Review: The Babadook

urlThe Babadook is one of those movies that you expect to be disappointed in. A creepy, atmospheric trailer seems to be a recipe for disaster, as proved by movies like The Conjuring, Sinister, Insidious 2, Mama and so on. Your mileage may vary on those flicks, but I was ultimately disappointed in all of them, even if I didn't outright dislike them.

I'm happy to say Babadook breaks the mold. It's not a perfect movie, but at least it delivers on what the trailer and the marketing promises. It can be a pretty scary flick at times, but it doesn't overplay its hand. Even at a crescendo you don't get a really good look at the boogeyman and it avoids the usual exorcism/easy solution trick that plagues the genre.

Amelia, a widowed orderly, has raised her son Samuel alone following her husband's tragic death. Sam begins displaying erratic behavior: he rarely sleeps through the night, and is constantly preoccupied with an imaginary monster, which he has built weapons to fight. One night, Sam asks his mother to read from a mysterious pop-up storybook he found on his shelf. The story, titled "Mister Babadook", is about a supernatural creature that, once someone is made aware of its existence, torments that person indefinitely.

It's a pretty great setup. Even the book is pretty scary on it's own.

While the son is pretty irritating and irritating kids are one of my top pet peeves in horror flicks, I have to say he comes around before the halfway point and is generally very believable in his role. The mother's slow descent into madness and violence seems a bit improbable, but I'm willing to chalk it up to actual mental illness and/or the Babadook's influence.

The movie is essentially the tale of how mother and son become increasingly cut off from the world as they fall victims to the attention of the Babadook. She loses her job, he gets kicked out of school, her (terrible) sister doesn't want to see her and so on and so forth. Inside the house, the mother is becoming increasingly erratic and paranoid, at times attacking her own son and at times protecting her from the monster.

The few times we get to see it, it's fairly terrifying and the sound design is particularly creepy. Bonus points for the movie being light on jump scares. Read on after the jump for my take on the ending.

4 out of 5 ba BA ba DOOK DOOKs

The Babadook

Spoilers abound!

I am a lazy man. My take on the movie as a whole and on the ending in particular is fairly simple: It's a metaphor for mental illness. That's not to say everything that happens in the movie is explained this way, I'm sure you can nitpick a few scenes that ''prove'' that Babadook is real, but that's not the point. Both mother and son are unreliable narrators and anyway, everything that happens is a metaphor as well. Amelia ignores the signs of her depression and whatever mental illness seems to be circling her and sinks deeper into it. She cuts herself off from everyone that can see what's happening either by her actions or on purpose (pulling her kid from school). I don't want to get too into it, but you could also argue that Sam just goes along for the ride, as kids usually do. Their parents are their compass. If mom says there's a monster trying to kill them, who is he to argue? Especially since he has been insisting the same thing since before Amelia believed in it.

As for the ending, I take it as a (a bit on the nose) metaphor for acknowledging your problems and choosing to manage them, instead of ignoring them and letting them control you, as symbolized by her ''feeding'' the Babadook, the monster (sickness) you can never get rid of.

 

Review: Young Ones

young-ones-posterSet in a near future when water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet, one that dictates everything from the macro of political policy to the detailed micro of interpersonal family and romantic relationships. The land has withered into something wretched. The dust has settled on a lonely, barren planet. The hardened survivors of the loss of Earth's precious resources scrape and struggle. Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) lives on this harsh frontier with his children, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Mary (Elle Fanning). He defends his farm from bandits, works the supply routes, and hopes to rejuvenate the soil. But Mary's boyfriend, Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult), has grander designs. He wants Ernest's land for himself, and will go to any length to get it.

From writer/director Jake Paltrow comes a futuristic western, told in three chapters, which inventively layers Greek tragedy over an ethereal narrative that's steeped deeply in the values of the American West.

I enjoyed this a lot. I admit to being a little disappointed that the PR material for it gave me a completely different idea of what the movie would be (I guess I was expecting a new A Boy and his Dog or Mad Max, while this is more or less a sci-fi drama. Still, it's a well made film and the director/screenwriter made some interesting choices that I appreciated it.

Ernest is a poor old farmer that owns land but not water. He has a job delivering supplies to the men working to bring water to the fields, but not his fields; the water is going to industrial farms further away. His attempts at convincing or bribing the boss to throw some water his way are unsuccessful. In the meantime, his daughter is dating this really douchy kid who needs to get smacked a lot. Ernest doesn't trust me and refuses to help him with whatever scheme he's trying to run.

All this comes to a head when Ernest's donkey, which is instrumental for his work breaks a leg and has to be put down. He invests on a robotic donkey. When Ernest refuses to loan it to douchy guy, it gets stolen and used to smuggle contraband across the border. This is where shit goes bad and where I stop lest I spoil ya'll.

There's not a hint of melodrama as I would probably have expected in a movie about a down on his luck farmer trying to provide for his family (crippled wife and all). Things are mentioned (perhaps sometimes bluntly, like when Flem accuses Ernest of crippling his wife in some kind of accident he likely caused because of his drinking) and then never expanded on, but left to shimmer in the background. There's no need for them to be brought up again later on when Ernest's daughter is freaking out and screaming at him. I appreciate the economy.

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I rarely review good movies, because reviewing the bad ones is much more amusing and let's face it, lazy as hell. It fits my personality, so to speak. After watching this one and checking out some reviews online, I just felt that I had to give my 2 cents as well. In fact, let's look at this review so that I can make fun of it.

Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author. A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus. The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live. The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with. Personally I believe that this feature was a waste of a perfectly good cinematographer, and I wish I had spent my time at another premier.

-- Cossette-mark

This is the only review they have posted on IMDB, and they joined roughly 2 months before they posted it. A bit suspicious, but whatever, I can't imagine why someone would want to do such a hatchet job on it. Pretty much the whole thing is bullshit, but I'll try and play along.

Young Ones makes use of brilliant cinematography that is instantly wasted in the hands of a director who is without a shred of talent, an editor who must have been a butcher, mediocre sound editing, and a cast that is almost as misguided and inept as the screenplays author.

That's pretty bizarre. I think the director did a pretty good job, managing to avoid any unnecessary melodrama of the kind the reviewer seems to be after. The editing was adequate, it didn't really stick out. The cast includes Eddie Fanning (she was pretty great in this) and Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays the son is an atypical actor and was also great for the role. Then we have Michael fucking Shannon, who is good in everything.

A story that had true potential was crippled by a lack of character development, and the nonexistence of focus.

I'm gonna go ahead and say that Young Ones is very obviously a bit of a fable, a kind of old time western, just updated and moved into the far future. I mean the story is classic: A farm that's dying or dead, the pioneer father trying to take care of his family and the asshole who wants to fuck them all over and steal their land. Hell, it has a lot of overlap with The River (starring a young Mel Gibson), if you just switch out the flood for the drought and the rich banker guy who wants to sleep with Gibson's wife with the kid in Young Ones who is sleeping with Shannon's daughter.

The directors lack of skill is clearly seen in his failed attempt to (I may be paraphrasing) give the character of the machine, a robotic donkey, a sense of having a soul (not even a glimmer of this is seen in the film), and his somewhat unsuccessful try at implying that there is prosperity outside the boundary of where the characters live.

Why the fuck would a robot have a soul? It's not even an A.I, it's literally a donkey robot that walks around. Do you expect cars in films to have a ''sense of soul?'' This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard and shows how far removed the reviewer is from the actual movie and what it set out to achieve.

The film is without any sort of outstanding performance by the cast, and lacks even a single character that the audience can empathize with.

Even the bit roles were interesting and had a little bit of depth, even if they were on screen for a few seconds.

Anyway, fuck you.

4 out of 5 robot donkeys

Bad Movies Double Feature: Buck Wild and In Fear

Look at this shit.

Buck Wild

What happens when you make a horror comedy with actors that possess no comedic talent. Extremely awkward, rarely funny and too long by half.

''When their originally planned outing is cancelled, four friends go on a hunting trip in Texas. They include Craig, a straitlaced man; Jerry, a mysterious relative of Craig's from New York; Tom, a nerd; and Lance, a hedonist. When they arrive, they discover that a chupacabra has bitten their guide Clyde, and, unknown to all, he has begun to slowly turn into a zombie.''

 

The synopsis doesn't inform you how ~*wacky*~ the movie is. There's a flaming gay redneck mafia dude that shows up at the beginning. At some point there's conflict between the protagonists and him and one of them get paddled by the mafia boss's cronies. This is the height of comedy this movie is trying to attain.

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Between painful jokes about Craig's unfaithful girlfriend, shitty sex scenes with the ''dumb slut'' stereotype neighbor and the meandering plot, there's very little of value here. You might enjoy it more if you're into gore and zombie stuff, but I was just waiting for the whole thing to end.

1 out of 5 redneck zombies.

 

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infearjpeg-e9500dIn Fear

This is a movie so boring, so bland, so incredibly shitty, that I feel as if I've already reviewed it in the past and I'm stuck in a kind of purgatory where I have to talk about this piece of shit forever. Harsh words, you might think, but I'm 100% serious, this is an offensively stupid movie, made even more agonizing by the fact that the director think he's some kind of auteur making cinema. It seems to have worked as the movie has a 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is idiotic at best. Fuck you.

 

''Tom and Lucy have decided to go on their first trip as a couple, to a music festival and a secluded hotel. However they soon find themselves unable to actually locate the hotel and spend much of their time getting lost in a labyrinthine series of forest roads. As they continue to drive, their tensions rise as they realize that something or someone is deliberately toying with them and enjoying their torment. They pick up Max, a strange hitchhiker that may be connected to everything that is going on.''

Get used to this image, you're gonna see a lot of it in the movie.

Probably the couple with the least chemistry in the world, you'll spend the first half hour trying to figure out if these two idiots have just hooked up for a weekend getaway or if they have actually met before. After a series of increasingly improbably events and choices, they get lost in some sort of maze made out of hedges. Why at no point does anyone say ''fuck it, I'm off-roading this bitch'' is a question that will torment you as the minutes tick on by.

Realizing at some point there's only so long you can go without having anything remotely interesting happen and also that your actors are just not good enough to prop the whole thing up, a weird guy they find on the road is added and that's really where the terribleness of the movie ramps up into nonsense.

This is devoid of value.

0 out of 5 idiots in a car

Mr. Jones Review

Mr-JonesMr. Jones

Hey look, it's a horror movie I didn't hate. I mean I didn't like it especially much, but that's rare enough on it's own when your movie watching is the equivalent of a garbage disposal system.

The IMDB synopsis is pretty unhelpful, so I'll get you up to speed myself. Probably massive spoilers follow because I have no filter.

A couple decides to move to the middle of nowhere because they have artistic aspirations. This eventually becomes an issue when they start arguing about how they left perfectly good jobs so the guy can make a stupid documentary or whatever. At the same time they find weird sculptures around their property and adjacent areas, eventually realizing they are the work for an artist that's a bit of a underground sensation. Unfortunately he's well known for the fact that everyone who buys his sculptures has terrible shit happen to them.

The movie is basically about solving the mystery of this artist and his creations, via the medium of found footage.

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Mostly but the numbers for the first half, it turns into some serious what-the-fuck territory in the latter half. Don't watch this while high or tired, it's pretty nightmarish. The movie as adequate at most things, managing some creepy moments here and there by actually utilizing the whole handheld camera aesthetic. The couple is kinda irritating, but what horror movie couple isn't. I wasn't gnashing my teeth while watching it so it must not have been too bad.

The ending...well... I don't know what to say about the ending. It wasn't disappointing exactly, but it was so convoluted and messy that I'm not sure what the hell supposedly happened. It kinda tries to throw a twist at you but it's all very confusing and open to interpretation. Feels like they tacked on some wtf-ness to make it more interesting, but I don't think they landed it.

2 out of 5 creepy-ass branch sculptures (I'd say 2 and a half, but I don't like decimals)

After (2012)

After-2012-Movie-Poster-e1342638056815Oh boy. I don't even know. A cut rate Silent Hill clone that somehow manages to be completely boring and predictable. Hell, it even gives away its own twist in the first 20 minutes. Plot synopsis says ''When two bus crash survivors (Steven Strait, Karolina Wydra) awake to discover that they are the only people left in their small town, they must form an unlikely alliance in a race to unravel the truth behind their isolation. As strange events begin to unfold, they start to question whether the town they know so well is really what it seems.'' These two end up in their hometown who is suspiciously devoid of people, except for when they seem to travel back in time and there's a bunch of people they can't interact with. It takes them about half an hour to figure out what's going on, because at no point do they think about reaching out and touching one of these phantom people. Imagine the frustration as they go ''Hello? Hello?'' for the duration of each scene while everyone around them ignores then. Everything looking like a totally radical 70s sitcom doesn't give it away either. Mystifying.

A situation that could have been creepy as hell becomes completely toothless at the hands of this director and actors. Ugh, I can't even go on.

Just watch the trailer, it's enough to give you a migraine.

0 out of 5 Silent Hills.

 

Insensibles

insensibles_xlgOh Insensibles. A movie I saw the trailer for ages ago and tried really hard to find, but failed at the time. I was into occult horror movies at the time. Alas, it was not meant to be. Until now. Set in Catalonia, Painless weaves two stories: in one, starting during the Spanish Civil War and running through to the '60s, an asylum attempts to rehabilitate children who feel no pain, by teaching them physical suffering. For some reason these kids habitually injure themselves and others and this is why they need to be locked up in solitary. Hm... In the second, in the present time, a brilliant neurosurgeon who needs a bone marrow transplant, discovers this dark past when he searches for his biological parents.

I finally got a chance to watch it the other night and was mostly disappointed. There wasn't a lot of supernatural or occult elements in it and they never really did show up either. I'm not sure why it was such a big deal those kids couldn't feel any pain. It's a disease that is real and as far as I know, people who have it don't light themselves on fire or eat their own flesh on purpose. They just have to be careful to not injure themselves and unwittingly die from blood loss or something. The plot mostly follows one of the kids, probably because he's the most hardcore of all (dude cuts a nurse's Achilles tendon for slapping him around).

One of the writers of Insensibles is behind Rec (not bad!) and Rec 3 (kinda bad), but I'm not sure who to place the blame on for the pacing of this flick. You could have easily cut out twenty minutes before Berkano (nurse slashing kid experiences a rebirth as a torturer) shows up.

alexbrendemuhlinsensibles

I don't want to say it was closer to Hellboy than say, Ninth Gate, but... it could easily have been a BPRD case, what with the Nazis and the super creepy torturer guy who can't feel pain and lives in the ruble of an old prison. In that sense, it wasn't bad. The Berkano dude was pretty creepy (he was also in Snowpiercer) and I really wish we had gotten to that point sooner and given him more screen time.

Spoilers after the break.

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The point the movie largely fails for me is the ending. Such a cop-out. It doesn't really resolve anything, and whatever meaningful implication they tried to point out by showing the protagonist's baby isn't enough to save it. So the non-pain feeling guy had a kid and that kid grew up to be a great surgeon but as far as I can see, he fails pain normally and his eyes are fine. So his kid will also...be a surgeon? I don't know and really, who cares. Bit of a letdown for what could have been pretty interesting.

That aside, the movie had some solid directing and acting, though no real outstanding performances. I can't stay mad it, but I probably wouldn't watch it again.

2.5 out of 5 creepy bald fuckers

October Challenge 2013: The List

This is the list of movies we're watching this October. I expect some of the movies to be switched with others as the mood strikes, but that's okay. It's a weird list because it's really not a top 30 of my favorite horror movies or anything. Lots of movies didn't make the list because I had re-watched them recently or just because I didn't feel like re-watching them. Let's see if I can come up with anything interesting to say about these flicks after the jump.

list

 

1. Stake Land - I've seen this one before and I still enjoy it. It has some goofy kung fu stuff going on, but I like that they took the time to do some world building in this one.

2. Haunting of Helena - First viewing. I posted the review yesterday. Not something I'd re-watch.

3. Pontypool - It has an interesting premise and I've forgotten enough about it to want to re-watch it.

4. Lords of Salem - Re-watch solely for the visuals.

5. Paranorman - We watched this recently so we might end up not seeing it again, but it's just really good and a perfect fit for Halloween.

6. Livide - This one was a bit of a letdown when it finally came out, but it has some of the best scenes I've seen in a horror movie. Definitely worth a re-watch.

7. Vanishing on 7th Street - This one isn't really that great, but the girlfriend hasn't seen it, so we will.

8. Monsters - This one I actually like, but I've definitely watched it too many times. Girlfriend hasn't seen it though.

9. Coraline - It's pretty good. Worth a re-watch. I think the director is the same as for Paranorman.

10. Splinter - While I'm getting tired of watching this, it's still a fun movie. I dig the monsters.

11. The Burrowers - This one is a bit slow, but it's been a while and I want to see how it holds up on repeat viewings. Cowboy horror!

12. GP - One of my favorite horror movies. Looking forward to watching it again.

13. Trick 'r Treat - Might save this for Halloween. It's the perfect movie.

14. Teeth - I've described the movie to my girlfriend a hundred times, but we still haven't watched it. So in it goes.

15. Cold Prey - I'm not a huge fan of slasher flicks outside the classics, but this Norwegian movie has a nice setting and it feels pretty fresh for what is essentially a run-of-the-mill slasher movie.

16. Slither - Always fun.

17. The Dark - I liked some of the visuals. I think Sean Bean dies in this one.

18. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil - Probably the best horror comedy in existence.

19. Dead Air - I don't actually remember this at all and I've watched it.

20. R-Point - Another Korean horror movie. Not as good as GP, but still good.

21. Undead - I haven't watched this in ages. I remember it's a pretty crazy Australian zombie flick.

22. My Little Eye - Mostly for nostalgia's sake.

23. Bride of Chucky - The only Chucky film I haven't watched yet.

24. The Nightmare Before Christmas - Needs no introduction.

25. The Blob - I like this remake. I watched it as a kid and fell in love with it.

26. Teen Wolf - Not sure about this one, but it's definitely been a while since I last watched it.

27.

28.

29. All the Evil Dead movies.

30. The Conjuring - Heard good things.

31. Pacific Rim - I guess this is cheating, but I wanna watch it and can't wait till November.

32. The American Scream - Bonus round. A documentary about families and their Halloween decorations.