Saturday, June 1, 2019

Review – Annabelle: Creation

Why spend money on productions like this? As it relies entirely on jump scares, all the producers need to do is pick some random past release (preferably the most boring movie they can find) and add bright flashes and loud noises at random intervals. Or maybe don't even bother with a plot at all. If moviemakers need to cater to audiences who crave nothing more than cheap adrenaline rushes, let the fans  stare at a blank screen and have an usher drop by once in awhile and blast an air horn at them. The Conjuring franchise continues its downhill slide from an apex that wasn't much more than a speed bump to begin with. See if desperate

Friday, May 31, 2019

Review – Deadwood

At the outset I should point out that if you aren't a serious fan of the original Deadwood series, this movie may be difficult to follow. On the other hand, if you are a fan then this is the closure you’ve been waiting for. Familiar characters are back, albeit older. Fair warning, though: unlike the series, the story here departs significantly from the historical record. So for plot and character developments, all bets are off. I also would have guessed that one of the town’s devastating fires would have factored in somehow, given all the foreshadowing the show did. Nonetheless, this is a worthy conclusion with all participants in fine form. Worth seeing

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Review – The Nun

This prequel to The Conjuring has all of the purposelessness of the original with few of the scares. A big part of the blame for this movie's failure rests on the decision to set the story in Romania. After umpty-thousand Dracula movies, American audiences expect this part of the world to be the abode of endless creepiness. Deprived of their ability to disrupt normal life in the US, the moments of unspeakable evil seem relentless, murky and unimaginative. And I wish I'd put a counter on the jump scares. They're so frequent that their impact – lessening with each successive booga-booga – fades to total inanity. I ran out of interest way before the director ran out of footage. See if desperate

Review – Tomb Raider

This appears to be the product of a series of super strange choices. The first attempt to bring Lara Croft to the silver screen followed the action-heavy, plot-light look and feel of the game. But in this take the protagonist is far more human, right down to being broke and working a bad job. The platform hopping doesn't even get underway in earnest until halfway through the movie. The result is oddly non-gamey for a production based on a game. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review – The First Purge

I continue to be amazed at how the Purge series develops. It got off to a really lackluster start, but each successive entry has better production values, more clever scripts and more of a point. Which is of course the exact opposite of how most movie franchises progress (or rather regress). This prequel sticks closely to the anti-Trumpist themes of the last one, explaining here how the whole Purge thing got started. To be sure, it's a simple-minded action movie. But it's nice to have escapist fun that targets a problem worth targeting. Mildly amusing

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Review – The Meg

This is the most time, energy and attention I've ever seen devoted to a super-giant shark movie. Usually they're more the province of the SyFy channel. In this one even the explanations are elaborate, building in temperature inversions at the bottom of the ocean to explain how a 60-foot-long predator could exist without ever coming into contact with humans. The movie packs a few scary moments, sadly offset by some unnecessarily sad bits. This is also impressively well tailored to make a seamless transition to Chinese media markets, which I found more interesting than the story itself. See if desperate

Review – The Predator

Here's a space monster for the Trump era: just make the stupid thing bigger and that's bound to make it better. In all fairness, the jumbo-sized Predator is one of the movie's high points. The production is also clearly designed for the age of comment sections, with lots of little in-jokes such as the acknowledgment that the aliens are really more sport hunters than they are actual predators. Though the action sequences are top notch, the "talky" parts of the script often seem a little pointless. Mildly amusing

Friday, May 17, 2019

Review – The Silence

It's pointless at this point to become the thousandth reviewer to observe that this comes across as a knock-off of A Quiet Place, both because this one came out later and because the other one was better. Though this one has its moments, for the most part it does everything wrong that the other one did right. For example, the monsters make their screen appearance too early and spend too much time in the clear light of day. It also spends a big chunk of time pitting the protagonist family against other people, which struck me as a mistake. If you've got good monsters, why bother with a stereotypical religious cult? See if desperate

Friday, April 26, 2019

Review – A Quiet Place

Someone more clever than I pointed out that the same people who did the Bird Box challenge should be encouraged to do something similar with this production, seeing how long they can go without making a sound. The premise – society has been destroyed by alien monsters that hunt entirely by sound – is at least original, and in places it manages some clever moments. The movie also does a good job of slowly revealing the monsters themselves. It was nice to see filmmakers put some thought into their work for a change. Worth seeing

Review – Saturn 3

Return now to the ancient days of 1980, when a brief glimpse of Farah Fawcett's boobs was enough to draw audiences to a thoroughly insipid movie. Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel take turns chewing the scenery in an outer space rework of the Frankenstein story. The monster here is a eight foot tall robot with a super teeny head, depriving it of a considerable amount of scare power. See if desperate

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review – Apostle

Imagine The Wicker Man only way, way dumber. Our hero arrives on a small, isolated British isle trying to solve a mystery, only to find himself thwarted by the strange, cultish islanders. Current horror movie tropes – particularly excessive gore – replace what little charm this production might otherwise have mustered. And gut-wrenching violence makes a poor substitute for more subtle terrors. At least it packs a happy ending, if you feel like horror movies need that sort of thing. See if desperate

Review – The Autopsy of Jane Doe

It's just so hard to make a horror movie set in a single location without making it look like it began life as a stage play. And the theatrical nature of this production does nothing to counter the stiff feeling of the story (pardon the pun). Like many other unexplained horrors, the strange nature of the anonymous woman's corpse loses a lot of its power to scare once it's explained. As a result, Brian Cox's scenery chewing becomes the most frightening element of the show. Olwen Kelly's ability to hold perfectly still and hold her breath for lengthy shots is impressive, but the overall rating is nonetheless dragged down by the violent death of a house cat. Wish I'd skipped it

Friday, March 29, 2019

Review – Interior

A guy is trapped alone in a haunted house, a place far too suburban to pack much of an inherent aura of dread. Mind you, I don't necessarily require a dilapidated mansion next door to a cemetery, but it might have helped to shoot in a spot that looked a little less like it might be the producer's mom's house. The bland setting does help a couple of subtle, spooky shots to work pretty well. But an occasional creepy bit isn't anywhere near enough to sustain a story so dull that it seems to drag well beyond its relatively short running time. See if desperate

Review – Terrifier

The killer clown from All Hallows Eve gets his own movie for some reason. The production relies almost entirely on extreme gore, including a designed-to-stir-controversy scene in which a naked woman is suspended upside down with her legs apart and then split in half. Back in the 1970 and 80s (when I first developed a taste for scary movies and we used to watch clowns for breakfast), that would have been shocking stuff. Now that pre-existing misogyny has been wed to a near-constant sense of over-stimulation, extreme violence that at one time might have shocked now tends only to bemuse. Wish I'd skipped it

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Review – The Purge: Election Year

This time around the usual plot line about ordinary people trying to survive the country's annual 24-hour crime spree is joined by a left-wing candidate whose opponents are trying to take advantage of the chaos to assassinate her. The thinly-veiled anti-Trump moralizing is spread pretty thick (not that I'm necessarily objecting), particularly toward the end. Excessive preaching notwithstanding, the production includes some dislikable villains meeting satisfactorily violent ends. What more can one ask from an entry in the Purge series? Mildly amusing

Review – Boggy Creek Monster

Some of the fine folks of Fouke, Arkansas, are interviewed for this documentary about the bigfoot-esque monster that first gained national attention thanks to The Legend of Boggy Creek. The production involves a lot of wandering around in the woods while locals tell their tales of encounters with the beast. Overall this is neither credulous nor incredulous to be interesting to anyone other than those already fascinated by this corner of the cryptid kingdom. Mildly amusing

Friday, February 22, 2019

Review – First Man

Ryan Gosling brings his dull-eyed emptiness to the lead in this Neil Armstrong biopic. The effects work is meticulous to a fault, re-creating the look and feel of early space flight so realistically that it's nearly as nerve-racking as the real thing. Though the characters' personal lives are beyond maudlin (which doesn't work well with Gosling's typical emotionless stupor), the historical details are fascinating enough to carry the production. Mildly amusing