When I started thinking last night about my review of The Canal, I was pondering whether I could really capture the spirit of the the movie’s slow disintegration of reality without delving deep into spoiler territory. See, there’s this sad faced Irish film archivist, played by a guy I had never heard of before a couple of years ago, but who plays an oppressed Jew in The Man in the High Castle and also the Watcher-equivalent in the Charmed reboot, and so basically he’s all over TV now, reliably playing the same sad faced character type (although to be fair the meat behind each of the characters is substantially different). And he learns that his house was the scene of a sensationally grisly century-old murder the same week he receives an emotional shock, which sends him into a haunted (whether literally or metaphorically is at the heart of what the movie is about) downward spiral.
It’s basically treading the same ground as Paranormal Activity, except if it’s not found footage so much as an external camera recording the guy creating the footage, and if it were crossed with a crime drama. Which, that’s not a “crossed with” I personally have seen before, and it’s fair enough. Only, while I was back at the beginning of the first paragraph thinking about how to explain all that in non-spoiler fashion, I came to an unexpected realization, which I can only explain by for sure getting into spoilers: it is that I don’t actually care about any of that, because of a critical flaw at the heart of the film’s conceit.
Thusly, a spoiler space break.
I scrolled to the tail end of my watch list on Shudder last night, because it’s been a minute or three since I watched anything there that wasn’t hosted by Joe Bob Briggs. The movie at the end was conveniently short (since I was halfway thinking about going to sleep early instead) and in English (since I wanted to get my outstanding review handled before the plot got very busy), so perfect placement, and thusly did I watch Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, which is one of those recent modern movies with a heavy ’70s aesthetic. Check the poster to your right, for example.
Despite the 20th C gothic setting, which is teenager gets away from her creepy stepdad by taking a summer job as caretaker for her mother’s shut-in sister who lives in a big empty house but refuses to leave her bedroom or for that matter even open the door to be seen by anyone due to agoraphobia and also she has a heart condition, despite all those horror movie trappings, this easily could have been mistaken for an awkward teen lesbian coming of age art film. Because there’s the alluring raven haired beauty at the grocery store, and wait, she’s interested in me, the quiet shy wallflower, as a person? And she’s a free spirit who doesn’t wear a bra when changing clothes into the flapper gear in the basement of the big empty house? And she’s maybe interested in me as more than just a person?
But this is a horror movie, and the shut-in aunt is downright creepy, and long story short there’s more going on than coming of age, and for that matter more going on than a plausibly haunted 20th C gothic empty old house. But like indie arthouse flicks in general, it is definitely more concerned with mood and atmosphere than it is with plot, and the result is I’m not entirely sure whether I was satisfied or not.
But I think so. The final shot of the movie does a lot of heavy lifting, is all I’m saying.
 Which goal, incidentally, I think I accomplished? I missed an early key transition, but since it had been expressed in the plot summary, no confusion!
 The House of the Devil, for example, although that’s more mid ’80s aesthetic.
Obviously, they can’t all be winners. But what hurts is when I can see the way to… okay, that’s an unfair claim. It Stains the Sands Red was never going to be a winner. Let me start over.
See, there’s this zombie apocalypse in progress, as usual. And there’s a Vegas stripper who finds herself crossing the desert, trying to reach an airplane to a beach in Mexico, where for some reason things are safe? Best not to dwell on that part, I’m sure. The thing is, there’s a zombie following her across the desert, for the reason zombies do such things.
All of this is the core of a pretty good movie, right? Minimalist cast: one protagonist, two foes (the zombie and the desert), and from there it’s just endurance and determination. Whoever has the most, wins. And if they had made a 70-75 minute movie with that core, I think I would have gotten past my first act eye-rolling and accepted it for what it was.
Instead, they added a pointless plot complication in the second act, and also a pointless third act to resolve the complication. So, on the whole, ugh. And while that’s not my only complaint, it’s the only one that doesn’t have big spoilers. So I’ll leave it here, wishing they’d made the movie I can see in my head instead of the one I could see on the screen.
You know those movies where people make one or two bad decisions, and things spiral irretrievably out of control?
The Corpse of Anna Fritz is just such a movie. See, there’s this really popular young actress, and she dies at a party. Later, a morgue attendant lets his truly douchetastic friends know that her body has arrived at his hospital, and they of course want to see her. Once they do, well, mistakes are made, and then that spiralling out of control thing happens.
It’s difficult to say anything else, because spoilers for the journey really removes any need for this movie to exist, and everything vague I can think of to add is either too clever by half or unintentionally offensive to myself, and therefore probably others. Possibly both at once.
I will say, although this has probably already been covered in paragraph two despite my vagueness toward the end, that if you don’t like things that are disturbing, this is not for you.
I’m not sure how I waited so long to start paying for Shudder.
This is not to say that Night of the Living Deb was some kind of revelation. It really was, just as you would guess from the title, mostly a cheap knockoff of Shaun of the Dead. There’s this cute redhead total spazz out on the town for the night, right? And she meets an engaged hottie in the midst of a break-up, and wakes up the next morning with no real memory of what happened, only now she’s in his house, and it’s super awkward, but also, oops, the zombie apocalypse happened overnight.
The biggest problem, I think, is that every actor who was not one of the two leads was at best phoning it in and more commonly just really bad. Also, the plot took a while to find legs enough to differentiate itself from Shaun beyond the “but with a lady!” twist that is I’m sure what got the investors (and lawyers!) on board. But by the beginning of act three, I actively enjoyed it instead of benignly tolerating, mostly because of Maria Thayer as Deb, who deserves a better career than she apparently has; I guess America gave away the spazzy redhead slot to Ellie Kemper before she knew there was only one such slot available to compete for.
 Which is to say, my type. I think this probably helped my overall opinion.
So, let’s say you run a summer camp, and let’s say it’s been a really bad night at the summer camp, with teen counselors dropping like flies, and someone is about to try to burn you out of the cabin you’ve bolted yourself into. Maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and call your friend who works at the video store and get some calming, helpful advice!
This is the premise of an apparently off-the-cuff Twitter conversation between a guy who sometimes writes Star Wars books and another guy who I forget what. Which I think makes You Might Be the Killer the first movie developed on Twitter? That by itself was enough to make me want to watch it. I had been a little sad about the spoilery nature of having read the conversation, but it turns out to cover not much more than the premise, which is kind of summed up in the title in the first place. I’m pleased to report they found room to maneuver, is what I’m saying.
But then they put it on Shudder, and I have a subscription to that! ….which was probably about a year overdue, if I’m being honest with myself, so thanks Joe Bob for forcing my hand last summer. Anyway, it’s a slasher comedy starring Fran Kranz (from The Cabin in the Woods) and Allyson Hannigan (from all kinds of things at this point, don’t act like you don’t know), and while it’s not quite the genius that I wanted it to be, it’s still pretty damn fun.
 I may have exaggerated about the calming effect of the previously mentioned forthcoming advice.
I ate too much yesterday. As a result, I watched a movie last night despite exhaustion, because I was too full to go to sleep. (I mean, to do so comfortably.) Unrelatedly, I finally got Shudder working again on my Roku. The intersection of these facts is that I watched a semi-random movie called Follow. It had an interesting enough plot description and was 78 minutes long, which was just about right for my needs.
There’s this bartender and his girlfriend who live together, and there’s also a girl at work who is way into the bartender, and an annoying guy at work who is an antagonist to the bartender. And, apropos of almost nothing, a weird neighbor teen who sings Christmas carols a lot. (Also, it’s the holiday season, which will be important in a moment.) Having established all this, plus some character beats about how the girlfriend is a bit morbid, we cut right to the point, which is where the intriguing description comes in. She has an early Christmas present for the bartender, one that he is not quite sure what to make of. Before he has a decisive reaction one way or the other, he blacks out and wakes up the next morning to learn that everything about his life has taken a hard swerve to the left.
Everything else (so, the remaining 70 minutes or so) is… well, I took it as a character study. Push a person in an unexpected direction, and then watch and see where they end up. And it worked pretty well for that. Another way to read it is as a study of madness and unreliable narration. At least, if you knew for sure what was going on for the first half of the movie, you’re more confident than I was! It’s tense, it’s spooky, it’s way dark, and… it’s pretty okay? The problem with a character study is you have to really accept the character. I understood him a little bit, but I’m not sure I liked him enough.