The muddled execution of Us didn't make me question what Jordan Peele could do next. He's only three films into his career, and doing all right for himself despite the divisiveness surrounding his last film. Still, with so little time to prepare my hype in these 'The Myans Were Wrong' times, Peele has regained stride from Get Out .
Wednesday, September 7, 2022
Friday, July 17, 2020
Relic (2020) Adds A New Twist to 'Haunted House' Classics
Age creeps up on us steadily. One second we're young and free, and the next we're burdened with too many responsibilities or we don't want to be a burden to our loved ones. What becomes of us when we age and those around us is at the heart of Relic - a horror film that makes us come face-to-face with the shock, confusion, and (hopefully) understanding aging inevitably causes.
After their grandmother Edna (Robyn Nevin) is reported missing, her daughter and granddaughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) journeys to her house to find out what happened and discover signs of disarray that makes them realize how severely she's been struggling on her own. When Edna mysteriously re-appears as if nothing happened, her erratic behavior forces them to realize there might be more to her dementia than meets the eye.
Friday, March 13, 2020
(M.O.M.) Mothers of Monsters (2020) Compels Us To Question A Mother's Love
Concerned mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) has recognized a pattern of mental health issues with her son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) since he was a young boy. Having grown up as a teenager with an obsession for video games and Nazi paraphernalia, Abbey now questions whether her son is planning an attack on his school. Left to take matters into her own hands, Abbey rigs their house with an elaborate surveillance system in the hope of helping other mothers recognize the warning signs.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Let's Go To There: Halloween Horror Nights 2019
This year, my sister and I snagged Frequent Fear Passes. Instead of packing all of Universe Orlando's haunted houses into one night, we attended the event over and over again to face our fears (and there were quite a few of them). It's been a real treat to scream our hearts out over and over again.
Monday, October 21, 2019
Book VS Movie: Beverly Marsh
This post talks about topics related to Beverly's arc in the book and movie including abuse, sexual violence, and puberty. Read at your own risk.
Saturday, September 7, 2019
My Love / Hate Relationship With It: Chapter Two (2019)
|Warner Bros. Pictures|
This review contains spoilers and flashing gifs- read at your own risk!
Sunday, July 28, 2019
Us (2019) Works Best in Fragments But Not As A Whole
If you haven't seen Us, read at your own risk. This post contains spoilers!
Friday, October 12, 2018
Let's Go To There: Halloween Horror Nights 2018
Every autumn Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood transforms its theme parks under the cover of darkness into scare zones and themed houses. This year, Stranger Things, Poltergeist, Halloween 4, and The Purge were just some of the iconic movies and shows to arrive at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort.
To be honest, I'm not an avid horror fan, but I like the occasional scare. When my sister and I saw the line-up of houses for this year's HHN, we cast our fears aside to celebrate Halloween a little differently this year. Because it caters to all kinds of fans (mostly 18+) who love to get more than a little freaked out, the event turned out to be perfect for me and my sister to attend.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
A Quiet Place (2018) rings in another exciting wave of terror
|Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night|
This review contains spoilers - please read at your own risk.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
mother! (2017) sinks under its own ambition
|Photo Credit: mother! / Paramount Pictures|
mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is rebuilding a beautiful house as her poet husband Him (Javier Bardem) struggles to find his next big inspiration. As she strives to make a paradise for him and satiate his zapped creative energy, nothing seems to be good enough - her devotion, attention, love, and care. When strangers visit in the middle of the night inviting war, barbarism, and a cultlike devotion, Him and their unwanted guests bring with them the end of the world as she knows it.
Dubbed as a psychological thriller, even a horror film, Aronofsky threads a foreboding sense of genuine suspense in the beginning. Utilizing a script he wrote in five days, Aronofsky impressively packs in a lot of detail in a short amount of time. When the story strictly centered on mother's dynamics with the house, Him and his consuming attention he feeds off of their visitors, the story looms with confusion and anxiety: Who are these people? Why is Him so attracted to them so easily? What makes mother so apprehensive to their presence? But as the story moves further into the second and last act, Aronofsky adaptating the characters into bigger ideas (Him as God, mother as mother nature, the first two strangers as Adam and Eve) escalates to the point where you stop wondering what point he's trying to make and start questioning what the heck you're watching at all.
Blurring the line between interesting easter eggs, and plastering biblical references at every turn, Aronofsky succeeds better when he isn't trying so hard. mother, anthropomorphized by Jennifer Lawrence, dresses in fine, earthy clothes, and flints between being confused, horrified, or physically abused to the point of no return all in the name of her selflessness to provide for others. Him is obsessed with creation and validation by the masses, of which both will eventually become greedy and consumed by their own egos. In trying to mix the characters in with the setting, mother's house, aka Earth, polluted on, flooded, has blood spilt on it (to say the least), there isn't a specific focus with any one of the messages he's trying to tell: the muse and the arrogant artist, our unrealized fears about the environment and how we treat it before there's no going back, or the pain people inflict upon each other in the name of something higher. There's so little intrigue infused into the story at the halfway mark but so much going on on the surface, Aronofsky's ideas are actually rather thin.
mother! isn't meant to be a horror film in the sense of typical crime dramas or the supernatural haunting the living. The film is meant for us to consider climate change and how we treat mother nature as if she was a person. But Aronofsky throws so much at the wall, his real message doesn't necessarily stick, unless one wants to sink down into the allegorical rabbit hole. Throughout all of the chaos and heavy-handed symbolism, there's no real thrilling or lasting aspect to Aronofsky's or Him's madness. Which leaves the film with an unapologetic graphic violence without a consistent tone or message, so much so that its shock value loses any deeper meaning he started out with.
To helm his absolute rollercoaster, Lawrence's commitment to her director's vision is palpable, and it might be the best performance of her career since Winter's Bone, but even then, it's bothersome that her contrasting perspective and judgement of mother seeps into the role at times and loses the essential connection one needs to have because the film is from her point-of-view. Her supporting cast doesn't fare much better: Javier Bardem feels out of place as the other lead, while Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris, and the Gleeson brothers are in the most intriguing part of the movie, they are also unmemorable.
Technically, there are things about this that are a marvel. Its sound design by Jóhann Jóhannsson is brilliant, having no instrumental or lyrical soundtrack to set the pace. The camerawork focuses on its lead Jennifer Lawrence for a good 66 minutes of 121 minutes, of which the cinematography had to be in sync with the actress. It's also stunning how they staged the action inside the house with everything from raves and dinner parties to hostage situations, cults, and warzones.
Sometimes one movie is the culmination of everything a director has been building for their entire career. Usually, I'd feel excited about this kind of boldness, to take motifs, common plots, and techniques over the years to deliver something that beats out their previous work. Instead mother! feels wildly forgettable, perhaps something Aronofsky needed to get off of his shoulders, and only a select few are going to stand by what he wanted to say. His latest obsession is a mishmash of what makes him known as a controversial auteur, only this time if he wanted to go for shock value, he should've gone back to the drawing board too.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
My Cousin Rachel (2017) is the Victorian-horror-romance we need
|Fox Searchlight Pictures|
Observing from afar, a young man Phillip (Sam Claflin) becomes suspicious about the torrid affair between his cousin Ambrose and companion Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When his revered fatherly figure dies rather quickly and under mysterious circumstances, Phillip declares justice for his loss but instead finds himself down a path Ambrose took: falling under her spell.
So rarely does a Gothic horror movie plant a very simple idea in our heads, but My Cousin Rachel sparks us to ask did she or didn't she, and then makes us question our choice every step of the way.
From the beginning, Phillip's beliefs about her guilt and wanting to make her pay for his relative's death is easy to side with. What he knows or assumes about Rachel from his loved one's letters about her as a "torment" and his worsening his health is all we need to believe she may be guilty too. When she shows up on his doorstep, her compelling presence, only wanting the best of everything for him, makes it difficult to gauge whether she's working his emotions to her own benefit or if she's as innocent as she could be. Lacking in any romantic relationships himself, he's overwhelmed by her femininity and prowess, easily squashing the vengeance he held so firmly. But as Phillip grows increasingly obsessed with his newfound love, nearly vying for ownership over her, it becomes harder to see Rachel as a murderess casting revenge, and more of a free spirit not wanting to be possessed by anyone; unfortunately, caged in by societal rules.
One thing is almost certain: their love affair will end in catastrophe, but along the way, the story asks who the culprit is. The story starts out concerned if Rachel murdered Ambrose, and slowly begins mirroring a possibility of how their relationship grew troublesome. At once Phillip and Rachel can be hopeful, joyous, and splendidly over the moon about each other, but then on a dime turns extraordinarily spiteful and malicious. At every turn, Rachel never escapes the unyielding paranoia Phillip has cast on her, or she cast on herself. For both of them, the question we started out with of who killed Ambrose turns into who is the victim and the manipulator.
To make this work, the leads had to be very special. From big adaptations The Hunger Games and Me Before You to smaller productions like Their Finest, Sam Claflin rarely does no-wrong. Phillip required someone who was dashing and broken, skeptical and selfish, and Claflin offers everything his character needs to believe in his convictions whether they're wrong or right. To build his downfalls, by the same token, Rachel Weisz captures an enigmatic spirit for Rachel. In no time at all, one can't help but be warmed by her spirits, sympathetic of the quickly forgotten notion that she too lost Ambrose, guilty for casting her innocence aside too soon, but also left questioning her intentions. Throughout her career Weisz's managed a myriad of complex roles, slipping under the radar as one of the best actresses in Meryl Streep's league. Together, they make an hypnotic, complicated duo.
Melding the story and performances with the direction and stunning cinematography, My Cousin Rachel adequately fills every gothic-romance fanatics's needs. If a scene is cast in a meadow, one can't help but feel the breeze and freedom the outdoor gives. When set inside the house, it's quaint by claustrophobic. Every frame evokes that moody, unrequited stay in a haunted house waiting for the skeletons to come out of the closet. As an author DuMaurier has always been ample material for Hitchcockian-like films, and Roger Mitchell rekindling one of her stories delivers the ambiguity she delved into to make a visually and emotionally pleasing puzzle.
My Cousin Rachel proves to be a compelling mystery, a rare chameleon as a whirlwind love affair, and an identity crises for its leads. Thriving on paranoia, the who-dun-it elements work seamlessly for a first viewing, and subsequently inspire you to seek what you might've missed before. Aided by fascinating actors, a capable script, and beautiful cinematography, the movie dispenses a daunting ballad of horror and romance.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Wonder Women: Lisa Freemont in Rear Window (1964)
Elegant and tenacious Grace Kelly dazzles in the classic thriller about an injured photographer L.B "Jeff" Jeffries (played by James Stewart) who's cocooned in his apartment and starts spying on his neighbors. Getting caught up in their own imaginations and theories, they suspect a grizzly murdered took place just across the street and try to prove their accusations to the authorities.
Throughout his career Hitchcock examined the themes of a seemingly perfect crime, and the morals that came along with the act in question. Like similar suspenseful films Marnie, Vertigo and Dial M for Murder, he also dabbled in the complications of marriage, singlehood, and the sexual tension between men and women. More prominently Rear Window, a tale of voyeurism and murder, offers a switch of gender roles where its independent and undaunted leading lady becomes the hero.
Monday, October 19, 2015
28 Days Later (2002) brilliantly infects the zombie genre
|Photo Credit: 28 Days Later / Fox Searchlight Pictures|
28 Days Later isn't exactly about an undead apocalypse. A virus causing a violent rage unleashes when an animal-rights groups' mission to rescue lab-tested monkeys fails. People don't die and come back as zombies though, as is the lore of the genre. The rampant disease spreads when uninfected humans come in contact with the carriers with contaminated blood or saliva. Instead the infected become animalistic having no conscious and are ignited with a bloodthirsty rage, but aren't technically flesh-eaters.
Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital smack dab in the middle of the post-apocalypse. The streets are barren, the government has fallen, and the world appears to have emptied of any human contact - except for a stubborn and headstrong survivor Selena (Naomie Harris), and a father-daughter duo Frank and Hannah. Jim quickly learns the rules to surviving. If you are bitten, you're less than a few heartbeats from becoming one of them. Unless you've got no other choice: don't go anywhere alone and only in daylight.
Unlike the carnivorous savages people turn into once they are infected, the film itself doesn't try to be downright horrifying, but it definitely is. The opening scenes of Jim waking up to an isolated and unaware of the desecrated world, walking around a deserted London, is enough to put anyone on edge. Most of the film isn't out to make you jump from your seat but has the power of making you question what people are capable of when the end of days has arrived.
Jim (and his partnership to Selena) is one of the best and most hopeful dynamics of the story. The rules of civility changed the second he woke up from his coma and he has no other choice or chance but to commit to his and hers survival. He struggles to hold onto his old self but has to face the risk of becoming barbarous to stay alive. Though made to look physically shriveled and weak, Cillian Murphy is simply enigmatic. He's frail physically and emotionally, but he has a capability to make you feel like there's still a fire burning inside him somewhere.
Selena, played by the awesome Naomie Harris, is refreshing as a female character overall. Having endured loss and adapted to the eye-for-an-eye lifestyle she's been forced into, she is stubborn and pragmatic. She doesn't put up with any threats that might kill her - not even Jim at some instances. But, she isn't just kick-ass, or defensive, or holding on the edge of her rope; she's also vulnerable in taking a chance on Jim and what their life can be like in the post-apocalypse.
Acquiring shelter, food, and protection is one way to keep breathing one more day, but re-establishing normalcy and finding your family might be the best way to persevere. Their union makes us question if you have to turn into an animal because of other shady survivors and the "undead".
Boyle's film is not necessarily gory, but it's still unsettling because of his examination: the many ways humankind degrades when faced with a societal fall like this; what the fear of a disease will turn people into. This is a limited-character drama told with a rock anthem of survival. A grungy, urban violence is its setting, obviously devastating and gritty. Through a steady momentum of thrills, the film has pausing moments of poetry and hope of the future. Despite how many threats, both human and non-human, ravages what's left of civilization, there is still glimmers of benevolence, love, and generosity left. The characters just have to hang tight on, day by day.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Horror Movie Survival Kit Inspired by ManCrate
Well, we're in luck! ManCrates focuses on creating awesome gifts for men in custom wooden crates that he has to open with a crowbar. In celebration of the Halloween season, the awesome people at ManCrates asked me to come up with what I would want in my own dream crate that would help me and others make it to the end credits of a horror flick.
There are a few obvious essentials to surviving a horror movie like being familiar with the commandments and carrying a few in-case-of-emergency aids (flashlight, phone chargers, etc). When we're caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, or are pitted against vampires, it's best that we are prepared for anything. Here is a list of tools I thought would be awesome for a Horror Movie Survival Kit. Enjoy!
Monday, May 19, 2014
Blockbusted Blogathon: The Haunting (1999)
As the story goes: Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lily Taylor) has a terrible string of bad luck and arseholes ruling her life. After caring for her invalid mother for eleven years in a rundown Boston apartment, her sister and boyfriend evict Nell from her home via her mother's last wishes. Nell receives a phone call to participate in a sleep research study helmed by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) in an isolated mansion on Hill House. She uses her newfound "freedom" and nightmares as a means for escape to join the experiment. Once all have arrived at the manor - Marrow and fellow participants Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson) and Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones) - they're cut off from the bordering town and the house soon shows its true horrifying colors.
Honestly, they are horrifying - not in the sense of the movie being scary. Two key ingredients of horrible films are plotholes and/or unrealistic plot circumstances. While offeringcheesy moments of suspense such as unexplained drastic temperature changes, constant conviction by the main character that she is seeing ghosts, and scenes of waiting to see what's lurking behind the corner to make you jump, The Haunting is all but laughable - probably one of the only reasons I watch it; to revel in its bombastic storytelling.