Slender Man (2018)

Slender Man

Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) is one of many haunted by the Slender Man

 

 

I truly have awesome friends. I am not talking about the type of friend who would watch a video online that may be dangerous. No, I mean the type of friend who (along with his two sons who like horror films) would be willing to pay for me to see a movie like Slender Man. Okay, not pay so much as throw the money on the ground and trample it. Basically the same thing.

Over the last couple years, I have seen a lot of promise of the horror genre (The Witch, Get Out, Hereditary), yet with every good movie must be a bunch of crappy ones. Well, to call Slender Man crap may insult the uses of what can be used as potential fertilizer. It is truly one plot hole short of becoming a sponge. Basically, four friends Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) watch a weird video that says if they see the Slender Man, they will all vanish. They watch it, and stuff begins to happen that neither looks scary, cool, plausible, or interesting.

I admit to feeling very sorry for the actors (not the characters). All are talented  but are in a script that straight up wreaks of something that smells very unpleasant. I expect that the director Sylvain White has some form of talent, but it seems put to little use here (by which I mean no use).

Parents, there is a lot of dark matter and material and stuff, so I guess I should say High School and above.

So yeah, this movie is bad. I would say more, but the horse is dead already.

 

Overall: 1/2 Star  */2

Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary

Toni Colette’ Annie is having a few issues…

Not knowing anything about a movie before you see it can be rewarding, and the most recent prime example is Hereditary. Having not seen the trailer till after I saw the film (which is rather spoiler free), my only knowledge was that it starred Toni Colette.

With vibes of 2016’s hidden gem The Witch (both films have the same producers), Hereditary starts with an opening shot that will be dissected by film buffs for years to come. What a hook from the get go. Annie (Colette, who does ravishing work) is on the way to her mother’s funeral with her family. We learn their relationship was rocky, to say the absolute least. The person her mother favored was Annie’s daughter Charlie (striking newcomer Milly Shapiro). Charlie has a peanut allergy, which I mention because that is far from her worst issues. There is also Peter (Alex Wolff), Annie’s older teenage son. While kind-hearted, he is not one to shy away from smoking weed after school. Finally, there is Annie’s husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), who I am still not sure about. Is he a dullard or just fed up with the issues in his family? I am still on the fence.

The movie plays like a crescendo of horror, in that it does not just spurt out random scenes of “gotcha” moments so much as add more and more tension. You know a movie is doing something right when you realize you have not considered containing so much tension before.

The imagery of Hereditary is strikingly effective in a haunting way. The house in which the family lives should have star credit on its own. It is as neatly polished as the small figures and sets that Annie works on. The musical score only adds to the horror we feel (as all scary movies should).

Yet Hereditary is not completely a horror so much as it also becomes some bit of a thriller. Mixing those two genres may seem easy, but not all the time. Director Ari Aster (who also wrote the script) handles the balance of horror and sadness so well that the feeling you leave with is bound to stay with you for weeks.

Parents, this is in no way a movie for children. There is mild nudity (nothing sexual) that is a little easy to miss, but the horror aspect is sure to frighten anyone under the age of…actually, any age. High School and above.

I went to this movie with a close friend of mine. I have known him for a while, and have not seen him as shaken up as he was. After the film, I mentioned we would probably need to watch five to ten Disney movies (maybe more) to brighten us up again. I even mentioned to other friends to give him a hug just in case.

Consider that a warning. Well, a positive warning.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

A Quiet Place (2018)

A Quiet Place

John Krasinski not only caries the safety of his family on his shoulders, but the movie as a whole.

I doubt even the biggest fan of The Office would have predicted that they would see John Krasinski stepping out with his talents like this. He not only stars in A Quiet Place, but directs and helped with the screenplay. It is only his third time at the helm as director, but it is certainly the charm.

Krasinski and Emily Blunt (his wife in real life) star as Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who live with their two kids Regan and Marcus (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe, respectively). They are some of the very last survivors on earth after creatures with super sonic like hearing have killed everyone else. They have lived just under five hundred days, with a strict schedule of normal life, provided they don’t make a sound. It is fortune for them that they do live in a farm in the outside parts of New York, and have already learned how to use sign language (the daughter Regan is deaf). New dangers do arise, as we find out that a new baby is on the way.

It is obvious that there is jump scares a plenty in the film, which I am not ashamed to admit got me shaken a few times. Still, what scared me the most of the film is not the jump scares or even the creature (which is creepy, no doubt.) For me, it was knowing off the bat that, if this happend in the real world, and we all had to be quiet. I would not last long at all.

It is also refreshing how such a small cast can give strong performances. Krasinski and Blunt are obviously good (especially in one scene they share by themselves as they dance), but the kids are equally impressive. Both kids were in 2017 films: Simmonds in Wonderstruck and Jupe in Wonder (he was Auggie’s friend Jack Will). It is really Simmonds who is given the most moments to shine (she is deaf in real life).

Parents, the movie is PG-13, mainly for the horror and violence (there is bloody images, but nothing worse than what is on cable these days). Due to the lack of dialogue (though there is some), there is no real swearing. Middle school and up is fine.

It is not perfect: A second or third viewing will be needed to see if there are sounds that are made that you would think the creature would have heard. Still, undoubtably, the man responsible for A Quiet Place is Krasinski. In years to come, he could be in races for an Oscar. Still, the most impressive thing (and creepiest) came after the credits. It is not a scene, but a name of a producer that John Krasinski has linked to a good movie.

That name is Michael Bay.

When you make a good movie with Michael Bay’s name attached to it (in any way), you know a movie is not only good, but a rarity.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The Bride of Frankenstein

The Monster (Boris Karloff) and his mate (Elsa Lanchester)

The first time I saw Bride of Frankenstein, I had not seen the original Frankenstein (1931). Funny enough, I really did not need to see the first film at all, which I found out after revisiting the sequel. That is not to say the first film is a bad one, but that Bride of Frankenstein may have been the first sequel to ever outshine it’s predecessor.

The film starts off with Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester, who also plays the bride, though in the credits she is simply refered to as ? ) telling her friends (as well as the audience) that the monster (Boris Karloff) survived the crash at the end of the first story. His quest for meaning and friendship is thwarted at every turn (though he gets close with a blind man), so his anger is unleashed on all he crosses.

Eventually, he meets Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), a former co-worker of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive). Henry is recovering from the events of the first film, and wants to finally marry Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson). Pretorius tells the monster that he is able to make him a mate, but needs the help of Frankenstein.

I will leave the plot there, since it is rather simple and one I don’t want to give away (thought it is safe to say you know the bride is made). Even if you never heard of this movie, you know what the bride looks like, with her hair like it was hit by lightning. It is just as famous as the original monster’s make up, if not more so.

Of course, you could argue against certain things in the plot, such as “the lever”. “Don’t touch that lever!” a character yells. Keep in mind, the movie was from 1935. Still, like all great old flicks, Bride of Frankenstein has aged better than wine.

Parents, while this is a classic horror movie, there is nothing that young kids would be too afraid of. There is no swearing or nudity or blood. Basically, I would say age 7 and up.

The 1930s produced many a monster movie, but Bride of Frankenstein is the cream of the crop. Recently, Universal has started to make their own “dark” universe with monster movies (though I have not seen 2017’s The Mummy with Tom Cruise, and judging by what I heard, it ain’t pretty). Their next remake will be of this film (with Javier Bardem in the role of the monster). While I am not entirely on board with the idea, the fact that they don’t even need to remake the original (which has been done before) shows how superfluous the original Frankenstein is when compared to its far superior sequel.

To a world of Gods and Monsters, indeed.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

The eerie glow on the silhouette of The Exorcist

 

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘ Where have you come from?’

Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.'”

– Job 1: 7 (NIV version)

Satan has been depicted countless times in the media that it seems we sometimes might forget how horrible he really is. Whether the demon is or isn’t Satan (the name is supposed to be Pazuzu, who, according to IMDB, is a demon from Assyrian and Babylonian Mythology), the demon does come out as saying he is the devil, and his actions more than make up for it.

This, of course, is just one of many reasons why people consider The Exorcist one of the scariest movies ever made. There have been at least four sequels and countless other films dealing on the subject of exorcism. I have not seen them, but even if I did, I doubt I (or anyone) would think they could even begin to compare to the one that truly started it all.

Based on the book by William Peter Blatty, that was based on (rather loosely) true events, the movie tells the all too well-known story of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair, who recieved so many death threats after the movie was released she needed body guards for six months). Living with her mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn), she gradually is possessed by an evil spirit. We also see the story of Father Karras (Jason Miller), who is recovering from the loss of his mother, and questioning his faith. There are other characters, including Lt. Kinderman (the infallible Lee J. Cobb), Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), and the horrific voice of the spirit, played perfectly by Mercedes McCambridge.

While all the performances are brilliant (Burstyn, Miller, and Blair would all be nominated for an Oscar), the true star is director William Friedkin. Without him this movie would not be known as it is today. Like all great horror movies, he still gives us just enough hope when we feel it is all gone. He also gives us more than our fair share of images that haunt us long after the movie ends.

The movie did win two Oscars. The first was for Blatty’s screenplay, but it is the second one I want to focus on, Best Sound (the winners were Robert Knudson and Christopher Newman). Much of the dialogue is rather soft, but not so with the sounds one hears; the moving of furniture, a knock at the door, heavy breathing, terrifying growling, needles in the skin, breaking glass, water splashing, scampering across the floor, etc. Never before have I seen a movie when I am clutching on to the volume remote.

Parents, do I really need to say it? Don’t let any child watch this movie. High School and above.

I will say this though: if you have a child (again, who is in High School) who is acting like no movie has ever really scared them, then make your choice as to when they can see The Exorcist. I have never met anyone who was not afraid of this movie, and I am confident I never will.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

 

 

The Shining (1980)

The Shining

Danny (Danny Lloyd) comes across the creepiest cinema twins in history.

“A big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside.”

This is how author Stephen King has described the Stanley Kubrick film version of The Shining. Of course, not all movies based off of movies will make the author happy (like P.L. Travers, who strongly disliked the Disney version of her literary character Mary Poppins).  Still, this review is coming from someone who has not (as of now) read the original material. I saw the film first around the age of twelve, not knowing it was based on a book. From that perspective, I found it terrifying.

The story is rather well-known: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a former teacher who takes his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd), in his only screen performance) to the Overlook Hotel to be the caretakers for five months. A (somewhat) recovering alcoholic, Jack is determined to being secluded in order to help finish his writing. He is so optimistic he does not seem to mind that one of the former caretakers butchered his family before killing himself, or that the hotel was built on an indian burial ground.

The other element being brought to the stay at the Hotel is the peculiar Danny, who has the ability to “shine” (see the future, and read the minds of others who can do the same). The only other we see who can do this is the Hotel’s cook, Hallorann, (Scatman Crothers). It is he who informs Danny (as well as us) nothing good resides from room 237 (more on that later).

There is one thing that King does say positive about the movie, and that is the visual appeal. This is no real surprise, as the movie was directed by film icon Stanley Kubrick (known to be as much a perfectionist as anyone behind the camera). If you were to choose any shot from The Shining and say it was your “choice”, it would be hard to argue regardless of what it was. Whether it is Jack in the doorway shouting his famous “Heeere’s Johnny!”, any visuals of the hedge maze, the long unblinking stare of Jack, the red bathroom, the elevator full of blood, or the hallway showing the creepiest twins in film history.

“Come play with us Danny.”

Chills.

Parents, it should come as absolutely no surprise that this film is not for kids. Besides the obvious creepy scenes and swearing, there is one main scene of nudity that does take place in room 237 (as well as some nude pictures, and a brief scene in a bed room that is far more creepy than sexual). In other words, unless you have the most mature middle schooler, High School and above.

Perhaps if I do read the original book, I will be able to see more of what King dislikes about the movie (he did not approve of the casting of Nicholson or Duvall). The movie came out with mixed reviews, so much so that it got two Razzie nominations: Duvall for worst actress and (believe it or not) Kubrick for worst director (you read it right). Time, of course, is always the best judge of movies, and The Shining still stands as one of the best horror films. It has layers that can keep being peeled away (the ending is for sure going to raise questions upon every viewing) and you still are not sure what to expect. Anytime a movie does that, it is something special.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

IT (2017)

IT

Let the floating begin…

After the month of August has given an overall let down for theater goers, how refreshing is it that the movie to bring the experience of big screen ecstasy is not only a horror movie, but a remake? Well, you cannot deny IT.

Based off the book from Stephen King, IT is one film to satisfy not only fans of the horror genre, but those who think they don’t like horror films as well. It relies not just on the villain (whom Bill Skarsgard plays beautifully) but the idea of him as well. The film starts off with the death of a young boy months before the summer of 1989. We meet his older stuttering brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and some of his friends, including Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), a hypochondriac, Richie (Finn Wolfhard), who spews one liners like a pro, and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), preparing for his bar mitzvah. There are other new kids as well that are adding to the “Losers”: Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), a social outcast with a good heart, Mike (Chosen Jacobs), who is homeschooled, and Beverly (Sophia Lillis), with her own troubles at home.

I had flash backs of another great Stephen King adaptation, Stand by Me (1986), while watching IT. If you cannot appreciate the horror aspect of this film, then you will certainly love the coming of age aspect. Ah, the middle school days, when guys acted tough, swearing all the time, and noticing the female body. All of that (and more) is played to perfection thanks in part to the perfect young cast (all of whom are mainly unknown to me, except for Wolfhard, who plays Mike in Netflix’s Stranger Things).

Like all wonderful horror movies, IT has a collage of breathtaking beauty. Consider a scene towards the end, when one character is waking up on the ground, and it almost looks like they are in a glass bottle. There is also a bathroom sequence that, while I will not spoil it, is destined to be one of the most talked about horror scenes of all time. Blood never looked so gorgeous, and I cannot credit director Andy Muschietti enough.

Perhaps what Muschietti does best is trust the intelligence of the audience. He keeps the perfect pace so that we (or at least those like me who never saw the original with Tim Curry) are figuring everything out as the characters are.

Parents, it is clear the movie is rated R for violence/gore and lots (and I mean lots) of children swearing (there is one scene where the kids, including Beverly, do go swimming in a quarry, wearing nothing but underwear.  Still, I noticed a few young people (no younger than 9 or 10) in the audience I was at. I guess it is up to you, but, if it were my kid, I would say middle school and up.

 

Admittedly, I must say the movie did start off a bit slow for me after the opening scene, but I gradually eased in to what is surely one of 2017’s best films. Two things went through my mind as I left the theater. The first was that I need to reevaluate my list of the top ten movies based on Stephen King novels (IT is not the best, but is surely up there). The second is that, if they start working on a sequel, I would personally not mind waiting another twenty-seven years.

I am sure Pennywise would agree.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars **** 1/2

 

 

 

Get Out (2017)

get-out

Daniel Kaluuya is Chris, the new boyfriend of Rose (Allison Williams) in Get Out.

Ok, seriously, what did I miss here?

As I am writing this review, Get Out has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps it is a good thing I am (as of now) not a paid movie critic, or it would not be at that perfect score.

Fifty years ago, a great movie called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was released with Spencer Tracy (his last film), Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poiter. That movie was about a woman who brings her fiance (Poiter) to meet her parents (Hepburn and Tracy). Throw in horror, cheesy chords of music, and some unreal acting, and you have Get Out.

The people in the movie are talented, indeed. You have Daniel Kaluuya as a photographer named Chris, who is dating Rose (Allison Williams). One weekend, she brings him to meet her parents out in the country. They are Missy and Dean (played, respectively, by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). There is also her brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who is creepy, and not, I am afraid, in a good way.

The movie did not scare me at all (save for one moment where it was a “gotcha” moment followed by a high music chord). The movie did, however, make me laugh a lot. This is mainly attributed to Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery). His timing and delivery are perfect, and it is him who had me interested as long as he was on-screen.

The other actors are good (I have always been a fan of Catherine Keener), but it is the party scene that ruined the movie for me. No one in their right mind acts the way Rose’s extended family does. I can’t say why the characters act the way they do without spoiling the movie, except to say that, when you find out the twist, you realize it could not have been anything else.

Parents, it is a hard R rating (no nudity or sex, just a lot of swearing and blood/gore). 17 and above.

It is true that many movies need more than one viewing to potentially appreciate it more. However, after seeing Get Out once, I don’t plan on seeing it again anytime soon.

Seriously, the title screen alone should serve as a warning.

 

Overall: Two Stars

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

the-silence-of-the-lambs

Very rarely has dialogue been better than that displayed between Hopkins and Foster…

Murray: “Is it true what they’re sayin’, he’s some kinda vampire?

Starling: “They don’t have a name for what he is”.

A quarter of a century since The Silence of the Lambs was first on the big screen, and there really is still no actual name for who many consider the greatest movie villain of all time. True, you could call Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) a cannibal, but there is far more to him than that. I would argue he may be the smartest (fictional) character in cinema (the only other I would place higher would be HAL 9000.) It is only more spellbinding when you remember he is on-screen for twenty minutes or so.

For those who have not seen the movie, Lecter is not the main character. The main character is Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster). As a trainee in the F.B.I., she is sent by her boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to talk to Lecter. The goal: see if Lecter can help in the case of Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), a serial killer currently on the loose. Buffalo Bill is finely played by Levine, but he can’t keep up with Lecter.

The film was one of three films to win the five main Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and Screenplay (the others were It Happened One Night from 1934 and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from 1975).

I offer now how it won each award. The screenplay, written by Ted Tally (based off of the book by Thomas Harris) tells a story that goes far beyond the basic find the bad guy plot thriller. It gets as deep into the psychological field of the mind of a killer as any film. For Director Jonathan Demme, he masterfully balances the time needed we need to see what we need to of Lecter and Starling. It is evident that staying with Starling more than Lecter is actually a better choice than the contrary. As for actor and actress, neither Hopkins or Foster will ever be remembered for anything more than their roles in this film. Foster is one of the best examples of courage in film (you can see her fighting her fear just by looking in her eyes). Hopkins (who said he based his performance off of Katherine Hepburn, Truman Capote, and HAL 9000) could quit acting, and cure cancer, and he would still be remembered more for playing Dr. Hannibal Lecter (just looking at him, you think “Lecter” before “Hopkins”.)

Parents, there is no secret this movie deserves its R rating: High School and above. Obviously, there is a lot of swearing (some F bombs, and the use of the four letter C word that is not crap), dialogue about sexuality (including a disturbing sequence in front of a mirror that almost shows complete male nudity for 5-10 seconds) and a LOT of violence.

Winning the Best Picture Oscar is never easy (there are a lot who did not deserve to win and a lot more that did). To date, The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror flick to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It also had some good competition as well (I have not yet seen Bugsy or The Prince of Tides, but Beauty and the Beast and JFK are still masterpieces in my book). It is clear that The Silence of the Lambs will live on as long as there are fans of horror films (both good and bad).

Ironically, the lambs will never stop screaming.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

 

 

 

Let the Right One In (2008)

let-the-right-one-in

Eli is far from the typical girl next store…

This movie has you from the get go. The first scene shows a snowfall, but it looks like the black screen is steadily falling apart. It is rather spellbinding, just like the rest of the film.

I have not seen a lot of vampire movies, but Let the Right One In (along with its remake Let Me In from 2010, which is almost as good) is surely one of the best ones. It shows vampires as beings who have a problem, but do not relish in the fact that they have it. It is not a superpower, but a sickness of epic proportions (as shown in the original Nosferatu, still the greatest of vampire movies).

The Swedish (yes it has subtitles, get over it) film tells the story of Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), a 12-year-old boy growing up in the 1980s. His parents are separated (he spends most of the time with his mom) and is basically a loner. He is picked on constantly at school. One day, a new girl moves in next store, Eli (Lina Leandersson). Right off the bat, she says “We cannot be friends.” The chemistry between these two 12 year olds (though Eli is not really 12) is more realistic than most “chemistry” in movies based off of a Nicholas Sparks book. Sure, Eli is a vampire (the picture above may have given that away), but Oskar only sees a soul going through the same things he does. It is one heck of an authentic friendship.

My only qualm with the film is it spent a tad too much time with the adult characters. Really, the only one I felt we needed to see much of was Hakan (Per Ragnar), the father like figure of Eli, who “supplies” her with the blood she needs. The other adult characters are interesting enough, but much of their screen time had me wanting to go back to the relationship between Oskar and Eli.

Parents, I cannot think of any other film about 12 year olds that is not for 12 year olds. Obviously, the film does have violence and gore, and some swearing (an F bomb here or there). There is also a scene where Eli undresses and gets into Oskar’s bed with him. It is nothing really sexual. There is also a very brief (and I mean very brief) flash of nudity (it comes after Oskar tells Eli about his mom’s dresses), but again nothing sexual. Still, the R rating is justified, so only High School and up.

I have stated before that I am a sucker (pun intended, since it is a vampire movie) for puppy love, and there is no doubt this movie nails it. There are not many movies that can explain horror, romance, drama, and art, and Let the Right One In does so flawlessly.

I found myself wanting a friend like Eli when I was twelve. Someone I could talk to when no one listened (or I did not want to talk to my parents). Someone to give me advice. Someone to help me out of a jam with bullies.

You know, minus the whole blood sucking part.

 

Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2