Tag Archives: Netflix

Would You Rather

MV5BODE3OTY0MzAtYWQzMy00MDdiLTlkOTItNzY1NWNjY2ZkNjBhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjQwMjk0NjI@._V1_SY1000_SX679_AL_The difference between rich people and poor people, in a nutshell, is this: if you are rich, you can spend your money any way you want to. You can hire personal painters or musicians under the patronage system, or you can make bums fight on camera, or you can throw elaborate annual dinner parties for groups of strangers, where eventually they will play a high-stakes children’s game for your amusement. If you are poor, you can hope you find the rich person who wants to improve the atmosphere of the world to be your patron, but most likely you’ll only find the other rich people instead. Good luck!

Would You Rather capitalizes on a grimly plausible premise and a consistently recognizable cast, to maybe rise above what could have been a by-the-numbers entry into the gross-out subgenre of horror. I mean, it’s pretty by the numbers; they establish a heroine early on, and her impossible situation is of course very sympathetic, but the will she / they or won’t she / they is played out to good effect, the whole movie long. (Even the people who obviously will are characters that I found fascinating rather than mono-dimensional cardboard.)

That said… it’s still a cheap horror movie of functionally no social or historical value.

State of Emergency (2011)

MV5BMjE5OTI5ODY5OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM3MjUzNw@@._V1_Last night was random Netflixing night. Well, semi-random; I was choosing from my pretty long queue list, but still. The result was the fairly disappointing State of Emergency. See, a county somewhere in the southern tobacco belt has been quarantined after an explosion and people going crazy with rabies-like symptoms. (You know, zombies.) From there, we focus in on one man’s travails while trying to survive.

The problems were manifold. Random failures for irrelevant plot points to make any sense whatsoever[1]; undeserved character development, just for the sake of having some; acting that occasionally rises to the level of professional; briefly highlighting the zombie menace as some kind of mystery to be solved[2] and then failing to in any way go about solving it… the list goes on.

Long story short: don’t watch this. There are much better options if you need a dose of zombiepocalypse.

[1] Example: news broadcast in which an audio feed of an embedded reporter with soldiers is overlaid by random images of helicopters flying around, soldiers standing around, or an ominous explosion cloud pluming into the sky. This is all fine, but suddenly due to predictable circumstances the audio feed cuts out. That’s accompanied by the stock, looped footage that had nothing to do with the audio feed also cutting out, to a generic test pattern and “feed lost” on top of it. This has no bearing on anything at all, but the lack of attention to making the least bit of sense was repeated again and again, and it’s hard to really take a movie seriously when they’re getting little details so very wrong.
[2] As opposed to the correct way to deal with zombies in most movies, which is to treat them purely as a setting choice, no different from “at the Arctic circle” or “1940s Europe”.

Horns

MV5BMTQ2Nzk5NzIxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2NTc5MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Mary picked Horns for movie night, a film about which I knew very little. Basically, just an image in my head (not dissimilar to the one in front of you) of Daniel Radcliffe with some, y’know, horns growing out of his forehead. It turned out to be pretty interesting, though! Mainly by that I mean that its philosophical / religious underpinnings were thought-provoking. If your very presence brought out people’s darkest secrets and basest impulses, who would you hang out with? Who would you avoid?

Unfortunately, the actual story above said underpinnings was not really worth holding up. What started as a moody murder and identity mystery quickly lost track of itself in an admittedly compelling relationship history, and by the time it found its way back, all of the moodiness had been lost in a generic anti-feminist fist fight between two guys over the fate of a dead girl.

It’s too bad, though. The principle actors were solid, and I think there’s a really excellent movie buried in the premise. This just wasn’t that movie.

Hercules (2014)

MV5BMTQ4ODA5MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjMyODM5MTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I saw Hercules last week because it was in the 10% of shows on my Netflix queue that were neither horror nor serial. (Well, and because my girlfriend didn’t want to watch a horror movie.) I have resisted reviewing it until now because it was just so… bland.

Don’t get me wrong, I always like The Rock. And that guy from Deadwood, Swearengen, who plays his seer sidekick, is a true delight. It’s just that the plot is… I can’t say bland again. Deconstructionist is not, per se, a negative. But this particular deconstruction took all of the literal and figurative magic out of the Hercules myth and turned it into not much more than a war story. Train the troops, fight the battles, and if I wanted a Greek war movie, I’d just watch Troy again.

It ended up better than I’m describing, but not enough better to be worth saying good things about. Or maybe the wait was too long? Either way: meh. You can do better, The Rock and Swearengen and people prospectively viewing this movie.

Zombeavers

MV5BNTMzMzc4ODc1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM0MTgxMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing I like about monster movies is everything you need to know is presented up front and boldly in the title. I Was a Teenage Werewolf? I think you know how that film is going to go down. Sharknado? Piranha 3D? I’m just saying. Easy peasy.

Which brings me to Zombeavers, a film I first learned about when it popped up on Netflix sometime last month. Literally everything you need to write the script for this movie is contained in the title. Thing 1: these are radioactive chemical zombies, a la Return of the Living Dead. This is a foregone conclusion, because how else would it only affect beavers and not everything else, except if it was somehow tied to a limited geographic area? Thing 2: this is a college kids trapped in the woods movie, a la Evil Dead. This is also a foregone conclusion, because how else do you get the victims near the zombeavers? Ah!, you ask, but why college kids? Because it’s a one word title. Zombie Beavers, you might have some leeway, but with Zombeavers, you need people who are young enough that you know they’ll be naked sometimes, and old enough that this is permissible. The pun is just too on the spot for anything else, and also, man, the poster you are seeing here is unfortunately not the one I see on Netflix.

So, why should you watch a movie about college kids in the woods vs. zombie beavers? Because, despite everything I’ve just told you about the inevitability of the flick, this is the most subversive horror movie I’ve seen in years. Explaining how would be a spoiler, so I won’t do it here. But if anyone asks, I can definitely elaborate in comments, and in the meantime, if you have even a slim percentage of amusement in the base concept, you must see this movie. Like, yesterday.

+1

MV5BMTQwOTA5Mzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkxODAxMDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Before telling you that you definitely want to avoid +1[1], I should at least try to explain what happens in it. So, the first layer of the onion is that it’s one of those high school / early college break-up movies where the boy and the girl have some kind of valid or contrived misunderstanding, and then the one who isn’t pissed tries to make up with the one who is at a big, raunchy teen movie house party, while various secondary stories play out and roadblocks keep appearing to prevent the inevitable reconciliation.

The complicating factor is some kind of space-spawned electrical disturbance that resets time weirdly. So, like, the first one jumps everything backward about 20 minutes, and you have the people who already lived through those 20 minutes and the people from 20 minutes ago, now both existing at the same time. (Not occupying the same space, because the vast majority of partygoers end up in different locations right before the jump, which is convenient I guess?) Then the same thing happens again, but the backward jump is only like 10 minutes the next time, and so forth. Inexplicably, there are never more than two sets of people, but whatever, go with it. Poorly thought out consequences is not why you want to avoid this movie.

Honestly, the background stories all kind of worked. The nerdy girl’s search for peace, the rowdy best friend’s search for a hot chick to bang, the big group’s reaction to the weird happenings going on around them mostly unnoticed, each of these stories plays out in novel or at least believable ways, which is more than you can say for most teen house party movies. But the main story about the boy trying to reconcile with his wronged ex-girlfriend? It starts off in the exact formulaic way you would expect, with him using found knowledge from the time rewind to get his reconciliation speech just right. And then it gets seriously a whole lot worse, without any kind of ultimate consequence or useful lesson.

Long story short: I want to kick this movie in the nuts. And then I want a time loop to jump back 20 minutes, so I can kick it in nuts again at about 19:30, and then the other me kicks it again immediately afterwards.

[1] Because you should avoid it, I’m not going to be shy about the spoilers. If for some reason you think I’m wrong and you want to see it anyway, probably don’t read this review? Also, make sure you’re good on blood pressure meds.

Movie 43

MV5BMTg4NzQ3NDM1Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjEzMjM3OA@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_What I actually wanted to watch last night was Project X, but it wasn’t on Netflix. But the reason I wanted to watch it was that I was watching Iron Man earlier in the evening and thought the Vanity Fair reporter looked familiar. Turns out she didn’t, but I saw Movie 43 in her credits, which reminded me of Project X. Because, you know, generic titles and all.

Movie 43 is a series of comedic shorts tied together by a movie pitch plot[1], and… well, let me offer you this quick guide. If you’ve ever wanted to see Anna Faris as a coprophiliac, or if you’ve ever wanted to see Halle Berry make guacamole with a breast prosthesis, or if you’ve ever wanted to see Hugh Jackman being a literal dickhead, you should watch this movie. If you actively want to avoid seeing those things, you should not.

This doesn’t feel like a “middle ground” type of situation, you know?

[1] No, seriously, it’s not a V/H/S sequel, and I’m pretty sure this is not the only kind of movie I watch anymore? Pretty sure.

 

V/H/S/2

MV5BODg4OTMxNDAxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM4ODQ0OQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_I know what you’re thinking. Why am I reading a review about a crazy former hot werewolf when I was promised a review explaining how V/H/S maybe actually does make sense as a series?[1] Answer: I can’t[2] review things out of order, can I? And I watched that other movie in between because my girlfriend was over, and she had not even seen V/H/S, so I couldn’t very well throw her right into the middle of things, could I?

But then, a night or two later: here we are. The open question is, does V/H/S/2[3] make a damn lick of sense, and, even trickier, does it retroactively make its precedent make sense? That’s what we in the radio business call a tease[4]. First, I will say that all of the short films that tied the sequel together were as skin-crawly and engrossing as last time. (Well, one of them had a monster that should never have been shown closely and in slow movement, but that was like the last 15 seconds and did not ruin the Lovecraftian splatterfest that had gone before.) I don’t know if it’s that most horror movies are too long and the compactness packs a punch, or if it’s that the first person nature of all found footage movies makes me identify more closely with what’s going on, or what, but these stories, one and all, were genuinely disturbing.

Okay, I’m doing it for real this time. Yes, there is a small degree to which the cohesion stories about finding these houses full of screens and creepy tapes does make sense now that did not exist last time, and it even sort of works retroactively. It’s a pretty small degree, but still, if you were really here because you desperately wanted to understand the underground world of tapes of supernatural events, you would hate these movies I think for their inability to deliver. And since that’s the only way they don’t deliver, well then.

[1] Well, correction: I know what you were thinking.
[2] Well, correction: I don’t
[3] These movies are irritating as fuck to type out, b/t/w.
[4] Well, correction: they in the radio business.[5]
[5] I know what you’re thinking this time, too. And no, I really have no idea what I’m doing, much less why. You gets what you pays for.

88 (2014)

MV5BMjM2ODQxMjU3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzc1OTE2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Remember Ginger Snaps? I do, very fondly, even if my viewing of the original movie barely predated my starting to review things. Remember Ginger? ….no, not from Gilligan’s Island, this Ginger, the one I was literally just talking about? My point is, Katharine Isabelle’s face was tugging at my recollection the whole time I was watching 88 on the strength of its Memento-like description on Netflix.

To be clear, this is no Memento. But it does have a cool fragmented parallel story structure where you can’t tell what’s real. The hot girl in the poster (Ginger, you guys, why is this not sinking in?) has obviously had a psychotic break[1], but still, something you’re seeing must be real, surely! And it’s pretty fun trying to figure out what. Long story short, I’ve made bigger Netflix mistakes than this.

[1] Sounds like a spoiler, possibly is a spoiler, but they say it in text at the front of the movie before you’ve even seen her come to herself, confused, in front of a stack of pancakes.

V/H/S

MV5BMTUwODAxMzMwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk3MTQ5Nw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I was so confused by the overarching “plot” of V/H/S that I watched the sequel before writing this review, in the hope that it would clear things up for me. Answer: maybe it did? But since I’m going to end up writing two reviews anyway, I may as well wait ’til then.

Anyway, there’s this group of punks with a camcorder documenting their asshole exploits and re-editing them together in exactly the sort of way that someone with a VHS camcorder would never, ever do. Then, later, they break into an old abandoned house. The IMDB summary says they were being paid to find something, but if that was actually communicated in the movie, I sure missed it. What they do find is a dead guy who was watching about 15 TV screens all hooked up to VCRs, and surrounded by piles of VHS tapes. Then, while all the other punks search the house for whatever it was they were looking for, one of them sits down to watch some of the tapes, which is the actual point of the movie, because they portray various horror short story events that are clearly set in a future beyond when anyone would be filming their exploits on a VHS camcorder. (Plausibly, I am thinking about this too much.)

The important part, though, is that the short story segments were really well done, scary, suspenseful, and affecting in the way that I always want my horror to be and it so very rarely is. So, if you wanna watch something modern and reasonably frightening (and with an adequate amount of breasts, which like being scary have also abandoned the horror scene of late), this is your movie. Just don’t try to understand anything that’s going on outside of the short stories.