10 Cloverfield Lane–A Brief Review

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Good science fiction—well, wait, hold on. I’m not going to start this review by wildly generalizing about an extraordinarily varied genre. So I’ll be a bit more specific: good creature-based, invasion-type science fiction plays up its own fantastical elements to discuss what it means to be human. Examples of this kind of story are Alien (which showcases, among other things, the indomitable human spirit), Avatar (which flips the script and discusses humans as the invaders in order to get at an underlying theme of corporate greed), and even John Carpenter’s The Thing (which, as I see it, pinpoints just how solipsistic our inner lives are—we don’t truly know each other). These stories have staying power with us—we engage with them and carry them with us, reflecting on them, for quite some time—because they hit on subtle truths that we all feel, even if we haven’t worked through them intellectually.

10 Cloverfield Lane fits comfortably (if such a word can be used for such an uncomfortable film) within this mold. It is exciting, visceral, thought-provoking science fiction backed by a delicately worked script in which each line seems to flow naturally from the last, peopled with characters played to an astounding level of professionalism, and lit with perfect imagery that somehow stays fresh and new while simultaneously reinforcing the starkness of the film’s world. For me, the film was a refreshing take on alien invasion if solely for the fact that the aliens are basically tangential. The story reminds us that there is already plenty to be afraid of here among just us humans. Moreover, I think it makes an as yet unstated point about apocalyptic-type disaster films: perhaps, in order to survive, one would need to “doomsday prep.” And yet the propensity to prepare for a forthcoming doomsday—the ability to obsess over problems that haven’t arisen just yet to the point of building an underground shelter complete with water and air filtration systems, multi-locked doors, and several years’ worth of food—might in itself signify a bit of a mental disconnect from “normal” humanity. I’m not saying all doomsday preppers are super weird, and I don’t think the film is saying that either. But I do think there is an interesting conversation to be had—that has been started by the film—about what kinds of pathological issues might coincide with such behavior. Seriously, it is an amazingly well-done film. I have nothing negative to say about the performances or the writing—though I think that, in other actors’ hands, some of the lines could have been disastrous.

So that’s it. If you want to avoid spoilers, stop here and know that the film is really good.

From this point on, I assume you’ve seen the film. Serious spoilers ahead.

I want to talk about the plot for a moment. Okay, I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that I had no problems with the narrative. It does seem a bit strange (but not entirely impossible) that advanced alien technology wouldn’t be able to detect lifeforms bunkered underground (especially when we piece together that the “car” Michelle hears early on is actually the alien ship doing a pass over the area. But what bothered me the most is that Howard, a man who has been utterly meticulous about cleanliness/orderliness/preparation, somehow overlooked the scratched message of “HELP” and (more importantly) the brooch that his “daughter” left. I know it’s necessary to advance the plot, but I just don’t buy that Howard would neglect to clean that up. The only answer I can fathom is that he hadn’t gone into that area during the time since “Megan’s” death, but I don’t think someone like Howard would abstain from daily maintenance of a filtration system that, once the apocalypse he’s been preparing for comes, will be responsible for keeping him alive. I think the plot would have worked just fine with Michelle seeing the “HELP” carved into the window from the inside, talking to Emmett about it, and then having a separate moment in which the two flip open to “Megan’s” picture and Emmett realizes that she was the missing girl from his high school.

Regardless of one or two minor issues with the plot, what absolutely makes this film amazing is the strength of the actors’ performances. John Goodman plays the kind of creepoid character I love—epitomized in one of my favorite recent scary movies, Creep. Honestly, this performance is up there with my favorite Goodman roles of all time. Mary Elizabeth Winstead should have to swim in film opportunities after her stellar portrayal of Michelle. John Gallagher, Jr. had the unenviable job of being a third wheel both in central-film-relationship sense and in importance-to-the-plot, but he found a way to make Emmett both hilarious and deeply endearing (which, of course, is absolutely essential to the film “working”). I would hazard that, had a single one of this trio failed to perform, the entire film would have fallen apart. When you have such a small cast of characters, each and every one of them has to shine. And they did.

I think that’s probably all that needs to be said. The score is eerie and fitting, the décor is fantastic. I loved the movie, and I think most of you will too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

The Conjuring–A Brief Review

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I’m on the record about demonology/possession-based horror films. They (usually) don’t do it for me. I’ve given positive reviews to The Babadook and Insidious and It Follows (which I guess is kind of a possession film), and there are others in the genre that I do like, but the thing about these films is that they don’t use the demon-possession angle as the sole point of the scare. The possession aspect is a metaphor for something else. This is the best way I can put it: if you make a horror film about possession, I want the movie to engender some kind of discussion about something deeper. Instead, films like The Conjuring are… just about demons possessing you. I find this too unreal to be scared of in the long run, and maybe I’m a masochist but I want my horror films to stick with me for a while.

Another way to make your possession-movie have staying power is to go the opposite route and make the film comic-book-like. I don’t necessarily mind straight narratives with little to no metaphorical sides to them if the film is billed as a sort of homage to the genre (The Cabin in the Woods), or if it’s billed as a kind of fantastical film that is aware of itself. Like, I’m not looking for some underlying thematic metaphors and conversation-engendering dialogue in a movie about Marvel superheroes. But those films know what they’re about, they get that there is a certain lack of seriousness even when the stakes are high in the narrative, and so I can watch them and enjoy the ride without having a gnawing sort of empty feeling about missing “punches” in the film. Here’s an example. I’m probably in the minority, but I remember enjoying Constantine (yeah, the one with Keanu Reeves) because, while it was about a demon-hunter like the Warrens of The Conjuring, the film was aware of its fantastical nature. It didn’t really try to take itself too seriously, even as the characters took the stakes seriously. The film itself didn’t try to puff itself up as more than it was. (Yeah, I understand this is easy to do when the film is based on a comic book, but whatever. You get my point).

In contrast, The Conjuring is about demons in the real world with no trace of comic-book-iness. It even tries to drive home the point by emphasizing that the narrative is based on the Warren’s account. It’s “based on a true story.” This repeated emphasis, both narratively and cinematically, has the opposite effect as intended—it draws me out of the movie. Sure, I get scared and jump in my seat when weird demon ladies pop up onto the screen out of nowhere, but at the end of the film I’m just left thinking “eh, that was okay.” When I watch horror, what I want is to be kept up at night thinking about what I just saw, still scared days later. That’s why I watch a horror film. I don’t want to turn off the movie and think “well, that’s silly.”

And yet that’s what continually informing me of the veracity of your film does. Instead of building a world into which I can submerse myself (like Constantine or Insidious do) or using the demon-possession as metaphors for other things (like The Babadook and It Follows), The Conjuring just sort of tries to get me to believe that the real world—my world, the world I live in everyday—is actually this other, scary way. I don’t buy it. If you’re going to scare me about things that could happen in the real world, give me a good home invasion movie (like The Strangers) or a film about eccentric, insane people (like Creep). Those are scenarios that actually do happen in the real world, and so seeing them on screen affects me strongly. Don’t try to change what I know about the real world in two hours of screen time, because what you’re attempting to do is convince someone of a new worldview in a ridiculously short time span. You’re trying to build up a worldview, which is a feat that takes a lifetime.

But anyway, the film was alright. The acting was good, the scenery was satisfyingly creepy (I mean, seriously, clean the freaking walls when you move into a house). The dialogue was often subpar, in my opinion but the narrative—while sometimes clunky and too insistent that I take the movie seriously—had some interesting twists. But would I watch it again? Probably not. Three stars.

Mad Max Franchise–A Brief Review

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I went absolutely ga-ga over Mad Max: Fury Road. I saw it twice in theaters, and immediately bought the Blu-ray Mad Max collection when it came out—all four films packaged together. For me, Fury Road was an incredible cinematic experience. It was the first Mad Max film I had ever seen in theaters, and indeed the first Mad Max film I had ever seen, period. So, to rectify that, I watched all of the previous movies in quick succession. This “review” isn’t going to be a discussion on what works and what doesn’t work in a Mad Max movie—the franchise is undeniably amazing and I won’t even entertain a thought to the contrary. Instead, I’m going to discuss my favored theory on how to make all the films work and co-exist as a whole given that George Miller has said, point-blank, that he doesn’t worry about a timeline or sensible connection between the films. Miller views each film as a separate story about this one guy, just sort of throwing Max into different narrative scenarios and seeing how he’ll cope. But, regardless, I’m going to venture down the path of fan-theory that, normally, I hate. I’m going to tell you about the theory I read online somewhere and instantly, wholly, believed.

Mad Max—the original film—is an origin story. As it is the most believable, least fantastical, film of the series, I tend to take it at face value. I think we, the viewers, are watching things as they unfold for Max. This is how he became “mad” in both senses of the word. He loses his wife and child to a crazy, lawless motorcycle-gang leader as the world is still falling apart from various unseen disasters. This is how he becomes the Road Warrior, how all of his personality is condensed into the single survival instinct. As he narrates in Fury Road, this is how he becomes the one who runs from both the living and the dead.

Here’s the fan theory that I subscribe to. The rest of the films in the series are not simply the viewer watching events as they unfold. They are legends being told to us (the viewers) as future humans who have gone through and survived the terrible Wasteland times. This is obviously the most evident in Road Warrior, which ends with the Feral Kid revealing himself as the narrator of the movie. The FK is an elder of the Northern Tribe now, telling the story to us (his children/younger tribesmen) of how the first Northern Tribe people came to inhabit whatever land they inhabit. So it is not only clear but explicit that the entire movie preceding that moment has been the retelling of a legend. Now, the theory is that both Fury Road and Beyond Thunderdome are, similarly, legends being retold to the audience.

Here’s why I like the theory. It allows for the weird/impossible timeline between the movies. It also allows for the insane things that happen—the things that seem too unbelievable to actually ever happen (unlike the stuff in the first film, which all seems plausible, given the circumstances). And, more importantly, I think the theory explains the recycled elements that are present in all the movies. It’s no secret that Fury Road is basically just Road Warrior on steroids, with Immortan Joe filling the role of a more fleshed-out Lord Humungus. But there are plenty of other re-used elements within the films. Not only that, but several of the actors are recycled as well. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays both Immortan Joe and Toecutter—both the original villain-boss who killed Max’s family and the highly elevated villain-boss whose captive wives Max helps escape and who Max eventually kills. Bruce Spence plays both the Gyro Captain from Road Warrior and Jedidiah the Pilot from Beyond Thunderdome. In both of these instances, the characters can clearly be seen as having some thematic connections between them that, I think, could be attributed to legends warping over time, becoming grander and grander in their retelling—and it’s the retellings that we see, or so the fan theory goes. There’s a clear reversal in the case of Toecutter and Joe (i.e. Toecutter takes Max’s wife from him forever; Max takes Joe’s wives from him) which I think could feasibly happen with a story being telephone-gamed over time. But in the instance of Gyro Captain/Jedidiah, I think the parallels are too clear and straightforward to ignore. In both movies, Spence’s character starts out attempting to steal from Max by means of his flying equipment, then sort of disappears for a while before eventually aiding and leaving with the group Max has befriended as Max stays behind. Could not both movies be the same story? Or, more likely and more preferable (to me), could they not be two different moments in the legend of the mysterious Road Warrior Max that have become, through retelling, blended and mixed? The same goes for Fury Road. All three sequel films have elements that mimic and echo those of another, but none is a clear retelling of the same exact story.

Now, some have said that Max from Fury Road is actually an older Feral Kid before he becomes the leader of the Northern Tribe. They’ve said this to explain the change in actor from Mel Gibson to Tom Hardy, to explain why Max acts a bit differently in this movie than he does in the previous ones (specifically the scene in which he gives Imperator Furiosa the rifle rather than shoot it himself), and to explain the strange way he finally announces to Furiosa his name: “I’m Max… That’s my name” (almost like he’s trying to convince himself). But this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The narration at the beginning makes it clear that this is supposed to be Max himself, and George Miller has revealed that he doesn’t bother with trying to make all the narrative details line up perfectly—he’s just trying to make a film that captures that Mad Max essence. I think the reason that Max acts differently in this instance is the same reason that Joe has the same face as Toecutter and the characters are able to stand/jump on racing vehicles without falling off—the film is a legend that has been warped and twisted while keeping its kernel of truth: there once was a man, named Max, who came into our lives, changed things for the better, and then left to fight his own demons across the damned Wasteland.

In a way, that makes the films more tragic, doesn’t it?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens–A Brief Review

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I saw The Force Awakens in theaters twice—and even though the second time was by using a Christmas giftcard, it should still tell you that I found the movie worthwhile enough to spend my money. That said, I have some mixed feelings. I’ll start with the bad(ish).

I think TFA is a bit disjointed at times, perhaps a little too sentimental over the original trilogy (or, at least, too on-the-nose… though it was always going to be super difficult to walk that tightrope between pandering to the audience’s wishes and promoting an intriguing nostalgia), and sometimes too funny. The original trilogy had some funny moments, but I feel like TFA has too many winks to the camera. Mostly this is through Finn. I didn’t care for the “I am with the Resistance” bit when he first meets Rey, because that scene, to me, didn’t need comic relief. I hadn’t really felt true tension yet before it was sliced through with a sort of slapstick bumbling through a line the audience knows is false. Plus, it makes Rey seem clueless in a way that we know she isn’t. This girl was (for lack of a better word) abandoned by her family on an alien planet run (I assume) by a thuggish brute who doles out meals based on how many scraps you can bring to him. I don’t think she’s clueless when it comes to people and their intentions. However, I will concede that one of the best moments in the film—one of the moments that puts Han Solo back into his frustrated/incredulous seasoned-gunslinger role—is when Finn tells him “Solo, we’ll use The Force” and Han responds “That’s not how The Force works!” But I also think that maybe this emphasis on humor has consequences that the filmmakers maybe didn’t intend. I’m thinking of the scene in which Kylo Ren discovers that Rey has escaped from her shackles. We see two Strom Troopers walking down the hallway, and they see sparks flying from a room in which Ren is screaming furiously, and they look at each other, turn around, and walk away. Now, everyone in the theater—including me—laughed at this moment, because, well, it’s funny. But I’m not sure we were supposed to think it was funny. In another film, a dark one with an equally powerful and dangerous villain, the scene would be used to show just how dangerous and violent the villain can get—even his own henchmen are terrified of him. Picture the Immortan Joe from Mad Max. If that dude is freaking out in a room and we see some War Boys turn around and scuttle away, our first reaction would be to sort of cover our mouths and think “man, that guy is someone we shouldn’t mess with.” But the film’s emphasis on humor makes us interpret the scene in a more comic way. And that’s a bit of a disservice to Kylo Ren, who I think is a really complex and interesting villain all the more dangerous for his lack of control.

The nods to the original trilogy are frequent and, most of the time, useful in getting the fanbase excited for a franchise that famously fell apart with the prequels. That opening Rey scene is absolutely fantastic—the slow reveal of old Imperial ships rotting away in this wasteland of a planet, being pillaged for parts. I read a tweet that said the scene was the perfect metaphor for what JJ Abrams and his buddies were doing with the franchise, but that’s way too harsh, in my opinion. I see TFA as breathing life into a series that lost many of its fans. But anyway, my point here is that the nostalgic nods often work. The reveal of the Millennium Falcon is another that really hits home. Perhaps my (slight) discomfort at the references, my vague feeling of being pandered to at the expense of what could have been a more cogent script, is due to the character reveals. When we see Han, Chewie, Leia, and Luke, each moment is sort of drawn out with the character either walking through a ship door as the music swells and pausing for a moment (like “look at me, here I am, remember me?”) or turning around and slowly pulling the hood down over his face, which amounts to the same thing. Plus the way Leia and Han don’t say their own son’s name until Han can reveal it by shouting “Ben!” at a retreating Kylo Ren. None of these moments is too much on its own, but collectively they feel a little too… ‘pandering’ is the only word I can really settle on. Spoon-fed, maybe. At the same time, we as viewers and fans can’t really complain after the huge stink we all gave George Lucas over the prequels not being what we wanted. Maybe, given that history, that’s why I feel weird about the nostalgia. It feels like “THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, RIGHT!?” Except not in all-caps, because it’s only a slight complaint, for me.

I’m going to retract what I said earlier about the plot feeling disjointed. I do think that the movie tends to move along at a pace that seems too convenient for the characters (not sure how else to put that). But I think that the original trilogy is also sometimes disjointed from scene to scene—and this is one of the reasons why we love that trilogy and hate the prequels. The prequels tried to delve into the specifics—how the Galactic government works, what causes The Force and Force-sensitivity, etc. The original trilogy just told us “such-and-such is how it is,” and left the rest to our imaginations. That’s a subtle trick to make you feel like you’re actually in this huge universe of stuff going on around you, and you’re not going to understand everything about it. It adds complexity. And so I think it might be fine that we’ve never heard of Maz Kanata even though she has a history with Han and has been alive for over a thousand years. There’s more going on here than we see. Ever.

So now the good. I’ll only spend a paragraph here, but that shouldn’t make you think the movie has more negatives than positives. I saw the film twice for a reason—it is enjoyable and hints at really interesting stuff to come in the next two movies. First things first: the characters are the pieces that make this film good. I love the relationship between Finn and Rey (she says they’ll meet again, “friend,” at the end of the movie—and so from her end it seems like a mutual friendship forged in the fires of hardship instead of a love-story). What makes that relationship work is that both characters go through their own arcs and make us like them—individually. The old-guard characters are brilliant as well, and I think I’m going to love Mark Hamill more as old-Luke than as that scruffy-looking nerfherder from the original trilogy. Kylo Ren was a brave choice for the filmmakers to make, as they stuck with a similarly whiny/emotionally frustrated/complex villain as in the prequels (obviously this makes sense thematically, as Ren seems to be bent on the same path as Anakin, and he seems to be trying to match his grandfather’s steps out of some misguided desire to live up to his lineage). But it is pulled off very well. I liked the character of Kylo Ren. As a human being with flaws that sometimes supersede my better judgment, Kylo Ren’s exaggeration of that trait makes him a relatable villain. So anyway, the characters are good. Equally as important, the movie is cool. I never doubted that JJ Abrams would make a visually awesome film, but nonetheless the sets are great. We see rathtars, for goodness’ sake. We see slick lightsaber battles, and a Deathstar the size of a freaking planet. We see an imposing and terrifying Supreme Leader Snoke. It’s just cool, man. And that point leads into my last: this movie emphasizes what made the original trilogy really cool and the prequels fall flat. In the prequels, Lucas tried to put a heavy emphasis on the politics and goings-on in the government (which makes sense, because for the most part these movies are about the start of the Empire, so the action is only just beginning, and I think the politics-aspect could have been really cool and Lucas perhaps gets too much shit from fans, but that’s a story for another time). TFA realizes that these are Star Wars. It’s primarily about the action—the fighting. It’s about the explosions and the attacks and the good guys figuring out how to destroy the bad guys’ massive weaponry. In that sense, and in the entirely non-negative sense that TFA is super close to just being a rehash of A New Hope (that’s really not a complaint from me), The Force Awakens represents, for me, a return to the form of the original trilogy. It represents a creative team that grew up watching Star Wars and who know what makes a Star Wars film good for the fans.

So now that I’ve spoiled everything, go watch the movie and let’s talk about the possible ancestry of Rey, what that stare between her and Luke might mean, and what’s the deal with Snoke. (Or should I say “Darth Jar Jar?” No. No, I shouldn’t.)

PK–A Brief Review

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I am far from a movie aficionado. Though I love films and watch them all the time, the extent of my knowledge about movies and movie-making is pretty limited. So it should come as no surprise to you that PK is the first Indian film I’ve seen. This review isn’t going to be a long treatise on the history of Indian filmmaking, or an explanation about where exactly PK fits genre-wise in the Bollywood industry. What this review is—and what I think it ought to be given the subject matter of PK—is a reflection on how PK made me feel as a human being.

The plot of PK is relatively straight-forward (or as straight-forward as you’d expect a science-fictiony musical dramedy-romance to be): a humanoid alien arrives on Earth only to have his special spaceship remote stolen. In his quest to find the precious artifact, he is told many times (sarcastically) that “only God would know where the remote is by now.” So he searches for this “God” person who seems to know where his remote is. It’s at once a hilarious and heartwarming story and a critique of idolatry and religious exclusivity—the latter of which makes the film quite daring for a country that houses high numbers of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.

I won’t spoil anything else about PK, but I do want to talk about its design. The film is in Hindi, and so subtitles will be required for most native English speakers. But I think this actually adds to the film rather than detracting from it. Oftentimes subtitles add a layer of removal—they constitute yet another barrier between the viewer and the film, and therefore require even more suspension of disbelief for the movie to work. Why do I think this is good for PK? Because it makes us feel alien and apart from the world of the film—just like the titular alien. We feel removed from the action to a certain extent, which mirrors the feelings of PK as he tries to understand some of the weird things we humans do. Thus, the emotional payoffs are more rewarding. PK’s insights feel more raw and relatable to us, because we are also viewing the happenings of the film through extra barriers. This is, weirdly, a movie that possibly works better when not viewed in its native tongue.

Aamir Khan—aside from being pretty buff for an almost 50-year-old—plays the part of childlike PK perfectly. He seems at once familiar and distant. Somehow off, but not in a sinister or scary sort of way. I imagine that such a character is a fine balancing act—you don’t want to be too familiar-seeming and risk spoiling the effect of your being an alien, but you also don’t want to seem too other and risk evoking that weird tribalism that is prevalent amongst us humans. He needed to be someone you could like and connect with, while still being able to critique our societal systems—and he succeeded.

PK is an amazing film. It is about humanity and compassion in the face of extreme social pressure. It is about loving one another regardless of our labels. It is about treating each other with respect at all times. I wanted to go into PK’s monologue against the leader of a popular Hindu cult in the film, but I decided against that because it possibly would spoil the effect of that scene for you readers. Suffice it to say that by the end of the film, I was filled with both love and sadness in equal measure—and as usual, this resulted in some tears.

Go watch it.

John Carpenter’s Halloween–A Brief Review

johncarpentershalloweenposterFor the final day of my week-long Halloween-inspired horror film review-a-thon, I’m writing about that great classic of horror films—John Carpenter’s Halloween. I’m sure most of you have seen it (perhaps even all, since you’re all reading this because, presumably, you like horror movies), and I admit that this film is different from the others I’ve reviewed this week in that this is probably the third time I’ve watched it. The others were initial reactions from the first viewing. That fact colors the scope of this review, but let’s jump in anyway.

The film was made in 1978, and there are plenty of aspects that show its age (besides, you know, wardrobe and general lighting and all that). The dialogue can get pretty silly, the actions of the characters sometimes make no sense and seem so clichéd to our modern eyes, the villain seems to be omnipresent in a way that defies time and space, etc. But even after all that, the movie is iconic. The white William Shatner mask of Michael Myers has struck fear into the hearts of moviegoers for decades. When viewed with the proper timeframe in mind, the film is wonderful. But I’m not here to talk about how iconic Halloween is. I’m not even going to talk about how despite its sexuality and violence, the film is actually quite conservative in its message (since Myers seems to target high schoolers who are sexually active—and even Jamie Lee Curtis’ character isn’t a victim of violence until after the scene with Annie in which she reveals that she has a crush on a boy and therefore “thinks about those kinds of things” after all).

What I want to say is that this film holds up. It still has weight to it. There are real scares and creepiness and terror despite the fact that we all know about Michael Myers and we’ve all watched the film several times. In particular, the ghost scene. Just after Bob and Lynda have had sex, Bob goes for beer and ends up getting killed by Myers. And then: Myers stands in the doorway, a white sheet draped over his head like a ghost. Placed over the sheet are glasses pried from Bob’s cooling body downstairs. The scene drags on, with Lynda getting slowly pissed that “Bob” isn’t responding to her, doesn’t answer her when she pulls her sheet below her breasts and asks if he likes what he sees. The tension is slowly, expertly increased as the scene progresses—and it culminates in the moments just before Lynda’s death, when she turns to use the phone and, behind her but still captured by the camera, the shuffling Myers-ghost begins to amble toward her. I knew it was coming. I’d seen it before. And yet suddenly my heart was pounding and the only thing that kept me from shouting at Lynda to turn around was that I remembered my children were already asleep. It’s an excellent scene that epitomizes the slow build-up of tension that Carpenter weaved through the film (and it’s no secret that this style of horror is my favorite).

The other scene that captures an essential element of John Carpenter’s mastery of his craft is the final scene. Michael Myers has just been stabbed multiple times, shot about six times, and fallen from the second story of a rather large house. But when his psychiatrist looks down from the balcony, Myers’ body is gone. Aside from the trademark music, the viewer hears quiet but heavy breathing—as if a man is breathing through a mask. The noise crescendos as the camera zooms out, first to the house, then to other houses, then to the neighborhood itself. We realize, the viewers, that the apparently “silly” omnipresence of Michael Myers throughout the film is being toyed with here by the director. Myers is omnipresent. Because now he’s gone—we don’t know where he is. HE COULD BE ANYWHERE. It’s terrifying, sure. But what I like about that scene is that is shows Carpenter’s propensity to be artsy. (Another example could be the opening sequence that ends with a young Myers flanked by his parents as he holds the knife with which he has just murdered his own sister—specifically the fact that the actors all just freeze as the camera pans out. It’s unrealistic but artsy and purposeful). The thing about Carpenter, though, is that I never get a sense of pretentiousness from his films. In other hands, these artistic flairs could be seen as attention-grabs. But with Carpenter you just get a sense that he’s telling a story that he wants to tell, that he loves telling. It’s that love that comes through the screen, even in a horror film like Halloween.

Alright. This one has gone on quite long enough. If you’ve never seen John Carpenter’s Halloween, go see it. I’ve spoiled it by this point, surely, but c’mon. The thing came out in ’78. It’s your own fault.

I’m excited to announce that I bought the collection of Halloween films, so I’m going to watch all of them (culminating in the second of Rob Zombie’s reboots). Those reviews will come out as I watch the movies, but they won’t be daily like the past week.

Follow me on Letterboxd to see what I’m watching. I’ll be updating my profile with all these films and their ratings shortly.

You’re Next–A Brief Review

yourenextposterI just finished watching You’re Next and man, what a crazy film. The story follows a very rich family as they sit down for a meal together. Is it Christmas or Thanksgiving or something? I don’t know, actually. In all the hullabaloo that followed the setup sequences, I forgot some of the details. And yes, there is a lot of hullabaloo. Just as the family is starting to settle into their vacation home, they are attacked by mysterious people in horrifying animal masks.

The film is a slasher/home-invasion piece with elements of mystery thrown in. We don’t know why the killers are after the family. In fact, we only know a few select bits of information about each family member—enough to kind of get the hint that maybe they aren’t so likeable as people. I won’t spoil any of that here, but I will say that there is a lot of blood and killing in this film. So if you want to watch the movie, make sure you’re prepared for that.

That being said, I thought the film felt oddly… “playful” isn’t the word, because the stakes and tension were high. Maybe it’s because I just watched Creep, but You’re Next felt like basically a popcorn horror film. It was entertaining in the ways that we like horror films to be—that is, several scenes were harrowing, there were sometimes intricate methods of killing. Yada yada yada. But overall the killers didn’t seem as psychopathic or off as the antagonist of Creep. They felt a bit run-of-the-mill. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. I think it probably just speaks more to Creep’s quality. Plus they’re different subgenres of film.

I also didn’t really feel like You’re Next was saying much, unless the fact that the family is rich is some kind of nod toward a social issue. But I don’t think so. And again, this isn’t a bad thing for the film. Not all films are meant to be commentaries on society. Sometimes horror is escapism in a strange way—sometimes watching a scary movie allows us to get our adrenaline up and our fear out, allows us to take all those pent up anxieties that we have and just face them. There is a kind of release in some horror films. I think that’s more of what You’re Next is about, really. (Although leave me a comment if you think I missed something important beneath the surface of the film).

To summarize my feelings on You’re Next, I’ll say that it’s a decent film that does its job. But, for me, it doesn’t have the kind of under-your-skin staying power that a movie like Creep does. The latter’s power is shown by the fact that this is a review of You’re Next and yet I can’t stop talking about Creep.

Tomorrow is the seventh and final day of my Halloween horror film review-a-thon. As such, I’ll be reviewing what I consider the granddaddy of the genre—John Carpenter’s Halloween. Spoiler: it’s a classic.