Film Brief: The Lodge

The Lodge presents a lesson in a lesson taken too far. It’s not with a couple flaws, and has a cliché or maybe two; nonetheless, it’s compelling and does a couple things that are new and interesting. Compelling, yes, but not quite “scary as Hell,” as the poster touts. On the low side of 7/10

Comparison Notes: Hereditary, The Uninvited, First Reformed, Misery, The Blair Witch Project, Criminal Lovers, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Paranormal Activity, The Mist

It less good

It Chapter Two features moments of gleeful exuberance, and other moments that were just plain nice — but what little story exists is highly contrived, pat and predictable. Part 1 was a little more of an unexpected journey. Part 2 never exhibits any over-arching story to drive us along.

Chapter Two was never exactly thrilling, but neither did it ever really drag, which is impressive for a 3-hour movie. Certainly there were some very entertaining, even lovely sequences, and It moved a lot better than your average superhero movie, that’s for sure. 6/10

Comparison Notes: Stand by Me, Us (2019), Stranger Things, Scream, Natural Born Killers

Film Brief: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

One scary story to tell in the dark would be pure awesomeness, more even better. But there’s nothing particularly scary here. In other words, yawn.  I understand this may be directed towards yungin’s, but that doesn’t mean it has to be such a boring rehash.

What is with no starting titles?  Are you so ashamed of your lead actors?  Of the movie title? 2/10

Comparison Notes: Creepshow, all haunted house movies, Pet Sematary, ItPan’s Labyrinth

A Midsommar′s Day Dream

Swedish Tourism must be having fits over Midsommar.  It is absolutely going to increase visitation — but only of those the Swedes would rather stay away.  I wonder if a portion of the normal, sane tourists who might otherwise come may be scared off — or maybe just scared off from traveling north from Stockholm.

One of the strong points of Midsommar is a sense of authenticity:  that these type of festivals do exist, and that to a large extent the events depicted do in fact occur as shown — if not to the same extremes.  The dress, the dance, the food, the architecture and decor, even the tea they drink all feed into the sense that we are observing genuine Swedish custom.

* * *

Midsommar is completely compelling for 2 1/2 hours — which is not easy.  Never boring.  Not exactly edge-of-your-seat-Bound/Dead Calm riveting, but it has good rhythm and flow.  It does not fall into that too-common A24 trap of long, patient, dramatic pauses that drag to eons of nothingness.  Stuff definitely happens.

Writer/director Ari Aster had the same problem with Midsommar as he did with his first film, last year’s Hereditary: closing.  Luckily, with Midsommar, the closing issue is limited mostly to the conclusion, which I did not think befit the rest of the film — though most would think it quite satisfactory.  Not out-of-the-box enough for me.  With Hereditary, the problematic conclusion crept into the entire final third of the film.

I do give Aster credit for making a follow-up to Hereditary that in no way feels like a follow-up.  Midsommar has a completely different vibe to it than Hereditary, to the point you would never know they were both produced by the same man.  Indeed, Midsommar is full of original elements — a creative fire by Aster that never kindled in Hereditary.

There are a couple other small issues with Midsommar which may leave it short of being a “great film.” I’ve thought a lot about Mother! in relation to Midsommar.  And I think Mother! was, in its own very unique way, a “great film” — yet I only gave it a 7/10.  Any “great film” must be at least an 8.  So I am hereby updating Mother! to 8/10.  Since it was already at the top of 7’s in 2017, its rank on that year’s list is unchanged.

Back to Midsommar: it’s the best movie of the year so far, a sun-washed summer delight.  8/10

Comparison Notes: There’s comparison notes up the wazoo on this one: Ex Machina, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (I assume), Get Out, Dead Calm, Mother!, Annihilation, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Housemaid, La Cérémonie, Antichrist, The Ruins

Film Brief: Pet Sematary [u]

Boring, yawn.  A story seed riddled with holes of both logic and execution.  On the other hand, I suppose if you’ve never seen a supernatural horror movie, you might be impressed.  I’ve seen one or two, so I’m not.  I can say I did like the cat, and I always enjoy John Lithgow — but boy he could be doing so much better stuff than this and I wish he would.  I think he should team up with Tim Robbins.

Upon watching this movie in Yuma, I had a note on convenience versus convention, but can’t remember it now.  I think both apply to Pet Sematary.  2/10

UPDATE 7/1/19: 2/10 is low.  It wasn’t that bad.  3/10

VOD Log: The Blackcoat’s Daughter

By far the best thing about The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which I heard about during a brief theatrical appearance while I was in Grand Junction in 2017, is the poster above.

Haphazard nonsense mixed together by time shifts and flashbacks do not a good movie make.  The Blackcoat’s Daughter serves as another case in point for the weakness of nonlinear storytelling.  That weakness, more often than not: a very skimpy story at the film’s heart.

A CASE IN POINT FOR THE WEAKNESS OF NONLINEAR STORYTELLING

Lynch talked about the “language of cinema” — but in Lynch’s case, that language still paints a beautiful story.  Lesser filmmakers, with little tale to tell, attempt to rely on that language, broken though it may be, to stand on its own.  To compensate for lack of story.  So I keep beating the drum: without the spine of story, no movie can stand.

Add The Blackcoat’s Daughter to the growing list of A24 films heavy on atmospherics, good acting, and little else.  I admit it did mostly hold my attention; there were stretches of the film that were compelling in that what’s-going-to-happen-next kind of way — again, the formula of many A24 releases.  5/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended, and considerably better): Thelma, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Uninvited, Hereditary, The Shining, I Spit on Your Grave