Halloween 2018: Sweet Dreams

This year’s Halloween is too cheesy, and with too many logic problems, to be scary.  There is a scant acknowledgment of its cheesy/B-movie nature, but that side is hardly embraced.  Worse, the first third is slow and bor-ing.  This 2018 redux is very poor at building any real tension.  I was concerned that watching it would give me nightmares: no need to worry about that here.

I’ve noticed so many of the mass-market horror/terror films lately are trying to be “scary” without having any cojones.  There’s a spate of timidity in these pictures.  Being little more scary than your local haunted house works great for kids, but lands like a dull thud for those of us who’ve already seen more than a couple slasher-hackers.

It would be so refreshing to sense in contemporary productions an appetite to push it to the edge.  That’s why films like Oldboy, Under the Skin, I Spit on Your Grave, A Clockwork Orange, and The Last House on the Left stand out so well.  And that’s why I’ll take a film like Straw Dogs that arguably goes too far over an anemic piece like Halloween.

Or, again, embrace the potential dark comic goldmine at your fingertips.  Think about the sheer glee of Natural Born Killers, Scream, or Mars Attacks!  Halloween 2018 does deliver a modicum of entertainment value, especially with the intro sequence and when that classic soundtrack plays, but this is a disappointing installment by the Blum House Boys.  4/10

Comparison Notes: other than those mentioned above: Alien, other Blum House films, the original Halloween, Movies that’ll get ya

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Don’t go on the Slender Man diet

The biggest problem with Slender Man is that for large swathes not much happens, and when it does it’s rather gutless.  Adam Graham, Detroit News:

It doesn’t add up to much more than a shoulder shrug. Perhaps that’s one way to kill off Slender Man: make his story so dull that no one cares.

For what should be a zippy 93-minute film, it sure drags.  There is some minor entertainment value, and it’s certainly no worse than The Conjuring and its ilk that critics fell over each-other about.  This movie did instruct me on a fantastic instrumental track from 1971, “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic.  But there’s not a lot going on here.  Based on a web/urban legend, once again we see a failure to tap into readily available material, including its own poster.

I will say one thing: a movie like this makes you appreciate the genius of David Lynch all the more.  Funkadelic and the beginning third raise Slender Man to 4/10.

Comparison Notes: The Ring, The Blair Witch Project, The Visit, The Ruins

Hereditary Encumbrances

You go into Hereditary thinking it’ll be some sort of wonderful all-out creepfest.  There is a definite creepiness factor, but the film morphs into yet another fairly conventional haunted house/haunted spirit flick.  For all of its careful consideration of factors such as visual design, Hereditary pays much less attention to presenting a strong compelling story.

Which is not to say it’s not compelling.  Certainly not boring.  But if you remove the miniatures, I doubt I’d recommend.  An absent starting title for no reason doesn’t help.  At least A24 didn’t revert back to the square frame on this one.

I’ve largely forgotten about this movie already, but in its immediate wake it did get under my skin a bit.  So — a begrudging 7/10.

Comparison Notes: Thelma, Poltergeist, Drag Me to Hell, and others in my Spirit” post, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Psycho, The Ring, Cube, Mother!

Film Brief: Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a lot better than critics would lead you to think.  It’s one of those films with a huge disparity between the Rotten Tomatoes Audience & top critics scores (93% & 27%).

My issue was not that there was too much gore, but that there was not enough.  The camera cut away at the promised moments of maximum shocking graphic imagery.  The film was also hampered by a parallel, simple-simon story on the level of average TV fare.  But there’s still some fun, mostly in the first half.  4/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Cube

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 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

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