A Genetic Twist To Horror That Is Semi-Gripping Until the End

Hereditary Poster

 

Robbie K here, ready to try and do another movie justice in his reviews and observations.  Tonight’s focus is on a horror movie that looked very disturbing, chilling to the bone, and potentially containing a high creep factor to really make you squirm in your seats.  Yes, assuming you read the title of the movie on your way into this review I’m giving you my thoughts and observations on…

 

Hereditary (2018)

 

Director:

Ari Aster

Writer:

Ari Aster

Stars:

Toni Collette,  Milly Shapiro,  Gabriel Byrne

 

LIKES:

Creepy:  The trailers didn’t lie, Hereditary is creepy as heck and not afraid to flaunt it in so many forms.  While not loaded with jump scares that many love, Hereditary is all about using shadows and the edge of your vision to make you see things. It uses subtle sounds to keep you on the edge, and reveals just enough to keep you further engrossed in the thrills. Hereditary also is not afraid to cross the line to really get a reaction going, sometimes to the point of intensely disturbing visuals that one does not expect to see.  Yet, my friends and I all agreed that the true creep factor comes from how realistic this movie is, at least at the beginning.  The questions of how much is true and how much potential psychosis is helps depict some of the more extreme cases of mental illness and how dangerous and intense this disease can be. 

 

The Setting:  A creepy movie requires a setting to bring it to life and this movie has got that going on for it too.  The house is classic, semi isolated from town, with enough nooks and crannies to generate shadows that hide in the light.  It’s not these random temples or abandoned houses, but an actual lived in home that brings that realism to light and immerses you into the movie.  And if you don’t care about the creepy shadows and lights the movie holds, then just enjoy the beauty of the house, especially if you were dragged to the movie to begin with.

 

 

Dynamic Story Changes: A fancy way of saying twisting transition, Hereditary’s writer certainly new how to adjust the script to bring a different atmosphere with the movie.  At first more of a psycho thriller with some potential horror elements, the movie manages to gradually fluctuate into other genres.  It evolves into different types of horrors, and with it brings more levels of disturbing twists to begin to connect semi-vague pieces together. It certainly a bit haphazard and mashed like a play, but I give props for a writer willing to switch gears from time to time. In addition, some of the lengths they go to shake things up are certainly risky, but with it generating some reaction you weren’t quite expecting. 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Long:  Heritage certainly does the job of tying up loose ends and making sure everything is explained (which of course is a like). Sadly, it takes a little too long to get to that point and in a very complex manner that is almost like going around your elbow to get to your thumb. The second act, and partially the third act, were very drawn out, boring to the point of trying to make these connections in a mask of coping mechanisms.  Again, it’s realism and portrayal are awesome, but as the direction of the movie starts to change, these weird transitions start to feel a bit too odd and not worth your time.

 

The Goofy Faces:  Some of the movie tried to bring some torturous reactions in the non-verbal acting.  Poor Toni Collette came off with some rather goofy, perhaps unintentional, faces that were funny and looked more like being stoned or maybe getting brain freeze. Her son Peter (Alex Wolff) didn’t turn out much better, as his own facial dynamics were, well goofy as well, primarily in that buck toothed, stoned look that was meant to be exhaustion.

 

The Acting:  Don’t get me wrong, the acting was mostly decent, if not good, primarily in the portrayal of mental illness and fear.  Yet there were times where hysterical crying, yelling, and blubbering were again a little too much and went down the wrong path.  I’m not trying to pick on Wolff, but his hysterical crying was a little too forced for me and seemed incredibly fake compared to the rest of his performance.  Why this gimmick was done more than once, not really known, but I can’t say that it was a direction I would have taken.

 

The Tongue Clicking: Not quite an as annoying as the trailers made it out, the use of the tongue clicking was decent at times, but a little over used.  Whether it was the amplification by the speakers, or maybe just the excessive/random moments, this device started to grow annoyingly humorous and needed to stop.  Thank goodness they got light of it and didn’t bombard us too much with it.

 

The Complexity:  A complex plot makes you think, makes you question, and more importantly keeps you engaged.  This movie accomplished those goals, but when the ending finally came through and the final transition happened, the complexity felt stupid and unneeded.  Again, it supports the ending, but because of how much I didn’t like the ending, this complexity just didn’t feel the right direction to me outside of extending the film. Complexity can be good with a real good finish, (which some may like), but for this reviewer the ends didn’t justify the means.

 

The Ending:  You saw this coming, but Hereditary’s ending wasn’t the one I had in mind from the trailers.  A surprise can be good, but to quote my friends, the ending had completely leaped over the gap to another movie altogether that didn’t quite fit all the way with the direction the first act did.  It was almost like two screenwriters wrote the two halves, came together and tried to paste them together (even though there was supposedly only one writer).  While the broad transitions will grip more people in, the movie’s grand finale wasn’t my cup of tea, though it may explain the disturbing steps this writer planned. And some of the end game decisions, rushed, pointless, and really not pleasant to look at (fans who see the movie will know what I’m talking about).

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The other reviews are right, this movie keeps you guessing, has a number of twists, is creepy and hard to stomach, and not afraid to go down the dark abyss to bring you shock.  So, bravo in thinking outside the box and crafting a rather original tale with a dynamic component to it.  Yet, this movie’s tinkering with the plot was unnecessarily complex, with a few gimmicks/deliveries not really keeping in tone with the genre and the ends not justifying the lengthy journey I took to get there.  If you like the Lords of Salem, you are going to enjoy the approach this movie takes, as it feels very similar in a lot of components. Yet, if you want a more linear, straightforward movie, hold your horses for later this year when other films are supposed to grace the silver screen.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery: 8.0

 

Movie Overall:  7.0

Advertisements

Check Out This Upgrade

Upgrade Poster

 

Robbie K back with yet another review this time on a movie that looks to be interesting to say the least. With one of the weaker advertising campaigns to hit in a while, this movie didn’t reveal much in regards to its contents, so I went in wondering what was in store.  After seeing it, yours truly has plenty of things to report his thoughts as I review:

 

Movie: Upgrade

 

 

Director:

Leigh Whannell

Writer:

Leigh Whannell

Stars:

Logan Marshall-Green,  Richard Anastasios,  Rosco Campbell

 

 

LIKES:

 

Sci-Fi Plot:  The movie genre says Action/Comedy/Horror, but this reviewer felt it was more a science fiction piece than anything else. The piece is a culmination of various Sci-Fi hits that include things like: The Fugitive, Bladerunner, Matrix, and even HardCore Henry.  Such a ragtag collection really worked in this case, and brought with it an engaging story that addresses the issues of technology and how the world can potentially abuse them.  It’s a thrilling adventure that for the most part kept my attention, and helped dive deeper down the rabbit hole.

 

Decent Character Development:  You may remember the movie of Her where man and machine entered a complex relationship that was odd and inappropriate.  Upgrade takes that foundation and updates it to something much better, creating an interface between man and machine that isn’t love, but practically survival. While this relationship is multi-faceted, I was impressed with the amount of development both key characters got. STEM in particular had loads of development, despite only being a disembodied voice that was set for survival. As the movie progresses, the level of complexity between the two further expands, and creates one of the more engaging relationships I’ve seen in a while.

 

Decent Editing:  For a movie with a complex tale and a lot of pathways to connect, it surprisingly felt complete in such a short time limit. At around 90 minutes, Upgrade meets all its goals of action, storytelling, and motif exploring and keeping most of the footage tight and relevant to the film. This weekend is surprisingly meeting this goal, and I’m thrilled to see this art hasn’t been completely lost.

 

Action Scene:  For an action genre tag, Upgrade manages to accomplish this goal quite well and bring about one of the more intense scenes I have experienced in a long time.  Grey and his cyber buddy go through the motions from standard fist fight to kung fu fury and given the rock music infusion with a very active camera, the scenes only get more exciting.  Sure, some of the action scenes were simplistic stunts given other examples, but what’s impressive is that the action is always pertinent to the film. In addition, the style of fighting maintains the dark edge of the movie, leading to further amplification of the suspense and thrills this movie brings.

 

Realism:  Sci-Fi often gets a bad rap for being unbelievable, but Upgraded is one of those films that will shatter that fantasy glass ceiling. Set in the not so far future, the movie manages to bring the future technology to the “modern” world, skipping the grandiose futuristic cities and creatures, for a much more grounded approach. As such, the added realism, brings the horror element out and is scarier than what most horror movies can cook up.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Character underutilization: The movie relies a lot on two characters to make up the story, the secondary characters are semi important, but most of them get the shaft.  I would have liked better integration of these characters, especially the cop, who could have opened up more of the movie’s edge had she been given the chance. Perhaps future installment can help out with this, but for this movie…it was okay.

 

Gorey At Times:  There are some things one does not like to see and some of the finishing moves in this movie are examples of this. Upgraded doesn’t go overboard in bloody chaos, but it also is not afraid to show off the savagery of enhanced biomechanics.  Those of the faint of heart or squeamish are now warned, because some members of the cast will have some heavy hitting injuries to deal with in the 90 minutes. 

 

Rushed Ending:  The movie had so much going for it, but the ending while complete, dark, and fitting, seemed a bit rushed to get there. Sure, much of the rabbit hole was predictable to me, with only a slight layer escaping my theories, but when it came to boil things move a lot faster than they had.  I had hoped for a little more engagement, a little more obstruction, and definitely a full-on finish instead of a cliffhanger to indicate a potential series to come.  Breaking the pace, I had started to thoroughly enjoy so late in the game wasn’t my favorite decision of this movie. 

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Upgrade is definitely not the typical movie to grace the screen, but this darker film crafts an adventure that will pull many of the Sci-Fi genre into the mix.  The dynamic duo of man and machine is a keystone in supporting the film, and with energetic action, a realistic setting, and good editing, one will surely become immersed in the new matrix.  It still has some rough edges to smooth out, primarily in integrating all the character and not breaking the pace in the final minutes of the film.  Yet, the hinted series to come can address this, potentially leading to a plummet into a new Wonderland of androids vs. humans.  Worth a trip to the theater?  You bet, but be warned for the violence and be warned of the very loud sound effects that can be hard on the ears.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Comedy/Horror: 7.0

Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Point Yourself In A Different Direction

Action Point Poster

 

In the “golden era” of television, there was a variety of shows that served to entertain, teach, and all out shock the audience. While sitcoms, cartoons, and the soap operas reigned supreme, there were a few shows out there trying to make their mark.  One of these was Jackass, a show that was all about taking the wildest, stupidest dares and making them a reality.  Despite all the self-harm, destruction, and lack of logic, this show thrived and led to Knoxville producing a number of movies to support his endeavors.  After some hiatus, the master of stunts and ridiculousness is back again in the form of another of a stunt palooza.  Robbie K, here to provide insight into the latest silver screen, as we review:

 

Movie: Action Point

 

Director:

Tim Kirkby

Writers:

John Altschuler (screenplay by),  Dave Krinsky (screenplay by)

Stars:

Johnny Knoxville,  Brigette Lundy-Paine,  Susan Yeagley

 

 

LIKES:

 

Cute Motives at times: Among the ridiculous stunts, alcoholism, and dirty humor, there lies a soft, chewy center of family bonding and love. Action Point helps display the hardships of parenting, and in some cases grandparenting, which will speak to many and perhaps demonstrate the importance of balance and understanding.  It’s a small lesson embedded in the seas of ridiculous stunts, but decently presented to say the least.

 

Stunts:  You can say what you want about how illogical it is to harm one’s self for a laugh, but I give credit to Knoxville for still doing his own stunts.  Despite being almost 50, he took point in all the injuring scenes and sequences, some of which could easily break a hip, or a neck.  His youthful gang is starting to inherit the mantle, but the directors still has a few tricks up his sleeve to bring a laugh.

 

Fast Pace/Short Run Time: Editing is always impressive to me and Knoxville achieves his desired goal in a short amount of time.  Action Point has cut out a lot of fluff, bringing pertinent shots, plot points, and balance between past and present while maximizing the disaster at hand.  While you might feel gipped out of a movie for not being at least 90 minutes long, to have the movie feel complete in the short time gets mad props from me, which doesn’t happen that often.

 

The Bear:  I’m not talking the mascot, but the actual animal that is in the movie.  Knoxville’s crew got a bear involved in the movie, and his scenes are humorous to me, primarily when they start harnessing its unique skills for their own promotions. Nevertheless, have a laugh at the impressive performance from a non-English speaking cast member.

 

DISLIKES:

Little Story:  I’m a story guy and no surprise, the movie has little to no story outside a paper-thin plot to ground the stunts to.  While this is to be expected in this type of movie, as a reviewer I have to look at all components for my review and Knoxville’s team fails on this level for me.  Yes, there is some slight character development in the leads, but not much to warrant giving two thumbs up.

 

Stale Stupidity: Knoxville may get kudos for tackling his self-harm adventure head first, but subjecting himself to the illogical torture gets old after a while.  The constant slapstick crashes, pranks, and running into stuff purposefully gets old after a while.  Outside of a few scenes, including the bear parts, the movies repetitive comedic focus lost its touch very quickly, resulting in a rather bland attempt at laughs.  Most of the audience in my group seemed to have the same reaction as well, so don’t expect masterpiece here.

 

Over the Line:  It wouldn’t be Knoxville without crossing the line, but there were some major moments that I certainly did not enjoy. Seeing dogs get it on, rather heated sex scene, animal cruelty, and continuous abuse of alcohol are not the things that make a great movie for me.  While small in number, the team maximized these moments and not in a classy way at all.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Action Point doesn’t sell you short on what the trailers promised.  It’s a ridiculous ride of Knoxville’s usual repertoire of skits with a little cuteness/sincerity thrown in to sweeten the deal. While I understand this is the point of all his works though, the movie doesn’t have enough gusto, uniqueness, or creativity to warrant a theater visit.  Action Point would have served better as an extended TV special or Netflix series. In addition, it may not turn out as funny as you might expect, mostly because of either the inappropriate moments or the stale comedic slapstick (much of which was ruined by the trailers). Overall, I suggest skipping this one and trying something else in the silver screen. 

 

My scores:

 

Comedy:  5.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

Drifting Between Beautiful Scenes and Monotonous Slow Pace

Adrift Poster

 

The words based on a true story are always good tags to hook audience members into the cinema.  Seeing humans go through these extreme vents brings a sense of thrilling adventure in hopes of crafting a story that one can relate to.  Tonight’s story promises such a thing, as young actor and actress set out to the expanse of the sea, facing the unhindered forces that lie in waiting.  Robbie K back with another review, helping share his thoughts on the movie:

 

Film: Adrift

 

Director:

Baltasar Kormákur

Writers:

Aaron Kandell,  Jordan Kandell

Stars:

Shailene Woodley,  Sam Claflin,  Grace Palmer

 

LIKES:

 

Cinematography:  The movie’s high point is the beautiful shots of the big, blue, wet thing (ocean) and the beauty and terror it contains.  Adrift spends a lot of time on the surface of the Pacific, so it’s natural for them to have to find unique angles to fully immerse you in the journey of being stranded at sea. You’ll get to transition from boat, to under the sea, to the beautiful horizons that paint the setting and with appreciating the serene calm sailing can bring.

 

Acting:  Claflin and Woodley captain the ship of this film pretty much the whole time, so if you aren’t a fan of their work… then sit this one out. However, for the rest of the crew, the combo does a decent job of crafting their respective characters from whatever proverbial clay they were written in.  Claflin shines in the loner, philosophical voyager, opening up new doors for Woodley’s character to walk through and continue the story.  Woodley though has the hardest job of the bunch, going from the vagabond, see the world atmosphere to the survivor against the odds role.  Seeing her unleash the fury of exhaustion, dehydration, and potential delirium is epic, but not as much as watching her take control of the nightmare that life cast on her. All in all, not the strongest acting chemistry, but still a grand craft.

 

The Makeup:  Having to transform the actors from normal hipsters to sickly, on the verge of death of those stuck without many supplies.  The cosmetics involved in this production are phenomenal, subtle transitions taking place to document the strain the sea and sun are providing on the days long journey.  Whether it’s the paling complexion of blistering skin, to the wound inflicted from the hurricane storm, you’ll get chills at the realism to these visuals.

 

The Presentation: As mentioned in my pre-review vlog, I worried about a very monotonous presentation where it would just be a thousand sequences of drifting crafted together. While this is still true, the team brought a presentation style that managed to break up the monotony of the shots. Adrift is a mixture of past and present, intertwining between the two the way waves merge in a storm.  You’ll start out in the present, but quickly dart back into the past, trying to connect motivations and background to the matters at hand.  It does a decent job of balancing the two timelines, and helps give some more depth to the leads, even though one doesn’t speak much during much of the present.

 

 

The Twist:  Get ready for the doozy of a twist my friends, because Adrift has got one for you. Pay attention and you might get it within three minutes of the start of the film, yet go in there without the power of observation will be blown away by the surprise.  I can’t go much more into that, so let’s move on.

 

DISLIKES:

Predictable Ending:  Come on… if it’s based on a true story, you kind of know what is going to happen if someone made it back to tell the tale.  Adrift’s setting is still a remarkable feat of survival, but you know what the ending is going to be…mostly.  As such, the suspense gets a little ebbed from this and as such takes away from the entertainment value for me.

 

Semi-Developed Characters:  Also, from my pre-review, you know that I feared them skirting over character details due to some attention being strung elsewhere (cough love cough).  Adrift met this expectation in full for me.  While not the flattest characters, there was still a lot more to explore and develop in their lives.  However, the back-forth presentation led to some choppy scenes that left little time to really expand on the characters past drop the bomb lines. I’ll admit, they are strategically placed, but the development is disjointed and over run by the Sparks’ like presentation of love and connection. So much potential, again lost to love antics.

 

The Presentation:  Yes, I liked the presentation breaking up the movie, but at the same time they went a little overboard switching between timelines.  At segments of the movie, the crew left little time to become immersed into the scene, before pulling the rug out and tripping you back to a small detail. These switches got annoying at points and one or two transitions edited out could have made for more conducive scenes, see near the end during the hurricane moments.

 

The Length/Pace: Despite all their best attempts though, Adrift still cannot sail away from the slow currents of presentation.  It’s a slow movie, and drags at parts that made even my friend sigh in boredom as we waited for something to happen.  One hopes you enjoy the cinematography, because you are going to get a lot of it as you wait.  The hurricane scene doesn’t come in until past the halfway point, and when combined with the predictable ending… it’s only the drama left to fill in the time. Therefore, if you go solo or at least without a date, you’re going to feel the 2-hour time length of this movie.

 

The VERDICT:

 

         Adrift is not a bad movie, it’s just one that needs a little wind to the sails to justify the two-hour runtime tagged with it.  Sure, beautiful settings, a decent acting, and a twist give it some momentary squalls to blow through the time, but overall the movie floats on dead water, I guess to give you the full experience.  I acknowledge the feats the main character accomplishes, but it’s place for immersion is in the form of the books that document, instead of the big budget shooting that we got.  Those looking for drama and love are the key audience here, but otherwise skip this film for something else coming in a few weeks, or is already here.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Adventure/Drama:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.5