Category Archives: Film

Gwen

So there’s this movie called Gwen, in which Gwen and her sister and her mother, and also her father (in flashbacks mostly), wander around the hills of 1850s Wales, either being happy when they’re all together or moody and atmospheric and brooding when they aren’t. Also, some other things happened?

The sad part is, I’m not even joking. I watched this movie a day or two ago[1] and kept trying to pay attention to it, but realized at the end that I legitimately had no idea what had happened, outside of my description above and one or two specific events untethered from any ongoing narrative, like, oh, those neighbors died of cholera, or, huh, all the sheep are dead.

So instead of writing a probably unfairly empty review saying that, I watched it again this afternoon. This time, I felt like I really had watched the whole thing, and I for sure picked up a lot more. Is it all a land grab? Is the mother crazy? Or possessed? Is there a mysterious third party causing all these problems? Like, there was nearly enough plot there to mix in with the moody atmosphere[2], but then I watched the climax of the movie, and, uh… what?

So I went and found the Wikipedia summary of the movie, and sure enough, I missed nothing at all. The stuff that happened is just the stuff that happened. Which is to say there’s a subplot I did not mention above because it did not seem to be the main driving force of the film, but then haha surprise I guess it was.

I think I’m trying to talk myself into having hated the movie, which I did not do. I’m not even unhappy I watched it twice. But it is for certain not the movie that I wish it had been. Because what I understand this to be is a tripod of beautiful and unsettling and prosaic.

[1] I don’t even know which. Time, man.
[2] Folk horror, they’re calling it. The Witch is another such example, and at least there I understand why that appellation applies? This was also a limited cast, moody photography, and minimal dialogue, but I’m not sure that makes it “folk”, in the sense of folk tales I had previously assumed.

Boar

Australia: home of drop bears, kangaroos that, if they get tired of beating you in boxing, can just eviscerate you, snakes that you die after a handful of steps trying to walk away from, rabbits the size of volkswagens, spiders that I can’t even, and now a boar the size of a Sherman tank. Plan a visit, we have lovely brochures and you will only spend a third of your vacation time in transit!

The only real problem with Boar is that (and here I am speculating as to the cause) the director’s family was too dang large. Because there are like four to six groups of characters running around doing things while this boar stalks them, and any time you start to feel connection to the characters, the scene changes away from them for twenty minutes, and then once they finally come back to start getting killed off, you’ve forgotten why you care.

I think the boar may have been the hero of this movie, and I just missed it until now?

But seriously, a slightly leaner movie with half the size of the cast and the remaining characters spending more time getting developed and/or running away would have been perhaps brilliant. Plus, they had the guy from Wolf Creek who I now assume is just cast in all Australian horror by default, because why wouldn’t he be, and an enormous giant of a man whose last name is probably Ayers, since I would describe him as the Australian Rock. (I briefly thought he might be the hero of the film, but then he betrayed me by playing and singing along to “Ice Ice Baby”.)

Frozen II

I am legitimately confused to report that I never reviewed Frozen[1]. I mean, I saw it. I even remember that where I saw it was at Laylah’s old house in San Marcos, maybe the spring after it came out? I liked it well enough, not that whether I loved or hated it ought to have influenced my intent to write a review. And the thing is, I was counting on that review to help me with this one, for what I trust are obvious reasons.

See, I liked Frozen II. I have said elsewhere that it is probably the best sequel Disney has ever made, and also that this is damning with faint praise[2]. It’s just that… I guess I just wasn’t there for the plot? It was fine, it just didn’t grab me. And in the meantime, the characters and situation were less subversive, the running joke about Kristoff’s [spoiler] was more humiliation cringe humor than actually funny to me, and the music was nowhere near the instant ubiquitous genius of the original.

I will say that Kristoff’s ’80s power ballad and the first big number in which Anna’s lyrics combined with the external events to create an instance of Greek chorus levels of foreshadowing rarely seen in modern cinema? Those were pretty great.

[1] Here I refer to the Disney movie, not the ski lift horror movie, which I did review.
[2] Fight me. Or at least, tell me an actually good Disney sequel, and here I am explicitly disallowing properties that they have purchased elsewhere. It only counts if it’s a legitimate Disney style of movie. The previous best sequel holder was one of the two Aladdin sequels, probably? I forget which.

Bloody Birthday

Bloody Birthday is one of the best standalone ’80s horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. See, there are these three kids who were all born on the same day, during an eclipse. And now it’s ten years later, and those three kids are stone cold killers. Do you really need anything else?

The answer is mostly yes, if what you need is a series of pretty good kills, gratuitous teen sex, gratuitous peephole of Julie Brown’s[1] bedroom, an extended game of cat and mouse between three 10 year olds and their babysitter but in the opposite direction of usual, and the nerdy sidekick from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, a show which let’s be honest nobody remembers ever existed, in the darkest, most hardcore role of his career.

Or, if you need an astrological reason for the soullessness of the murder trio, man, the answer was no, you did not need that, and especially I did not need that. That is five minutes of dialogue and footage I will never get back, during which the murder kids could have found another teen sex to coitus interrupt with another creative weapon. Alas.

[1] Earth Girls are Easy and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun”, not the VJ.

The Ranger (2018)

Sometimes, a movie is exactly what you expect it to be from the poster. Which is nice in terms of proper expectation setting, but is pretty damn tricky in finding something meaningful to say outside of the picture already being worth a thousand words, or in this case 77 minutes of celluloid[1].

The Ranger, then, is the story of a bunch of asshole kids hiding out in a national park after they did some crime, and also the pink-haired final girl has history with the park ranger.

The best thing was all the park regulations as murder one-liners. The worst thing was the dark history, because it was ultimately meaningless. Like, I’m sure the writer had some idea of what was supposed to be there, but it dd not translate at all. Result: schlocky slasher fun that should have aimed for fewer pretensions, alas.

[1] haha jk I’m sure this was digital. Come on: 2018.

Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver

As alluded to recently, the movie I watched last night was based on a creepy internet website from let’s say 2001. Living Dark, as both said website and the subtitle of the film proclaim, tells the story of Ted the Caver, when he found a tiny passageway leading to an untouched, or “virgin” as the caving community would have it, series of caves, and decided to get in there and see what was on the other side.

The movie, necessarily, has more going on than just someone’s caving blog would. There’s a family drama tied into it, and, later, a resolution to the cave exploration. The resolution part is the problem. Partly because I liked it better when [spoiler removed] did it, but mostly because I liked it better when the website did it. There’s always something to be said for letting your imagination run away with you, and unspecified supernatural phenomena are a great way for that to happen. However, it is also something easier to get away with in text than on film, so I understand why they had to do something more specific here.

And within the constraints of an answer, this was a decent answer and outcome for a creepy cave movie to have. But the website is better.

Monster Party

Monster Party is a pretty weird movie. Like, it starts off as a crime drama that suddenly takes a left turn into horror at about the halfway point. (And even knowing that it would, the turn is shocking in its suddenness.) But all of that would be fine and I could just call it riffing on the same themes as Ready or Not[1], just with a different set up.

Except that every aspect of the movie is just deeply nihilistic and dark. Going into why would be way more spoiler-laden than the already inevitable spoilers I have provided, but in retrospect, geeze. Recommended for people who like their movies like they like their coffee: blacker than the blackest depths of their empty souls.

[1] Which I briefly mistook for Hide and Seek, a movie about which I had completely forgotten and even now remember almost nothing, but which via downstream links on my review have lead me down a rabbit hole of old creepy internet stories for the past half hour, and selected my next movie for me.

Blue My Mind

Another week or so, another movie or so.

This time, a not-particularly-horror movie that combines teen angst bullshit[1] with a modicum of weird body horror, which for the most part seemed out of place, to be honest? 15 year old Mia is going through puberty, which means she doesn’t like her parents, does like the mean girl clique at school, and wants to have all the sex and drugs and cigarettes it is possible for a nearly-legal German teen to have.

But also, strange things are afoot with, uh, her feet. And the family goldfish. What can it all mean? Was she adopted like she thinks, or did she just fall in with the wrong crowd, like her parents think? Does the body horror have any place in this movie? I can answer that one: no, but it did give them a way to wrap things up, instead of just trailing off into disaffected adulthood like most people making “bad” choices end up in fiction. So… yay?

I’m carefully avoiding the spoiler at the center of Blue My Mind, mostly because it was impossible to not know it from the presentation on my streaming service of choice, and the expectation that it would turn out to matter is mostly what ruined the movie for me. Counterpoint: I probably wouldn’t have watched it without that expectation. Counter counterpoint: would that have been so bad?

[1] but no body count

The Babysitter (2017)

So, good news, Netflix has done right by me after Shudder let me down. Okay, playing that back in my head, it doesn’t actually sound like good news. I guess I’m just saying I’m glad that there are decent horror movies outside of Shudder, is all. Although if I’m getting my money’s worth out of them, why should I really care? Plausibly of much more import, why should you care, prospective blog reader?

Starting again, then: The movie I watched today was The Babysitter, in which a twelve year-old boy[1] is babysat by a hot teenage neighbor girl with whom he has a pre-existing friendship, one would presume from prior babysitting endeavors, while his parents go out of town for the weekend[2]. Later, after being egged on by a school friend, he resolves to stay up past his bedtime and see what the babysitter really gets up to at night, instead of being tired and going to sleep herself as she claims.

Is it a handsy boyfriend? Is it a spin the bottle game that will pretty definitely lead to an orgy? Is it human sacrifice to fulfill a ritual in an ancient, unbound manuscript? Regardless of any of those, will the babysat kid get a chance to make out with the girl of his dreams? The answer to these, and many other question that may have arisen in response to this premise: maybe!

It’s pretty funny, in any case, and definitely made funnier by the letterer, a role which maybe more movies should have.

[1] They call this out, which is called lampshading for some reason, in the dialogue. Yes, it’s silly, but you can’t very well have burgeoning pubescent sexual tension in a babysitter horror movie if the kid being sat is age appropriate.
[2] This, on the other hand, is blown right past. Who hires out a weekend babysitter? There’s no way that’s a real thing that people do.

Lizzie (2018)

If you’re like me, all you really know about Lizzie Borden is the rhyme about the many whacks she gave her parents, and that it was an axe murder. This week, I learned that it was her stepmother, and also that she was not found guilty of the crime, which I think speaks to the importance of the court of public opinion.

Anyway, all of that has changed, thanks to Lizzie, on Shudder.

Well, okay, none of that has changed. The things I know now that I didn’t know then are just about identical. But I definitely have insight into someone’s idea of how it could have happened, which is a combination ill will between Lizzie and the folks over what her place in society and in the family should be, coupled with a spendthrift uncle set to be named trustee of the inheritance in the will and a psychosexual triangle between Lizzie, her father, and the recently hired Irish maid. So, the odds of all three of those things having happened are pretty low, and that’s even assuming she really did the murders in the first place, which: beats me!

Anyway, for my money, if I’m going to watch a lesbian family murder thriller, it will always be Heavenly Creatures. Which is not to say that this was bad; it’s just that if you’re going to make a one-note movie, you have to make the best one of that note, or else what’s the point?