This Boy is Growing Up? A New Direction For This Horror Film

Brahms: The Boy II Poster

 

The age of sequels continues to surprise me in the extent they will go to make a dollar.  Tonight, the movie that I saw came out of left field, especially in given how they ended and took the first film.  Yet, seeing an opportunity to make a buck, the movie has arisen to once more extend the series into a potential continued franchise in hopes of being the next Marvel like entity.  Well, despite the years between, I’m willing to give it a shot in hopes of some creative potential showing up to brighten the series and try to wow the crew.  Will it work?  I don’t know, but here are my thoughts on the latest horror film:

 

 

Movie: Brahms: The Boy II

 

Director:

William Brent Bell

Writer:

Stacey Menear

Stars:

Katie HolmesOwain YeomanChristopher Convery

 

 

LIKES:

  • Some nods to the Original Tale
  • Moves At A Decent Pace
  • The Creepy Atmosphere And Look Of Brahms
  • A Solid Opening To A Franchise
  • The Acting

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Not Scary
  • The Lackluster Suspense
  • Stories That Have Little Details
  • Mediocre Character Development
  • Trying to Retcon Part Of The Story
  • The Set Up Of the Franchise Focus

 

SUMMARY

 

I guess if trying to establish a franchise, it’s important to have nods back to the original, and in this film’s case it does so.  Enough to pay homage to the origins of Brahms last adventure, the Boy II fills in the pieces of how the two movies are connected to help ease you into the new direction it takes.  It does this well enough without detracting from the tale of this film, and fortunately the movie continues at a decent pace to keep you from being too bored given this is not the most exciting horror tale to come to mind.  Using the new and old stories together, this potential launch into a new franchise at least holds potential to have some further mystery to it, which is probably the biggest selling point of the story.  In regards to scares, Brahms’ tale is another example where creepy is the primary source of fear.  Using a realistic environment, creepy shadows, and the slight movements and off camera work, the imagination leaves an unsettling taste in your stomach.  Brahms’ soulless gaze and porcelain face always seems to stare into you and leave me with crawling skin.  You know something is up with the doll, especially in this new direction, but that mystery of what lies in the antique dolls eyes.  It’s that source that is the true horror element in this film and goes with the slower movies scares this film thrives in.  As for the acting, solid performance by all involved, with Katie Holmes reappearance a balanced and believable film of terror, love, and bravery all mixed into one.  Young actor Convery executes the role well, surprisingly making a part with few lines have some layers to it and tell the tale through his facial expressions than actual lines.  The rest of the cast accomplishes their roles, though the dad could have used some more involvement, but otherwise a great family dynamic.

 

Yet the movie falters in a few other things that take away the magic horror movies try to accomplish again.  For one thing, much of the film is predictable given all the foreshadowing done at the beginning, with lines designed to lead you into the plot.  There are a few changes in the later acts to help give you some “surprise” as it leads to the next direction of the film, but for the most part you know what is coming by about midpoint of the movie.  Scare wise, the movies unsettling nature is the main source, but in regards to other tactics it does not work and did not leave me feeling too uneasy when leaving the theater.  Lackluster scares faded into little suspense, which unfortunately led to boring action and drive, another staple of the horror film.  As such, you will need to enjoy the calmer scare tactics to enjoy this film.  If looking for more of the story element well you again find some lacking moments to this film as well.  The story tries to take some side tales to help add more complexity and mystery, but upon revelation are nothing more than quick detours that do little on their drive back up the main story.  The same goes for the character development, small tales that lead to some scars on our characters psyche, only to be grated down to passing comments and unmeaningful solutions that again lost the potential.  Given the focus on the doll, I guess other characters had to struggle in the character department.  An even bigger mess is trying to forget, or at least underplay, the ending events of the first film. Thus when the original writers come up with a rewrite that is not a reboot, I would say, but more of retconning to make the new direction work.  It’s sad to see the integrity dropped for the focus on the franchise and I believe that is the source of much of the trouble of this film.  By not focusing on continuing the tale, or more so focusing on the film by itself, the movie suffers from cutting corners and new gimmicks, thus overall decreasing the quality.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Brahms’ second installment proves that money talks, and this film is a set up for a new face in horror in the near future.  This story thrives on the creeps, acting, and franchise frenzy, hoping you’ll ignore the previous installment and welcome the new direction.  Some of these things work well, but overall the movie suffers from focusing on potential franchise and skimping on the stories and development other movies have succeed in.  Throw in that the scare factor and the suspense are very lacking and you are once again bored in this tale that held potential and dropped it again.  The Boy legacy continues to dance around maximizing scares and hybridizing other franchises to craft a haunting legacy that can leave more of a print.  Yet, the movie will continue to be mediocre movie productions without tightening up the story and injecting a little originality and development into it.  As such, this film would best be left to the Netflix viewing, rather than hitting the theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller:  5.5

Movie Overall:  4.5

 

Is This Island A Fantasy Worth The Price?

 

Fantasy Island Poster

            It was an interesting television show back in the day, an island that can grant you any desire you want, though at a price.  Welcome to Fantasy Island and the second review of the day is all about the wonderful world of Blumhouse modernizing the classic plot.  Robbie K is back with another look at the silver screen wonders to determine is this trip to paradise worth the scares or not to dare as he reviews:

 

Movie: Fantasy Island (2020)

 

Director:

Jeff Wadlow

Writers:

Jillian JacobsChristopher Roach

Stars:

Lucy HaleMaggie QPortia Doubleday

 

 

LIKES:

  • Good Pace
  • Nods To References
  • The Satisfying Visual Appeal
  • Funny At Times
  • Better Character Development Than Expected
  • Some Twists
  • Michael Pena

 

DISLIKES

  • Most Characters Still shallow
  • Plot Twist is Okay
  • How Random The Island’s Gimmicks Are
  • The Sudden Change Of Plot
  • How Forced The Comedy Is At Times
  • The Rushed Ending
  • Not Scary

 

Blumhouse knows how to churn out the horror movies like a gumball machine, where they come out a quarter a ball and sometimes have no flavor at all.  Fortunately a recurring theme that I like to see is that the movies do go at a decent pace, entertaining and fun to capture a variety of attention spans.  Fantasy Island is a quick paced adventures that tries to juggle “original” stories while still keeping to the feel of the original series.  I appreciated the nods to the references in this movie, some very well integrated, others forced and not as satisfying.  One thing I think many people agreed was that the film immerses itself in the superficial pleasures movies have taken on, mainly in the form of bikini clad hot people, handsome perfect matches, and those oh so satisfying horror elements that etch in our minds.  It’s all about the Pleasure Island effect and for the younger generation it works.  This is also true with the comedy, a movie that does little to integrate wit and wonder, instead going into those reality TV tropes that MTV made famous and latching on to them.  It was funny for me at times, but overall a bit stale and forced.

Yet I’ll give them props that they managed to defy my expectations and give better insight into characters than I anticipated, primarily in three characters whose stories ran a bit deeper than the G-strings the extras wore.  I tried to grapple on to these characters for the most part and figure out if there was a deeper connection to the story over all.  This does not happen that often either, but the movie got me with a few twists and while not my favorite, I have to give them points for surprising me.  My favorite thing would have to be Michael Pena though.  While not the best acting job he has done, I think he inherited the island’s owner role well, and makes for an interesting piece in what could be a series.  I’m not sure where they will take him, but he has that cool, collected charm that is both comforting and deadly at the same time.  He makes for a complex character, who holds many secrets that unfortunately were not fully delivered on for me.

 

Now in terms of what is decreasing scores, that comes in the form of the incomplete and sort of left wing twist they pulled into this film.  First of all, despite trying to develop the characters, they did not quite deliver the full force of development that I think they were going for.  Most of the characters start to represent certain character paradigms, but these political charged issues get swept under the rug for more superficial fun and “horror”.  Even the ones with a deeper well of development sort of become flaky figures whose indecisiveness is more annoying than fresh for this reviewer.  As they try to resolve their character flaws, the after school special approach kicks in to not give a satisfying finish, but instead just bluntly finish the film.  Forced humor does not help make things better, with so many tropes from two of the characters becoming annoying as they fall into the new generational tool bag approach that somehow keeps selling.  The comedy to relieve the “tension” of the film does not work for me and felt unnecessary at times.

Much of this has to do with that plot twist, a curveball that was thrown to offset the stagnant pond, only to cause ripples in wrong way.  It’s a forced introduction to justify the interconnected stories and sort of becomes an eye rolling experience when everything is explained.  It’s because of this twist that the plot of the movie changes, going from horror mystery to action mystery that does little to embrace the alluring wonders this island might have.  Even the plan to handle the island changes three to four times, showing potential indecisiveness or panic at trying to force this twist into the film.  And because of the change in the horror approach, the island’s gimmicks, the things the trailer was using to rope you in, start to become cheesy pieces/obstacles who only serve to push the characters to make bad decisions rather than become the character developing pieces they want.  It’s almost like watching someone cheat on a video game, where the goal is not so much to win, but to survive until the movie’s time runs out.  This lazy finish to a buildup that seemed interesting and further dilutes both the story and scares.

This brings me to the last two points.  First the ending of the film feels very rushed. The twist getting forced at the end sort of discombobulates the pace of the plot and as the waves are settling, the directors seemed to want to quickly tie it up to not go past two hours.  The piece meal finish is not very suspenseful and the quick wrap up only has some relief from the heart string pulling shot that comes in the final moments of the film.  Yet the biggest thing is, the scares of the movie are rather null and void.  Fantasy Island has little in terms of bone chilling terror or mentally scarring moments, again forced to dilute these components to keep the PG-13 rating.  It’s this lack of scares that sort of makes the movie boring and thus, I had wished they had gotten a little more creative with their gimmicks the way Scary Stories did back in August. 

 

The VERDICT: 

            Is this movie as bad as a 22 on Metacritic?  I don’t really think so.  Fantasy Island falls into the trend of making a superficial movie that has all the gleam to attract you with little sustenance to keep you nourished.  It’s a great opening horror movie for the younger generation to wet their feet, as it attempts to get some relatable issues on the table, add a small amount of character depth, and still give the “thrill” of the chase.  Yet where the movie falters is in its ability to really tie this adventure together, managing to put a twist into the film, but not in the artful form to pull everything together.  Even worse, the movie’s rushed ending and lack of scares just makes this an MTV television series with a more bloated budget.  While the performances do their best to handle the characters, there is not enough meat to this islands presentation to say it’s the best horror movie, but there are enough special effects gimmicks that can make a night out with friends worth the theater visit. Otherwise hit this one up later on down the road when it hits streaming.

 

My scores are:

 

Adventure/Comedy/Horror:   5.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

 

A Grimm Fate For A Grimm Tale?

Gretel & Hansel Poster

 

Fairy tales have been graced with magic to make them more appropriate for the young mind of other countries.  At their roots though, the Grimm fairy tales hold a heart of darkness that were meant to teach the lessons to the youth of the European natures.  Despite the disturbing tales we have seen today’s movies hold, the original stories are truly the nightmare inducing moments that can leave on scarred.  So with the gloves coming off in the modern-day cinema, let’s bring that horror to life and potentially twist even further.  Hi Robbie K here to bring about another movie review on the latest silver screen slayer.  Will this late month horror movie slay, or is it just another victim of the dumping grounds of January?  Let’s get reviewing:

 

Gretel and Hansel (2020)

 

Director:

Oz Perkins (as Osgood Perkins)

Writer:

Rob Hayes

Stars:

Sophia LillisAlice KrigeJessica De Gouw

 

 

LIKES:

 

  • The Acting
  • The Short Run Time
  • The Richer Dialogue (from one aspect)
  • The Beautiful Woman
  • The Look Aesthetic Of The Movie

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Pace
  • The Lack Of Character Development
  • The Lack Of Scares
  • Disgusting Imagery
  • The Dialogue
  • The Politics
  • The Whininess Of Hansel
  • The Almost Pointless Introduction Of Characters
  • The Story

 

Summary:

In horror there are many things needed for the execution of the chilling tale and in this case the acting is a big selling point for me.  Sophia’s role is a little twist on her It character, with same intensity and damage, but this time a little Older European and maturity that takes the lead on the new approach this tale takes. She’s strong and fierce, yet shows the scared vulnerability that a child role would and it is a staple to latch on to.  Then comes the wonder Alice Krige, whose adaptation into the deluded villain once more impresses me.  Sinister and yet innocent, powerful and yet sickly, and caring yet cold, she balances all these emotions and succeeds in crafting a creepy character.  Though you know what she represents, the acting always left me with that slight hope something will go differently.  The two have wonderful chemistry together, something I would have liked to have a little more guidance and development to maximize.  While not in it for long, the beautiful Jessica De Gouw shined in her performance, both in look and presence of her character.  I would have liked more expansion on this character, especially given how commanding her presence was, but that was not the focus this tale took.

Moving on from the acting, the movie succeeds in accomplishing its journey in a short run time and not trying to get too bloated (see Midsomer director’s cut).  The film has a much more poetic dialogue, that feels well adapted to the Grimm Fairy tale writing, and goes with the artistic feel of this movie that Perkins focused on.  Yet, the biggest focus of this movie is the look of the film.  Gretel and Hansel is all about creating the creepy atmosphere and letting it be the component to creep you out for much of the film.  The use of camera filters and lighting are the main tools that somehow rob the hope of success from the film.  All the shadows and elusive safety keep things always dark and dismayed, while also sort of establishing a sickening feeling that only further infects you with the skin crawls that come.  The visualization of the witches home and the tricks she brings, also have that atmosphere that will certainly embed itself into your mind and leave you scarred for the event.  Sure there are some shock culture moments and jump scares, but really it’s the looming atmosphere and cinematography that succeeds the most.

 

It seems that the visualization was too key a focus though, for some of the movie telling basics were dropped in my opinion.  First of all, the pace.  Horror movies often keep things moving, but this artistic twist is not one of those films, sometimes feeling super drawn out and stuffy rather than the thrilling tale.  Part of this comes from just the slow buildup of the “surprising” reveal, but the other part comes from the weaker character development.  Gretel and Hansel’s tale has sort of piece meal components that are shown just enough to set a background, but never to give meaningful insight to craft interesting characters.  Even the witch herself is rather plain, a back story that is introduced too late, not very surprising, and sort of crammed into the ending instead of again giving rich characters to fear or analyze.  The story instead just seems to hover around this convoluted conversation between Gretel and the Witch, always working towards this slow discovery of what we know and barely moving away for most of the movie.  I guess they felt it pointless to make a big story for an already known tale, but then I question the introduction of some other characters into the film, and the hopes of using them as means to add variety to the movie.  As such the various side stories are not needed merely adding obvious foreshadowing and time to the film.

Something else I could have had edited out would have been the whininess of the little brother, who had a symbolic component to Gretel (the star), but sort of got annoying with the way they took the character.  Realistic, absolutely, but Hansel’s involvement was not as enjoyable to me, especially when the politics started coming into play (which we are about to discuss).  In regards to scares, again the movie relies a lot on the visuals to scare you, and though creepy at times, it is more a movie to focus on disturbing imagery than real creeps.  If you love the shock factor films, you’ll get it, but for me, the disturbing imagery would have been better minimized in place of the story and creepy scares I particularly love.  Finally the politics.  Not even horror films can escape the political trends of the modern day, and the title should give you a hint of the focus the writers wanted to place.  Again, I’m never above a message being integrated into the story, but that does not mean the story and dialogue have to be purely focused on that message and rubbed In my face.  That fluid, old English dialogue is awesome and poetic, but is so geared toward pushing for this new political twist that it falls into that vortex of cyclic conversations.  The result is again a stuffy movie that does not move to the predictable ending fast enough.  It’s a shame given the potential, but this was the biggest weakness for me in this film.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Gretel and Hansel is a great example of visionary creativity to make an old tale feel new.  With haunting atmosphere and a cast to play in it, these are the main strengths for the film and the component artistic loving movie goers are going to love. Yet, this artistic nature really took away from the story for me and left me with a boring, bloated film that missed the potential the trailers painted.  Story wise the characters are rather flat, the extra story characters and background information so streamlined it is almost a waste of film for this reviewer.  Throw in too much focus on the political message hogging most of the attention and you get this film that seems to be two sharks circling, but never attacking.  I give props for a psychological dive and realistic portrayal in the film, but this Grimm’s Fairy Tale is a little too sleep inducing and bloated for my tastes.  Thus, I believe this film was dumped into theaters, when it really should have premiered on a streaming network instead best left for watching at home.  Thus, my scores are:

 

Fantasy/Horror/Thriller:  5.5

Movie Overall:  5.0

Taking a Turn On The Busy Side

The Turning Poster

 

As the hourglass turns, so too does another movie to join the prize machine of movies that may or may not be worth the coin.  Welcome to Robbie’s reviews and tonight we dive into another horror movie that is going to try and shock us into a new realm of nightmares.  After much advertising, tonight’s film is hoping to turn a few hairs grey and maybe have us scratch our heads in confusion.  Will it work though?  I’ll share my thoughts down below as we get set for another review of:

 

Movie:  The Turning (2020)

 

Director:

Floria Sigismondi

Writers:

Carey W. Hayes (as Carey Hayes), Chad Hayes

Stars:

Mackenzie DavisFinn WolfhardBrooklynn Prince

 

 

LIKES:

  • Creepy Setting
  • Good Acting
  • On 90 minutes
  • Definitely More Unique
  • A More Realistic Tension Bringer

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • So Much To Keep Up With
  • Not the Scariest
  • The Weird Ending At the End
  • The Slow pace
  • Trailer Has Given Much A Way
  • The Lack Of Unique Creature

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Horror movies are coming out super frequent now, and the tactics to scare one are starting to grow stale because of exposure and desensitization, at least to me.  However, The Turning succeeds in that creep factor by helping grant the audience access to the a freaky board that is this bizarre chess game.  In the walls and halls of the mansion are plenty of dark shadows, settling boards, and other tricks to help set the mood.  It’s fantastic use of simplistic sounds and should help get the tension going.  A solid acting set by Davis leads the tale as she balances all set on her shoulders, going from aspiring nanny, to scared sleuth in the short run time.  Wolfhard and Prince as the young wards under Davis’ care, each bringing their own brands of creeps from the sinister smile and delivery of Wolfhard’s character, while Prince has that innocent yet mysterious nature in that angelic smile.  All of these performances work so well to mix with the setting to draw out the true, devious nature of the beast.  Yet, to add more fuel to the fire of likes, the movie also accomplishes something else to help it stand out from other films of this genre.  One is that it’s got a more unique approach to storytelling, which may not be apparent at first, but come the last twenty minutes or so, you’ll start to get another appreciation for the movie that some may like and others will despise.  Looking for realism?  Well, this movie succeeds again with sticking much closer to the realm of truth then the realm of fiction, at least for much of the film, and that component will help ground you to the artistic nature that this film tries to take.  If you like those psychological pushers, then this should be a selling point for you.  As for the best part, it’s all done in ninety minutes, showing that some of these artistic directions can indeed be shown in a reasonable time, take a note of this Oscar films.

 

Yet the film’s direction and unique styles may also be the downfall for the horror buffs and fans who like a little more tradition to their approaches.  First of all, there is a lot to keep up with in this film, as a hodge podge of films from the genre blend together to make a very busy film.  It’s almost like each inspirational film had an impact on the story, which pulled the story all over the place and make it busier than it needed.  As such, the movie starts suffering in turns of clarity and even scare tactics.  Thank goodness for the creepiness, because for me the scare factor was actually a little low, lost to mediocre jump scares, foreshadowing taken a little too far, and the trailers giving too much a way to those with a decent memory or have seen it enough.  It resulted in a feeling of the movie dragging a little longer than it needed, which meant it was a little boring, with only the artistic nature of the movie keeping my interest held.  As you can guess from the trailers, a unique explanation or curse is going to be a bit of long drive and as such you might disappointed with lies in the shadows of the halls.  Finally, the ending itself is not for everyone.  While I give it points for originality, the sudden finale makes for one of those endings that usually rubs me the wrong way, because it’s interesting but also a bit too unique and I’ll leave it at that.  It’s the result of the busy story, and the presentation may mislead you enough to be a surprise, but also potentially tick you off with this direction.  It’s going to really depend on what approach you like, from linear tricks and treats, or unique artistic decisions that are from left field.

 

The VERDICT:

            The trailers did the film a lot of credit at painting a dark, twisted picture that is all about the creep factor.  A film like the Turning is sure to turn a few thoughts towards having more food for thought, and depending on what type of horror fan you are, will determine if you like it.  Points for this reviewer are a fantastic setting established for creepiness and realistic flow.  A good acting cast further brings the horror factor out and a more unique approach gets points in my book given how tough it is in this day and age.  However, this new approach is also potentially a downfall for some as the movie gets really busy, with so much though and direction that you have to figure out if you like keeping track of everything.  Scares took a hit for me in this film, and the slow pace itself leads to potentially a film that will not be the modern preference.  Still, if you are looking for a thought-provoking movie, this piece should give you something to talk about and the theater can help elevate the ambience for sound, though I think the true terror will come from watching it at home. 

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Horror/Mystery:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

A Grudge That Needs To Settle And Reset

 

The Grudge Poster

  It’s January, and that means it’s time for testing for things that may or may not work this year.  One genre that seems to love creeping in this time of year is the horror genre, in hopes of getting the fanbase flocking in.  Yet, the horror genre always fluctuates depending on the imagination, the risks, and the vision of those who helm the creative wheel of design.  This weekend, the solo film releasing this weekend is based on the popular series that has been retired in the America’s, in terms of mainstream, for some time.  I’m talking about the Grudge and today I review to determine if the latest malicious spirit adventure can reclaim its hold over the modern generation. Robbie K back with a look at:

 

Film: The Grudge (2019)

 

Director:

Nicolas Pesce

Writers:

Nicolas Pesce (screenplay by), Nicolas Pesce (story by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Tara WestwoodJunko BaileyDavid Lawrence Brown

 

 

LIKES:

  • Short Run Time
  • Good Use Of Visuals
  • Creepy Aesthetic
  • Lin Shaye’s Acting
  • A Unique Presentation Style

 

DISLIKES:

  • Complicated Story Telling
  • Predictable Story Telling
  • Not Scary
  • Vicious Deaths
  • Boring
  • Not Quite Unique Enough

 

SUMMARY:

 

It’s not a good start when the first thing I mention is the short run time, but in this case it works to be at the 90-minute mark for the run time.  Grudge is all about visuals and the art of trying to scare you, and I was able to see a heavy focus on those superficial features instead of the movie’s presentation as a whole.  The Grudge’s visuals rock in terms of establishing the spooky atmosphere, with shadows, low lighting, and spooky sound effects to make the creepy aesthetic as life like as possible.  I felt the haunting atmosphere leave with me, the lack of safety in my home or with lights on as the curse goes wherever it chooses.  That creepy nature itself is the true scare factor of the movie, always keeping you wondering what disturbing visual is coming next in the hallowed halls of the home.  As for the cast who has to act in the setting, Tara Westwood was a fantastic actress to take point in the progressing role.  Not quite the most unique role, but it works given the direction this film took.  Yet, the leading lady of horror Lin Shaye still shows off her trade for the occult captivating the insanity, looming nature of the spirits around her, and the feisty bouts of dramatic flair that fits perfectly in this world. In terms of my final positive, well the story is told in a nontraditional manner, and for that originality gets points in the eyes of this reviewer, especially given the attempt at trying to establish a mystery at the same time.

 

Then come the things that took away from the experience from me.  Though original, the story telling is complicated, a piece meal of flashbacks that like a mosaic seem to fit together, but more so in a fractured manner that is a bit too artistic given what I go to these movies for.  The mystery that was trying to be put in did not pan out for me, because of how predictable the story was, and in the short run time, all the clues were laid out for you miles in advance that it was underwhelming to say the least.  Despite, the attempt at making a creepy atmosphere, the scares themselves are very lackluster, a similar tactic of trying to throw something in every corner to scare.  Sadly, the techniques don’t change much and by the third jump out, the technique is so stale you turn it into a game of counting how many attempts in 90 minutes.  Even more so, it was more about gruesome deaths than actual scaring, the unrelenting depictions of blood and maiming actions await those giving this movie a change.  Not scary again, just there to feed the beast of darker picture lovers.  All of these should be no surprise in the Grudge series, I get it, but in the past the newness of it allowed these components to be more enjoyable, while the constant storytelling and linear progression helped balance all the chaos.  In this unique telling though, the constant back and forth, cheap scares, and predictable ending just makes this film boring, missing any sense of danger, challenge, or even gripping action.  The film as a result feels rather bland, missing the same oomph that we always love to see in this genre.

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            The Grudge will always hold its unique nature and destructive force in the world of cinema.  However, this installment does not quite reach the goals set out by the series and directors long ago.  While unique story telling style and creepy aesthetic win in this movie, alongside some decent acting, the movie just is a bit too convoluted and boring to say it was the ride I was looking for.  Fans of the series are going to be the target audience, or for those just wanting complex tie ins of dark demises.  As for the rest, hold out until the streaming services pick it up, and event then it’s limited.  Instead, I encourage to try out some other films instead from the holiday season. 

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery:  5.5

Movie Overall:  4.5

Black Christmas I Gave You My Hopes, But The Twitter Ranting Just Gave It Away

Black Christmas Poster

 

A common trend I keep seeing these days is that remakes continue to be a popular option.  Hollywood’s struggle for originality and desire to turn a profit continues to pump reimaginations of classic tales, in hopes of attracting a younger audience.  Sometimes these spins turn out to be incredible, while other times the product is cringe worthy mashups that leave scars in our memories.  Tonight, a second remake of a beloved “cult” classic tries to spice up the holiday with scary slasher tactics.  The commercials are painting this one to potentially be cheesy, but nevertheless we dove into the trenches to give it a shot.  My review today is on:

 

Film: Black Christmas (2019)

Director:

Sophia Takal

LIKES:

 

  • Moves Quickly
  • Has Some Funny Moments
  • A Few Likeable Characters
  • Relevant Topics

 

DISLIKES:

  • Not Really Scary/Horror
  • Paper Thin Plot
  • Rushed
  • One-Dimensional Characters
  • Antagonists That Are Limited
  • Much Ruined In Trailers
  • Fight Scenes Very Limited
  • Predictable Twists That Are Lack Luster
  • Cheesy Writing and Dialogue
  • Poster Politics That Are in your Face

 

SUMMARY:

 

When doing a remake, the challenge is to find a way to gives nods to the original, but still make it your own and Black Christmas tries very hard to do this.  My buddy and I agreed that it moves at a brisk pace, not taking long to get into the slasher antics and what are femme fatales will be up against.  A few likeable characters await those willing to give this a shot, with the main character and maybe two others standing out as somewhat balanced people with a consciousness and open mind.  Not sounding too good huh?  Well, I’ll report that there are some funny moments in the film, both intentional and unintentional that I think will tickle people’s fancy, but compared to others, it lacks a lot of cleverness that we’ve seen.  Finally, there are some very relevant topics that have some good portrayal in it, though this also comes with a warning as some scenes may strike up PTSD if it happened to you. 

 

That’s about all the likes I had for the film and now onto the limitations this installment had, at least from my perspective.  Let’s get it out there and say that though classified as a horror/thriller, it is merely a mask to what the film was presented as to meBlack Christmas is not scary, though the slasher/thriller aspect is still there and works for the bloodbath to come.   Some of this diluted horror comes from the paper-thin plot, as this retelling turns into a rushed, predictable tale that forgoes any build-up, development or even organization capable of crafting an engaging tale that balances plot points.  Though there are some likeable characters, this lackluster tale is plagued with one-dimensional players who are close-minded, extreme approach, flawed personas that hold little potential to change and will be engaged to those who find their interests matching the characters.  Even the antagonists (you know the killers that are part of the appeal of a horror) are super shallow, falling into their lanes with little evolution, threat, or creativity.  These run of the mill characters just aren’t interesting, and it’s difficult to invest any time to rooting for them given how fast this film moved and how little they developed it.  If this sounds harsh, I do apologize, and perhaps a better critique is that the film has already given a lot of the goods away in the trailers, with only a few editing tricks coming in to conceal the truth behind the hoods.  If you thought the fight scenes looked a little limited, hoping it was just a segment or hint at what was to come, well… you might be disappointed in this as well.  Black Christmas does not get an award for best fights, traps, or struggles, again being very simplistic bouts that might be going down the realistic approach.  While relevant to some topics, again these struggles are rather boring, and don’t quite leave the memorable finishes that this genre puts into our brains.

   All these though are minor compared to what I believe the real limitation is for this remake… the writing.  Black Christmas this year has fallen victim to the poster political trend to take topics, put an extreme approach to it, and then rub it in your face.  It starts with cheesy writing and dialogues that offer little outside what one can find in a social media or Reddit debate, with characters falling onto one side of the spectrum or the other.  With little in terms of plot development, most of the things that come out of our characters mouths are just sniping comments and forced speeches trying to show us some persons views on these issues.  While I’ll acknowledge my friend and I agreed with the viewpoints they shared, and found validity in their opinion, using the movie as merely a big budget  visualization of social media debates was not the right focus or means to do it (hence the number of weaknesses most are reporting).  So much was sacrificed to rub it in my face about these topics that I found myself more irritated than moved, especially for one that always knows these lesson, and the retribution to come back to storytelling, or even fun slashing was lost.   Yet, like Charlie’s Angles, the film found its rabbit hole and dove as deep down as it could go, and did not look back up, which will appeal to the targeted audience and small cult followers that love these types of movies.

 

The VERDICT:

Black Christmas’ trailer painted an interesting picture to say the least, as the film could have gone either way.  Sadly, the direction they chose was one that was not the best for me.  My friend said it best as, “A Twitter Post turned into a movie”, this horror/thriller will not offer scares, thrills, or even a semi-engaging story for those who are fans of the genre.  This new take is much more political and has sacrificed so much to cram the beliefs of the production heads of this movie in that it was more infuriating than enjoyable.  Again, the issues are not the problem, it’s the presentation, and we’ve seen plenty of popular culture films handle political issues with much more class.  After reviewing everything, this movie is not meant for the theater unless you are all about in your face popular event topics with a Halloween mask to get you into the film.  I’d say this film is best left to accidental stumbling upon and would look to other options instead.

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Thriller:  4.0

Movie Overall:  3.0

 

I Don’t Think You Will Sleep Through This One

Doctor Sleep: The IMAX 2D Experience Poster

 

Stephen King is on a role this year with two stories turned to movies, among other products, and potentially raking in even more cash. The age of taking author’s works and putting visual spins on them continues to thrive and sometimes we get an interpretation that brings our nightmares/expectations to life.   On the other hand, the limitations of movies can sometimes lead to bad projects that are disappointing more than anything.  What will happen in this interpretation?  Well I’m here to share my opinions to help you get the most out of your movie going experience.  Let’s get started as I review:

 

Movie: Doctor Sleep

 

Director:

Mike Flanagan

Writers:

Stephen King (based on the novel by), Mike Flanagan

Stars:

Ewan McGregorRebecca FergusonKyliegh Curran

 

 

LIKES:

  • Acting
  • Feels Like A Visual Form Of Book
  • Nice Haunting Atmosphere
  • Pacing For The Most Part is Good
  • Great Antagonists
  • Fantastic References To original/With modern twists
  • Story Telling As a Whole

 

DISLIKES

  • The Run Time
  • Expecting More Integration of Shining’s connections
  • Not Scary
  • Graphic Violence That is Haunting But Disturbing

 

SUMMARY

 

When the revealed the cast of this film I was interested in seeing how they would adapt into King’s Universe.  The result is positive for me with the three main characters really taking a shine to the multi-layered characters each contributing to the terror in some way.  McGregor takes much of the lifting in his evolution of tortured spirit, keeping that quiet intensity famous of his younger counterpart, but somehow pulling out other tricks when the time is right to give a psychiatrically tortured counterpart.  As for the antagonist, Rebecca Ferguson is wonderful counterpart to McGregor, keeping that same creepy tone, but this time bringing a savage/psychotic edge that fits well in the horror genre, think villains from Walking Dead before it went too far.  As for the talents of Curran, well she was the perfect balance that sort of inherited both sides of the Shining coin, executing her vulnerable side well, but also managing to bring girl power to an even medium.

Acting aside, the rest of the movie thrives in the element of bring King’s imagination to life.  To be honest it does feel like a visualization of the book, the intricate details, outlines story, and connecting points a wonderful example of the art of literature translation.  King’s words always paint a picture of sheer horror, immersing one into a nightmare realm that goes into the darkest corners of the minds and dreams.  Doctor Sleep’s haunting chills line just about every minute of this film, bringing with it characters that fit into it, primarily the antagonists that Danny faces.  Such fitting characters and truly nightmarish villains make a wonderful centerpiece to get hooked onto.  Yet, the movie does not just focus on making the characters the star, instead finding way to integrate the Shining into the film while sticking to the originality of the tale.  Seeing various nods back to the original tale, though with modern face lifts, and having them there to support the tale, again getting an applause from me. With such details, you might think the pacing will suffer, but Flanagan accomplished the task of keeping all these details and plot dynamics balanced, but not sacrificing the entertainment value that movies are expected.  In conclusion to this like section, the story telling is told well at an engaging pace that makes for one of the better horror movies and book translations in a long while.

 

Yet for me, it’s rare to see a perfect movie that I love everything about and this was true for Doctor Sleep as well.  For one thing the run time is a little long for a later night showing, I know my fault, but despite how well the balance of this tale is, there was some pacing that made the 2.5 hours a little too long for me.  Perhaps it was from working a 15-hour day, or maybe it’s due to wanting a little more of the Shining’s plot components brought in, given how long the opening was about the time lapse between the two stories I might have wanted a little more integration into the mix to help fully get my horror element on. In addition, the movie did not do the most in the scare factor for me, going more down the  drama/thriller category than the actual horror element.  I’m not saying others will not get scared, but it all depends on what you like to jump at creeps vs jump scares.  For me though, the aspect I know was needed, but I did not like is the torturing and graphic violence components.  I can say I like action movies and over the top stunts, but in this movie the violence is all about inducing the disturbing, skin crawling factors that these books are famous for.  Weak constitutions to graphic displays of fear inducing dismantling need to rethink diving into this, for there are several scenes where this factor comes into full swing with little mercy.

 

  The VERDICT

            I have to agree with my friends who saw the film, Doctor Sleep is one of the better novel interpretations that I have seen in quite a while.  My favorite aspects of this film are how much like a book it plays out, yet never sacrifices the entertainment factors and visualization components that films need.  A haunting atmosphere to play in, with great characters to bring out the solid story, I feel many King and horror films will be impressed with the presentation of this tale.  While the run time is a little longer than expected, and the scares are at a minimum compared to the first film I watched a long time ago, the true component to warn people about is the graphic violence/torture that may haunt your memories for some time.  It’s true I would have liked a little more of the Shining aspect, but overall a solid story telling from King and company again.  Is it worth a trip to the theater?  Absolutely, as it has theater quality effects and good storytelling for most audience members to enjoy.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Fantasy/Horror:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall:  8.0