Movie Review: The EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

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edge of seventeenSTX Entertainment
2016
R

“I don’t wanna take up a ton of your time, but I’m gonna kill myself. I just thought an adult should know.”

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine, who is already at peek awkwardness, when her all-star older brother Darian starts dating her best friend Krista. All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.

To answer your unasked question: yes, I’m feeling okay. I’m fine, really. I understand your concern, because I’m reviewing what’s essentially a coming-of-age teen dramady, and an Oscar nominated film at that. To be fair, I am just as shocked as you are. But, to reiterate, I’m fine. No, really.

There’s a perfectly good reason why I decided to watch The Edge Of Seventheen. Well, two good reasons, actually: Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.

Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the lead of the movie, blew me away with her performance in the True Grit remake in 2010. And she was only 14 then, with that movie being her first. Now, she’s a bit older, with some more experience, which brought a rather nuanced and delightfully complex take to the character of Nadine. Woody Harrelson plays a grizzled teacher that at first seem to be a mere curmudgeon, but then there’s more underneath the crusty outer shell through all this.

It’s the interaction between these two characters that is this movie’s best feature. Watching these two trade some smartly written barbs between each other was fantastic. Harrelson’s reaction to Nadine’s opening suicide threat proclamation is especially dry and hilarious.

Beyond that, though, The Edge Of Seventeen is just another teen dramady where something otherwise benign makes said teen’s world begin to crumble around them, teen does stupid things as reactionary something-something, then teen has epiphany and everything is all sunshine, rainbows and unicorn farts. And puppies. Let’s not forget the puppies. End on an up-tempo indie rock tune for the credits, and you get the idea.

Yeah, had it not been for the the presence of Steinfeld and Harrelson, chances are good I never would have given The Edge Of Seventeen a second thought. And, unfortunately for those of you hoping I would give up my particular taste in movie genres and embrace “good” movies..nope. Whole lotta nope. Sorry, but this did nothing of the sort. It’s a very good movie, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my cinematic poison.

Movie Review: IT FOLLOWS

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movie-review-it-followsRADiUS-TWC
2014
R

“Okay, even though it is following you I can still see it. It is not done with me either. Okay, like I told you, all you can do is pass it on to someone else.”

For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Jay and her friends must now find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind…

It’s funny, really. I skipped out of watching the recent (and by “recent”, I mean within this decade of the 21st Century) teen horror flick It Follows when it was out in the theaters. Mainly because it was a modern teen horror movie, and I have yet to be even somewhat impressed with any of those released in the past fifteen, twenty years or so. I actually find more amusement at the audience reaction in the theater to the sub-par jump scares and cliche’s being watched on the screen than I do with the actual movies. Once in a while, I do find myself amused by the movie, but it’s never in the way intended by the film makers. Maybe it’s because I’m in my fourth decade of existence, but I refuse to believe that teenagers and young adults have mediocre tastes when it comes to horror. I could be wrong, though.

Anyhoo, after It Follows was released, I started reading and watching online reviews stating that the movie was actually good. These were reviewers that were starkly honest about their reviews, who pull no punches but aren’t critical for the sake of being critical. Podcasts from long-time, jaded horror fans like myself. People who, if they said they liked it, I would have to check it out for myself. No guarantee that I would like it in kind, but nine times out of ten I probably would. Mind you, I didn’t have any word from personal friends who may have watched it. Regardless, I decided to wait until it was released on VOD to give it a watch. It was a couple of years, but I finally watched it. And all I have to ask, is…what was the movie everyone else watched? Because clearly it wasn’t the same one I watched.

After getting my hopes up from all the positive reports about It Follows, finally watching the movie was such a let down of such that I hadn’t experienced since watching the 1998 Godzilla movie. Worse, because at least the Godzilla movie had things blowing up and getting demolished to keep most of my attention.

I will give It Follows this: it has, at best, an interesting concept. Not a unique one, mind you; variations of the whole “stalked by a curse” have been done many times before. Even ones where sex is the catalyst of said curse. And that’s not even getting into the ham-fisted symbolism. And make no mistake, it’s so much ham-fisted in this movie, that I’m surprised it doesn’t cut to the director shouting at the camera “This means something! I’M BRILLIANT!”

While there is a nice, slow burn to the movie, and there is a good bit of atmosphere to help with the build-up and feel, there’s just so much missed opportunity here that it’s downright frustrating to sit through watching the mishandled attempts at the horror execution by a cast that clearly were directed to constantly react to everything like they’re watching a two-hour YouTube video of a goldfish swimming around their bowl.

It Follows is a movie that had possibilities, but fell rather short in the execution. I spent a good amount of time checking the time left on the movie, which is usually a bad sign right there. When something did happen, it was rather underwhelming. Mostly, it was a lot of watching “teenagers” running around, looking scared and shocked, one character constantly reading fan fic on her phone shaped like a pocket mirror (which, admittedly, was kind of cool looking), with everyone emoting with a kind of lethargy, and when the final showdown occurs, the only reaction is relief that things are soon to be over so we can get on with the rest of the day.

Overall, I found It Follows to be a mediocre teen horror flick that tries hard, yes, but ultimately fails to deliver anything beyond a “meh” reaction. Maybe I don’t get it, but I certainly didn’t find It Follows to be the “game changer” that is “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and an “instant horror classic” that I’ve seen other reviews proclaim it as. It’s worth a look-see, but I find no reason to dwell on it longer than a mere one-and-done.