Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’

The Swarm (1978) – Spoiler Review Pt. 2

January 11, 2021

When we left off last Monday, I was talking about loose plot threads and padding.

  1. Patty Duke is Single and Pregnant

Early in the movie, we hear a recording of the soldiers who were attacked on the base and one of them is bragging about his girlfriend who he is about to propose to. He mentions that she is pregnant and working as a waitress. We actually meet her later and visit her throughout the movie as she struggles with grief and then the chaos around her. She is about to get on the doomed evacuation train when her water breaks and she is brought back to the hospital where she has her baby and starts to fall in love with the head doctor there. It is kind of a sweet story that shows the aftermath of a death in the military but it also has zero impact on the movie.

  1. Maybe Eat Something Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda plays an immunologist whose main contribution is to figure out the lethality of the bee’s venom. He tries to develop an anti-venom throughout the movie after they find living bee subjects. Out of nowhere, late in the movie there is a plot where we find out that he is working so hard that he is not eating meals. He is lightly chastised by Caine who tells him he will get him any meal he could want. At that point, Fonda decides to test the anti-venom on himself. In a very long and tense scene, we watch as Fonda suffers the pain of the venom and then injects himself with the experimental anti-venom. He dies when his vital signs go out of control, proving just how deadly the bees are. He does the test on himself because he correctly reasons that human volunteers for trials would be hard to find on short notice. Except, shouldn’t he have eaten a meal before carrying out this test? He injected himself at his most tired and hungry. No wonder he died.

  1. Richard Chamberlain Goes Boom

A brief thing but Chamberlain plays a scientist who is sent to a nuclear power plant to convince them to shut down and join the evacuation of the path to Houston. They hem and haw over it and the bees end up causing the plant’s destruction leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths (which are only related to the viewer on a news ticker). How much padding is in this movie when a nuclear explosion is a footnote?

  1. Lee Grant Action News

We briefly follow a reporter played by Lee Grant who has been assigned to the Flower Festival and ends up in the middle of a bigger story. She has very little impact on the story except as another body out dodging the swarm during the big Maryville attack. She also has a big scene where she interviews Caine but Caine refuses to comment and they move on. Another great waste of time.

  1. That’s a Big Bee

A small point but in two separate scenes we see a victim of the bees (the boy and Ross) hallucinate a giant bee while suffering. It is a very silly element as you see what looks like a bee the size of a Buick hovering in the air grooming itself. A lot of time is spent on these two scenes. I wonder if they would have been less silly if the victims instead hallucinated that the swarm had gotten into the hospital. That would have been terrifying.

Overall

My mother and I really enjoyed this movie even though it was very, very goofy. A lot of the acting was very good or at least better than it had any business being. I also want to note how ruthless this movie was. There are so many scenes where the bees kill a lot of people including little children. There are several times in the movie where it feels like they should have filmed more takes. For example, Caine is a great actor but sometimes when he was shouting he was unintelligible. Ross delivers a scream in one scene which ended up being comically bad (although really good lung strength). The script needed a bunch of revisions to tighten it up and the various plot threads should have been tidied up and made to actually tie together. However, I feel like that would have made the movie less enjoyable. It is a great B-Movie because it was so bonkers and I would not have typed this much if it was a tight, serious science fiction movie.

The Christmas Lottery (2020) – Low Spoiler Review

December 14, 2020

My friend Kay filmed this movie this year so I thought I would drop everything and write a full review. I am going to start writing full spoiler reviews when the spirit moves me so get ready for that.

The Davenport family has drifted apart but when their father wins the lottery, they all come running home to get a cut. The true intention of the parents is to reunite the three sisters before their mother is completely gone.

Our Cast of Characters:

Deirdre Davenport (Asia’h Epperson) stayed behind in Texas to help with her parents’ restaurant and to help out with her mother’s advancing dimentia. She rarely takes time for herself and it is often left to her wife, Belinda (Phylicia Morgan), to take care of Deirdre while she is taking care of others. Deirdre is dedicated to her life of service but resents her sisters for leaving town and not being able to chase her own dreams.

Tammy Davenport (Candiace Dillard) is an aspiring musician who is trying like hell to break into the music business. Her boyfriend, Spyder (Terayle Hill), is a yoga teacher who does not earn much and is kind of a mooch but sweet. The combination means that the two are almost always getting evicted and barely have money for food.

Nicole Davenport (Brave Williams) is a high-powered professional in New York. She has no time for things like Christmas, love, or family. Her life is perfect but she does not realize how empty her life really is. She also just lost her high profile job and needs seed money for a new venture. She also runs into an old high school fling, Tyson (Lorenzo Cromwell), who gives her pause.

Daddy Davenport (Reginald VelJohnson) is a restaurant owner who is proud of his wife and his three daughters. He is a very playful guy who was always the Good Cop when his daughters acted up. He criticizes through comedy and tries (and succeeds) to be everybody’s friend.

Mama Davenport (Kay Megan Washington) is a former music teacher who always dreamed of starting her own school. She had to quit her job when her dimentia started to impact her life. Her dimentia is worse than most of her family suspected. She is still a very cheerful yet firm mother who still remembers being the disciplinarian. She does not want her family to know how bad things are.

So How Was It?

The movie set up really feels like a traditional cable/Netflix Christmas movie. Three sisters return to be a family again just in time for Christmas. A lot of the movie is devoted to the sniping between the three sisters as they work out their deep-seated issues that they have developed over the years. Bit by bit, you get the pleasure of watching cold hearts melt and walls come tumbling down. There are also three different couples and we get to watch their dynamic as they work through their personal issues. The chemistry between all of the actors is really good and each scene is very charming and easy to watch. Even the arguing is fun.

The movie approaches dimentia in a pretty good way. This is something that I am always worried about when a movie chooses to portray it. There is dimentia in my family and I have several friends in the same situation. Sometimes it is played for laughs or played too maudlin. Here, it is played as I have experienced it. It is the person fading away slowly and it is sad but you cherish the moments you have as they slip away. People tend to write off people who have dimentia before they are gone and the movie makes a point not to do that.

Overall, I really liked the movie as it really did feel like a family Christmas. You fall back into a familiar rythym but also discovering the differences that have developed over the years. You can’t help but keep that family drama and trauma in your head and heart but you have to push past it or you will be sick with it forever.

Cronos (1993)/Ganja & Hess (1973)/The Lost Boys (1987)

October 31, 2020

Ganja and Hess (1973)

The first thing I noticed was how different a tone this movie has. This is one of the first black horror movies and it shows right away. It is not just a reskinned white horror movie but instead reflects the real culture. The music really works for the movie as well. They use a lot of Christian spiritual songs but the recording sounds like it was made in an empty church. . That means you get all of the cool echoes and imperfections and it sounds so lonely. This is mixed in with what is presented as African music with really surreal reverb added. This reverb is used throughout and it gives a lot of moments a very eerie and otherworldly feeling. The blood is very vivid and almost artistic. They definitely go all in on showing a feeding.

The movie stars Duane Jones (who also starred in Night of the Living Dead) as Hess and he really should have been something bigger. He is such a commanding character here and a calming presence at times. His performance is so real and raw that he instantly commands any scene he is in. Marlene Clark plays Ganja and she is brassy and instantly likable. She is a force of nature from word one. Writer/Director Bill Gunn plays an absolute nutcase who is disturbing in a very subdued and unnerving way. There is also a preacher played by Sam Waymon, not your usual pastor in a horror movie. He is reasonable and empathetic and so charismatic.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It certainly has some production flaws but it leans into those flaws and makes them into strengths. The story feels different from other vampire stories that I have seen though some familiar elements are there.

The Lost Boys (1987)

The first thing I noticed was the interesting setting and character design of the movie. I guess it is supposed to be a tourist town in the mid-Eighties with a mashup of Goth, Punk, and New Wave styles with a little seaside mixed in. It makes it feel like the movie is taking place in a post-apocalyptic future. I really liked the special effects of the movie. The practical special effects are really fun and often really destructive. Of course, it is the Eighties so there is a metric ton of dry ice. The blood effects are really well done (apparently they put glitter in the blood). I always love seeing different takes on vampiric powers. This movie had some interesting takes on what a vampire is and I loved it. It is somewhat similar to Fright Night but also had some curveballs in there. The soundtrack is strong in this movie with a lot of great rock songs.

The cast is huge for the Eighties, some who went on to big careers and some who seemed to disappear with the turning of the decade. The movie stars Corey Haim and Jason Patric as two kids whose family just moved into town. They run afoul of a strange vampire biker gang headed up by Keifer Sutherland and including Alex Winter, Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth. Jami Gertz plays the loan major female character, caught up with the gang. Haim is aided by two strange brothers played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Sutherland is definitely a stand out as he plays a mix of a smirking hooligan and a cult leader. Haim is a plucky hero who is kind of funny and definitely likable. Feldman is totally weird and I immediately loved his character. Patric plays his character as too cool but I loved his vulnerability.

Overall, I really liked this movie for being a goofball horror movie. The cast is fantastic for what this movie needed to be. It was not very scary at all but it had a lot of great horror elements and a killer aesthetic. I recommend it.

Cronos (1993)

The first thing I noticed was the great visuals of Guillermo del Toro. He is a master at creating spooky and otherworldly imagery, sometimes when something is supposed to be mundane. The movie has a lot to do with clockwork. Clockwork and machinery combined with biology can be very creepy. Here it is very creepy and involves a lot of medical-related horror and bloodshed. The gore is very believable and particularly nasty-looking although it is not plentiful. There are also insects, a trademark of Del Toro’s work. The clockwork and the insects are definitely displayed similarly creating a very creepy bit of imagery. It is hard to explain and you just have to see it for yourself. Every shot is framed so well and paints an absolute picture. It creates its own mythology and style and is nothing like most vampire movies.


The movie stars Federico Luppi, an old kindly man who stumbles onto something crazy and frightening and does not know how to handle it. He is so good at playing a deeply disturbed human being, a man suffering a breakdown. There is also the awesome and charismatic Ron Perlman in this who would go on to partner with Del Toro many times. He has such a brash arrogance to him but he is impossible not to like somehow. The villain is played by Claudio Brook and he is great at being a wealthy, unfeeling man. Tamara Shanath plays the granddaughter of Luppi who is precocious and says so much without words.


Overall, I really loved this film. It felt less like a horror movie than a dark fantasy movie. It definitely had its scary and creepy moments, though. You can see Del Toro’s fingerprints all over this movie with motifs and imagery he would go on to use in other movies. This was the first full film that Del Toro made and is part of a loose trilogy of Spanish language movies he made. I definitely recommend this movie.

You Should Have Left (2020)

October 30, 2020

The scariest thing about the trailer and what I know about the movie going into it is the age gap between Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried. Bacon’s character is supposed to be 61-years-old and Seyfried’s character is supposed to be 34-years-old. That’s a titanic age gap of 27 years, almost three decades. An age gap between romantic partners was a huge thing for as long as I have lived and, most likely, long before. However, people are starting to wake up to that maybe not being such a good thing. When people are older, the age gap is not as big of a deal. However, when one side of the relationship is so young, it becomes a much bigger deal. The major thing is the power imbalance. For example, a 60-year-old man is going to have much better finances than a 30-year-old woman. That gives the man quite a bit of power financially over his partner. Not to mention if you are dating somebody your dad’s age, there is power in that as well. In such a relationship, a man can really dominate the woman and make her powerless.

The basic premise of this movie reminds me of several creepypastas from back in the day when the Internet was younger. For those who do not know, creepypasta are scary stories posted on the Internet. The term comes from the slang term “copypasta” which is a block of text copied and pasted over and over on the web but these are scary stories instead. Back then, it was easy to get caught up in these stories and believe that they might be real. One story I remember vividly was very similar to the basic premise of this movie. The story was called The Dionaea House and it was about a mysterious house that preys on human beings, either killing them or hollowing them out and making them into lures to attract more people to the house. The house does not exist in one place and lies in wait like its namesake, the venus flytrap. This story is based on a novella as these sorts of stories have become more and more mainstream these days.

The first thing I noticed is the surreal kind of horror that I definitely expected from the trailers but not quite how I expected. The special effects are interesting. I include stunts in with special effects because there are some really impressive-looking shots in the opening scenes that were anxiety-inducing. The architecture of the house is incredibly interesting. Apparently, it was shot in a sort of modern-day monastery. It definitely shows as it feels like it is devoid of life and warmth and feels labyrinthine. They captured the feel of a big, empty house and it reminded me of my mom’s house with too many electrical switches. Still, they easily made the house feel like another character in the movie. The camera work is great, making a lot of the film feel claustrophobic even in wide-open spaces if that makes sense.

Kevin Bacon is a really good actor and he is great here as an insecure older man with a famous wife. Bacon just gets better as he ages and he plays gruff and discontent really well. However, his character often does not really feel invested in the movie. Amanda Seyfried is an actress that I have loved since Veronica Mars. She is great at being feisty and funny and full of energy, a contrast to Bacon. Avery Tiiu Essex plays their daughter and she is precocious and very good at being the child in distress. There is another role in the movie that I do not want to spoil but it is the creepiest part of the movie. The acting is very good as we get a family acting very much like a family. We also get a lot of the realism of a strained marriage.

Overall, this was an OK movie. It was not very thrilling nor was it extremely thought-provoking. From my own personal history, I really do not like movies about marital strife especially with children involved. There is some good existential horror but I feel like it does not really go anywhere. I do not recommend this movie unless the trailer interested you.

Lord of Illusions (1995)

October 28, 2020

I have been reading and watching things about cults a lot more lately. Cults are absolutely terrifying whether they worship Satan, Cthulhu, or just a single man. For example, the cult of NXIVM was one of psychobabble which caused each member to subvert the self in service to the founder. There was also a cult within a cult called DOS (Dominus Obsequious Sororium or Dominance Over Women) which created literal sex slaves out of women. Scientology has long been described as a cult that worships author L Ron Hubbard and dominated by David Miscavige. Of course, the above cults are dangerous but have not proven to have been directly responsible for deaths. When I was a teenager, I learned about the Heaven’s Gate cult which resulted in mass suicide of all of its members. This is similar to the Jonestown cult which similarly led to mass suicide. Then there are the actively dangerous cults like the Manson Family which gleefully murdered people in California. We tend not to hear about these cults until something bad has happened and then it is often too late.

The best example I can think of that combines stage magic with horror is, of course, Alice Cooper concerts. During his tours he would create a lot of set pieces and stunts that required hiring magicians as consultants. One of those magicians was the recent deceased James Randi, a guy I have looked up to since I was a teen. However, the connection kind of extends past that. Stage magic and horror are eternally entwined through the use of practical effects. Anytime you are presenting something in person or on film that is gruesome and especially if it looks fatal, it is basically stage magic. Haunted houses in particular have to use a lot of tricks similar to stage magic shows in order to provide advanced scares. The art of the illusion is integral to the visuals of horror and making our minds think that horrible things are happening.

The first thing I noticed was the excellent set design. In the first scene we see a twisted junkyard-like setting that really comes alive. The setting at once speaks of dark magic and cults and gangs. There are a lot of set pieces that are absolutely astonishing in their design. The special effects are pretty neat as one would expect in a movie with the word “illusion” in the title. There are some very real looking body horror effects and other digital effects that look very well-done. The movie does a really good job at making magic and horror both special and a part of everyday life. Characters know it exists but it is still something to be very wary of. The costume and character design really make people look otherworldly. There is a lot of gore from the start and it is all very well done. The movie also features a visit to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

The hero of the movie is Scott Bakula who is so good at playing characters who are capable of both light comedy and dark drama. In this, he is a hard-boiled private detective with an eye for the occult. Famke Janssen plays a wealthy woman caught up in a chaotic war that she never wanted but . Kevin O’Connor plays a stage magician and Janssen’s husband who just may be something more. Daniel von Bargen plays the villain, a truly monstrous cult leader and his performance is definitely unhinged. There are plenty of great character actors in the underworld that Bakula delves that definitely make for a fun ensemble cast.

Overall, I really loved this movie as a dark horror/fantasy story. It is basically a film noir story with horror and fantasy elements in it. It is a fun, dark story with an interesting mystery and bloody deaths.

The Golem (2018)

October 26, 2020

The golem is probably the most famous Jewish folktale figure when it comes to monsters and magic. It dates back to the Talmud, the earliest written copy of which was made in 1342 which gives it quite a bit of seniority amongst other monster tales. According to the Talmud, Adam (the first man) was golem before God made him into a human. Golems are animated husks of mud which do not have souls, speech, or free will. Throughout history, the tale of the golems grew and was expanded upon. Jewish mystics claimed that once a golem was formed, it could be given life and animation by inscribing on its forehead a “name of God”. If that inscription was erased, the Golem would cease to be. A few whispers of golems went through history but the first substantial story was The Golem of Chelm. In that account, a Rabbi Eliyahu brought a golem to life to do heavy labor. The most famous account is the Golem of Prague wherein Judah Loew ben Bezalel raised a golem to protect the ghettos of Prague from attacks. There are even stories of that golem rising again to fight Nazis.

It is a tale we have heard often since reflected in different ways. One of the big things about the tale of the golem is hubris. Somebody creates the golem with good intentions but must defeat the golem when it becomes dangerous. Frankenstein is a great secular example of this. In Mary Shelley’s book, the Monster is quite intelligent. However, in film adaptations for decades, the Monster was portrayed as basically a flesh golem. It is a mindless, unstoppable killer. A lot of robot horror and science fiction also follows this formula. The tales of Isaac Asimov talk about how humans created robots and end up being very wary or afraid of them. Unleashing something dangerous that can move around freely but does not have a conscience or restraint is very scary. In a certain way, a real-life example is artificial intelligence which can easily get out of control while just “following orders”.

The first thing I noticed was how good the special effects are. The first look at a golem is really special and they tease it by leaving it in shadow at first. The camera effects are really good from the beginning with my favorite play of light and shadow. They also use camera focus in ways that I was unfamiliar with. There is some gore at first but not a lot as a lot of it we are left to imagine it. Of course, that gore escalates as the movie goes on giving it more and more of an impact as the movie continues. This is a simple little horror movie and does not use many elaborate or flashy special effects. What does appear suits the film perfectly as a slow burn horror movie until it explodes into chaos.

Hani Furstenberg plays the hero of the movie and she is very likable and strong-willed. Her husband is played by Ishai Golan and he is gruff but likable in his way. The town Rabbi is played by Lenny Ravitz and I found his voice is instantly strong and interesting. However, he is also easy to dislike. The movie’s villain is played by Aleksey Tritenko, a sadistic yet relatable Russian enemy to a Jewish people. The titular character is played by Kirill Cernyakov and he does a great job at being a creepy little kid. His absolute silence and stillness are captivating and unnerving. Much of the acting is subdued and there is a lot of acting that is done silently. Furstenberg in particular is really good at saying everything she needs to with just a look.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It felt like a grounded version of a fairytale but also with a tinge of the old Universal horror movies. The drama of the humans drove the drama of the monster and not the other way around. It made for an interesting tale about grief and conflict while also being a good horror movie.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

October 23, 2020

The practice of exorcism by the Catholic church has a long and frightening history. I say frightening not because I believe that they have ever driven out a demon or evil spirit but because of the cult-like behavior and dangerous treatment of the mentally ill. The Church in general is very good at preying on the insecurities of the people it has put under its care. They either believe or have made the populace believe that demons can possess human beings and they are the only people who can help. They pray over the affected person in the same way that a Sheriff or Justice of the Peace carrying out an eviction. The Catholic Church has performed the rites of exorcism since at least 1614 when the first guidelines were published. In recent years, the process has become less used and the Catholic church requires the afflicted to visit a medical professional. Still, it is fun to play pretend in television and movies.

As a rule, supernatural cases are pretty much never tried in Court. If they are tried, the judge who writes the opinion usually has to tiptoe around the existence of the supernatural. Because court cases are used as precedent for later cases, the Court really has to watch what it says in order to not cause an avalanche of crazy cases down the line. I have actually written about two cases on this blog, one which involved a haunted house and one where a guy tried to sue the Devil. The first did not actually adjudicate any ghosts but instead dealt with “haunted” as a descriptor when buying and selling real estate. The second was very tongue and cheek and was dismissed pretty quickly. I keep trying to look for weird court cases involving elements of the supernatural but so far a lot of them just have figurative language relating to the supernatural.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting is. The opening scene is so full of drama and tension with very little dialogue. It shows good acting and direction if a room full of actors can say so much without saying much. Laura Linney plays the defense attorney and she is sharp and interesting from the get-go. The priest is played by Tom Wilkinson who is immediately engaging and likable. The prosecutor is played by Campbell Scott, a straight-shooter who I liked for his intelligence and faith in the system. Jennifer Carpenter plays the titular character and she is so good at playing a sunny teen but also so terrified and terrifying. This movie really speaks to the versatility of Carpenter. Her physical acting is definitely amazing. There are a bunch of other actors used as witnesses that do a great job of filling in the story with their own personalities which makes things feel more real.

The special effects are really good in the movie. They get a lot of mileage out of simple practical effects and chaotic camera angles. Reported signs of possession are often things people might view as mundane coincidences at first. Then things start to get freakier. The movie also gets some use out of digital effects, mostly for jump scare moments. The digital effects are striking but definitely not poorly done in my opinion although they can be a tad over the top in places. The effects made a creepy story a lot scarier than I thought it would be. Part of this was also the score of the movie which has a lot of great string music with long sustained notes that make even non-scary scenes more tense. There are also tricks they use in the mixing of the movie that create an uncomfortable feeling.

Overall, I found the movie to be very interesting and I liked it. It is an adaptation of a real court case in Germany that was dramatized for American audiences. The courtroom scenes were fascinating to watch because the actors were just so good. There were definitely a lot of scary scenes and I was impressed with their take on possession versus what I have seen in other movies.

The Invisible Man (2020)

October 21, 2020

I cannot let this review pass without a reference to the movements recently to out abusers. I refer not only to the Me Too movement but also the more recent Speaking Out movement which involved a lot of entertainers telling their own stories including the world of pro-wrestling. These movements are important because the issue of sexual abuse in or out of a relationship is frightening. As a man, I am unlikely to experience it but what I have seen is that the experience of sexual abuse is very isolating. That isolation can break all semblance of hope and happiness while a person is often forced to smile through it. Many in such a relationship end up living in fear of the other person. Fear of what the other person could do, fear of upsetting them and getting it worse, and fear of the secret getting out and making things even worse. The only way to break that fear is for the public to start believing victims when they speak up.

I remember reading The Invisible Man as a kid during one summer. We did not read many horror, fantasy, or science fiction books in school so I always scoured the summer reading list for what I could find, eventually venturing from those guidelines. It was my summer of reading HG Wells books which is who wrote this particular book. The Invisible Man book was interesting because it felt like it was both Horror and Science Fiction. A scientist tries to perfect an invisibility serum but, of course, problems and chaos ensue. The book warns of how literal anonymity is dangerous because the power comes with too much temptation to go too far. Besides the invisibility there are no other fanciful themes or elements and everybody is forced to react to an invisible man.

The first thing I noticed was the incredible tension, ratcheted up tight from the very beginning. The use of silence really drives home what kind of movie this going to be from the first few seconds. This is a suspenseful horror movie and I’m almost afraid to breathe. Elisabeth Moss is so good at playing the vulnerable victim that I felt for her in the first few shots. You know her story from the look in her eyes. Aldis Hodge is great as Moss’ friend and protector, a charismatic good guy. Her estranged sister is played with stony solidness by Harriet Dyer. There is also a creepy lawyer played my Michael Dorman. Of course, there is the titular character himself played brilliantly by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Shout out also to the brilliant stunt work in the movie.

The special effects are so good. They got really good at using practical effects and digital replacement of stuntmen. Apparently, sometimes there is a stuntman there, sometimes nothing is there, and sometimes it is the actor. The mixing of the styles really puts the viewer in the paranoid headspace of the victim. There is just no way to know when the character is there and when they are not since you cannot trust your eyes. The use of light and darkness in some places (always a favorite of mine) is so good here because they did not have to worry about lighting the villain. The tracking shots are particularly good in this a they make you feel that you are creeping around with the characters, pulling you into the story.

Overall, I really loved this movie. This is how you remake an old story with a new twist. They could not have picked a better Writer/Director than Leigh Whannell who had some experience with invisibility from the Paranormal Activity series. However, he has advanced by leaps and bounds since those days. He was able to apply quite a few of the tricks he learned while making Upgrade and continues to improve as a filmmaker. I recommend this movie so much.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

October 19, 2020

When I saw the synopsis for this movie, my mind leapt back to a fascinating article I read a long time ago (the article came out in 1997 but I think I read it later). The article (linked here) was about how Miami homeless children had constructed their own folklore from the scraps of information they got on the streets. A mix of Christian mythology and pop culture, the folklore was well-circulated among the youngest of the homeless population. Their take on things is that God had fled Heaven due to a demon attack, leaving his angels to combat the demons on their own. The demons had found pathways from Heaven to Earth and the Angels had been forced to follow to keep the battle going. The tale mirrors life on the streets for a homeless child. Everything is dangerous and, since you rarely have a home to retreat to, you are stuck outside when late night violence and crime might happen. It helps explain things around them as they travel through an uncertain and chaotic world.

There are two chief figures in this unique folklore. The first is a demon that prowls the streets that even the Devil himself is afraid of. She goes by two names you may be familiar with. She is Bloody Mary who is also known as La Llorona south of the border. Her eyeless face leaks bloody or black tears. She feeds on the terror of children. She delights in the senseless death of children. If you see her, she has already marked you for death. The other figure is an angel named The Blue Lady who is an ally to children. She has blue skin and lives in the ocean from which she keeps up the struggle against the demons. If you know her secret name, she will protect you and your friends from the bullets of a drive by shooting, demons, and anything under the sun. She gives hope to the children by telling them to “Hold On”. It is things like this that give these kids the spark that keeps them going some nights. It is a fascinating bit of anthropology and I love it.

The first thing I noticed was the grime over everything, even the supposedly clean parts. The movie takes place in Mexico in the crossfire of the drug cartel wars where law enforcement holds little power. The movie follows a group of kids just trying to survive what feels like a Mad Max wasteland. Along the way, they are helped by ghostly horror/fantasy elements in great bits of magical realism. The five children are each played by complete newcomers with no acting training or experience. The leads, Paola Lara and Juan Ramón López definitely do a great job as the leads and older kids who find themselves responsible. The kids draw on fairytale elements and totems to protect themselves in a world that they understand too well. The acting is so good. You can feel the conviction in their voices and see it in their eyes as they believe everything that they say. It keeps them alive.

I absolutely loved the special effects in this movie. Everything is kind of subtle but what we do see looks absolutely magical. There is some really great animation, some puppetry work, and, of course, computer-generated effects. Everything is so unnerving and reminds me of Guillermo Del Toro’s effects in Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak. I loved the stylized design of a lot of it that was definitely unique. The cinematography is really good. They did not go with the usual yellow filter over everything that most movies and television shows use when things are set in Mexico. Everything looks frighteningly real. Every shot is absolutely gorgeous. Shots in darkness are dark but you can still tell exactly what is happening. The sets are absolutely well-scouted and they found (or created) some really unique crumbling architecture.

Overall, I loved the movie. While it was not a straight horror movie, it definitely had enough Horror elements to qualify for this month. The very real horrors of the drug trade are scary enough without throwing ghosts on top of everything. The movie definitely feels like a modern fairytale with all of the darkness of the original fairytales. If you can get access, definitely watch this movie.

The Stuff (1985)

October 16, 2020

Every day products can definitely be scary because you never know where danger might be lurking. Recently, I learned of a horrifying story that still baffles me somewhat. This is the story of Scheele’s Green (also known as Schloss Green) was created in the late 18th century. It was a color pigment that was invented in order to achieve a more vibrant green. It was used in interior house paint, clothing dye, accessories, and even sweets. It was very fashionable among women back in its day and it became the go to green color in so many products. There was a big problem, though. Scheele’s Green was a cupric hydrogen arsenate. Wait, what was that last bit? That’s right. One of the chemicals that made up this new green color was arsenic.

The color was literally killing the people who wore it. When this was discovered, people insisted on still using it because how were they to get rid of the color green? It was so fashionable! Even as it caused people to develop skin lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, and even cancer, people could not let it go. It may even have killed Napoleon because every room in the house he was banished to was painted with the stuff. Eventually, society moved beyond Scheele’s Green but it took over a century. There is much to suggest that people only abandoned the pigment because it had a tendency to turn black when exposed to pollutants in the air. It was replaced by cobalt green that was decidedly less poisonous. That was later replaced by chromium oxide which is finally a safe green color.

The first thing I noticed was the sense of humor to the movie. Characters are immediately presented as horror movie dumb in the best ways. We are pretty quickly introduced to a detective character played by Michael Moriarty, a southern gentleman who is looking into a strange mystery. He definitely drives a lot of the movie with his affable charm. The other main character is a little boy played by Scott Bloom who is very interested in solving the same mystery. There is also Andrea Marcovicci who plays a well-meaning ad executive who is on the inside and worried about how things are going. There is also comedy legend Garrett Morris who plays the owner of a family business at the end of his rope. The character actor performances keep the comedy going while things are also decidedly creepy and off. The movie had me laughing hard even while giving me the jibblies.

I really love the cinematography. The camera is so dynamic throughout the movie, never staying still for long but not annoying with any fast cuts. It makes the movie a little unnerving at every step. There are also some really good tense shots with some melodramatic angles which really look good. The practical effects are really jarring and spooky and this is the third body horror movie this week. The effects on the stuff itself are gross, simple, but very good. Somehow they really made a semi-solid paste look alive and moving. There are some scenes with fluids which are really mind-bending. Parts of the movie also felt like Halloween 3 for obvious reasons and that’s a great thing.

Overall, I really liked his movie. It was goofy fun after watching Color Out of Space but still gave me that familiar horror chill. The characters made me laugh while the effects made me squirm which is a great combination. I recommend this movie for sure.


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