Author Archives: Chris

Scare Me (2020)

Apparently, both films named Scare Me released in 2020, which makes it a lot harder to distinguish which one I’m talking about here than I’m used to. Even worse (although I suppose the title lends itself to this outcome), they’re both about the same thing, which is people telling each other scary stories. Worst of all, I have no idea whether I can distinguish this one from the other one by saying it’s the one that’s sort of funny in addition to being scary. …since I didn’t see the other one, you understand.

IMDb says this is horror and comedy, but I disagree. Even though the stories are mostly not scary, it’s also mostly not played for laughs. There’s a ton of snark, and it is well-mixed with a lot of genre self-awareness, but it’s not a comedy. The characters, as they tell their stories to and with each other, cause the lines between imagination and reality to grow ever more blurry, and this is the source of most of the horror and most of the humor… but not, you know, at the same time.

Irony meter: while this is not the first movie I’ve heard mention the Bechdel test, I’m pretty sure it’s the first one which, having mentioned it, proceeds not to pass it.

 

The Lost City (2022)

What if you wrote a romance novel about being a romance novelist whose life is devoid of romance, but then you crossed that with Romancing the Stone from the ’80s, which is more of an action comedy than a romance novel, but then you also noticed that hey if you’re crossing it with a movie anyway, you might as well make your novel a movie instead?

Also, maybe your inspiration for writing a novel about the thing you ended up making a movie about instead came from those Bones novels, so you should probably make your novelist an expert in the field of whatever will allow her to go out and do actiony treasure hunting a la the movie you decided to cross your romance novel with.

Also, you are just on board with everything Daniel Radcliffe has done since he got out of his Harry Potter contract.

In the unlikely event that you’ve done all of these things: congratulations! You’re going to get sued by the people who made The Lost City, for flagrant plagiarism. That sounds fun!

All of this said: I’m not coming down on it. It for sure has an aesthetic and knows exactly what it’s going for, and you might hate that thing, but if you do not, this is a pretty funny and moderately sweet example of said thing.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a completely full drive-in parking lot. Whether this is a factor of Covid, or the new Doctor Strange movie only having been out for a week, or both, or some other X-factor… Regardless, I’ve seen a lot of movies at drive-ins relative to my age[1], and some have been crowded, but never packed like this. Man that is a lot of people flashing a lot of headlights, individually, at various moments. But I guess not much more distracting that people getting up to pee or food deliveries or whatever.

I have no segue here, I just like to talk about the drive-in.

See, there’s this teen in need of help, and she occasionally runs into Doctor Strange, who while not the Sorcerer Supreme these days is nonetheless still in charge of the New York chapter house or whatever wizards call their sanctums, and he decides to help her, since that’s what you do in these movies. Then he finds himself traveling the multiverse and fighting demons and the Illuminati and a big bad and pretty much, well, everyone. Turns out the multiverse just isn’t a fan of this guy.

Was it good? It took until the final act for me to say to myself, my, this certainly is a Sam Raimi movie, isn’t it? Unlike I’m sure a lot of people, I did not say this with a heavy heart. Basically, this is a family drama and a second family drama mashed up together, and then turned into a fantasy horror movie, and I completely understand why that is not for everyone, but I kind of dig it, you know?

In retrospect, this may have been the most drive-in friendly movie Kevin Feige has ever signed off on.

What I did not like is how heavily dependent the movie is on watching all of the TV shows Marvel has been pushing out lately. Like, I’ve seen and remember Wandavision, but I feel like you shouldn’t have to? Which is a weird take for a guy reading 100% of Marvel[2], I know, but… you shouldn’t. Needing to watch dozens of movies to keep up is enough to ask. Wanda’s character arc barely makes sense with the TV show for backstory, though, so I’mma call foul there.

[1] Or at least I think I have? Maybe I’m fooling myself.
[2] Close enough, anyway

Double Dexter

A couple of months ago, as you will no doubt recall, I read the wrong Dexter book. Since these are not 100% episodic, this presented a bit of a problem for me in terms of going back to right myself. Because, you know: yes I always know how the book is going to turn out at least mostly, but I don’t usually know how the incidental incremental advances in Dexter’s domestic and professional life will turn out? Except this time I did.

Anyway, Double Dexter chronicles the time Dexter got caught in the midst of pedophile clown slaughter, and then the witness got away, and then (let’s be honest, somewhat implausibly) got obsessed with the idea that maybe he, the witness, could start murdering bad guys, and then he sets his aim on the main bad guy he (still the witness) knows about, which is to say: our hero.

The main thing I got out of this book is that it’s probably good Lindsay decided to wrap up the series, because Dexter’s “look how smart I am” but clearly he isn’t so smart as all that schtick only works if the author, on some level, believes Dexter is in fact pretty smart, but just misses small tricks now and again. Whereas in this book, I felt like Lindsay was making fun of his creation, and, that is just not the series I want to read.

So, after whatever my next brief palate cleanser turns out to be: the finale! And I will have gotten another series off my to-read shelf, woo.

Ahem. This makes me sound like the series is a task, and therefore why am I even reading them? It’s not as bad as all that, even if this book was for certain the low point of the series. But the weight of that shelf (mostly metaphorically) has been holding me down for some time, and my greatly-reduced incidence of book-shopping over the last few years does make it feel like accomplishments are possible. So you see.

Spiral (2019)

Did you ever wonder how it would look if someone took a run at Get Out, but for gay people instead of black people? If you have… Spiral doesn’t quite get there, but that’s not to say there isn’t a movie worth watching here so much as that it’s a really high target.

Two men and their 16 year old daughter move to either a picturesque bedroom community or else maybe just the suburbs? It kind of varies. Also, it’s 1995. Once there, they are exposed to glarey-eyed old men, homophobia, nosy neighbors, and for the younger and more flamboyant half of the couple, a creeping dread and flashbacks to a gay-bashing experience that his high school boyfriend took the brunt of half a lifetime earlier.

So why doesn’t it quite reach the comparison it was (apparently) striving for? For one thing, Spiral does not have the targeted feel that it should, on a moment by moment basis. I could change very little of the movie and it would fit a heterosexual couple just as easily. For another, the entire premise is cast into doubt by an unreliable main character who may simply be off his meds. And on the one hand, when done effectively (and this was), the game where they keep you guessing if this is an internal or external horror movie is something I’m quite fond of, even if the writers choose “internal” all too seldomly[1]. But on the other, when your base premise is this good, you commit to it instead of waffling between it and a diferent good premise, because half your audience won’t be satisfied regardless of what you pick.

Still and all, pretty good movie.

[1] Man I want to name drop an excellent example of when they did, but it kind of ruins the entire movie if you know in advance.

Wind Chill

When I added Wind Chill to my watchlist on Starz, I think it was because I wanted to recapture the magic of Frozen, which I associated to in my head as having come out around the same time, even though it turns out the [non-Disney, stuck in a ski lift] movie came out a few years after this one[1].

The short version is, I did not. Alas!

Anyway, did you ever see The Sure Thing? John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga on a road trip during a college break: they don’t really know each other but they both need to get to the same place[2], and they quickly hate each other but are trapped together in this tiny hurtling box, right? You know how the movie goes, even if you don’t know specifically how the movie goes.

This movie is that movie, except it’s also a winter horror movie once they spin off the road into a ditch, can’t get the car started, it’s at night, and paranoia starts to set in. And if it had stayed that movie, man, I would be singing that movie’s praises to the rooftops. It quickly devolved into a different, boring movie, though, and long story short: meh. It’s like, I get that you can’t just sit in the car getting colder and more shrill in your accusations, that drama fizzles out fast. But if they had found a way to leave the car and keep the paranoia… and I can even think of some ways! Make it a satanic panic cultist movie, for example.

Oh, well.

[1] And a few years before the Disney one, obviously
[2] I forget her reason. His is that he has a “sure thing” waiting for him. ie, someone who will definitely have sex with him, if that terminology has correctly fallen out of favor by the time you read this.

Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion

The first thing that happens in Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion is… well, it’s rather predictable, is what it is. You wake up one morning and have a letter from the mayor that you owe property taxes, and you[1] rip up the letter, and boom: you, sir, are a tax evader.

And now, you are on an epic quest to… well, honestly, even saying what the quest is for feels a little bit like a spoiler, but what you are for sure on is an epic quest to do whatever Mayor Onion tells you, since he owns your greenhouse through the powers of lien-holding or whatever. Along the way, you will fight vegetarians, learn your backstory[2], and live out what is, ultimately, a love letter to anarchy.

It’s silly, short, and if not exactly easy, also not exactly hard. My only regret is that the XBox version apparently has bugs preventing me from get the last 100 gamerscores. Lame.

[1] I should pause here to note that you are one Turnip Boy, esquire
[2] Why don’t you already know your own backstory? Listen, don’t think about it too much.

Rabbit (2017)

The thing about Rabbit is, I feel like I have seen this exact movie before when they called it The Wicker Man or Midsommar[1], but this one has twins!, is the distinguishing feature. See, there’s this twin sister who is having visions of the other sister, with whom she has a complicated relationship but also the sister went missing a while ago, long enough that the rest of the family has held a funeral, which she did not attend due to not believing she’s dead but the family thinks due to the complicated relationship. But now the visions have come to a head, so she’s returned to Australia[2] to find the missing twin once and for all.

Which, to bring it back around, mostly involves wandering around a campgrounds area except people seem to live there instead of be camping, and also everyone keeps looking at her and/or each other meaningfully, which is my point about the comparison to the other movies.

Later, there’s a secret ending, which I will not spoil.

[1] The latter of which I have not technically seen at all, but it just feels like it’s the same thing, you know?
[2] I don’t know anything about Australian law, but I should mention that the sister has only been missing for like a year or something? It seems too soon to me for her to be declared dead, but what do I know?

Color out of Space

Color out of Space appears to be a modern but otherwise fairly direct adaptation of a Lovecraft story. I haven’t read the story, and I do not 100% know it exists, but it has that feel to it. In this story (or at least in the movie) there’s this guy who is a narrator a little and witness-bearer a lot to the strange events surrounding a remote farmstead outside Arkham that is host to a meteor strike.

You know what, this makes me want to play Mansions of Madness.

But so anyway, there’s a weird purply-pinky-maybe bluey(?) glow around the meteor, and then later around a lot of other things, to let you know that the creepy Lovecraftian shit is going down, and also there’s Nicolas Cage as the cityfolk patriarch of the newly arrived farmer / alpaca ranchers who live at this farmstead, and let’s be honest, his only job is to demonstrate creeping Lovecraftian insanity, but let’s also be honest, he’s Nic Cage, so you know he’s going to deliver.

There are definitely things that I did not understand at all, or at least have no confidence in my understanding, but you know, that’s also very much on brand. I think this may have replaced Event Horizon as my favorite Lovecraft-inspired movie. EH is the better movie, of course, but I think this provides the better feeling of reading a Lovecraft book.

One Dark Night (1982)

As much as I love the early ’80s for the explosion of horror movies, I must still acknowledge that for every Basket Case or Sleepaway Camp, there’s going to be a One Dark Night to temper my expectations.

There’s this guy, and he was apparently a semi-famous mentalist or whatever, and people wanted to prove he was a fraud, but other people thought he was for real life. Only he died, and a whole bunch of people were also dead in his apartment with him, and maybe he murdered them, but he’s dead too, so… whaaaaat?

And the guy has a daughter, who is married to Adam West[1], and some other guy who’s been lurking around the crime scenes wants to tell her about her dad, and how he was, in fact, for real life and not a fraud at all, but also maybe totes evil, which I suppose tracks with all the other dead people in the apartment, but since he’s dead too, who cares?

But then there’s a sorority hazing in progress, only I think it’s high school and it’s just three chicks in matching members only jackets instead of a sorority, and for the final hazing, the head sorority chick wants to send the prospect chick, who she hates because she (the prospect) is dating her (the head chick) ex-boyfriend, to an overnight in the mausoleum from Phantasm. Why the prospect chick thought it would be a good idea to join this not-exactly-a-sorority is not really explored with any rigor.

Speaking of rigor, though, it turns out that the mausoleum is where the dead evil mentalist guy is entombed, and now you see why the two unrelated plots are in the same movie. Except you’re wrong, because while the high school horror movie makes sense, the dead evil mentalist story never makes even the slightest lick of sense, and I think I’d rather have seen either a different and more traditional spend the night surrounded by the dead while other people want to prank you possibly to death, or else just gone ahead and watched Phantasm, which also doesn’t make a lick of sense, but man it does it with a lot more style.

[1] A fact that never rises to the level of even moderately important to the plot[2], but since at one point after his Batman fame ran out, he was considering taking a job as a human cannonball, this counts as good news for his career. Which… hooboy.
[2] By which I mean, if she had been unmarried, nothing would have changed. Much less if it had been someone besides Adam West.