What’s good everybody? We got some good stuff here this weekend, as the week is up and I saw some really cool stuff all around. The weakest thing I saw this week, which was really bad, still got some good writings out of me. And we got a new release in here. I wanted to get two, but time worked against me. I’m a busy guy, what can I say? So give it a look and settle in for some good stuff to check out.
Director: James Whale
Starring: Colin Clive, Ernst Thesiger, Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester
I’ve finally got to what is widely considered the high point of the Universal Monsters roster. It’s one of those rare sequels that many consider to top the original and pushes the themes even further, crafting a movie that has lasted a long time in the ether of horror culture. And having seen it, I can agree. Last week I called The Invisible Man my favorite of what I had seen and can now say that this one tops that. What I liked is how smart the movie is and how ballsy it is, right from the beginning. Starting off with a little framing device of Mary Shelley with her husband and a friend as she decides to tell them of the continuing tales of Frankenstein is wild for the time and for the Universal series, which had been straight forward narratives up to that point. It makes thing a bit more interesting. And what I like is that it doesn’t feel like the first movie. Aside from some narrative similarities with the goal to make a creature and Karloff running amok of the land, it has a different tone. It feels much more absurd and it feels like it knows it, a winking nudge from Whale that this is all kinda silly but without a hint of smugness. Whale also makes the movie not feel samey by progressing the things from the original, making it feel very much of a piece with the original. Making Karloff start to learn how to speak and interact without just grunting and throttling. You also keep Frankenstein in a regretful manner without taking away some of his mania. He still has that itch in his mind to create life but tampers it down because he saw how destructive it was. He actually learned his lesson and is essentially blackmailed into helping out the new Doctor with a similar goal but goes about this shit with a nastier way of doing such. And it adds to a subtext that was there in the original but is much more interesting in this movie, and that is a homosexuality subtext. Frankenstein is a man who has the urge to do the “unnatural” by creating life from death and is seen as a monster for doing so. This one sees him essentially go back into the closet and is urged back by a man with similar tastes but manages to stop himself before doing so again. It feels like the work of a gay director (which Whale was) making a movie about what it was like to live as a gay man back then, having to hide your true self from fear of hatred and destruction by the masses. All of this wouldn’t matter much if the execution wasn’t good, and Whale knocks it out of the park. The visuals are much more interesting and stylized, feeling of a piece with the original but not as dread filled. The casting is great in a campy way, with Clive and Thesiger playing up a 1920s version of gay. And Karloff is still great as the big lumbering oaf and makes the transition from giant infant essentially to angry teen feel seamless. It’s really just great that only doesn’t reach a perfect score due to some dated elements, like some stiff editing at points and an interesting but too long scene with little people in bottles and a horrifically grating performance by some shrieking asshole in the role of a maid or something. This is just a great movie all around and should be seen by all cine fans.
Director: Ted Geoghegan
Starring: Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Larry Fessenden, and Lisa Marie
This could have been something different than what I got. It got a lot of critical respect and is a low budget movie in the genre with an eye for throwback stylings. This smelled like another “elevated” horror movie, ie boring bullshit like It Follows or The Babadook (I kinda like The Babadook though). But thank the stars, this was not that despite a start that feels like it’s gonna go that way. This movie starts that way to set things up, as this is a small movie with not many characters. So we get an atmospheric and subtly tense. We get to know married couple Anne (Crampton) and Paul (Sensenig), a couple in grief trying to escape the pain by moving to a new home. But things aren’t as they seem, and it seems like a simple haunted house story is at play but things are much darker and complicated than that. I won’t go into it, but it was a nice little twist on the haunted house thing in small ways to make it fresh. And like most good horror, it uses the genre to have some thematic weight. Here it’s about grief and the way a loss of a loved one will always linger and threaten to consume us if we give in to the pain. And unlike the two aforementioned elevated horror movies, it isn’t content to just be about something and call it a day. This movie is a hell of a ride. It may be a smaller movie, but it doesn’t skimp on the violence. It doesn’t dance around the shit, it doesn’t film around it to make it seem more arty. No, it goes into it and shoves your face into it while making it fun, like all the best gore movies. Cause holy shit is this movie gory. The ending of this movie is just a hell of a ride, taking everything that has been built on and unleashing hell. No goofy ending like It Follows or cheap workaround like The Babadook. This is a complete package of a movie. It makes it fun to watch but is also effectively tense. I wanna write alot more about this but I want people to take a shot in the dark and be completely surprised by this beast, much like I was. Just take my word on it. It’s great.
Moonraker (October 13th, 2015)
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, and Richard Kiehl
For a complete piece on this garbage movie, click here.
Bridge of Spies (October 15th, 2015)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Sebastian Koch and Amy Ryan
For a full review, Click here.
The Final Girls (October 17th, 2015)
Director: Todd Strauss Schulson
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, and Thomas Middleditch
It’s not very often that you find a horror comedy that manages to elicit some honest emotions out of you outside of the typical dread and/or comedically entertained emotions. Tears and sadness aren’t what one would expect to see here but somehow, The Final Girls may very well be able to do that for many viewers. Not me, cause I’m a cold hearted bastard. But I recognized that it was doing something very special and almost ignited something in my dead soul. The emotional impact of this movie comes from the relationship between a mother and daughter, but in a very odd way. The story is about a girl (Farmiga) being dragged to a repertory screening of a “classic” slasher movie, where the girls mother (Akerman) was one of the actresses in it. The rub? The mother died 3 years prior and it’s difficult for the young girl to see it. But she goes and during the screening, a fire breaks out and the girl and her friends end up in the movie. So some emotions come out when she is confronted with the ghost of her mother in a different form, not exactly her mother but imbued with her warmth. And it may be considered a horror comedy, but it isn’t very scary. Which is fine. Cabin In The Woods is one of the very best, but it would never be considered scary. So luckily it’s funny. And it is pretty damn funny, thanks to the cast and some smart ways to poke fun at slasher movies and some cool visual stylings to convey that they’re in a movie. The cast helps elevate the material, but one cast member doesn’t really help at all. Adam Devine is just terrible. Really comes close to being the antithesis of comedy. It’s just a terrible performance, filled with the knowledge that he’s so funny as if someone told him he was and he believed it. His performance though is kinda indicative of the way they parody the slasher movies. It doesn’t feel like a real movie that anyone would watch or enjoy as a slasher movie. It plays too self aware and winking. It’s playing like Undercover Brother when it should be more like Black Dynamite. It doesn’t kill the movie but the movie could have worked alot better if more effort was put into making it really feel like an authentic slasher movie. Also the math of the movie is off to me, as it’s supposed to be a 23 year old movie which would put it in 1992 but plays like it’s the 80s. That’s nitpicky but something that kinda stuck out to me. And it really should have been rated R. If you can’t fully honor the material, don’t go for it. It’s an 80s slasher sendup, so we need nome ridiculously cartoonish violence and some gratuitous nudity. I really wish this movie connected with me more as this is right up my alley, but it doesn’t land completely. It’s fine and fun and may work better for those not as deep into the genre. Still, it’s fun. A good time all around.