Tag Archives: Netflix

Circle (2015)

Outside of it showing up on one of the random tabs of movies that Netflix wants me to endlessly scroll through, I have never heard of Circle. And yet, whatever the description said and / or the Netflixised movie poster looked like was sufficient for me to add it to my queue. And now, an unknown number of years later, here we are.

So, as to what it actually is? It’s a weird amalgam of 12 Angry Men[1] and Survivor[2], with lightning bolts. See, there are dozens of people who wake up standing on white circles in a black room, and also they themselves are arranged in a circle[3]. And then they start dying. And then they start realizing why they are dying, and start bargaining to live longer.

The movie proceeds in real time, and could have been a play or a single take, except for all the special effects involved making that seem like sheer misery for everyone involved. It has no payoff as to what is going on or why or what happens next, but if you are in it simply for the human drama of seeing who will do or say what, a microcosm of people trapped under glass like ants, going about their lives (if their lives were spent weighing morality versus survival), then it works pretty well!

I both liked it and would not especially recommend it. I semi-wonder if watching a second time knowing the outcomes would make me walk away with a different take, but that’s not going to happen.

[1] the 1957 movie, or take your pick as to a newer version or stage version instead.
[2] the reality show
[3] Imaginative Titles R Us

The Green Inferno

Eli Roth has a favorite type of movie to make, I think, and it is this: young people go somewhere that they should not have gone, and pay the price. Sometimes it’s a cabin, sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s the beach[1], sometimes it’s the rainforest.

The Green Inferno is an homage to Italian cannibal cinema, and judging by when I saw Cannibal Holocaust last year on Joe Bob, it’s a pretty successful homage at that. I know I spent a lot of time wincing, and it’s hard to say how much was due to memories of the source material rather than this one. See, these college students have gone to Peru to stop some bulldozer-style exploitation of mother earth, with chains and cellphones and the internet, and that’s all fine and good, but what happens if circumstances arise and they find themselves hanging out with the very people they were ostensibly down there to save from encroaching modernity?

It’s hard to tell where the line between homage to past exploitation and actual exploitation lies, but focus on the characters kept me from thinking this was just done for the sake of a cheap buck at the expense of indigenous peoples. There was sequel bait, and I’m really torn between wanting to see the sequel and thinking that the genre has been capstoned and should stay safely dead and buried.

[1] Except Eli Roth wasn’t actually involved in Turistas. Well that’s weird.

Elizabeth Harvest

You know the old story of maybe, um, Blackbeard? Bluebeard? Somebeard, anyway, and he marries a young beautiful wife, and tells her “here’s my awesome house, I’ll be out pirating (let’s say) a lot, but this house is yours to wander to your heart’s content, EXCEPT don’t go in this one room. Okay? Cool.”, which is itself basically a retelling of the Garden of Eden? Both are fable-complexity statements on human nature, but for some reason dressed up in misogyny.

Enter Elizabeth Harvest, which is a pretty boilerplate retelling of the Somebeard version, except without the explicit piracy links. At least, it seems that way until Elizabeth goes into the forbidden room on literally her first day alone, maybe ten minutes into the movie. This is the point at which it becomes clear that a different and more complex tale is being told, with more twists in the offing than a Texan rattlesnake metaphor.

Eagle-eyed readers will note my use of the rarely-seen (outside of direct to premium cable movies from the ’90s) erotic thriller tag. I did not expect to ever break that one out, but while this movie doesn’t quite follow the standard template that all such movies hew to, I still think it is the most correct choice here. Horror for sure doesn’t cut it, and unmodified thriller misses an essential piece of the flavor on display.

Fear Street: Part Three – 1666

A movie trilogy if 15 days. What a concept! …although truth be told, if it were something I cared more about, I’m pretty sure I’d want it to be slower than this? I hate using things up this fast, perhaps.

The good news is, 1666 was the best of them, at least from a trilogy perspective. (1978 will remain my favorite as standalone.) Usually the end of a series is a little bit of a let down, because you know what’s going on and are just looking for the beats to get hit at the right moments, in the right ways, and they almost never are exactly what you think they should be, even though you have the broad strokes correct. But in this case, I really didn’t know what was coming, and the plot points came together in a way that made perfect sense and retroactively corrected perceived flaws in the prior entries.

As a standalone, it was… fine? The 1666 part of the movie was good, but not quite what I wanted, possibly because the 17th Century horror genre is not really broadly explored enough to warrant an homage, as such. Or maybe it was written a little too modernly? Either way, it was excellent at telling a compelling origin story and fixing a lot of minor problems I had been having with the series as a whole, like I said. And the “let’s resolve the original issue” part of the movie was maybe a little too easy and maybe a little too silly, but it was both of these in exactly the right ways, especially the all too brief Battle Royale scene.

Will not rewatch or actively recommend, will watch future sequels in the unlikely event that they exist.

Fear Street: Part Two – 1978

As a sequel to Fear Street 1994, the middle entry of the trilogy is perfectly serviceable. There’s a good five to ten minutes of material in a nearly two hour movie that advances the overall plot of the Fear Street series, and, okay, that doesn’t actually sound very good, does it?

But if you view the connective trilogy tissue as 5-10 minutes of digression from a 1970s summer camp horror flick, well then, that’s not very much digression at all, now is it? And I appreciate the movies from that perspective. As much as 1994 was a slick Scream homage[1], 1978 is… well, okay, also pretty slick, at least visually, but let that go. It’s an homage to the murder as a morality play days of the late ’70s and early ’80s when most of the people who got killed were horny teens who “deserved” it. And you could tell they just wanted a good excuse to go to that particular retro well.

If they’d wanted to movie about murders in the 1950s, or 1930s, or even earlier, instead? That is not well-traveled ground, and the premise super allows for it. But what they picked was the genre’s bread-and-butter, and while on the one hand: lazy!, on the other hand, I liked it better as a movie versus the first one, even though it did so little with the advancing that overall plot thing as I’ve mentioned.

Still gonna watch the third movie, yep.

[1] Minus the whodunnit aspect. We already have known all along that the creepy 17th Century witch done it.

Fear Street: Part One – 1994

As I sit waiting for Office 365 to install on my work machine, I find myself with time[1] to squeeze in the first review of the Fear Street trilogy, which I watched last night. This is good, because I’m out to the theater tonight, and if I don’t review now, I’ll be behind.

So, 1994. Man did they spend a long time establishing it was 1994. Hey, look, B Daltons and Software Etcs still exist! Check out these dozen in a row 30 second clips of songs you will remember from the ’90s and probably won’t look up to see if they had actually been released by 1994 or not! In the midst of all that, we learn that rich people Sunnyvale has a rivalry with poor people who also murder each other a lot Shadyside, across the lake. We also learn that the murders are happening again, in a scene that was so reminiscent of Scream that before the guy dressed all in black robes with a white face mask does some murders with a knife by basically punching the knife in as far as it will go[2], I had already said, “hey, that ringing phone is using the Scream ringtone[, from when Drew Barrymore got offed in the iconic opening scene]!”

Just saying they are going for an aesthetic here, and that aesthetic is: The ’90s!

The rest of the flick, once they stopped establishing and got on with plot and character development, was pretty okay. I actually felt a little bad when nominally disposable characters were in fact disposed, you know? And I care about how the trilogy turns out. As such things go, it’s not nothing.

[1] Or do I??? I mean, unless I finish first, I didn’t have time after all, and I don’t know the outcome yet[3]. Lucky I’m wasting the clock on this instead of, like, the movie review. Woo.
[2] My point is the ineffable quality of the violence was very Scream-like. If you know, you know.
[3] 30, maybe 36 hours later: I did not have enough time.

Bushwick (2017)

I’ve been to New York City once, in the late ’90s before things got “cleaned up”, whatever that means. So I saw Central Park when it was scary, and based on the looks I got in my giant cloak, apparently I was the scary person in the park. Which is okay. And I saw all the peepshow spots on what I have to assume some 20 years later was 42nd Street. The posters in the windows say “a quarter”, but you cannot get into those places for a quarter. Which is false advertising, but “cleaning them up” for false advertising seems a little harsh. About the only other thing I did was, because I was young and foolish, go to the Hard Rock Café. I’m cooler now than I was then, in most ways.

Nevertheless, I have a point to make with all of this, which is that despite my well-traveled worldliness as documented just now, most everything that I know about New York City, I know from Marvel comics. And a place Marvel has never put a spotlight on, at least as of winter/spring 1985, is the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn. So this is definitely a sort of “today I learned” moment, for values of today equal to a couple of days ago.

Anyway, Bushwick is a neighborhood kind of story, in which blonde grad student Lucy emerges from the subway into a war zone. Why are there black helicopters and commandos everywhere, blowing things up and shooting people? Between the targeted violence and the random opportunism, can she make it the few blocks to her grandmother’s house? Will Dave Bautista save her? Will she save him?

The funny thing is, this comes across as a high octane pulse-pounder, when really it’s a quiet portrait of two people just trying to get along in a quiet portrait of an urban neighborhood that Mayor Rudy forgot to “clean up”, except that the quiet introspective moments that fill the portrait are punctuated by explosions and gunfire. I can see why this is a movie that would make fans of exactly no genres happy, but for me, it was a very rare kind of mash-up, and I dug it.

Into the Forest (2015)

Into the Forest was sold to me as an apocalypse movie, and I’m not quite sure that’s right. It’s a (usually) quiet family drama about young adult sisters and their father living in a remote but fancy home in the forest, with technology that still codes as “near future” even though the film is five years old. Only, some kind of long term power outage strikes[1] and all the fancy technology is no longer quite so useful.

Which reminds me of the speech on every Walking Dead graphic novel about being forced to start living now that we no longer have all these modern conveniences. So I suppose in a way it is an apocalyptic movie after all, despite the lack of zombies and/or regularly paced explosions? Mostly, it’s daily life plus survival in a quiet but never quite empty world.

It was also described as a feminine take on an apocalypse, insofar as masculine takes involve trying to Get to Somewhere and Solve Everything, whereas this is about staying in one place and staying alive. I’m not sure that’s quite right either, at least the motivational gender split, but I agree that it was definitely a non-traditional take, and also that it was created by and largely populated by women, so maybe that one is more fair than I’m giving credit as well.

Either way, it was a worthy way to spend a few hours. Downside for you: it will only be on Netflix for a few more hours, and after that, man, who knows?

[1] the state? the coast? the nation? the world? Who knows, when the lack of power and rapidly dwindled gas supply means news is not really forthcoming.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen

It took me so long to watch The Babysitter after I stuck it in my Netflix queue that they made a sequel! And it came out only like three months later. Go timing?

Things I liked about The Babysitter: Killer Queen, a short list:

  1. Claiming all the evidence of the murderous satanic cult was erased and everyone thinks Cole[1] made the whole story up? Bold! There’s definitely a sense that they might be right, and maybe he’s just a little bit crazy, and that sense lingers beyond the recap intro mood-setting scenes at the beginning.
  2. Still funny, in a goofy over-the-top way that I don’t see enough outside of movies templated like Scott Pilgrim vs. Whoever, which take their goofiness way too seriously. This does not do that. Once again, my compliments to the letterer.
  3. It finds the humor in way way too much gore that does not exist in the right amount of gore. You can’t really be in this movie without getting a faceful of blood spray, which is at this point the fart joke of horror movies, except way funnier than farts, because someone just died.
  4. Okay, that last thing doesn’t exactly make sense, but here we are.

Thing I didn’t like about it, a shorter list:

  1. The title, which has exactly zero semantic meaning. It’s cool that they used the song, but no, not a good enough excuse. If you don’t have an actually clever title, just call it The Babysitter 2 and get over yourself.
  2. The moral of the movie scene, not because it had a “moral”, but because they thought they earned the payoff the moral describes, and I’m really not convinced they did. Same thing as above, don’t forcefeed me a moral. If you earn it, cool, but if not, you’re a damn horror movie. Don’t have a moral. That’s okay here more than literally anywhere else!

If you liked the first one, check it out. If you didn’t, you won’t, and if you are in the supermajority of people who have no opinion here, this movie isn’t enough to tilt the balance one way or another.

[1] Cole is the kid from the first movie who was babysat.

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.