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Under the Silver Lake (2018)
Has its moments
Some good reviews on here are hilarious. They think its a big conspiracy film.
It's a well produced modern epic of the 'lost man'. Not perfectly scripted or acted by any means. Some loose threads will make you wish you hadn't spent over two hours watching it. But the dialogue is decent at worst, beautifully succint at best, and the score gives you a sense of warm familiarity. Andrew Garfield wakes up a bit for the last 15 minutes to give an actually good performance.
I'm not a fan of LA/Hollywood based plots - they usually feel exclusive to insiders. This one had the problem of too many eccentric people, to the point where nothing really shocks you when it needs to. But I still recommend it more than any current blockbusters guaranteed to fill seats in China, as the critics put it.
The Devil's Doorway (2018)
Decent scares amidst moralizing monologues
There are a few effective scares here, and that's about all that it's got going for it. Despite having exactly the kind of cast I like - obscure, mature and from across the pond - there was no character depth or development. This is a series of (event) (essay) (event), where the events don't really blend seamlessly into the rest of the footage. Which leads me to the final sin: the found footage is not believable (for lack of sincerity rather than any logical blunders) 15 minutes into this movie.
Lake Mungo (2008)
Where's Waldo... I mean Alice?
Saw this after hearing praise on RedLetterMedia. This was touted as a jumpscare free horror movie, and I have serious complaints. That one jumpscare made me weak. I still haven't left the covers.
But on a serious note, the scares in the movie are so effective because it builds intrigue and gets you invested in the story. You want to see every piece of evidence and formulate your own theories. Of course girl-goes-missing or turns-up-dead stories usually have layers of dark societal ills that peel away, but thankfully, there's little of that here. This does in the end return to its supernatural roots, and does so in a very humble, convincing way. There's no real resolution or answer in the end because it's the most believable, rational conclusion in the supernatural universe given our limited understanding of conciousness after death.
I enjoyed this film because it made me participate in its photo and video scrutiny games, but the 'hidden figure' is actually some pixels you had no chance of seeing until you zoom in about 1500%. The movie kind of gets away with it because it's a decade old, and phones weren't equipped with good cameras back then. But the handheld video work is also extremely sloppy in most cases. I don't know if its just a tactic to make you work extra hard to spot things, or if teenagers really don't give two s***s about keeping the camera steady.
Overall it's something you can get completely roped in to, it's satisfying and well written, and will leave you with an eerie feeling for quite some time. What more could you want from horror?
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Did Facebook pay extra for that ending?
An enjoyable experience that is brought down by the triviality of everyone, including Ingrid.
Pet Sematary (2019)
Decent, well-produced remake
I really have no complaints about this film other than that there were some unnecessary scenes and the 'return' act was over too soon.
We know the story, and this is an excellent production of it. Everybody acts well, the cinematography is very good, and I am glad they don't rely on darkness to build suspense. That's right, this is a good, well-lit horror movie.
However, they chose to focus too much on scenes that no one remembers about the book or the original. I certainly don't remember the mother's backstory, and for good reason. It is not all that interesting. These are the weakest scenes in the movie, when they pull away from what is CURRENTLY going down in the house to spend time in the mother's dreams and hallucinations just so that they can fit those extra jumpscares in. They had the opportunity to make her fear of death relevant in the current story, but they missed it.
If those scenes were cut short, we would have more time for the second act of the film: the father and the family adjusting to the 'returned' child. This is the part that should have been drawn out the longest, but in my opinion it was over all too fast. While the cat had a very gradual or subtle shift into dead mode, El snaps after one interaction. I love how everything plays out and everyone's performances, but I would have loved one more hour of it with the proper build-up.
The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
The weakest link
Not only the worst of the "Conjuring universe" movies, but also a really bland, tv-production variety effort. This movie is not scary, and it knows it. That is why they thought they should put a jumpscare sound every few seconds. They use the same sound each time for the Llorona's jiu jitsu. It's so obvious that you can almost chuckle at it. But for the most part, it's annoying. It's not a good bad movie.
The children are not well-written or well-acted. Their performances are wooden and their actions don't make sense. The lead actress is doing her best in my opinion, but she has to react to a really poorly directed monster, and it's sad how ridiculous these scenes can get.
The conjuring reference really sticks out like a sore thumb. The film has a shot of Annabelle for no goddamn reason except to maybe flaunt its lineage.
This does not belong on the big screen. It just makes all the flaws more apparent.
Not for the average adult
If you just want to watch this movie because its 8.5 and on IMDB's top 250, then stop right there. You will be baffled. Even if you appreciate the style as a change of pace of some sort, character depth and development is severely lacking, and the dialogue comes from the 8-ball of kid's screen writing.
On the other hand, if you're a kid, you'll probably find this very imaginative and fantastic, and it is, for that target audience. Even if you are a hardcore comic book fan, I can see this thrilling you.
Of course everyone's here for the freak show, for their fill of the weirdest stomach-turning s*** they can find because the bar's getting very goddamn high. That's not the problem. The problem is that this movie is utterly INCOHERENT.
It's like one of those bizarre porn comics where you find something "interesting" on the cover so you give it a go but there's a lot of other equally weird yet completely "uninteresting-to-you" things you have to sift through. So you patiently flip the pages trying to figure out how THIS leads to THAT. You try to zoom in to read the microscopic text and after too much trouble to read some blurry lines you realize its meaningless word diarhhea that does nothing for you.
I guess its fine if it doesn't get on your nerves. Which this does in the first minute. A guy sings a truly atrocious 'song' with an abominable 'accompaniment' of jazz for way too long. Another guy talks loudly in a grating voice about nonsense as his paper-animated body is shown scratching itself and holding a phone for WAY TOO LONG.
TLDR; I didn't have the patience to bear the ear rape and the eye exercise. Maybe you do.
There I got my obligatory pun in the title. Now about this film. It's another 'The Eyes of my Mother', this time with an inexplicably psycopath protagonist. There are a couple of scenes about her childhood, but with nothing to explain or predict her current disposition.
It's painful watching her flirt and try to make friends, and partly because everyone around her is very stupid. Well one of them is Brittney Spears, but even then these are seriously the dumbest victims in any horror film, which kind of reduces her intimidation factor. In the second half of the film she's apparently overcome her shyness and awkwardness, but still proceeds to go through far more trouble than socializing better to make a friend.
It's well shot and there are some iconic scenes. Well ONE, with the cat. If the movie was about her flipping suddenly like that each time, it would be much more frightening. But the fact that she goes about premeditating stuff makes her look like an ordinary criminal. Also, there's quite a lot of weirdness around her, and slightly-weird people taking her in stride means there's nothing to contrast her craziness against.
It's not bad, but nothing memorable either. Unless thin-skinned foreheads make you uneasy because you can make out the veins. Then there's a bit of nightmare fuel.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
A film in which LA people don't have to act
Yeah its one of THOSE. So, you naturally don't get to know any of the characters too well, and they can't distinguish between each other too well either. As such, this would be way more entertaining if it was full on gore exploitation but most death scenes are cut at the crucial moment.
It's not scary. It has at least one good joke about art, and Josephine looks like she's having fun as she exclaims 'is my caaaar safe out there?' Other than that, no good scene stands out. All the deaths are random, though somewhat art related. One of them dies in an alternate reality that shouldn't exist so I don't know the rules about that.
I take major umbrage with the ending. Way to try to dump your sewage in the streets. She might as well have given radio active waste to a thrift shop.
It would probably be a 5 or 6, if it wasn't so pretentious. Tilt looks like it was made so that Joseph Cross could wander the city at night in a black hoodie, smoking a cigarette and trying to be emo. Some shots are dark and confusing, others hold onto meaningless objects for no real reason. But one thing you can tell right away - nothing much is going to happen in this movie, and you can relax and turn your brain off. It would actually be painful if you paid attention to the bland dialogue, Joe's forced enthusiasm about his documentary, and the complete and utter pointlessness of everything that happens in this movie.
Joe, who must be the loneliest firm-maker ever, has a boring wife, rude house guests, and nobody to call a friend so he goes around the city staring at people, scaring them by looking like he's about to kill them, and losing his temper after two bad line-readings because he's so on edge about his passion project which besides a few lines of dialogue, there is no evidence of it ever being his 'passion'. His true passion seems to be to smoke, stay up late at night, dress like a rebellious teen and hate his wife-mom.
It has some sort of political agenda probably. I don't know why else there's so much of that stuff in here. But other than that, its not really offensive or frustrating. It's a calm, do-other-things-while-this-is-on kinda movie.
This might have worked as a romantic drama with a bit of adventuring, but the sci-fi and horror are all wrong.
A team of some women volunteer to go into the shimmer, a bubble that is spreading around a lighthouse. I say "some women" because they have no clear objective, roles, chain of command, discipline, or in most cases, even mental strength to be there. Odd considering the shimmer is under strict military police observation, and they go so far as to hunt down a dying man in an ambulance because he emerged from the shimmer.
The characters are not memorable. They have no distinct personalities, just different levels of losing their s***, ranging from fragile mind to mind-already-broken-so-not-going-to-emote. None of them are likeable or have any discernible motivation to be there. They don't talk about their research, seem fascinated in the world around them, or say anything at ALL of interest. I think they say 'I don't know' 50 times in the movie. What an inspiring bunch! One of the women comes up with a theory that doesn't make any sense, and then immediately gives up. At some point they decide they are losing their minds by literally saying they are losing their minds or 'changing' or something. They literally didn't have the direction or ability to ACT it, so they just say it.
The movie is shot poorly. 90% of my screen was black during night scenes. This means they only need a fraction of the budget for nighttime monsters and action scenes. I get the feeling they're going to stop shooting night scenes at some point all together and just leave audio on a black screen.
The ending looks like someone's project in a special effects class. Most of it does actually. The director was probably enamored with cell division at the time and made a movie with multiple shots of cell division scattered throughout with about 5 minutes worth of research on Google. They say this movie was dumbed down because test audiences didn't like it? What an insult to past and present audiences!
Session 9 (2001)
Very underrated and overlooked horror
This is the kind of horror I like, but it is certainly not the kind I get in abundance. I am grateful for finding this gem.
While the story is certainly good, it is the direction that makes this movie difficult to tear you eyes away from. The shots are beautiful and well timed, and darkness is an asset the movie uses skillfully. The actors, though not well known, have a distinct presence on screen and they all give great performances. The dialogue is well written, the line-delivery a treat.
In retrospect, the story could have very easily been made into a boring, underwhelming or overly-gorey film, so I have to applaud the team - everyone from the writers to the sound-editors - for putting together an effectively scary and engrossing picture!
Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018)
Depressing and Disappointing
These episodes lack the subtle charm of the original film, and where the original was more than a bit creepy and haunting at times, the latest production fails to capture the same aura about hanging rock. On the other hand, the runtime is filled up with excessive slow motion which is very unnecessary in many cases, and the backstories of several staff and villagers which accomplish little else than to depress the viewers. It is nice to stick to one subject - the demonic timeless rock in this case - and briefly showcase incidental drama and injustice, rather than devoting full theatrical sequences to the very worst ills of human society in a story that I want to remember as MYSTICALLY chilling.
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Drags a bit
I have been duped into watching this twice, having forgotten its plot from the first viewing, seeing the incredibly high rating on IMDB and viewing it again. Even during my second viewing, before recollection hit, I expected something genius, satisfying and powerful like Witness for the Prosecution. What I got was of course a drama too ambitious for its current capabilities that feels sometimes cheap and sometimes offensive.
It should not be too much to expect a courtroom drama to be able to put together a coherent opening and closing statement. However, neither the defense or the prosecution are able to summarize their arguments in the beginning or the end. The beginning is especially important, as it leaves us guessing as to why the prosecution is hellbent on hiding the rape, and leads to more than one loud outbursts from James Stewart. At some point you think it is all done to build up to some great reveal or genuis law trick but its not. It just sort of fizzles every now then in a row between the benches.
Coherence is really the main flaw of this not-so-little drama. It is never certain if the point of contention is whether the rape really happened or whether they seriously want to consider if Remick was too drunk and sleazy to even be 'rapeable'. This is now offensive territory. It was sort of unnerving watching a whole room of ADULT men and women snickering when the judge refers to the 'panties' of the raped woman, and the judge chastisizing them because the panties are connected to the fate of two MEN.
Not unlike this scene, the whole movie lacks a noble ambition, a moral highground, a sense of comfort if not in the system then in the judgement of the protagonist. James Stewart's role in this movie of an attorney who quite blatantly doesn't care about setting a guilty man free feels like a betrayal of sorts. And this is not in appearance an artsy film that is meant to convey cynicism or bare-bones chaos. It is shot as a well put together, serious drama that has a brilliant story to tell.
The story is not so brilliant however. The same dead horse is beaten for a good 160 minutes. Gazzara is vaguely a violent man. Remick is definitely a tempting woman. The victim's honor has to be defended fiercely by the prosecution for some reason, and they fail to see that he was the other half of that bingo date. At some point it feels like they could not possibly be going on about if for so long without making a point about the injustice of justifying rape, but no, the raped wife says she will be happy to have her arse kicked to kingdom come by her husband once he gets off. I mean why make me sit through scene after scene of undermining Remick for that line? Maybe housewives in the 50's loved every minute of the then saucy drama, but I would rather sit through almost three hours of an actual class on anatomy. It would both be more enjoyable and useful.
Some antiquated films are still indispensible cinema to this day. Others are just mediocre. All that's black and white isn't gold.
Mary and Max (2009)
The movie I go to when I need a good cry
Don't get me wrong, I avoid tragic movies like the plague. Nothing puts me off more than watching the ills of society in gritty detail on the silver screen. Even so, once I started watching this movie, it pulled me in like a close friend I had known for all my life, and told me to let my tears flow and be content.
It's hard to explain what makes Mary and Max different from other tragedies or tragicomedies. For a start, while it is geared up visually and with a soundtrack guaranteed to generate tears, it does not milk emotions in a cheap way. The narration is delivered in simple factual sentences with some tongue-in-cheek humor. The characters are ALL complex, interesting and very human, and there is no entity that is entirely negative or a source of hate or contention. Instead, the source of the troubles of our protagonists are their own internal struggles as they stumble through life stages, trying to find happiness.
I don't want to spoil what happens, because everyone should see this movie at least once. While the subject matter is definitely for adult audiences, its innocence and good will makes it a very comforting watch.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Certainly Beautiful, but What Else?
This film is breathtaking in its slow minimalist artistic shots combined with a wonderful soundtrack, and it knows it. It works that to its advantage, like a beautiful bimbo at a Las Vegas strip club, but 2 hours and 40 minutes are a bit of a stretch to spend in that company. You soon realize that there's little else beneath the surface, that your mind is always at least one step ahead of the plot instead of trying to keep up with it, and that the film is using cheap emotional tactics which is a real shame considering they weren't necessary in the 1980's. The real shame is when you realize that the 1980's version holds its ground even when it comes to cinematography.
The first hour and a half are devoted to invoking empathy for the subservient existence of new replicants. At some point it's a bit too in-your-face, and any intelligent audience would agree that here in 2017 we shouldn't need constant reminders about why dehumanizing humanoids is painful. From then we take painfully slow steps to uncovering the single mystery our replicant is in charge of.
It is disappointing how many missed opportunities there are for a true, multicultural, futuristic, populous society and some fast, wowing action scenes. Our protagonist is - granted - a simple guy, but with exquisitely prehistoric tastes in his ladies (read 40's doting housewives). I think suggesting that even the most under educated of males would desire that type of partner in the 2020's is setting women's lib behind a lot. I am all for equality, and a man is free to desire a dumb slave if that is what he wants, but the protagonist of this franchise and in a romantic way? Hell no.
Also, I do not recall any scenes where he is mingling with a multicultural crowd or even if there are more than one flying cars in the environment, which is an outright sin.
Being a recent devotee of cyberpunk, I wanted to love this film. I wanted to feel the leap we have made in 3 decades. The leap, however, seems to be entirely superficial, with maximum focus on the visuals and sound, and otherwise assuming that your audience are a bunch of pre-pubescent kids who need everything spelled out for them and long periods without fast action to huddle and whisper about the plot. I have set up the original Blade Runner in my DVD player now, and am buckled up for an actual good time.
The Bad Seed (1956)
Complex and Bold for its time
This is a wonderful, educated, and well-produced film about a psychopath child and her mother's journey in discovering the fact and putting the pieces together. While it can be classified as a 'horror' movie, it is more of a psychological thriller as it does not employ any supernatural plot devices or gore, and I am thankful for that because it makes it a more well-thought out film. Rhoda isn't murderous because she is the spawn of the devil, or even some Russian killer disguised as a child. She's simply born a psychopath, and however much the film has exaggerated the odds of that happening (only skipping ONE generation?), it is a pure and serious treatment of the subject.
The acting of Eileen Heckart steals the show, though Nancy Kelly remains captivating throughout. The film puts our characters through some very difficult scenarios, and the handles the outcomes perfectly. Mrs. Penmark is a very 'aware' mother, and though she does love Rhoda incredibly, that doesn't make her blind, gullible or immune to rising suspicions. Mrs. Daigle, the mother of the child who dies, is introduced to us as a drunk, grieving woman, and exits the screen as a drunk grieving woman, but nonetheless gives a performance that inspires nothing but empathy and sorrow. There are several scenes that put 8-year-old Rhoda beside the 'mean' gardener, which is very clever as it makes you go even more wide-eyed when the climax of THAT exchange unfolds.
Overall, I applaud the writing, acting and direction in this movie, though I am a bit disappointed that it did not end a good ten minutes early at what I thought was a very dignified, thought- provoking conclusion, and instead proceeds to put poor Mrs. Penmark through more misery and everybody else through a lot more confusion.
Gerald's Game (2017)
Successfully captures the feel of a Stephen King
Stephen King is at times a brilliant writer, and most of his novels give a home-bred 70's vibe. There's the presence of raw indecency and rotten attachments right beside the gore, and this movie is very good at portraying that.
I started watching this movie expecting to get bored at some point, because Gerald's Game is an odd pick of a novel to make into a film. A lot of the story revolves around the heroine spending hours alone and restricted. In a book, the writer has the freedom to play around with memories and weave them into the present, but was the director going to be able to do that?
The answer is, yes, he is, and he does that very well. Kudos to a thoroughly entertaining experience, whether it was the 80's gore effects, the commendable acting of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald, or the shifts from almost comedic to certainly nauseating scenes.
The only thing that bothered me was that the cinematography was a bit dated, and nothing creative. But it doesn't mean that this movie is not worth the watch, and it will be even more enjoyable if you haven't read the book!
The Sound (2017)
I like to think of watching horror movies like going on first dates: Does it have a likable personality? Is the memory of this film going to stay with me till the next night? Is it something I can go back to watching and still enjoy?
With The Sound, the only thing I'm left with is the thought of what it could have been. I could not be disappointed if I didn't have somewhat high expectations for it. The title is sufficient to pique my interest. I would have been satisfied if this was about a particular creepy sound. So many horror movies rely on visuals that it would be very refreshing.
It starts out promising: a campy little story with likable faces. But you soon realize it runs far too long for the punches it packs, which are barely a handful. Your mind starts working overtime to entertain you where the movie fails to, which includes not only imagining how different scares could be built up where there aren't any, but also poking fun at the vague and rushed plot. All this makes the movie a disappointing watch.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Huh that was not bad
This movie has pretty good production value for a horror. I don't mean that it has some wild effects like the Mummy, but that it is neatly and carefully put together with some unique visuals. Which is so much more important. I'm always glad when a director takes a horror movie seriously.
The children were all good actors. I thought Lulu Wilson would steal the show again, but the best performance was given by Talitha as the possessed girl.
HOWEVER, having come so far, it doesn't go ALL THE WAY. What kind of creation story doesn't end in everybody dying at the end? Yes, the characters get knocked about horribly, but none of the orphans or the nun meet a gruesome, graphic fate. This is disappointing. There are too many characters in this movie for us to get to know or grow to love any one of them in particular, so it stands to reason they would be gore fodder, right? No.
Also, the only negative in this universe is the evil of Annabelle. Everyone else, the pastor, the nun, the orphans and the old embittered couple are all very nice and unrealistically so. Even the police don't make any trouble for our poor nun for locking a 'possessed child' in a tiny closet. Yes all is harmony in the human realm.
So its not the Shining or anything, and its not VERY riveting, but its pleasant nonetheless. A bit like Maria and her seven children in a haunted house.
The Mummy (2017)
Makes the 1999 version look like a masterpiece
It's impossible to be called the Mummy, be about a resurrected Mummy out for revenge, and not evoke the memory of the 1999 Mummy movie. That movie was undeniably classic, and while it did have some clichés, it looks f**king grand compared to this.
None of the characters in this are likable, except for Tom Cruise (note I say Tom Cruise and NOT his character name). Nearly all characters in the old movie were likable, even the thief who gets a scarab under his skin and the sidekick who turns out to be a turd at the end.
The mummy is stupid. Imhotep was cursed for doing crazy dark magic because he was in love. This woman wanted her baby brother dead. I'm sure many actual heirs managed that irl without killing the entire family or calling forth the God of death. She has a weakness to mercury, and she can't turn into sand at will. Plus no flesh-eating scarabs were poured in her sarcophagus. Unforgivable.
The chemistry between Tom and the blonde girl is worse than the chemistry between Evelyn and Imhotep. Cinema these days has just given up on romance. Yeah they've got no clue. So, they've banged and he saved her life, that's love true enough to give him the crazy-grief-rage right? Who cares if they don't bicker or pull adorable faces at each other, we don't have time for that in our 2 hour movie.
The heroine works for a business that works to destroy evil. How is that a business? Who's paying them? It's not a business if its only operating on tax-payer money now. Did you instead mean to say that there's an 'evil police' in this universe? You can't throw these terms around lightly and not expect us to get distracted.
Overall it tries to be too many things but just ends up being Tom Cruise trying to be Tom Cruise at whatever age he's at.
Don't Hang Up (2016)
Now was that really necessary?
This film is about a gang of teenage prank caller friends, who one day dial the wrong number. Now you don't even need to reach the 30 minute mark on the movie to know this is going to chastise prank callers. In fact, you just need to watch the opening scene to know that these particular prank callers are not only stupid but very very unfunny. Since when has home invasion been a riot, guys?
That said, there are some interesting if small twists to the story and the camera work and editing are decent. That's about all the good points I can think of. Meanwhile there's a bunch of problems, including but not limited to overacting, detracting, bad writing, confusion and a whole lot of pointless darkness. It appears as if the movie is trying to be SAW, but WITHOUT the actual death scenes. WUT.
Bed time story for an unfunny and irresponsible prank caller. Is this the modern equivalent of the big bad wolf now?
Confuzzling plot and action. Not scary.
It starts out promising, with a bunch of graphic images of maggots and other insects during the opening credits, but in the actual movie, most of the actual action happens OFF screen, and there is a real LACK of interesting imagery to hold our attention. Our protagonists' backstories are shallow, the so-called 'secret' is stupid, and nothing really comes to light during their confinement in the tent except when the third-party gives some exposition about the monsters.
Spoilers: the monsters are druids. They don't do anything particularly violent, at least not ON CAMERA, and the female lead just kind of kills the other actors off. Even the birth scene (yes there is one) is ridiculously short and happens entirely off camera.
Utterly not-scary, nonsensical and invokes little else except apathy.
Dead Story (2017)
Its a dead story all right, it flat-lined 5 minutes into the movie
While watching this, I was considering giving it 2 or 3 stars, if only for the slight rights-after-marriage subplot going on. But the ending destroyed all hopes for this nonsensical boring little film. Here's why you shouldn't watch it:
1) It treats the audience like idiots. This means it not only has some very awkward and 'well duh' dialogue, but also abandons any subplots it picks up, resulting in huge disappointments. The ghost wants the husband dead? Abandoned. The husband resents the wife for not having a 9-5? Abandoned. OK how about the wife is a mature independent woman? Abandoned.
2) The scares are stupid. You'll find this out even before the opening credits. One scare consists of a knife disappearing from a sink, and then reappearing again. That's it. The 'ghost' seems to have been adapted from Asian horror, has no backstory, and doesn't fit well in this film.
3) Everything else. Writing, directing, acting, score, cinematography, EVERYTHING is sub-par.
There is NO reason to see this movie, NO interesting twist, NO bizarre monster, NOT even for shits and giggles. Don't encourage such bland productions.