Category Archives: Film

Last Ones Out

Another zombie movie, this time out of South Africa! With a weird poster that does not accurately reflect the title of the movie. So that’s weird.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a fresh new take on zombies, Last Ones Out isn’t it. Hey look, there are a few survivors out of a hospital who have banded together. Hey look, the jerky American is making everyone hate him. Honestly, I’m bored just trying to think of more things to say.

The zombie movie you actually want to see is One Cut of the Dead. I’m not reviewing it because I watched it hosted with commentary, and it’s a relief to not have to, because honestly I don’t know that I could do so. But it is probably going to be my most highly recommended movie of the year, even if you don’t like zombie movies. (Yes, even if you, specifically you, don’t like zombie movies.)

The only “downside” is it’s exclusive to Shudder, so you have to watch it there.

The Last Showing

A few years ago, pre-Iron Fist on Netflix and decidedly post- whichever was the last Freddy Krueger[1] movie, Finn Jones and Robert Englund decided to face off in a movie theater, for supremacy!

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Actually, without Englund’s brand recognition and the movie streaming on Shudder to make it really clear what you’ll get, The Last Showing spends at least the first act of the movie being a character study on how we dispose of the elderly, for really no reason at all. Not-Freddy has worked as a film projectionist for decades, but due to his unwillingness[2] to get certified on the latest digital equipment in a classroom with sixteen year old part timers, he has been relegated to serving popcorn and sweeping and the kinds of things that the aforementioned sixteen year olds usually end up doing.

So he snaps, of course, and Not Danny Rand and girlfriend randomly end up as the focus of his snapping. Everything else is plot spoilers and a different character study in how just because you think you’d be great at something doesn’t make you great. Not all dreams can come true! But there’s the kernel of a serious film buried down in the middle of the running around a theater yelling at killers and toying with victims that is the schlocky meat of the thing.

The irony is that Englund is and has always been a pretty good actor, and dropping him in the role of someone who is not as suited to a thing as he believes himself to be is a little mean-spirited.

[1] To me, though, he’ll always be Willy in V
[2] Not because he resents the technological upgrades, but because the new equipment is legitimately easier to use in the first place and he doesn’t need the training, only the cert, and man, certs for their own sake are dumb.

Summer of 84

I watched another movie this week, which was Summer of 84. This is a pretty basic horror movie which combines Gen X childhood nostalgia for the summer of our youth with Rear Window. And now I have to come up with more to say.

It is not a complaint that I can sum up the movie that succinctly. There’s something to be said for nostalgia, especially when it’s nostalgia for what other people had. I never really made friends in my neighborhood, the way I read about in Stephen King novels or see in kid movies from the 1980s and earlier. Like, I definitely had friends, but private school through elementary (or, and this is plausible, most of the kids my age in my neighborhood were just assholes) meant that I never made close local bonds with those people. So any hanging out was a carefully scheduled affair, not just going outside on a summer evening for a giant game of hide and seek, or constant contact via walkie-talkies no matter how late at night. Also, the suburbs are different from small towns.

Anyway, that’s really the movie. Teenage newspaper boy and friends in a cluster of small towns where a serial killer has been murdering tween and teenage boys, even though tween was not a word that existed at the time. And one of them (guess which one!) thinks he saw something suspicious happen across the street, at the home of the bachelor cop on the cul-de-sac. And either the kid has an overactive imagination, or the cop is legit terrifying, which all depends upon your perspective and your expectations about how the movie will go, and I wish I could add something I found offputting, but it would guaranteed be a confirmation spoiler about which movie they’re making. Maybe in a comment, if anyone cares. (Note that this being a horror movie does not inform that tension’s outcome, because there’s definitely a serial killer, no matter whether it’s the neighbor cop or not.)

Snowpiercer

There are only two things you actually need to know about Snowpiercer.

  1. What happens in the movie is this: Captain America fights a train. …well, okay, everyone in a train, not the train itself. But I’m not joking. If you want to see a movie where Captain America fights a train from one end to the other, this is that movie.
  2. The premise of the movie is this: What if we actually listened to scientists about global warming and the looming danger to our species, and did something about it, and the thing we did was seed the sky with some kind of science chemical that would lower temperatures, and we did this seeding via the contrails coming out of planes, and the end result was that oops, over-correction, the world is completely frozen now and has been for the past 17 years, and everyone is dead except for this one train full of people.

I’m not even kidding. The premise is don’t listen to the science on global warming, or we’ll all die because of chemtrails. I’m not sure a movie has ever made me this angry this quickly. It was less than two minutes in!

Anyway. If you can get past that (and maybe you shouldn’t be able to), the rest of it with the train-fighting by Steve Rogers[1] is mostly entertaining; I think the highlight is the truly surreal sushi dinner, but there’s also all the fighting and shooting and dark humor about classism and religion. Taken as a whole and with a different initiating event, I might have liked it quite a bit.

Also, though, it doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about how any of it works. Like, nevermind the why of it, if you just accept that the planet froze and there’s a train going around the world with the last survivors of humanity on it? And also there are sharp, militarily enforced divides between the haves and have nots? No part of that survives really any scrutiny at all. So, y’know, turn your brain off.

[1] Okay, I may have exaggerated a few times. It’s not literally Captain America, it’s just Chris Evans in a slightly different role than normal. That said, I didn’t think Knives Out had Captain America as a murder suspect, so.

Bodom (2016)

In 1960 (this is all true) some campers at Lake Bodom in Finland were murdered in a fairly sensationalist fashion, and the crime has never been solved. I’m not sure why this was such a big deal during the past decade, but that crime was the subject of two identically named Finnish horror movies recently, the first found footage, and the second (this one) a… I don’t know. Reimagining? That’s not exactly right, but it’s close enough, I guess.

See, there are these four modern teens, and they are going camping on the site of the famous murders. The nerdy guy wants to go because he’s a crime nerd and wants to do a re-enactment. Maybe to see if he can solve it? Dunno. And his friend is going to be supportive (he has a cabin up there, just ask him), plus for reasons of his own[1], which relate to the girls who are going: one of whom had some kind of recent trouble with a fire[2], and the other of whom had some kind of recent trouble with a bunch of nude pictures of her at a party without her knowledge, or consent, or consciousness, with the result that she’s sort of a school pariah now and also her hyper-religious, overbearing father is slut-shaming her for something that, even were it shameworthy to do, she didn’t even do it. Because religion.

Anyway, there’s a lot of character and backstory going on for four campers in the woods at the site of some brutal unsolved murders of other campers in the woods. And then things start happening.

Long story short: it’s worth it, check it out.

[1] I’m not sure if it’s because of comics, but that phrasing always sounds unnecessarily dramatic and not a little bit ominous.
[2] It’s hard to watch subtitled movies and work. I’m getting better at it, because damn does Shudder traffic in foreign horror, which would be fine otherwise!, but as it is… Anyway, I’m getting better at the balance, but I skimmed the scene where they mentioned the fire, and then it never came up again, so I din’t know how relevant it actually was?

Darling (2015)

The most important thing I can probably say about Darling, I said to my wife a few minutes ago. “Oh no,” I said, “I forgot to finish my movie [that I was watching yesterday]. …wait. No, I did finish it.”

So anyway, there’s the 20-something house caretaker lady adjacent to what I think was a New York skyline, and she’s told by the person hiring her that it’s “the oldest house in the city, rumors of hauntings, last caretaker young lady jumped off the roof, haha, I shouldn’t be telling you this.” But no worries, she stays anyway. And the house is appropriately spooky and noisy at night, with lots of loud, 1-5 frame cutaways from her trying to sleep to disturbing close-up faces under blaring random noises.

Later, a businessman on the street returns to her an upside-down cross on a necklace that she found in a drawer and then left in the drawer, because she had just dropped it[1]. Also, there’s a narrow door at the end of an implausibly equally narrow hallway that she cannot open.  And the drain in the shower looks dissolved away by acid, more of a portal to the unknown than a proper drain. And then stuff starts getting weird.

And you know what? I should be there for all of this! Well, except the random loudness. I think the single most annoying thing was the “look what I learned in art film school!” moment when she was [spoiler removed] with a hacksaw, and the underlying sounds were street construction equipment instead of what that would actually have sounded like. But I digress.

My problem here is, there’s no payoff. Was she slowly going crazy because she’s imbalanced, or because the house? Did almost anything that happened actually happen, or was it all because she was slowly going crazy? Was the creepy room at the end of the legitimately creepy hallway[2] a real thing, or just some room with a stuck door? They’re calling it a paranoid freakout, and, I guess it was that. I just don’t know what character(s) my sympathies should lie with, or really, frankly, almost any aspect of what happened. You would think a 78 minute movie would not manage to be too long, and yet here we are.

Oh well, can’t win ’em all.

[1] That is, she shouldn’t have been able to drop it on the street because she returned it to the drawer. Get it? Spooky!
[2] Seriously though. 10-15 foot white hallway, culminating in a door maybe 1.5 thin people wide, and the hallway is exactly the same width as the door, with no other doors along the sides, and only a sharp corner to the rest of the house at the entrance end of the hallway. I think that creepy, creepy, “probably they built it for the movie because who would ever have that creepy of a hallway?” hallway was at least two thirds of the film’s appeal for me[3].
[3] I mean, even before I decided I didn’t like the movie in the first place; the 2/3 comment is supposed to highlight how effectively creepy it was as a visual, not how little i liked the rest of the movie. (It’s more like 95% of the appeal after the fact.)

Cold Skin

Remember that weird-looking (or perhaps I mean surreal-looking) movie about the people in a lighthouse dealing with mermaids? So, I never saw the one you’re thinking of, but I did see Cold Skin, which is as far as I can tell the same movie but a few years earlier. Probably there are differences?

In this case, anyway, the narrator arrives on a remote island to document a year’s worth of weather patterns, because it’s 1914 and that’s how people learned things back then. Via British people with notebooks living in cabins on remote islands. Only, the prior year’s weather documenter is nowhere to be found, and the only witness is the lighthouse keeper, who has armored up his lighthouse like a medieval fortress with multiple layers of those pointed stick emplacements you use to keep out zombies or armies of such size that forward pressure from the soldiers in the back ranks impales people until the sticks aren’t a problem anymore.

Thereafter follows a rollicking good monster movie which is also a meditation (and an unexpectedly timely one at that) on how people cope with isolation. And a number of other things that it would be very spoilery to go into, but I was surprised by just how much I liked this. Then, later, it turned out to be an adaptation of a Spanish novel, and I became less surprised, as sure enough it is in retrospect a very literary movie. In tone and pacing, I mean. And also in depth. (This is, to a minimal extent, also a pun.)

Mandy (2018)

Then I saw Mandy, and that… that was quite a thing. See, Nicolas Cage and his heavy metal-loving girlfriend Mandy live in the woods, idyllicly discussing things like what their favorite planet is and why her father made all the neighborhood kids kill baby starlings when she was young. Then, one of those weird ’80s Satanic cults comes to town, and the leader has eyes for Mandy. Except, unlike most ’80s Satanic cults, they can summon actual biker demons. Result: things go predictably awry for Mandy.

The only thing left for Nic Cage to do is borrow a crossbow and forge a weird halberd-shaped axe[1] out of a single piece of metal and go seeking bloody revenge. And… you know what, the problem with a concept this over the top is that they were too restrained. What this movie wanted, no, yearned to be was a rock opera. With characters straight up singing at each other while having their chainsaw swordfights. Is there such a thing as a metal opera? I’m guessing the answer is probably not, and that we came as close as we ever will with Mandy.

It’s a letdown, is what it is.

[1] Look, I know what you’re thinking. A halberd is an axe. But what I’m saying is, it’s a regular-sized axe, not a polearm, but with a halberd-like head for some reason. I guess the reason is because that’s what shape of mold he had lying around?

Revenge (2017)

Another entry from the over a year old now back of my list of Shudder movies[1]. Revenge is one of those movies in which a lady been done wrong by almost always some dudes rather than a dude, in a very specific way that benefits from a trigger warning in these more enlightened days. Later, she takes, uh, revenge[2] on them.

And there’s really not a ton more to say. It’s a pretty good example of what it is, and alternates between being genuinely tense, genuinely disturbing, excessively gory, and over the top silly. You wouldn’t that that would be a thing in this subgenre, but between the burn scar transfer and the circular house chase… Maybe they were going for slickly stylish, which is a thing some action movies do these days. (This is occasionally an action movie, though it’s mostly a tense thriller.)

[1] Sidebar: A thing I hate about tech patents is that it means most streaming services, unless they had a vanishingly rare novel idea or have enough money to pay someone, are forced to have really terrible watchlist organization, when they’re even allowed to have watchlists at all.
[2] Usually the title of a movie with this plot is not so on the nose. I Spit on Your Grave, for obvious example.

Pengabdi Setan (2017)

Today I learned that Indonesian horror cinema, much like the local version, sometimes goes back to the well. Because it turns out that Satan’s Slaves is a remake of the same title in Indonesian (although Satan’s Slave, singular, in English), made in 1982. I haven’t seen that one, but the IMDB summary makes it clear they’re related.

Anyhow, this version starts with the quiet grief of a family whose once-famous singer matriarch is withering away from a mysterious illness. Not only are they losing their mother (or, in one case, wife), but they’re also losing the things they own and quite possibly their house, in paying for her care. I guess mostly the medicines and old doctor bills, as the mother is in house and being cared for by the family, not a hired nurse or anything.

But then things get flickery at the edge of your vision ghosty, and then they get in your face ghosty, and then things get a lot worse than that, in unexpected ways. (Or, well, maybe not so unexpected, based on the title.) Despite a third act full of running and hiding and fighting with generally about triple the cast of anything that has gone before, the movie as a whole is quiet and meditative albeit with occasional actual scares (and more than a few attempted jump scares). Meditative on how families might dissolve, on the kind of loss that we all someday face, on falling away from your religion, and most especially on how the sins of the past must be paid, even if they weren’t your sins.