Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

I finally watched the final episode of American Horror Story’s seventh season (one day I’ll be able to give a review right after the season premiere or finale on my own cable package), and I have to say, this has definitely been an interesting season. When people heard that the new season was going to be about the 2016 American Presidential Election, after months of speculation that it would be about either a cruise or something else ocean-related, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be preachy and lean towards one end of the political spectrum or the other? Would Trump, Clinton, or some other political figure be featured as a character? And would Sarah Paulson play Trump (if she did, she’d be great at it, no doubt)? And as further details came out, namely that it would be about a cult that arose in the wake of the election and focused on people who felt isolated and galvanized by the election, we got intrigued. Could this actually work as a season arc? Could this be good?

Well, before I get into that, let’s go a bit deeper into the plot. Returning to a normal mode of storytelling after the reality TV show format of Roanoke and being perhaps the most down-to-Earth season in the show’s history, Cult follows two very different people who become intertwined in ways neither would believe. The first is Allie Mayfair-Richards, a business owner and mother with liberal leanings and crippling anxiety who isn’t dealing well in the post-election climate. The other is Kai Anderson, a charismatic young man who begins to gather a group of devoted followers around him as he pursues power in local politics. As their lives start to intersect, they’ll not only make permanent impressions in each other’s lives, they’ll make impressions in the very surface of American politics.

I loved this season. Yes, the first two episodes were kind of slow and clunky, more devoted to commentary than to actually scaring the viewer, but after that the story and scares really picked up. The writers kept things very intimate, so that while this may have seemed like a big story about national politics and American political culture on the surface, it felt incredibly intimate, letting us into the lives and minds of these people. As per usual with American Horror Story, the story was twisty as heck, keeping you guessing where the story would go from one episode to the next and being unable to figure out most of the time where things would go. And after the second episode, they managed to keep the political commentary from getting too over the top. In fact, I think they managed to capture the spirit of American politics very well in this season: confused, divisive, changing from day to day and week to week. Things come up and down, change and merge and break, and become so muddled that you don’t know how it all started. All this was captured very well in this season.

And oh my God, that ending! That’s going to stay in my head for a while.

Beware this guy. He is a villain par excellence.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Obviously, the two main ones are exaggerated distillations of the stereotypes of the liberal and conservative voters, with Kai representing some of the darker views of what Donald Trump is to some Americans, but they also feel like real people whom you want to watch and see where they want to go from episode to episode. Each major character is given time to develop so that they feel real to the viewer, and you feel their struggles and/or death. I especially love Beverly Hope, played by Adina Porter (who played my favorite character last season), whose struggles within her workplace, followed by her struggles within a cult that changes drastically from the time she joins to the time she escapes. Kai is also just terrifying to watch. You know what his final goal is, but you never know what to expect from him from moment to moment. He’s like a pinball, causing something every time he touches something. He makes for a great villain. And watching Allie go from this weak, paranoid woman to this strong, somewhat devious fighter was just stunning.

Now, were there any parts I didn’t care for? Well, as I said, the first two episodes didn’t jibe with me, they were more devoted to commentary and set up than actual scares. Those could have been done better. Another issue I had was that I felt the final episode was kind of predictable. I mean, once I saw where it started, I kind of knew where it was going to go (except for maybe that last scene). I expect better from American Horror Story.

I also didn’t care for Lena Dunham playing Valerie Solanas in the seventh episode. Now, I have nothing against Lena Dunham. I think she’s a great crusader for a number of important issues, and I admire her for the success she’s had in the entertainment business. But sadly, I’ve only seen her in a couple of roles, not enough to get a gauge on whether or not I like her as an actress. And in the seventh episode, she just felt miscast. The episode was written brilliantly, the character she played was interesting, but she just didn’t fit well into the role, to the point that she was annoying (I don’t mean that in a sexist way, I just mean she didn’t fit the role and it had a negative impact. Don’t go after me in the comments).

And finally, I felt like the clown costumes could’ve used an explanation. Yes, the character Meadow designed the costumes, but why clowns? Why not a minority abused by the right, or ninjas, or just people dressed in dark clothing? It’s hinted that it has something to do with Twisty the Clown, who makes a surprise guest appearance in the first episode, but we never find out why the cult decides to commit crimes in custom-made clownsuits. I would’ve loved an explanation on that, especially since clowns figured so much in the advertising for the season (speaking of which, where are the bees? They show up a lot in the ads and the opening theme, but barely in the show proper).

This needed more of an explanation.

But other than that, American Horror Story: Cult was a great entry into the series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this season a 4.2, as well as the designation of my second favorite season so far (Hotel‘s still the best). It’s engaging, thrilling, and different from any other season so far. Plus it does a better job of talking about oppression and women’s empowerment than Coven ever did, so good on the writers for fixing that mistake. Check it out, and see it for yourself.

Now as for Season 8, details are scarce beyond that it will come out sometime next year, and that Sarah Paulson will return for her eighth consecutive season (yay!). I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get an Orphanage or Academy/School-themed season. I’m curious as to how, if the theory about each season being a circle of Hell is true, how those themes might apply to those circles that are left. And I’m wondering who will be coming and going for the next season (Lady Gaga! Kathy Bates! Please come back!).

Well, that’s American Horror Story for you. It leaves you wondering up until the moment something happen, and then it blows us all away.

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My boy, HP Lovecraft

So today as I was heating up dinner, a thought passed through my head that sometimes passes through there (along with, “Oh, that would make a great story,” “I’m hungry,” and “These miserable mortals must be destroyed! Rise up and cleanse the Earth of them!”). The thought was, “I wish there were more HP Lovecraft adaptations. He’s got a lot of material to work from.” This thought was followed, rather unexpectedly, by “Why wasn’t there an HP Lovecraft cinematic universe? You’d think it’d be perfect for film studios. The stories literally take place a multiverse, possibly the very first multiverse!”

Now, if you’re wondering who HP Lovecraft is, you’re not alone. He’s criminally under-known (a word I just made, so copyright). What’s important to know is that he was a writer from the early half of the 20th century who wrote horror stories based around powerful cosmic entities and truths from beyond the stars whose exposure to humans can cause insanity, destruction and death. This is called cosmic horror, and Lovecraft practically invented it. And while you might’ve never heard of HP Lovecraft or cosmic horror (though I talk about him often enough on this blog), you’ve probably seen the wide results of his influence. Ever wonder where the ideas for the Demogorgon or the Shadow Monster and the Upside-Down from Stranger Things come from? Those all are at least partly inspired by Lovecraft’s creations. The weirder, more interdimensional aspects of the works of Stephen King, such as the last two-hundred pages of It or the Dark Tower series? Lovecraft helped inspire them, especially his Dream Cycle stories in relation to the Dark Tower books. And that thing with a mouth full of teeth coming out of my hotel room toilet? That’s actually a demon crocodile, where the hell did that come from?

Point is, Lovecraft has influenced a lot of horror fiction, and even some things not normally considered horror, such as Marvel comics villains. Now excuse me, I’ve got to take care of that demon crocodile.

Still here? Good. Well, you’d think that with such a bibliography and legacy, you’d think Lovecraft would have several adaptations, right? Maybe even a cinematic universe, considering he has one of the earliest multiverses in fiction? Wrong, actually. There are actually only a handful of direct HP Lovecraft adaptations, the most well-known being Re-Animator, and the story that’s based on is kind of in its own separate mini-universe (kind of like Deadpool in the X-Men movies). But wait. If his ideas and the works they influence are so ubiquitous that we’re getting major Netflix shows and box-office record-breaking movies based on them, why aren’t his works being made into more movies? And why isn’t there a cinematic universe, when there’s a gold mine right there for it?

Thank Lovecraft for this guy.

Well, there are a few reasons for that. One of the reasons is that movie adaptations, and especially cinematic universes, are made from properties that filmmakers feel will make them money (now there kind of’s an evil god to rival Cthulhu, am I right?). In the past, movies based off of HP Lovecraft stories have only done moderately well at the box office, mostly as cheesy B-movies, and that’s on a good day. Even Re-Animator only earned around two-million, and its budget was just about half that. So if a major film studio were to make a major adaptation of a Lovecraft story, they’d have to believe that a Lovecraft story could bring in a major profit. And if past adaptations are any indication, it’s not a risk studios are willing to make (let alone a cinematic universe*).

Another issue is that, to be frank, Lovecraft stories don’t always translate very well to cinema. They’re often centered around one person’s experience, and the events surrounding that person aren’t always told in a structure that lends well to movie storytelling. Hell, some of them don’t even work with literature storytelling (*cough* Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath *cough*).  If you were to adapt some of these stories, you’d have to do a lot of work just to make some of them look good as a screenplay. And even when doing comic book adaptations sometimes involves tweaking entire story arcs just because of copyrights and other aspects, not everyone is willing to do that.

And finally, HP Lovecraft is under-known. Well-known properties, even if there’s no reason to think they’ll be money-makers, are more likely to be adapted than something that few people have heard of. William Shakespeare movies usually don’t make tons of money unless major stars are attached to it, but some of his plays are so well-known and loved that they have multiple adaptations and there’s a good chance more will come in the future (I’d like a Titus Andronicus adaptation, please). But if a work is lesser known, or its appeal is too esoteric, it’s likelihood to get adapted is pretty low.

And all these factors are in the way of more Lovecraft adaptations.

Great adaptation of Lovecraft’s best-known story, The Call of Cthulhu.

Still, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been Lovecraft adaptations in recent years. And not all of them have been cheesy B-films. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society (yes, that’s a thing) has previously made great adaptations of The Call of Cthulhu (which I own and reviewed HERE) and The Whisperer in Darkness that were made to look like they were filmed in Lovecraft’s time. Guillermo del Toro nearly made a big-budget adaptation of At the Mountain of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s better-known works, and there’s a chance he may try to make it again someday. And with Lovecraft’s appeal staying steady and possibly even growing, there’s a chance other studios, including independent ones, will make their own adaptations. One article I read even said that a lot of international indie studios are not only making Lovecraft films, but showing them at film studios.

And even if Lovecraft films aren’t being directly adapted, as I’ve said, his ideas are appearing all over the place. I’ve already mentioned the works of Stephen King and Stranger Things, and those are only the tip of a large iceberg. The Hellboy films all feature Lovecraftian monsters, as do a number of major video games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Bloodborne. And I recently saw a film heavily influenced by Lovecraft called The Void, and while I had some issues with it, it definitely had its points, including great atmosphere and practical effects. Stuff like this will only keep Lovecraft in the public consciousness and maybe someday lead to further adaptations of his work.

So maybe HP Lovecraft won’t have a cinematic universe anytime soon. But he’s clearly got staying power, and that means there’s always a chance we could see more films by him as time goes by. Some of them may even come from major studios and perhaps even be great successes. As nearly everyone says, you never know what the future holds. Maybe even an adaptation of Shunned House? Please?

What do you think of HP Lovecraft adaptations? What would you like to see adapted? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The demon crocodile (whom I’ve named Alathla) and I are off to cause terror in a major metropolis area. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Though from what I hear, cinematic universes are on the way out the door, thanks to the massive mistakes studios like WB and Universal have made with the DCEU and Dark Universes. So…never mind?

So here it is, finally. The first in my Rewatch Review series, in which I look at horror or thriller movies I’ve seen and didn’t like/had problems with and see if maybe I missed something the first time. I’m kind of just winging it with this first one, with no fixed plan on length or how deep I’m going into these films and their respective qualities, but at the very least, I hope if you haven’t seen these films, you get an idea of whether or not it’s worth checking out. And if you have seen any of these films, you’ll get an idea of what my thoughts are on them these days.

With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on Perfect Blue!

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Perfect Blue is an anime film that follows Mima “Mimarin” Kirigoe, a Japanese pop idol singer who, on the advice of her agency, is reluctantly leaving the pop idol industry to become an actress on a TV show.  Experiencing a crisis of identity and followed everywhere by a violent stalker, things only get worse for Mima as events conspire to blur her perceptions of reality and fiction, leading to a violent and horrifying head where not just her own life is at stake, but her very identity as well.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I thought it was too trippy when I first saw it in college, and it kind of dragged at points. I had expected something much more dynamic, and this felt more slow-burn to me.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I saw a video essay on the movie a while back, and it pointed out some interesting things about the film that made me want to go back and give it another chance.

THOUGHTS: I’m glad I rewatched this film, because it is really good. I’m actually a little disappointed that I didn’t care for it when I saw it in college. It’s a great psychological thriller, and there’s a lot to talk about on several different levels (I’ll stick to the film quality and not to diving deeper into the psychological aspects. I’ll leave that to the video essay I mentioned above).

First off, the animation is different from most anime, which is very stylistic. The artwork isn’t exaggerated or distinctly cartoony, full of jumpy animations and wild reactions. If you think of most anime, like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and One Piece as analogues to cartoons like Family Guy or Looney Tunes (just examples for the non-fans out there, don’t kill me, fellow anime lovers), then Perfect Blue‘s style is more analogous to early Disney films, particularly those of Cinderella and Snow White (the latter is actually a lot darker than you probably remember it if you go back to watch it). It’s very grounded and scaled back, with very few characters actually looking pretty, cute or cool. The only ones who do are characters directly involved in the entertainment industry, and that makes the movie feel real to us. It’s a world very much like ours, with violence like ours, and people just like ours. So when you see something violent within the film, the realism makes it all the more powerful. This isn’t just animation, this feels like it could happen. Maybe it has happened, and it’s amazing to see animation portray that.

Speaking of the main character, Mima is presented to the audience with extraordinary skill. There’s no exposition or anything, but who she is and how she feels is made clear to us, which makes her real to us. We’re shown quiet moments for her, such as grocery shopping or getting to and from work, presented in contrast to her life as a celebrity, and that really conveys to us just what sort of character Mima is. And that’s good, because the central conflict is around who she is: Mima has trouble dealing with the fact that she’s been talked into changing careers, and isn’t sure who she is now that she’s changed. With the struggles of her new acting career starting to get to her, as well as visitations from her stalker, Mima’s own grasp on reality starts to go. She starts to lose track on what’s part of her new TV show, which bears some resemblances to her own mental struggle, as well as starts to see a phantom version of her pop-idol persona. And so do we, the audience, unable to tell what is real, what is part of her show, and what is part of her tortured pscyhe.

And when that happens, we feel Mima’s inner anguish. We’re right there with her, trying to unsuccessfully figure out what’s real and what isn’t. And when we can’t come up with those answers with Mima, it only makes the terror of the moment and of the unreality of the situation that much stronger.

JUDGMENT: If you think that anime can’t be deep or anything other than silly cartoons, you need to watch Perfect Blue. It’s a twisted story of a girl trying to find herself under the most terrifying circumstances reality can give her, full of gorgeous but realistic animation, intense scenes and visuals (I’m talking to you, screwdriver scene!), and great questions on the idea of our true selves versus the personas we create for ourselves (that’s a subject for another post). Definite 4.5 out of 5. Pop it in and see what the rabbit hole uncovers.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoyed the first entry in the Rewatch Review series, and I hope you join me when I get my hands on 2008’s The Strangers.

I read the novel Gerald’s Game earlier this year just in preparation for this movie. I heard what it was about (see my summary below), and I was like, “Shit, I gotta read this.” And I did, and I found it really intense. It was filled with some of the usual Stephen King cliches, those quirky sentences and weird things he likes to do, but my God, it was intense. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but still very intense. I could understand why my mother found it so difficult to read she had to skip to the end just so she could sleep at night.

This evening, after a long training trip for work and after hearing that this Netflix Original was really good according to early reviews, I sat down in my hotel room to watch the film. And I can say without hesitation, this was an amazing psychological thriller, scarier than It, even. And unlike It, I would not recommend my mother see this one.

Gerald’s Game follows Jessie Burlingame, a housewife played by a convincing Carla Gugino, who goes with her husband Gerald, played by Bruce Greenwood, to their lakeside cabin for a weekend away. However when a kinky sex game goes wrong, leaving Gerald dead and Jessie handcuffed to the bed, struggling to survive as the stress causes her mind to unwind and her worst nightmares to come to life.

So like I said, this film is great, with Conjuring-level frights at certain points. The filmmakers used camera angles, light, colors, and especially sound to highlight the horror of the situation. The sound is noteworthy, because it’s used so sparingly once the movie really gets started. After Gerald dies, Jesse starts screaming, and there’s background music, but the shot changes to outside, and all we hear is birdsong and some muffled screaming. This highlights all the more how this could actually happen in the real world. It’s beautiful.

I also like some of the changes made from book to movie. The writers and directors managed to translate what some might correctly term as an unfilmable story very well to the screen by changing some of the weirder elements of the story, namely all the voices in Jessie’s head brought out by the stress with their own distinctive personalities, into just three personalities: a more ballsy version of herself, Gerald, and her father. They also switched from having Jessie being in nothing but panties to wearing a slip, saving this film from being just titillating torture porn. And they actually manage to get in some slightly funny moments to make sure the story doesn’t get too dark (or maybe I’m laughing at weird stuff to relieve myself of tension).

But the best part is definitely the climax. My God, did that scene make me cringe! That could not have been easy to film (on so many levels), but it pays off so well. I actually cringed in my seat and let out exclamations of disgust and horror after seeing that scene.

There were only a few things I didn’t care for. In one scene, Jessie’s narrating a dream she had at one point as a child, and I feel like that would’ve been better shown than told (I sound like a high school English class typing that, but I don’t care, it’s true). There’s also a lot of dialogue in the film that, while it would fit in a King novel, never would fit in real life, let alone in a movie. And while the way the story is wrapped up kind of works in the novel, I feel like it might’ve been done better if it was done differently in the movie. It’s not bad, it’s actually decent, but it could’ve been done differently and possibly much better.

Also, that ending forgot about the dog. Just saying.

All in all though, this is a fantastic movie, a psychological thriller that scares, grosses out, and even manages to integrate themes of misogyny and the effects of sexual abuse into the story without feeling forced. Heck, it’s even got some dark humor at times…if you see it as humor. I could honestly see this film getting some academic examinations in the future just based on how well it’s done. It’s that good a film.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Gerald’s Game a well-deserved 4.7 out of 5. Unless you’re my mother, go to Netflix, eat some popcorn, and go to bed with your arms close to your chest because you’re afraid you’ll wake up with your arms cuffed to the bedposts. I know I will, especially that last part.

Goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares!

Last week I read an article where Adam Winguard, the director of the disaster that is Netflix’s adaptation of the Death Note franchise, had to quit Twitter because he was receiving so much hate mail and even death threats over his adaptation. And yesterday, the admins of a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing and discussing anime and manga received death threats for posting a positive review of the movie.

Let that sink in for a moment. A whole bunch of people are sending people hate mail and threatening to kill them over the Internet for either making or liking what many consider a bad movie. And I’d bet one of my anime figurines the majority of these angry people are fans of the Death Note anime and manga who are incensed that the director cast white actors in the movie and the numerous changes from the source material, as well as just making a really bad film, or that anyone would like the film.

Now, all three complaints are legitimate: the casting of white actors as what were originally non-white characters is a serious problem that Hollywood and the public are continuing to grapple with even now. The many changes from the source material were not only unnecessary, but actually made the film more of a mess than a wonder. And it was a really bad film (check my review here for my own thoughts on the subject).

But there is absolutely no excuse or reason–ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE OR REASON–to send hate mail or threaten someone’s life. Especially not for their creative work, no matter what decisions they make or the quality of it. And those who think nothing of doing it have some serious issues that need addressing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time fans of a franchise or a character or something along those lines have gone a little bonkers. I was ranting about this issue of fans going crazy back in 2013, when people were leaving intentionally bad reviews of Charlaine Harris’s last Sookie Stackhouse book because it was the last book, and threatening harm to themselves and others if their favorite couples didn’t end up together (and possibly followed through after a copy leaked in Germany). Later that year, people were sending tons of mail to Warner Bros. and trying to get the White House to intervene in the casting of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (not sure what they expected to happen with that one).

Seriously, was this worth the hate campaign? I actually enjoyed the movie.

Since then we’ve seen negative reactions to the idea of the Ghostbusters reboot, and then the female-led cast, which was so hateful everyone involved in the movie felt the need to comment and even make a joke about it in the movie. We’ve also seen people react negatively to Captain America becoming an agent of Hydra in the comics, with some people threatening the writers behind this move. One man claiming to be a Marine even said that he would abandon his moral code and become a stone-cold killer because of the change (seriously, did any of these nincompoops think that maybe this was a mind-controlled Cap, or one from another dimension, which apparently is the case?). We’ve probably all seen articles about angry males attacking women online for attempting to be part of the video gaming community and industry. And there are more of these than I’m probably aware of, with this Death Note thing just being the latest.

What’s causing people to become so angry and violent over fictional characters and worlds? Well, it might actually be nothing new. As long as there have been creative works and their creators, there have been people who have gotten passionate about them, sometimes a little too passionate (*cough* John Hinckley Jr. and Ricardo Lopez *cough*). And sometimes people even feel that their love of a property gives them some sort of ownership over said property, and therefore they have a legitimate voice in any decisions over said work. And with the Internet as both means to reach like-minded individuals and platform to voice their vitriol without worry of censure, some of these overly-passionate fans can gather en masse and make their anger heard, warranted or not. Sometimes, a few of them even feel emboldened to make threats of violence.

And I get it. I hated the Death Note movie too. I can think of several ways the Star Wars prequels or some episodes of Doctor Who could’ve been better (I actually nearly threw a shoe at the TV once because I really disliked an episode). And God, was I upset when shows I really liked, such as Dracula or Sleepy Hollow, got canceled. I would have loved to find the people responsible for all these mistakes and given them a piece of my mind.

But therein lies the problem: none of these fans have any actual ownership or say in the decisions revolving around these stories, and at the end of the day, it’s the creators themselves who get to make those decisions. And we should let them. After all, they are spending valuable time and energy to bring us these stories we love so much. It’s essentially a gift from them to us, the readers and viewers. And while not all these creative variations are welcome (*cough* first three DCEU movies *cough*), some of these creative risks have led to some the greatest pieces of storytelling ever made. Remember there was a time when the Winter Soldier wasn’t a thing, let alone a former friend of Captain America gone evil. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, people swore it was the worst casting decision that could be made, and yet Ledger’s Joker is arguably one of the best Jokers ever brought to life. And let’s be real, William Shakespeare ripped off and made changes to most of the stories he’s famous for! And look at him!

A decision that turned out to be right after all.

And this is not just for variations in already established characters and stories. Creators should be able to experiment with stories and characters. Otherwise, would we have Doctor Who? Harry Potter? Death Note the manga? Stephen King’s IT?

So what should you do if a story you like or an adaptation of a story goes in a direction you dislike? Well, there are two possible decisions that you could go that won’t make you look like a tool (trust me, as both fanboy and creator, they work). One is to do what I did with Death Note: calmly point out what was wrong with it or what you disliked. You don’t have to be angry to get your point across. I’ve found calmly discussing what you disliked about something does more than shouting. And besides, being rude or angry or telling someone to die never convinced anyone to your point of view or made them change their ways.

The other is to just not take part at all. After Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, many fans reacted by simply deciding not to watch the show anymore. I even have a friend who decided to do that, and while I disagree with their view, I respect how adult their reactions were. (Thought to be fair, after all those years of Moffat tropes, it might’ve been easier to leave than to work up anger over a casting decision). So if you don’t like what the creators are doing, just leave. Don’t ruin the experience for everyone else who may want to try out the new direction.

And if you’re a parent with kids who may get overly passionate about fictional works, maybe have a conversation with them about how to respond to this sort of thing. It might save someone a lot of headaches later on.

While I doubt this problem will go away anytime soon–if anything, it might get worse over time–we can at least approach it in a healthy manner, rather than with further fear and anger, as well as to find healthy alternatives to anger and/or death threats. Either that, or we never get any sort of new stories ever. And I really don’t want to see that.

 

That’s all the ranting for now. The next week and a half will be crazy for me, so I have no idea how much, if at all, I’ll be able to post until October 1st. I’ll try and get something out next week, though if I don’t, please don’t hold it against me or send death threats.

Until next time, Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

I’ve literally been waiting seven years for this movie, since I first heard rumors of a remake. I got hopeful when Cary Fukunaga was brought on board to direct and when he started casting, felt my spirits plummet when he left, felt concern when Andy Muschetti replaced him (I did not care for his film Mama), felt a little hopeful again when I saw the first photos of Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, and felt really hopeful and excited when the first trailer came out. I waited for months and months, possibly building the film up more in my head than I should. When the time came, I invited friends to come see It with me. And finally, the day came. I showed up early to make sure my friends and I got good seats. And then the show began.

I can say with zero hesitation that this is the It film we deserve.

So if you’ve been living under a rock since 1986, It is a Stephen King novel about a small town haunted by a monster that takes the form of a clown, and the seven brave souls who fight it, first as children and later as adults. There was a TV miniseries done back in the 1990’s that was absolutely terrible (how do you take a King novel and put it on ABC primetime? That’s like trying to take a rabid wolf and pretend it’s a puppy dog!), and now we have a feature film, focusing on the children’s portion of the story. And it tops the miniseries in every way possible.

Now, I’m not going to say this is the scariest film I’ve seen. I actually found Annabelle: Creation to be much scarier in terms of jump scares and atmosphere than It was. However, that doesn’t mean It‘s not a scary film. It did have some scares. The problem is, I’m so well-versed with the source material, I could guess where they would do jump scares or anything like that, and it’s difficult to get scared when you know what’s likely to happen next. However, there were a lot of other people who found the film terrifying, so one should consider my reaction an outsider.

And I did get scared at points. More on that below.

My ticket.

I also liked how this was a much more faithful adaptation. Besides taking place in the 1980’s rather than in the 1950’s, this movie sticks pretty closely to the novel. But more than that, it sticks to the spirit of the story, delving into the darkness the TV miniseries couldn’t because of the channel it was on. The film’s not afraid to go as dark as possible (without risking the R rating, of course), showing actual lost limbs and hinting at sexual abuse, among other things.

But while the film is more faithful to the book, that’s not to say there’s no deviation beyond a change in decade, and this is where the story gets scary for me. Especially during the final third of the film, they change a few things in order to make the story flow better, and I think that’s when I find the film not only the scariest, but the most effective. Not only that, but the film uses Dutch angles, lighting and music quite effectively to emphasize dark or creepy or weird scenes, highlighting the strangeness and horror of the story. Whoever had the bright idea for that knew what they were doing.

The film also had its funny moments, and they weren’t distracting at all. I like it when a horror film is able to do that.

I also loved the actors. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown kicks Tim Curry to the curb! Whereas Curry played the character much more comically, here Pennywise is creepy as It should be. Not only is Pennywise’s whole look here freaky as hell, but paired with Bill Skarsgard mastery of a menacing manner, and a slight lisp, and you can’t helped but be freaked by Pennywise. Even when he’s dancing (and yes, Pennywise actually dances in this film, something we haven’t seen in the book or the miniseries), he’s scary. Best Pennywise ever, and I want to dress up as him for Halloween, if not this year then the next.

Me being silly after the film with friends.

 

The kids are also great. Every single one of them is masterful in making you believe they are these characters, who are given time to grow and develop throughout the film’s two-hour run time. My personal favorite was probably Beverly, played by Sophia Lillis. She was such a great character, one of the strongest of the Losers Club but also one of the most vulnerable due to her home situation, and I loved that about her (as well as how kick-ass she can get). I also liked Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame, who captured Richie Tozier’s dirty mouth and stupid humor just perfectly. And Jack Dylan Glazer did a great job of capturing Eddie as a hypochondriac who grows into a much braver child. And oh God, Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers was such a scary guy!

Honestly, the whole cast was great, and I could go on with how much I loved them.

My Losers Club for the day. Thanks guys!

There were a couple of things I didn’t like, sadly. For one, the CGI was actually more distracting than scary, and a few more practical effects might’ve been better. I also thought that the filmmakers could’ve pushed the envelope in the third act at a part where the characters are trying to find Pennywise, though as it is that part is very good. And finally, I thought one scene would’ve been better with dramatic music than a song by The Cure (I know this takes place in the 1980’s, but do we really need a montage?).

All in all though, I’m very glad we got the version of It that we did. Faithful, well-told, heartfelt, with great characters and wonderful scares. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Andy Muschetti’s 2017 adaptation a 4. Go check it out, start floating down here, and pray the sequel is just as good.

Death Note is a franchise I’ve been aware of since high school, and despite some issues I have with the source material (*cough* the second half of the manga *cough*), I’ve always looked at it fondly. It’s clever, has some really memorable characters and scenes, and the themes present in the story are always relevant. When I first heard of plans of an American version of the story, I thought it had some potential, which is why I was disappointed when it fell into development hell. But when director Adam Winguard and Netflix finally started to put the film into production, and despite the troubling news I heard leading up to the film’s release,* I still had hope.

Imagine how I feel now when I find the final result is not what I’d hoped for.

So for those of you who don’t know, Death Note is originally a manga about a Japanese high schooler named Light Yagami who discovers a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. With the help of a death god named Ryuk, Light starts a killing spree of the world’s criminals to end all crime and to become a new god named Kira. He is opposed by L, a mysterious detective who has solved several high-profile crimes in the past, creating a cat-and-mouse game that could determine the fate of the world. The story has been adopted into anime, TV shows, novels, and even a couple of Japanese movies. Winguard’s version is the latest addition to the franchise, and unfortunately, it’s like that one relative whom you invite to family gatherings because he’s family, but you’re not happy about it because he’s an embarrassment to the whole family.

The biggest problem I have with this film is the many changes from the source material. Now, I’m open to some changes, like what the Japanese films did. Those were changes that strengthened the story instead of taking away from it. However, the majority of the changes here were unhelpful. Light Yagami, a handsome, charismatic and intelligent young man motivated by a sense of justice and boredom becomes Light Turner, an outsider who’s only a few degrees away from shooting up a high school, whose intelligence is only hinted at, and who screams like he has no confidence. Misa Amane, a blonde and bubbly airhead whom you actually feel sympathy for, becomes Mia Sutton, a cheerleader with no personality or backstory and too much enthusiasm for killing criminals. Lakeith Stanfield is actually pretty good as L for a while, but then in the last third goes completely off the rails.

Something went very wrong with this transition.

There are a whole bunch of other changes that I didn’t care for. The purpose of the Death Note and the reason why Ryuk drops the Death Note is changed, the default method of death for the Death Note isn’t in this adaptation, Mia isn’t given a good reason to want to use the Death Note like Misa Amane has, so her enthusiasm for using it feels strange, and the way L and his assistant Watari interact feels a little creepy rather than the working relationship they had before, and the list goes on and on. In fact, some of these changes open up plot holes in the story. For example, the change in the way L identifies the first victim of Kira, rather than making some sense like it does in the manga, leaves open some questions in this adaptation. Also, why does L have a false name but Watari is actually his real name, with no last name?

I also did not care for Margaret Qualley’s acting in this film, which felt emotionless and uninvested. It seems like she was trying to channel Kristen Stewart’s Twilight performance, which given all I’ve heard of that performance, explains a lot, but it’s obvious it’s not what we’re looking for in this movie. Also, who’s idea was it to make her look like an Emma Roberts impersonator in every shot?

Ryuk, played by William Dafoe, is definitely one of the better parts of the movie.

There were a couple of things I did like about the film, however. Ryuk looks absolutely terrifying, as he should, and is kept sinister throughout the film, thanks in part to William Dafoe’s phenomenal performance as the voice of the character (that man can do villains like no other). Mia is treated more as a partner in this film rather than as a pawn, which I’m sure many Misa fans, including myself, have always wanted to see (what can I say? You feel for her, despite her flaws and the blood on her hands). And if it weren’t for how bad the rest of the film is, the climax and its twist would actually be pretty impressive.

However, the rest of the film outweighs everything else, forcing me to give Adam Winguard’s Death Note a 1.1 out of 5, possibly the lowest score I’ve ever given anything on this blog. This is just the latest example of how NOT to adapt a beloved manga and anime, with way too many changes from the source material and bad choices on the part the people behind it, and a horrible introduction for newcomers to the world of Death Note.

Trust me, this is a much better movie than what we got.

If this left a bad taste in your mouth and you’re still willing to give this franchise a change, I highly suggest you check out the original manga or anime (the latter also on Netflix), or check out the Japanese films based on those. Unlike the Netflix film, any of these will show you how exciting and clever the original source material, as well as how memorable and even likeable, the characters really are. Believe me, there’s a reason why this story is the phenomenon it is. It’s just the Netflix movie isn’t part of it.

Hopefully in the future, if we have any other American adaptations of anime or manga, they won’t be anything like this.

*To be clear, I will not be getting into the whole issue of the races of the cast. Yes, whitewashing is a problem, and the casting decisions made in regards to this film are extremely problematic, but it’s not one I want to explore here. Why? Because it’s an extremely complicated issue and not something I usually get into in a movie review. I’m judging this movie as a movie, and I’m judging the actors for their performances, not for their racial or ethnic heritage. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that’s just how I do things here. And if you want to voice your anger about this, don’t voice it at me. Voice it at Hollywood, because that’s how you can possibly make some positive change, instead of sending it my way while some corporate VP thinks Zac Efron would make a great Kaneda in a live-action American Akira remake or something (that’s an example, not an actual thing as far as I know).