Posts Tagged ‘Alia Shawkat’

The Final Girls (2015)

October 1, 2018

I first started watching horror movies when I was rather young. I was trying to remember the first horror movies that I might have watched. A lot of great horror movies were made in the decade that I was born (the Eighties) but I would have been too young for most of them and I had to watch them later. To the best of my recollection, my first horror movie was Gremlins which is a pretty good one to start with when I was probably only nine. As I got older, my family purposefully set out to watch some of the classic horror movies until my mom decided she had had enough. My youngest brother and I carried on and I watched a lot of the most iconic horror movies (and some real stinkers). Some kids experience a blurring of the line between fantasy and reality when they are kids but I never had that problem. Still, I definitely theorized what I would do if I was in a horror movie. I think most of us fans have done it. We second guess the victims and speculate how we would get away from the monster or madman. It is kind of like what our imaginations do when we hear a random sound in the darkness while we are in bed. All of our memories of fantasy and reality flit through our heads and we imagine we are about to murk somebody with a baseball bat. Of course, it is probably just a pet or a rat or something.

I absolutely love classic horror films. They are hard to deny because most of us grew up with them looming large (or if you are young, your parents could never shut up about them). I watched Freddy and Jason movies at a young age and my half-goth personage also watched anything spooky I could get my hands on. Of course, that is the inspiration for my fanfiction-y/AU series Aftershocks. I also went through a period where I was really into the classic Universal monsters and I am a sucker for anything that adapts those classic characters. Because of all of the horror that I have watched and my pop culture sponge brain, I have absorbed a lot of lore. It is mostly because I love exploring the lore of franchise horror because it is both interesting and silly. I love that each sequel of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise added more and more to Freddy Krueger’s history and subtly changed the rules while still keeping the major talking points. The same goes for Jason, The Evil Dead, and good old Chucky. Each of these franchises obviously had some sort of central lore that did not really change but was tweaked a bit to fit later installments. Of course, there are a lot of fans out there who feel the same way. Remembering goofy horror movie lore is really no different from remembering all of the plot points of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars family trees, after all.

The movie is about a young teenage girl who lost her actress mother in a crash years ago. Her mother had been the standout actress in a cult classic slasher film (a clear parody of the Friday the 13th franchise). She ends up getting sucked into the movie along with her friends and must figure out how to survive and how they might possibly escape. The concept is not new (see Last Action Hero) but the twist of meeting a fictionalized version of her dead mother is definitely a cool addition. The movie really ramps up the campiness of eighties horror but has an undercurrent of real fear and heart. One of my favorite things is how they oversaturated the colors inside the film to really play up that classic horror feel. There are also interesting ways that they visualize classic movie tropes and effects. They also parody horror movie fans (especially the really creepy ones) who delight in the gore a little too much. It also parodies horror nerds like me who engage in a little too much meta theorizing. The gore effects are pretty tame but I actually appreciate that for what is supposed to be a goofy but slightly scary movie.

The heart of the movie is Taissa Farmiga who plays Max who misses her mother and is tired of being reminded of the movie. She is the emotional heart of the movie and the obvious protagonist. Her best friend is played by Alia Shawkat who is great at being a sarcastic realist. Alexander Ludwig is great as her nice, reasonable possible love interest. Thomas Middleditch, of course, plays the horror nerd who has a lovable and realistic awkwardness. There is also Nina Dobrev who plays the stereotypical “mean girl” (except she is from the real world). Max’s kind-of mom is played by Malin Akerman and it is fun to watch her slowly break out of her “programming”. Adam Devine plays the stereotypical jerky jock far too well. One of the funniest parts of the movie is Angela Trimbur’s performance as an absolutely zero intelligence hot girl who is just so confused but happy. There is also the awkward but charming Tory Thompson as the token black guy and also the token nerd in the film. One of the best parts of the movie is watching both real and film characters change through their miniature character arcs. The concept of real people interacting with fictional characters and changing the story is a fun one.

Overall, this was a great movie. It was definitely a fun movie to start Halloween with because I always like remembering how fun horror can be. Which is perfect because this is a movie very self-aware of itself and the horror of not only evading a psycho killer but also actually dealing with brainless horror movie characters. The movie is basically what Scream tried to do with the meta storytelling but done better. It is stylish and while it is campy it is also surprisingly clever. There are so many tributes to eighties horror but they went back and made it better by making it something a little different. I came in prepared to laugh and I did but I also got some chills and some touching moments as well. I definitely recommend it.

Green Room (2015)

October 27, 2017

95 minutes – Rated R for gore, racism, violence and extremely tense situations.

Authority is naturally pretty scary. The people who have power over us, even if we are the ones who gave them that power, have an enormous trust placed in them. We attempt to give them that trust but more importantly other people also place trust in them. There is an assumption that if somebody is in charge then they are doing the right thing. When that power is being abused, it can be difficult to convince other people that the abuse is really happening. Societies throughout history have been built on the principle of submission to authority because otherwise there can be chaos and anarchy. This is why people in charge only occasionally get caught for doing terrifying and inhuman things. They only rarely get caught because their victims are largely powerless. When the weight of authority is bearing down on you, nobody can help because they are already carrying their own weight. It happens every day and goes unpunished most of the time.

I love music but I have been to only a handful of concerts and I have been to even fewer clubs. Once I am there, I enjoy myself but it is hard to get out there. Crowds scare me a bit. Being alone in a crowd makes me tense. A person is usually a reasoning, compassionate human being. A crowd, while made up of these human beings, becomes its own animal which can turn crazy in an instant. A panicked crowd, an angry crowd, or even an excited crowd can be a violent force. I worry about being pushed down or trampled or lost and separated from whoever I am with. At sporting and pro-wrestling events, I definitely have been caught up in the crowd and I know how easy it is. You feel lonelier if you do not pick up on the group behavior. So, my experience with the music industry is an experience from a distance. For example, I love punk and heavy metal music but I recognize that these are the shows that can easily get too rowdy for me. I am content to listen to albums, watch music videos, and watch live performances on television. I know it is not the same but I feel more comfortable and less scared.

From the start, I could tell that this movie was shot really well. The lighting is pretty dark and gritty which is befitting a movie in the horror/thriller genres. Even scenes shot in the day seem to have a dark film over everything that gave me a foreboding sense as the movie headed towards the main event. As one would expect from a movie about a band, the sound is excellent. From the first mumbled lines to the cranked up concert speakers, everything is clear as a bell and just sounds super rich. The production values are great as everything looks gritty and real and they did a great job of creating this world just beyond our own. As I stated above, I love punk music but I was never part of the scene and this made me feel like I was right there in that world. I am a huge fan of horror movies like the Nightmare on Elm Street series which is almost in technicolor. It was nice to see another movie grounded in reality that also had production values grounded in reality. There was nowhere to escape to because this felt like the real world. The special effects and prosthetics were almost too real.

There is a lot of great acting in this. First, I have to start off with praise for Patrick Stewart who, for the first time in memory, plays a truly evil character. I have to respect a guy with range like that. This movie was also the last movie starring Anton Yelchin to be released before his death. He leads the protagonists and he is instantly likable. There is also Alia Shawkat (of Arrested Development fame) who does a great job as just another punk musician. Imogen Poots was great as a stranger girl who gets caught in the mix. I also really liked Eric Edelstein as a skinhead minion. He almost seemed reasonable until you remember that he is a skinhead. Yeah, this movie is about a bunch of punks who run afoul of a lot of Nazis. Skinheads are a super violent sub-culture/terrorist group and they make the perfect bad guys. The actors do a great job of making them human but strangely inhuman at the same time. They act perfectly reasonable and argue about stuff that normal people argue about but they are full of such alien hate. It is a story of gray characters getting terrorized by very black characters but there is nuance there.

Overall, I loved this movie. My first thought was that it felt kind of like a Nazi version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but it ended up being so much more. Of course, it has the same culture clash that Massacre has but there is so much more story and humanity to it. This was an intense movie that latched on and did not let go until a minute into the end credits. I definitely felt like I had been on a journey by the end of it. This movie really made me scared as well because of the rising Nazi sentiment in the United States. If the guys from this movie spread, we are screwed.


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