is an all timer in context, which I can't spoil here), and the animation is much improved over the previous film, where Chucky's face seemed to be completely different in some scenes. A behind the scenes clip on the Blu-ray shows that they are still using practical puppets with a number of operators for the facial expressions, so while there might be a few computerized "touch ups" here and there, he's still very much a practical effect and I'm never not appreciative of how well they pull it off (though I think the pre-CG Child's Play 3 remains the best he's ever looked). Since he's not just trying to play "hide the soul" every five seconds he's got more to do here than in many of the other sequels, and is up and about most of the time we see him as opposed to Curse, where the plot dictated that he remain still for a while. After the largely comedy-free Curse, Mancini seems to be dipping back into comedy at times (complete with a meta joke about Hannibal's cancellation - Mancini worked on the show), but the comedy largely works and is still nowhere near the level of the (horror-free) Seed of Chucky.

Chucky also really pops thanks to the film's visual style. As it's set in an institution, you can imagine that you'll be seeing a lot of sterile, nearly color-free environments, so when Chucky scampers down a hallway or someone carries him through the room, you can't help but zero in on him (another reason to be relieved that they do such a great job with the doll work). Mancini also peppers the film with diopter shots and split screens, and it doesn't take much effort to realize he's paying homage to Brian DePalma, which he admits to on the commentary (and in our interview!) and works remarkably well in the context of a Chucky film. As I was saying about the films being surprising, each one has its own flavor and style (remarkably, the three Mancini directed himself are the most varied), so you get a certain kind of film (in this case, the mental institution/psychological thriller movie) but now with Chucky, and so using these specific devices actually has two uses. One, it helps set it apart from the others, but the more important second one is that it gives the audience a bit of a subconscious shorthand to know what kind of movie Chucky is invading this time.

I do wish they had taken another pass at the editing, however. It's actually a few minutes shorter than Curse (the series' longest entry), but it feels a bit sluggish at times, even a bit repetitive in some cases. Indeed, some of the split-screen shots were created in editing (not the original design) in order to speed things along, and I can't help but wonder if that tactic could have been employed elsewhere. The climax is also a bit stiff compared to the others - there's big stuff happening to the characters (particularly in Nica's case), but visually it lacks oomph compared to the others. With Andy back it's easy to remember the big climaxes of CP2 (the toy factory) and 3 (the carnival), and here it mostly just amounts to a few people (and even Chucky) standing around talking. I don't need the hospital to blow up or anything, but a chase or something would have been nice; even if we've seen that sort of thing before it would at least send us off with a bit of an adrenaline rush. It's an unusual film in that the bulk of the "money shot" action occurs in the middle, so that coupled with the slight overlength deflates the movie a bit.

That said, the closing scene (along with the post-credits teaser) suggests a more female-driven followup, which I think would go over like gangbusters. Not to mention, given the current social/political climate, a "woke" Chucky movie might be kind of fascinating as long as Mancini and co. can successfully pair it with whatever new sub-genre they plan to ape next. I'm not a huge fan of Bride or Seed, but I know folks love them, and in turn Tiffany, so I'm sure they'd be happy to see her return after sitting these two out. I just hope they don't go full-blown comedy again; the little asides here were fine (though the shoutouts to earlier kills - "All actual examples!" - were clunky AF) but I'm far more impressed by their ability to make this goofy concept work in the suspense/horror mode. But whatever path they take, I know not to underestimate Mancini (and producer David Kirschner, who has also been around for all of them), so I eagerly await the next one - even if it means my sweet "Complete Collection" boxed set will be obsolete!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Gerald's Game (2017)

NOVEMBER 30, 2017

GENRE: THRILLER
SOURCE: STREAMING (NETFLIX INSTANT)

I for one couldn't be happier about the resurgence of Stephen King adaptations hitting movies and TV, after a curiously long drought that started in 2007 (when we had The Mist, one of the most acclaimed King adaptations, and 1408, one of the all-time biggest box office hits for a movie based on his work - seriously). Apart from the odd limited release film like Cell and TV shows that either didn't pan out (The Mist, again) or had little relation to the source material (Haven, which was very very loosely based on The Colorado Kid - they got five seasons for a show "based on" a book that was less than 200 pages) there just didn't seem to be much interest in doing King. But in the past year alone we've had the Hulu stuff (11/22/63 and the upcoming Castle Rock), Mr. Mercedes, It, possibly some other movie I'm totally forgetting existed and don't need to be reminded of in any way, and now* Gerald's Game, which is the second Mike Flanagan film to debut on Netflix after the terrific Hush.

To me, this is proof positive that filming King is a big deal again, because the novel is 25 years old and even more "unfilmable" than Misery (coincidentally, that one came out on a new Blu-ray this week and I discussed it here if you're interested). For those unaware of the concept, it's about a woman named Jessie (Carla Gugino) who is not particularly thrilled about her husband (Bruce Greenwood) trying to spice up their sex life with handcuffs, but is trying to go along with it for his sake. Alas it gets to be too much for her and she tells him to stop, and they start fighting - at which point he has a heart attack and dies, with her still chained to the bed and no neighbors around for miles - and a hungry feral dog in the house who will eventually get sick of snacking on her husband's corpse and look for something fresher. Of course, even if it was a real-time thriller you can imagine that a woman chained to her bed wouldn't be enough to sustain a feature running time, so Jessie starts cracking up a bit, imagining her husband and her mirror self in the room with her as sparring partners and motivators, filling in backstory and making the movie far more compelling that it would appear to be from the simpler description.

I have not read the book yet so I don't know everything that changed, but the Wiki synopsis of it tells me that she imagines other characters (including a shrink), whereas here it's just herself and the husband, though I don't think the movie lacks as a result. On the contrary I found it quite interesting, and it also made it easier to remember the central conceit, which is that these people were saying things that Jessie herself was imagining them saying. It's not like Split where they're supposed to be other personalities, nor is the husband a "ghost" or anything of that nature - she doesn't have access to any information that she didn't already possess, and so when a possible affair is mentioned, Greenwood can't say "Yes, I slept with her", because Jessie herself doesn't know for sure. It's just how she imagines the conversation will go at that particular time, which is not only interesting from a cinematic perspective but also a performance one. While Gugino has (rightfully) gotten plenty of acclaim for her performance, Greenwood also does some of his best work ever with a trickier role - 90% of what he is saying in the movie isn't necessarily him, but what his wife - currently very emotional and more than a little pissed at him - would imagine him saying. Greenwood can't ever go into full villain mode, because we're seeing a conflicted woman's impression of him. A part of her still cares about him and that comes out every now and then.

This technique also tells us, long before a flashback cements it, that Jessie doesn't stand up for herself all that often. Think of every imaginary fight you have with a friend or spouse - you tend to "win" or at least get a lot of good digs in, right? She never does, at least at first - she takes Greenwood's jabs and rarely fires them back at him. The approach also allows us to see her mind putting things together, something that's always proved to be difficult when adapting King as his characters spend so much time in their own heads, which is part of what makes people love the books (and in turn get disappointed with the movies). As a bonus, Flanagan is able to use an idealized version of Gugino as the imaginary one, with perfect hair and makeup, to fully visualize the actual Jessie's plight, as she suffers from dehydration and the general trauma of the whole thing. The only way to make Carla Gugino look "bad" is to juxtapose her with one that's ready for the red carpet, basically, so they truly lucked out there.

I also appreciate that he doesn't play up the more traditional danger elements, such as the dog. It's always around, but she tends to get rid of it quickly when it comes sniffing around, and he doesn't even really try to make it scary all that often. Early on Greenwood refers to it as "Cujo" (heh), but that's the only time you'll be thinking of him or any other killer dog. It's just hungry, it's not a boogeyman on four legs. Likewise, Flanagan doesn't stoop to pointless diversions that we know won't work, like having someone come to the door as Jessie tries to get his attention, and he thankfully gets Jessie's imaginary escape out of the way early, so we're never fooled for a second that we're watching anything but a daydream. The movie's about a lady stuck in her bed - she ain't getting out of it until the runtime is nearly over. Considering the story's limitations, it's easy to imagine a hack filmmaker would do everything they could think of to make it more visually exciting (I always think of Michael Bay taking a meeting on Phone Booth and asking "How can we get this out of the booth?"), so I laud them for sticking to the guns that King laid out in his novel, which obviously didn't have to concern itself with such matters.

On the other hand, maybe they could have deviated when it comes to the character of Raymond Andrew Joubert (spoilers ahead!). Throughout the film Jessie has glimpses of a boogeyman she dubs Moonlight Man, and it seems like it's just a weird little hallucination that she conjures to make sense out of this or that thing that's happening to her. But no! We find out the "man made of moonlight" is actually this Joubert, a grave robber/necrophiliac who has started to murder folks as well, and the film ends with Jessie confronting him in the courtroom. It's slightly different than the book (where he's dubbed "Space Cowboy") but the whole thing could have been dropped, honestly. As with any single location kind of movie, the second they leave the movie's essentially over, so that they drag it out for an additional 10-12 minutes with this stuff - which was barely even hinted at in the film's first 85 minutes or so - is slightly crippling. Sure it's nice to see how Jessie moves on, but it feels like a sequel rather than an epilogue, and since Joubert was never really a threat to her I couldn't quite care about him being arrested and tried. It'd be like if Halloween II continued so we could find out how that kid with the cut mouth was doing.

Otherwise, I had no issues with this unusual thriller, and it inspired me to move the novel up in my queue of King to read (next one's gonna be Misery, for the record). And it's another strong bit of evidence that Mike Flanagan is one of our few modern "masters of horror" candidates, i.e. the kind of guy that people will rip off in 20 years like they do to Carpenter and Romero now. Not saying he's on their level (yet), but with so many filmmakers these days branching away from horror at the earliest convenience, it's nice to see one that is happy to stick around - his next project is a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer, for pete's sake. I just hope it or whatever else he does next gets a proper release - this is his second movie for Netflix and another (Before I Wake) has yet to be released at all in the US. Absentia got a shitty distribution too, so only Oculus and Ouija 2 have been seen by the masses (and naturally those aren't as good as his others, though at least they ARE good). But whatever path he takes, I know I'll be following - he's more than earned my trust at this point.

What say you?

*Now meaning like two months ago, but I'm slow these days so give me a break.

PLEASE, GO ON...

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