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  Belittling Horror Excessively: #Horror 01:51 PM -- Sat October 15, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

SECOND WARNING! This movie is absolutely awful. We both gave it zero out of five. Don't watch it. You will regret it.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

#Horror (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 3.3/10
Metacritic: 42
Rotten Tomatoes: 50% critics, 9% audience (note that discrepancy!)
Mikey: 0/5
Solee: 0/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Six preadolescent girls face a night of terror when the compulsive addiction of an online social media game turns a moment of cyber bullying into a night of insanity.”

Solee: I hated this movie from the opening credits. They were flashy and fast and noisy. They were everything I hate about the internet all crammed together. I knew this movie was going to be a problem as soon as they started. You?

Mikey: They were a big shock to me. First of all, the movie opens with quiet snow, and a bloody murder, very dark horror style, then jumps into these Bejeweled credits. There had to be less than a second that each person’s name was on the screen. And I know there are serious rules about credits in movies. I have to wonder if this violated some kind of SAG rule or something. It violated my eyeballs for sure.

Solee: It was horrible. But it definitely set the stage for the rest of the horribleness of the film. The acting? Horrible. The characters? Horrible. The storyline? Horrible. Blegh. The only things that weren’t horrible were the sweeping exterior shots. Those were quite beautiful in a stark, unsettling way.

Mikey: I made a big note about those. Whenever there were no characters onscreen, and it showed the environment, this looked like an amazing movie. It was like Fargo or something. Then they’d cut to a bunch of girls doing a dance routine in masks.

Solee: This felt like a student film… like something someone would make as their final project. They took everything anyone ever told them would build tension or increase the dramatic effect and shoved it all in there. It was like a video collage.

Mikey: Who told them to slap in emoticons and high scores!?

Solee: Well, that was their attempt at being modern and unique. Also… it was a very important part of their VERY PREACHY message. This movie was super moralistic and judgemental. Maybe that’s why it got such a low score from normal people. It basically told normal people that they suucked.

Mikey: Oh no, that’s not why. It was because normal people had to watch it. From what we’ve said so far, it sounds like this movie is fast paced and frenetic. Let’s clarify: the opening credits are fast paced. The random cutaways to this weird hybrid of Bejeweled and online chat are frenetic. But between those brief moments, this was the slowest movie ever created.

Solee: SOOOOO sloooooow. And I went on a first date in high school to JFK, so I KNOW long movies. This was waay longer than that. This movie actually breaks the laws of time and space in our universe. Not the plot of the movie. The movie itself. It’s like a Tardis… bigger on the inside.

Mikey: It is, because it’s an hour and forty-one minutes long. But we spent at least fifteen hours watching those girls put on a synchronized swimming routine. And that’s just one scene.

Solee: Yes. That movie is several days of my life that I’m not getting back.

And here’s the thing… I am a girl. I was a teenaged girl for several years. I went to my share of sleepovers. That is NOT what they are like. Granted, I was a teenaged girl in the stone ages before smart phones existed and I didn’t hang out with obscenely rich people… but none of that rang true to me. It was as if someone who never got invited to a sleep over was trying to imagine what one would be like.

Mikey: Oh no, now you’re making it a sad story. I feel bad for the writer. But speaking of false rings, the ‘internet’ stuff in this movie was the exact kind of tone-deaf random weirdness that you see old people make. This was supposed to be some young director (I actually don’t know she’s young at all, to be honest) who is all hip and decided to make something about cyberbullying, so how did she make the modern equivalent of an X-Files episode about VR?

Solee: Haha! Actually, that brings to mind one of the things I kind of liked about this movie. The kids and the adults were living in two separate worlds. The adults in this movie were very self-centered and obsessed with themselves to the point of having no idea what their children were doing. And then they would randomly jump in to parent by shouting about random threats things they’d seen on social media (Cat’s dad) or by trying to be cool and toss around awkwardly broken slang (Sophia’s mom). THAT part rang true.

Mikey: I don’t know about true, more like over-the-top crazy version of true. Allegorical. Nate from Leverage was a psycho. Of course his daughter was too, so I guess that’s cool. I think that was actually a good element. They were aiming for something here - they just flailed around too hard and smashed everything. They were doing this disaffected youth, bad parents, look what the kids have come to as a result, that kind of thing. It can be done well, without emoticons.

I liked the idea that “Horror” isn’t just the slashing at the end of the movie, but the horror of how people treat each other. But I didn’t want to watch people be horrible for hours to experience it.


Solee: Oh, definitely, the horror was a metaphor or whatever. It wasn’t about the actual deaths. I almost felt like the slasher aspect was thrown in just to get people to watch. Prior to watching it, I was expecting something ridiculous like No Tell Motel. Do you think that was intentional because they were targeting that same audience? You know, to teach them something.

Mikey: I don’t know. If it was they failed miserably by making them all very angry. And thus more bullying toward each other I assume. Plus, the whole fake internet thing probably ruptured half their retinal muscles from eye-rolling, so they weren’t really set up to be ready for a lesson. It’s kind of like trying to feed your kid a giant broccoli sandwich instead of slipping in a little bit of healthy bread on their PBJ.

Solee: Haha! Or your husband.

Let’s talk about the fact that they made one of the parents be an art critic so that they could fill the house full of terrible art. Was that necessary? Did it add anything to the story? Was it because Timothy Hutton’s house is really full of terrible art??

Mikey: I tried googling, but I just saw a normal house. Maybe it’s not really his. I’ll check more later. I’m sure they had some deep reason to do it (I’m guessing there’s a deep reason behind all the crazy decisions in this movie - like the pulsing egg wall art), but like all the deeply-reasoned elements, it was completely unnecessary. These kids could’ve hung out in a normal house and it would’ve been less distracting from the actual point of their interactions.

Solee: There were several lines - many of them variations of “I hate you” - that were said almost as if they were internal dialogue being voiced, even to the point of the other characters not reacting at all. Did you notice that?

Mikey: I didn’t! But it did feel like the conversations they had were extremely odd. The main thing was how they’d say truly horrendous things (like “You’re a fat slut and should die” - that level of bad) to each other, then be quiet for about 5 seconds, then just jump back into “so, do you like this necklace? I think it’s pretty.” Like, do they have no emotional memory?

Solee: That is one of the “girl drama” things that didn’t ring true to me. I’ve dealt with my fair share of playground drama in the classroom. BOYS are like that… they get mad, punch each other, move on. Girls, though, Ugh. The girls would hold onto the same bad feelings and grudges for weeks. I’d be helping them talk through the same insult (and the resulting drama) over and over and over all year. Again… maybe the obscenely rich are different?

So I just found this in IMDB trivia: Director Tara Subkoff's husband Urs Fischer, provided most of the art seen in the movie. So that’s who we blame for THAT.

Mikey: AHA! Nepotism. It’s funny you mention boys punching and moving on. That’s actually something I noticed in more than one of the movies we watched earlier this month! Sympathy, Said The Shark was one example, Kill List was another. Guys would get mad (about something very serious like spousal cheating!), have a little fist-fight/wrestle for about a minute, and then help each other up and be cool about it.

I guess that’s how guys are? I might not be a guy. I don’t like people who hit me.


Solee: It was simplistic of me to say that boys or girls as a whole were one way or the other, of course. But I think in a general sense, the male mind tends to let things go once a resolution has been reached, while the female mind holds on to it. Again, that’s a stereotypical way to look at it and there are all kinds of exceptions to this. I’m not sure that anyone of any gender would have taken the ongoing, horrific abuse those girls heaped on each other for more than a couple of minutes without saying, “I’m outta here. Y’all are crazy.”

Mikey: It seems like movies agree with your view, so you’re probably right. I’m always surprised about human beings, they are a very odd bunch. Maybe I should’ve been punching people all this time… that would be fun if they wouldn’t hit me back.

Solee: I think punching people isn’t actually as fun as they make it look in the movies. Plus… I’m glad you’re not the “punch out your problems” kind of guy. I like my men a little more enlightened.

Mikey: Okay, here’s a thing I kept seeing in this movie, which probably contributes to it seeming seven decades long: every couple of minutes, something would happen that seemed of epic importance. Examples include: the girl we knew to have mental problems (hallucinations were mentioned) kind of spazzing out and dancing crazily, to the point where the other girls stopped and told her she was being weird; the ‘internet snapchat’ thingie seeming to select “now it’s time to kill these girls” in an emoticon sense; the egg artwork pulsing. And others, many others. These things looked really important to the story, but in the end, nothing happened with any of it. What was going on here?! You can’t have a girl dance all crazy and it means nothing (sounds weird, but it was like she had totally lost her mind).

Solee: I think that’s what they were going for. The reaction of a mentally unstable person pushed past her breaking point. Which isn’t really that unusual for horror. BUT I agree that way too many of the set-ups in the movie ended up fizzling out or going unexplained. My biggest take-away from #Horror is that I really hate it when plot is sacrificed for message. They were so concerned about making it deep and meaningful and artsy that they completely failed to make the plot coherent. #FAIL. I’ll take a moralistic movie, but you have to make it a story I actually want to watch, or the moral is going to be lost.

Mikey: If she was pushed past her breaking point, she wouldn’t be happily enjoying their company ten seconds later. Ugh, the randomness.

Solee: The girl I was talking about was Cat, who was pushed past her breaking point when they kicked her out of the house into a snowstorm in the middle of the woods. That’s the point when she started picking them off one by one. Oh. Except that she had killed Sophia’s dad and his bimbo before that, huh? I can’t explain that. Or the fact that Cat’s dad was all “I was watching her the whole time”. WTH? Either that’s a lie or he is complicit in all those murders.

Mikey: I think that was another one of the random things. It left me wondering if he was the one we had seen filming people, not Cat. But who knows. None of it means anything in the end! The girl I meant dancing crazy wasn’t Cat, it was Poor Girl! Cat had different mental problems. Poor Psychic Girl, I guess we found out later. Which also made no sense. I really don’t think anything in this movie makes any sense at all once examined. Perhaps we’re not deep enough.

Solee: I’m honestly okay with that. Just like I’m okay with the fact that I won’t ever understand paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a painting of a hard-boiled egg. I’m just not cultured enough.

Mikey: You’re okay with not being deep - you’re not okay with this movie being completely random though, right? It was a special form of torture.

Solee: Oh, no. I’m totally not okay with this movie. I hated this movie. I don’t even think anyone else should bother to watch it. It’s not even good enough to say people should watch for the sake of understanding what we’re saying or having the experience. It’s just pointless.

Mikey: A warning we should probably place above the spoiler alert instead of way down here, when it might be too late to save someone.

Solee: Good point. I’ll be doing that. Although I think my rating is going to maybe do that as well. I’m giving this movie a 0 out of 5. There is NO reason to watch it. I’d give it negative numbers if they were allowed. What about you?

Mikey: I didn’t even know zeroes were allowed! If that’s on the scale, I’m taking it. ZERO. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen something worse as a piece of entertainment in all my Halloween reviews.

Solee: Agreed. I certainly haven’t. I hope tomorrow’s movie will help cleanse our palates a bit. And speaking of palates… I’m hungry. Let’s have lunch!

Mikey: And that movie will be the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror (Ryan Reynolds again?). Watch with us, won't you?
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Exorcism of Emily Rose 02:46 PM -- Fri October 14, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)
Rated PG-13
IMDB rating: 6.7/10
Metacritic: 46
Rotten Tomatoes: 45% critics, 60% audience
Mikey: 3/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Starz.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A lawyer takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest who performed an exorcism on a young girl.”

Mikey: “I object, your honor! On the basis that it is silly.” That’s not Monty Python, that’s Emily Rose!

Solee: This movie was terrifying in a so many ways… but none of them the typical “ooh! Ghosts are scary” way most horror movies aim for. This shined a big old spotlight on the fact that our country is based on individual beliefs and choice and that sometimes means we’re letting uninformed or mentally incapacitated individuals make faulty decisions about their health.

Mikey: It’s true, and that does happen, but what it made me think of is actually a few cases that have happened in real life recently: where people’s religious beliefs or non-religious adherence to a strict diet, resulted in them letting a child die. In every one I can recall, the people were convicted.

Solee: I really struggle with this. On one hand, I think it’s necessary to protect people from themselves if they are actually incapable of making safe decisions. On the other hand, it’s very easy to cross over into “I don’t like your decisions, so I should make decisions for you” territory. Whether someone is incapable of taking care of themselves is often open to interpretation.

Mikey: It definitely is interpretation. It’s one of those things where people who think you can set strict rules for how the world works and it will all just work out are so wrong. You have to take every case and decide it with good judgment rather than a specific single standard, and even then you can’t always be right.

Solee: In this case, I ended up feeling as though there really wasn’t a case. Normally, I’m on the other side, but Emily Rose was an adult and while she was still capable of functioning normally, she chose religion as her solution. It’s not as if she were a minor whose parents refused to let her get medical treatment, or as if she were being held against her will. Even near the end, she chose to keep suffering so that her story would become known and spread the word of God. I thought the priest was pretty much in the clear. You?

Mikey: I think if what we saw on-screen was really what happened (and this movie didn’t really act like it was unreliable), then he didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t malnourish her or abuse her. However - that’s something I have a little bit of a problem with. This Hollywood drama is actually based on a true story for real (for once), and in the true story, the facts seem very horrifically different. That girl underwent 10 months of exorcisms, and I think (without knowing anything beyond the Wikipedia entry) that that kind of ignorance of actual care most definitely led to her death. That’s horrible, and it’s awful to think that this movie exists to sort of whitewash that. Less awful if you just think of this as an unrelated story, but they did make a point of connecting it.

Solee: I was just looking at some info about the real case and I agree… this movie, while “based” on a true story, probably doesn’t give anything close to the truth of the story. I’m not sure how much of that is because it’s impossible to tell a “true” story, with all the real complexities and contradictions, in movie format and how much of it was because someone had an agenda to peddle and how much of it was because this made for a more saleable flick.

Mikey: That’s one thing I was kind of thinking about towards the end: in the story of this movie, this was definitely a real demon, and all that (as usual in movies). Though it does kind of leave room for the mental illness option, there’s a lot of imagery of real demonic stuff seen by people other than the victim (like the guy who gets bus-bussed by a demon!). So what’s the difference between this mainstream horror movie and a Christian proselytizing movie like God’s Not Dead? Because it’s not just a real demon - there’s a whole element of “let’s tell the world so they know the wonders of God!”

Solee: I’m not sure there is a difference, and that’s honestly what was scariest about it. If we accept that Emily (or Anneliese) believed she was possessed by demons and agreed to how the treatment went, that opens a new question for me. What responsibility (or right!) do we have as a general public in ensuring that children are educated in science and reality? Is it okay to allow children to be indoctrinated within a specific religion’s beliefs to the point that they deny generally accepted science? Today, that is definitely how things are done. But I have an issue with it. Especially since, again, we end up on a very slippery slope between beliefs that give comfort and beliefs that cause problems. I’m sure it’s not something with an easy answer, but I think it’s important to talk about it.

The story was obviously quite thought provoking. Were there other aspects of the movie you thought were noteworthy?

Mikey: Well one comment about the “Christian Movie” angle: did you notice the prosecutor was such a jerk? That kind of screamed propaganda. Somebody being that nasty and snippy at the jury wouldn’t make an effective lawyer at all.

Solee: He was clearly represented as a Christian, though. Maybe an example of what a non-Christian Christian looks like?

Mikey: Well, he was going against God’s Plan in the movie, so he had to be evil. He represented the evils of secularism. But another noteworthy thing I found was that you made me pause the movie about 400 times so you could take a picture for consideration of your drawing later. Does that mean this movie had good cinematography?

Solee: This movie had some very striking images. The house, with all its lines and angles out in the stark gray of winter, and the numerous stained-glass windows caught my eye in particular. There were also many recurring themes I noticed, one of them being the drinks representing the different aspects of the characters. Emily’s mother served tea from a very formal looking set, the lawyer drank martinis when in more secular states of mind, and of course, the water glasses present in the courtroom. I’m not sure if this was an intentional motif, but it stood out to me.

Mikey: That wasn’t water, it was moonshine. But that’s quite an observation! You’re a movie pro, much deeper than me. All I saw was that there was a wild cat attack in this movie just like we’ve had multiple times already this month!

Solee: Indeed. It never doesn’t look like someone throwing a cat.

Mikey: Speaking of animals, I had this other thought when in the barn. All of a sudden, rats started running around, snakes came in from nowhere... oh and a tarantula crawled around. Now think about it: those are just classic symbols of evil, that’s why the movie included them. But you know what they really are? Animals. Perfectly fine, normal animals that don’t want to hurt anybody. If you think about the real ‘magic’ in these scenes, it’s just really weird to imagine these ordinary animals suddenly getting possessed or something (or formed out of nothingness? Were there really 3 snakes in the barn?) and having to … well, just sort of wander around looking scary. Such maligned creatures.

Solee: Yes, snakes are one of the more abused and misrepresented animals in movies. Our human brains are just so programmed to be frightened of them!

The scene in the barn with the conveniently-timed lightning and the overly-dramatic animals really pulled me out of the story. I actually made a note about how unrealistic it all was and how it comes across, not as the story of a possession, but as an extreme exaggeration of what was probably a normal seizure. And probably not all that intentional, at that. I have been in situations where something unexpected or scary happened and it was so quick that I didn’t REALLY know what had happened. My brain immediately started to fill in the blanks with something that would explain how scary it felt.

Mikey: You mean you imagined snakes and spiders because you didn’t know why your brain felt so scared?

Solee: No. But I know I’ve imagined more aggressive tones or body language than really existed in certain situations. And there’s one instance of a car accident happening in front of me: I wasn’t looking in the right spot to see what really happened. One minute I was parked at a stoplight waiting to make a turn and the next minute there was a car sticking out from an electric pole. As far as my brain could tell it appeared out of nowhere. That’s not real, but that’s how it felt. It just APPEARED. I can absolutely see how a more traumatized or fractured brain could create snakes and rats out of shadows or instill horses with demonic strength rather than just normal scared of lightning and shouting people strength.

Mikey: I didn’t feel like there was anything weird about those horses, they were being severely traumatized!

Solee: The door to the stall flew across the room in one piece! Realistically, I believe a scared horse could have broken out of that stall, but the door would be hanging by a hinge or cracked in half or whatever. It was exaggerated to the point of looking silly to me.

Mikey: You object on the basis of silliness.

Solee: YES!

Mikey: I think that is just Hollywood magic. Just like when cars explode in balls of fire when they get shot. But also, what we were watching was the priest’s telling of the story, so there is that element of not knowing what really happened, or how it really felt or looked. I think between that element - the unreliability of memory - and the kind of unreliability of actual senses that you were talking about, we come full circle to where we started: that’s why you can’t have hard and fast rules for everything. Because everything is subjective, and nobody can really ever be sure the exact specifics of any event, even when it’s caught on tape really. There are subtleties, context, angles you missed, so much more. The world is infinitely complex and can’t be boiled down into simple rules.

This movie inspires long diatribes.


Solee: Indeed. There’s a strange paradox in our world right now. It’s become fairly common knowledge that memory is unreliable and susceptible to all kinds of influences. But instead of applying that knowledge to ourselves and recognizing that what we think MIGHT not be true, we instead apply it solely to our understanding of what other people are saying, thinking or feeling. Everyone is becoming deeper and deeper entrenched in their own interpretation of the world and becoming more and more aggressive in their defense of that ONE interpretation.

Mikey: Oh yes, polarization. So, now that we’ve not talked about this movie at all, but have been inspired extensively by it, what is your rating of it?

Solee: Well, I thought the directing showed lots of inspired thinking… the tone of the movie was established well and it felt as though a lot of thought had gone into the more subtle aspects. The acting felt real, if you look past the melodrama inherent in the story. And as stories go, true or not, it was pretty captivating. It was told in a way that kept me unsure what the final verdict would be and left me not entirely sure (in a movie sense) what had happened to Emily Rose. This all leads me to give it high marks. I’m going to go with 4.5 out of 5. I’m not entirely sure why I’m not giving it a 5… but it just didn’t have that extra WOW factor, I guess. What about you?

Mikey: I am surprised from how this conversation started to hear it at the top like that! I agree about the sheer quality of the production - it was a well made movie, and it kept you interested and guessing. But where it falls down for me is the actual plot: I always get angry when a movie is premised on being irrational as the right answer. And right here, we have a movie that is attempting to teach viewers that they should just listen to other people, trust them, and go with it. Don’t think. Thinking is hard!

Solee: Huh. That’s not what I got from it. I think that was presented as an option… but in the end, the jury found the priest guilty. They didn’t buy the “demons are real” argument, in my opinion.

Mikey: But the movie bought it.

Solee: I’m not sure what that means. I don’t feel like we can blame the movie for the hysterical tendencies of humans.

Mikey: From what I saw, this movie was aiming in one direction: that (in the context of the movie) the demons were real, and therefore those who don’t believe are wrong. Which is generally fine - it’s an appropriate horror movie direction. But in this movie, it’s taking a real case of someone who absolutely was not possessed by a demon, and putting the demon filter on it. And presenting this hopeful story of “I hope everybody listens to Emily’s story” (and tells us how her grave became a shrine)... the priest got the most minimal conviction possible (and I think he was innocent, so that’s not my issue), it was a “well, we can’t make it a perfect ending!” moment. I don’t know how to express it except to say that this movie had a point of view, and that point of view was “don’t believe evidence, believe anecdotes”. Which is the opposite of critical thinking.

Solee: I think I see what you mean. I guess I took all that as “this is what SOME people thought” rather than “this is what YOU should think”. Maybe I’m cutting it too much slack. Or I’m just too set in my belief that the demons were not real to comprehend that people could watch this movie and believe she was possessed. I know people did just that… but my rational brain writes them off as wrong. That’s pretty judgemental of me, I know.

Mikey: Don’t worry, I’m the one being judgmental! And I judge this movie, which was well-made and interesting, but not remotely scary in any way, to be a 3 out of 5.

Solee: One last note about level of scary… the scariest thing was how twisted and broken looking Emily Rose got when in the middle of her seizures. I felt pain, not just for her character, but for all the people who suffer from seizures and experience that kind of thing on a regular REAL basis. And for Jennifer Carpenter who played Emily Rose, having to recreate that kind of pose.

Mikey: OH! That is at the heart of my discomfort and anger at this movie: We have a real problem in the world with people applying witchcraft to serious conditions like epilepsy. And this movie (I feel) is saying, sure, go ahead and try magic, it’s probably what they need. I think I would’ve greatly preferred the same movie but ending with some dumb little gimmick where they DNA test her bones or something and find out she definitely had epilepsy. You know, “you guys screwed up and she didn’t have to suffer. BLAMMO!” Blammo is how I end movies.

Solee: That reminds me! I kept thinking about the book I read - The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. The poor little girl in that book had seizures and there was a whole cultural misunderstanding that caused a breakdown in her medical care. There is an unspoken element of worry that her seizures were actually uncontrollable while still allowing for normal function, though. Like, they could stop the seizures, but only by depressing her brain activity to the point of near-catatonia. I feel like maybe there’s an element of that in the Emily Rose story, too, since for much of the story she WAS on medications and they were ineffective.

Mikey: Oh yes, that is so much all the issues we talked about through this whole massive conversation! And in the book and movie, her parents believed in the magical solution, and there was some merit to the parents in the book, right? Every case is special, no hard and fast rules!

Solee: Yes, one of the common threads was that everyone involved cared deeply for the child but they couldn’t properly communicate or understand each other’s perspectives or motivations. Being a human being is HARD.

Mikey: And that potential of a problem so bad that there is just no fix in the real world is what is a never-ending drive for people to turn to magic. If nothing real works, at least we’re going to give this magic a shot. Which is totally fine, if they’re not hurting you with it. But I’m all in favor of rational evidence-based solutions, and it’s just sad that there isn’t always a real solution to everything.

I wonder if anybody will actually read all the way through this massive book we just wrote. The secret code is Panda Bear.


Solee: Haha. Well, I suspect tomorrow’s movie won’t be quite so deep. It’s called #Horror. Any title that includes a hashtag is bound to be ridiculous.

Mikey: It sounds deep to me. #deepthoughts #hashtag

Solee: #ridiculous
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Uninvited 01:45 PM -- Thu October 13, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Uninvited (2009)
Rated PG-13
IMDB rating: 6.4/10
Metacritic: 43
Rotten Tomatoes: 32% critics, 49% audience
Mikey: 5/5
Solee: 5/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Anna Ivers returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardized thanks to her cruel stepmother. Her dismay quickly turns to horror when she is visited by ghastly visions of her dead mother.”

Solee: This movie was a remake of a Korean movie you watched previously. How do you feel about remakes of foreign horror films?

Mikey: Hmm. If I think back to ones I’ve seen, I think they probably haven’t been very impressive. I guess a remake in general is kind of a dumb idea - there are only like 5 different stories in the world, why not call your movie something new and just make it inspired by the one you want to copy? More originality is a good thing.

It looks like I didn’t review this one (A Tale of Two Sisters) previously, which is too bad, but I do vaguely remember seeing it! After checking the IMDB synopsis, it’s pretty similar to this remake, but it sure ends up in a different place.


Solee: I want to jump right to the end, but that would be doing a disservice to everything that leads up to the end. I thought this movie did an excellent job of building up the tension and suspense from the very first scene. My first question is actually about the first scene. It’s considered pretty cliche within writing circles to start with a dream sequence. Do you think they managed to avoid the cliche by having it be her telling the dream to her psychologist? Or did that just make it even MORE cliche?

Mikey: It was clear from how she told it that it was a dream (that whole present tense narration, doesn’t seem to ever mean anything else!), so I feel like it’s avoiding the real problem with that cliche, which is “you just watched all this, thinking it was real stuff, but surprise, none of it counts!” And after all, not only did we know it was a dream, it also does count! It contained lots of useful information about stuff that happened in her past. So I approve it.

Solee: That’s a good point. There are lots of useful bits of information scattered throughout her dream. A lot of it was so heavily foreshadowed that I was able to predict things I maybe shouldn’t have been able to predict.

Mikey: There were so many puzzle pieces in this movie, but I like that they smoothly clicked together unlike the last movie! For the first ⅔ or more, it was all about just collecting the pieces and not knowing where they went. I spent the whole movie generating different theories of where it was all going… were you doing that?

Solee: Yes! And that’s one of the things I liked best about this movie. I spent the whole time making guesses about what might happen. Each guess was more interesting and fun than the previous one AND I still didn’t really figure out exactly what was happening until the very end. I found the mystery aspect of this story exceptionally satisfying. You?

Mikey: Oh yes, this is why I watch movies! I want to play that game. I kept re-writing the ending in my head about every 5 minutes as I watched the movie. That’s a lot different from something like a Schwarzenegger movie where you just want to see what over-the-top method he uses to blow up the final badguy, who you knew was the badguy from the first scene. Which is also fun. But the mystery and puzzle is the most fun for me. I don’t know what else I can even say about the movie, it’s one of those cases where I actually don’t want to spoil it, though I do want to discuss the spoiler-requiring elements.

Solee: I know what you mean. I don’t want to give anything away. I want to tell everyone I know “You just have to watch it!” That’s not something I’ve worried about yet this month… except maybe with The Invitation. Something I always struggle with as I watch movies with an element of suspense or mystery is that I create endings in my head, like you said, but I’m constantly wondering if it’s the movie that’s being clever and leading me to this interesting idea I had or if I’m out-thinking the movie. Often it’s the latter, which leaves me super disappointed at the conclusion.

Mikey: Oh yeah, that recalls something in this movie: the stepmom. The movie took great violent effort to make her a nasty piece of work. So much so that I was certain she was not evil. And that’s like a game of cat-and-mouse you play with the movie: do I choose the villain in front of me, or in front of you? Clearly, I can’t choose the one in front of the movie because the movie would obviously poison it with evil…

Solee: Never start a land war in Asia!

Mikey: It’s almost like a test of whether the movie is good: if she was evil, and they made her so overtly evil, that’s lame. But is that really still true? I mean we’ve learned that lesson over decades of movies, maybe it’s time for the double-double-cross. After all, I knew she wasn’t because they made her seem so.

Solee: This movie waited SO long for the final answer of that question - literally the very last action in the very last scene - that it puts it into the “good” category for me. Even after everything went down and we knew most of what had happened… I STILL wasn’t sure whether the step-mom was evil or not. That was very well done.

Mikey: They twisted back and forth so many times that either answer would be un-lame by that point. I think that’s the answer to how to do it right.

Solee: Almost all of the question and criticism I have in my notes were addressed in the movie in such a way that they were no longer a concern. I am very fond of movies and books that create a whole crazy tangle of loose ends but still manage to weave them all into a tapestry by the end. This is a great example of that. I find that often stories that started in a different culture have more unexpected, and therefore interesting, elements. How much of the uniqueness of the story do you think comes from it being a remake of a Korean film?

Mikey: Yeah, it’s nice to be exposed to those different ideas that the culture you’re already locked into just won’t let you think. Mind-expanding! I can’t really spot anything in here that doesn’t feel like an American movie (other than the style of the ghosts, which is not really a plot element)... but I’m glad they were able to yank a bit of originality from overseas, because Hollywood can have trouble finding that.

Solee: I can’t really put my finger on anything that’s not American, either, but there was a definite newness to it. Maybe the sheer complexity of the plot. American movies are often mind-numbingly predictable. It’s possible that the majority of foreign films are the same. They only translate and remake the really good ones.

Mikey: 90% of everything is crap!

Solee: True dat. You mentioned the ghosts. That’s my favorite things about horror from other countries. Their ideas of scary are so different from what we’ve been raised on that I occasionally come across something that’s actually scary! Ghosts from Asian cultures, for example, are SUPER creepy to me. I’ve always wondered why our ghosts float and come at us from above while theirs are slithery and come from below. That would make an interesting cultural study: ghosts from different cultures and why they are considered “scary”.

Mikey: That is a deep thought. I wanna do something special now if you are cool with it… how about we rate the movie, and then make a big dividing line for serious spoiler talk? Folks, you shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t watched the movie!

Solee: Ok. I think I’ve seen enough movies to feel comfortable giving this one a 5 out of 5. I was trying not to do that too early… I didn’t want to set the 5 star bar too low and not have anywhere else to go, but this is by far the best one we’ve seen so far.

Mikey: The big fiver! I want to go lower for some headroom, but I think you’re right. Let’s give it the big 5. You can’t just hold that thing forever. This was a big mystery that paced it out exactly right. Excellent.

==== MEGA-SPOILERS BELOW. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE. IT WILL BE RUINED FOR REALSIES. ====

Mikey: Okay, you know what was cool? When I said “she was totally sixth-sensing these people the whole time!” and then they revealed that I was super-smart, and they even did the Sixth Sense flashbacks to demonstrate all the ways she had been not interacting with people. I had noticed some, but others were cool. It’s really exactly like The Sixth Sense, where the scenes work as shown, but on second viewing you realize they make just as much sense if she isn’t there. So cool.

Solee: Yep. That was super cool. It was subtle enough that I didn’t notice it until you mentioned it. Then, thinking back, there was a “Whoa!” moment.

I was proud of myself for nailing the watering can importance right away. I’m a little concerned that was because it was too obvious, though.

Mikey: What’s cool is that these things were only a part of the sum total explanation of what went down. The Sixth Sense was just that one trick. In this movie, that’s one element of what is really going on. And yet it all makes sense and is actually not overly complex or unreasonably unlikely in the end, either.

Solee: My absolute favorite scene was when Matt showed up in her bedroom, looking all normal, but gradually making it clear that all was not well with him. I thought it was well done, pacing-wise, and also it came across as super romantic. Not so much later, when you knew what had really happened, but still…

Mikey: That’s Bad Romance. That scene was kind of a pivot because for him to have come to her as a ghost, telling her how he died, we now have one of three possible outcomes: she’s psychic, there really are ghosts, or she killed him. In the end, there is nothing paranormal in the movie at all. She just be cray cray.

Solee: And yet, I still feel sympathetic toward her. She didn’t seem actually EVIL. Just broken in her brain. Am I being too forgiving?

Mikey: It’s good that it’s not just Ryan Reynolds the serial killer who gets this sympathy. Just like The Voices, it’s really the movie’s fault - they portray her in a completely positive light. Although in this one, I kinda feel like the very end shifts that a little and goes “oh no, she was happy to kill…” when she’s cutting up the pictures.

Solee: Question: Did you catch the comment by the psychiatrist in the beginning? When he said, “finish what you started”? Because that was a huge red flag for me. I liked that it wrapped around to the start again.

Mikey: I don’t think I really paid attention to it. He was about as effective a psychiatrist as the one in The Voices too.

Solee: Horror movies don’t tend to show mental health professionals in the best light… but if they were doing their jobs correctly, the movies would be way less entertaining.

Mikey: Yeah, “I feel better now, doc! I’ll keep taking these meds.” “Great, have fun!” The end.

Solee: One problem I had was with the age of Anna. She was 14ish… but she was so compliant with this step-mother she hated. I didn’t find that very believable, but it was kind of necessary to contrast with how Alex acted. It made me think she was a lot younger than she was, though. Which got creepy when she was making out with the grocery boy.

Mikey: Her stepmom didn’t seem to like that either. I don’t know, I feel like she was going along with things, surviving as best she could. What a horrible situation to be in, even sane.

Solee: Maybe. Sometimes it felt manipulative instead of getting along to get along. But that ties into that last little smile, doesn’t it? Yep. This was a GOOD movie.

Mikey: That makes sense. She would certainly try to keep things cool if she had dastardly plans (buried somewhere in the back of her head). Also if she had the imaginary sister as an outlet for her anger.

Solee: Oh, valid point!

Mikey: Pretty smart stuff all around. These writers should write other stuff. Hmm, checking IMDB I see some others he wrote we could watch...

Solee: Yes. I would watch more movies by these writers/directors. I was pleased with the acting, as well. I didn’t notice anything crazy about the soundtrack or videography, which is generally a good sign. All around, it was solid.

Mikey: Yeah, five stars earned fair and square.

Solee: That just means I’m going to be that much more disappointed tomorrow… with whatever we decide to watch.

Mikey: And that will be The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so be sure to join us.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Sympathy, Said The Shark 01:51 AM -- Thu October 13, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Sympathy, Said The Shark (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 6.8/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, N/A% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A young couple reluctantly answers their door during a rainstorm and in rushes a soaked, bloodied, and estranged friend who insists that someone is trying to kill him. This triggers a non-stop night that forces all three of them to confront their own darkest secrets as well as an even larger threat that comes knocking.”

Mikey: Well, it was bound to happen - I picked something labeled “Thriller” and it was not horror. I’m not surprised at all. I was very concerned that it might be, but I went with it for two reasons: I couldn’t resist the title, and there was an IMDB review that said “I would recommend this movie to anybody who likes spooky movies”. I don’t know why they said that! How did you feel about the title?

Solee: It’s a great title. It is vague and weird but there’s a depth of meaning possible with it. Great title. I’m not sure I completely understand how it relates to the movie just yet… but I think it works.

I think we should talk a second about the difference between horror and thriller. We discussed it before starting the movie, but I don’t feel like we really settled on anything. Is it like pornography: you know it when you see it?

Mikey: I was having a hard time with that question before the movie too. I mean, by the end of this movie we both agreed it was not horror, on the spot. Very easy to tell. It’s easy to know something is horror if it has ghosts or zombies. But if it’s just people, there’s a real fine line there.

Solee: Like Kill List or The Invitation… they both fit the horror genre. Well, Kill List, obviously. But The Invitation could have easily ended up just a thriller, but they managed to tip it into horror. What’s the difference between that and Sympathy, Said the Shark?

Mikey: I actually think The Invitation crossed the line very late - right when the murdering started. Now, there’s definitely murdering in thrillers, lots of it. But … man, it’s hard to say. I was gonna say someone stalking and killing a bunch of people in a locked room, but you could so have that in something like Seven or those kind of serial killer thrillers. I guess it really is how it’s presented, the feel. Jump scares? But you don’t need jump scares, there weren’t any in The Invitation. It’s music, camera technique… it’s the intent of the director, conveyed via cultural cues we all recognize.

Solee: Woah. That’s a pretty collegiate answer! :) I think you’re right, though. There’s a lot of elements that go into establishing genre beyond the acting and screenwriting. Is Se7en (ha! Did that just to drive you crazy!) not a horror film?

Mikey: I graduated collegium! Ugh, numbers for letters. SeVen is … I’m gonna look at IMDB. Argh, they list it as Se7en.

Solee: HAHAHA!

Mikey: Which is pronounced “Sezen” by the way.

Solee: Agreed.

Mikey: It’s “Crime, Drama, Mystery”. Which is true, it’s not horror. It has these horrific scenes like the bloated body at the table and stuff, yet it’s not horror. Definitely closing in on that line for sure. But it’s funny because Saw and SeVen are practically matching in terms of style and visuals, and in terms of ‘crazy guy doing weird plots that only make sense to the crazy’. Yet Saw is horror.

Solee: Oh. I think I was thinking of Saw. Definitely horror. How much of that is in the eye of the beholder, too? Like comedy.

Mikey: I think it comes down to the previous answer: it’s intent. If the people selling the film declare it a comedy, it is. It may be a terrible unfunny comedy, and they’ll pay the price for picking the wrong genre, since people will be disappointed in not getting what they hoped for. It’s amazing how deeply embedded our culture is in our brains. Side fun: I heard that when they first introduced the idea of cuts in movies way way back when, they were afraid to do it because they thought people wouldn’t understand what was happening, since in real life nothing ever jumps from one scene to another. But people did. So not that fun of an aside.

Solee: That’s dumb of them. Books have had cuts forever. Movie people are silly. Although, I’ve had some personal experiences over the last few years that show you can never overestimate the cluelessness of some people.

Mikey: Ain’t that the truth. Let me grab this discussion about cuts to segue into something different: the actual MOVIE WE WATCHED. If they thought people couldn’t handle cuts, how about cutting between different first-person perspectives?

Solee: I still can’t decide if I love that or hate it. It’s either exceptionally clever and an excellent tool for telling a complicated story with lots of secrets… or it’s super lazy writing. I want it to be the former, but I’m afraid it might be the latter.

Mikey: I don’t think it’s lazy. They had to work really hard to construct the narrative around this gimmick. But I do think it’s a gimmick. It got in the way of the story some, and every time they did something goofy with it, I was really taken out of the movie: we had the guy’s vision turn red when he got mad, the girl’s vision turned blurry when she cried, and the most silly was the blood running down the lens when our POV died at one point.

Solee: Yeah… it was pretty cheesy at those points. But it was also cleverly woven together to give us the story the person WANTED us to hear and then give us the REAL story. I thought that was interesting. I guess, I felt it was almost too easy to do that with this head-hopping POV. I think it worked in the movie’s favor for me overall, though. You had to watch very closely so you didn’t miss something.

Mikey: Yes, it was almost real-time, so if you missed the little moments of someone doing something sneaky, you missed a key plot point. I did feel like - I don’t know if this is a real thing, or just how actors look when you view them from somebody’s face - but it felt like a stage play, kind of stilted weird acting, when they were trying to interact with a camera for a head. I’m sure the real actors were there, with like Go-Pros on their heads or something, so I don’t know why the actors would’ve had a hard time with it.

Solee: I think it does cause the blocking to look different than we’re used to. It should have looked more like real life. You know how TV families only ever use 3 sides of their dining room table? This would eliminate the need for that. But it stands out because it’s not what we’re used to seeing on screen.

Mikey: It’s those deeply embedded cultural ideas again. BOOM FULL CIRCLE.

Solee: Nicely done! I noted that each POV had a different visual style to make them easy to tell apart. Laura looked mostly normal, like the 3rd person POV they threw in occasionally. Church’s view used a gray filter and Justin used a brown filter. I was trying to think of what meaning those choices carried, but I’ve got nothing.

Mikey: Justin’s vision was practically black and white… I kept thinking it was going to mean something. Hey, 8% of men are colorblind, so maybe he was.

Solee: I was expecting something deeper than that… but given the “on the nose” aspect of the blurred screen for tears and red filter for anger, it could be that simple.

Mikey: Speaking of that simple, I felt like the writing was really bad in this movie. Like a complex plot and all, but the dialogue… here’s where I wish Kevin Smith would’ve shown up, because this dialogue was so expositiony and unnatural to me.

Solee: It was almost as though it were being ad libbed, but by people who weren’t very good at being creative. Everything was very cliche in terms of their reactions to things. They didn’t really feel real to me, not like the people in Kill List or The Invitation. Dialogue was more along the lines of No Tell Motel!

Mikey: That’s not the company you want to keep! Maybe it was ad libbed… one thing they did really well was to match up the multiple versions of each scene, to the point where I was starting to wonder if it was all one scene, and they had the cameras on the whole time, somehow hidden or green-screened out. It was weird!

Solee: I didn’t go that far, but I did notice how nicely things dovetailed between POVs. I also noticed that conveniently shiny belt! It was one of several props that felt super forced. The mirror was another. That bothered me.

Mikey: There were moments to me that felt like magic tricks. They were just showing off ideas they had about what you could do with first-person cameras. Like when Laura went into the bathroom - at first she never looked at her own face in the mirror, and I was thinking “oh yeah, she can’t look up or we’d see the camera!”, and then she very deliberately did look at her face, which was probably a green-screen effect.

Solee: And what was up with them walking into rooms, completely closing the door to make the room PITCH black before turning on the lights? Who does that? NOBODY, that’s who. You always reach in and turn on the light in a dark room before or as you enter.

Mikey: I kept noticing the pitch black, but I didn’t think about that. I wonder if that was their moment to make cuts.

Solee: For sure. But they made it too clunky and obvious to be clever. Can we talk about the love triangle for a second? I get that it was part of the secrecy among the characters and it added to the story UNTIL it got super overly melodramatic. Then it just felt ridiculous to me.

Mikey: I have trouble seeing her particularly wanting to hang around a junkie like Church… but the whole pile of secrets and lies was kind of like that. Weird and seemingly random, not really a believable scenario.

Solee: The flashback to Laura and Church in the bar actually felt like one of the more realistic scenes in the movie. BUT. The Laura at the bar was a totally different person than the Laura in the rest of the movie. Rest of the Movie Laura wouldn’t have been so easy and happy with Church. She was the kind of person who got all wrapped up with cops who say things like “You can’t force someone to get clean.”

Mikey: Yeah, the overly villainous villains. But apparently she was actually a mob boss herself… I guess (spoilers!).

Solee: Or something. I’m not sure if they did a crappy job of explaining that part of the story or if I was SO BORED by that point that I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Seriously, I’ve never been so specifically disinterested in the climax of a movie before. I liked everything right up to when the cops showed up the second time. Then I was just waiting for it to end.

Mikey: I was interested, because there were puzzle pieces all around to find and try to fit together. Unfortunately, I feel like by the end that the pieces were just kind of similar rather than matching and they had jammed them together and bent them all up.

Solee: Great analogy. Yes. It felt forced.

Mikey: Well, talking to you is making me like this movie less as we go, and I wasn’t a huge fan to begin with! Is it time for ratings?

Solee: I guess. Wait. One more thing that bugged me…

Church had a huge, ugly wound in his abdomen (which Laura did a crap job of cleaning, btw) and then Laura had a nasty knife wound on her neck (which seemed to disappear). They both made a big show of how much it hurt while the wound was on-screen, but then they both completely ignored their injuries for the rest of the movie. Not a wince or limp or whimper out of them. I blame the director. Did that bother you at all?

Mikey: Well, Laura had an excuse - her wound magically vanished for no reason. I did spot Church one time talking while he had one hand resting on his injury. I thought that was a nice realistic touch at the time actually, but overall, yes, they totally ignored his hugely painful wound. Do people snort tylenol for real? How does that do anything but make you hurt less?

Solee: No idea. Sounds like it would be uncomfortable. But I don’t even like when water goes up my nose.

Mikey: I once snorted Kool-Aid mix. It was really unpleasant.

Solee: WHA? WHY would you do that?

Mikey: Sisters, of course. They may have forced me. I was a tortured soul.

Solee: Yikes. I’m glad I was the oldest. I wonder if I ever convinced any of my siblings to snort Kool-Aid. I suspect not, since Kool-Aid wasn’t a thing we had at our house. Powdered lemonade, maybe. Ready to rate?

Mikey: Okay but now that you mention it, it was probably Country Time after all.

Solee: Of COURSE. That’s the only powdered lemonade worth drinking! It was either that or Tang in those days. :)

Mikey: I didn’t drink it :(. I will say that I am glad I watched this movie. It was an interesting experiment, and fun to see how the first-person mishmash played out. But it was a pretty dumb story, delivered pretty badly. So all in all, I’m going to give it a 2 out of 5.

Solee: I’d be interested in seeing a better director use the 1st person POV. I wonder if it’s just inherently flawed, or if the right skilled someone could make it work.

I want to give it a lower score just because the ending was sooo boring, but I did appreciate the first half of the movie, so I guess I will also give it a 2 out of 5. But I’m being generous.

Mikey: Oh, and I kept thinking Justin was Nathan Fillion, or that he should’ve been. I’m glad we are in rating agreement, it helps soothe my burning nose.

Solee: We need to go deep into real horror for the next one though, because this was NOT a horror movie. I look forward to seeing what horrific nastiness you come up with.

Mikey: Me too me too! Coming up tomorrow, we shall be viewing The Uninvited.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: No Tell Motel 02:38 PM -- Tue October 11, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

No Tell Motel (2012)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 3.4/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 11% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 4/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Dirty little secrets are exposed when five friends become stranded at an abandoned motel haunted by a dark secret of its own.”

Mikey: Ah yeah, now this is what I came into October to see! Garbage! You love it?

Solee: I love to hate it! This is my favorite facet of the horror genre (second favorite? I really like horror-comedy) with its ridiculously stupid teenagers and its very simple, yet not completely boring storyline. I spend a lot of time shouting at the screen during movies like this, which is a lot of fun.

It started with a very old-timey, almost Charlie Chaplin-looking flashback. What did you think of that? Did it have the effect the director was going for?

Mikey: I don’t think the director was sober enough to know what he was going for. But I found it hilarious - we got this full-on sepiatone image, with fake film scratches over it, to show us a scene from like 1995 or something. Maybe the director is a tween (explains a lot) who doesn’t realize we had color in the 90’s.

Solee: I think it was supposed to be late 70s.

Mikey: Ha, if that’s true, it’s HILARIOUSER.

Solee: Hey… the 70’s were a LOOONG time ago!

Mikey: No. On that note, this is a topic people discuss pretty often, but I really noticed it in this movie: it’s interesting how modern technology has changed movies. No real phone calls going on in this movie (not sure why not, now that I think about it…), but of course everybody is carrying a cell phone, and they all used them as flashlights. That’s the modern truth: all people are equipped at all times with a flashlight, camera, and phone. Changes plots a whole lot.

Solee: Gone are the days where the writer could completely isolate characters with a single flat tire. Now it has to happen somewhere with no cell reception or they just call AAA and all is well.

The first scene in this movie includes one of my all-time favorite movie tropes: the large vehicle that appears out of nowhere to hit the character we’re very zoomed in on. Do you love that as much as I do? Or am I just a sick individual?

Mikey: I’m always disappointed when it’s not a bus. It’s so telegraphed every time. It’s always like “why is that person going into the middle of the street and then turning to wave to their friend?” I don’t do that. I also watch the street I’m on if I’m in one. I feel like that’s a bit of common sense human beings in real life have. I actually do not know my real opinion on this trope because I so strongly enjoy it ironically I can’t figure out if I hate it or like it.

Solee: Ah, well, ironic love is love, too! The other thing that strikes me right off the bat is how absolutely horrible and stilted the dialogue and acting are. I always wonder if it’s done that way on purpose or if the people making this film truly think they sound realistic.

Mikey: I think there’s just a lot of really bad movies out there, and you don’t know about them until you start looking for horror movies. For some reason, super cheap horror is this thing that all streaming services (and in those 90’s we mentioned, video stores) stock up on. They don’t do that with other kinds of movies, except maybe action/sci-fi movies a little bit, but not to nearly the extent.

P.S. “He died in a most unattractive manner.”


Solee: Hahahaha! There were so many terrible lines. I mean, who says stuff like, “You drove over my best friend. We had to drag her body into a ditch.” NO. You did NOT have to drag your friend into a ditch. You CHOSE to do that because you were too lazy to bring her into the building.

Mikey: Well, teenagers. Speaking of them, two things: The druggie, Captain Football as you kept calling him, first of all dropped his pills in a black, moldy, nasty toilet, and shoveled them back into the pill container, in what is the most horrifying scene in this or any other movie. Then second of all, he was the worst actor! He did not know how to act drugged up!

Solee: Oh, Captain Football. I have so many notes about him. He was the WORST. Well, actually they were all the worst, but he was so, so bad. Watching him scoop his pills out of the black toilet slime was… *shudder*... I can’t even.

Mikey: yeah, they were collectively The Worst.

Solee: I didn’t even bother to learn their names. There was Girl Next Door (GND), Lip Ring, Captain Football, Brown-haired Girl, Football’s Brother. Oh… and Bad Driver, who showed up later.

Mikey: Well, Bad Driver had nothing on whichever kid was driving the RV, who managed to roll it over on a straightaway. Note: I can’t tell the male characters apart unless they’re hopped up on drugs.

Solee: I think Cpt. Football was driving the RV. He was pretty strung out after losing his pills to the Creature in the Black Toilet. So strung out that he ended up taking one of those pills when they settled in No Tell Motel.

Mikey: What a name. I mean really. They… there’s just not even close to a reason for it. It’s like Shadow Puppets - “our movie involves shadows, I’ve heard the phrase 'shadow puppets' before, sound good?” and “Hey, it’s a motel. How about no tell motel?”

Solee: I thought it was because they had all those secrets they were keeping from each other. The hit-and-run, the pregnancy, the drug and alcohol addictions, the suicide attempts. This group was a happy little ball of secretive sunshine.

Mikey: Oh, that’s so deep! I had no idea this movie was over my head. Speaking of their secrets… this movie has a classic trope in it: the ghost that makes you die in a manner befitting your own personal issues. That almost was an interesting part of the plot (each person died in a way relating to the ghost’s history, giving us a piece of the story, but also it happened to be their own personal dark secret as well), except that it hinged on the absolutely nonsense idea that this group of kids happened to all match a specific part of the ghost’s story, and they all decided to come here together. And better yet, this has happened multiple times before!

Solee: Well, that speaks to the idea - which I think many horror writers believe to be true - that every group of friends has a specific set of people. The jock, the class clown, the nice girl, the mean girl, the rebel, etc. Your circle of friends isn’t complete until you catch ‘em all.

Mikey: The funny thing about that trope is that it always (well, not really this time, but usually) includes both the nerd and the jock. As if that’s a standard pairing in real life. There was one movie I saw… oh it was Monster Squad, for BHE last year, where it was a group of nerds who hung out in a treehouse, and for some reason there was this total stoner/jock/bully/leather-jacket kid who was practically desperate to join their group. I think he was concerned about their diversity quotient.

Solee: I remember that movie. I couldn’t wrap my head around that guy. Just like I can’t figure out why Lip Ring was hanging around with this group of very white-bread kids. She clearly didn’t like them and there didn’t seem to be a family connection. Strange.

Mikey: Yeah, she didn’t seem to like them much.

Solee: So what did you think of the directors decision to have the electric lights glow whenever there was a “ghost” scene showing the kids what happened at the motel?

Mikey: You know what, I liked that just fine. I think it was cool. What was uncool about that was how unghostly the ghost scenes were. The ghosts were just people, they didn’t even bother to pull out their great sepia-tone technology from back in the 70’s to spice it up.

Solee: Yeah, it could have been better. And by better, I mean cheesier! I liked how the flashback scenes were all glowing electric lights and the scene where GND gets caught by the bad guy and strapped to the table is illuminated to roughly the same warm glow, but by candles instead of ghostly lights. I thought that was actually kind of clever.

Mikey: Classy, I didn’t notice. Speaking of GREAT things in this movie, I want to make sure to mention a couple things from my notes that were the best. My favorite moment in the entire movie is when Captain Football says he’s going to go find a ladder or some stairs (because Lip Ring Girl has fallen through the floor into a lower level), and he then proceeds into the room next door and frantically opens every drawer, in the hopes of finding stairs inside.

Solee: “I need some stairs. Surely there is a set in this drawer!” That was awesome.

Mikey: Didn’t you end up with multiple pages of notes like that? My other favorite was the attack of the evil rocking horse. It was so awesome. Also awesome was when Lip Ring Girl was looking around the room and the movie tried to jump-scare us (loud music sting, she gasps) when she first sees the rocking horse- completely unmoving, just a rocking horse sitting in a room full of toys. Terrifying. But the best was when it actually attacked.

Solee: Rocking horses are scary, yo.

I did end up with pages of notes (and almost no questions!) because everything that happened was so ridiculous I had to write it down. There were a couple of more serious problems I had with the storyline, though. One was largely factual… the ghost lady gave birth to a baby after being strapped down on a table for at least 40 weeks.

Mikey: A hard wooden butcher block table, with no pillow like the GND was provided with when she got strapped down!

Solee: Yet, her pregnancy and birth appear to be perfectly normal and healthy. She shows no signs of atrophy or starvation or anything. In fact, she says, “Thank you for giving me a second chance!” to the guy who strapped her down and raped her. What?

Mikey: Well, Stockholm Syndrome is your favorite syndrome, so you should appreciate it. Or is Munchausen by Proxy your favorite?

Solee: Munchausen by Proxy! That’s the BEST plot device. I am generally fond of Stockholm Syndrome in stories, too, but I wasn’t buying it this time. Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t keep your muscles healthy after 10 months of inactivity.

Mikey: Surely morphine does, which this motel contained by the gallon. That is one thing - I thought this movie was on the verge of having a good story. Maybe not the verge, but the verge of the verge. Like, well, here’s the thing: the ghost in this movie was more interesting and understandable than the one in The Dead Room. I do like to get backstory!

Solee: Yes, except that the mother’s actions prior to her daughter getting bus-bussed, which we clearly see in all their sepia-toned glory, totally counteract the idea that she was so devastated at her death that she wanted to die. She completely ignored that girl in favor of her book and her iced tea!

Mikey: Sounds like you actually. But she did collapse in tears when the kid got thwacked. So maybe you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.

Solee: Haha. Maybe.

The other thing that really bothered me, although it ended up not becoming as much of a problem as I thought it might, was the Football’s Brother, the alcoholic rapist and baby-daddy. I was legitimately scared that he was going to get to redeem himself by saving GND’s life. That would have COMPLETELY ruined this movie for me.

Mikey: Yeah, but I think that’s another example of how there’s some good writing hidden underneath things here (good plotting maybe? The actual words that came out of their mouths were atrocious). Because it seemed like he was going for redemption, but instead got a big fat comeuppance. Although that made the GND pretty evil, but anyhooo.

Solee: I feel like they all pretty much got what they deserved. There wasn’t a one in the bunch that I would have saved… except for Lip Ring. I liked her. I predicted early on that she’d be the only one to survive. Too bad I was wrong about that.

Mikey: She did not last long. I only have one other note in my notes. Oh two: first of all, I would’ve slept in the sideways RV rather than that motel. How gross. I guess it’s Legend of Hell House all over again, only this time we can clearly see the maid has not been in.

Solee: This made Hell House look downright cozy.

Mikey: Secondly, why on earth did the ghost girl float up off the ground at GND, and then float back down and start walking? Totally random pointless moment. Not a very interesting comment, I know, but it was silly.

Solee: It WAS silly. I thought maybe she was protecting her… but… OH. She wasn’t protecting her at all! She was CHOOSING her. Because I THINK that girl was supposed to enter into GND’s baby and be reborn or something. It didn’t work out that way, but that was the ghost’s endgame.

Mikey: Well, she didn’t need to float to do it. Disappointed.

Solee: Yeah. There were definitely some missteps in this movie. But I think I’m still going to rate it well. Overall, it was quite enjoyable to watch. Maybe not scary, but entertaining. I think a lot of people would love to hate this movie. I’m going to give it a 4 out of 5. What about you?

Mikey: Whoa! I did not see that coming! It’s always tricky to rate movies that are so bad they’re good, but it’s also one of the main goals of October to find them. I had a lot of fun here too. Make no mistake, this movie is horrible. But I will rate it 3.5 out of 5 for how fun the horribleness was… or should I say the horror?

Solee: Horrorbleness?

Mikey: I’m Bob Loblaw and I approve the horrorbleness of this movie.

Solee: Ha! I hope we find a few more of these ridiculously bad gems during the month.

Mikey: This is a special treat for me, I had no idea you would be open to the horror of watching horrorble horror. I can probably rack up a dozen of these easy! I thought you only wanted classy stuff.

Solee: There’s a VERY thin orange line between horrorbly silly and just plain horrible.

Mikey: Yes, that will be tricky, because I have no problem sitting through horrible. It’s all fun. Tomorrow we have a movie with an amazing title: Sympathy, Said The Shark.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Kill List 08:33 PM -- Mon October 10, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Kill List (2011)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 6.3/10
Metacritic: 67
Rotten Tomatoes: 76% critics, 58% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 4/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.”

Solee: Today, we watched Kill List. Do you remember what caused us to choose this movie?

Mikey: Yes, ma’am - when I went to read things about The Invitation, which we both enjoyed, I found several movies people were recommending based on it. Kill List and The Green Room were the top ones I remember most, so I’m sure we’ll check both out before the month is through!

Solee: Right. I remember now. So let’s start by discussing how this compares to The Invitation. Better? Worse? Apples and oranges?

Mikey: It’s more like apples and fire-breathing walruses. But I can definitively say it’s not as good as The Invitation. It just also happens to be super weird and different from almost anything out there. What do you think?

Solee: I found this movie to be equally compelling in a lot of ways. I enjoyed the acting. I thought the relationships were portrayed very well. I was pulled along throughout, never quite sure what was going to happen next.

Mikey: Oh, yes, you know now that you mention it, I think the characters and acting are exactly where the comparison to The Invitation came from. It’s really similar in that super-real improvised “just human beings” kind of way. Very different storyline though.

Solee: Often, when I see characters doing things I wouldn’t have done personally, I end up thinking “that’s not how PEOPLE act!”. Both of these movies had characters who were nothing like me, but who still felt very real. I think that must be a challenging thing to accomplish because I don’t see it happen very often.

Mikey: I thought it was interesting how the husband and wife had these awful blow-out fights, but then turned around and loved each other and all that. In normal movie language, those fights are code for “this relationship is over, just watch”, but this was more like life.

Solee: Yes. There was lots of “like life” parts to Kill List. Where it lost me was the ending. I enjoyed the ending of The Invitation for the most part. I did not enjoy the ending of this movie at all. Let’s start at the beginning though. I’m always intrigued by that point when a horror movie goes from “this could happen” to “nope… this isn’t real life”. Was there a moment like that for you in this film?

Mikey: That was a continuation of the real-life stuff we mentioned: I thought it was very different from movies I’ve seen before, in that this is a movie about some hitmen, but they’re not millionaires in pressed suits with laser sights (although the main guy does have that one super-gun… which apparently his wife bought?), they’re working class stiffs who are just getting by killing people. I think that’s a lot more real, as I have heard it only costs $25,000 to get somebody killed (not suggesting our readers save up). Which means, if you think about how often a hitman can realistically get work, and how risky his job is, they aren’t millionaires, or even making a great living. It’s all about getting by.

But anyway, that was all just to say that it felt real. Eventually things got weird. Real weird. Not supernatural, as the Amazon description would have you believe - there’s nothing supernatural in the whole movie. But I think once they got into the cult stuff, maybe when they saw the cult wandering through the woods in large numbers, I think that is where it didn’t seem like real life at all. It could happen, there’s no magic, but it wouldn’t.


Solee: In my notes, I commented on him eating the rabbit his cat killed as feeling like the turning point, but I think I agree with you. That COULD have happened.

Mikey: That was early! And gross.

Solee: Yes. I think the sheer creepiness of eating something you found dead on your lawn sent my “horror film” sensors into overdrive. I guess that makes it pretty obvious that I’m not a hunter!

Mikey: Me neither. That connects to something I had in my notes… this main character, Jay, was very different from the usual. It was almost like Gal, his friend, was really our protagonist in a way, because Jay was nutballs. He had some serious emotional issues, and was totally unpredictable, and while he was the true protagonist of the story, Gal was our window into him where we could feel a little safe with a more normal human. Did you find Jay hard to understand?

Solee: That’s a tricky question. I agree with your thoughts on Gal. He was definitely the “straight man” of the pair. But I’m not sure I can say I didn’t understand Jay. He had obviously been through something horrific, although they barely even hint at what it was, and he’s got some serious PTSD-like behaviors. I was actually a little disturbed at how much I liked him as a person (minus the killing people for money part) and how much I related to his flashes of anger and injustice. I got why he was lashing out. I, personally, would have handled it differently, but my life has been a lot cushier than his.

Mikey: Yes, he seemed likeable when he wasn’t beating someone to death with a hammer. So, lemme ask you this: naked druidic cults in the woods, am I right? I mean, The Witch did it, Holidays did it (sorta twice if you count the pregnancy cult), and here it is again. And I know it’s in many others, some of which we may be watching too.

Solee: Sheesh. If you trust horror films, there are naked women dancing around fires in every corner of woods you come across. Do you think that’s leftover fear from the witch hunting days? Or that underlying fear of women and their unpredictable, emotional brains? Women be scary, I guess.

Mikey: I’ll say. Those two things you mentioned are certainly connected - all that fear of witches that the real world went through is about the moon, and cycles, and how women confound the male psyche. As to whether the presence of druids in horror movies connects… Don’t ask me! It’s weird though. It always works for creepiness.

Solee: I know a few witches who occasionally dance naked in the woods. They’re actually very nice people.

So, I’m not sure that we can talk about much of the plot of this movie without diving right into the end and working our way backwards. I certainly didn’t understand how the dots connected as we experienced each of the three “jobs”. It wasn’t until it was all over (and I had read some reviews online) that I started seeing a cohesive story.

Mikey: We had a bit of a discussion after the movie, because it was so confusing at the end. You sat there reading stuff online, and the two of us kind of pieced together a vague idea of what we had seen, thanks to the help of random internet people. On the one hand, I like that a movie can inspire us to discuss things, but on the other hand, I don’t like the reason to be that the ending was abrupt and nonsensical.

Solee: I’m still torn about that. It irritated me a great deal as we were watching it. I went from super curious and anxious to just plain confused and annoyed. As we read, I was able to regain some of the enjoyment I usually get from stories with puzzles in them, but not as much as if I’d been able to suss it out for myself.

Mikey: The way you say it makes it sound like we did figure something out with the internet’s help. I’m not so sure we did! We got something, but it’s still pretty floaty. Here’s how my theory goes: the cult worshipped… basically chaos. Money, death, violence. They learned of what happened in Kiev somehow (“what happened in Kiev” was a constant background for the whole movie, it was clearly very bad, but they never described it), and realized that this guy, Jay, was the embodiment of their crazy beliefs -

Solee: WAIT. What does MP stand for again?

Mikey: Member of Parliament!

Solee: Oh. Then THAT’S how they knew about Kiev. Maybe. Except it wasn’t military. It was hit man. So never mind.

Mikey: Well, I’m sure it was political. It always is in Kiev! Anyway, they wanted to do some kind of ritual wherein they’d tear down this guy and force him to kill what he loves, and in so doing he would be their “king” in some way. That’s about as far as that goes in my mind.

Solee: I’m not sure there’s much more to it than that. They completely broke him down, using his own instability and drive for justice to turn him into a weapon which they used to murder his family. That was the final horror for him. I don’t think he’d recover psychologically from that, and they knew it. They crowned him, but not in a “now you’re in charge” way. It was more of a celebration of having caused as much destruction to this man as possible.

Mikey: Yeah, something like that. He was not going to be okay. I just don’t know - I think that all makes sense, but it’s all a little haphazard, not structured enough, not solid enough. It didn’t work for me. And it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the “blue-collar hitmen going on a final job” story would’ve been without the crazy cult business.

Solee: The cult part was actually less scary to me than the hitman part. I believe in hitmen. I don’t actually believe in cults whose sole purpose is to be as chaotic as possible. There are people like that, but I don’t see 30+ individuals in an otherwise normal community all acting that way. Once it became obvious that the cult was the big bad, all the reality - the part that was amping up the tension so deliciously throughout - drained right out of it.

Mikey: Yes, my big problem was that as they proceeded into their 3 targets, we caught glimpses of something really mysterious (the victims thanked him, there was some sort of horrible video we didn’t see, and so on), and there was mystery in how they got hired and who Fiona was. It all felt like it was a part of something amazing, but in the end, the truth (I guess as always!) was not as amazing as it seemed it would be. Is it bad if every movie we say “it seemed good until it fell apart at the end”?

Solee: Not if that’s the truth. I think we do have very high standards. There’s a narrow window of greatness between So Obvious It’s Dumb and So Confusing It’s Irritating. Very few movies hit that window.

I think there was a lot of interesting symbolism that I missed the first time through. I’m not going to watch it again, but someone who did might have a much better understanding of things. The dress made of money, the way the targets acted, etc. I’m sure there’s more to be mined out of this movie. The problem is, I don’t like cult stuff, so I’m not motivated to watch it again like I was with Usual Suspects or that one about the guy whose short-term memory didn’t work.

Mikey: Memento! Okay, we’ve talked much too long and we need pizza! So let’s bring it on home. What did you think?

Solee: I think I’m still going to rate this one highly. I enjoyed the first ¾ of the film so much and I have to reward that. It’s like Bambi… people should turn it off before it actually ends! I give it 4 out of 5. You?

Mikey: I wish it had been something supernatural like the description said. At one point I thought Fiona might be an avenging angel, setting the hitmen up to be destroyed in some way. It all seemed much more important than a cult. Anyway, I did enjoy it, and it made me think, but I’m mad at how it wrapped up into seemingly less than the sum of its parts, so I’ll give it 3.5/5. Let’s have pizza!

Solee: Pizza!

Mikey: And after the pizza, our movie tomorrow will be No-Tell Motel. Join us again, won't you?
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Legend of Hell House 05:46 PM -- Sun October 9, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Rated PG
IMDB rating: 6.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 56% critics, 57% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 1.5/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Physicist Lionel Barrett and his wife lead a team of mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a six-foot-five serial killer.”

Mikey: You picked this movie, Solee (well, sort of - you picked it from a list I had), on the basis that you wanted to see an older movie. What’s the draw? Did this fulfill your wish?

Solee: This did fulfill my wish. I felt like we’d only been watching very modern horror films (of many genres) and horror has evolved a lot in the past decades. This was exactly the kind of old-style movie I was looking for, especially with its penchant for crazy lenses and spinning camera effects. How do you think this movie held up?

Mikey: I was surprised at how minimally different it felt to something released today. The spinning camera I’m sure was a formative memory for Sam Raimi. Other than a little extra chauvinism (very little - horror movies are pretty bad about it), this could’ve been released today. Well, with better special effects.

Solee: They so rarely use fog machines anymore...

Mikey: No shortage of those here! I wonder how they managed to put out so much fog.

I have a bunch of questions in my head, but I feel like they belong later on. Where do we start?


Solee: Well, one things I noticed right off the bat was that this is another horror film set around Christmas. Their time in Hell House spans from Dec 20-24. I know there are other horror stories set in December - Gremlins being the one that always springs to mind. Do I just notice them more readily? Or is terror at Christmastime a popular theme?

Mikey: Oh yes, Gremlins is all about Christmas! I am not sure why this movie is set then, as there isn’t a single mention of it. We only know because of the timestamps. It’s actually a little abnormal how these people fail to mention Christmas in any way during the four days leading up to it.

Solee: Maybe that’s a British thing? These people were SO VERY British.

Mikey: Maybe. I know they treat it differently than we do! That reminds me of another fun fact about this movie’s beginning: “The stuff you are seeing is fiction. But it could totally be true! For serious!” the screen tells us at the beginning (possibly paraphrased). You think?

Solee: I think there are people out there who believe that to be true. I’m not one of them… but I’m no physicist with a focus on paranormal psychology. There are people to call for that sort of thing.

Mikey: If only they had hired Peter Venkman instead of this guy. Hey, here’s my big issue that kept bugging me throughout: the last visit to this house was 20 years ago (maybe there were others in between, but we know that at least it wasn’t “lived in” for the intervening time, and probably hadn’t been for a long time before that). These people moved right in. They ate off the plates, drank from the glasses...

Solee: They slept in the beds!!! I had the same problem as I was watching them get ready for the first night. There would have been so much dust and musty smell. I mean, we could SEE the cobwebs everywhere. Gross.

Mikey: Cobwebs, yes, but in between the cobwebs there was pristine wallpaper, nicely upholstered furniture, and clean shot glasses for your late-night toddies. Is there a cleaning staff that comes in and dodges around the ghosts once a week? How is this place so tidy?

Solee: I don’t know. Maybe we can find out who does their cleaning. Having a ghostly housecleaner would sort of negate the awkwardness of having to watch a stranger do your chores, right? If they were invisible, that is…

Speaking of sets, I was noticing that the items that are put in front of the camera to indicate wealth - chandeliers, heavy furniture, marble busts on pedestals, velvet drapery - are the very same items used to indicate that a house is haunted. Why is that?

Mikey: Wait… maybe rich people were ghosts the whole time!! I don’t know, but the statues and stuff are always pretty creepy. Velvet drapes too. I was actually thinking during this movie, “the first thing they should do is just start hauling out the furniture”. If they just took that stuff out, it wouldn’t be nearly so creepy.

Solee: There were some “Game of Thrones” level chairs in that house.

Mikey: I didn’t notice any made of swords, but yeah, it was a bit opulent.

Solee: Fun fact. My grandma was born in 1919, the same year that house was built. Okay… so that was not really that fun.

Mikey: Seems like maybe it’s a coincidence. Or is it… anyhow, there was a cute kitty. Cats have a long history in horror movies, and that history is riddled with absolute ludicrosity. One of the things that always gets me is that they’re so cute. They want it to be creepy and stuff, but those big eyes are just staring at you and you wanna snuggle. The other thing of course is that in order to fake a cat attack, they throw a fake cat at the victim. It’s never not funny.

Solee: Truth. This is two movies in a row with “scary” cats that were actually just adorable. I have never understood why directors think they are getting away with anything when they throw a cat to make it look like it’s attacking. It always just looks like someone is throwing a cat at the character.

Mikey: There’s a totally ridiculous swarm of them in Let The Right One In.

Solee: I think I remember that. So we’re not crazy about the cat effects. What did you think of the level of profanity and sexual content, given that it was rated PG. Seems to me that PG meant something different in 1973.

Mikey: Yes, I think so. I was half-expecting that, because I remember fairly recently hearing about how ratings were less strict in the past, but this movie sure would not have been PG today. It’s funny that in terms of language there were (I believe) 2 mild swear words, and for gore there were a few bloody scratches. But there was nakedness, and lots of talk of doing inappropriate things.

Solee: Yeah. That Belasco was up to some pretty naughty things. He really checked all the boxes of questionable actions. I kind of felt as though the writers, in an effort to be shocking, just listed off all the depraved things they could think of. It came off as pretty lazy writing, rather than shocking, to me.

Mikey: I really noticed that - I bet in the ads they talked about how this movie contains such shocking naughty stuff, but what it really contained was a person listing naughty activities, in clinical language. Like once. I happened upon some info on IMDB regarding the writing, though: this is based on a book by Richard Matheson, which apparently does contain said depravity, and lots of it. People were saying it’s a very intense horror novel, where the characters are psychologically torn apart by the house. He also did the screenplay, and I think you do see that in this movie. That’s basically the plot: they come unhinged over the course of their stay, each in different ways. I’m not sure it was taken far enough to really be that powerful though.

Solee: It wasn’t taken nearly far enough. I was hoping for some Hitchcock level terror, but it was super tame. Just like the naughty bits, the horror was mostly hinted at. The final showdown with the big, bad ghostie was pretty much a shoving match with some name calling thrown in for good measure. This was probably the least scary movie we’ve seen all month.

Mikey: Yeah, I think so. (Spoilers!) It’s so odd that figuring out (somehow?) that the ghost was a short guy made him go away forever. That’s about the strangest way of defeating a ghost I’ve ever heard of. It was a bit like The Dead Room in some ways though, with the ghost ‘hiding out’ in his lead-lined Fortress of Solitude. Oh, and they had a magic ghostbusting machine that used energy waves. And a psychic girl with a tech guy and a skeptic. Although those were the same guy. These movies are twinsies!

Solee: Huh. You’re right. I hadn’t noticed all the similarities. I did notice that the ghost (?? Daniel??) said, “You’re my only hope”, which was apparently a very popular line in the 1970s.

Mikey: And then shoved people around with The Force. Oh wait, I forgot another issue with the house cleaning I had. The house’s cleanliness is clearly a major issue for me! In previous attempts to exorcise this house, lots of other people died. So we can surmise that it was similar to this time, with furniture being smashed, chandeliers dropping, and so on. So… did somebody come in and clean that stuff up too, and put in new (antique) furniture in place of it? Who is managing this property? They’re saints. Or sick and twisted.

Solee: They made a big deal out of all the people who had died. And then when he was actually listing them off, it sounded as though most of them had actually lived. They were crippled and paralyzed and what-not, but very few of them actually died. And NO ONE from this adventure died.

Mikey: No, I have a body count! 1 cat (killed by getting wet apparently - now we see why cats hate water so much), 1 long-dead corpse (we never actually find out who that is, if it’s not Daniel), 1 medium (crushed by a crucifix - quite dead), and 1 physicist (crushed by like 30 things). We got kills.

Solee: Oh. Yeah. I guess those two did get crushed… it was so uninteresting that I forgot. This movie was very disappointing.

Mikey: Does that mean we’re rating it now?

Solee: Well, almost. I have one last question. Why on earth was the physicist’s wife along? I just don’t get it. They made it clear that she always goes with him… but to what? Any sciencey event he has going on? Or does he do a lot of these haunted house things? If so, why was she so bloody useless??

Mikey: Oh, I’m sure he does lots of haunted houses, it seems established that this is his specialty. I just had an amazing thought. Maybe she comes along to clean up the houses and repair the damage! True, she was no good at the ghostbusting, but that fact combined with the mysterious cleanliness just comes together perfectly. She’s the mystery housekeeper. We just didn’t see the cleanup this time because she was rather upset over the crushing we previously mentioned.

Solee: He did mention that the technology was “just too complicated” for her. Maybe she’s a more traditional housewife.

Mikey: I think this movie (and probably most of the era) would assure you that all women are that.

Solee: Well, that leaves me ready to rate it! I’m giving it a 1.5 out of 5. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t compelling, it fizzled at the end, and it failed to impress me. I did like the sets and the acting was acceptable, so it didn’t get a straight up 1. You?

Mikey: Okay. That’s harsher than I shall be! Definitely not scary in any way, but I don’t agree it fizzled: the finale made no sense at all, but it had the style of a dramatic showdown with a ghost, all yelling and wind and objects flying around (well, the guy getting flung around), so not a fizzle, just a confuzzle. That doesn’t make it good, though. I hate to be mean to this movie for some reason. I feel like it tried, and I like that it was so psychological about things rather than just objects flying off shelves making people run for the door. So I give it a 2 out of 5.

Solee: Fair enough. I think it’s time for something REALLY scary tomorrow. I’m going to let you decide what that is.

Mikey: OOH YEAH. That movie will be Kill List - watch for yourself and decide how it measures up.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Voices 01:25 AM -- Sun October 9, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Voices (2015)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.3/10
Metacritic: 58
Rotten Tomatoes: 73% critics, 56% audience
Mikey: 4.5/5
Solee: 5/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A likable guy pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.”

Solee: This movie starts out with a song montage as the opening credits roll. Did you consider this a good or bad sign?

Mikey: Oh… I’ll say it’s a good sign. I think. It doesn’t scare me off! I bet you think it’s a good sign.

Solee: Absolutely. It speaks to the movie not taking itself too seriously. That’s very important for comedy. There are too many movies that call themselves “comedy” and then it turns out they are really depressing dramas with one gimmicky character.

Mikey: Yeah. Those can be good, but I do think “comedy” gets thrown around an awful lot with things that don’t even try to be funny. This is clearly a horror-comedy, and I think it rides that line very directly down the middle. What do you think?

Solee: I agree. I was leary because I’ve seen other “horror-comedy” labels misused. This one was the perfect combination. It was surprisingly gory, but in a way that actually made me laugh out loud in several places. I think Ryan Reynolds was a smart choice for Jerry. He has an extremely expressive face, able to go from wide-eyed innocence and charm to seriously disturbing quite quickly and that helped the movie ride that line.

As advertised, he had a couple of talking pets. Do you think those voices were well chosen?

Mikey: I assume they were voiced by Ryan Reynolds… maybe those are the two voices he can do?

Solee: Oh, I hadn’t thought about that possibility. Interesting.

Mikey: Ah, a quick IMDB check verifies he also voiced the deer (of course). They were good. Well, the cat was. The dog was weird.

Solee: Why did the cat have an Irish accent?

Mikey: Because Ryan Reynolds knew how to do that accent! That’s my theory. You have a better idea?

Solee: No… For a little why I thought his father sounded a bit like that, but it was more about the word choice than an actual accent. So, I’m sure you’re right and I’m a little disappointed it’s not something more meaningful.

Mikey: I’m sorry, I crush dreams. But… I gave you Spike in Shadow Puppets, and now Ryan Reynolds in The Voices. It seems I’m catering to you in order to keep you willing to watch scary movies with me all month!

Solee: I’m not going to tell you to stop finding movies that star my TV boyfriends, but you don’t really have to bribe me. I’m in it for the long haul. I’ll try to find something with a hottie for you next.

Mikey: Men aren’t so superficial. I’m in it for the story.

Solee: *cough*cough* Getting back on topic, what did you think of the visual and sound choices of the movie?

Mikey: This was certainly a colorful movie, and unexpectedly full of musical numbers (well, it wasn’t full of them, but more than I’d expect!). I like it. I think it dips into the same sort of manic realm that our last movie, Holidays, did - this sort of crazy energy that only horror movies are really allowed to have. Well, I guess Amelie did it too. But there’s just this kind of absurdist knowingly-silly style that is a fun thing horror can do, which is kind of illegal in other genres, it’s too ‘fake’. Does that make sense?

Solee: Yes. I think maybe going to absurd extremes is one of the ways we make the horror genre “socially acceptable”. People will watch really horrible movies that make no sense in the real world, but complain that shows like Law & Order or Criminal Minds are too violent. I think the difference is that the more realistic stuff reminds us that people can be incredibly horrific in real life.

Mikey: Sure… I think you could see in Holidays some of that, like in the Halloween segment - there wasn’t anything really funny there, but it was done sort of comedically, not so much to soften the blow of the awful events, but more to remove them from reality. You can see it as a cartoon. Realistic stuff can be hard to take, and I think a lot of “true horror fans” don’t like it because they’re in it for the goofy cartoon blood and splatter.

But let’s get back to this movie! Speaking of realism, is it pathetic or scary that I identify very strongly with the main character of this movie? I think I always do when the serial killer loner guy is awkward and socially incapable. It’s about that, not the killing, I swear!


Solee: I was wondering about that. He seems like the kind of guy you’d relate to. Charming, but not at all sure of his own impact on other people and slightly oblivious to the social norms of the situation. I don’t think those are innately dangerous or pathetic traits. In fact, people who are too sure of themselves turn me off, big time. I’m glad you’re not relating to the murdery bits, though.

I related to his discussion with the psychotherapist regarding his drugs. He clearly feels that giving up the “very high” moments of his life in order to prevent the “very low” moments isn’t worth it. He’s not happy with the steady middle. I understand how he feels about that and it makes me wonder… is it possible to be self-aware enough to know when you’ve reached the kind of lows that make those highs no longer worth it?

Mikey: Hmm. If you are that low, you probably are ready to take medication, since it seems like everything is awful, right? So it kind of works out. Maybe. Of course, by then it could be too late, if you have real problems. Brains are complicated.

Solee: He seemed to be at the point where the lows were too dangerously disconnected for him to recognize that they required meds. In fact, he was so delusional during the lows that they appeared much better than reality to him. I guess I should be asking… do our animals ever talk to you?

Mikey: Huzzah does constantly. But I’ve seen you hear it too, so it’s cool. In fact, it wakes us both up. A lot. Wait, do they talk to you?

Solee: Uhhhhhh. Noooo…? New subject! Do you think Lisa was foolish or naive for not seeing through Jerry’s strangeness to the scary? Or was she just being the sort of trusting and kind we all are until we have reason to be otherwise?

Mikey: Hey, I talked about that on an earlier movie! I think this is more of a crush thing… if you think somebody is cool, you don’t really notice weirdness so much. She thought he was deep.

Solee: Or you put it down to your own awkwardness!

Mikey: Yes, that! Okay, so as the latest conversation has shown us, this movie is all about mental illness. What do you think about that? I mean, it’s certainly light-hearted and funny, but we’re talking about something really serious (he kills people!).

Solee: I actually thought it was a very clever way to get people thinking about really serious topics. The conversation he has with the dog (who said he was a “good boy”), Fiona’s head (who said he was bad), and the cat (who said he simply was what he was) was quite profound. That’s not only a question that has been applied to humanity since we were aware enough to be called humanity, but it’s also particularly difficult to answer in this case. He wanted to be a good boy. But the convergence of his genetic predispositions, the events of his formative years and sheer bad luck all boxed him into some pretty horrible behavior. This is one of the things our legal system struggles with, isn’t it? Really it’s at the heart of lots of issues… gun control, for one.

Mikey: It is sure complicated. People are! I wonder though, anytime you make a joke about something, there’s a group who jumps down your throat. You think mental health advocates were out there boycotting this movie? Or would they have the appreciation you do for bringing up the issues?

Solee: I’m sure there were people on both sides. There are definitely a large number of people who don’t think humor is an appropriate way to deal with big, bad things. I am not one of them. I think the more we can laugh together, the more likely we are to be able to actually talk about things. Shared humor opens channels of communication.

Mikey: I agree, I don’t think any topic is off-limits for humor. It may not be funny to you, due to your own experiences and life story, but that doesn’t mean people can’t be allowed to joke about it - it means you don’t want to hear the joke! If they’re kind people, they won’t make the joke around you, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be joked about.

Solee: I think the style and intention of the joke come into play here. A joke that makes fun of me for having to wear glasses is very different than a joke that makes fun of the reality of having to wear glasses. Does that make sense?

Mikey: Absolutely. And I don’t think this movie is making fun of anyone, even people who hear voices. Hopefully (I haven’t asked any, I admit), they see it as you just said - a joke about the realities they have to contend with.

Solee: I think Jerry was presented as a very likeable person, actually. Even at the end, after everything he had done, I still felt connected to him. He felt like a protagonist the whole way through. A very flawed protagonist, but a protagonist, nonetheless. That brings me to something I was wondering as we watched. Have you ever seen a movie with such a self-aware “crazy” person? Is that self-awareness part of what made him relatable?

(Side note: I checked, and it took some searching but indeed there's this Guardian article - people were angry. And that’s understandable! I can definitely understand the frustration with the idea that schizophrenia is portrayed as dangerous in all the media always. That is hard.)

Mikey: I feel like I have seen this done before, but I don’t know if I can name the movie. I think I’ve seen something very similar in that respect. I wish I could name it because it’s right on the tip of my cerebellum.

I think it’s more of a writing trick - he’s just a nice guy, in every scene, even the ones where he is killing someone. Pretty easy way to make you like him! Kind of cheating, really.

Lemme ask you, speaking of writing tricks: a major element of this movie is the unreliable narrator. We never really knew how it was going to turn out, not just for the usual story reasons, but also because we couldn’t even trust what we were seeing. The movie showed us things from Jerry’s perspective, and it was only through occasional glimpses from another character, or the one time he takes his medication, that we see what things really look like. How do you feel about that particular trick?


Solee: Personally, I really like it. I like the extra effort it takes to follow the story and really understand what’s going on. I think in a visual medium like this it’s easier than in a written format, for sure. I enjoyed that element of “Wait… is this really happening?” that followed me throughout the story. Often it was easy to tell what was really happening, but other times I was really left wondering. For example, the deaths of Fiona and Lisa are portrayed as accidents (although less so with Lisa, now that I think about it). Do you think they were really accidents? Or do you agree with the cat that he meant to kill them all along?

Mikey: That’s one of my favorite things in movies! Thinking later not so much about what things meant or what themes underlie them, but actually trying to understand what you saw! That kind of sounds bad, but depending on the situation it can be very very good. And indeed, we are left in this movie with no real proof that he didn’t just viciously murder these women in a calculated way, and it was just portrayed to us (through the Jerry Filter) as an attempt at being friendly that went wrong. Interpretation is fun. I’m not sure of the correct interpretation, really. My guess is that in this movie, they meant those things to have occurred as we saw them, but that’s not as interesting as what I imagine. What if none of it was like we saw? What if Lisa was never interested in him, and Fiona never reluctantly went out with him - that could all have been catching them somewhere and kidnapping them and murdering them. He just doesn’t know it, so we don’t know it.

Solee: Hinting at that would have made him much less likeable. It would have changed the whole feel of the movie, that’s for sure. I suspect there was some element of that, though. The patterns that are established in our childhood follow us a long way down the paths of our lives. I like to think that he felt he was “helping” them, just as he did for his mother. At one point he says to the cat, “The only time I ever felt truly alive…” He trails off and we assume he means when he killed Fiona, but what if it was when he “saved” his mother? And if he has to set the stage for them to need his help… well, that makes for a good story, no?

Mikey: I noticed him trailing off too! You’re making me think I liked this movie even more than I thought I did. There’s a lot going on under the surface! Buuuutt… speaking of how much I liked it and how long we’ve been chatting, I think we need to wrap this up. What’s your rating for The Voices?

Solee: It had ALL the elements that make for my kind of scary movie: singing, Ryan Reynolds, clever plot twists, brain stuff, and something to think about for days later. I give this my very first 5 out of 5. I liked it so much I’m willing to forgive the couple of parts that were gross enough to make me turn away. What about you? How do you rate it?

Mikey: I don’t think singing or Ryan Reynolds enter into my calculations for scary movies (nor does a complete absence of scares like this movie offered), but I do always enjoy musical bits in movies, and I do like Ryan Reynolds. I’m going to give this 4.5 out of 5. It needs to twang my psychological confusion a little harder for that last half point.

Solee: And one final question… are we the only people on the planet who don’t know how to pick locks?? I think we need to take a class or something.

Mikey: Oh, you don’t know how? Hmm.

Solee: Very funny, Mr. Hommel. I’ll meet you back here tomorrow to discuss our next movie!

Mikey: YAY!! And that movie will be The Legend of Hell House from way back in 1973. Come on back, ya'll.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Holidays 03:52 PM -- Fri October 7, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Holidays (2016)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 5.1/10
Metacritic: 50
Rotten Tomatoes: 52% critics, 24% audience
Mikey: 3/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “HOLIDAYS is an anthology feature film that puts a uniquely dark and original spin on some of the most iconic and beloved holidays of all time by challenging our folklore, traditions and assumptions.”

This is the first of our joint interviews... more of a conversation really. I think it's far better than what we did for the first few movies. Enjoy!

Mikey: Well, the obvious first question in an anthology is easy: What was the best story, and what was the worst?

Solee: That’s actually pretty tough… because I didn’t enjoy a lot of those stories. They were just soooo outside the realm of reality that I didn’t find them scary, and they weren’t really all that funny either, except in a “WTH am I watching” kind of way. I liked Christmas and New Year’s Eve best because they were more realistic but had good twists. I think Halloween is the lowest point in my opinion, but I was more confused than entertained by St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Mother’s Day.

You?

Mikey: Boy, they were out of the realm of reality huh? These were some crazy stories, and I give points for originality, though a few were kind of expected. I’ll tell you this fo sho: Father’s Day was hands down my favorite. I did not like the ending of it, it left a lot unanswered and confusing, but until the ending, I had actual goosebumps. That was one of the most interesting and entertaining things I’ve ever watched. Disappointing ending though.

Solee: Agreed. That had a lot of potential that wasn’t realized.

Mikey: I think my least favorite is harder to pin down. Probably Halloween is the least interesting. I felt the Kevin Smith to it (he directed that segment), with good dialogue and believable characters, but then the stuff that actually happened was both deeply disturbing and yet really pointless and dumb. That’s approximately my expectation of his movie Tusk, which I haven’t seen and don’t intend to (but I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan prior to these modern days).

Solee: Yep. I love lots of Smith’s work, but his more recent stuff is definitely the work of someone who’s smoking pot all the time. And I wasn’t that impressed with the dialogue. Usually he is a master of the real back and forth that goes on between people, but this just felt stilted and fake to me.

So what is it about anthologies that you like so much?

Mikey: It’s just so fun! It’s like Fun Size Snickers for your eyeballs. (Solee actually snorted out loud reading this. Just so you know.) You know you don’t have to think too hard because each story will be over soon, so you just get a little taster of a bunch of different weird things (and weird is always what you get!). How do you feel about anthologies?

Solee: They are so hit or miss. It’s like reading a book of short stories. When done well, they’re amazing. But it’s so easy to fail. And some of these failed miserably.

Mikey: Ooh, that reminds me of my favorite anthology trick: the wrap-around! I wish we had that in this movie (I kind of thought New Year’s was going to turn out to be half a wrap-around, but it wasn’t).

Solee: That would have been cool. So can we go through them quickly? Talk about each one for a minute?

Mikey: Okay… they were in calendarological order. We start with Valentine’s Day. I have a question for you about this one. Wait, I have two. First of all, you were quite vexed when the mean girl tried to solve her stalker problem by just politely saying goodbye and taking a different path. So, Mrs. Smarty Pants: how would you solve the problem of someone creepily following you and stopping at a distance every time you turned?

Solee: No, no, no. My problem wasn’t with how she solved the problem. That’s a perfectly reasonable (if ineffective) way to get away from someone you don’t want to be around anymore. MY problem was with how she was trying to be all normal and innocent and “gosh, why are you being so creepy to little ol’ me?” when she knew perfectly well why Maxine was mad. I think the writers did a poor job of displaying her character in that scene. She’s a mouthy, little brat (for the sake of our younger readers). She would have yelled at Maxine to leave her alone, threatened her, whatever. She would NOT have been all meek and stupid.

Mikey: Okay okay… I agree, though I like how she started out being snotty to her and in the end just fell to basic civility as she failed to get any response. That felt real. But speaking of how Maxine is mad (in the hatter sense), you also had an alternate ending for this story that I thought was a lot more interesting. Tell our audience!

Solee: I think she should have left the mean girl out there in the woods to be found with a brain injury. Mean girl’s parents decide to donate her organs and Coach ends up getting her heart. Maxine thinks all has worked out for the best… Mean Girl is gone and she’s managed to get Dear Coach what he needs. Final scene… Maxine is on the diving board and Coach yells up, “C’mon, you can do it. Just jump… Maxi-pad.” Look of horror on Maxine’s face. And cut to black.

Mikey: Four stars!

Solee: Ok. Enough about this surprisingly (compared to the rest) basic story. In St. Patrick’s Day, we are treated to a totally different style. At what point did you realize that this story wasn’t taking place in a reasonable universe?

Mikey: Well, I knew that when it was in a horror anthology. The girl was creepy right off and clearly evil (I figured she’d turn out to be a leprechaun in some way). Do you mean reasonable for reality or reasonable in the sense that this short is insane?

Solee: Yeah. That one. Things got NUTS.

Mikey: Oh I know when! This seemed like a really grim, depressing story, kind of typical horror movie style, right up until the teacher went to a doctor about her pregnancy and the doctor said “You know that movie Rosemary’s Baby? What you have is like that, but it’s Rosemary’s reptile.”

Solee: THAT DOCTOR!!

Mikey: I don’t know if it was horror-comedy, or just totally insane horror.

Solee: I got the feeling that the girl and her father, whether Leprechauns or Magic Pagans or whatever, were part of a plot to repopulate Ireland with “snakes” which were, as the super creepy video the class watched said, metaphors for something - in this case a weird snake-person hybrid. I dunno. It was way out there.

Mikey: Nothing weird about Danny Zuko hair on a snake. That is actually the question I had jotted down to ask you about: there’s clearly metaphor here (especially since as you mentioned, they tell you so). Do you think maybe this whole thing is not so much meant to literally be a snake-baby, but more like something about bringing paganism back to Ireland? The people at the end were clearly pagans of some sort!

Solee: Yes. That’s what I originally thought… but then the difference between the animal-headed people and the snake-baby made it seem like it was an actual snake-baby… and given some of the other stories in this anthology, I wouldn’t be surprised. I would have rated this one higher if they’d stuck to the metaphor.

Mikey: “The zoo called back”. What?? Anyway, I don’t want to think about that anymore, which is sad because up next is what I really don’t want to think about: Easter. Umm… I guess my question on this one is… PLEASE HELP ME.

Solee: Now, see, I actually liked this one better because I felt like it WAS a metaphor. Or some kind of social commentary on the blending of the religious and secular aspects of Easter. The kid at the beginning was SOOO scared. I’ve never seen a real child so amped up about a stupid adult lie. I felt like that was a pretty strong condemnation of the “horror” aspects of Christian Easter - murder/sacrifice, resurrection, etc - and the stupidity of trying to make it palatable with chocolate bunnies and fluffy yellow chicks.

Mikey: Oh, definite metaphors! That was the cool thing here, the weird mashup that we saw. I don’t know what we’re supposed to think is “really” happening (I guess in a short story it doesn’t matter, you see what you see!), but it’s clear that what does happen is effectively the result of the crazy mixed message this girl has been given. It’s showing us her terrified imagination. Unfortunately for her, it seems to have become real.

Solee: One of my questions was going to be “Why is she so compliant about all of this!?” but now I’m thinking that’s part of it. Religion is the ultimate tool in compliance and parents are always using holidays as a form of coercion “If you don’t eat your veggies, the easter bunny won’t come!”. Were you weirded out by her lack of fight?

Mikey: No, I think it was authority, and she had been told to just go with it by her parents so she did. Get ‘em while they’re young! I am curious as to what actually happened to her - I mean, she’s now the easter bunny? And Jesus? I dunno.

Solee: Yeah. I dunno, either. And it was not interesting enough for me to care all that much. What about the Mothers’ Day story? Did that one grab your attention?

Mikey: It did! Which is a bad thing because it made me mad. It was interesting throughout, which is why it was so frustrating when it ended. It ended at what I would call the end of the beginning. We were just getting somewhere and they had decided that was enough story. That was awful, enough to make me say it was a really bad story even though if it were finished, I’d have found it a very good story.

I think there’s a certain type of storyteller or filmmaker who thinks the purpose of horror is simply to shock somebody, and these are the kind of “stories” they give you. There’s lead-up, then a shocking final shot, and it’s done. That’s not a story, that’s stupid. And real horror fans know the difference.


Solee: Agreed. I really have very little to say about this one. I found it distasteful that a group of barren women thought it was okay to kidnap and rape another woman for their own benefit… but then that wasn’t even what happened. That would have been an actual plot -- a horrible one -- but still a plot. This was just… stupid. And why on earth didn’t the guy in that woman’s life try to find her when she went missing?

Mikey: That does seem pretty much like an oversight, although they commented on how she hadn’t gotten calls, so I dunno.

Solee: That’s what actually made me remember that there WAS someone who should have been calling.

Mikey: Well, let’s dump that in an open grave and move on to Father’s Day. I think I’ve covered most of my thoughts already! What are yours?

Solee: I loved the story telling device they used, having her father talk to child her and adult her at the same time. That was very clever and I’ve not seen it done before. The setting was eery and the story was actually pretty believable right up to the end. I had HIGH hopes for this one. And then it just gave up. Was it aliens? Terrible space monkeys?

Mikey: It’s funny because this is almost identical to the previous story: all this well-done setup, and then a shocking final image and fin. But I loved this one. The setup was so incredibly good, and it was more than setup - in this case, I’d say it was about 95% of the whole story. We just needed a bit of resolution to make it perfect. So great, with that letdown, but not enough to let me down. Goosebumps, I tell you.

Solee: I believe you. I had two questions about this one… first, what do you think her mother would have told her, had she answered her call?

Mikey: I don’t know the answer to that at all, but I am willing to bet that they filmed a voice mail being left that had some explanation from her on it, and they cut it out to keep the mystery or some other nonsense.

Solee: BAD decision. The second thing was less of a question and more of an observation. I don’t know what the heck happened at the end, but I do know free will was a big part of it. That’s a pretty common theme in demon stories, isn’t it?

Mikey: Certainly in vampires! And others sometimes. That was part of the tantalizing hints in this story… why did she need free will? Why did we see an alignment of planets out of the blue for a moment? Who is “Him”? So interesting, and yet we’ll never know.

Solee: Aliens!!

Mikey: Fine, aliens. The next one up is Halloween. You can’t blame this one on aliens! What do you say?

Solee: I already said most of what I thought. It was disappointing. I expected more. I’m a little skeezed out by Smith casting his daughter as an internet porn star, but hey… Hollywoodland!

I enjoyed the use of cutesy emoticons and internet slang as the girls were getting their revenge. That seemed to up the horror of it all. But the story was blegh.

Mikey: Yes, this goes right in the box of horror that doesn’t interest me at all: there’s no twist, no surprise, just “wouldn’t it be awful if this happened?” I guess it’s sort of the very unsurprising genre of revenge films. Those can be sort of interesting, but mostly they’re just fantasy fulfillment, which is certainly where this was going. And hey, speaking of that - this was a fantasy for girls to get revenge on misogyny. We haven’t noted yet that this entire collection is very woman-centric. Nearly every story is about a female character (and very few other characters), and about specific female issues. You’re a chick broad dame, what’s up?

Solee: I did find that very interesting. Aside from the girls in Halloween getting their revenge, it wasn’t exactly building up women, but it was kind of cool to see so many female leads. And women are scary. They have all those unmentionable parts and they bleed intentionally. Terrifying!

Mikey: Wait, it’s intentional!?

Solee: Our bodies do it on purpose, I guess is what I’m trying to say. Or maybe it’s just something we all agreed to do to freak guys out. O.o

So let’s move on to the two stories I actually liked! Christmas. He gets This Year’s Hottest Toy for his kid through nefarious means. What did you think of how that worked out for him?

Mikey: This was a lot of fun. Straight up, it was a Twilight Zone episode. And Seth Green is always entertaining. I have no real complaints here, pretty good (and it actually had a twist and conclusion!).

Solee: My only problem was that the UVU was supposed to let “you see you” or “you be you” or something. Instead it seemed to start showing them the truth about their spouses. Did I miss something?

Mikey: That was a pretty blatant bit of bad writing. They were seeing something from their own heads (generally past mis-deeds… although from the perspective of the victim, so whatever, it was magic)... but they totally contradicted themselves: the kid sees fun-time Mars Explorer, hands it to his dad who sees naughty things, and then later the mom sees the dad’s imagery because he “forgot to log out”. There’s no logging in and out, it very clearly goes straight from your brain to the screen! They just changed it mid-story. Dumb.

Solee: Yeah. Dumb. But if you forgive them that, it’s a pretty fun twisty story with shades of the Telltale Heart. What about the twist in New Year’s Eve? Were you expecting that?

Mikey: I sure was expecting it. When he said they were a 96% match, I was like “Oh, now why would they be a great match?” This story reminded me a lot of the series I watched recently, DarkNet. It’s just a series of stories almost exactly like this one. What did you think?

Solee: I loved that she was out-creeping the creeper.

Mikey: Women’s wish fulfillment!

Solee: Yep, this is a pretty “woman-power” plot. And the wife in Christmas is pretty tough, too. I guess it has more strong females than I thought.

Mikey: I go more terrifying than tough. But the husband wasn’t so great either!

Solee: My main note for this last story was, “Best serial killer story EVER!!” I haven’t seen that twist done before and I liked it. I wasn’t totally expecting it, either, so it was a fun surprise.

Mikey: It sounds like you would like DarkNet, check it out! So on that note, is it possible for you to wrap up an overall rating for all that stuff mashed together?

Solee: I just don’t feel like there were enough good things to rate this very high. I’m going to give it a 2 out of 5 because there were a few good things and I can see some themes that weave throughout (a must for a good anthology, if you ask me), but mostly it was disappointing. I’d probably be happier doing laundry or dishes or something. You?

Mikey: How empowered! I am gonna have to go higher, just because of how blown away I was by Father’s Day. I just can’t avoid giving that recognition even if there was a lot of weird fluff to this anthology (plus hey, it’s an anthology, bonus points for the silly fun of that). Let’s call it 3 out of 5.

Solee: Fine. I’ll allow it. :) See you tomorrow for a horror-comedy called The Voices. It has Ryan Reynolds!

Mikey: Dreamy!

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Witch 03:04 PM -- Thu October 6, 2016  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Witch (2016)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.7/10
Metacritic: 83
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% critics, 55% audience
Mikey: 2.5/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Amazon Prime.


An original work by Solange! (Not as original as usual. Her disclaimer: "This picture was entirely traced! I cannot draw people!")
IMDB’s description: “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

We watched this movie on an overcast afternoon, while the leaves were really falling from the trees for the first time this year. I chose this movie because I remembered how Patton Oswalt had lost his mind tweeting about how it was so deeply terrifying when it came out. Let's see how his recommendation went...

Mikey: Isn’t she just the worst at shoveling?

Solee: OMG. You’re not kidding. I watched her actually go through the whole shoveling motion with NOTHING on her shovel at least twice. I know she’s really a 20 year old who was raised in the privileges of modern America, but that was just ridiculous! What are they teaching in schools these days anyway??

Mikey: The forest is so grim. Not a happy place. Early on, with all the crazy blaring orchestra music, I got the impression they were trying to make the forest a character in the film - these people trying to survive on the outskirts of this vast incomprehensible danger. Did you feel that the forest was a key part of the film, or was it all just about the family themselves? Would it have been the same out on the plains?

Solee: I agree that the forest was a major character in the film. It loomed over the farm. I remember questioning the wisdom of that location as the family knelt in prayerful thanks. The forest should have been a source of protection, giving meat, firewood, etc. Instead it was where all the worst things happened to them for most of the movie. I’m only just making the connection now, but the father spent all his free time chopping wood, which is very symbolic, if you ask me.

One of the great things about nature in storytelling is that Mother Nature’s got lots of ways of torturing human beings. The forest was a handy way to destroy the lives of this family, but if they’d lived in the plains it would have been the wind and the wide open expanses. If they lived next to an ocean, the water would have stolen their sons. The world is a scary place!

Mikey: It was great when the twin devil children got put on a leash. One of several laugh-out-loud moments in this plodding black nightmare. That’s very modern of them, but it also seemed like the only solution to those little monsters. Those kids, what up with them?! Were they just horrible, or bewitched?

Solee: That was one of my favorite moments. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about doing that to my little brothers when I babysat. :)

Those were the WORST kids. I’m not at all sure why the parents held poor Thomasin to such high standards while allowing the twins to act like little beasties. They sang creepy songs about the devil goat from the very beginning. Maybe there’s some unwritten rule that kids can be kids up to a certain age? They looked old enough to be helping out around the house if you ask me. I honestly wasn’t that saddened by their ultimate fate.

Mikey: Halfway in, do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: This family, ostracized from the village for reasons of faith, has built their farm on the edge of a witch’s wood. Life goes downhill from there. The witch is sucking the life force from the children who stray too closely to the forest (such a fairy tale trope!). I kind of hope the witch gets the twins soon. I predict that Caleb, who has recently returned naked and sick from the forest, will be irresistibly drawn back to the witch. Thomasin will eventually kill the witch somehow, but not before losing more of (or all of) her family. Her triumph over the witch will be supernatural or religious in nature, perhaps emphasizing the power of prayer. I’m about 65% confident in these predictions. Fairy tales have a pretty predictable story arc, and I’m sure this movie will do something to shake that up.

Mikey: So in reality, these people are all fancy Hollywood types with iPhones who drove out to this farm in their SUVs, spent 2 hours in makeup, and then stepped out onto this farm and started calling each other “thee” and “thou”. Do you ever find yourself slipping into thinking about that? Can you imagine the demon kids stepping off-camera and playing Growtopia on their Androids? It kind of makes the acting seem more impressive when you think about it.

Solee: That idea never came to me while I was watching the movie (except when we talked about the shoveling). I was fully immersed in the world of 17th century colonial life. The dialogue and the clothing and the look of the farm were well done and made it easy to fall into the story.

I thought the acting was very impressive. It’s not easy to make such period specific language sound natural to a modern audience and I thought they did a very nice job of it. It’s kind of trippy to think about them switching into normal mode when the director yells “Cut!”, though. I often wonder how difficult it is for really good actors to come out of character and find themselves again. I would think it would be easy to forget what was really you.

Mikey: The witch was so fairy-tale. The cackling took it a step so far that it almost seemed like she had to not be real, like she was some delusion of the children, right? But the plot of the movie doesn’t support that. I don’t really have a question here, I’m just like… what? How are we supposed to be scared in a movie where the witch actually cackles?

Solee: Is it possible that the witch was not really there at any point? What if Thomasin lost the baby somehow… dropped it, it stopped breathing, a wolf really did take it… and it just kind of broke her brain? There were some seriously disturbing looks between her and Caleb that could have led to something bad. She was locked in there with the twins, and I don’t remember seeing her during that scene. That feels pretty far-fetched, since I didn’t see anything that really supported this conjecture. I don’t really think that’s what the writers were going for, but it’s fun to look for different layers of meaning.

Mikey: Now that the movie's over, how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was pretty much universally wrong. Oops.

Mikey: Were you scared at any point?

Solee: No. This was not a scary movie. I was seriously disturbed by some of the imagery, but in a “Whoa, they really went there” kind of way instead of a “I’m super grossed out” kind of way.

Mikey: What on earth was the witch up to? It’s pretty clear she got youth from the baby, but she wasn’t done tormenting the family at that point. She absolutely drove them to ruin. What was her goal?

Solee: This is a very good question. She’s clearly not a good neighbor. I mean, she IS a witch. I’m sure having to kidnap babies and turn them to facial cream regularly in order to keep her figure is a little hard on the sanity.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - Goodish?
Directing - Good, except the ending
Acting - Good
I want to give the writing a Good, but I was unhappy with the ending. The directing, aside from the screechy bits of the soundtrack, was very good. I was very impressed by the acting.

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: For once I actually have an answer to this question! I would have ended the film one scene earlier. After Thomasin laid her head on the table, I would have rolled credits. It would have left it open enough for people who wanted it to be a witch movie to imagine she ran off into the woods to join the witch, and it would have allowed others to wonder whether it was all in her head the whole time.

Mikey: I felt at the end of the movie that there was something of a theme at play, something a little more universal. This girl had been perfectly innocent and good, but eventually, with everybody demanding she was a witch (and okay, the loss of her entire family as well), she finally snapped and said “You want me to be a witch, I’ll be a witch!” Do you think this was a conscious thing? I can see this element at play with teenagers today: “If everybody’s going to assume I’m up to no good, then there’s no point in even trying to do good, I might as well get the benefits of breaking the rules!”

Solee: I feel like there was definitely an element of that. By the end, she really didn’t have anything else to lose. She certainly wouldn’t have been welcomed back into the village with open arms. I don’t blame her at all for throwing up her hands and going with the flow.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie?

Solee: I give this movie a 4.5 out of 5. I’m glad we watched it, even if it wasn’t scary at all. I’m still thinking about different possible messages and interpretations now, more than 24 hours later. That’s always a sign of a good movie to me.

Mikey: Only when I was prepping this interview to put up did I notice the big discrepancy on Rotten Tomatoes - 91% critics, 55% audience? That makes perfect sense to me. This movie is definitely more for the critics than for horror fans, and I think the previews were a bundle of lies. Not a scary movie.

But come on back tomorrow anyway, to watch Holidays with us. It's an anthology! And here's a little programming note: we're changing the format starting tomorrow. From now on, there's just one "interview" - a conversation between the two of us. It's so much more fun for us, and a lot easier and more interesting for you to read. Everybody wins this Halloween!

But for now, for my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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