Monthly Archives: April 2022

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.

Mortuary (1983)

Even though I liked the same movie[1] better when Christina Ricci was in it, Mortuary[2] was better than it had any right to be on paper. Like, the first twenty minutes are a bloody fonted title card splashed over a sunny Los Angeles backyard pool, a high school chick who is pissed at her mom for not caring (also: not believing) that her dad was murdered, some dudes playing grabass before picking up a pair of tires and then spying on the local mortician holding a Satanic[3] ritual in the same warehouse for some reason, a completely gratuitous roller rink, and Bill Paxton hitting on the original chick by inviting her over to listen to his new Mozart record.

It is important to remember at this point in the narrative that, being 1983, Bill Paxton is also in high school for these purposes.

Anyway, my point is, that’s a lot to recover from, for me to be saying favorable things at the end of the flick. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll stop here except to add I just watched one of the most memorable wedding scenes ever committed to film, and that I regret the sequel that will never be.

[1] Note: not actually the same movie. In most ways, they are extremely different movies.
[2] Not to be confused with the pre-Bollywood Indian film also released that year.
[3] I mean, I have no direct evidence that the ritual was Satanic, but they all had black hoods and five of them were regularly forming the points of a pentagram, and also this was made in 1981, so.

Death on the Nile (2022)

I have never read an Agatha Christie novel. I do not think this counts as a moral failing. Particularly because I just haven’t read that much out of the mystery section in the first place, you know[1]? It is my understanding, however, that she is kind of a big deal.

So she has this one character, Hercule Poirot, who is a great detective. Possibly the second character ever to be bestowed with that title in the annals of fiction? And although I never thought about it[2] before Kenneth Branagh’s performance, I guess it must be true that all detectives in the Holmes / Poirot type, who can become (or possibly always are) hyperfocused on specific details and make deductive leaps based on the tiniest shreds of evidence, all such detectives fall somewhere pretty deep into the spectrum.

So, while not knowing the plot meant that I showed up for Death on the Nile to be interested in the details of the murder[s], who did what to whom and when and why, what I left with was a renewed respect for Branagh’s craft, portraying someone who felt very deeply while hating to feel anything at all. It was very subtle, and very moving because of how subtle it was, and I’m sad I missed his Murder on the Orient Express from a few years ago. I shall perhaps eventually do something about that.

[1] What does perhaps count as a moral failing is that what I have read is mostly chosen based on “I liked the TV show they made later.” …then again, if I started reading Christie, it would be because I liked this movie, so.
[2] at least in part because, how much have I thought about this character at all, sure

30 Miles from Nowhere

Did you ever see The Big Chill? It’s a seminal ’80s Boomer movie[1] about college friends who reunite for a weekend in the woods to commemorate their other friend who committed suicide. Along the way, they enjoy the soundtrack but are otherwise I think mostly shitty to each other? Who can remember.

Anyway, 30 Miles from Nowhere is pretty much the horror movie version of that. Yes, college friends, yes, shitty to each other, yes, a suicide, yes, a cabin in the woods… but now with bonus “is it a haunting, or a vampire, or creepy backwoods folk, or just jumpy city folk, or what?” going on.[2]

iMDB would have me believe this was a horror comedy, but I think there’s a distinction to be drawn between that and the kind of horror movie that has tension-breaking comedic scenes, and that this falls on the not-a-comedy side of that line. I mention this partly to pad out the review, but mostly because I think “comedy” gets thrown around way too often if a movie happens to be funny in some scenes. Nah, man. Dramas can be scary, horror movies can be funny, comedies can have sad montages, and none of it means that every movie is a crossover hybrid of multiple types.

Be reductive, that’s my motto.

[1] with honestly not much to recommend it aside from an outstanding soundtrack
[2] Plus no soundtrack worth much of anything, but that would have been maybe too unfair to the original, so.

The Shed (2019)

A few weeks ago, my niece and her partner were watching some movie on Shudder about middle-schoolers with a sword. I cannot fairly judge it since I only saw [most of] the last third, but I was not especially impressed with what I did see.

The relevance of this is as follows: I just saw The Shed, a movie which is nearly identical to the sword movie, but improved in every way that mattered to me. There’s this guy, see, and he’s attacked by a vampire, just enough to both turn into a vampire himself and to learn by example about things like staying out of the sun, with the result that he hides from his first dawn in (you’ll never believe this) a shed.

Then the relevant part of the movie kicks in, insofar as the shed is owned by a juvenile delinquent orphan and his authoritarian asshole grandfather. What follows is a slow burn story about the intersection of bullies and small town hopelessness that spirals entirely out of control in the third act, in the very best kind of way.

It doesn’t quite stick the landing. If anything, once the metaphor had been followed to its logical conclusion, it’s like the writer didn’t really know what to do about cleaning up the mess left behind by that metaphor. But it worked well enough for me up to that point that I don’t begrudge him being less good at writing monster movies.

Would recommend, for people who aren’t allergic to high school darkness.

Fables: Snow White

It’s funny, when you think about it a bit. Snow White has been a main character (arguably the main character; definitely top five all along) in the Fables series for the eleven years of its run that I have reviewed, and yet this is the first time Willingham has named a book after her. It was enough to make me wonder if he was running out of ideas, and… whether that’s a fair assessment or not, I am nearing the end of the series and its associated spinoffs both, brief research tells me.[1]

Anyway, the first bit of the book wraps up the stories of Bufkin and his barleycorn girlfriend Lily (from the Castle Dark arc), and the battle to free of Oz from one of the Emperor’s regional governors. It was… fine? Towards the end, I liked it quite a bit, but I definitely think it would have fit better at the end of a previous arc instead of the beginning of this one.[2]

Later, the story of a bro who shows up claiming to be Snow’s first common law husband, before even Prince Charming, which… my knowledge of the story of Snow White doesn’t precisely fit with her ever having met a man prior to the dwarves, much less pledged to marry one. Which makes the whole rest of what happened feel like this was an excuse to move some pieces around the board in very specific ways.

Don’t get me wrong, the sequence of events told a good story, and I still want to know what happens next, even as I’m left with difficulties envisioning that there has been much of anything left to happen next for quite some time. But the precipitating event here, I just can’t buy it, so everything else is at least slightly tainted.

Oh, well.

[1] I wouldn’t have opted to, but I also don’t own all of them, so I’d need to know what to buy regardless.
[2] Unrelated brief (semi-accidental) research here tells me most of these were at the ends of prior comics, but only collected together in graphic novel format here, all together. Which explains why they felt as odd as they did. I stick by my “end of a book instead of beginning of a book” assessment.