Movie Review: A QUIET PLACE

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a quiet placePlatinum Dunes
2018
PG-13

Hey, remember Jim from the American version of The Office? You know, the character who kept pursuing a relationship with the secretary, and instead of being slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit, ended up marrying and having a family with? He was played by John Krasinski, who, as it turns out, also writes, produces and directs other movies and television.

You’re probably rolling your eyes and groaning, “I know, idiot.” Fair enough. I just needed a way to start off this review, and I went with the Pointless Trivia Everyone Already Knew route. You probably also already knew that Krasinski doesn’t like the horror genre. Which I find fascinating, because his recent movie, A Quiet Place, is an amazing horror movie.

So, we’re dropped right into Day 86, and the majority of the Earth’s population has been hunted almost to extinction by extra-terrestrial apex preditors that hunt primarily by their ultra-hightened sense of hearing. If you make the teeniest of sounds, they can zero in on you and take you out in the blink of an eye. We follow a family of five scavenging for supplies in a deserted town, making no sounds, as at this point they’ve figured out some tricks to keep under the sound radar, if you will. That is, until, due to an unfortunate act of affection by the older sister, their youngest son is taken out by one of the creatures on their way back to the farm they live at. Jump forward about a year, and the family is not only surviving, but thriving, as the mother is pregnant and is a short way off from the due date. Pretty ballsy choice, given how infants are not exactly paragons of complete silence. But, they prove themselves to be up for the challenge, devising a sound proof box that the baby can sleep in, to keep from attracting the creatures to their already heavily modified homestead. The daughter is deaf, and is more than a bit on the angsty side, as she’s on the cusp of puberty, and she also blames herself for her brother’s death, as well as believing her father doesn’t love her because of that, only caring for her out of obligation. Nothing could be further from the truth, but because of all the silence needed, it’s hard for the father to really express his love for his daughter, outside of trying to build better hearing aid devices to try to help her hear. Everything comes to a head one afternoon when the father takes their middle oldest son out to teach how to fish, the daughter goes off to the spot where the youngest son died to do some brooding, and the mother goes into labor a couple of weeks early, which is bad enough…but then she steps on a nail getting to the safety of the basement, which is when everything really hits the fan.

And, I’m going to just stop there, and let you go ahead and find out what happens.

It took me a week from the release date to finally catch A Quiet Place, but I’m glad I did so. John Krasinski seems to know what he’s doing, as he’s crafted a tense, taunt and utterly genuine horror movie that’s incredibly effective. The entire cast carried the script wonderfully, having to act without words, building up and fleshing out their characters with hardly any dialogue, and it works. You get drawn into the family, tangibly feel the love and affection they have for each other, especially with the tension between the father and the daughter. The use of the sound — and sometimes the utter lack of it — is incredibly effective with building the tension.

The monsters themselves were wisely kept in the shadows, out of sight, until the very end, letting us piece things together through the movie. When they show up, though…yeah, pants-wetting nightmare fuel.

Overall, A Quiet Place is a very effective, well-made horror movie that will draw you in, and won’t let go until the very final scene, which will leave you wanting to know what happens next. Highly recommended.

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Movie Review: The THING

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thing, theUniversal
1982
R

“I donno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”

Continuing to explore the works of John Carpenter in the 1980s, we come to his remake of The Thing. Well, okay, technically it’s more of a close adaptation of the novella Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell, Jr., while the first film adaptation — 1951’s The Thing From Another World — was a very loose adaptation at best. Haven’t read the book or watched the first film (yet), so that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Anyway, John Carpenter’s The Thing was released in 1982, and was immediately lambasted by critics, causing it to flop hard at the box office. Which, given this was really the complete opposite type of space alien movie than that other one that was released a mere two weeks before The Thing, and yeah; I can understand why this movie wasn’t as popular. Fortunately, because of the burgeoning home video market at the time, The Thing has been reassessed over the years, and gone from cult favorite to certified sci-fi classic.

So, after opening with a UFO crashing into Earth, we arrive in Antarctica, where gun-wielding Norwegians are going after a Malamute in a helicopter. As you do. The dog runs to an American outpost, where the chopper crash-lands, and — because the surviving Norwegian doesn’t speak English — is shot in self-defense by the station commander. A couple of the Americans stationed at the base fly out to the Norwegian base to find out what made them go all cray-cray, only to find their base was burned down, with nothing but frozen corpses and a malformed humanoid of some sort, which they take back to their base. After an autopsy by a mustache-less Wilford Brimley, they discover the unholy abomination they found had normal human organs. Meanwhile, the dog they saved begins to go Franz Kafka, metamorphosing and absorbing the other dogs in the kennel, which leads to the crew flamethrowing the thing. After doing an autopsy on that, as well as going over the data recovered from the Norwegian site, the team determines that, as improbable as it sounds, the UFO seen at the beginning of the movie was found after 100,000 years, unleashing the alien creature that can assimilate any living thing it comes into contact with. Of course, this ups the paranoia quotient, and considering they’re all in a very isolated part of the planet, the possibility of them all coming out of all of this alive is not looking too good. Especially after the creature proves itself very adept at taking each of them out one-by-one.

Back when I first watched The Thing, I didn’t know exactly what to make of it. There was a lot to take in, yes, but since it was the early 90s and I was much younger and not as focused as I am now, I didn’t really pay much attention, my mind distracted more often than not, wondering why my friend was making such a big deal about this movie and wanting me to watch it. Well, I’m glad he made me sit and watch is VHS copy. Over the years, after watching it more times, it grew on me, to where I understood the brilliance that went into making this movie. John Carpenter took the less-is-more approach, ramping up the paranoia and giving the atmosphere a thickness you could cut. When it came to the creature effects, when you realize how they managed to pull this off with just practical effects, you come to understand what went into this. The Thing is a movie that doesn’t go for the happy ending, letting things dangle with a question mark and a bleak aftertaste that, quite frankly, I appreciate.

Overall, yeah…The Thing is another bit of required watching, and another reason why I hold John Carpenter in high esteem, like many others. If you haven’t seen this, or (heaven forbid) have only the 2011 re-quel, you really need to rectify this oversight.

Movie Review: BATMAN FOREVER

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batman foreverWarner Bros.
1995
PG-13

“One man is born a hero, his brother a coward. Babies starve, politicians grow fat. Holy men are martyred, and junkies grow legion. Why? Why, why, why, why, why? Luck! Blind, stupid, simple, doo-dah, clueless luck!”

So, here we are at the third installment of the Burton / Schumacher Batman movies. This, of course, being the one where Schumacher took over the directing duties, while Burton — not wanting to continue on with the franchise — was given Executive Producer credit.

Boy, howdy was there a noticeable tonal shift with Batman Forever. I went with a bunch of friends to see this the weekend it was released in 1995. I remember sitting there, watching the movie play out, thinking ot myself, “There’s a lot of dayglow in this movie.” Mind you, Batman & Robin was two years off at this time. But, Batman Forever seemed less whimsically dark and more…well, campy. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here. Let’s make with the rundown, shall we?

In Gotham City, former district attorney Harvey Dent turned supervillain Two-Face is causing all sorts of shenanigans, narrowly escaping capture by Batman, who starts off the movie with a quick McDonald’s commercial take. Meanwhile, Wayne Enterprises employee Edward Nygma is developing a way to beam television directly into everyone’s brains, which, as it turns out, is considered immoral by big industry, and thus Nygma is promoted to customer. After killing his former supervisor, he takes on the persona of The Riddler, devising a way to take down Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile, at a circus performance, Bruce and his psychiatrist date witness the death of a trapeze family saving everyone from a bomb planted by Two Face, leaving late-20s-looking “teenager” Richard Grayson an orphan. Of course, Bruce Wayne takes in “young” Grayson as his ward, while The Riddler teams up with Two-Face to mass-produce the mind-television thing to learn the secrets of Gotham’s citizenry…and also Batman’s secret identity. Meanwhile, Grayson is being a whiny ponce, and earns his name Dick by managing to break into the Bat-cave and taking the Bat Mobile out for a joyride. After running into the Dayglow and Glowsticks Gang, Dick demands Batman let him find and kill Two-Face, with Batsy not havin’ any of it, especially after stealing the Batmobile so soon after having it detailed and all. But, they have bigger problems, as The Riddler and Two-Face have discovered that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and thus arrive at stately Wayne Manor cause wacky mayhem and blow up the Bat Cave. Thus, Alfred creates the Robin costume, and he and Batman head off to take down the two nefarious ner-do-wells, just in time to sell more Batman action figures.

The best way this movie was described comes from the Honest Trailers on YouTube: “This is definitely the worst Batman movie I’ve seen thirty times.” I have to admit, despite the flaws in the plot and characters, there’s a certain kind of charm to this iteration of the Caped Crusader. You do have to agree that Joel Schumacher managed to do the impossible in making Jim Carrey not the most over-the-top character in this movie. Somehow, Tommy Lee Jones manages to out-mug Carrey. Chris O’Donnell is far too old to be playing the Boy Wonder, making his teen angsty thing rather off-putting. As for Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne / Batman, at the time when I first watched the movie, I thought he made a pretty good one. Now…eh, he’s decent, but that’s merely because there have been more actors having played the part. He’s still better than George Clooney’s portrayal.

Overall, yeah, I still watch Batman Forever once in a while. It holds a kind of campy fun, like with the 1966 Batman movie. However, to misquote a much, much better Batman movie, Batman Forever may not be the Batman movie we wanted, but it definitely the Batman movie we deserved in the 90s.

Movie Review: THEY LIVE

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they liveUniversal
1988
R

“I have came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

One Saturday after noon in the summer of 1992, on the local Fox affiliate station, I happened upon a movie that got my curiosity up. I missed the title itself, but it looked like it was a movie that starred pro wrassler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. I continued watching because I was intrigued by this up to now unknown (to me) movie that had a former WWF star that wasn’t Hulk Hogan in a role. I didn’t know what this movie was, but it got far too interesting for me to stop watching.

Of course, now I know that the televised Saturday afternoon movie I stumbled upon all those years ago was They Live, one of the classic sci-fi movies John Carpenter made during his 1980s output. I’ve since then have watched this multiple times since that fateful afternoon, as it truly is one of the classics of sci-fi cinema.

In They Live, we follow the Unnamed Drifter played by Roddy Piper (he’s credited as “John Nada” in the credits) as he finds some construction work in Los Angeles, and befriends the local shantytown dwellers. In a nearby church, strange transmissions emanates, which result in a raid by the law enforcement destroying the town. The church is empty, but “Nada” finds a hidden box of sunglasses. When putting them on, he notices that things are not quite right; there are subliminal messages that are now all around where he goes, and some of the people look like they’re not from this planet. When he takes the sunglasses off, things are back to normal. Soon, he realizes that what was once considered “normal” was all an elaborate conspiracy by strange creatures to keep humanity at large enslaved to their mediocre existence, while they get rich off of our cultural enslavement. Yep, about as subtle as a brick upside the head, there. Soon, he’s been noticed as being able to see by the alien conspirators, and then the wackiness doth ensue. Boy howdy, does it ever.

They Live is a great sci-fi movie classic, managing to strike a balance between campy and chilling with the added result of causing you to chew on it long after the end credits roll. It does suffer a bit at trying to stick the ending, but the trip there is great. Roddy Piper was a good pick to play the lead, which makes me wonder what kind of career he would have had if he stuck with acting. I mean, outside of the professional wrestling acting and all. The alien effects are rather effective and off-putting, and the concept of being able to see beyond the veil of normal reality and seeing what really is beneath is a concept that has fascinated me for longer than I can remember, really. And I can still remember pretty far back. Overall, They Live is required watching for you science fiction novices out there.

Movie Review: PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4

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paranormal activity 4Paramount Pictures
2012
R

“He does not like you.”
“What? Who? Who does not like me?”
“You’ll find out.”

Fourth movie in the surprise horror series is more of the same, only this time, instead of being another prequel, Paranormal Activity 4 actually is a proper sequel, in that it furthers the story along from the end of Paranormal Activity 2.

Beginning on Halloween night, teenager Alex and her forever friend-zoned bestie Ben are taking Alex’s little brother Wyatt trick or treating, when they notice new neighbors moving in across the street, with a creepy little boy that happens to have a thing about playing in other people’s back yards in the middle of the night. Said creepy boy stays over at Alex’s place while his mother is in the hospital for whatever reason, and then it’s just a matter of time when Alex notices that, not only is Creepy Boy creepier than she thought, but weird, unsettling things are happening in the house. And little Wyatt seems to not be acting like himself, either. And what in the world is going on at that house across the street, there? Since this is a Paranormal Activity movie, if you’re wondering how things are going to end, then you haven’t been paying attention to the previous movies.

If you’ve seen the other three movies, you know exactly what to expect with this story—weird things happen to an unassuming family as told by a bunch of cameras, then frighteningly weirder stuff happens, then everyone either dies or get possessed by the malevolent entity I’m going to start referring to as “Cupcake” from here on out. At this point, though, I think the big innovative “twist” on the finding out of the presence of Cupcake was the motion capture dots that the video game console uses and that can only be picked up by the video camera. Even then, it didn’t really do much for me. Even at the end, when the cult shows up to do its typical thing, I was getting bored and trying to get the movie to get to the end finally by sheer will alone. Really, the only reason to continue watching this series this far is because you have some weird OCD thing that compels you to COMPLETE THE MOVIE WATCHING IN ORDER…like I do.

Movie Review: The CONJURING 2

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conjuring 2Warner Bros. Pictures
2016
R

“There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. The crooked man stepped forth, and rang the crooked bell. And thus his crooked soul spiraled into a crooked Hell. Murdered his crooked family, and laughed a crooked laugh…”

So, here we are, three years removed from James Wan’s fantastic period horror flick The Conjuring, with a direct sequel that finds the paranormal dynamic duo of Ed and Lorraine Warren flying off to jolly ol’ England to investigate a case of a violent haunting of a 14-year-old girl by what can only be described as a creepy old man ghost. Well, there’s more to it than just that. Which is to say, possible spoilers ahead, mates.

It all starts with a bit of a prologue, with the Warrens investigating the infamous Amityville house shortly after the events depicted in the movie (whichever one you want to go with, it doesn’t matter; just not the sequels). There, while astral-projecting, Mrs. Warren encounters a bunch of creepy ghost children and a Marilyn Manson-looking demonic entity that’s really into nun cosplay, plus a few other things that freaks her out quite a bit. About a year later, across the pond in London, a family begins to experience paranormal wackiness after the 14-year-old messes around with a homemade Ouija…er, I mean “spirit board” (in case anyone from the Hasbro corporation is reading this). It starts off whimsically enough–sleepwalking, toys, radios and the television operating by themselves, remote controls teleporting to a worn-out chair in the corner. You know, your typical Saturday afternoon at the Uncle NecRo homestead. Soon, though, it’s clear that an entity named “Bill” is having some malicious fun with them, and using the 14-year-old as his meat puppet in the process. And thus, the Warrens are called in to investigate if it’s a genuine paranormal event, or if it was a hoax. And then the shock rock nun shows up again. Wackiness ensues. Also, a lot of rain, for some reason.

Overall, I would have to say that, if you put aside the whole “based on a real story” and the fact that the veracity of the real Warrens’ is less than credible at best, The Conjuring 2 is another fairly decent ghost story that hits on most of the standard tropes, with a good cast and some decent atmospherics to add to the story. Again, I approached The Conjuring 2 as a fictional movie in and of itself, and I enjoyed it for what that was. Worth a rental.

Movie Review: The MONSTER

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monster, theA24
2016
R

“My mom tells me there’s no such thing as monster. But she is wrong. They are out there, waiting for you. Watching. They are in the dark. Sometimes where you see them. Sometimes where you don’t I know that now.”

The Monster is one of those movies that I had been meaning to watch ever since seeing so many positive reviews on it by the various online horror critics I have in my favorites bar, but kept putting it off because…reasons. I can’t really think of a good excuse for having stalled for so long. Fortunately, it hadn’t been the years and years it sometimes takes for me to get to watching something to watch The Monster. Mostly because it was available on the Amazon Prime for streaming.

Which reminds me: I need to finally get around to watching Carrie. Anyway…

The Monster tells of a mother and a daughter who are going on a road trip to drop the daughter off at her father’s home. It’s rather evident that neither one is very fond of each other, as the mother has been neglectful and abusive due to alcoholism; and the young daughter is tired of putting up with her mother’s crap. After getting a late start, and what seems like hours of awkward and tense silence, they hit a wolf in a dark, lonely stretch of highway, causing the car to swerve into the nearby woods and cause some damage. After calling for some help (which is probably the first time watching a horror movie where they didn’t drop the No Cell Service trope, good for them), it becomes rather apparent that there’s something in the woods that is much more scarier than wolves, and soon they find themselves in a fight to survive the night.

The Monster, I would say is something of a tense horror thriller that happens to feature a monster. So, the title isn’t some artsy metaphor where “the monster was us all along” or something like that. There is a monster, yes, and much of the second half of the movie is about the survival from the attacks of said monster; but much of the tension is derived from the dysfunctional relationship between the mother and the daughter. As the story unfolds, there are bits of flashbacks to memories of the dysfunction, giving a bit more insight to the kind of relationship they have, which lends wight to when the mother finally comes around to being an actual mother to protect her daughter as they’re stalked by this hellbeast. I have to give massive shout-outs to the actors who portrayed the mother and the daughter, as they portrayed the dysfunctional relationship side rather realistically, especially Ella Ballentine, who portrayed the 10-year-old daughter. The kid has some serious acting chops, there.

Overall, The Monster was a very tense and compelling horror movie…and that was before the titular monster shows up. I get the feeling that, had they decided to not have an actual monster show up, this could have worked fantastically just as that. But, when it does become your standard survival horror, the effects were pretty good, but I can’t say I’m too impressed with the final demise of the beast. You would think they would have figured that out long before, save them some time or something. But, regardless, I would recommend checking out The Monster some night, preferably during a dark and stormy night.

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