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Watching Peril, 10/12/22

I Think We’re Alone Now

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 39m
Rated: R

Director: Reed Morano

Writers: Mike Makowsky

Stars: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Paul Giamatti

Initial: I didn’t know the release date of this film when I watched it. I thought for sure it was a pandemic film, considering the very small cast and subject matter. It is not. It’s was released in 2018.

What Did I Think:
I don’t believe in the paranormal, so it seems rather incongruous that one of my favorite genres is horror, especially ghosts stories. The problem is, supernatural horror is such a good canvas for telling stories that I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the tale. The post-apocalypse can be a great canvases too, but I find that often those stories end up being too big, too inclined to satire. I Think We’re Alone Now is mostly a small, subtle post-apocalyptic story.

We’re not burdened with the “why” of the apocalypse: seemingly a majority of people simply died one Tuesday morning. I’m not sure if Del (Peter Dinklage) really believes he’s the last man on earth, but telling thing is that he doesn’t endeavor to find out and is befuddled by Grace’s appearance. It’s also pretty telling about me that I saw him living in the library and thought, “That’s the perfect way to spend an apocalypse!” How he and Grace (Elle Fanning) interact is absolutely the best thing about this film.

The third act widens the plot, but really only in a way that explains some of the mysteries surrounding both Grace and Del. Thankfully, the story stay too long away from our main characters.


Hellraiser

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rated: R

Director: David Bruckner

Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer

Stars: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison

Initial: This is a reboot and I have Hulu. Sure, why not?

What Did I Think:
Despite its many flaws, the original Hellraiser (1987) is one of my favorite horror films. In fact, I seem to like all the (3) movies that Clive Barker has directed. He has a very particular view that comes through in his films. I watched Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) and it was fine, but I jumped off the franchise that sequel. The story seemed to be headed in an overly baroque direction.

There are many things about this Hellraiser reboot are well done. Odessa A’zion’s Riley is good character and well-acted. The set and character design is wonderful. Voight’s boxed-in mansion is an image right up there with the new cenobite designs in memorable visuals. Jamie Clayton’s Pinhead/Priest is menacing, but also tempting.

This Hellraiser is also unfortunately rather tidy. Yes, I am complaining about a coherent story and explained lore, both of which feel out of place in this franchise. But also, the story and design are not gooey or grimy. The story shifts the focus from mostly transgressive characters (much of the first film’s runtime was spent with Frank and Julia) to a firm protagonist in A’zion’s Riley. We do see more of the cenobites, but they’re less villains and more like the inevitable curse that will catch up with you.

Still, Hellraiser (2022) is worthwhile viewing for spooky season. As with Prey (2022), I’m surprised there was no plan for any theatrical release, especially considering the recent success of other R-rated horror movies (notably, Smile and Barbarian).


Shadow in the Cloud

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 23m
Rated: R

Director: Roseanne Liang

Writers: Roseanne Liang, Max Landis

Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale

Initial: My sister recommended this movie to me ages ago! Mostly, because she knows I love movies with anachronistic synth soundtracks.

Production Notes: The script was rewritten somewhat after Max Landis was booted from the project. As far as I can tell from perusing an online version of Landis’s script, the bones of the action remained the same, but there was definitely some switch in focus.

What Did I Think:
You know the song “Princes of the Universe” by Queen? You know, the theme from Highlander (1986, 1992–1998 on TV)? I’ve linked it there if you’re unfamiliar with the whole track, and if you know it from Highlander, you might not be familiar with the whole track. Because “Princes of the Universe” is a great half of a song. It’s so epic that at the 1:40 mark there is no where to go with it.

Shadow in the Cloud is a great half of a movie. It’s stylish with a pretty rad soundtrack. We know something is up with Maude and her package, but we don’t know what. It’s pretty heartbreaking listening to the rest of the crew, all men, deride her, especially when enemy planes and actual gremlins come on the scene. It’s claustrophobic in more ways than one. I was getting strong Pontypool (2008) vibes. But, dang it, I wish this movie could have found some other ending. There’s a twist and I didn’t care for it. I also wasn’t a fan of the super-heroics, some of which made the trailer.

But the first half? Great half of a movie.

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Countdown to October: Movies 49–50

Demons

Year: 1985
Runtime: 1h 28m
Rated: not rated

Director: Lamberto Bava

Writers: Dardano Sacchetti, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava

Stars: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny

Initial: I figured I’d finish out the month with a couple films from the 80s. In this case, a film known to be a gore-fest

What Did I Think:
And gore-fest it is.

Actually, the first 30 minutes or so, while the audience watches the movie, are quite well done. Bava parallels action and mirrors earlier scenes in some really nice ways. Unfortunately, it feels like some of that care goes by the wayside when the demons start attacking. Then, it’s all screaming chaos and colorful ooze.

To some extent, no matter how artistic the setup, a movie with a group of characters under siege needs a certain fictional structure to have anything near an interesting plot. The Mist (2007) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), for example, rely on inter-character struggles to drive the plot, more-so than zombies or creepy-crawlies. This probably isn’t actually realistic. Realistic is coming to bad conclusions about what’s going on, formulating bad plans that lead nowhere, and probably having a demon burst from your back. Realism doesn’t necessarily make a good movie.

Unless you just want to watch a gore-fest.


Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Year: 1982
Runtime: 1h 38m
Rated: R

Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, John Carpenter, Nigel Kneale

Stars: Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy

Initial: Rewatch, sort of. I used to watch a lot of movies while doing other things. I don’t do that anymore. I figured this would be the perfect wrap-up of my Countdown to October.

Production Notes: Halloween III gets categorically dismissed for being the one without Michaell Myers, kind of like Bourne Legacy is dismissed for being the one without Jason Bourne. I guess I’m the patron saint of unloved sequels.

What Did I Think:
For me personally, Halloween III is one of the movies I most remember hearing as a kid. My parents watched a fair amount of horror films, but of course, they would do this past my 9pm bedtime. But, our house was small. The walls were not thick. And Halloween III has that annoying/creepy commercial . . .

I do think that Halloween III is under-appreciated. Looking at contemporary reviews, it seems like audiences just didn’t get it, if they managed to get over the fact that this is the one without Michael Myers. If you think about it differently, though, this film is folk horror that decides to use modern technology to achieve its end. Is it a little “out there?” Yes. It’s also fairly inventive and would be a great double feature with John Carpenter’s They Live (1988).


Well, there it is: 50 movies in 75 days. Fourteen of those were rewatches. What were the gems among the new-to-me movies? Here are ten movies that I either enjoyed or thought a bit about in the order I watched them:

  1. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
  2. Prey (2022)
  3. Coherence (2013)
  4. Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
  5. Last Night in Soho (2021)
  6. Glorious (2022)
  7. Ganja & Hess (1973)
  8. Byzantium (2012)
  9. Speak No Evil (2022)
  10. Wishmaster (1997)

I’m certainly not done with horror for the year, but I’ll be branching out into other genres for a while.

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Countdown to October: Movies 46–48

The Temp

Year: 1993
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rated: R

Director: Tom Holland

Writers: Kevin Falls, Tom Engelman

Stars: Timothy Hutton, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dwight Schultz

Initial: Figured I’d give the 90s a little more attention before the month wrapped up. I’ve never heard of this movie, but it has some of my favorite character actors.

What Did I Think:
When I finished watching The Temp, I wondered if there had been problems during production. This was Tom Holland’s theatrical follow-up to Child’s Play (1988), which is pretty well-made film. In contract, The Temp has so many awkward transitions and tone shifts that it felt like the movie had been cut apart and Frankensteined back together. I did learn that the ending in particular had been rewritten (several times) and reshot after the original was deemed too violent by test audiences. Not sure that explains the rest of the movie though.

The Temp falls in a crack between horror-comedy and erotic thriller. It’s never either and ends up being kind of bland. Wolf (1994), a movie with a similar corporate aesthetic, is a much better film.


Wishmaster

Year: 1997
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: R

Director: Robert Kurtzman

Writers: Peter Atkins

Stars: Tammy Lauren, Andrew Divoff, Angus Scrimm

Initial: I think I’ve somehow been equating Wishmaster with the Leprechaun franchise. It hadn’t occurred to me that this is a djinn movie.

Production Notes: Wishmaster has an impressive number of horror cameos. Plus, Peter Atkins named many characters after horror writers.

What Did I Think:
I rather liked Wishmaster. There is obviously great horror potential in wishes gone wrong. Every time someone wished or wanted something I could immediately see how it wasn’t going to work out. That didn’t make the movie any less fun. The plot isn’t overly complex, which is for the best because the filmmakers take every opportunity to special effects the hell out of this story. Some of the effects are good, some of them are . . . not. In another couple years, CGI would be remarkably better.

Wishmaster is not great art. I’m not interested in its sequels. But as 90 minutes of horror fun? It’s perfect.


Nightbreed

Year: 1990
Runtime: Director’s Cut, 120m
Rated: not rated

Director: Clive Barker

Writers: Clive Barker

Stars: Craig Sheffer, David Cronenberg, Anne Bobby

Initial: Rewatch. Another movie I thought I’d watched in the more recent past, but I hadn’t logged it in Letterboxd, which I started in 2018.

Production Notes: I watched the Director’s Cut, which is shorter than the Cabal Cut, but better than the theatrical cut.

What Did I Think:
When Nightbreed came out in 1990, I somehow came into possession of a promotional pamphlet called “A Human’s Guide to the Nightbreed.” I probably picked it up as a freebie at Star Realm, our local science fiction/gaming store, but honestly I don’t remember. Obviously, I wasn’t reading Fangoria yet. The pamphlet provided a little background for Midian and some of the Nightbreed characters. It caught my imagination, but since I was 15 at the time, seeing the movie in theaters would have been work. I figured I’d catch it on cable at some point. Or maybe look into some works by this Clive Barker fellow.

It ended up being a long time before I finally saw the movie and the Clive Barker I read seemed a long way from the semi-good monsters of the pamphlet. The theatrical cut of Nightbreed ended up being one of those movies I always wished was a little better than it is. The director’s cut is either much better or I’ve chosen to overlook the movie’s larger flaws.

I never cared much for the third act: a bunch of gun-toting good-ol’-boys invade Midian. It always struck me as a little over-wrought. I guess it has been a few years since I watched Nightbreed because that hits a little differently now. Yeah, the gun-lust of these characters seems a little like parody, but the aggressive bullying of people who have done nothing wrong, but are “unnatural?” Clive Barker isn’t being subtle about is messaging and it sadly feels very on the nose.

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Countdown to October: Movies 43–45

Death of Me

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rated: R

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Writers: Ari Margolis, James Morley III, David Tish

Stars: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe

Initial: The premise of this movie seems promising.

What Did I Think:
As usual, I hadn’t seen the trailer before I watched this movie. I had expected more of a found footage aspect, maybe crossed with The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). After a while though, it becomes pretty obvious that the entire village is in on what’s going on, that something bad is going to happen to Christine (Maggie Q) and it will ward away the massive storm baring down on this paradise island. The film is aware of the Wicker Man vibes and self-consciously references that film in a bit of throw-away dialog.

In general, Death of Me is just a little too messy. There are some gory bits and some uncanny moments, but the scariest thing is the gaslighting (which is what makes The Wicker Man (1973) good without gore or FX). There’s a late-breaking pregnancy sub-plot that makes little sense considering Christine’s sacrificial status and the movie’s timeline. The rules of this “island magic” require free will, but that somehow doesn’t include having every choice being manipulated.


Who Invited Them

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 21m
Rated: (not rated)

Director: Duncan Birmingham

Writers: Duncan Birmingham

Stars: Ryan Hansen, Melissa Tang, Timothy Granaderos, Perry Mattfeld

Initial: There seems to be a whole sub-genre of dinner party horror. I should make a list.

What Did I Think:
I found Who Invited Them uncomfortable, but not in a good horror way, more in a “I’m cringing so hard at social awkwardness that I’m dying” kind of way.

I didn’t like the character of Adam (Ryan Hansen). Actually, I’m not sure I’m supposed to like him. He’s a pretentious hipster who doesn’t understand why people might leave his party early (or not show up at all). Which means, I don’t care too much about him. The uninvited guests are menacing, but in that way that makes you wonder, “What would I do if guests at a party refused to leave?” It’s my social anxieties that are getting played with; if I wanted that, I’d go watch a sitcom. The plot ramps up in the last twenty-ish minutes., culminating with the most obvious instance of Chekov’s gun I’ve ever encountered.


Speak No Evil

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 37m
Rated: not rated

Director: Christian Tafdrup

Writers: Christian Tafdrup, Mads Tafdrup

Stars: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt

Initial: This was mentioned in an audience review of Who Invited Them as an example of how to do a similar story, but better.

What Did I Think:
I was joking about dinner party horror, but after reading a review of Speak No Evil, a thought occurred to me. There is the theory that horror movies reflect current societal fears and worries. I’ve been wondering what the current horror movie trends are and what they say about us. Many of these dinner party horror films, certainly Who Invited Them and Speak No Evil, are about personal boundaries and anxiety over causing offense or harm to others, even if those others would do us harm.

Speak No Evil takes it further than Who Invited Them. Who Invited Them gives its villains a concrete motive, one that makes the protagonists fairly incidental to the villain’s story. In Speak No Evil, when Bjørn asks Patrick why he’s tormenting Bjørn’s family, the answer is, “Because you let me.”

On an entertainment level, it’s hard to call a movie like Speak No Evil entertaining. I need to start watching trailers and probably avoiding anything that is heralded as a social satire. In the case of horror movies that seems to mean that characters will probably be tortured for the runtime.

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Countdown to October: Movies 40–42

Dracula 3D

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 50m
Rated: not rated

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Bram Stoker, Antonio Tentori

Stars: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento

Initial: Oh hey, Dario Argento directed a version of Dracula, with Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing (finally a Dutchman playing a Dutchamn). . . . in 3D?

What Did I Think:
Remember just last post when I marveled at CGI effects from 2007 and noted that there are still so many bad effects? I could have been talking about Dracula 3D. But I’m not sure the effects are the worst thing about it to be honest.

Thomas Kretschmann’s Dracula has as much charisma as a—I’ve been trying to think of a proper comparison since mid-movie and I still can’t come up with anything. An old shoe has more charisma. The story is transposed entirely to Transylvania, which takes out any subtext of immigration. The Dracula/Mina doomed-love-story aspect only comes into play during the last 20 minutes. Some of the additions to Dracula’s abilities were confounding. I can only imagine one of the screenwriters saying, “Well, if Dracula can shapeshift into anything, why not—?” And no one told him a giant praying mantis was a bad idea. The pacing made this 110 minute movie seem much, much longer. Everything looks very clean and fresh and cheap. Except for the one crazy guy who has some dirt smeared on him. I will say that Asia Argento and Miriam Giovanelli have very nice breasts, because of course we have to have a sex scene and a bathing scene.

It made me long for one of Argento’s Giallo films, and I don’t like Giallo films.


Byzantium

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 58m
Rated: R

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Moira Buffini

Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley

Initial: Byzantium has been on my TBW list for quite a while.

Production Notes: This is Neil Jordan’s other vampire film. He previously directed 1994’s Interview with the Vampire.

What Did I Think:
It’s really nice to encounter a vampire mythology that is actually different. The vampire origins are somewhat geography(?)-based, but it’s this notions of a brotherhood of vampires—no women allowed!—which I almost wish was more fleshed out. I say “almost” because I’m also really fine with this movie not explaining itself to death. Instead, it’s a coming-of-age story about a girl who will never age. It’s also about telling stories and how tellers expect their stories to be received. This would be a great double bill with Candyman (1992).

Neil Jordan is a really good filmmaker. Byzantium is beautiful. Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton give good performances. Obviously, this isn’t the most horrifying horror film ever (neither was Interview with the Vampire), but it does have a moment or two.


Final Prayer

Year: 2013
Runtime: 1h 29m
Rated: R

Director: Elliot Goldner

Writer: Elliot Goldner

Stars: Gordon Kennedy, Robin Hill, Aidan McArdle

Initial: Decided to watch a movie contemporary to the other two, more or less.

Production Notes: Released as The Borderlands in the UK, which is a much more intriguing title.

What Did I Think:
I hadn’t watched the trailer, so I had no idea where this movie was going. Where it ends up, I could never have predicted.

Considering the terrible effects in Argento’s Dracula, I found it funny that this third film pretty much entirely forgoes visual effects. Instead, taking a page from The Blair Witch Project‘s playbook, it relies mostly on sound. I think this is a good idea for found footage movies. Since the footage has been recorded digitally, there are some anomalies, but Final Prayer doesn’t overly rely on that kind of creepiness.

Events in Final Prayer are a little random. As with Byzantium, things aren’t entirely explained and this, too, is a good call in found footage genre. These stories never quite approach the messiness of reality, but their narratives shouldn’t be entirely whole either.

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Countdown to October: Movies 37–39

It’s the “All Happy Endings” edition of Countdown to October!
Okay, it’s really not, but these movies are all:

  • rewatches.
  • two-word titles (and one of the words is “the”).
  • adaptations of written works.
  • squicky FX extravaganzas.

The Thing

Year: 1982
Runtime: 1h 49m
Rated: R

Director: John Carpenter

Writers: Bill Lancaster, John W. Campbell Jr.

Stars: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David

Initial: Been in the mood to rewatch The Thing for a while now.

Production Notes: Never realized before: The Thing came out two weeks after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (and the same weekend as Blade Runner). The world would have to wait another two years for Carpenter’s benevolent alien film, Starman (1984). For what it’s worth, E.T. has not aged well for me while The Thing is an occasional rewatch and Starman is a nostalgic favorite.

What Did I Think:
I love how this trailer gives no clue to the practical effects horrors that this movie contains. I became a horror movie fan by first being a special effects fan. I was semi-familiar with the physical forms of the Thing before I ever properly watched the movie. Of course, The Thing isn’t just about creatures, it’s about paranoia and the unknown.

I found that, like with my recent rewatch of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), I had forgotten parts of this movie. I always remember first part with the Norwegians chasing the dog, the ending, and the blood test scene, though I forget *when* the testing scene happens. I forget about Wilford Brimley’s Dr. Blair going a little nuts and a never quite remember just how the movie comes to its ending scene. I’m not sure what that says about me or about the movie.


The Mist

Year: 2007
Runtime: 2h 6m
Rated: R

Director: Frank Darabont

Writers: Frank Darabont, Stephen King

Stars: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden

Initial: Also on the “oppressive atmosphere” rewatch list. The last time I rewatched The Mist was before I started my Letterboxd account in waning days of 2017.

Production Notes: I will always be impressed by the fact that Darabont gave up his directorial salary in order to keep the ending the way it is.

What Did I Think:
While a rewatch, The Mist still makes me squirm and talk to the screen, maybe even moreso since I know what’s coming. The CGI creature aren’t bad. It’s kind of surprising that there have been so many not very good CGI effects in the 15 years since this film’s release.

I think Assistant Manager Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones) might be one of my favorite characters in film, a generally competent dude in an extreme situation.

Re: “oppressive atmosphere.” The Mist is a bigger movie than Hereditary, but not by much. Aside from maybe one scene, the audience remains with Thomas Jane’s David Drayton. There are two main sets: the grocery story and an expanse of white opaque mist. The grocery store ends up being full of religious fanatics and the mist is full of things that are ultimately less scary than religious fanatics. Like Hereditary, the score is at times minimal and at other times overwhelming.


The Fly

Year: 1986
Runtime: 1h 36m
Rated: R

Director: David Cronenberg

Writers: George Langelaan, Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg

Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Initial: You didn’t think I was going to marathon fifty horror movies without one of them being a Cronenberg film did you?

Production Notes: The only movie directed by David Cronenberg to win an Oscar, to Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis for Best Makeup.

What Did I Think:
What struck me in this rewatch was how The Fly wastes no time. “What am I working on? Uh, I’m working on something that will change the world and human life as we know it.” That’s the first line of this movie, spoken by Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). Nearly the first 12 minutes of the film is entirely Seth and Veronica (Geena Davis), setting up not only what Brundle is working on but the burgeoning relationship between the two characters. And that is the bedrock the rest of the film is built on.

The Fly isn’t as nihilistic as The Thing or The Mist. Its body horror is much more personal and so is its tragedy. You could argue that The Fly and The Mist end similarly, characters in both take similar actions, but The Mist‘s coda ends the movie on a scale grander than the preceding movie. The Fly ends with Seth and Veronica front and center, the way it began. (The third character in the last scene, John Getz’s Stathis is, in fact, the third character on introduced in the movie as well.) It’s an interesting bit of symmetry.

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Countdown to October: Movies 34–36

This post: two pieces of fluffy Blumhouse bread with A24 deli pastrami in between.

The Black Phone

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 43m
Rated: R

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writers: Joe Hill, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill

Stars: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke

Initial: Heavily promoted and had gotten some good reviews.

Production Notes: Based on a story by Joe Hill, the Stephen King vibes seem to run in the family.

What Did I Think:
As a 2021 film finally released in 2022, I saw many reviews calling The Black Phone the best movie of the year, which is probably more of a statement about films in 2022 than this movie. (Granted, it came out before Prey.) That’s not to say that The Black Phone is a bad movie, I just felt is lacked . . . something.

The plot falls together in a fairly tidy way, though I’m kind of surprised that the Grabber pays very little attention to what is going on in the basement suite he provides for his captives. I was also okay with the dual, apparently unrelated supernatural aspects: the eponymous black phone and Gwen’s visions. Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw both give really good performances, possibly better than any of the adult cast aside from whatever half of Ethan Hawk’s face we see in any scene.

My dissatisfaction with The Black Phone might come down to something kind of pet-peevish. The setting of the movie never quite commits to the era it’s set in, an era that is particularly known for missing children. On one hand, I can understand that Derrickson wanted to avoid being overly nostalgic, but on the other, there are things, like the kids’ names that are not very 70s (or 80s) at all. It led to an un-grounded feeling for me.


Hereditary

Year: 2018
Runtime: 2h 7m
Rated: R

Director: Ari Aster

Writer: Ari Aster

Stars: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff

Initial: Rewatch. I’m thinking about films with oppressive atmospheres.

What Did I Think:
I think I like Hereditary a little more each time I watch it. The first time I saw it, I didn’t know what to expect. The trailer does a good job of being opaque, which means at a certain point, the movie goes in a direction that is unexpected (at least it was to me). On second viewing, I could better see the path of the plot. Every time I’ve watched it since, I can see all the craftsmanship that goes into setting up each detail of the plot.

I’ve said before, that I always find it interesting when a character in a horror movie doesn’t seem to know they’re in a horror movie. Never has there been a character as dense ad Gabriel Byrne’s Steve. Finds a corpse in the attic? Steve is pretty sure he should get his wife some help. She’s been going through a hard time . . .

Re: oppressive atmosphere. Ari Aster does it here with very still, “square” camera work. I feel boxed in by his close-ups, by his shots of people in cars often framed by the windows or windshield, by the referencing again and again of Annie dioramas. Also the “score” is often an enclosing wall of sound.


They/Them

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 44m
Rated: TV-MA

Director: John Logan

Writer: John Logan

Stars: Kevin Bacon, Theo Germaine, Anna Chlumsky

Initial: Alright, let’s see how this goes . . .

Production Notes: John Logan has written screenplays for Gladiator (2000) and Skyfall (2012), but also Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and Alien: Covenant (2017). He may be the very definition of “your mileage may very.”

What Did I Think:
For about half of its runtime, They/Them seems to forget it’s supposed to be a horror movie. Or, rather, it starts out with the trappings of a slasher film, becomes The Breakfast Club (1985) and then a psychological thriller before ending back at slasher film. The problem might be that most slasher films have a mystery at their heart: who is the slasher? But characters in the film have to actually be aware of the slasher before the last 20 minutes of the film.

Maybe this goes back to characters knowing that they’re in a horror film. All the characters think they are in a very particular kind of psychological horror film. They are fully expecting to be psychologically tortured (and they are), but the running “B” plot should involve bodies turning up.

Being a cis het woman, I’m not going to speak to whether the depictions of LGBTQ+ characters are good or not. I do think it’s cool that they cast a trans actor as the lead. The scene between Theo Germaine’s Jordan and Carrie Preston’s Cora (the camp counselor) is really the highlight of the film.