This is the blog of ML Candelario

And you are a visitor here. Welcome. This blog is a place for me to display my prose, poetry, and philosophical musings. I hope you enjoy reading them. Feel free to leave a comment or two (or as many as you like) providing constructive criticism. Be nice. Thank you. Have fun. That is all.
Email: authormlcandelario@gmail.com
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Green Room—A Brief Review

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One of the last films starring Anton Yelchin released before the young actor’s extremely tragic death, Green Room is an absolute gem. Yelchin’s brilliance as an actor is on full display here, and he is joined by a cast that definitely earned the right to be on screen next to the inimitable Sir Patrick Stewart. Green Room is one of those films that features a mesh between brilliant acting, incisive writing, and the kind of directing that shows a knack for knowing what needs to be shown on screen. Watch it. Do it now.

Okay, a brief synopsis. Yelchin and his co-stars are in a punk band that is touring around the PNW, I think. They get a gig from this college student who runs a local radio station, but the gig unfortunately falls through. Stuck for cash, the band decides to heed the kid’s advice and take a gig playing for his cousin and his cousin’s neo-Nazi skinhead pals. Once they play their set, they find that the Nazi punks have left all of their gear in the hallway outside the eponymous green room in which they were staying. One of the characters realizes that she left her phone in the room, so Yelchin decides to go back to get it. When he opens the door, he sees the next band sitting on couches with a recently deceased body lying on the floor.

Of course, now the band is not allowed to leave. They are witnesses to a murder, after all. So the Nazis trap them in the green room. I won’t give away anything else, since everything I’ve said is basically the setup. But you really need to see the punchline.

This was the second film I watched that was directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the first being Murder Party, which I will review soon. In keeping with his origins, Saulnier’s film is incredibly violent. The film is moving, emotional, poignant, harrowing, terrifying, and essential to watch in our time, which has seen an increase in white supremacist movements and right-wing terrorism. I plan on watching more of Saulnier’s films in the future, as well as others from the Lab of Madness film group, like Macon Blair (who has an acting role in this film).

My rating: 10/10. This is one of the best horror and horror-adjacent films I’ve seen on Netflix. You really need to watch it, if you can stomach the gore.

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

The Endless—A Brief Review

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The Endless is one of the currently available Netflix horror-adjacent films that I have been evangelizing to my friends. I don’t want to spoil too much in this review because I think the pacing and slow reveal throughout the film are both brilliant and depend on you going into the thing with as few spoilers as possible. I’ll provide you with a relatively spoiler-free synopsis here.

Two brothers left what they term a UFO-death-cult years ago. In the present day, they receive a video of one of the cultists talking about a coming “ascension.” After much arguing, the two decide that they will return to the cult’s camp for a brief stay in order to say the goodbyes that they never were able to say before. From there, things get weird. The whole camp is a bit off, and the two brothers start unraveling the mystery of the entity that this cult appears to worship.

Filmmaking team Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson directed, produced, wrote, starred, edited, and handled the cinematography for The Endless, which is set in a shared universe with their previous film Resolution. I cannot say enough good about this duo. Their performances were compelling, the story that Benson wrote is wonderful and terrifying in all the right spots, and Moorhead captures some absolutely astounding shots as cinematographer. They also benefit from a brilliant cast that produces some great performances.

The sheer horror that occurs as the two stars unravel the mystery is really moving. I don’t want to spoil anything else, so make sure you check this out while it is still available on Netflix. And remember the names Benson and Moorhead. The two are working on a new film called Synchronic, set to come out in 2019, and you should be ready. They will be names to know in horror for years to come.

My rating: 9.25/10

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

Gehenna: Where Death Lives—A Brief Review

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I’m going to get straight to the point. Gehenna: Where Death Lives maybe should not have been as fun for me as it was. Certainly, I don’t think I would have finished it were it not for my commitment to watching a bunch of horror films on Netflix and reporting back to the three of you, my avid readers. Essentially horror schlock aimed at crowd-pleasing its fans, the film’s plot involves a group of industrialists visiting the island of Saipan and researching a plot of land on which they wish to build a resort. Of course, this is a horror film, so we learn that the area holds a WWII Japanese bunker built on ancient sacrificial ground.

I found the concept of Gehenna interesting, and I think the filmmakers did a good job with visuals. But that’s where the good stuff ends. Though the film starts out with, frankly, bad acting, terrible dialogue, and a portrayal of natives that I found genuinely offensive, it progressively became better. The shame here is that the narrative of these people descending into this old bunker and finding a terrible curse is actually quite compelling and there is a lot of meat there that I think better hands would have crafted into a better story.

Some of the visuals are striking, some of the concepts are actually horrific and dreadful, but ultimately the film fails because it seems somewhat slapped together. It reads like a movie unsure of whether it is a B-movie or an A-film (spoiler: this makes it more of a subpar B-movie).

My rating: 5/10, would not watch again.

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

 

Creep 2 — A Brief Review

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Creep was one of my favorite horror films of the past decade. Not only did it use the trite found-footage format in as convincing a way as possible, but it also felt deeply disturbing and up-close on a level rarely seen in horror. This kind of dread/terror is what I want in a horror film: the creeping sensation that Things Are Not As They Seem and that Something Is Very Wrong. I won’t spoil the end of Creep, but it ended in a way that seemed both perfect and probably final, i.e. there could be no sequel.

When I first heard that the master Mark Duplass had reprised his role and co-wrote the script for a second film, I was skeptical. What new twist could they put on this guy? Now that we know who he is, how can we experience that same creeping terror? But boy, was I wrong.

Creep 2 features a key figure that makes the film worthwhile and highly interesting: Sara. A YouTuber who has yet to break into the big time (I can feel that, as a blogger and self-published novelist who has yet to make real money off my work), Sara is obsessed with odd people and decides to respond to a Craigslist add penned by the nominal Creep (the aforementioned Duplass). This device allows the film to be creepy and surreal all over again, as we follow Sara’s relationship with this creep knowing full well who he is and what he has done. The jump scares are okay, but the real horror comes from the subtext underneath the actions we see on screen. We know who he is, we can guess what’s coming, but there is still some mystery as he begins to form a real connection with Sara.

I won’t spoil any more for you. I love this and Creep, and I think they both work precisely because they explore different things about Mark Duplass’ character. This is not just a rehash of the first film but feels like an organic growth from its predecessor: a real tangent that the character has gone down and must handle. Watch it if you liked Creep.

Rating: 9/10

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

Terrifier — A Brief Review

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The most straightforward slasher-style gore-fest of the horror films I’ve watched recently, Terrifier lives up to its name. We are introduced to Art the Clown, who is one of the most, well, terrifying clowns I’ve seen on screen. The actor does an impressive job of portraying a criminally insane killer.  The scares in the film are usually quite good and left me feeling the kind of what-happens-next anxiety that horror buffs love.

However, I have some real problems with Terrifier. The acting is sub-par and the dialogue sucks, but that isn’t a huge deal when you’re watching a horror film, usually. What is more disappointing is the weird obsession that the film has with mutilating women. I don’t know that there is a truly relatable or sympathetically portrayed woman in the film other than the sole survivor of the night, who is played up for gags related to the fact that she is now horrifically disfigured and is treated as evil-per-se just because her face is messed up. I would expect a horror film made in 2016 to be a little more elevated even when it calls back to the tradition of slasher films, which this film clearly is trying to celebrate and recreate.

In particular, there is one torture-esque killing scene that involves a semi-nude woman getting cut in half, and it just honestly seems off-putting for the wrong reasons. Like the old God of War games, you get the sense that the makers of this film kind of get off on the idea of tortured women and misogyny. Of course, torture-porn is my least favorite genre of horror, so maybe I’m just not hip to the nuances or something. Even so, another female character clearly has untreated mental illnesses and believes that she is the actual mother of a doll she carries around. Nothing is really explored here except that she’s creepy. Even the somewhat promising initial interaction with her and Art (spoiler) doesn’t lead anywhere that the rest of the film hasn’t already explored. I’m trying to discuss this in a way that doesn’t reveal too much, in case you want to see the film.

In a good horror film, the disturbing and macabre should be used to get at something innate in humanity. This is a genre that has been used traditionally to criticize consumerism, racism, and other societal ills. On the other hand, not every work of art has to do work for progress. Sometimes, a film is meant to be entertaining and that’s it. It’s just that, when the content of your film is killing (mostly) women, I would like there to be some direction behind it.

I’ve rambled on long enough. Just on the level of fucked-up-ness and the quality scares in this film, I’ll give it a good 6.5/10.

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

Await Further Instructions — A Brief Review

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Await Further Instructions was one of my least favorite of the recent horror films I’ve watched. There are some interesting visuals, but I think the film ultimately fails for a variety of reasons. But first: a synopsis.

The premise of the film is that a young British man and his girlfriend, who is British but descended from an East Asian country (I think India, but I don’t know if it is ever specified), visit his family’s home for Christmas. His family, and especially his grandfather, are pro-Brexit racists who think that the ills of the world can be pinned on non-Western peoples. Obviously, some feathers get ruffled and they have some familial strife.

The real excitement of the film, though, starts when the family wakes up the next morning. They find that their house has been completely blocked off with some kind of metal wall, making escape impossible. Then, the living room television starts displaying instructions that tell them what to do in order to survive. The father of the young British man takes charge and blindly follows the instructions, believing they are from the government due to some kind of terrorist attack.

Overall, the film fails in that its acting is (with some exceptions) rather poor, the dialogue is unbelievable, and its message is FAR too in-your-face. It is clunky and direct when subtlety would have worked better. The zeal of the father is taken to such an extreme as to be totally unbelievable (i.e. the “spy” sequence, which you’ll understand when you’ve seen the film). Some of these problems can be overlooked in a horror film when the scares are good. However, this film has too many of those problems and its scares are… not that good, in my opinion. It is more of a sci-fi thriller than a true horror film, but unlike The Endless (which is also more a sci-fi thriller and which review is coming soon), this one seemed to stray from its vision.

My rating: 5-6/10.

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe — A Brief Review

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It has been a long time since I wrote about films I’ve watched, but a recent streak of watching Netflix-accessible horror flicks has me in the mood. This first entry is about The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and I have 15 of these bad boys to write so I’ll try to keep it short. [Warning: minor spoiler-y content ahead]

Nothing that features Brian Cox can be a terrible film. His performances always grab me. In this film, he and Emile Hirsch play a father and son team of coroners who are given a mysterious quick-turnaround job: the local sheriff has stumbled into a crime scene in which everyone in a suburban house looks as if they have been in a massive shootout and yet there is a strange, unaccounted-for, pristine body of a woman buried in the basement that does not have any visible signs of trauma. Since the sheriff has to talk to the press or whatever in the morning, he needs to have some kind of answer for why this body is at the crime scene, and so the coroners have to pull an all-nighter to discover the cause of death.

Of course, this premise is a bit odd. Typically, I’d imagine the sheriff could say something like “yeah, there is another body we haven’t accounted for yet” in the morning and no one would bat much of an eye. But films often require you to suspend disbelief. There are also several parts of the film that don’t really seem like logical actions a person would take, but hey man, that’s horror.

Overall, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is really up my alley. It features a cool, procedural-style detective-ish sequence in which the team is figuring out who this woman is and what killed her. There is also a thinly veiled depression metaphor in the story, which some may find too on-the-nose, but it has plenty of solid scares and call-backs and its set-up/punchline gags are pretty good.

All in all, I’d score it somewhere around a 7-8/10.

I’ll be posting some similar reviews throughout the next weeks or months, so stay tuned. If you want to read other film reviews I’ve done, click on the “Movie Reviews” tab to your left.