Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bay’

Well, today has turned out eventful. Not only is it the seventh anniversary of this blog’s creation today, but I finished writing another story. And let me tell you, it turned out a lot longer than I expected, just under eleven-thousand words, making it a novelette. I have no idea if I’ll have to trim it down some later on, but I have a feeling that I’ll be doing a lot of editing before this story can be considered ready for publication.

Mother of the King, as this story is called, was born from my recent interest in the legend of King Arthur. I even downloaded a whole lecture course onto my phone to listen to and find out more about this legendary figure. The result not only surprised me (read my post The Weird Truth about King Arthur to have your own mind blown), but inspired a story that I decided to write after I sent Rose back to the publisher. You know how some of the Arthur stories out there say that one day Arthur will return when England needs him the most? This idea deals with that aspect of the legend, as well as the historical Arthur figure. It’s part historical fiction, part science-fiction, part my way to play around with a famous fantasy canon and even do some teaching as well.

It would make for a great TV show on HBO or Netflix. At least, I think it would.

And the cool thing about Arthurian literature is you can literally write any story about Arthur and his knights, and it’s automatically part of Arthurian canon. Doesn’t mean that it’ll be a good addition to the canon,* but it’ll be an addition anyway. Hopefully Mother of the King, should I ever get it published, will make a decent addition to Arthurian literature.

So what happens now? Well, I had my eye on submitting this story to an anthology Castrum will be putting together in the near future, but perhaps the length of it might turn them off. In any event, I’ll probably have a few people look at it and give me feedback. I’ll use that to edit the story, and after that see about getting it published.

In the meantime, while Rose is still being looked over at Castrum, I’ll be working on finishing up a few unfinished novelettes. With any luck, I can get them done before I get the fifth draft back and have to dive back into doing edits.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It is very late for me, and I’ve got work in the morning. I’ll be seeing you again soon. Until then, pleasant nightmares, one and all!

*Looking at you, 2004’s King Arthur and 2017’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. You both aimed big, but in the end failed miserably. Also, Friday the 13th remake, you suck. You’re not Arthurian literature at all, but it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned how much I hate you. You stupid, pornographic excuse of a Michael Bay film.

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Whenever Blumhouse is involved in a movie, I usually get interested, as they tend to produce high-quality horror films. When I heard about this film, I got interested both because it had an interesting concept behind it, and because I like Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf fan for life!). So even though it got negative early reviews, I decided to check it out anyway, and convinced a friend of mine to see it with me.

I have a lot to say about this film. Let me try to keep this brief.

Truth or Dare follows a group of college students who go to Mexico for their final spring break. While there, they meet a mysterious man who invites them up to an old Spanish mission for drinks and some good, ol’ fashioned truth or dare. However, when they leave Mexico, they find the game has followed them, and it’s now much nastier: you either play the game, no matter what horrific secrets you might have to share, or what terrible deeds you must commit, or you will die. And the game won’t end till all the players are dead.

Now on the surface, I should have liked this movie. In addition to an interesting concept, the film is incredibly well-written. The story isn’t only compelling, but surprisingly, without plot holes. With very simple tricks, they plug up most of the plot holes that would come up in a horror film, let alone one surrounding a game mainly played by children and horny teenagers. Not only that, but the way the film has these characters expose their deepest secrets is so good at making you feel sympathetic, you almost feel their pain. And when they have to undertake some of the dares, you actually get a little afraid for them.

Not only that, but most of these characters are well-written and multidimensional. Most characters in horror films are ridiculously flat, and especially in ones based around games (*cough* Ouija *cough*). But Truth or Dare actually makes these characters more than flat or stereotypes. They have trouble, they have hidden depths, which is only made more clear when characters are forced to reveal dark secrets. This is especially true with the character of Markie, who at first glance is a happy-go-lucky strawberry-blonde, but in actuality is struggling in a number of ways.

It’s helped by the fact that the actors in these films are all really good. I can’t say any one of them gave a bad performance.

But the film has one big issue: its atmosphere. In horror, atmosphere is essential. And this film  doesn’t really have one, at least not one that lasts. Several times, the film does create some tense moments (keep an eye out for the roof scene), and there are a number of great jump scares. But after the tense moment or the jump scare, I found myself winding back down to normal. And in a horror film, you should be kept at a slight tension at every moment. There should be something in the back of your mind that says, “Oh my God, I’m scared, my heart rate is going to increase a little.” And I never felt that way during this film.

And that really brings down the film as a whole.

Still, if it weren’t for that problem, this film would be terrifying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Truth or Dare a 3.5 out of 5. Despite its lack of atmosphere, I honestly recommend seeing it. It probably won’t leave you scared stiff, but it’ll keep your interest and won’t leave you angry at the actors or the directors like other films I could name (*cough* The Friday the 13th remake is a piece of trash, and I would love to chase Michael Bay around Camp Crystal Lake for that ass-terrible excuse of a film. *cough*). Give it a watch, if you feel so inclined, and decide for yourself.

Go on. I dare you.

Whenever you hear a movie getting a ton of hype, especially a horror movie, you tend to be a bit skeptical. And when you hear that Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company for horror movies, is involved, you’re even more skeptical. I mean, have you seen Ouija? Or that crappy, way-too-sexual middle finger to a franchise that was the Friday the 13th reboot (I’m sorry, but I’ll never forgive Michael Bay for that film. Did not understand what made Jason Voorhees or the Friday the 13th films great at all).

I’m glad to report that this film was not only very good, but actually scared me a bit. And I credit that to how much its director, John Krasinski, who also starred in the film with his real-life wife Emily Blunt and co-wrote the script (rather than a certain director who thinks explosions, boobs, and unsteady camera movements make good cinema).

A Quiet Place follows a family–a father (Krasinski), a mother (Blunt), their deaf daughter (actually deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), and hearing son (Noah Jupe)–living in the first years of a post-apocalyptic world where a predatory race of creatures that hunt through sound have exterminated most of the human race. The family tries to survive each day without making a sound, speaking only with sign language and going to extreme lengths to muffle or suppress every noise (which makes you very aware of how much noise we make in our everyday lives). Which is getting more and more complicated because the mother is heavily pregnant (you can understand why that might be an issue). The film chronicles one particularly nasty night, when the mother goes into labor, and what happens afterwards.

This film is a great horror film. For one thing, the emphasis on sound in this film, both in terms of the lack of ordinary sounds like speech, electronics, and whatnot, the sounds we do hear, from nature to the monsters’ roars and growls, to the music, help to create this creepy, unearthly atmosphere. This helps in suspenseful moments, where characters have to be very careful not to make a sound or they’ll get killed, as it heightens the terror you feel. Hell, I was afraid to make a sound during those moments, and I was in the audience! Coupled with a some well-timed jump scares, you get a really scary film.

I also really liked the monsters in this film. Even in broad daylight, the monsters aren’t very easy to make out through most of the film, keeping them mysterious and making their deadliness all the scarier. And when we finally do see them, they are still really terrifying to look at, even if they may look like the monsters from a certain popular science-fiction/horror franchise (those who’ve seen the movie know what I’m talking about). And I love how not much about the monsters is revealed in the film. You learn enough to understand how they hunt and why they’ve been so successful in hunting down humanity, but you never really learn where they came from or how they appeared on Earth. And that, like the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise before Prometheus, just makes them all the scarier.

But the best part of this film are the relationships between the family members. With little to no spoken dialogue, you really get to see how this life has been wearing on them, how little mistakes and arguments, along with the constant need for survival, have given each character their own struggles and fears, and how all that creates tensions between them. Seeing them work together, fight, and try to overcome this life is not only enthralling, but contains a great metaphor for the struggles of a family–any family–during difficult times.

That all being said, the lack of sound and action at times does make it hard to stay invested or pay attention to the story. I also thought that the ending could’ve been darker, which would’ve made it a much more memorable and powerful film. At least in my mind.

All in all, I’m giving A Quiet Place a 4.3 out of 5. This is a scary film that will draw you in not just with its premise and atmosphere, but with its intelligence and depth. Take a look and see why silence is truly golden.

If you read my review of the first Ouija film, you’ll remember that I didn’t have a very high opinion of it. It was by the numbers, unimaginative, and most of the fun came from surprise cameos, which was sad given that most films from Blumhouse Productions are generally very good. I blamed the fact that Michael Bay’s production company was involved, and that guy tends to destroy anything related to toys and/or things people grew up with in the 1980’s (seriously, is that a thing?). I also mentioned in that review that I was not looking forward to the sequel they were already making, which I felt would probably be worse.

Surprise surprise, when the trailer for the sequel turned out to be a trailer for the prequel. And it looked good! Really good!

So good, that I wanted to see it in theaters (didn’t happen, unfortunately). When the library ordered it though, I immediately reserve the DVD. And over dinner I watched it. And I have to say, it was actually better than the original.

Note: I will be discussing the original film in this review, so if you haven’t seen the first movie and might still want to see it, you might want to stop reading this review.

So Origin of Evil takes place in the 1960s, and follows the little girl who we meet as a ghost in the first film, and her family. Her mother is a false psychic who genuinely believes she’s helping people, and has her daughters help her with her scam. One day, the mother buys a Ouija board in order to spice up her act, and proceed to test it out in her home. This leads to the younger daughter getting possessed, and from there things get strange.

As I said above, this was a much better film than the original. For one thing, it’s a period film, and Blumhouse is generally very good with those kinds of films (watch The Conjuring and Annabelle films if you don’t believe me). The sets look gorgeous, and the attention to detail is amazing. Even if at times the historical setting feels like window dressing, it’s a very good window dressing. I also thought the actors did an adequate job. These aren’t the same actors that played the ghosts in the first film, but since in the first film it was just important that they look scary when the CGI was used on them, it doesn’t really matter. And as I said, they did a very good job. Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger daughter, is exceptionally good at playing both an innocent child and a terrifying possessed creature (especially when they add CGI).

And of course, the prequel explains very well how the events of the past lead to the events of the first film. If they didn’t do that, I would have said they’d wasted money and film making a movie.

That being said, there are several things that could’ve been done better. Origin has the same issue as the first film where they have good jump scares but suffer when it comes to creating an atmosphere. The filmmakers also tried to evoke that old, 1960s feel by adding little touches to the film to make it seem like it was made in the 60s: little black circles and vertical lines appear at random during the film, and some of the cuts to new scenes have that jumpy quality reminiscent of old films. However, they do it so inconsistently that it’s more distracting than anything else. If maybe they had filmed it so that it looked from the 60s, and had that characteristic hiss in the background, then it probably would’ve worked better.

I also thought there were a couple of things that didn’t make sense. In one scene, the priest character gets possessed or influenced by the little girl, and then a minute later the possession or influence leaves him. Just like that. They don’t explain why that happens, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. And remember how in the first film, the surviving sister is in an insane asylum? And how the events of her childhood did drive her insane? Well in the prequel, they don’t really show how she gets that way. I think it’s supposed to hint that just everything she went through drove her mad, but she didn’t seem any different than any other heroine in these kinds of horror movies. Scared? Yes. Grief stricken? Yes. Insane? Not so much, but they plop her right into the mental asylum and show her as seriously messed up by the events of the film.

Filmmakers, I shouldn’t have to mention this, but this is a visual medium. And in a genre where there are a lot of people going through terrible things, you have to show them losing their grip on reality. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. If someone on the street sees me walking down the other side of the street and I pass behind a lamp pole and when I’m on the other side, I have horns, giant bat wings and a tail, even if they know who I am and I’m a freaking vehicle of terror, they’re going to have questions. It’s like that.

All in all, though, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a much better film than its predecessor. And while I don’t think we’ll be getting another film in the series (despite having a slightly higher budget, the prequel did not make as much at the box office as the original), it’s a good film to go out on. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Origin of Evil a solid 3.0.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have another post out before the weekend is over, so keep an eye out for it if you want to know how I’m doing with Full Circle. Until then, have pleasant nightmares.

I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately, and something in the most recent episode I watched got me thinking. It was stated at the beginning of the season that the main villain of the season, the demon Lilith, is breaking magical seals to raise the demon Lucifer out of Hell, and she needs to destroy sixty-six seals to do so. Based on that, I thought there were sixty-six seals in total, which seemed reasonable. According to the episode I watched yesterday though, there are over six-hundred possible seals, and Lilith needs to only destroy sixty-six to get Lucifer out of Hell.

Now I’ll admit that I’m still working my way through the season, so there may be more to these seals than what I know right now, but based on just the description I have above, that’s a pretty poor security system. You’re keeping the ultimate evil bound by six-hundred seals, but only sixty-six need to be destroyed to let him out? That’s like only needing an eleven percent passing score on a lie detector test to get access to Top Secret national security files. You’re just acting for trouble.

With that in mind, as well as my thoughts on the movie The Boy that I reviewed earlier this week,* I got to thinking. Sometimes creators do things in fiction that make absolutely no sense when the fans get to them. Obviously, there are things in fiction that are most likely impossible–the magic of Harry Potter, actual giant lizards like Godzilla, TARDISes and Time Lords (sadly)–but we forget that so we can enjoy the story. This is called suspension of belief, and it’s how we can enjoy these stories. However sometimes a creator–whether it’s a book, a movie, a comic, or a TV show–is just too hard for us to believe. When that happens, the story, and our enjoyment of the story, suffers horribly.

With that in mind, here are some things every storyteller can do to make it easier to tell a story without dong something that will make a reader/viewer say, “What the hell? That’s so stupid!”

  • Avoid the unnecessary or stupid twists. Back to The Boy again, which, if you haven’t read my review, singled out the twist that the boy Brahms was alive and a full adult as the movie’s biggest fault. I get that they were trying to distinguish the movie from others like it with a unique twist, but besides feeling kind of lame, the twist made the whole concept of the movie nonsensical (see my review for full details on that). If you plan to include a twist in your work, ask yourself a few questions before you use one, such as: is this twist necessary to make a good story? Is it predictable? Does it make the story seem silly or even make the events of the story make no sense? I’m convinced if the filmmakers of The Boy had asked these questions, they might have had a better movie on their hands.
  • What brought people to your work in the first place? I love bashing 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, because it is such a terrible film. In fact, the filmmakers even seemed to think that the movie was crap, or that they were unable to really make a great Friday the 13th film, so they packed in as much swearing, sex and nudity, drugs, alcohol, and raunchy or childish humor as possible. The result was a film that felt like it was trying to be one of those dirty teen camping trip comedies that had to remind itself every few minutes it was about a serial killer living on a lake.
    If you’re going to tell a certain type of story, keep in mind at every step what sort of story it is and don’t focus unnecessarily on elements that are only a small part of the story or even unnecessary. In the case of Friday the 13th, people watch those movies to see Jason go on a rampage. The sex and drugs and all that other stuff are just added bonuses as well as what causes Jason to target his victims, not why we pay nine dollars at the box office. And the fact that the filmmakers felt those elements were more important is why I’ll always enjoy bashing this piece of crap out of Michael Bay’s bum.
  • Could this happen in the real world? I have a lot of problems with the Hunger Games books.** One of my biggest problems is how the series ends: Katniss finds out President Coin ordered the bombing that killed her sister, so she kills Coin in revenge as Coin takes control of the nation. The new government of Panem hushes up Coin’s treachery to preserve the new order, so for all intents and purposes Katniss just assassinated the new President unprovoked. And Katniss…is portrayed as a girl gone mad with grief over the loss of her sister, she gets exiled to District 12 with weekly phone conferences with a shrink, and lives happily ever after?
    I don’t care if you’re the face of a movement, if a similar revolution occurred in America, and the face of that revolution killed the new leader, you bet that person would at least get locked up in a prison or psych ward so they couldn’t tell anyone what they’d done. Exile and getting to raise a family? Nothing bad happens to her? I don’t care if she has nightmares a lot and never tells us her kids’ names because she’s afraid of losing them, that still would never happen in real life!
    So when you’re telling your own story, ask yourself if a situation is so unbelievable, even in the wackiest of fiction, that people can’t suspend their disbelief anymore. If it is, you might want to consider tweaking it so that guys like me don’t go on a rant about it on the Internet.
  • If it needs a lengthy explanation for why it happens, you might want to rethink the why. This one comes from personal experience. When I was writing Reborn City, I had this really complicated reason as to why my protagonist Zahara Bakur had to join the Hydras. That, and another situation later in the book had really complicated reasons why those things had to happen. It wasn’t until later drafts that I realized how overly complicated those situations were and found simpler explanations for why Zahara had to join the Hydras or the other thing had to happen, explanations that were so simple but worked so perfectly I wondered why I tried to use the run-around logic that a smart reader could easily poke a hole in.
    So if you want a specific event in your story to happen for the sake of the story but the way you get it to happen is really overly-complicated, requires a lot of explanation, and from certain angles makes no sense, perhaps you should reconsider either the event or why it happens. It beats having two unnecessary pages of dialogue explaining why something needs to happen when a much simpler explanation is at hand, at any rate.
  • And finally, don’t forget what is obvious or necessary. This kind of fits into my third point, but I’m making it separate because I feel that’s the best way to present it. Anyway, in one of my fiction workshops in college, a classmate turned in a story that took place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was a good first draft, but a major problem I had was that the protagonist apparently forgot his bow and arrow at home. I said to her, “This is a world where people dumb enough to leave their weapons at home while on a trip are likely to get killed a hundred different ways. No seasoned hunter like this guy forgets his source of food and protection.” In the same way, make sure that you avoid moves like that, where a character does something that makes no sense for someone in their position or the setting has some part of it that also makes little sense when you think about it. Trust me, it will improve the story if you avoid those problems.

In the end, the thing you want to tell is a good story. Avoiding anything that strains the credulity of your audience can be very difficult, but with trial and effort, you can get very good at it. This is also why I recommend having your stories looked at by editors or beta readers who won’t spare good advice because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings or risking your friendship. They can help you avoid these traps and improve the overall product of the story.

What tricks do you have for avoiding situations that strain the credulity of your audience?

What are some stories where they did something that really took you out of the story?

*By the way, it’s been nearly a week since I published that post, but an average of 36 people a day have been checking that post out since. I guess I’m not the only one who found that twist completely stupid.

**Especially the trilogy’s very backstory. A nation in the far-flung future had a massive civil war, and the Capitol decided that to stop future rebellions, the entire country should revolve politically, economically, and socially around an annual death game involving youth from the Districts? If Panem can genetically engineer scary monsters, they can synthesize a drug that takes out aggression and dump it into the Districts’ water supply. Problem solved, and all those seventeen-hundred and twenty people who died for the Capitol’s perverse pleasure instead grow up to be contributors to society. Yes, that is diabolical and I know I’d make a great dictator. My mother informed me of this fact when I pointed out this problem with the books.

I wanted to see this movie in theaters, but the one near my place wasn’t playing it (or it might have but forgot to post it on their website. Believe me, they did that once). So when I got it recently, I was hoping it would break the string of  bad horror films I’ve seen lately. Sadly, Ouija has only become the latest dud on my list. Even the great horror producer Jason Blum couldn’t make this project terrifying. I blame the fact that Michael Bay also produced this film, and most of what he touches blows up in his face, even if it does make tons of money.

Ouija is about a group of teenagers who try to contact their friend after she kills herself using the titular board game. This causes them to get marked by an angry spirit that seems intent on killing them. From there, it’s a race against the clock to stop the spirit before it gets strong enough to kill them all.

This movie’s good on jump scares, but it fails to keep up an atmosphere of suspense and dread, making the movie a long drag towards the end without even gore or sex to try to make up for it all. The acting is passable, though most of the “teens” in this movie look college age or older. Two of the characters are sisters and that’s supposed to mirror the ghost’s relationship with a living relative, but they don’t go into it enough to actually make the connection more than scant at best.

Still, Lin Shaye from the Insidious films and Shelley Hennig from Teen Wolf both have minor roles in this film, so that livens up the film slightly. Slightly.

I’m going to give Ouija a 1.3 out of 5. If you want to see a horror film and tell your friends that even though you’re a scaredy-cat you weren’t scared, this is the perfect film to be the foundation of that lie. I doubt it’ll ruin Ouija boards for enthusiasts of the game, which is something considering Michael Bay’s track record and possibly the one true positive thing to say about this film.

Still, I can’t say it’ll bring anyone joy to know that there’s a sequel in the works. Not surprising, considering that it made nearly a hundred million dollars at the box office and was made on only five million. Let’s hope the sequel will be several years off and direct-to-DVD, right? And in the meantime, I hope a good horror film comes out soon. I could use one!