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

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Sexy, Sleek, and A Spy Thriller Indeed

Red Sparrow

 

Jennifer Lawrence, a chameleon in many forms as to what role she will play and how well she will act in it.  What is never questionable though, is that it will often involve some type of edge, with some anger thrown into the mix.  And this weekend, yet another film for her to exercise her emotions is back in the form of Red Sparrow, the latest spy thriller to sneak into the theaters.  The movie promises to be the same intense dynamics, perhaps with a little sexiness thrown in.  Does the movie have the same fire that it’s lead actress has, or is it another flop?  Robbie K happy to help you out with another movie decision with yet another review.  Let’s get started:

 

LIKES:

 

Costumes:  In a spy movie of such caliber, you are hoping that the costumes are going to be chic, sexy, and feel like the super spy role.  Red Sparrow’s costumes are worthy of the mantle of high fashion, being pleasant on the eyes and fitting so well with the roles given to Ms. Lawrence. They add a nice flare to the movie, being utilized to sell her cover and infiltrate the secrets held within all parties, and in such a subtle way as that.  It’s a small like, but one that warrants appreciation.

 

The Strong Woman Character:  If it’s a Jennifer Lawrence role, it’s going to involve a strong female role and Red Sparrow is again no exception to the movement of strong female characters.  Dominika has many layers, all built around a solid core value of family, bringing duty and loyalty to the heart of her character.  They build upon these values, weaving a complex character who with each peel exposes layers that continue to evolve with each dive into the dark depths of espionage.  And as more characters join the deadly game, Dominika gets to adapt in an attempt to juggle all the information being handed to her.  And not only do her actions speak volumes, but Dominika has a few lines to throw out that are empowering to many in the theater.  I enjoyed the strong, ever adapting character that hopefully can teach a few lessons amidst the destruction taking place.

 

True Spy Thriller:  With James Bond films, we’ve been spoiled with the spy and action series blending together.  Yet, the world of espionage is a lot less flashy given the emphasis of blending in and breaching the trusts of so many people. Red Sparrow flies into the territory of representing the espionage game, utilizing heavy writing, ingenuity, throwing out plenty of leads, and utilizing plenty of tactics to complicate the tale.  The mysteries that are presented are the lure to keep you invested in the 2 hour 19 minute run time, all screaming of a true spy thriller that has been missing for some time, including an ending that is worthy of being called a respectable twist.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow:  Sadly, the movie is very slow at parts, focusing more on the jargon, psychology, and training that is involved in this harsh environment.  While this is interesting, it is also very hard to keep attention when the plot doesn’t move to keep the thrills going and make learning the information fun.  Spy thrillers need to be thrilling, and I didn’t really get into the plot until the last thirty minutes of the film when the stakes increased dramatically.  Drama fans won’t have quite as big of an issue with this, because the love, sex, and relationships fill these slow moments, but fans like me need to have some coffee before coming in.

 

Complicated Jargon:  This goes with the slow speed, but Red Sparrow is not a conversation light movie.  Where many movies have simplistic dialogue that leads you in a linear fashion. Red Sparrow however is like one of those word webs, with so much spreading out it can be confusing to piece things together without paying major attention.  So many relationships to keep track of and so much information to maintain, you have to keep everything in check to figure out what the point of all this is.  And given how the tone of the characters fluctuates, it can sometimes be difficult to hear what they are saying as the cavalcade talk in whispers and hushed tones.

 

Graphic TortureSerial killers rejoice, you’ll see the dark dealings of punishment unfold in very disturbing moments, but for others with weaker constitutions you’ll need to turn away. There is plenty of Red in this movie, and not in the slasher movie cheesiness Hollywood has made famous.  This movie has been majorly grounded in terms of thrills, but with it comes some realism that is more gruesome to see.  I appreciate this darkness to some extent, but the there are some nightmare inducing images, and in some cases a little unnecessary to the story.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Despite all the mixed reviews, I think that Red Sparrow is a fine film that shows off Lawrence’s talents to be edgy and a strong women character.  The film has plenty of mystery to solve as you try to uncover the true meaning behind this thriller, searching for any information possible.  And given all this convoluted information, this movie certainly is the closest thing to an espionage film we’ve gotten in a long while.  Yet, the movie is slow, and geared more toward romantic drama lovers who could care less about the story and more about the sabotage the characters throw at each other.  Nevertheless, this dark story is not for the faint of focus and should be geared towards those who like a darker story with lots of kinks to unravel.  My scores are:

 

Mystery/Thriller:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0

Groundhog Day Meets Massacre: Death Day Is Fun Halloween Movie

Death Day

            Halloween weekends are certainly a bag of tricks and treats themselves.  A variety of genres try to compete for the number one spot on the box office, and horror movies continue to try to prove their worth. My weekend reviews start with another film in the slasher collection that looks interesting to say the least.  Like all horror films, the truth behind the vague trailers can take a number of forms and levels of quality, so I wasn’t sure what I would get on this viewing.  What is the verdict?  As always read on to find out!

 

LIKES:

 

Surprisingly Deep Character:  Most slasher films fail in terms of a gripping character to follow the journey with, in order to provide fodder for our demented killer.  Surprisingly, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) has depth hidden within her superficial looks and sorority attitude. Seeing her character evolve over the film changed my attitudes towards her, especially as her sorrows began to emerge onto the field. And even more impressive is how balanced her multiple aspects were balanced into the story, to maintain the development that was so nicely done.

 

Censored:  There are those slasher movies that go over the top to maximize the vomit inducing kills and dismemberments. Happy Death Day, fortunately, is not one of those movies.  For a movie about repeating the same day over with a “deadly” conclusion, it keeps things rather clean and to the point, avoiding the mind scarring scenes that will be famous on YouTube. The PG-13 rating should assure you that this is a rather mild horror and won’t leave you sleepless like some other films can.

 

The Mystery:  If you have seen the trailers, you have probably been allured/intrigued as to who is behind that freaky baby like mask.  That aspect carries on into the film as you try to piece the puzzle together and solve the Scooby Doo like case.  It was the adventure of seeking those answers that kept me invested in the movie, searching for any slight hint to give away the surprise. Keep your eyes open, your minds active, and your thoughts running and you’ll get it within 25 minutes, but otherwise enjoy the ride the director created.

 

It’s fun: Movies that involve repeating the same day over and over again gets stale fast, because of cheap editing tricks to make the scene seem fresh.  Fortunately, Death Day keeps things fun and fairly fresh in the 1.5 hour run time.  This movie has plenty of chuckles thrown into the mix, many poking fun at the horror movie genre.  Tree’s dialogue itself has that aggressive, sorority girl element to it, filled with passive-aggressive compliments and sarcasm that are well-timed.  Throw in some well-developed secondary comedy from secondary characters, and the fun just keeps on rolling with each passing day.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Not Scary:  My friend and I both agreed that this movie lacked any real bite in terms of the scare factor.  Oh sure, a creepy, knife wielding, baby face mascot wearing killer would have anyone afraid to walk a dark corridor in the real world.  With the silver screen barrier though, the movie’s horror element doesn’t do much to build suspense or make you shrivel in your seats. Aside from a few jump scare moments, the comedy aspect of the movie will take over more than the scare component.  Sorry you fear feeding fans, no dice on this one.

 

Little Over the Top:  Ridiculous factors are all in good fun when they are timed well and not overdone.  Happy Death Day sometimes lost its regulation with the overly ridiculous moments, leading to these eye-rolling proportions that were just eating up time.  Some of the death scenes themselves fall in this category, alongside a few repeat sequences of Tree’s journey across the quad.  The running jokes themselves also get a little stale, especially when it comes to the rival sorority sister who was directed to be a little too aggressive my taste to take seriously.  Oh well, got to love those superficial characters that are meant for comedy alone right.

 

Some unfinished story elements:  While I’m surprised with how much of a story this movie had, no matter how cliché it was, there were still some underdeveloped aspects to the tale.  One was a few of Tree’s character development arcs, that started to blossom, only to die out like her character does.  A few of these could have further expanded her character, bringing in other characters to help draw it out and adding that dynamic element I like to see.  In addition, a few other plot elements were squeezed into the film in a rushed manner, sometimes feeling out of place until they were able to draw it back in with a well-placed plot element.  Had the scares been better…this element would sting less, but the story element is a big part and could have used some fine tuning.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Happy Death Day is one of the more fun slasher films I have seen in a long time.  It’s a movie that will appeal to many with its fun pace, decent comedy, intriguing mystery, and character that keeps you invested in their life.  While this was much better than my expectations, the movie still suffers some from imbalanced comedy gestures, unfinished story elements, and most importantly lack of scares.  Therefore, go in there expecting a drama/comedy with a slasher twist and you’ve got the right approach to this movie.  Yet, if you are looking for the next psycho thriller… hold your horses for a Redbox rent to capitalize on your investment.

 

My scores:

 

Horror/Mystery/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

Oh Mother, Where Art Thou?

mother!

 

Horror movies continue to be a popular trend in Hollywood.  IT’s successful launch last weekend, surely inspires the trend to continue, so what the heck put out another one this weekend.   Jennifer Lawrence takes center stage in what looks to be a psychosocial thriller to usher in a new age. Will the artistic styles of Darren Aronofsky be a welcome change to the milieu, or does its odd premise promised in the trailers might dive too far down crazy town to enjoy?  Robbie K happy to fill in some gaps with another review.  Let’s get started.

 

LIKES:

 

Unique vision:  Call me crazy, as many people do, but originality is something difficult to come by these days.  Mother, certainly gets points for standing out, not only in the bizarre presentation and mind messing visuals, but also in the symbolism represented in the story.  Amidst the mystery, drama, and other oddities in the film, one will get their fill of morals in that artistic manor Hollywood loves. One certainly won’t forget this movie, or its…originality.

 

Acting: The chemistry between Javier Bardem and Lawrence is perhaps the biggest selling point of this movie.  Much of the mystery comes in the tension between the two protagonists, Bardem’s deceptive nature and double speak is on point to keep you wondering what is going on.  Lawrence’s curiosity and desperation kept me intrigued as to how far she could go, before breaking and challenging his words.  It’s a relationship dynamic brought out in spades, further leading you down the rabbit hole into the mind meddling to be had. In addition, Lawrence also knows how to sell psychotic with screams, tears, and just enough raspy voice to sell suffering.

 

Prosthetics/makeupGrasping for straws here, but the team did a nice job with the prosthetics at hand.  Injuries that arise look festering as if plagued by infection illustrated in text books. The degrading house seen in the trailers is only further detailed in the shots, black marks and degrading wood in all its glory. And Lawrence’s pregnant belly is flawlessly blended into her normal skin, creating the roll that she could pop at any point.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow: Forgive me, but horror movies often move quickly to get to the scares at hand, even though they sacrifice story.  While mother has a story…it moves dirt slow to the point of inducing sleep in the movieThe drama aspect takes more precedence than anything, and unfortunately it is dragged out relentlessly to the point of being annoying.  This snail’s pace doesn’t do much for the quality of the movie, despite building up suspense for something never to come.

 

Not Scary: Aren’t horror films  supposed to be scary, or at least try to get me to jump?  Mother failed on this aspect much of the time, resorting to a few loud noises and people sudden turning a corner as their fright factor.  The tactic grew old and soon became nothing more than a ploy to try to salvage scares.  For me, the creepiest factor was seeing humans devolve into selfish, unthinking cretins makes me fear for the future.  Outside of that though, not much got me on edge for this movie.

 

Editing:  I stated above the pace was slow, but that’s because there was too much unneeded details for most of the movie.  The drama was dragged out, the weird concepts were even longer, and there were a few scenes that I could have lived without and been just fine.  Editing needed to jump in and get rid of some of this fluff, because it didn’t work for me at all given the lack of scares. Yet, their hands were tied by the fact the writer was also the director.

 

The Story:  All the symbolism and artistic presentation doesn’t save the audience from an incoherent story. Mother has a lot of weird subplots in it, many of which held little relevance to the overall plotAdditionally, there are lots of gaps in the plot, unless you like theorizing and reflection on the plot, because that’s the only way to fill in the vague data points.  The writer got so centered on its uniqueness, it didn’t close the story the best I think they could do.  Questions are great for discussion, but I like my films with a little more explanation than what I got in this film.  And when you draw most of the conclusions…you can’t help but say, “Really?  That is what this is?” Which reminds me….

 

The Weirdness:  Mother started out artistically weird, but as the movie hit the halfway point it dove deep into the tortured artist route.  What didn’t make sense, quickly turned into a trippy, random display of negligence and rudeness, mocking the modern human while deterring from the mystery.  Soon rapid time progression and sequence changes led to even more head scratching moments, that continued to shock me further to the point of asking what I was watching. The obscene violence and darker phenomenon only grossed me out, and again seemed pointless in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

Mother is artistic and unique, I’ll give it that, and certainly makes bold statements about a lot of cultural quarrels plaguing our world.  But outside of that, it’s not so much a horror movie as a though provoking, psychological thriller.  A slow pace, trippy visulas, and just overall weird atmosphere, does not make for the best horror movie.  So, if you had your hopes up for this one, do yourself a favor and skip this mind bender until it hits home theaters.  Go see IT again instead. 

 

Scores:

 

Drama/Mystery/Horror:  6.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

Atomic Action

Atomic Blonde

 

Spies, they come in every shape and size from goofy men in naked gun to the suave iterations of James Bond.  Yet one thing is certain, they often are involved in incredibly threatening situations that require luck, training, and sets of skills to get the job done.  This weekend, a new agent appears in the world of the silver screen and her name is Charlize Theron.  This gorgeous actress has been teasing the trailers with some exciting, seductive, and sexy scenes of her movie Atomic Blonde, promising an adventure to be had.  Robbie K back with another review, so let’s get this mission started.

 

LIKES:

 

Theron’s acting:  Lead actresses carry a lot of the movie when they are the featured character. Fortunately, Theron nails the role of the spy on all the avenues promised by the trailer.  Her physical looks, capable of making people go gaga, are only the superficial wrapping paper for the talent within, as she unleashes her cold ruthlessness with a little twist. She plays the wise and sly role well, bringing a dynamic character who has great chemistry with her fellow cast, crafting a deadly board to run their games on. Theron may be monotone in much of her roles, and often may play the same types of roles, but it works in this setting quite well.

 

Funny:  While certainly not the sole theme of this movie, Atomic Blonde is a figurative blast in the laughter department.  One of my friends compared some scenes to Monty Python in their comedic ploys of minions constantly getting up.  Seeing these stooges fall, dive, and become injured in a number of manners, but have ridiculous stamina is entertaining on many levels.  In addition, Atomic Blonde has some well-timed, and well-aimed, lines to relieve some of the tension. Mix all this with the over-the-top shock factor of this movie and you won’t help but laugh at the presentation at hand.

 

Action: The trailers painted an exciting thrill ride of death defying battles and spy warfare destruction.  And the trailers didn’t lie at all.  Atomic Blonde knocked hard on the action door as Theron faced the insurmountable odds of the secret army of spies out to hinder her mission and end her beautiful life.  The film has a number of styles for you including hand to hand combat, gunplay (and lots of it), and a few car chase scenes to keep things interesting.  Each of the drawn-out battles fits into the mission well, and the dynamic setting adds to the heat of the moment that is satisfying on so many levels.

 

The Soundtrack:  As Frozen proved years ago, a good soundtrack is something to take notice of.  Atomic Blonde’s featured tracks are all in the 80s, and the sweet beats are utilized to an excellent level that brings out the spirit of the scene.  And if you don’t care about a track matching to the movie, but like the synthesizer heavy music of the decade, then good news, you’ll be dancing in your seat to the sweet beats of the movie.  Whatever the reason, note that Atomic Bomb’s soundtrack is certainly a blast to the past of energizing music.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Convoluted story:  You may not have expected much of a story, after all most action heavy films seldom have one.  Yet, the thin story was certainly a complicated mess given everything packed into the movie and the directions they took to present it.  There is a mystery there, but it is overshadowed by the stunts and combat that ring throughout the movie. While the action is exciting, it distracts from the main plot and left little to follow given the shock factor of the series.  The dry dialogue doesn’t help much either, nor the fact that the movie jumps through so many perspectives in a short amount of time. The bottom line is…the presentation makes for a rather dry story, with only a few emotional oases to breathe life into the film.

 

Violence:  Action often does breed violence, but Atomic Blonde’s battles are true spectacles of mutilation and torture.  All the extras in particular are brutally battered in the fights, bashed in extraordinary detail to turn a few heads or make one of my friends cover her eyes. Theron’s character gets hit pretty hard too, painting her a few shades of gore as well. The gunplay makes for a ballad of painting the walls red, and the emphasis of close up, head explosions can be a little overdone at times. However, the most disturbing components are seeing the up and close drawn out deaths of a few character and their agonizing last breath.  Keep that in mind before jumping into the theater.

 

The unneeded romance scene:  I’m not one for the hot and sexy sequences in bed, but I can appreciate it when either done with class or pertinent to the story.  A scene in the trailers, and of course the movie, showed a rather hot moment that just didn’t feel necessary to me in the story.  Certainly, editing could have left this out, or at least the director’s cut, but without the added emphasis of relationships to the movie, I could have done without it.

 

The Verdict:

 

Atomic Blonde held much of what the trailers promised. It is an off the wall, very shocking film that leaves little to the imagination.  It is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping ride that felt fresh given the unique presentation and a soundtrack to further add fun.  Unfortunately, the stunts, violence, and convoluted presentation derailed the story for me and left me wondering what it is I just watched. There is plenty of theater worthy material to justify a visit, but if violence isn’t your cup of tea, pass this mission on to someone else. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Ambiguity Comes At Night

It Comes At Night

 

Horror movies, they seem to be popping up at random times during the year.  Why June 9th called for one, I don’t know, but nevertheless… here I am writing another review on one.  Tonight, we hit It Comes At Dark, a movie starring Joel Edgerton.  Based on the trailer, I was expecting a thriller set out in the woods, as our main cast remained isolated in their proverbial fortress of solitude.  And with good reviews on other sites, my expectations further swelled.  What lies hidden in the house?  Robbie K will try to answer with another spoil free review.

 

LIKES:

 

Unique Twist: I use the word unique lightly as most stories have been told in the daunting flood of movies.  This film though treks away from the typical presentation of the horror genre, focusing a lot more on character development instead of just on the scares.  It comes at night takes a more artistic explanation, using the metaphorical devices to build up the suspense, story, and spook factor present in the film.  Such an “original” presentation is fun to watch, as the realistic atmosphere adds a little more edge to the movie.

 

Creepy:  If you’ve read my other horror reviews, you know I like a movie that balances jumps with creep factor. It comes at night doesn’t rely too much on the abrupt symphony blares that shatter the silence, but instead focuses on the creep factor to get under your skin.  The director brought three components that helped deliver the motive.  The first is the use of shadows, letting the unknown hijack your imagination and pain the picture of what lies n the dark.  Have a fear of the night, or at least night in the woods, then get ready for your worst nightmare, because that is what you are going to get. Second is the utilization of subtle sounds to further tease your imagination to create an image of what lurks in the dark. And finally, the realism factor.  It comes at night’s twist could certainly happen and realizing the fact spices up the terror.  That’s right, no over the top monsters, gratuitous maiming, or cheesy over dramatic stories about possession. It’s just straight up creep fest, using simple scare tactics.  Nice job guys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow Pace: It Comes At Night does indeed have a unique twist, but it also opened the movie for a much slower presentation. After a rather tense opening, the pace drops to a snails run as you watched the family work to make a living in this post-apocalyptic world. Like one of the weaker episodes of the Walking Dead, much of the movie involves sequences of chores, upon chores, upon…yep you guessed it…more chores. And given the short run time, I wanted more bang for the buck.  Certainly it develops character (a plus), but without that exciting finish and tension to bring it full circle, the movie dragged and left me bored at times.  Artistic? Yes!  Realistic Yes! Needed all the time?  No!

 

Frustrating flashbacks:  This movie has plenty of weird dreams and semi-flashbacks trying to tell the story and do indeed build up the tension of the situation.  What is frustrating though is how incomplete these flashbacks are in the grand scheme.  The director had a brilliant idea to tease you with the unknown threats looming in this movie.  Unfortunately, the flashbacks, again, never get to the final answer, and all the extra flashbacks (while a great portrayal of thought and fear) frustrated me to know end at the constant interruption of the momentum and not providing the answer. I get it…that’s the point of this movie, but come on…give us something.

 

Ending:  The ending is certainly not the typical, run of the mill finish you expect in most spooky flicks.  So, this reviewer gives them props for that originality and significantly hard punch in the face.  Yet again, the director’s obsession with being artistic resulted in an ambiguous ending that drops to black just like that.  After bringing things to a full boil, the big finish fizzles out with a hasty wrapped up conclusion and a silent final scene where nothing happens.  No answers to what has happened to the world. No answers to the unknown factor that led to chaos (no clear one anyway). And no satisfying ending to complete the run.  So unless you just like dark, vague, finales where you are responsible for piecing things together, get ready for a disappointing ending.

 

The VERDICT:

 

It Comes At Night certainly defies the typical horror genre, and finally injects some uniqueness back into the mix.  A fantastic use of shadows and using the imagination to fill in the gaps amps up the scares and truly colors the unique “monster” looming in the woods.  Yet, they went a little too far with this gimmick and the incomplete ending just didn’t do it for me.  Abstract thoughts and artistic quality aside, I can’t recommend this one for the theaters except for those who like psychological analysis of a plot. 

 

My scores are:

 

Horror/Mystery:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

Before The Editing Falls!

before-i-fall

Today’s review is on Before I Fall, a cryptic title that can symbolize so many things in the world of Hollywood.  If you have seen the trailers, they portray this movie as another endless time arc installment where days continue to repeat until a solution is found.  But outside of that, it was uncertain if the aim was horror, drama, thriller, or just straight up Sci-Fi.  So, to solve this question, I’m back in the trenches to give you my thoughts on the film, in hopes of answering your questions.  Let’s get started, shall we?

 

LIKES:

  • Great looking cast
  • Fun Soundtrack
  • Decent acting
  • Nice Story
  • Good Lessons

 

Summary: Okay let’s start with the shallower likes of the film with how great the cast looks. Before I fall’s primary actors are beautiful, cute, and many are adjectives that people can use to describe themThose looking to enjoy 90 minutes of eye candy will get their fill as Zoey Deutch and her teenage friends fill the camera with their flare. If looks aren’t your style, and you go to the movies for music (ironic no?), then you’re in luck because the movie has some fun tracks laced in that again are very fitting and for me toe-tapping as well.

Okay enough of the small likes, let’s get to the good stuff.  Movies with an all teen cast are often susceptible to becoming overacted messes that are more annoying than anything else. Not the case for this film. Before I Fall’s leading ladies have created believable relationships that describes the high school experience.  The “deep” bonds of a click that are strong, yet so fragile, is a common element in this movie, as well as the hardships teens feel in the pseudo-adult world of being a senior.  I felt the love, the hates, the struggles, and the anger all nicely balanced in this film, and kind of connected with some of the issues they had.

While the acting is decent, the story is the stronger quality for me that drove emotion home.  The answer to the question, for those who haven’t read the book, is Before I fall is more drama mixed with the Sci-Fi quality of looped time (e.g. Mean Girls meets If I stay with Ground Hog’s Day repetition).  I don’t know how the combination works for you, but for this reviewer it wasn’t that bad given my initial expectations of horror.  One of the things I appreciated, was how the diverse the days were.  With movies that involve repeating the same day, often the scenes grow stale by the third iteration.  While this happens at some points (the classroom scene), Before I Fall did a nice job changing up each day as Deutch’s character discovers the problems in her life and grows as a person.  And being a guy who appreciates character development, this movie’s strongest aspect is indeed strengthening a fairly shallow character and teaching us some life lessons in the process, before the big “twist” (again assuming you haven’t read the book).

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Lacking in some areas
  • Scenes hastily thrown together at times
  • Preachy
  • Drawn Out

 

Summary: Film adaptations of books are always lacking given the time constraints and budget a film has.  Before I Fall has a lot of things tied well together, but there are still some weaker components that need some amping up. The protagonist’s life is surprisingly complicated for a teenage role, with many demons waiting to face Sami.  I applaud their attempts to cover all these issues, and while they did a decent job, I felt some of the qualities were lacking.  Many scenes felt rushed, or haphazardly thrown into the mix, lacking the needed development the book most likely had.  This lackluster development resulted in fairly simplistic scenes that takes away its theater quality.  What also took away from the theater quality was how preachy components of the movie.  Hearing Sami randomly go into bouts of loving/appreciating her friends, went down the eye-rolling path for me, as they layered on the cheese heavily. But if you are about the deeper bonds of passion, and straight to the point dialogue, this dislike won’t really affect you.  But overall, this reviewer felt many of these dislikes led to an incomplete picture, with lots of drawn out moments to one of the two predictable endings that, while emotional, wasn’t the big excitement I had hoped for.

 

The Verdict:

 

While I haven’t read the book, Before I fall is indeed a nice refreshing taste on the teenage drama genre.  The film seems to be a culmination of many movies brought into one story, with a creative use of the time-looping theme to explore lots of avenues that are missed in movies these days.  Throw in some decent relationship building with some good lessons and you have what feels to be a semi-decent portrayal of the book.  Yet, the film still needed some fine tuning in the editing compartment to bring full life to this rather simplistic (and clichéd) tale. Overall, this reviewer feels this movie is best left to a home viewing, but encourages you to send your teenagers and pre-teens to this film if you are looking for something.

 

Scores:

 

Drama/Mystery:  7.0

Movie Overall:  6.0