I’ll start with a side note. I saw the trailer for A Ghost Story about three times, I think two of which were at an AMC. And then the local AMCs collectively failed to ever show the film, or if they did it was for no more than a week or a day. When it was still showing in theaters outside my area, e.g. in LA, I went to one of the main AMCs to watch another film and was surprised to see a super-sized lobby cardboard poster display for the film. I inquired about it, and was told there were no plans to show the film.
A theater showing trailers and setting large promotional items on display for a movie seems only to make sense if said theater will at some point show the movie. But that’s indicative of numerous areas of mismanagement on the part of AMC. I went to a film lately and a couple of the seats had such a strong fecal odor I moved.
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I point out the AMC nonsense above because I felt like A Ghost Story, starring consummate actors Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, was one of the more significant indies of the year, and given short shrift by the cinemas. Nonetheless, I was determined to watch it to consider among the films of 2017, so I did something that is rare for me these days: saw it at home.
The movie is intriguing, and certainly compelling — but falls short of providing that grand a-ha moment. In other words, I liked it despite a thin story. 7/10
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Note: This film is presented in a square (1.33:1) frame with rounded corners, for no particularly obvious or excellent reason. An affectation, perhaps, but in this case it does not distract from the movie — unlike in American Honey. I like a lot that A24 Films does, but the square frame trend I hope can be put to rest.
Comparison Notes: Recommended: To The Wonder; Not Recommended: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (previous project with Affleck and Mara)
It often feels like a throwback to both classic ’80s Spielberg flicks and anthology shows like Amazing Stories, and to classic slasher-hackers. The cinematography and direction are refreshingly old-school. And while the occasionally scattershot film lacks cohesion, it makes amends with moments of lyric mirth and an intimacy among its characters normally lacking in such endeavors.
It, a.k.a. Stranger Things with a Clown, delivers a twinge of fear right at the beginning, with the clown in the gutter. That moment when we don’t know what will happen is very effective — until something does happen. And once it does, It traverses from scary to silly and never quite comes back. Or maybe put another way, from adult-scary to kid-scary. Once that edge is removed, It was not able to frighten me as much as it tried.
Then in the latter part of the film, the worst thing imaginable happens: It becomes draggy. Nonetheless, on the strength of its assets, It rises to a marginal 7/10.
Comparison Notes (recommended & essential): Stand by Me, E.T., The Ring
“Scary” movies rarely do it for me, but Ouija: Origin of Evil looked promising. It features an appealing sixties setting, a reasonably compelling story for the genre, and a couple ‘boo’ moments that actually work. A marginal recommendation with the standard caveats. 6/10
I don’t know what I was thinking. This type of movie just isn’t for me. I find it mind-bogglingly boring. I suppose if you’ve never seen a scary movie before it could work.
Lights Out makes The Visit look like a horror classic. 2/10
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On a related note: Why is it that zombies or ghosts are always at least 10 times stronger in zombie / ghost form than they ever were while living? Can anyone answer me that?
I think there’s a good movie out there — maybe I’ll have to write it — with ghosts behaving like ghosts. Passing through walls, haunting people’s dreams, that kind of thing. Something that could be truly frightening.
Comparison Notes (all much better): See posts “We Are Spirits… in the Material World” and “Movies that’ll get ya”; The Uninvited
I figured somewhere on Rotten Tomatoes that I’d find a capsule I could swallow, but no such luck.
So, here’s mine: a terrific and unexpected first half, a let-down in the second half, and lots of great thematic elements and rich gothic atmosphere that’s never fully exploited. Crimson Peak deserved a story with ever-more eventful intrigue, but it falls way short — as if the writers became further and further bogged down in their own thick red mire. Still, there’s some enjoyment to be had, so a marginal recommendation. 6/10
This is the kind of Halloween movie I can get into. I saw the trailer a couple months back, so was expecting it by the fall, but it’s not to be — we’ll have to wait until the end of February. Perhaps because of the crowded field of horror films this fall.
It’s from A24, which is a good sign.
OH — and speaking of Halloween — the original Halloween (1978) is finally available via iTunes rental. I’ve never seen it, so expect a report forth-with. I saw a chunk on TV and became quite fascinated.
I kept wanting to watch Sinister when it was in theaters last year, because I like a good horror flick and I’m a fan of Ethan Hawke, but mixed ratings kept me away. Now I understand the negative reviews. It is your basic haunted house movie, but not a good one. It’s highly unoriginal, not scary at all — except for the first scene, and at times farcically corny. And it has a lot of “stupid” problems like the main character (Hawke) screaming his head off — multiple times — without waking any family members.
What I don’t get is that a lot of people thought this was a good movie. A lot of people who supposedly are fans of the genre, which means they’ve seen good fantasy/horror/haunted spirit movies, can’t tell the difference. Maybe the problem is that though there are a few standouts like The Ring, The Shining, and Poltergeist, the vast majority of these movies are pretty bad. So make yourself a fan of the genre and it all blends together. Just a theory.
For a much better haunted house movie, see Paranormal Activity (2007) if you haven’t already. Or even if you have – Paranormal Activity a second time through is better than Sinister the first. I looked back at my comments on Paranormal Activity — I had given it a 7/10. Thinking more about it now, I’d say it was more scary than a 7 — so I’m bumping it to an 8. Keep in mind I am talking about the original of the series; I have not seen any of the sequels.
On a positive note, I watched Sinister shortly before going to bed, and it certainly did not keep me from sleeping. It just wasn’t scary. 2/10, which is generous.
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This movie makes me rethink my opinion of Mama (2/10), because I didn’t dislike Sinister quite so much as to give it a 1 rating, and Mama was clearly better than Sinister. I think Mama has got to be at least a 3 — still not recommended, but better than I originally thought given the genre. It emphasizes how difficult it is to make good horror, especially of the supernatural variety. Almost as difficult as good comedy.