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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Monster 03:54 PM -- Thu October 12, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Monster (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.”
IMDB Rating: 5.4/10
Metacritic Rating: 69/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% critics, 39% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Solee: The Monster. Was this film what you expected from the title?

Mikey: Well, I had found it based on synopsis, so it was what I expected based on that, other than that I really did not expect the intense and thorough character development. I figured they’d just be in the woods and get eaten. What were you expecting?

Solee: I didn’t look at the synopsis or anything, so I was basing my expectations solely on the title. I was expecting something cheesy and 70s-ish, I think. I was certainly not expecting a movie that had so much depth.

Mikey: I know, right?? I kept saying to myself “well, there’s your monster right there” over and over before they ever got to the woods.

Solee: I’ve been pretty regularly taking three pages of notes for these movie reviews. The Monster filled four pages and leaked onto a fifth! One thing I particularly liked was how well they portrayed the anxiety of the mother and the daughter. It all felt very realistic and authentic, as opposed to scripted. And much of it was in the actions--big ones like the mother not getting up until 4pm, and little ones like the knuckle cracking. The tension between two people who love each other, but have lots of baggage was obvious.

Mikey: I’ll just have to say right out that I got teary-eyed by the end, and all the acting was amazing, and the authenticity you mentioned - the stuff that happened didn’t require them to make idiotic choices (they did all relatively smart stuff), and the events happened in a believable organic way. We knew the ambulance and tow truck were coming, it made sense. Plus bonus points for having cell phones available and working without ruining any of the danger.

Solee: This story was tightly plotted, for sure. Everything knit together perfectly. And like you mentioned earlier, there was a constant underlying question: is THIS the monster? The tow-truck guy showed up and started doing his thing and I could not decide if he could be trusted. I felt the same anxiety I would have felt in the woods on a dark, stormy night with my well-being in the hands of a stranger.

Mikey: Tension all over the place! Probably the most engrossing movie we have seen this month. It’s hard to quite place that because I think IT is a better movie, but this is so much more intense and powerful. It was a character study more than anything else.

Solee: Yes. It reminded me intensely of Cast Away as it slowly revealed more and more about the character and their relationship. I am not sure I agree that IT was a better movie. I think they were comparable, and if The Monster had actually followed Cast Away into the world of movies that work on both a literal and metaphorical level, it would blow IT out of the water.

Mikey: And it is on the literal level where this doesn’t impress as much. The monster (a giant bat, I declare, although much toothier) is shown far too much, ruining the imagination factor, and I think just on a monster-attack-scenario level, this isn’t anything special. There’s nothing I really have to complain about there, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that that is where it doesn’t go above and beyond. You’re right: if the monster had tied into the story of their relationship in some smart-person way, it would’ve really been amazing.

Solee: There are obvious connections between the monster and the alcoholic, neglectful mother that could have been utilized more. However, I thought Zoe Kazan did an amazing job of embodying this character at the various points in her arc. By the end, I believed that this woman had found the inner strength to sacrifice herself for her daughter, something she clearly wasn’t able to do prior to that day.

Mikey: I feel like that’s more of the story we were told: nothing deeply metaphorical, just this messed-up relationship being forged in the fire of extreme adversity to be repaired (too late). Which is worthwhile.

Solee: It was a powerful tragedy. I am heartbroken for that little girl--an emotion the director left me in intentionally, btw--because she had to sacrifice what she always wanted to get what she always wanted.

Mikey: Yep, catch-22! I just had an interesting thought: this experience was obviously very impactful to her life, but in the end, I don’t think the daughter actually grew from it. I think she was already grown. Her mother grew a lot in handling this crisis, and her growth ultimately was the end of her. But it really just served to emphasize how much the daughter already took care of herself (and her mother), and was just plain capable of handling all this to begin with. In fact, it’s a bit like Split. Her suffering made her worthy.

Solee: Nice. Yes. I agree with that. It was clear from the very first scene that Lizzie was able to take care of the both of them. Her one weakness was a fear of monsters (which, given the plethora of human monsters in her life, I think is very reasonable) and by the end of the movie, she’s clearly conquered that fear. I am heartbroken and worried for her … but it’s probably not necessary. She’s one of those rare people who gets stronger in the wake of trauma.

Mikey: Speaking of monsters, I’m tired of people saying “there are no such things as monsters”. That’s stupid. There are monsters everywhere - if an alligator or a great white shark isn’t a monster, then the word monster has no meaning. Yes, there are no fuzzy blue one-eyed creatures in the closet, but there are certainly monsters (hopefully not in the closet). This movie could’ve been almost identical if the “monster” was a rabid bear (I thought for a while it was…).

Solee: I would have liked it better for that. I cannot remember a time when I was afraid of imaginary monsters. But when the “big bad” is a real life animal or a person or a disease … that’s the stuff of nightmares. Those things can really get you. Even if you do all the right things, like Lizzie and her mom did after the blow-out.

Mikey: One thing she did wrong is making her toy dog start singing its song… which had me so confused. What is the trigger for the song, and how is it so incredibly sensitive and random? And why does it play two different songs, always in the same order?

Solee: Kids toys are confusing. Do you mean the first time, in their car? Or the second time, in the ambulance?

Mikey: I know she used it on purpose in the ambulance! I actually made a note much earlier on that that dog would be used as a distraction later.

Solee: Clever, subtle foreshadowing is my favorite. I actually didn’t have a problem with the first singing. Those toys usually have a button in the paw or belly that triggers it. She could have easily bumped it or even done it out of habit. It was the thing she used to soothe herself when she was afraid of monsters.

Mikey: Oh, which reminds me of the HUGE JUMP SCARE right after that. That sure worked. And I really like how it made a complete mockery of the safety of staying in the car, which I was assuming would be just fine (I put in my notes that I would just sleep in the car until morning and be fine).

Solee: That was one of two major jumps for me. (The second was when she was kneeling next to the monster’s corpse … and I KNEW that one was coming.) I wasn’t expecting this one at all. I think that destruction of the illusion of safety was done very intentionally and again, it allowed me to be right there in the moment. This was honestly the highest caliber writing I’ve seen all month. Just SO GOOD. Change of topic: what about the monster? What did you think of the monster suit?

Mikey: Oh right, that’s another big win for this movie: a 100% practical monster. CGI would’ve looked like crap as it always does, and this was just a dude in a suit. Executed really well, there was only one scene where it felt like a suit (he was sitting hunched over, in far too much light, and I was like “oh yeah, there are his human legs, not at all the proportion this creature should have”). Although I saw on IMDB that when he is burning you can see the actor’s hand out of the suit. Poor guy.

Solee: I see what you’re saying and I definitely agree about the no-CGI being a good choice. AND I thought that was a dumb monster. I did not like the fact that I could picture the guy inside the suit. I actually used the phrase “dude in a rubber suit” in my notes. Like you said earlier, it would have been better if he stuck to the shadows. But I always think that’s true. The monsters they show are never as good as the monsters I picture in my head.

Mikey: That would’ve completely solved all dude-in-a-suit problems. They even had the plot point of the monster fearing light, so keep it in the dark! I always think of the alien in Alien. If you see it in full light, it’s just a guy with a goofy head and a tail, but they kept it always in the dark and only partly exposed to where it just became this confusing tangle of very alien limbs, and you had no idea what it really looked like. Absolute horror movie rule: never show the monster. I would amend that to “until the very end” which a lot of movies do, but don’t do that either. Just keep it hidden! Burn it up and let us see its charred corpse, that’s fine.

Solee: This was the … third? … monster who was repelled by a lack of fear this month. Has that always been a thing? Or is that a more modern trope?

Mikey: Even though it’s not a bear, I consider this monster just an animal. I don’t think it was anything so mystical. The flashlight was a big problem as it was adapted for night vision only, and that is what kept it at bay usually. Then when she’s face to face with it and acting tough, I can see it just being confused. That is not how prey acts.

Solee: Valid point. There were two moments where the “prey” stood it’s ground and the monster backed off. I can see the natural cause and effect there. I find it interesting that there are so many movies where being brave is the key. Humans are very invested in the concept of overcoming fear. I suppose there are anthropological reasons for that. We have progressed as a species because we are capable of reasoning our way past our primal fears.

Mikey: I think it’s sort of how classic stories have developed through the years - this is a trait we see as good, let’s make it the effective strategy in our story to encourage people to do it. Stories about wise, brave, clever, kind people to encourage humans to be those things.

Solee: Absolutely. Unfortunately, our cultural belief that fear and weakness are BAD THINGS TO BE HIDDEN has gone a long way toward hobbling our emotional evolution. But that’s a very long discussion and I can see that it’s time for ratings.

Mikey: You made me go first last time. RATE IT!

Solee: This one gets an unqualified 5 from me. If it had fully committed to the metaphorical layer that was so ALMOST there, I’d give it a 5+! I liked this movie on a deep, emotional level. The writing was phenomenal, the kind of writing I wish I could do. And the basics of the craft were commendable. A movie I definitely recommend. You?

Mikey: On a metaphorical level, I like how you qualified your unqualified 5. Me, I don’t think I will ever watch this movie again, and it’s not going to stick with me the way something that messes with your head like Triangle did, so that I always think about it and want to go back. But it is an unqualified 5 out of 5, because it is an amazing work of art that I really appreciated. Just a really powerful character study. With a man-bat. (Which reminds me, I kept having thoughts that it WAS a werebat and that Jesse and the mom would be coming back as werebats too).

Solee: As if there’s such a thing as “just” a really powerful character study! ;) We’ll have to look for The Monster 2: The Werebats for next year. Tonight, we watch Netherbeast Incorporated.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Stonehearst Asylum 04:18 PM -- Wed October 11, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“An Oxford graduate takes up a job in a mental asylum, only to discover that the "revolutionary" new treatments are inhumane and that there is more going on than meets the eye.”
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Metacritic Rating: 52/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 53% critics, 49% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 4/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: Okay, looks like we have a Solee pick, and we start with our usual question: why Stonehearst Asylum?

Solee: I was flipping through the scary movies you’ve saved into our Netflix movie queue (thank goodness for Netflix profiles!) and the cast of this one caught my eye. Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale … all names I recognize and respect as actors. I figured with such a classy cast, it must be good. And after some of the movies we’ve seen recently, I was ready for good.

Mikey: Our second Kate Beckinsale of the month (The Disappointments Room), and we haven’t even tried an Underworld movie, which is where I always think of her from. Not so classy, that. And for that matter, this movie: not so horror. Right?

Solee: You and I have a different threshold for horror. Or rather, I don’t really care for horror so much as I do thrillers and mysteries. This had everything I like in a creepy movie - psychology, twists, murder, true love, etc.

Mikey: True love… more like obsession and lust. That was one of my issues (until the twist explained it): that he saw this woman for 2 seconds and decided she was the best thing ever. Um, that’s her looks you like. But anyway, I think this plot could’ve been horror, but there would be different directorial choices in making it. Darker, more mysterious, more shocking. I call this drama/thriller.

Solee: I agree. About the romance and the categorization. I particularly liked all the quotable lines in this film. “Death cannot be prevented … it’s a foolish physician who tries.” “We’re all mad, Dr. Newgate. Some are simply not mad enough to admit it.” Kingsley is easy to listen to.

Mikey: Yeah, he had a lot of clever soundbites about how to treat his patients well. I liked the twist that his treatment was actually better than the real doctor’s. But it was all so easy, that I feel like there’s a message there about how the quotable simple cures aren’t real. Not that Dr. Salt was doing the right thing (it was the 1800’s after all), but that feel-good claptrap might seem nice for a little while before it all falls apart.

Solee: OOH. I’m feeling almost as triggered as Dr. Lamb was at the use of the word “madness”! Just kidding, but my big take-away from this movie was almost exactly the opposite of that. I found much of what was happening at the asylum to be a good analogy for teaching these days. There is the way you’re trained to do it … and then there’s the way that treats students like human beings. And all my life I’ve dealt with the fact that those who can’t think outside the box think the ones who can are crazy for being willing to do so.

Mikey: Well, I think this movie seemed to start out with a simple idea: the “treat people like people” philosophy was just plainly better than the “drug them into oblivion” method. But as it went along, we saw the flaws. It all started to collapse, because these people weren’t normal, they needed special care, not to just be treated like anybody else. So what I saw there was kind of a plea for modern psychology - yes, throw away the barbarism and treat people with respect, but just going all the way to freedom and normalcy doesn’t cut it. Which is nuanced. I wrote one note that this movie seemed like psychiatry vs. psychology, though I think that’s much more simplified.

Solee: I think the same idea applies to most fields of study. Use new, proven methods, but don’t forget that we are always dealing with human beings. For some reason humans have a hard time with that concept.

Mikey: OH! I thought multiple times during this movie, and again during this discussion, of a podcast I heard recently. They were talking about a guy who has made it his mission in life to get all nursing homes shut down. To remove the very concept of a nursing home (he has some fancier model with more respect for the patient he’s working on). They talked about all kinds of statistics of how people die so much quicker when they go into a nursing home, and lose their faculties quickly and all that, and it all has to do with the way that nursing homes are so built around regular routine. The people have no new stimulation in their lives, everything is carefully built to prevent anything surprising and new, which just breaks you down. And I definitely saw that here. People languishing under solitary sedation, allowed to flourish with social interaction.

Solee: That makes a lot of sense to me. We are a society built around factory culture and it’s clearly unhealthy for our mental state. Did you notice how the movie suggested that electroshock therapy was invented by Dr. Lamb in order to punish Dr. Salt?

Mikey: Yeah, I wondered if he really invented it, or more likely it was one of Dr. Salt’s tools that he was claiming.

Solee: Oh, that makes more sense.

Mikey: Well, he was a doctor too, so who knows! Medicine was the wild west back then, I imagine. Everybody inventing their own snake oil. I felt like there was a bit of a cop-out with that: they wiped Dr. Salt’s brain so that when the staff was rescued, the conflict was over. If Dr. Salt had been healthy, he would’ve re-taken charge… and would that be good? Much more complex.

Solee: NO. That would NOT have been good. What was good was they put the former head nurse in charge. She seemed to represent the balance between humanity and science.

Mikey: I think so… but Dr. Salt represented the actual rules of modern medicine at the time. Possibly. It’s also possible he got away with horrible things by being out in a remote area alone.

Solee: I think it’s a little of both. I suspect those kinds of places were located out in remote areas partly because their methods were “shocking”. It was much easier for “polite society” to push their “disappointments” out to the edges of civilization and let folks like Dr. Salt to what they will.

Mikey: I think it was interesting that in our Disappointments Room review, you mentioned how asylums were the more modern version of disappointments rooms (was that also mentioned in the movie?). This movie even called them “disappointments to their families”. Kate Beckinsale seems to only do movies about this concept. Based on this sample of two.

Solee: Clearly a scientifically sound study. So there were two big twists in this movie. Did either of them catch you off-guard?

Mikey: Well, I made a note, the very first time Dr. Newgate met Dr. Lamb: “I already suspect the new guy”. I thought Dr. Lamb seemed like the real deal, but Dr. Newgate was fishy. So I was kind of jumping one twist ahead. But I was almost disappointments’d when they revealed the staff was being held captive. I mean, it’s such a huge cliche, the inmates are running the asylum… but I should note that this is based on an 1845 Poe story (“The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether”), so it’s probably the original incarnation.

Solee: I was suspicious of Mickey Finn from the moment he appeared at the front gate. I had figured out that they were the inmates before it was revealed (although maybe not as much before as I should have). I was not expecting the second twist. I’m not sure why not, because it wasn’t really that shocking, but I didn’t get there on my own.

Mikey: I am glad of it, because his unhealthy obsession seemed like stupid Hollywood romance until they revealed he was actually obsessed. Mickey Finn certainly did have a hard time hiding his particular creepiness. But that’s pretty standard for orderlies at an asylum, so I didn’t mind.

On a different note, I want to point out a problem I had: I enjoyed the way Dr. Newgate escaped from Dr. Lamb - it’s fun when somebody is in an inescapable predicament and yet finds a legitimate way out rather than something arbitrary like being rescued. But the effect that the photo had on Dr. Lamb doesn’t make sense to me. He carried this photo with him all the time. Did he carry it without ever looking at it? If he constantly looked at it, as you might imagine, it shouldn’t have had a huge impact on him to see it. If he did in fact never look at it, and had it like some kind of talisman… well, I guess okay, but how likely is it that somebody would go completely catatonic from looking at an image of their trauma? I think I would’ve gone with him having some kind of horrible outburst or something that set up an escape.

Solee: I feel compelled to point out that it was wrapped up and stuffed in the wall. I don’t think it was something he pulled out to stare at. I think it was something he desperately wanted to forget but that he couldn’t actually allow himself to let go of.

Mikey: But it was hidden away for good reason - his chess game against Dr. Salt. There’s no proof he avoided looking at it. And he would’ve had to look at it at one point in his life to put it in there. So I have my doubts. Mostly because I think reactions that extreme are pretty far out of the norm. And certainly Dr. Newgate couldn’t have expected it. Though I guess he was just trying whatever he had.

Solee: I see what you’re saying. It didn’t bother me though. So how would you end up rating this movie?

Mikey: Weeeelll… I do not qualify this as a horror movie, so let’s just throw that right down the body tube. But I did enjoy it. It was very interesting, and twists are always helpful. I was displeased when the twist of the staff being held captive was revealed super early on, but it worked because they twisted more later. It seemed like that could’ve been something that unraveled with time. But anyway, it was fun in the end, and it did not disappointments with the psychological conflicts. I would give it a 4 out of 5. What would you do for this film?

Solee: I just want to say up front that I know how biased this rating is and I don’t care. I completely agree with you that this wasn’t really horror … and I’m still giving it a 5. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I liked the story, I liked the acting, I liked the visuals and soundtrack choices, and I actually feel like watching it was a valuable use of my time. So, it gets a 5.

Mikey: Wha-boooom! Well, I hope we can turn that smile upside-down with our next film, The Monster (2016).

Solee: Sounds … amazing!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Jeepers Creepers 05:22 PM -- Tue October 10, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 45% critics, 48% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched on Hulu.

Solee: You realized as we watched the opening scene of Jeepers Creepers that you had seen it before. There’s obviously something about it that calls to you. Do you know what that thing is?

Mikey: Well, I quickly realized it, but I also quickly after forgot it, because I remembered nothing about the movie. So it didn’t call very loudly to me. Nonetheless, I remember when it came out that people were talking about it, and it was one of those popular horror movies. So I thought we should check it out! Had you heard about it in advance?

Solee: I vaguely remember the title. In 2001, I was not watching many horror films or paying attention to them, as I recall. I had no idea what it was about, although I know the song well enough to suspect eyes were involved. Let’s start by talking about the craft. What did you think of how the movie was put together?

Mikey: At first, it looked surprisingly like a TV movie. There’s something about long slow crossfades and white text with no drop shadows (or something… no outline?) that just screams TV movie. But even though I really didn’t like either of the two main characters, I did feel like this was a big step up from the usual teenagers-getting-slashed movie in terms of acting. It was a little cartoony, but that beats deadpan and unaware of how humans emote.

Solee: Now that you mention it, I didn’t really care much about either of them. But not in a cheering-for-them-to-die way, like in most movies with dumb teens as the protagonists. I feel like this movie did a much better job of portraying a sibling relationship than others we’ve seen recently (I’m looking at you, Altar!) The acting wasn’t hideous … but I did make a note about how I just CAN’T take Justin Long and his stretchy face seriously. He just has a face for comedy (and I mean that as a compliment!).

Mikey: I suppose that’s kind of sad, but true. What was even more cartoony was that bit where the monster jumped up on the roof of a house, and it followed with one of those cartoon sequences where the camera pans down through the house and we hear the bang-pow-smack-MROWR noises as he clunks his way through. That was just not the right choice for horror. But back to the pair in general, they were just rude to everybody who tried to help them!

Solee: Yeah. I’m a skeptic and I often wish horror characters weren’t so easily convinced that they are facing supernatural stuff, but this Tricia was just too skeptical for her own good. I mean, she’d already seen enough crazy stuff with her own peepers to take the psychic lady seriously, if you ask me.

Mikey: Jeepers! The same psychic lady who called them out of the blue, knowing their names and describing things they had seen when alone. She’s either psychic or stalking them, either way just acting like she’s dumb doesn’t make a lot of sense. There was a running theme of them not being concerned enough with the things they saw. Not like some movies where they fail to emote, but they’d stare dumbstruck at something (such as a demon picking up a severed head and licking it) for minutes on end before they decide it’s time to run.

Solee: I had the same problem with the initial scene involving the big tube leading underground (is there a word for that?).

Mikey: That’s a Body Tube.

Solee: DUH. I knew that. I was right on the tip of my tongue. My streeeeetchy, streeeeetchy tongue. Anyway, from where they were standing, it appeared that there was no other way out. And it was obvious you couldn’t climb back up the Body Tube. AND YET. He decides to hang face first into the darkness where they suspect a body has been dumped and which they themselves have indicated smells terrible. That’s just Stupid Movie Decision Making in action.

Mikey: I can’t believe you had a problem with that tongue. You like gummy worms!

Solee: *gag*

Mikey: I agree with you about getting in the tube (but think of what a hero that makes him! Except in other scenes he’s a cringey coward). But I did like the overall path of how the plot begins. It was fun that these two basically stumbled across the monster doing his thing, in the middle of a killing spree. It’s almost like we’re catching a side-story to an existing movie. And it was believable that they’d decide they need to try to help the bodies. They just did such a bad job of being careful and fast about it. Not nearly enough effort put into surviving.

Solee: Yep. And I’m very concerned about that car. Even before the accident, it was obviously the slowest vehicle in the world (not counting the RV they passed). They spent WAY too much time inching past the murder house making eye contact with the scary demon.

Mikey: You should be concerned about that car, it’s clearly near-impossible to drive.

Solee: AND the cigarette lighter is broken!

Mikey: The true horror of the movie! But speaking of driving past his house… I know this is a rural area in the middle of nowhere, but his body-dump church is right on that road which is clearly not *dead dead* (we saw at least 3 cars use it in like half an hour), and he dumps bodies in broad daylight… and he’s never been caught in over 20 years (the urban legend couple was in there from 20 years ago)? Well, I guess he doesn’t operate except for 23 days, once every 23 years though. But still, those bodies have then been sitting in there for 23 years. Questionable, I say. Even for 23 days, I don’t buy it.

Solee: Perhaps there’s an element of bewitching the town, like in IT? Those diners were pretty sedate and unconcerned. The cat lady was a little more lively, although not very helpful.

Mikey: That’s true, he did seem to feed on fear… so a creature who awakens every 23/27 years to feed on the fears of a town for a season. Similarities indeed. A tiny town, which by the way has more cops than all of LA County. More heavily armed, too.

Solee: That police station was a hopping place. Of course, that didn’t help them solve all those missing person cases. Thank goodness for the psychic, cherie.

Mikey: Right, I was bothered by her, because one of the awkward difficult challenges of horror is explaining the backstory to your ghost/demon/monster. In some movies the hero goes to the library and finds old microfiche articles, sometimes they just find it all on google, sometimes an old guy knows the local legend. In this movie they just said, “Ah screw it, the DA from Bones magically knows it all and is compelled to tell our heroes.” Exposition cop-out. They could’ve done better with no explanation and just having the scenes where he eats the guys and regrows his hand/leg. We’d get it.

Solee: Hahaha! Yes. Yes, we would. It wasn’t subtle. Can we go back to the cat lady for a second? She was played by Eileen Brennan, whom we both recognized immediately. She has a very distinctive voice. You said, “Oh, from Clue” as I said, “She was in Babes In Toyland”. I feel like this moment in time sums up our respective pop-cultural backgrounds pretty well.

Mikey: Yeah, Clue was one of the five or six movies we had on a VHS tape recorded off the TV (TVs used to not record themselves magically, and also there were these rectangles of plastic that could record the picture from a TV, called VHS tapes. Look it up) as I was growing up, that we watched again and again. I don’t know why we didn’t just record more movies, but we kinda just watched the ones we had. It was harder in those days since there was no channel that told you what was on all the other channels. We had that IN PAPER FORM.

Solee: That’s funny because Babes in Toyland was the same for us. It was recorded off the TV, with the first few minutes missing, probably because we were trying to find a tape we were willing to record over. You know, because the idea of going out to buy blank tapes never occurred to us. That’s still a movie I have fond memories of. It had Keanu Reeves in it, back when he was super cute and popular.

Mikey: Just like Justin Long! But back to eating body parts, or at least talking about doing so. I just wanted to point out that all the fake body parts in this movie looked really fake. They had some cover for that because apparently the monster had shellacked them (which is weird - his interest in taxidermy was never explained, although I guess he needs hobbies), but they did not look good. Like the gummy tongue.

Solee: They were very department store mannequin, which was weird to me because I thought the demon was well done. The makeup and special effects were decent. That makes me think the mannequin aspect of the bodies was intentional. Very strange choice.

Mikey: Maybe they spent their budget on the demon. Regarding his makeup, I think a huge flaw in this movie is the fact that we see him. A lot, and in great detail in good lighting. That’s such a fundamental rule of horror. It ruins any scare factor he holds. He basically becomes Cardassian #7 from Deep Space Nine. With wings. Who’d he eat to grow wings anyway?

Solee: There WERE a lot of birds in this movie. Maybe when people get scarce…? Although they looked more like bat wings. He had some pretty fancy headgear at the end, too.

Mikey: Yeah, he ate a spider’s legs, but he did it while thinking really hard about his head. That’s the kind of hijinks he gets up to during his 23 year break. I like that this was an original monster rather than some tradition we already knew, that was fun. I just didn’t need Cherie to explain it all to me.

Solee: Before we get to ratings, I want to point out one last thing that annoyed me: Tricia did NOT understand how the demon worked or how human anatomy/genetics works. The demon has her brother and she keeps telling the demon to take her instead. Girl! That demon spent the whole movie sniffing out which of you he wanted! And your claim that you “have everything the same inside” is just ridiculous. I was annoyed by that. I mean, even if they’d been twins (maybe they were?), they obviously weren’t identical twins!

Mikey: Fairly obviously. That entire impassioned speech made for such an anticlimactic ending. I fully expected another scene to the movie - she should’ve followed him to his new lair and had a showdown. The final bit is fine - horror movies don’t have to end happy - but this just didn’t feel like the end at all.

Solee: YES! She said all that and then the next thing we know, she’s given up, slouching in the police station, waiting for her mommy and daddy to pick her up and his face has become a mask. I was seriously surprised to see ending credits. I needed something more.

Mikey: For sure. Also, apparently it wasn’t just his peepers he wanted, it was also the back of his head. That was odd, but I guess they really wanted that final shot of the eye through the hole.

Solee: Yeah. It was an unsettling shot. So what are you going to rate Jeepers Creepers?

Mikey: Well, it definitely is all over the place rating-wise. Good things and bad things abound. It held my interest pretty well, even though most of the time I was scoffing about how dumb one thing or another was. So I’ll go with a 3. Let’s stick it right in the middle. What do you think?

Solee: I’m right there with you. It was obviously done by folks who understand movie making. But there were flaws I can’t ignore. So I’m giving it a 3 as well.

Mikey: Twinsies!!

Solee: Twinsies, indeed! :)

Mikey: I hope you’ve picked out an amazing movie (possibly featuring creepy evil twinsies) for us next.

Solee: For our viewing pleasure tomorrow, I've chosen Stonehearst Asylum!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: My Bloody Valentine 3D 05:27 PM -- Mon October 9, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one that believes he's innocent.”
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 51/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 57% critics, 44% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.

Mikey: I always have to ask: what made you settle on this one?

Solee: It was 10% interest in the murder mystery aspect and 90% excitement at recognizing Dean Winchester as a main character!

Mikey: What I was surprised by was that 2009 is right in the middle of Supernatural. I feel like he could’ve done better.

Solee: I feel like you are right. Jensen Ackles is a better TV actor than movie actor. Or maybe it was the script/director. I dunno. Either way, this movie wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Mikey: No, but it does certainly start right off with a bang - I think there are 22 kills in the first ten minutes of the movie before it settles down and starts telling the actual story.

Solee: I even said aloud, “Oh, they’re just making out in a corner. It’s much too early in the story for them to be dead!” Technically, I was right. Those particular kids weren’t dead, but IMMEDIATELY after I said that, we saw about 10 people get pickaxed through the brain. It was shocking.

Mikey: It’s all the more shocking when the pickaxe can plow right through bone and brain, but do no damage to your eyeball as it simply pops it out of your head, speared like a cocktail weenie. That was one of the moments that helped us realize we were watching a 3D movie (in 2D).

Solee: I was actually very relieved when you figured that out. Some very weird scenes made a lot more sense in that context. I’m kinda sad I didn’t get to see it in 3D.

Mikey: It would’ve been a fun gimmick. Without it, it was just terrible CGI. Which I guess it would’ve been in 3D as well, but the extra dimension would distract us. All of the big gore moments featured some ridiculous CGI that made this movie look, to me, like a TV movie rather than a big budget Hollywood thing (considering it was 2009, not 1999).

Solee: Yeah. It was ridiculous. That being said, this was probably the most grossed out I’ve been so far this month. I think that’s partly because pickax isn’t a weapon I’m used to seeing. And that scene with the shovel!! Blegh.

Mikey: It is certainly well suited to going right through people. A lot of eyes were averted during this movie, but I watched the shovel scene. It was probably the worst CGI of the whole movie, I couldn’t look away. This whole thing was just incredibly brutal… just a lot of non-stop killin’.

Solee: I also wanted to look away from the terrible plotting of this movie. There were a whole lot of things being asserted without ANY supporting evidence. I have never written a murder mystery because I fear ending up with something as convoluted and clumsy as this.

Mikey: I don’t think that would happen. I got very tired of them being sure it was Harry Warden, a man they knew was dead. I mean, maybe if there were some crazy ghosty things happening, you might have one character who’s insisting that, but everybody was so sure. It was not believable. I found myself caught by the whole ‘mystery’ angle though, I kept considering each suspect and having ideas about them. So it did entertain me in that way. Though - no surprise - the end result ruined that. The fact that scenes we had previously seen (and not in a “so, Sheriff, here’s what happened…” flashback) actually didn’t happen the way we saw them just undermines any hope of the movie working. The movie itself was an unreliable narrator, in what felt like a very unfair way, where something like The Usual Suspects is brilliant (because it IS a “so, Sheriff, here’s what happened…” flashback!).

Solee: Yes. It left me feeling like I’d been lied to. I HATE that. Many of my notes are about that. And I’m still not entirely sure how the movie ended. Or how the director/screenwriters THINK it ended. Was this a split personality movie? A haunting? A possession? Sadly, I’m wondering that in a cranky way, not a ooooh-that-was-interesting way.

Mikey: I’m calling it yet another split personality. A very unexplained one. At one point I had a great theory going that I wrote down, that Sheriff Axel and Deputy Martin were working together, and I thought the end would involve somebody running from the miner and ending up right in front of another miner, for that “whoa, how’d he move so fast?” moment. Remember the meaningful glance they shared outside the store? Totally should’ve happened. And it would’ve fit the actual scenes we had seen before that point.

Solee: Once again, we come up with a better plot than the movie makers. We should move to Hollywoodland. I don’t have anything meaningful to add to this conversation. Just a few random, disjointed observations.

Mikey: Well, here is my last comment on the above issue: I am pretty sure that two-killer thing is the twist in Scream, which is what this movie was trying to be (Sheriff Axel even looked like Dewey!). So probably best for them not to do it. And maybe I didn’t invent it as much as remember it. What observations do you have? I have a couple.

Solee: Well … for one thing, I’ve never seen a character who was more comfortable being naked than Irene.

Mikey: YES! The longest full-frontal nude scene in cinematic history!

Solee: I was honestly jealous at how she was able to just handle things in the moment, completely disregarding the fact that she had no clothes. I was NOT, however, jealous of her total inability to aim a gun.

Mikey: That was so weird. I’ve never seen anybody act like that, it was like the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Solee: Indeed. There are a couple of positive notes in my fancy notebook, though. First of all, I think it’s a positive things (in terms of a horror movie) that I made an unintentional, audible gasp each time someone was killed. Secondly, there was a scene in a grocery/convenience store. The characters ran around smashing things and generally creating chaos and I found it very satisfying. I would love to have the opportunity to just smash the hell out of a space at some point. It left me wondering whether it was a very expensive set or a real store that had been willing to let the movie makers wreck havoc.

Mikey: So you like breaking stuff. Me too! I think in general the kills didn’t get to me (one of my notes early on was “the kills have no drama or tension”, which is true, he just ran up to each person and chopped them down and moved on), but one specific scenario, which came up a lot, really gets to me: the pickaxe is stuck in the wall or floor, and somebody’s head is being slowly pushed toward it as they struggle not to get impaled. Now that’s got tension to it!

Solee: You just don’t like seeing impending eye injury! That’s one of your sensitivities!

Mikey: Especially eyes, but any body part is scary for that. Hey, here’s something I will note: that dryer was amazingly hot. The housekeeper who got stuffed in it was COOKED. Also, surprising she fit. And that it could turn with a person’s weight in it.

Solee: Clearly an industrial strength dryer.

Mikey: Well, let’s get down to it. What kind of rating do you give this 3D experience? Without the 3D.

Solee: I think this is a pretty solid 2. It’s not great in many ways, but it’s not sooo bad that it deserves a 1. I’m not sure that I’d recommend it to anyone, but I’m not going to actively tell people to avoid it. What are you going to give it?

Mikey: That sounds pretty good. I remained interested with the mystery (until it betrayed me at the end), and it certainly kept moving. But it was also stupid. Especially after it betrayed me. I will share your 2 rating. Not your finest work, Dean.

Solee: I’m tempted to watch some of my favorite episodes of Supernatural to clear my palate.

Mikey: Well, after your marathon, we will be tuning in to Jeepers Creepers tomorrow to dirty it up again!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors 04:29 PM -- Sun October 8, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A psychiatrist familiar with knife-wielding dream demon Freddy Krueger helps teens at a mental hospital battle the killer who is invading their dreams.”
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% critics, 67% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2.5/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: So last night you made me watch A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. My first question is … what do you have to say for yourself?

Mikey: Okay dude. There are so many reasons why this was a good idea! First of all, this was payback for you feeding me your beloved movie from your youth. Secondly, it actually came to mind back on day 1, when we watched IT. I hope you see the similarities. Thirdly, it’s fun! Fourthly, it is indeed a movie from my youth. I’ve probably seen it three or four times, way back when I was a teenager. The hypodermic needle scene was one I remembered well.

Solee: That was one of the better moments. So let’s talk about this IT comparison you’re making. The bad guy takes on the form of the victim’s fears … sorta. Does the comparison go deeper for you?

Mikey: Not deeper, completely different. That is kinda-sorta true, but isn’t what I thought about. It was about the larger world ignoring the monster, and only this group of kids was preparing to take it on, and they have some special power to defeat him. It’s about the team vs. the monster.

Solee: That’s a totally valid comparison that I didn’t think of at all. Cool. And both groups of “kids” are 80s kids. But totally different. How is that possible?

Mikey: Well this group was beautiful. And bad.

Solee: With a mohawk! They definitely represented the shiny dresses and synth music side of the 80s, whereas the IT kids were the biking until dark and playing unsupervised in sewage runoff side.

Mikey: Don’t let the IT kids fool you - they were just younger and nerdier. When they age a few more years, they’ll be listening to The Cure and wearing Members Only jackets themselves.

Solee: Yeah… I guess you’re right. This is what makes me a Xennial (blegh … just kidding, that’s a stupid term). I was born in the late 70s, but didn’t start getting into pop culture until the 90s. So I completely missed the Boy George, big hair, jewel-toned makeup stuff. That and I was pretty nerdy, relatively speaking.

Mikey: Me too! But while I reject the term Xennial forever and always, my youth was The Goldbergs for sure. I had a Members Only jacket, and it had buttoned epaulets. And I certainly listened to The Cure.

Solee: And YOU STILL listen to 80s pop more than is healthy.

Mikey: That statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. I maintain it is beneficial on many levels.

Solee: Whatever. So, as I rewatched Chain Saw Massacre, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have the same impact as when I watched at a younger age. How did Dream Warriors hold up for you?

Mikey: Well, I’m not great at memory, but I can definitely recall it was a little scary when I originally saw it. I think the puckering track-marks were not as mildly discomforting as they were this time. And the Great Wizard (thankfully not Grand Wizard) was not as stupid. I probably thought it was cool, though I doubt I would acknowledge that.

Solee: Haha! Yeah. Kids are dumb. Speaking of kids … why were movie makers in the 80s so scared of little girls on tricycles?

Mikey: I’m not sure where that comes from, but it is pervasive. I will acknowledge that this movie included quite a few rather creepy images. A lot more effective than I expected. From little things like Freddy’s saran-wrapped head coming out of the Terminator TV (silly overall, but his head was … creepy), to the big nasty moment of the whole movie which was incredibly effective: the marionette scene. Horrifying.

Solee: That was legit uncomfortable for me to watch. I don’t even like thinking about it now. But the rest of the movie felt like sitting through someone telling me about their scary dream. I’m sure it was weird and scary for THEM, but for me … just boring.

Mikey: I liked it more than that, but it definitely had the dream-like quality of “anything can happen, so who cares what happens?” I spent a lot of time thinking about the rules, and why Freddy didn’t just instakill them all at any moment. Seemed like he didn’t have any actual constraints...

Solee: It was pretty silly how their every attempt to fight him was INSTANTLY defeated by the fact that he could make them think they were awake when they were actually asleep. They’d try … think they failed … go their separate ways … and BAM. FREDDY.

Mikey: Yeah, the whole “woke up but it’s still a dream” has never been leveraged more extensively (except maybe in all other Elm Street movies). I have actually had that dream before, but the writers seem to think that’s how all dreams are. Like every time these people fall asleep, they immediately start dreaming of themselves waking up in the same exact spot they fell asleep.

Solee: You’d think at some point they’d clue into that fact. These weren’t the brightest kids. I feel like movies from the 80s in general didn’t age well. Is that because people were so caught up in themselves? This movie that seemed Very Scary at the time it was made is now a movie I’d watch for a good laugh. I’m sure that’s not what the director was going for.

Mikey: It probably wasn’t all that scary for adults. It was definitely a silly concept. I think there are trends. In the 80s there were grungy grindhouse things like the 70s, but the more popular ones were the mass-market almost-family-friendly things like this. Things were beginning to get sanitized for the mass audience, while it was more Wild West in the 70s. Of course, it did feature significant nudity, and a lot of really angry swearing. Didn’t it seem like Freddy really held a lot of unexplored rage towards these kids? I mean he couldn’t hold himself back.

Solee: He was pretty angry. One of the more vengeful monsters, seeing as he’s come back for many movies to seek revenge for his death. And he pretty much succeeded the first time! Guy needs some therapy.

Mikey: That’s the real way to take him down, a therapist falls asleep and counsels him.

Solee: Changing the subject, this was another movie that included teenagers self-harming. It handled it very differently from Split, though. In Dream Warriors, the self-harm was used for shock value (a room full of hanging teenagers, cutting, drug use). It certainly didn’t treat the idea of suffering and self-harm as a badge of honor, either.

Mikey: I forgot the room of hanging people. I don’t remember the context of that. But in the case of drugs and suicide, we actually see both of them being treated (though the wrist-cutting was actually Freddy, but hey, her mom thought she was trying to kill herself, and took care of her and got her help). So kind of good that way, these kids are getting therapy (from a terrible therapist).

Solee: One of my other notes was about how disturbing these therapists were. One of them is a horrible person who clearly doesn’t like kids and the other one is creepily trying to establish a romantic relationship between himself and a much younger intern. Neither of them is someone I’d trust with the mental health of my loved ones. And unfortunately, neither one is completely off-base for what one might find in the system.

Mikey: And the intern herself should’ve been receiving therapy, not giving it. Also, interns don’t get their own offices. But hey, maybe this whole movie is a powerful, scathing indictment of The System, and a desperate plea for change, falling on deaf ears! Or it’s a Freddy movie.

Solee: Sounds like one of my worst nightmares. Wait. Am I awake or asleep right now??

Mikey: Do you see your deadbeat dad floating down from the ceiling in sparklies?

Solee: Sparkly Daddy! That was by far the most ridiculous thing in a movie full of ridiculous things.

Mikey: Yes, on top of the Harryhausen stop-motion skeleton battle, that was ten times worse. But the dad was nothing but ruination to this movie. The thing I couldn’t get over from the get-go was how the scrawny little doctor bullied him into helping him find the bones when he didn’t want to… and then he’s just going along with it all the way, like he’s cool with it.

Solee: It’s the power of creepy, power-imbalanced, inappropriate workplace romance, Michael!

Mikey: It sure is. His behavior was absolute nonsense. Mad props to the writers of this movie all around, for nothing making any sense at any point. One of my big notes was that I actually think this is a really cool and clever movie concept, and I bet it could be remade today (from a new script, obviously), as a really great movie. Everybody with the powers of their dreams and whatnot.

Solee: Could it? Or has that idea already been co-opted and done better by movies like Inception and Dr. Strange?

Mikey: Those feel very different to me. To me, the core of this movie is that this group of people, each with their own issues and powers, get together to fight the evil only they can beat. Basically, it’s what X-Men has done better. I say the remake needs to have serious rules - Freddy can only do X, Y, and Z which is why they don’t all die in the first two seconds, and gradually they all learn what they can do, and in the end it takes a combination of what they can all do to defeat him. Wait, it’s Mystery Men! I love that movie!

Solee: You sure do. That was another one I didn’t really get. I have a feeling we’re going to have very different ratings for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. You go first!

Mikey: You have to master your rage, or your rage will be your master. Not so different actually. This was really dumb, and didn’t have much to redeem it. Like I said, the concept was really cool, but no part of the execution was (except for that incredibly gross marionette scene). So I think this is a solid… 2.5. I’m bringing that up a little because honestly, it is sorta fun all around. I didn’t get bored like you, because I’m always waiting to see what Freddy will do next. How low can you go?

Solee: Not so different after all. I’m giving it a 2. I should probably give it a 1 since I was truly bored with it, but I am giving it a boost for living through the 80s and because I might actually recommend it to someone as a laugh. I can appreciate scary movies that are silly. I just don’t think I was in the right mindset to appreciate this one as that while watching it.

Mikey: Good! The other good news is that our next movie is a Solee pick! What is it going to be?

Solee: Well, I’m very excited to see My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009 remake). But in 2D.

Mikey: Ah, how romantic.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Split 01:49 PM -- Sat October 7, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Split (2017)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.”
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Metacritic Rating: 62/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% critics, 79% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 4.5/5
We paid to watch this on FandangoNow.

Solee: So we watched Split, the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s been a long time since we’ve watched something of his.

Mikey: I know I’ve missed everything since The Village… although we did see Devil (trapped in the elevator with the devil movie), which he just wrote. People are always saying we weren’t missing much.

Solee: I don’t know about you, but that’s been an intentional void on my part. I loved Sixth Sense and Signs so much. Then there was the one with the trees and Mark Wahlberg and I just couldn’t ...

Mikey: Haha, the trees. Outrun the wind!

Solee: YES. It was just too much. Actually, I wasn’t all that enamoured with Unbreakable, either, but I know that many people were.

Mikey: Yes, I loved that! Not as much as the first two, but a very fun superhero movie. Not to jump right to the end of this movie, but the nod to Unbreakable in it kind of indicates to me that this movie is actually also a supervillain origin story. More than kind of, actually.

Solee: Oh, TOTALLY. The fact that he didn’t get caught seals that up with a pretty bow. Anyway, so I was hopeful about this movie--as previously discussed, I love psychological thrillers above all else--but also very cautious. Also, whenever I go into a movie with a “twist” feeling like I already know what the twist is … well, that always leaves me wondering.

Mikey: Was there a twist? What is it you predicted?

Solee: I hadn’t seen much about Split prior to watching it, mostly intentionally because Shyamalan likes his twists and I didn’t want anything spoiled, but I knew there were multiple personalities. I’ve realized that wasn’t really a secret (see movie poster above!), but I didn’t know that going in.

Mikey: Wow, definitely not a twist so much as it is the synopsis of the movie! I do feel like there wasn’t a twist to the movie. I think it suffered for that, and it’s a Shyame that that’s the case when you least expect it. Perhaps that is the twist!

Solee: Yes, I missed the twist. Shyamalan does good twist. The other thing he does well is to take things that seem loosely related and knot them together into vital elements of survival. The terrible things that happened to Casey were terrible AND the thing that allowed her to survive, not only because Beast respected her suffering, but also because of the accumulated knowledge she had. Those other girls who had never suffered had no idea how to survive.

Mikey: On a related note, at first I thought the idea that saying his full name was his kryptonite seemed silly and artificial, but as soon as they did the flashback to show why it worked, it was just perfect.

Solee: Agreed! It was a heartbreaking and horribly real touch.

Mikey: I also liked that it only worked once and then he was over it. He was changing rapidly.

Solee: That’s the kind of kryptonite that’s too easy to use if it always works. Speaking of changing rapidly, I thought James McAvoy did a fantastic job playing the different personalities. It was very clear who he was at any given time without being over the top and silly.

Mikey: And on the flipside, the explanation of the entire process of having the split personalities worked. I like that they actually understood what they were, rather than a whole series of people constantly going “why am I suddenly here? Where have I been?” which is more typical. They used a lot of information they had clearly been taught by their therapist. His therapist...

Solee: They seemed to prefer the plural pronouns. They used “us” and “we” all the time.

Mikey: The funny thing is I used the plural because I was actually thinking of them as a bunch of different characters all working together to hold the girls captive. I sometimes forgot it was just one.

Solee: Wasn’t that kind of the point? They were a bunch of different characters who just happen to share a single body.

Mikey: I’m just saying they did a good job!

Solee: Yes, they did. Well, he (McAvoy, who I assume identifies as a single male) did a good job portraying them. Pronouns are complicated.

Mikey: Zhey certainly are. Do you want to know my twist to the movie?

Solee: Yes! At one point you said, “OH!” like you thought you knew what was going to happen. What were you thinking?

Mikey: I was disappointed this didn’t play out, and I feel like I out-Shyamalaned Shyamalan. But at the same time, it’s quite possible he decided against this twist because it was too obvious, it was the twist you would expect to encounter. But no twist isn’t really better… anyway! About halfway through, at the point where Casey’s flashbacks had included her confrontation with her uncle where he took the gun away from her, and the therapist had told Dennis that she was convinced that The Beast wasn’t another personality of his, and he said he had seen the Beast himself, I was like OH SNAP. You see, it was well established that it was intense trauma that brought on the multiple personalities, he had sought a powerful one to protect him from the trauma. So I decided she had done the same - and The Beast was her alternate personality (which had killed her uncle shortly after that scene, possibly with her bare hands), based on the whole “let’s play animals” issue, and poor Dennis was going to find out you shouldn’t unleash The Beast. But then there’d be some serious coincidence to the initial kidnapping I guess (since he would have had to know who she was - he was taking her, along with two sacrifices to her). But still, it fit so neatly with everything. I was disappointed. She could’ve even been another patient.

Solee: I had a similar thought. I thought that the three girls were actually only one girl and it’s just that she could experience them simultaneously, so we were seeing the situation through her perception. He’d followed her long enough to realize that she was like him and that’s why she was the right “food” for the Beast. The separating of them was “symbolic” and he knew how to do it because of his work with the therapist. But then I realized that the news had reported three girls missing, so that couldn’t be it.

Mikey: That’s super good actually! They would’ve had to change a bit for it, but that is a very interesting twist as well. I just realized that the fact they were in a zoo was actually supposed to be something of a twist - the whole “long mane of hair”, “skin like a rhino”, we were supposed to go “oh I get it” when we saw the zoo. Was not a big twist.

Solee: I kinda did … but in a reveal way, definitely not in a twist way. It was just new information that made things fit together tighter. A twist makes you take everything you know and completely rearrange it.

Mikey: Oh, and twist #2 from me: at the end, when he had her trapped in the cage and was breaking in… instead of going “oh, you suffered too, you’re cool”, I was kind of overwhelmed for a moment by the sheer amount of trauma she had just suffered over this whole experience, and how terrified she must be at that moment, and was like “oh, NOW she’s going to split”... either as a little coda once she’s rescued, or as her way to save herself from him. I kind of can’t believe she didn’t, since that was sorta the whole premise.

Solee: I’m glad she didn’t. Disassociative Identity Disorder (which they never called by name in the movie; it was always D.I.D.) is extremely rare (hence the “will they believe we exist now?” thread running throughout) and having her split too would almost seem like making light of it to me.

Mikey: Well, this is a movie, not reality! It’s gotta feed the core concept. Feed the beast! But you know what I think it did instead, which was a movie thing feeding the beast? It had her as his opposite - she had survived and held strong in herself. Foils. Also I can’t believe that the news report even called it D.I.D. with no explanation, that felt weird.

Solee: Right at this moment I’m a little mad that they brought Bruce Willis in as the “superhero” instead of allowing her to be the Beast’s archnemesis. They didn’t actually go that far, but there was a definite whiff of “oh, thank God, the Hero is here now”.

Mikey: I don’t know, I feel like Bruce was more of an in-joke than any kind of savior, though I suppose that’s the sequel implication: Unbreakable Vs. Beast Showdown Extreme.

Solee: They didn’t even give her the satisfaction of ratting that bastard of an uncle out to the cops on screen.

Mikey: I would’ve liked that, but I do like that she was never some superhero who could actually defeat the Beast. She survived more than won, and that is human.

Solee: Yes. It brings me back to what I thought the theme of the movie was. It felt like an exploration of privilege vs survival. Honestly, while I thought it was well done, I’m unhappy with the underlying message of the movie, which seems to be “you must suffer to be worthy”. This is a concept I’ve struggled with as I attempt to be a Writer. Those two girls who had such privilege (but were clearly smart, kind, strong, etc) were basically thrown away and Casey survived ONLY because the Beast valued her because of the abuse she’d experienced both at the hands of her uncle and from herself. In fact, the fact that the trauma of her sexual abuse pushed her into self-harm was the real reason she was spared. I don’t like the idea that teenagers might be watching this and internalizing the idea of self-harm as a form of protection. At that point, it felt like a story being written by someone who hadn’t yet handled their own trauma in a healthy way.

Mikey: I hadn’t really processed what it meant (on a broader level) that her suffering is what let her be spared. It is strange as a ‘moral’ to the film. I’m not quite sure what to make of it!

Solee: Well, I know that I will be putting a self-harm warning on this review and I am not at all sure I’d recommend it to some of my loved ones who have dealt with self-harm. It didn’t feel empowering enough at the end.

Mikey: I have an idea that the only reason for the self-harm was because they couldn’t have that scene without it - he wouldn’t have been able to see her emotional scars, so they had to physically embody them. And it was done without thinking of the issues you brought up. But I’m still wondering what the theme was, because it is weird. Then again, it’s coming from someone who is known to have made movies about how much his critics have torn him down (The Lady In The Water, from what I’ve read), and has indeed been scorned and ridiculed for years… also a man of color, living in America. So maybe he’s looking for something there. A point to the suffering he’s endured! Maybe that’s getting too deep and personal.

Solee: I’m sure there are deep, personal messages in there. I’m glad he has an outlet for working through his emotional upheaval. I’m just not sure he utilized the proper sensitivity readers for this one. So given all that we’ve talked about, how would you rate Split?

Mikey: Well, now I’m having doubts after thinking about what it all means, but in truth, I don’t think I fully got the meaning. I think there’s more there than I can understand as someone who has never really suffered at all (and the fact that I find that embarrassing to say is something else to discuss… suffering does seem to make you worthy!). So I won’t worry too much about that, and I’ll just say that I give this one a 4.5 for being quite engrossing and enjoyable, even if it didn’t twist the way I wanted it to (twice!).

Solee: I’m going to give it a 4. I have some definite issues with it, but they are issues that spark discussion, which I find useful. The movie was very well done. Oh! I didn’t get to point out how often the characters were looking directly into the camera or moving directly away from the camera. The level of eye-contact from the characters in this movie was unsettling. The acting was phenomenal, and I have to give Shyamalan’s directing props for that. And it was definitely interesting and enjoyable.

Mikey: The level of technical prowess across the board definitely is respectable. It meant we talked about deep stuff instead of laughing about why they were looking for stairs in a drawer. So that’s clearly high marks.

Solee: Indeed. I hope M. Night gets to feel good about this one. Because he has had to handle his fair share of critic abuse. It’s tough when your very first thing blows everyone away. They want everything that follows to meet that same bar of excellence!

Mikey: 'Cause once you got a theory of how the thing works, everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first. But he’s not a robot, and not a monkey, and he will not dance even if the beat is funky.

Solee: EXACTLY. I’ll try to hold no such high standards for whatever comes next.

Mikey: That’s good because we will be enjoying A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors next! I saw it more than once when I was young, and I can’t wait to compare it to IT, which is the whole reason I decided we needed to see it this year. It is… not exactly the Freddy Krueger movie you’re expecting (but I suspect you still need to avoid high standards).

Solee: Perfect.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 09:03 PM -- Fri October 6, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“Two siblings visit their grandfather's grave in Texas along with three of their friends and are attacked by a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.”
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 75/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% critics, 82% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So here we sit, having just finished a movie that you have chosen for us to see. Really now, what do you have to say for yourself?

Solee: Well … I clearly didn’t remember the movie very well. BUT in my defense, I can see why I liked it in the first place. It has some definite shades of House of 1000 Corpses to it. Very surreal, very violent, very bizarre.

Mikey: I suspect due to the linear flow of time, those shades run the other direction, but we’ll get into that! I had never seen this movie before, and you were always so shocked at that, so at long last, you decided I needed to be educated. And indeed, my eyes were opened. I think it’s interesting to note that this movie predates Halloween by 4 years, and Friday The 13th by 6, so it’s not just “one of the originals”, it is the original slasher movie. I think.

Solee: It’s definitely a “must see” among horror films for that reason. I honestly can’t imagine how shocking it must have been when it first came out. It’s pretty shocking still! SHOCKING.

Mikey: Shocking, I say! That gets to my main, overarching thought with this whole thing. You remember that episode of The Office where they had a Halloween party, and asked Gabe to provide a ‘spooky movie’ for them to watch? What he provided was simply a series of disgusting/disturbing images, intercut with hidden camera footage of the actual office workers (when someone said there was no plot, he said something about how “even if it’s horrific, a plot is a little comfort, isn’t it? This is truly disturbing”). That’s the feeling I got from this movie. Every inch of it crawled with unsettling-ness. Everything was meant to disturb you and put you off, and I suspect that’s about all it was meant to do.

Solee: At one point while we were watching, I thought something very similar. There IS a plot to this movie, but it’s so simplistic as to be almost non-existent. It sets up the events--kids are on a road trip to visit some family history--but once the slashing starts the plot disappears. There is zero attempt to explain the bad guys. We have NO idea who they are or why they are there at the end of the movie. These days, even the most slasher of movies tries to throw in some “motivation” or explanation as to why. Do you think that’s the natural evolution of the genre? We explain things now because we’re no longer afraid of the mere existence of boogiemen?

Mikey: One note I had is that this felt like an entirely different genre of movie than the ones I like. It’s not “horror” as we know it, though it’s clearly horrific. It’s more the cinematic equivalent of a walk-through haunted house. Just “look here, isn’t that weird?” “does THIS scare you?” “how about this?” It’s not a movie, really, just a thrill ride. Kind of like Paranormal Activity, actually, the difference being that that movie tries to elicit fear in the jump-scare sense, while Texas Chain Saw Massacre tries to elicit disgust and a deep-seated horror. Almost meta - “I am horrified that I am watching this”. So then yes, I think the genre has evolved, into an actual movie genre, as opposed to just a use of celluloid to shock.

Solee: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I think that that kind of evolution comes from desensitization. We’ve seen so many gross/disturbing things thanks to more pervasive media, fake blood and a girl screaming constantly while running from a chainsaw don’t get our hearts pumping like they used to. Culturally we’ve grown to be more afraid of how easy it is for people to be corrupted/broken through abuse and trauma. Or maybe that’s just me. I always find the real world reasons for horror more scary than anything supernatural.

Mikey: Here’s a thought I am having: when you see a monster in a movie, and it’s gonna get the hero, you can only appreciate that through empathy. You’re not in danger. So all you feel there is empathetic fear. Whereas when you see disgusting things (and unsettling things), that’s happening to you. You are witnessing something gross, and being grossed out (or something wrong). It’s not fear (and you could throw jump-scares in this set - they happen to you too. It’s a way to get fear that actually affects you personally), but it’s direct instead of requiring you to buy into the movie. I think this movie is an attack on the viewer, instead of an attack on the screen victim. All the constant screaming, horrible sound effects, Franklin’s unbelievably grating behavior, etc. Those are all aimed at the viewer, to hurt you. It’s not a pleasant experience.

Solee: SO MANY THINGS TO SAY! First, I agree with you regarding the sounds. They are an actual assault on the viewer. The grossness of the images, though, fall into a different category for me. Because I think any visual input requires some level of empathy. Filth or slime or what-have-you cause us to react because we know what those things feel like in real life. At least that’s how it feels to me. Just the image alone doesn’t upset me … it’s what the image represents, and that seems like empathy in some sense. Finally, you made me think about how much our lizard brain--our deeper, uncontrollable instincts--are involved in the watching of horror movies that rely on “unsettling” us. It’s all about using sounds and visuals that trigger that innate fight or flight response, isn’t it?

Mikey: That is definitely what jump scares are about! I do want to say that this movie isn’t big on “gross-out” scenes like slime and blood. I keep hauling out the word ‘unsettling’ because that feels right. Like when they pick up the hitchhiker, and he’s got all these weird mannerisms and he’s just full of menace without actually threatening them (at first), he’s just so weird, and you’re so concerned about what he might pull out of his bag next. You’re just totally on edge (and all the sounds and visuals play into it). So I guess I just want to point out to our readers that this isn’t one of those big gross-out movies. It’s just cosmically wrong. Though if you don’t like couches made of human skeletons, well...

Solee: One of my notes was about how often the characters facial expressions didn’t fit. Not only the situation, but also what they were saying. That felt like a deeply ingrained fear--as humans, we’re wired to use visual cues to assess safety and truth. When what people say and what they look like or do don’t line up, it’s very upsetting on an unconscious, emotional level. This used that to great effect.

Mikey: Yes, I think upsetting is another good word here. Upsetting and unsettling. My one last thing before I will let that whole discussion die so we can pick apart random bits, is that during the dinner scene, they did a whole bunch of extreme close-ups of the girl’s eye. That was so very Gabe. Deeply unsettling. Showing her whole face would show her fear better, tell the story more clearly, but showing the eye alone made it so much less pleasant for the viewer.

Solee: True. I didn’t think of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. Another emotional trigger they used to good effect was Franklin and his wheelchair. There were five kids on this trip--two couples and Franklin (the little brother, like in The Altar). I liked how they didn’t make a big deal out of his disability. I’m not sure they even mentioned why he used a wheelchair, it was just a part of who he was. Anyway, there were several scenes where Franklin ended up isolated physically because the couples moved faster and more easily through the bushes and house, but also emotionally because the couples ran off in their own directions and he was left to his own devices. That tapped some abandonment issues for viewers, I suspect.

Mikey: That’s actually more diversity than you’re likely to see today! I spent a lot of time concerned about how he was going to function in the movie, but in the end I couldn’t believe how far through the woods he was able to get (in fact, I think I kind of couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t super real).

Solee: Except that this is an house he used to visit when he was a kid and it had clearly been adapted to suit his needs in some aspects. One of the other kids made comment about Franklin getting to the swimming hole in his wheelchair, so perhaps the paths in the woods, while overgrown, were originally planned with his wheelchair in mind?

Mikey: Oh, I took that more like they were just mocking him and saying he had never gone there himself. But it is certainly possible the paths were set up for him. The house didn’t look particularly so, with a whole upstairs that had zero accessibility. Reminds me of one of my notes: I always question why a group of teens is going to stay at whatever random cabin in the woods in every movie, but in this movie most of all. That place was an absolute dump and a half. I know it had family value, but they were acting like this was a fun camp-out. Gross.

Solee: Were they really planning to stay overnight? Or did that only happen because they ran out of gas or whatever? And then a couple of them “disappeared” (read: got chainsawed without the others knowing) and the rest waited until after dark to go looking for them? Now we’re getting into the things that bothered me … but they can all be explained by the fact that plot was completely ignored.

Mikey: Good point, I don’t actually know if that was the plan or not. I found this to be the original “people making stupid choices” movie as well (which fits right in with slasher). Pretty much the wrong choice at every turn. Including the ten or twelve times that girl jumped through glass windows!

Solee: Well, a couple of those times, going through glass was infinitely preferable to the alternative. Wanna hear the Horror Movie Life Lesson I found most glaring in this movie? (Aside from DON’T PICK UP TWEEKED OUT HITCHIKERS!)

Mikey:: I always want to know!

Solee: Life Lesson #183: An open door is not the same as an invitation to enter. Especially when said door is attached to a creepy house in the middle of nowhere and belonging to strangers. Why do people always walk into busted up houses just because the door’s hanging open?? UGH.

Mikey: Yeah, I’m on Leatherface’s side for sure. He just wants to be left alone. It wasn’t even just that the door was open, it was “well, if you’re not going to answer when I yell, I’m gonna come in and find you! I’m entitled to your time, stranger” Real consent problem. These kids were budding telemarketers - I’m super glad they died.

Solee: Seriously. This is why I always call before visiting someone.

Mikey: Well, I have tons more notes and could say things all day about this, which surely makes it High Art, but we gotta stop boring the readers. Would you like to share your rating with us?

Solee: Hmmm. So I didn’t really enjoy watching this movie … but I think that means they did something right. It hasn’t aged well, in terms of being something that is still impressive by today’s standards, but it was obviously groundbreaking at the time it came out. I kind of feel like I need to boost my rating a little out of respect for elderly movies, so I’m going to give it a 4. If I based it on how much I liked it, I’d give it a 3, but I don’t think this movie was trying to be liked. How about you? What’s your rating?

Mikey: Whoa! I should point out also that you are being respectful to the memory of Tobe Hooper, who died just about a month ago. I, on the other hand, will do no such thing. As I said before, this didn’t feel like it even belonged in the genre I enjoy. I wouldn’t argue calling it horror, it’s just not the same horror. I like to learn about what ghosts want and try to placate them. So, in that vein, I will award this grating, noisy, off-putting assault on the senses a 2. I’d give it a 1 for my enjoyment level, but a 2 for really spawning the whole idea of slasher films. And, we haven’t really mentioned this beyond your one comment, but House of 1000 Corpses is very, very heavily inspired by this, and is amazing. So bonus point.

Solee: I just looked back at last year’s reviews and confirmed that you have House of 1000 Corpses a 5 out of 5! So I feel compelled to ask if you know what it is that caused you to react so differently to this one?

Mikey: I think there’s a million ways it is better, but at the core of the difference is one simple thing: Corpses is a winking, fun, madcap homage to this movie. Texas is a dead-serious, self-important lumbering monster of art, intent on jabbing your brainpan with an icepick.

Solee: Well said. That feels about right.

Mikey: To be sure, I think Tobe Hooper accomplished exactly what he wanted with this movie, he did a great job in terms of creating an art piece. But he shouldn’t have wanted to do that to me.

Solee: Haha! Art can be painful. Since his art birthed a whole new genre that eventually led to Corpses, I’m going to forgive him the 45 minutes of incessant screaming.

Mikey: Maybe I’m convincing myself of why this movie has such high critical reviews, but I think my rating is more about whether I recommend others watch this, and I don’t. So I will stand strong.

Solee: Fair enough. So what’s next??

Mikey: I think we’re about to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, by finally letting me pick a movie! I hope this one counts as Horror rather than Thriller. I guess we’ll find out: it’s time to watch Split, so hooray for M. Night Shyamalan!

Solee: Mmmmm … psychology-based horror! My favorite!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Patient Seven 08:54 PM -- Thu October 5, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Patient Seven (2016)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“The film centers on Dr. Marcus, a renowned psychiatrist who has chosen 6 severe mentally ill and dangerous patients from the Spring Valley Mental Hospital to interview as part of research for his new book. As Dr. Marcus interviews each patient, one by one the horrors they’ve committed begin to unfold. However, Dr. Marcus soon learns that there is one patient who ties them all together.”
IMDB Rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 29% audience
Solee: 4.5/5
Mikey: 4/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So you chose this movie (though from a list I made for potential consideration). I always like to know: what made you go with this one?

Solee: I like anything psychological. So when I saw that there was a psychiatrist and a mental hospital AND it was hinted that Dr. Marcus wasn’t as clean-cut as we might believe (I think that was in the Amazon Prime synopsis--something about wondering who really belonged in the hospital) … well, that hit all the right buttons for me.

Mikey: And then it slowly dawned on us after the first couple of patients… a SURPRISE ANTHOLOGY! Nobody expects the Surprise Anthology. This movie was actually a series of seven short films, all by different directors, stitched together with a wrap-around story of interviewing asylum patients.

Solee: I feel like it should be stated here that I LOATHE the idea of movie anthologies and if I had known it was an anthology I wouldn’t have picked it.

Mikey: But I love anthologies!

Solee: I SHOULD love anthologies. I’m all about the short story! But most movie anthologies are so poorly done. It’s not like in a book where you can turn the page, see a new title and adjust your mindset for something new. I find movie anthologies very jarring. Usually.

Mikey: Once we knew it was an anthology though, it was quite clear when a new one was starting. We even got flashy transitions. I was thinking during this movie that what is great about short stories is that, while someone will happily publish something completely rote in long-form (i.e. a zombie movie that is everything you’d expect, no surprises), they’ll routinely reject any short-form that doesn’t have some sort of twist or gimmick (usually). So you get a collection of fun and interesting twists, or at least attempts at them. Short stories are sort of like jokes in that sense - there’s almost always a punchline, which long-form movies/books often do not have. I think in this movie, we got that about half the time.

Solee: Related Aside: I've recently been addicted to the stories from a blog called Little Fears. Each story is VERY short, sometimes more of a long-form pun, and the author wrote a blog post about how people who buy his books get mad that they are filled with "jokes" instead of stories. Except that you are exactly right ... very short fiction is often built around a joke or gimmick of some kind. I think that's what I like about it: the unexpectedness of the endings. And this movie did that very well. Each piece was unique and interesting in some way.

Mikey: What made it hard to tell this was an anthology, besides the fact that they usually announce that in advance, is that the first story ends abruptly and really… there’s like no story to it at all. I’m honestly not sure what it was trying to say. So I left that ‘flashback’ assuming it was just the first piece of a connected larger story.

Solee: Me, too. I wonder if that was done intentionally to keep the “secret” of the anthology or if that was just a poorly chosen first story. It was more of a vignette, giving us a peek into the life of this poor little girl with the hallucinating mother. Also, it would have been more twisty if Dr. Marcus hadn’t told us what happened before it even started!

Mikey: That’s true. And then at the end of it, he said “and then you killed her”, which I found confusing because I can’t imagine a scenario how she could’ve possibly killed her mother from the point where it ended!

Solee: Several of them felt like they had been shoehorned rather roughly into the overall movie. Which is my main problem with anthologies. This one did better than most, in trying to make them all work together, but it was pretty clear to me that the writers/directors of the individual pieces weren’t told or didn’t care about the thread tying them all together.

Mikey: Yes, I got the impression that they put out a call for short films, collected them all, and then said “let’s come up with a way to connect these”. And didn’t do it very well. It would’ve actually been better if they hadn’t tried to make it so ‘connected’. Just make it the doctor reading some case files, and then we fade into the movie of the case file.

Solee: The problem there is that the main character of the piece often wasn’t even the person the doctor was interviewing! I really had a problem with JD’s story because of that. He wasn’t even IN the story really, and there he is in the hospital? The “recurring nightmare drives you crazy” explanation can only be used so often and to minimal success, if you ask me.

Mikey: That was ridiculous. I think it supports my theory - they clearly had no access to ANY of the actors involved in the shorts, so they came up with all these dumb connections to cover it - you were a kid back then, you were the ZOMBIE, you were just a dead body the whole time wrapped in plastic, you aren’t even from New Zealand so you try to fake the accent and sound cockney instead....

Solee: Aaahhhhh… I only just realized that is true! They didn’t have ANY of the same actors! Huh. All that aside, it’s still one of the better anthologies we’ve seen.

Mikey: I will confess to having a lot of fun the whole time. It’s always important to pick favorites and least favorites. So best/worst stories? Not counting the wrap-around which was the worst.

Solee: My favorite was … Sarah’s story: “The Sleeping Plot” (the little New Zealand girl scamming money to buy a shovel). I liked how silly it was while still being creepy. The color choices, the music, the girl’s acting choices … they all worked together to make it feel like sugary Saturday morning breakfast cereal, but with maggots at the bottom of the bowl. What was your favorite?

Mikey: That one was awesome actually. I also really enjoyed “The Body” (Theon Greyjoy as American Psycho), which was really weird, and really funny. It even had a random twist ending for no reason. Though I had a real problem with how nobody noticed that the feet hanging out of his dead body were absolutely undeniably real human feet, two inches from their faces, as they were carrying it. Could’ve just fully wrapped it to prevent that.

Solee: That was just the icing on the cake. I felt SO MUCH SYMPATHY for this poor murderer just trying to do his job, being harassed by all these idiots who were too stupid to even know the difference between real feet and fake feet. It was a workplace comedy like Office Space, only with murder. So what was your least favorite?

Mikey: One stands out as the worst for me pretty easily - the first one (“The Visitant”). It’s just not even a story at all. I get how it sort of has a twist, where we don’t quite know what reality is, but it’s more like one scene out of a much longer movie, and the monster is way way too visible, nothing scary about that.

Solee: Ah, but the special effects for that monster were a-MAZE-ing! I agree it wasn’t a whole story, but I loved the choices the director made in filming it, so I rank it higher than my least favorite: “Undying Love”, the zombie girlfriend. First of all, it was SOOOO slow to get going. I was bored. Secondly, that twist wasn’t all that twisty. I hadn’t figured it out, mostly because I was desperately trying to figure out if I had accidentally chosen an anthology movie at this point, but also because I was just not interested enough to care where it was going. And that is a very played out zombie twist. Shaun of the Dead did it better.

Mikey: Well, obviously! But that one I liked! You only had to sit through a few minutes of setup, and then BAM punchline, over. It hits hard with it because it works hard to make you think the opposite. And it did have a twist, unlike “The Evaded” (my 2nd-least-favorite), which was also a straightforward zombie story, only zero twist at all. Just “here’s the same dilemma we face in every zombie movie”. In other likes, “The Banishing” was good (though the exact twist from an episode of Angel), and “Death Scenes” was good. Almost the same twist. A good ratio of good to bad in here, I did enjoy it overall.

Solee: “The Banishing” and “Death Scenes” were also on the top of my list. I especially liked realizing that the vampire slayer had gotten himself arrested on purpose.

Mikey: Oh, but speaking of how lame it was that they didn’t have access to the actors, that connection was horrible. “You hired somebody to kill vampires for you”... ugh.

Solee: Hahaha! I totally didn’t realize that’s why they did that. I did wonder why the institutionalized guy (who looked plenty capable of killing things) was dedicated enough to stalk the vampires and make sure of their identities, but too dainty to actually kill them himself.

Mikey: Yeah, he looked like a vampire himself. Of course he hired someone who looked even more like one. Good short.

Solee: It had a subtle touch that I liked. The vampire slayer rearranged the pictures into a cross, which gave him the slight advantage he needed in that interrogation room. I liked that detail very much.

Mikey: Yep, I liked it. So, do we need to dive into ratings and wrap this up with a crazy wrap-around story about two people, who look nothing like us, reviewing movies on the internet?

Solee: I refuse to LIVE an anthology! I will rate this anthology though. Hmm … this might be a little high, but I’m going to be generous and give it a 4.5 out of 5. I enjoyed watching these shorts and I appreciate the effort that was put into making it more than just a bunch of taped together monster stories. And the skill and effort that went into each short was very obvious. These were done by people who clearly knew what they were doing and enjoyed doing it. That goes a long way in my book (Solee’s Big Book of Horror Movie Ratings).

Mikey: I can’t believe an anthology has scored a 4.5 in Solee’s Big Book. So hard to deal with that. Especially since it’s higher than what I had in mind! I had lots of fun and really enjoyed this, but that’s only a 4 from me. Dumb movie, but fun movie. Going out and finding short films to watch would be a pain, it’s nice of someone to collect them together for me, and then throw some cheese on them to tie them together.

Solee: Like movie spaghetti!

Mikey: I don’t usually tie my spaghetti, but you can. Tomorrow, we shall be watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). The original! Stay tuned!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Cabin Fever 02:51 PM -- Wed October 4, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Cabin Fever (2002)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.”
IMDB Rating: 5.6/10
Metacritic Rating: 56/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% critics, 44% audience
Solee: 3.5/5
Mikey: 3/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: So, we watched the original Cabin Fever last night. When you settled on this movie you told me, “I think this is going to be gory.” Is gory a category you enjoy? If so, what is it you like about this subgenre of horror movies?

Mikey: I did not lie to you, to be sure! I don’t care for gore. In general it is one of those things that I just am not interested in, but not particularly put off by. I do avert my eyes from things that are too awful, but it takes pretty awful to have that effect on me (or anything, however mild, involving eyes). So the gore, and the fact that I was fairly convinced that was the sole “merit” to this movie, is the reason I didn’t watch it all these years since it came out. I don’t need to watch something for the purpose of seeing gore. But people have said it was good, so I decided it was time to see.

Solee: Because of the gore and the lack of taking itself seriously, this movie reminded me--in a very vague sense--of a movie we watched last year. Can you guess which one?

Mikey: Maybe the same one I thought of at a point or two… House of 1000 Corpses?

Solee: YES! It is a bizarre combination of slyly hilarious and really disturbing. I’m a little concerned at how much I like that combination. House of 1000 Corpses did end up being my all-month favorite last year.

Mikey: I KNOW! I don’t think this was anywhere near on par, but the stylistic similarity was there. I think it’s the throwback to 70’s/80’s grungy horror. Always with a knowing wink, though. This was unquestionably one of those “director loves old movies from the genre so steals all he can from them” scenarios.

Solee: Which I do NOT have a problem with. Especially when it’s done well. This was … not done terribly. One of my notes is that the characters were all very tropey (the rich guy jerk, the good guy, the sexy girl, the girl next door, the redneck were all represented) BUT their stereotypes were established with just-nextdoor-to-normal things. For example, the loser/immature redneck left the campfire unattended to go shoot things and pee in the woods.

Mikey: Well, I think there was some reality and natural behavior brought into it. Like the good guy and his unrequited love, the way that played out was not strictly to trope, more like just a realistic situation. It was never over-the-top like “she loves him now” or “she thinks he’s a loser”, just sort of muddled.

Solee: Maybe that’s it. It felt less stereotypical because they acted like real people, not characters. For part of the time, that is.

Mikey: I think the comedic take on things gives you lots of leeway… if something is a stereotype, well you’re just kidding. If it’s not, then good for you for dodging stereotypes! If a scene comes across silly instead of good, that’s fine too. It’s the Chandler Technique.

Solee: Clever strategy. It worked on me! One of my favorite characters was Dennis. You know what they say about Dennis, right?

Mikey: Don’t sit next to him.

Solee: Yep! That was one of the jokes that had a callback later … what was that called?

Mikey: That’s a Brick Joke. They had two major ones in this movie, and it made them very funny to call way back to something you saw an hour ago, out of the blue.

Solee: I feel like Brick Jokes are a sign that the writer/director are clever and have a sense of humor. Which then makes the whole movie better. Anyway, what did you think of the plot? Unknown zombie-like pathogen meets gang of college kids on week-long vacation in the woods. Did the story work for you?

Mikey: One of the reasons I never saw this movie before is that I knew what it was about in a vague sense (an ordinary disease, no monsters or zombies), and I didn’t see how that sounded very interesting. But in practice, it actually was interesting as the driver to all kinds of crazy situations. All the quarantine madness and people violently protecting themselves against infection. Kind of the same issues as zombies, just with nobody (usually) trying to infect you intentionally. Or eat your brains. So I think it was a good idea for a movie, very different than anything else.

Solee: Throw in the fact that the locals are all loco and it was the perfect recipe for violent hijinks.

Mikey: Yes, it had to take place in this really goofy world of nutso people to really be fun, much like House of 1000 Corpses. You can probably make any story interesting by making all the people nuts.

Solee: It’s easy to take it too far or at least get the balance wrong and make those over the top characters ruin the movie though. Did you have a favorite bit in the movie?

Mikey: Hmm. I don’t know if it was actually fun enough for me to have a favorite bit that stands out. That’s why I say it wasn’t on par with the other movie… it was all riding around just below my level of deep appreciation. Like one thing I noticed was that I should have loved Dennis’ “Pancakes!!” scene, and I didn’t. It was okay, but you’d think all that craziness would’ve been amazing, and it was just okay. That’s sort of how I feel about the whole thing. It might not have gone crazy down quite the right avenue for me.

Solee: I remember feeling like I was going to rate it poorly as the final credits rolled last night, but as I look back at my notes, I’m actually remembering it fondly. I think that’s because I’m remembering the goofy and forgetting some of the really nasty stuff. OH. I just remember the really nastiest scene (which I don’t think we can describe due to our possible audience) and … blegh. It was REALLY a gross movie.

Mikey: Yep, that was definitely the goal of the movie for sure. I was surprised actually at how tame it was though. I can recall two scenes that were really too gross (the other was in a bathtub), and other than that nothing really grossed me out. There must have been 20 gallons of blood vomited in this movie, and my only thought about that was “Man, vomiting blood is so much less disgusting than vomiting vomit!”

Solee: Hmmm … I think we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. So the one thing I really didn’t like was all the instances of racism, sexism and homophobia being used as “jokes”. They weren’t the “we need to be better” kind of jokes, either. Just straight up exclusionist type things. I think the movie could have been done just as well without them.

Mikey: I think the creators would use some excuses about how it takes place in the 80’s and it’s realistic and all that, and I think that’s bunko. It’s not a documentary. I think the clothes pretty much covered 80’s for us.

Solee: There’s a way to include some of that behavior to really develop a hateful character … but these weren’t the “bad guys” of the movie. They were the “heroes”, if you will. Yes, you were supposed to see that they were being dumb, but it gave off a “boys will be boys” vibe that I dislike intensely.

Mikey: I totally agree, but one other factor does remain: as modern as a number like 2002 sounds, it’s actually 15 years ago. I suspect these same people would do things differently today! The world is changing fast.

Solee: I think you’re right about that. And how on Earth did 2002 get to be 15 years into the past? It was, like, LAST YEAR that we were all worried Y2K would cause all the nukes in the world to go off.

Mikey: I think Y2K DID happen, and it caused a massive timespace distortion. That’s the only reasonable explanation.

Solee: Ha! True story. So … speaking of the distant past, Rider Strong (of Boy Meets World sidekick fame) is one of the main characters in this movie. That really threw me for a loop. I couldn’t stop seeing him as Shawn Hunter. I kept waiting for Topanga to show up.

Mikey: I reviewed a Topanga movie (that was aMAHzing) a few years ago in BHE! Hey, sudden realization speaking of the distant past: 2002 is as long ago as 1987 was before 2002. So they were making this movie about as far before them as they are before us. Or something. Deep.

Solee: It’s that nostalgia loop, like I was talking about for IT, only a 15 year loop instead of a 35 year one.

Mikey: I want to throw down real quick with some major writing issues I had with this movie before we quit. Just to get these out there: after Bert met the infected stranger and warned him away, he acted like nothing had happened and they all just had a bonfire until eventually he showed up. The guy was laying like 50 feet away and had already seen their cabin. Super weird. Also, you can’t make a car stop working by hitting it a few times with a bat! All the cars in this movie were crazy fragile. Also … oh I forgot the third one. These are some things that were really bugging me and seemed like major flaws in the writing.

Solee: It was a little weak in places. Like when the sexy girl decided to “go for help” the next morning and they just let her wander off into the woods alone in her tight, tight jeans.

Mikey: Slo-mo jeans!

Solee: Indeed. So when you combine all the issues and all the goriness and all the silly jokes … where does it fall on the rating scale for you?

Mikey: I was surprised at how well-done this was. It definitely held my interest (I especially enjoyed trying to track who all was infected). Oh that reminds me of a huge problem: the disease’s incubation rate was both totally random and ludicrously fast (when it wasn’t slow)! This was not a realistic situation. Anyway, I found myself totally engrossed and enjoying it, but I also respect that it wasn’t super great either. So that lands us right where you’d expect: at a solid 3.

Solee: I was going to give it a 3 last night, but I think now I want to give it a 3.5. This movie obviously knew it wasn’t going to be the next Great American Movie, and it used humor to make up for it in a way that worked on me. That being said, it was WAY too gory for me. I can see how some people would really enjoy it, though. And it was pretty polished all around. Except for that terribly terrible fake deer at the end!

Mikey: Oh, that crazy deer. So do you think this movie would work without the gore? I guess it’d be more of a comedy.

Solee: That’s a good question and I think … no. The comedy is only funny because it’s the contrast to horrific violence and gore. Without the counterpoint effect, it would just be corny. Some of those jokes were almost punny.

Mikey: Everybody loves a pun!

Solee: NO.

Mikey: Do you want to close by sharing Solee’s Rules For Infection?

Solee: Heck yeah! Solee’s Rules for Infection are easy. 1) Don’t get infected. 2) If you DO get infected, you’re done for. Humanely, but immediately. #SorryNotSorry Too many zombie movies get rolling because someone can’t say goodbye to a loved one who has clearly been exposed to the virus. Instead of a quick, clean bullet to the brain, they let them linger on in pain, usually infecting lots of other people. NOT COOL. I will say that these kids almost did a decent job of this. But then they didn’t. And look where it got them.

Mikey: It scares me that I live with you and sometimes get colds.

Solee: You just better hope you don’t get a cold during the zombie apocalypse. The thing is, it’s NEVER symptoms that really look like something innocuous. Even I wouldn’t have taken out the Girl Next Door when she was feeling nauseous. That’s a perfectly normal reaction to watching someone burn to death. Once it was clear she had what the hermit guy had … game over. It’s always that someone is trying to bite other people’s faces off or their own faces are sliding off in puddles of goo and their loved ones are saying “Oh, I’m sure he’ll be alright soon.” NO.

Mikey: Okay, so it’s a rash I should be afraid of having. I will never let you see if I get one.

Solee: THAT’S EVEN WORSE! Hahaha! Maybe we should avoid zombie/virus movies for a bit. What’s coming up next?

Mikey: Oh no, my arm is itching… I mean IT’S NOT IT’S FINE. Let’s just go watch Patient Seven.

Solee:
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Disappointments Room 07:54 PM -- Tue October 3, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Disappointments Room (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A mother and her young son release unimaginable horrors from the attic of their rural dream home.”
IMDB Rating: 4.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 31/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 0% critics, 17% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: Wow, my first comment on this movie is that the IMDB synopsis is way off.

Solee: Indeed. I’m not sure I’ve seen a synopsis that failed quite so hard at capturing a movie while still being factually accurate.

Mikey: Yes, there was a mother and a son in here. And like in every ghost (or demon) movie ever, the second the family moved into the house, we see the son talking to the demon/ghost! Or so it seems.

Solee: I think in this case, that’s what was happening, although we don’t find out for a while. That cat was there to protect him, just like he said it was. Brave, brave kitty.

Mikey: Interesting … so you think he was talking to a ghost (or a magic cat)?

Solee: Yes, I think the spirit of that girl was influencing the cat. She was trying to protect them the whole time.

Mikey: I had the opposite impression! This is one of those movies I tag with the “natural” tag - seemingly supernatural events could actually just be natural. Mama was just nutso. Though there is no proof either way.

Solee: That’s a totally valid perspective. It really could go either way, don’t you think? I don’t remember anything that settled it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mikey: I think it’s left up to us, and I think we chose opposite endings! What I am left with though is to wonder what really happened to the cat, and to the poolboy/contractor. Especially him - the cat could’ve just been gotten by any old animal.

Solee: *gasp* Or Mama got it?? While in a fugue state?

Mikey: She clearly had major problems. I think the climactic moment when she bludgeons her son to death with a hammer… that was so very shocking, and I really thought it was going to be that for real.

Solee: To be fair, that’s not what happened in either scenario. Either she was bludgeoning the ghost or she was bludgeoning NEXT to her son. But, yes, I did think that her little boy was gone-zo and I was terrified to find out what she’d REALLY done to her daughter.

Mikey: Yes, she has a history of infanticide. During that whole scene I was just biting my nails, thinking “they can’t really be going there, can they?” and I’m not sure why. People getting beaten with hammers is nothing new in horror. But her own son, unintentionally (or tricked into doing it), is just so so dark.

Solee: And with such violence. It wasn’t “oops, I dropped my hammer on you”. It was hard core smashing. Blegh. I don’t even like thinking about it!

Mikey: So since we’ve already jumped to the ending, let me cover my big issue with the movie. Huge issue. I was hooked in from the beginning, all set to get exactly what I dream of: a haunted house and a slow process of revealing exactly what the ghost is and what it wants, and resolving it at the end. It took until about ⅔ of the way through before it stopped doing that and instead just becoming a blast of events happening (or not happening - very confusing), and then wrapping up with nothing really happening. I hated how it all came together, or didn’t. Did that work for you?

Solee: I didn’t hate it … but it was very anti-climactic to me. I guess, as horrible as it was, it was … I hate to say it, but too normal? Like, I’m not really all that shocked that those stuffy, high-society types from that era (early 1900s?) would keep their deformed kid in the attic and then murder her when they get tired of taking care of her. I honestly don’t like what that says about my jaded-ness at this point. And perhaps that was partly the fault of the story-telling. It was building up with all that tension and what-not and then there’s just a very flat scene where Old-timey Daddy Dearest puts a hammer through deformed daughter’s skull while her mother watches from across the room (where he threw her, to be fair). It didn’t have the emotional impact that the mother-son thing did in the next scene, that’s for sure.

Mikey: That is for sure. I just realized as you were saying that that this is (as best I recall), the exact backstory of The Ring. The girl wasn’t deformed, but they kept her in a disappointments room! It’s a great concept that really was very minimally a part of this movie. It needed to come into play somehow in the present, like her locking her son in it or something weird.

Solee: Yes! The two stories didn’t overlap enough. Sure the ghosts were there in the house and yes, the room was scary, but otherwise there was no connection. And the present day dad (who I’m going to have something to say about later) and son were totally disconnected from the haunting, which was weird.

Mikey: Well, that’s why I watched a different movie than you - they had no idea there was a haunting because it was 100% in her head! It’s weird because I’m totally convinced of that. It seems very dead-set to me from all the elements I saw!

Solee: Sure, I see that. And it made the story not work for me. I mean … they didn’t seem to care a whole lot about her or her issues either way. I guess one could argue that they’ve been dealing with it for a long time and are somewhat desensitized to it, but STILL. It’s like they just did their own thing and ignored her for huge chunks of time.

Mikey: They sure did. It was two separate worlds, like she was alone in the house (with her poolboy) and her husband was alone in a different house with his son. Very strange, but I guess you could make some argument about how that shows the disconnection she feels as part of her issues. The thing with this movie is, it was all very polished and well-crafted, but it just plain didn’t work at all.

Solee: Agreed. Can we talk about her husband for a bit? Because I did not like him AT ALL.

Mikey: I’ve heard!

Solee: He’s got a huge inferiority complex and he just waves it around, taking credit for her work, cutting her out of a conversation with the roofer (who is not a poolboy at all, btw) -

Mikey: He’s a poolboy!

Solee: - and generally treating her like she’s crazy. I mean … maybe she IS, but he doesn’t treat her like I would expect a husband to treat wife who was struggling with mental health issues.

Mikey: Yep, he seemed very awful.

Solee: What I DID like was that she was not taking that passive aggressive, mansplaining, man-baby lying down. She put him in his place every time he pulled that garbage. Of course, then they acted like she was “getting all emotional”, but I still appreciated that she did it and she did it well.

Mikey: Yeah, that’s kind of like the movie (or the writer or director) mansplaining at that point. That whole thing is another issue too big to get into that I see in all media, but in general he seemed like a “play-xbox-while-the-wife-works” kinda guy. You are lucky to have no idea what that’s like!

Solee: Well, like many of the characters in this movie, what the screenwriter wrote is a very generic, simplified, stereotypical version of a real person like that. There was a scene early on where they were talking to the lady who owned the “general store” and it was like if someone who had never left Manhattan tried to write a person who lived in the midwest entirely based on things they’d seen and read about the midwest.

Mikey: I definitely got that vibe. Rich city folk moving out to the country for fresh air is such a classic movie trope. I suspect most of the writers of such things don’t know how that actually works. And why does this podunk American town have a giant castle in it?

Solee: Because the story needed a giant castle, duh. There were a lot of big “robber baron” houses build by railroad fatcats and such, but this felt extreme even for that. I guess that’s partly because people today are less likely to be as impressed by the size of what would have been impressive in the early 1900s. It’s like accounting for inflation.

Mikey: I think you have a point! So, other than pointing out the movie’s cluelessness about the logistics of mold remediation, I have nothing more to add here. How about you?

Solee: Haha! We know about that, don’t we? *sigh* I do want to go back to the idea of the disappointments room for a second. I found that very poignant. My aunt was born with Down Syndrome around the 1950s. By then disappointments rooms had been replaced with the equally disturbing asylum. Another way for folks to hide embarrassing offspring. That was recommended for my aunt, but my grandparents refused. They raised her alongside my mother and never treated her like anything other than the daughter she was. They were pretty ahead of their time and I find it disturbing how little progress has been made in this regard in the last 70 years. It’s a lot better, but there are still way too many people who think it’s okay to treat people with disabilities differently than those without.

Mikey: Yeah… and what you just said would’ve been a much more powerful movie!

Solee: True dat. One thing I actually LOVED about the movie was that the librarian/historian was played by Marcia DeRousse, a little person actor, and it wasn’t mentioned at all. The son was a little surprised, but none of them actually mentioned it. They just went on with the discussion about the disappointments rooms. And I only just a few minutes ago realized that her character would have felt particularly strongly about the idea, being someone who would have ended up in one if she’d been born in the wrong time to the wrong family.

Mikey: That’s funny because I was going to mention Tyrion Lannister earlier, but I didn’t want to bring up the Lannisters two reviews in a row. I honestly didn’t even realize she was a little person… Thinking back I see the eyelines, and I thought she was just standing on a lower floor than them. Oops!

Solee: It wasn’t highlighted at all. The scene was about a historian imparting her wisdom. Her height wasn’t relevant. (Although if they’d written the more meaningful story we discussed earlier, she might have had some thoughts on it.)

Mikey: Yeah, I think that is good. People actually come in all sorts of different formats, we’re not all tall blond straight skinny white people with big muscles and fully functioning body parts (or “poolboys” as I like to call them). It’s nice when the normals get represented a bit.

But this brings us to the moment of official rating. Officially, you must rate this movie now.

Solee: Officially, I give this movie a … 3 out of 5. It had polish, like you said, and the acting was good. I don’t regret watching it, but I surely wouldn’t watch it again and I’m not sure I’d strongly recommend it to anyone. It was an “eh” movie, in my official opinion. How about you?

Mikey: You know, in the first 15 minutes, I might have given a 5. Then in the next 30, maybe a 4. Then a 3 for a while… and by the end I was worn down to a solid 2. Great filmmaking in service of a garbage script. Just not worth watching at all. Incidentally, did you know this movie has a LOWER score than Altar on IMDB? I wouldn’t go that far.

Solee: Well, that’s just ridiculous. You know what I want to watch next? The movie we talked about where they tackle the crappy way society treats people with disabilities and challenges us to be better, all while giving us an exciting horror story. Alas … that is not a movie that exists as far as I know.

Mikey: I’m not aware of it either (hey, the kid in Silver Bullet is in a wheelchair, though!), but I do know we are about to watch Cabin Fever. Close enough! (Note: they apparently have already remade this movie for some reason, even using the same exact script. We’ll be seeing the 2002 original).
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