Friday the 13th

Normally I’m not thrilled about turning the entire month of October into a Halloween celebration, but I’m in the mood this year.  So are the movie studios; having a Friday the 13th in October helps I reckon.

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It good

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 ably 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

Raw, Local, Organic

I love good edgy indies foreign and domestic; Raw is not one of them.  I wasn’t buying most of it, and there wasn’t enough style or substance to overcome its many issues, for example I never felt like I was watching students at a veterinary school, but maybe some sort of weird cult.  More problems:

SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALERT!  This girl is a devout vegetarian one moment, and the next, for no good reason, is scarfing meat down with abandon.  Vet students are animal haters?  And she grew up never seeing her father with his shirt off?  These and many other issues toss Raw down to B-movie territory, except there’s not enough fun to elicit that B-movie charm.  Forced, inorganic storytelling exacerbates these weaknesses.

Still, there was a certain raw, explosive power to the movie that kept it engaging.  But even in this regard, when the director was holding a straight flush she folds.

On top of everything else, Raw just wasn’t as original as it’s been made out to be; see Comparison Notes.  Entering the local arthouse, I was told that someone had fainted during a previous showing.  Barf bags and warning signs were hastily dispatched.  I so wished that Raw lived up to all the hype.  5/10

PS Raw is categorized as a horror film, but it’s a joke as a horror film.  Hardly horrifying.

Comparison Notes (all recommended): for infinitely better French ‘fare’ about consumption of human flesh — which they have a knack for, check out the greats Delicatessen and Les Amants Criminels; Teeth, every vampire movie ever (Only Lovers Left Alive looks like a masterpiece by comparison), Antichrist, The Neon Demon

Keep the Lights Out. And the Projector Off.

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

Film Brief: The Witch

The Witch - poster

Not much to see here, folks.  Not nearly as much as you would think.  I was so very much looking forward to The Witch, and so even the more disappointed.  An exceptionally strong pot of potential, but nothing exceptional about the movie.  The Witch is not without its assets, but this one’s a pass — another miss by A24.  5/10

Comparison Notes (Recommended): Antichrist, The Visit, Breaking the Waves

Genre Essentials: Halloween

Halloween poster

Halloween (1978) is a genre essential, which is to say it’s not generally essential, i.e. a must-see for all who love movies, but if you’re into horror flicks or creepfests you really should get around to seeing it.  Better genre essentials in the ring include Paranormal Activity, Saw, The Blair Witch Project, The Shining, and The Ring.

Not that Halloween is bad.  The film features a terrific flow and a lush cinematic look, the earlier parts of the film rich in daylight sidewalk scenes — this is the part of the movie I loved.  But the plot has too many holes and continuity problems, and by comparison to more recent horror films, the payoff disappoints.  Sure people are being hacked and slashed frequently enough once the lights go down, but it’s just not that scary.

But it’s not boring   In its own modest way, it is creepy, compelling and dramatic.  But I wouldn’t classify it as a “Riveting Rental,” nor does it hit the fright factor like The Shining or The Ring — but then so few films do.  Besides being a good movie, it stands as the influential leader of the slasher sub-genre, and a horror classic — good reasons to give it a go.  Other items of note: the iconic soundtrack, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ first appearance in film.  For more, look at the extensive Wikipedia entry.  6/10

Availability: iTunes / Apple TV rental.