Monday, January 30, 2017

Sadako vs. Kayako: Shudder Exclusive

Sadako vs. Kayako

Let’s go back to the year 1998 and the release of “Ringu”, a movie that would revolutionize horror cinema and would bring a new aesthetic to American cinema for years to come. The movie, loosely based on a novel of the same name, tells the story of a cursed videotape containing the essence of an evil young woman named Sadako. On the tail end of Ringu comes another Japanese Horror film, Ju-On: The Grudge. This film tells the story of a vengeful ghost linked to a cursed home. Both films left an indelible mark on horror cinema so it really was only a matter of time until someone saw a cash grab in pitting the two monsters against one another. I guess you could say it was a “grudge” match in the “Ring”! HAHAHA!!!

Shut up, that was funny.

The curses for both characters are modified for this film, reducing the days for Sadako’s appearance to only two days and otherwiside diminishing both Kayako and her son, Toshio, to bit supporting parts as a pair of cursed girls try to pool their resources and force the two ghosts to do battle. The final hope is that the two spirits will destroy one another.

Ultimately, the film doesn’t succeed nearly as much as the iconic images from the source materials. Sadako is somewhat reduced by showing a little too much and her spooking movements are somewhat overly exaggerated and look a little silly. Kayako is just as frightening as usual with her death croak, but the amount of cgi used to create her crawl felt a little overproduced. The movies lighting is a little dark at times, but this isn’t a surprise when you watch enough J-Horror.

With that said, the film isn’t a total waste of time. It’s a fun popcorn b-picture with enough scary moments to keep the heart pumping. Some of the characters, like the casually dismissive psychi and his blind assistant, are amusing in a Japanese Anime-trope way.

4.5 out of 10 and a very low priority rental.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SPLIT: An amazing performance from James McAvoy


Miss Patricia, Dennis, Barry, and Hedwig; These are just a few of the characters portrayed by James McAvoy in the latest thriller from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. And the actor delivers an incredible performance as a man suffering through DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and revealing a number of different characteristics with each separate character. Officially, DID is considered an unproven condition- more an extension of a defensive mechanism for schizophrenics who have encountered traumatic events in their lives. The film, however, stands on the conceit of the condition as a separate thing with some strong research to back it up- but it’s really McAvoy’s performance that conveys the urgency of what each character represents to the needs of the “host” body. Dennis protects with an urgent need for cleanliness and order, Miss Patricia provides the matronly comfort and devotion to an unspecified “faith” complete with quotations, while Hedwig remains an innocent child far from the responsibility of adulthood. Each other character receives some degree of purpose, but the film primarily centers around those three, and collectively the personalities often refer to themselves as “The Horde”.

And things spiral out of control when “Dennis” commits to an action that finds him kidnapping three teenage girls and keeping them in a cellar. The girls are to be fed to a “Beast” in the manner of a sacred meal. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the archetypical loner, engages McAvoy in a dangerous game of cat and mouse when she attempts to persuade Hedwig to help her in escaping. But the clock is ticking because the Beast is on the move. Casey’s character is riddled with a history we get a glimpses of through flashback, where a fateful hunting trip with her father and uncle leads to revelations.

M. Night Shyamalan has seen his share of success and failure in recent years. After his huge success in “The 6th Sense”, Shyamalan followed up with “Unbreakable” and then signed with Disney for a multi-film deal that brought us “The Village” and “Signs”. Often relying on a sudden twist near the end of the story, Shyamalan’s films are often metaphorical explorations of grief, loss, and purpose. I’m not a huge fan of the director’s work, but I do recognize the ability of the man to craft a good film. This movie seems to be a very personal exploration of his own recent failings and a stripping down of the frills the director is often criticized for. He plays on the audiences expectations.

For the second horror film of the year, Split gives us a pretty good chiller and introduces an engaging antagonist in the several divided personalities of The Horde. Stay past the initial credits for a small stinger at the end which will be sure to thrill many Shyamalan fans.

7.5 out of 10 and a must see for 2017.


I am aware of some controversy surrounding the film and its depiction of mental illness and transgenderism- speaking from a place where I have no personal perspective of life as a transgender, I’m not going to tell people whether they should be offended or not. Instead, I will speak to my opinion and my reading of the film itself: The film does not accurately reflect the life choices or personality traits of those who are transgender nor those who may suffer from DID. This is a speculative work of fiction that utilizes a mental illness to portray the divided personalities that reside within the body of a man who has suffered many traumatic events. It reflects the strength he receives and the twisted means in which he learns to cope with those events in his life. They are representations of IDEALS which the hosts subconscious feels will keep him safe from harm.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bye Bye Man and Monster Truck

Bye Bye Man

So I’ve been looking forward to this movie for the better part of 2016. Originally filmed with a release date in November, the film had gotten a lot of horror hype as being a new vision and introducing a new Iconic character that would haunt our nights. And as the release date came closer, the news was that they were pushing for a hard “R” rating and that the film was going to seriously deliver the goods… and then the date got pushed back. And they announced it was going to get a PG-13 release. And the film was pushed back to January 2017… for those who don’t know, January is kind of a dumping ground for film releases. It’s where studios tend to shove their tax write-offs and films that have little to no expectation for seeing a return. It’s a realm of dread for many horror fans, because that’s when we know that something is going to be “wrong’ with the film.

“Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it.”

Bye Bye Man has all the foundation to create an interesting and effective film with a fairly solid script, decent direction, and great practical effects. But then the film seems to diverge from itself in post-production. Poorly rendered CGI, ill placed audio stings, and butchered editing of scenes obviously intended for a mature audience undermine the efforts of the director to pace and maintain a sense of dread throughout the story. The practical effects make-up of the titular character are incredibly effective but then diffused by the presence of a “dog-like” creature that never truly receives any sort of explanation. Follow all of that up with a bevy of the usual tropes (Séance, house party, little girl at risk, library google search, and a visit with the knowledgeable old lady) and the film becomes much more of a parody than an effective horror film.

5 out of 10 and a very low priority rental.

Monster Truck

Monster Truck is another January release that had been promised an earlier theater run but reshoots and effects work kept pushing it back. But what we do see is far better a film than it has any right to be- it’s a solid PG action film with monsters, much in the vein of Amblin-esque films and lighter sci-fi fare. While I went to the drive-in to enjoy some time with my family, I cannot say that I really paid much attention to the film itself. I had a massive headache, took a nap halfway through the film, and woke up just long enough to see that many of the earlier tropes introduced in the film were turned on their heads a little. So, keep in mind that I only saw about half of the film… the first fifteen minutes and the last half hour or so.

A young man lives in a modern era “oil boom” town with his mother and her live-in boyfriend, the local sheriff of their small town. The nearby drilling station has hit a deep water pocket, releasing three unknown lifeforms and endangering the profit margin of their project. Two of the creatures are captured while the third manages to escape.  The young man and the creature encounter one another, the creature hides in the shell of a truck the man had been working on, and this is how we really get things started.

The film seems straight out of “paint a plot by numbers 101”, yet suddenly veers in a few different directions regarding the characters themselves. Almost as if recognizing the depthless tropes they’re supposed to represent, the characters move beyond the caricature and fill greater depths without the cheap attempts to play on heart strings that many films rely on. But, be it as it may, this is still a children’s film at heart. An exploration of that depth isn’t really necessary and we move along at a fairly quick pace to the climactic rescue of the other creatures.

5.5, low priority rental.

Monday, January 9, 2017

TOP TEN of 2016

2016 has been a very bizarre year on a personal level. Celebrity deaths, political divisiveness, and social tensions have been incredibly thick all around. It has also been a pretty damn fantastic year for film. It started off with a pretty big bang and just never seemed to let up straight on through the Holiday Season.

10. Train to Busan

9. Captain America: Civil War

8.  Doctor Strange

7. VVitch:

6. Don’t Breathe
5. Deadpool:
4. Kubo and the Two Strings:
An amazing and original story featuring some very beautiful stop-motion animation. The use of new 3d printing technology was used to create brand new faces and animation effects. 

3. Rogue One : A Star Wars Tale
The Dirty Dozen of the Star Wars universe… yes please.

2. Green Room:
Patrick Stewart is absolutely the highlight performance in this grim film about a punk band in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a very layered film, very brutal, and extremely gritty. Stewart is the leader of a Skinhead gang in the Northwest and a very intense role for one of our lost celebrities, Anton Yelchin. Also notable is the performance of frequent Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair as a skinhead whose confusion and regret is a perfect balance to Stewart’s chilling performance.

1.      Moana :
What can I say? I’m not normally the kind of guy who puts an animated Disney film onto his list but Moana maybe the most effective use of the medium I’ve seen since Beauty and the Beast. I haven’t been this emotionally moved by a Disney Animated film in a long time, the voice acting was done very well and music from Lin Manuel Miranda hit all the right spots.

* And here are some honorable mentions: 

Scherzo Diabolico, They're Watching, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Shallows, Light's Out.