Get Out (2017)

“Is it true what they say?”

This one will be short and sweet. I don’t like to overstay my welcome especially when the movie I’m reviewing is critically knocking it out of the ballpark already.

Get Out serves up a refreshing mix of dark and light (sorry) offering scenes that are either disturbing or laugh out loud hilarious (sometimes both) depending on how the director feels. Plot paragraph …

Up and coming photographer Chris Washington (as stereotypically dark as his name would suggest) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (a lighter shade of pale) are taking a trip to visit Rose’s parents out in the country for the first time since they started a relationship four months previous. Chris is apprehensive, concerned that it may not go swimmingly well, as her posh parents do not know that he is dark skinned. Suffice to say, it does not go swimmingly well …

Believe the hype about Get Out. It is well written, edited, paced, with every actor nailing their part. Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, and Caleb Landry Jones are all spot on but if I had to pick out my fave players they would be Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson as Georgina and Walter, the black servants employed by the Armitage family. Super, super creepy.

You may have heard that Get Out is funny? It is! With a couple of small exceptions the humor comes from Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s best friend, diligent TSA officer, Rod Williams. He is constantly hilarious and worth the price of admission all by himself.

What makes Get Out so good is that it is simply an old dog performing new tricks. Jordan Peele offers up a simple story, tells it well, fills it with all the stereotypes you can see coming a mile and then twists them all so that they appear both familiar and refreshingly new all at the same time. You get what you want and also you get something different. In horror, as in all genres, who doesn’t like something at turns both comforting and surprising?

To temper my fervor a touch, this is a horror film like the recent portmanteau XX in that it is not covered with blood and grue but has choice moments of bloodshed delicately placed in a bigger picture. There were no scenes of shock or terror for me in Get Out with maybe one little jump if you’re not paying attention but there are thrills, chills, and heroic moments to this thrillery ride.

If Jordan Peele keeps making horror movies, or even just movies in general, we are in for a fun time as he proves himself to be truly adept as both a writer and director.

Kudos also to producer Jason Blum who once again delivers a sleek horror product that won’t break the bank. The budget on Get Out is probably less than most blockbuster features spend on napkins but the production doesn’t feel cheap. Every cent is up there on the screen.

My only BIG gripe is not with the movie but with the trailer. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer but after seeing the trailer there was only one key piece of the jigsaw that was a surprise. As much as I love trailers it’s a pisser to sit there checking off the key scenes you saw in the trailer waiting for a genuine surprise. Oh well, that’s the business …

I was tempted to mark it down because of this but that would be unfair as not everyone watches trailers. Get Out is a damn fine movie and you don’t see the ending coming (thankfully).

Ultimately Get Out delivers on all fronts and is fully deserving of the praise it has gathered. Get out and go see it.

Two word review: Thrill ride.

Chopping Mall (1986)

“It’s not you, Ferdy. I’m just not used to be chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”

In retrospect the Eighties was when the Low budget Horror Triumvirate of gore, laughs, and boobs really hit the mainstream. If you had a story idea that was cheap to film, and had some gore, laughs, and boobs, there was money to be made!

Enter Jim Wynorski. Since the mid-Eighties Jimbo has been cranking out movies like Deathstalker II, Point of Seduction: Body Chemistry III, Ghoulies IV, before moving onto bigger, bouncier tit-les like The Witches of Breastwick, Busty Cops Go Hawaiian, Para-Knockers Activity, Shark Babes, and Scared Topless. If you think this makes Jim one of the Kings of Cinematic Cheese, you are correct. His movies are often slammed for being cheap, dumb, annoying, badly edited, or just plain wrong.

If you haven’t heard of Jim or any of his movies you are not alone but there is a chance you’ve heard of at least one movie he made, Chopping Mall. Given a career spanning decades with over sixty movies directed so far Chopping Mall is undoubtedly Jimbo’s finest hour.

Everything cheesy, cheap, dumb, annoying, badly edited, or just plain wrong in every other movie he ever made goes insanely right in Chopping Mall. All the stars aligned to make a movie worth seeing. In fact I’d go further and say that for lovers of Eighties horror Chopping Mall is a must-see movie worth seeing more than once. Gasp!

Here’s the plot paragraph or rather the plot in two sentences. Some teens who work at a mall decide to spend the night in said mall to get up to teenage shenanigans unaware that new computer controlled security robots are being used for the first time. Something goes terribly wrong (hooray!) and the robots see the teens as a threat that … must … be … terminated!

Produced by cheaper faster B-Movie maestro Roger Corman and his wife Julie Corman Jimbo’s Chopping Mall is filled with every cheap option, cliche and trope you can possibly imagine. BUT! None of this matters because it’s such glorious fun to watch. It’s almost impossible not to love Chopping Mall.

There is the aforementioned cheesy Eighties laughs and boobs galore but there is also some truly excellent gore and deaths that you don’t see coming. No, really. Jimbo hit upon the great idea of making each death different so prepare yourself for some truly mad robot mayhem.

As if that wasn’t enough we get to enjoy the charms of the glorious Scream Queen Barbara Crampton as well as guest appearances from Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov and horror B-Movie uber icon Dick Miller as Walter Paisley, the building custodian. All of this in a movie that doesn’t outstay its welcome and zooms along at a fair old pace. Not only that but there’s even a post credit Marvel ending a couple of decades before post-credit Marvel endings!?!?!

To be fair Chopping Mall is no Dawn of the Dead, Hellraiser, or Evil Dead but like a good B-movie it plays to its strengths. While not being in anyone’s top ten list of ‘serious’ Eighties horror it does rank up there with Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Critters, and Troll as a B-Movie to cherish.

Ultimately Chopping Mall totally delivers on all its promises and I rate it as one of the cream of the crop for cheesy Eighties horror. If this review had you at “gore, laughs, and boobs” and you have a healthy PCT go rent or buy Chopping Mall. You’ll love it.

PS. From all Eighties horror nostalgia freaks like me, “Thank you Jimbo, you did good!”

Two word review: Killer Cheese.

XX (2017)

“I’m hungry.”

If you’re hungry (sorry) for some good horror allow me to suggest XX, the new portmanteau horror hitting the screens this week.

Like a nice box of chocolates XX offers four varied centers wrapped in [insert favorite chocolate here]. In this case the flavors of horror are directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, Annie Clark, Roxanne Benjamin, and Karyn Kusama wrapped in some lovely stop-motion animated pieces directed by Sofia Carrillo that are very reminiscent of the great Jan Svankmajer.

The first story up is The Box written and directed by Jovanka Vuckovic based on a short story by the great Jack Ketchum. While traveling home on the subway mom Susan and her two kids sit beside a man with a gift box. Inquisitive Danny asks what’s inside the box. The kindly old man lets Danny peek inside and from then on Danny just isn’t hungry anymore. At all. Period. The Box stars Natalie Brown (Dawn of the Dead, 2004) as mom Susan whose family life slowly spirals into madness. It takes a simple twisted idea and runs with it, all the way.

Next up is The Birthday Party written and directed by Annie Clark and co-written by Roxanne Benjamin. Annie Clark is also known as singer-songwriter St. Vincent, here making her directorial debut. On the morning of her daughters Seventh birthday, with a highly anticipated birthday party looming, mother Mary (Melanie Jayne Lynskey from Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners) makes a gruesome discovery. It is no great spoiler to say that The Birthday Party is clearly the ‘fun one’ of the bunch, although the humor is suitably dark.

As if in response to the humor of the preceding story, Don’t Fall written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin reminds us of a more conventional narrative. Two couples vacationing out in the Southwest wilderness find what appear to be pagan symbols on a rock. That night over beers around the camp fire Paul, the self-appointed leader of the group, confides that they are not really staying at a campsite. They are actually trespassing on sacred tribal ground. Oops. Suffice to say things do not go well.

Her Only Living Son is the final story, written and directed by Karyn Kusama who is well known to horror fans as the director of Jennifer’s Body (2009) and The Invitation (2015). Without giving anything away this story shows a mother finding out on the eve of her son’s eighteenth birthday that you can run and run but you can’t hide from your past. Like all the preceding stories it takes an old idea and breathes new life into it.

That seems to be the main takeaway of the whole movie for me. All of these stories feel fresh. While there is gore and special effects in evidence, it was actually really great to see stories explore what horror is aside from special effects and tired old horror tropes.

The only downer with portmanteau movies is that they are usually gimmicky rather than terrifying because of the abridged screen time. It’s hard to build rising terror or a deep concern for the characters over a scant 15 minutes. XX suffers from this time squash syndrome, as all anthology movies do, but it makes up for it with solid work both in front and behind the camera. The directors also chose to screen stories that work better within a shorter time frame.

The sign of a good portmanteau is that you feel you didn’t get to spend enough time with the stories. This is true here across the board. Indeed, if I had to find fault with anything here I’d have to say I wanted more, more, more, which of course is no fault at all.

My fave story? Who cares! There is something here for every lover of horror and I really hope there is more to come from all concerned.

Ultimately XX delivers and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

P.S. XX is clearly being marketed as a horror anthology directed by four women which is fine but is it just me or does it seem a little sad that in this day and age this concept is still “novel”?

Two word review: Different. Good.

If you are looking to see XX you may notice that it is a limited release movie. Fear not! Local Phoenix folks can see it at The Filmbar starting this week. Regardless of where you live you can catch XX on Amazon Prime. Enjoy!

Rings (2017)

Evil is reborn.

Oops! I just spoiled the ‘surprise ending’ of Rings by reading the tagline from the Rings poster. Eh?! How does that work?

Plot paragraph? Not this time.

Rings is a Hallmark movie of the week pretending it’s a horror movie (hello Disappointments Room). The Rings plot is a rehash of a thought of an idea based on the first two US Ring movies. These two US Ring movies took bits and pieces of the Kôji Suzuki Ring Trilogy which also spawned the classic J-Horror Ringu franchise.

While the J-Horror movies have mainly stuck to the idea of being horror movies, albeit somewhat more self aware and fun in the latter stages, the US franchise has wandered off into dull FastForwardLand.

I knew going in that there was a two year gap between the Rings production and release date so that was a red flag right there. I’m also pretty sure there weren’t any pre-release screenings. Red flag. To make matters worse I watched Sadako vs Kayako for the fifth time the night before coz I love it (Shudder on Amazon Prime). Given my love for the J-horror Ring franchise in all its iterations, I was expecting Rings to be crap but I figured going in with zero expectations would give the movie more of a chance to surprise me and at least be adequate.

I felt an almost physical urge to walk out of Rings within five minutes because I knew exactly how disappointing the movie was going to be. To my credit or because I am a fool (the votes are in, it’s the latter) I stayed for the whole movie. I resisted the urge to look at my watch four times (a new record for me). Eventually it ended.

Rings commits the three deadly sins of horror.

1. It is not scary.
2. It is predictable.
3. It is boring.

Worse than being instantly forgettable, Rings sets a new standard in dullness by being intuitively forgettable, meaning that you don’t care about it while it is happening and in advance of anything that is about to happen.

It’s not even so bad its good. The actors do their best but its an uphill battle with such a woeful script. It’s not laugh out loud stupid like some of The Bye Bye Man although it does have a number of logic-free moments that make you grind your teeth, slap your forehead, or rolls your eyes.

I apologize if this review has wasted two minutes of your time but you could do far worse wasting 102 minutes and watching Rings.

Two word review: Dull crap.

Resident Evil – The Final Chapter (2017)

“This is the end”.

Director Paul W. S. Anderson has found a nice niche for himself and his Missus (Milla Jovovich). the Resident Evil franchise stands tall in the horror action market and each of the movies in the series has stuck to the formula with lesser or greater success depending on personal preference. So far, for me, the high water mark was Resident Evil Afterlife (#4) from 2010 but here we are seven years later with Resident Evil – The Final Chapter, a ‘final’ movie fifteen years in the making. For those who need it, here’s a plot paragraph …

Over the course of six movies … In the now-ish, near-ish future there was /is an accidental release of the T-Virus (a nerve agent created by the dark and mysterious Umbrella Corporation) which turns the planet into a wasteland filled with zombies. Standing up to fight the Umbrella Corporation is Alice (Milla Jovovich) an ass kicker with no memory of life before the T-Virus. To varying degrees that’s all you get / need to navigate through all six movies.

As simple as all that sounds there are twists and turns aplenty threaded throughout the larger multi-movie story arc for various characters and concepts. Characters die, reappear a couple of movies later, get cloned, are found to be double agents etc. This is because Pee Dubs Anderson doesn’t like to commit the ultimate movie-going sin of being boring.

Boring it may not be, visually bloody dark it often is. I’m not sure why but Pee Dubs does like to film in the dark. See Alien vs. Predator for his most egregious example. Here we are thirteen years later and he’s still filming with light so low I almost got my phone out and held it up to the screen. Minor quibble over.

On a related note Pee Dubs has often been accused of delivering soulless movies populated with disposable characters the audience don’t care about. While shallow characters are the kiss of death for most genres of movies for action horror this is a load of bourgeois pish and whiny critics should shut up about it.

I don’t go to see franchises like Predator, Friday the 13th, Resident Evil, or [insert fave action horror franchise here] because I care about the characters, quite the opposite. I don’t give a crap about the characters. Show me the explosions, red stuff, and snarky one-liners. I know the hero will be there at the end so kill everyone else. This, I demand!

So if it’s dark and soulless, what’s the point? One word: Entertainment! My review criteria is does a movie deliver on the promises that the trailer and hype suggest? Does it deliver on our expectations of it? On those terms Resident Evil the Final Chapter totally delivers. If you go in expecting a parade of explosions, red stuff, and snarky one-liners you will not be disappointed.

With this latest Resident Evil installment Pee Dubs doesn’t slow the frantic pace for more than one minute. Take a stopwatch, you’ll see what I mean. The action is non-stop. As Nigel Tufnel would say this Resident Evil “goes up to eleven”.

Everyone does what they are supposed to do; Alice (Milla Jovovich) kicks ass, Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen) is the perfect pantomime villain (Dr. Isaacs – “I’m going to rule the world!” Crowd – “Oh no, you’re not!”, Dr. Isaacs – “Oh yes, I am!” etc), Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) wears shades, and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) pops up again, as she is want to do every couple of movies.

All the other pieces are in place; zombies (thousands of ’em), knife fights, triple barrel shotgun, explosions, massive mutated monster people things, jump scares, loud noises, impossible odds, and some of the fastest editing I’ve seen for ages. In some scenes it really is blink and you’ll miss it.

Unlike other movies where all this glitzy flash, bang, wallop might crush the life out of proceedings, with Resident Evil The Final Chapter the flash, bang, wallop is the reason many of us go to a Resident Evil movie in the first place.

This is cinematic, glossy, ultra-violence done right! Unlike Michael Bay whose recent Transformers: Age of Extinction was an arse numbing two hours and forty five minutes long, and seemed to end three times before the credits finally rolled, Resident Evil The Final Chapter clocks in at well under two hours and never stands still.

Resident Evil fans and horror fans in general will be happy that aside from the breathless fights, crunching gore, and blinding action, Alice finally gets closure and finds some answers to her age old questions. So that’s nice.

Ultimately I thoroughly enjoyed Resident Evil The Final Chapter and I’m going again because I love a bit of the old monster mash-up ultra-violence. Whether this really is the end of the franchise or not, this is a very fitting end to Alice’s journey.

Two word review: Good evil.

Malefique (2002)

“Art creates and destroys a lot of universes”.

The above quote from Malefique is both empirically correct and quite beautiful, don’t you think? Plot paragraph …

Set in the present-day Malefique tells the story of four prisoners who share a French jail cell. One of them finds a mysterious book behind one of the bricks in the walls that the pre credits sequence shows was the property of a prisoner who was adept in the black arts. Cue thunder and lightning. Out of sheer boredom one of the prisoners begins to read the book and somewhat inevitably strange things start to occur. Cue more thunder and lightning.

Malefique is a French horror film so, unlike a typical Hollywood movie that may have a somewhat sympathetic central protagonist surrounded by bad guys in jail, Malefique gives us an ensemble cast playing a group of characters who all appear as rough and horrible as each other. I say appear because as the plot unwinds we get glimpses of the men behind their prison masks.

Malefique checks off all the things one might expect to see in a prison movie but doesn’t come across as tired or predictable thanks to some great writing and really top class acting.

Gérald Laroche, is Carrère, the vaguely, ever so slightly, somewhat more sympathetic first cell mate we meet. Philippe Laudenbach nails the role of Lassalle, the wise old quiet one. Clovis Cornillac is Marcus, the gender bending man/woman in charge who can get you anything … for a price. Dimitri Rataud is Pâquerette, the bat-shit crazy one.

As most of Malefique takes place in the same cramped prison cell it sometimes feels like one is watching a play and this analogy is not without merit. The key to a good play is dialogue and acting. The acting and the dialogue in Malefique keep you gripped, hanging on every word, as reality unravels amid the daily grey grind of prison life.

The interpersonal politics of the four different people in the cell is really well played and develops nicely with twists and turns aplenty. All four cellmates have interesting back stories that are slowly revealed as the movie goes on. To say that the relationships between the four men are complicated would be somewhat of an understatement. Their relationships and interactions are sometimes quite brutal and shocking, sometimes affectionate and caring, but never feel beyond the realms of what is possible.

Malefique is not just a prison drama though. It is a full-on horror movie and when the horror kicks in it is quite superbly done. Director Eric Valette (who went on to give us One Missed Call and The Prey) doesn’t shy away from the visceral violence and bizarre, twisted imagery.

Thanks to make-up effects peeps Mélanie Gerbeaux, Sébastien Imart, and Annabelle Petit all the madness is brought to life via some excellent prosthetic effects. While often grueling to watch it is thrilling nonetheless.

Malefique offered all the things I like. It was full-on horror with a supernatural angle and a well written twisty turny plot.

My only word of caution is that the way-out wackiness of the final act may be a bit of a deal-breaker for the more casual horror fan. When we finally fall down the spiraling rabbit hole of madness we fall quite far and the ending may be a bit too ‘out there’ for some. Me? I loved it.

I was really pleasantly surprised by Malefique. I was prepared for a FastForwardLand special but it was worth watching. Do yourself a favor and check it it out. It will be hard time well spent.

Two word review: Hell cell.

Split (2017)

“The beast is on the move.”

Ah, M Night Sham-a-lang-a-ding-dong. A movie maker who cannot simply make a beginning, middle, end movie without some kind of twist. And that’s why we love / hate him, right? Plot paragraph …

As the trailer has already revealed, three young ladies get abducted by Kevin whose mind is home to Barry, Dennis, Patricia, and twenty other distinct personalities. Most of them are friendly, but two of them are decidedly unfriendly and it appears that the darker personalities have taken over Kevin with dark plans in mind. Plans that include gathering the young woman in advance of the coming of The Beast, a heretofore unseen 24th personality.

Cutting to the chase, as I am wont to do, I loved Split. As soon as it was done I wanted to see it again. While some could argue (some like me) that this is really just a great thriller and not a horror film at all it is attached to Blumhouse and is occasionally violent. These days that’s all you need to be marketed / embraced as horror. This despite the fact that even the poster calls it a thriller … Whatevs, on we go …

The three protagonists, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) are all played to perfection. While Claire and Marcia first appear to be relatively shallow teen fodder they are far from that and do blossom into distinct individuals.

The hero of the piece however is Casey played to perfection (again) by Anya Taylor-Joy who can do no wrong by me. Awesome in The Witch, Morgan, and now Split. If Anya Taylor-Joy sticks with movies from the dark side, the world will be a happy place, at least my world will be.

As the antagonist James McAvoy puts in a simply dazzling performance as the many faces of Kevin. At points you could see him slip from one personality to another by simply relaxing his face, frowning, or smiling. He was pitch perfect throughout. Brilliant stuff.

Where the narrative rubber hits the road in Split is as we learn more back story from both Kevin and Casey while fate brings them crashing together. It plays out wonderfully and leads to a great finale.

Talking of the finale, M Night Sham-a-lang-a-ding-dong has done it again. ‘It’ being doing a twist, but I think I’d prefer to say he has done his twist with a twist. Not wishing to be all spoilery, I won’t dive too deep. Suffice to say that no, it wasn’t all a dream or anything like hugely annoying like that, but yes, it does spin the whole story off into another direction. For me, the new direction was welcome and fitting. It made sense and was exciting all at once.

Ultimately I will be going back for seconds. Once again M Night shoots and scores with a great thriller! Huzzah!

Two word review: Crowd pleaser.

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Don’t think it. Don’t say it.

Don’t tempt me.

Some movies are ultimately not worth the time spent watching them. I will try and keep this review as brief as I can so you can get on with your lives.

I was at a screening for The Bye Bye Man and the audience were really up for it. The plot about an evil that makes you hallucinate until you go mad and die was flagged early on so I think it made the audience quite forgiving for the clunky narrative as the movie progressed. Maybe it was supposed to be like this because we don’t know what is real and what is imagined? It’ll all tie together at the end, right? Maybe it’ll build to an awesome climax?

When a big chunk of the audience started laughing at death scene because it was just plain stupid and not intentionally funny, the film was lost. The game was up. The narrative is clunky. Who cares if it all ties up in the end. The climactic scene cost about $12 to stage.

The Bye Bye Man cherry picks too many ideas, images and set pieces from better movies. So many in fact that it loses itself in the jigsaw of other people’s work that it builds up. It is not focused enough on one theme or style to be a cohesive whole.

It is just a mish mash of so many things that it needs something arresting and powerful to shake the audience out of their daze. A lot of directors use shots of gore or shocks.

Being tied to a PG13 rating there is no gore worth mentioning. You need to be an exceptional director to build fear, fright, and tension within a PG 13. For me The Bye Bye Man just bumbles along failing to deliver over and over again.

It’s not that there isn’t some good acting talent on display but jeepers, Carrie-Anne Moss, Doug Jones and Faye Dunaway REALLY went above and beyond for the director.

Ultimately The Bye Bye Man just breaks down into a tepid soup of meh. Hail, the first clunker of 2017 has arrived.

Two word review: Ultra Meh.

Underworld – Blood Wars (2017)

Full disclosure: I think I saw the first Underworld (2003) , but I have not seen Underworld: Evolution (2006), the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), or Underworld: Awakening (2012). And on we go …

Vampires vs Werewolves! Huzzah! Bring it on. At this point I should do a plot paragraph but bloody ‘ell, I’d be here until February trying to fill you in on all the twisty turny bits. Suffice to say that there are Vampires, there are Werewolves and they don’t get on. In fact they haven’t been getting on for four previous movies and a few thousand years in story time. All you really need to know is that the story follows Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) as a Death Dealer which is like an uber Ninja vampire ass kicker who likes kicking werewolf ass.

To the uninitiated (that would be me) Underworld Blood Wars is a dizzying, fabulous, over the top affair. I use fabulous here primarily to describe the Vampires. Fabulous can have a few meanings. To clarify I mean fabulous in the see your name in lights on Broadway, “One, two, kick, turn! Three, four, kick, turn!”, Judy Garland record collection sense of the world.

All the Vampiry bits are filled to capacity with gorgeous people throwing smoldering glances at each other, licking and biting each other, and generally looking fabulous regardless of what they are doing, all while wearing tight fitting leather outfits. What’s not to like?

The over-the-top bit is anything to do with werewolves, oh sorry I mean Lycans. They are all made to look grumpy, unshaven, and constantly up for a fight, regardless of what they are doing.

The movie throws the two groups together as they both plot to find Selene’s missing daughter, who has special blood you see that can do special stuff (make Vamps and Grumps invincible or something) and breaks the whole movie into three types of scenes.

Scene Type One: Flashbacks or this is where we are now scenes.
Scene Type Two: Political twisty turny betrayal scenes.
Scene Type Three: Fighting!

It’s like watching an omnibus edition of multiple episodes of an ultra-violent Goth soap opera. There’s just soooo much going on all the time.

This meant that it’s all quite breathless and moves at quite a pace. Personally I loved it, but the campiness of it all got so overbearing at some points that I was half expecting them to burst into song or throw up some jazz hands. Am I being disparaging? No, not really, I think it was great fun and worth a couple of views for the spectacle of it all. Would I watch the earlier movies? Maybe one or two, maybe not, probably not, I’m not sure. I think the overuse of flashbacks in Blood Wars makes seeing the earlier movies a bit redundant.

Ultimately I don’t feel this movie franchise segment is really as accessible as a lot of others. Sure, it’s frenetic and action packed but you can pretty much watch any Resident Evil, Final Destination, Scream or Friday the 13th as a standalone item and if you like it you can go and check out others in the series.

Underworld Blood Wars has so much to explain that it walks you through all the previous movies. I’m not sure this works for the acolytes of the series but for the casual observer who likes cheese with their blood red wine, this could be fun.

Two word review: Bloody fun.

The VVitch (2015)

the-witch

“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

While reviewing the year to build my Top Ten of 2016 list I noticed that I started my lil’ site shortly after The VVitch appeared and never put a review online. To make amends it here’s a review, and it’s only a year late!

If anyone ever asks me what is the most polarizing movie I can name, it’s gonna be The VVitch. Released to uber-positive buzz this small indie went mainstream and made boffo box office. However … but before the however, here’s some plotage…

In 17th century New England, die-hard Puritan William his wife Katherine, daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas, choose to go off what little grid there was back then because the plantation they were on wasn’t die-hard Puritan enough for them. Determined to make a go of things with help from none but the good Lordy up in the clouds they snag some land by a remote stream and start farming. Unbeknownst to them they have picked a really, really, bad spot to start a new life. There’s someone or something living in the adjacent forest that has dark plans for the young family.

I loved The VVitch because I went in wanting to be astounded and challenged. I was. I’m not so sure that was the game plan for Mister and Mrs. Mainstream Audience looking to catch the next Scream, Conjuring, or whatever they rate as a classy horror movie.

The movie succeeds for me because it doesn’t overtly tell the audience what is going on, and that is what drives a lot of people nuts about it. It allows the audience to make up their own minds. I have had a number of discussions on a number of the key scenes, including the finale, and everyone seems to have their own interpretation. I don’t see a problem with that personally.

Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, and Anya Taylor-Joy are perfect as the Puritan family. Despite the fact that we know it’s not real, not the 17th century, and is a fantasy woven together from legends and facts, it all looked like real events unfolding before my eyes. I felt uncomfortable at what I was seeing, shocked, thrilled. Some of the images in this movie are peerless undiluted horror.

Robert Eggers in his directorial debut really knocks one out of the ballpark here and in some ways I pity him having to follow this. It seems he has chosen to remake the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. Ordinarily I’d groan at the idea of idea but if the beautiful brutality of The VVitch is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what he does.

So, back to the however I mentioned at the top of this review … Yes, The VVitch is smart, allows its audience to make of it what thou wilt, and yes it made some great money at the box office … however … if my experience was anything to go my at our local Harkins multiplex, it made most of its mainstream money off the curious seeing it just once.

At the end of the packed Saturday night 7 pm showing that I went to one guy (wearing a baseball hat indoors as you do) stood up and shouted to the room, “Can someone tell me what the hell I just watched?” No-one replied.

I was tempted to speak but, aside from having an issue with people who continue to wear hats indoors (people, it’s just so gauche), I think I would have sounded like the smug, pretentious, nobhead I probably am.

As much as I loved The VVitch I think it suffered from poor publicity choices. Mr. and Mrs. Mainstream had no idea what they were letting themselves in for having come fresh from the more presentable linear horror of Crimson Peak and Krampus a few weeks previous. What were they to make of a movie that wasn’t clear, didn’t have a black hat getting beaten by a white hat, and wanted to let you make up your own mind?

Despite that, I’m firmly on the side of those who hail this as the classic that it clearly is. The VVitch is utterly unique, vividly astounding, and cunningly perplexing. Enjoy.


The movie: 10 out of 10.
Hero: All involved.
Two word review: Breathtaking. Beguiling.