Posts Tagged ‘review’

I try to be a regular blogger, one or two posts a week. But since Saturday, I haven’t really had anything to talk about. Which is crazy, because I usually always have something to talk about. And sometimes, people like to read what I have to say.

But there’s just nothing these past couple of days I’ve wanted to get out there. There’s been no development with Rose or any of my other stories worth mentioning. I haven’t seen or read anything to review lately. I haven’t come up with anything involving the art of writing or the art of horror. There’s nothing big in my life that I feel like making announcements about. And there’s no issue or current event I feel angry enough to speak about (and before you mention “Cockygate,” I’m getting to that).

There were things I thought I might blog about. I finished rereading The Shining, the first time I’ve read it since my teens, but I didn’t feel like I had enough material to make a full post like I did with To Kill a Mockingbird. The same with a post about feedback from readers and magazines; I started it, but in the end, the words just wouldn’t come to me. Cockygate is still ongoing, but there hasn’t been enough new developments that I want to write a post. I have a post for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, but I’m saving that until after I’ve spoken with my publisher about some proposed edits for Rose. And I’m waiting on a few other things to happen before I do some other posts I’ve been thinking of writing.

I could do an entire post about how one of my favorite shows Lucifer was canceled (yes, that happened, and I’m very upset about it!). But that feels too clickbait-y for me, especially after devoting an entire post to Cockygate. That being said, it would do me and an entire fandom a huge favor if you could help us keep the hashtag #SaveLucifer trending on social media. As of the time I’m writing this post, it’s a trending topic on Twitter, with over three-hundred twenty-seven thousand tweets. Believe me, we don’t want this show to go anywhere, so please help us out.

But other than that, I really have nothing special to say at the moment. I’m as quiet as a mouse.

Except…

Except that I can assure you I am still working on stories. Rose is coming along slowly but surely, and I have other stories in the wings. I certainly haven’t run out of ideas for stories or blog posts. And I am as devoted and energetic towards these projects as I’ve always been.

So even if I drop off the blogosphere from time to time, know this: I will come back, and it’ll be with plenty of good news to share. So stay tuned.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares.

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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.

Veronica dropped onto Netflix back at the tail end of February. A Spanish film directed by Paco Plaza, best known for the critically acclaimed REC films, it quickly gained a reputation as “the scariest film on Netflix.” I try not to pay attention to that sort of hype, but any film that was getting that sort of recognition is likely going to make it onto my watchlist. Last night I watched it, and I would’ve reviewed it right then and there, but it was late, so I went to bed. And then today I had a busy morning and early afternoon. So I hope you don’t mind that I’m getting this post out so late.

Based on actual events,* the film follows Veronica, a Spanish schoolgirl living in Madrid in 1991. Since her father’s untimely passing, her mother has been working long hours at a restaurant/bar, leaving Veronica to care for her younger siblings. One day, Veronica and a couple of classmates bring out a Ouija board so that Veronica can contact her father’s spirit. Instead she contacts a dark entity that seems intent on not only haunting/killing Veronica, but her younger siblings as well.

While I won’t say this is the scariest film on Netflix (Lord knows I haven’t seen enough of their selection to say that), it is a damn good scary movie.

While the film is filled with the normal tropes of many possession movies–things moving on their own, scary invisible or shadowy entities, people acting totally creepy uner the influence of the evil spirit–they’re done so well that you forget that you’ve seen these tropes before. The actors all do a very decent job, especially newcomer Sandra Escacena as Veronica, who really makes you believe she’s this character and sympathize with her troubles. I also seriously loved Sister Death, a blind, elderly nun who helps Veronica realize what she has to do to fight the spirit after her (because of course there’s going to be a nun who gives advice). For an old blind woman, she’s a bit of a badass, and was never dull when she was on screen.

But on top of that, the film doesn’t go overboard with the fact that it’s a period film. Most properties taking place in popular recent decades do everything in their power to remind you that they take place in that decade. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing and is sometimes part of the charm (see Stranger Things or Ready Player One), it’s kind of refreshing to see a film that’s more focused on its story than on its culturally-popular decade.

There are a couple of things that take away from the film. For one thing, there are trippier moments in the film, like a scene where Veronica is running across the print of a page from an occult magazine on the way to her mother’s restaurant, that feel rather unnecessary and add nothing to the film. On top of that, for being the titular character, Veronica isn’t the most developed character. Yeah, she’s a responsible teenager taking care of her younger siblings and misses her father, but those are just character tropes. They don’t make Veronica herself memorable like Carrie on prom night was memorable, or how Annabelle the doll is memorable without being anything more than a creepy, possessed doll. In the end, I’m going to remember the film more than I remember the actual character the film is named after.

And as I said, this film is filled with a lot of familiar tropes. And while I’m fine with that, I know there are a lot of other horror fans who won’t care for that, no matter how well done they are.

But all in all, Veronica is a definitely a new gem in the horror film genre. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this film a 4.5. Head to Netflix, turn it on, and get ready for an experience you won’t be able to look away from.

*No seriously, something did happen. Apparently in 1992 a bunch of Spanish schoolgirls did use a Ouija board, only to have the ceremony interrupted. One of the girls later died because of a mysterious illness, which some have suggested might’ve been due to demonic possession. So while we’re not exactly sure what happened, there’s enough there that this film has more of a claim to the “based on actual events” tagline than Texas Chainsaw Massacre ever did.

I started this series of rewatching movies I previously disliked with an Asian horror film, and it seems I’m ending it with an Asian horror film, albeit from a different country. I swear, that wasn’t intentional.

But before I get into the review, I want to thank you all for keeping up with this series and making it a success. Watching films I’ve hated has been no easy task. It’s time-consuming and can be almost physically painful to watch some of these duds. If it weren’t for the constant reads, likes, and comments you guys gave me, I would’ve probably stopped after film number 3 or 4. So thank you for being there and enjoying these rewatch reviews. I hope you got something from them (particularly ideas about which films to enjoy and which to avoid). I certainly did (some of which my doctor can’t find a diagnosis for).

So onto the final Rewatch Review, the 1998 landmark South Korean horror film, Whispering Corridors.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The film follows Ji-oh, a strong-willed but slightly superstitious artist at an all-girls high school and Eun-young, a young teacher who was once a student at the school. They become aware that there may be a ghost at the school targeting teachers. As Ji-oh tries to figure out if perhaps she’s connected to the deaths, Eun-young knows she has a connection to the deaths, and must try to stop them before they get any worse. Both women will find out, they both have a connection to the deaths, and to the ghosts causing them.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: I was watching a lot of Asian horror films when I saw this one, and I thought this one didn’t compare well to the others I’d seen at the time. Just not scary enough, and too much focus on daily life instead of spooky, scary spirits.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: I found out this was one of the first horror films made in South Korea after the end of the dictatorship, and that it came with a lot of commentary on that time and on the South Korean school system, which made me see it in a whole new light. It also started a successful series of horror films set at all-girls schools, one of which involves a ballet school (and you know I’m a sucker for ballet) and was influential on Korean horror and Korean cinema as a whole. And finally, I needed a tenth movie to round out the series. Hence, Whispering Corridors.

THOUGHTS: Okay, it’s not as intense as other horror films I’ve seen, but it is a decent film.

For one thing, the story does set up a great mystery: it’s established early in the film that the ghost is masquerading as a student, and does a good job of making you guess who the ghost is. And while the body count in this film is small, they’re shot well and at times executed (pun intended) very creatively. All this contributes to create a unique, fairly creepy atmosphere.

There’s also the non-supernatural horror in the film: the school system itself. As I said above, the film features heavy commentary on the South Korean educational system, in this case the darker sides coalesced into one school. A number of the teachers make the school into an uncomfortable place to be. They’re often verbally abusive, set the students against one another and, in the case of one teacher, physically abuse and sexually harass students! I mean, my God! And all on top of a rigorous education philosophy designed to emphasize academic excellence to the point of crowding out everything else. To say the least, it’s horrifying.

That being said, the film does have its problems. The pacing can be very slow, with lots of moments involving people just talking rather than anything supernatural and/or exciting. I know some horror stories are slow-burns, but I don’t think this one should be one of them. Also, the ending is a little sappy, with a special effect that I’ve seen done better in other films.

But that’s the extent of the problems I’ve found. And considering other films with more problems that I’ve seen, I’ll take that.

JUDGMENT: I’m glad I made this film part of this series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Whispering Corridors a 3.7 out of 5. Not the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, but I recommend seeing it. In a good way, it’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: while it may not be that terrifying, you should see it for the impact it has. And I guarantee that if you do see it, you won’t be as disappointed as you might be with TCM.

Just be aware that this is an extremely difficult film to find. Not kidding, I had to jump through a few hoops to find this film (hopefully the sequels will be easier to find). And you’ll likely have to go through a few too to get this one. Just warning you.

 

And that brings an end to the Rewatch Review series, for now anyway. We had laughs, we had tears, we had screams of terror or boredom. And who knows? I may do this again someday, if I can find enough films to rewatch and the will to go through it again. But right now, I think I’ll try getting through my Netflix queue.

You know, you often get great horror films. You get great science-horror films. And every now and then, you get a great horror film that makes you think, like Get Out or As Above, So Below. But I’ve never seen a science-horror film that’s not only good, but made you want to speculate so much about its deeper meanings and the questions it raises.

Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer,* Annihilation focuses on Natalie Portman as a biologist who goes on an expedition with four other women into “The Shimmer,” a place where everything is mutating and changing and no previous expedition has come back alive, after her husband returns from there gravely ill and seriously changed. Once inside, they will be tested in ways they cannot even imagine, and discover something horrifying.

This was an absolutely amazing movie. For one thing, the main cast (which is all women but not treated like a huge deal at all by the film, which I love) are all absolutely amazing. They really make you believe they are these characters, even if they aren’t given that much development. Gina Rodriguez, who plays Anya Thorensen, was especially great, and seeing her transformation through the movie is worth the ticket price alone.

Visually, this film is a feast. There’s so much to look at and take in, but it never really feels overwhelming. Sometimes the imagery is beautiful, sometimes it is baffling, and sometimes it’s creepy, but you’re never going to look away because you want to take it all in. And as for atmosphere, this film does a really good job of just building up an air of strangeness. So much of what’s in the Shimmer is unreal and surreal. It’s unknown to everyone, and the characters have to guess most of the time as to the meaning of things. And that’s what they’re doing: guessing. Very little is confirmed, and so much is unknown. So you kind of feel their fear and paranoia as they start to wonder what is real, what is happening, how it could be happening.

But what I love most about this film is how intelligent it is, and how it makes you wonder. As I said, very little is confirmed with this film. A lot of what we see, we the audience have to draw our own conclusions and decide what is happening, or what the deeper meaning is. Or if there is a deeper meaning. Or if what we’re seeing is actually real. It’s so strange, but at the same time so thought-provoking. And it’s been a while since a film made me wonder this much, made me want to examine it more.

If I’m going to ding the film on anything, it’s the CGI. Except for the film’s climax, the CGI doesn’t work well. It’s not awful, but I feel it would work better in a video game instead of in a live-action film. I would’ve preferred if they’d tried for a more animatronic approach, like with the Jurassic Park films.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Annihilation a 4.5 out of 5.  A visual thrill-ride of the strange and otherworldly, fronted by a great cast. Definitely check it out and get lost in a world of the hallucinatory and engaging.

*By the way, I tried listening to this book on audio. But the narrator’s voice made me sleepy, so only so much of the novel actually made it into my brain. From what I remember though, the novel and movie differ on a lot. But in a good way.

The great thing about three-day weekends is that there’s plenty of opportunities for catching a few flicks. So far I’ve watched Black Panther (really good, 4.2 out of 5), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (surprisingly decent, 3.5 out of 5), and this morning I caught the ninth entry in my Rewatch Review series, Mama. I honestly thought this film would be painful to watch, but…you know what, let’s get into the review.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Mama is about Victoria and Lilly, two young sisters who disappear after their father goes on a murder spree after the 2008 market crash. They show up several years later after living in the woods all this time and are sent to live with their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel. Pretty soon they start experiencing weird things and find out that the girls weren’t exactly alone in those woods. Someone, or something, was there with them. And it’s come back to civilization too.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: You know, I honestly don’t remember. I just remember not liking it when I saw it back in college.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: The director, Andy Muschietti, produced 2017’s It, and that rocked. What the hell did I miss in Mama that made studio heads select him to be the director after Cary Fukunaga signed off?

THOUGHTS: Apparently I missed quite a bit. Mama‘s a great horror film.

For one thing, the actors put their all into their characters, and it works. You really see the arc of Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain, going from a carefree rocker girl who doesn’t want to be a mom at all bonding with the girls and growing into the role of a mother. And watching the girls adjust to civilization is fascinating for each one. And seeing these three very different and clashing people come together as a family is heartwarming, but in a way that doesn’t take away from the horror of the film (*cough* unlike Before I Wake *cough*).

Not only that, but the film does know how to set up a creepy atmosphere while also using jumpscares. I found myself hopping in my seat more than a few times. And as the film goes on, it manages to up the creepiness without showing too much of the titular Mama, who for a horror movie villain is actually kind of sympathetic once you get her backstory. It was genuinely scary.

Of course, the film isn’t without its problems. At times, while Mama’s design is creepy*, the CGI used to make her can be a bit distracting at times. And the music in the final scene kind of makes this really heartbreaking scene kind of melodramatic and sappy. I’m sure the idea was to heighten the sad emotions, but it backfires for me.

And hoo boy, that movie was loud. I turned down the volume and I was sure my neighbors would knock on my door and ask me to turn it down!

JUDGMENT: I honestly don’t know why I disliked the film anymore, and I can see why Muschietti was tapped to direct It.

Mama is a terrifying but heartwarming horror movie with a great premise and wonderful characters played by accomplished actors. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this film a 4.5 out of 5. I’m so glad my opinion changed on this one.

 

Well, that’s nine films rewatched. My last one might take some time to find, as it’s not usually available in the States. Still, I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. Until next time, pleasant nightmares, my Followers of Fear.

*And is probably the inspiration of the look for the abstract painting woman from It. Not kidding, look at those two side by side. They’re basically the same character with a different style…so there’s a King/Muschietti shared cinematic universe now? It’d make sense, this movie does feel like it would fit as a Stephen King adaptation.