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Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. So, since 2011, I have spent the entire month of October every year reviewing a horror movie each day. I've changed formats many times over the years, and in the past few years, I've even been joined by my wife Solee, as well as the occasional guest. We've got text, drawings, video reviews, audio reviews... we got it all! Wanna check out our reviews? Look below, or use the menu to the left to dig deeper!
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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: 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: 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: 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: #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 Amityville Horror (2005) 02:23 PM -- Sun October 16, 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 Amityville Horror (2005)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.0/10
Metacritic: 33
Rotten Tomatoes: 23% critics, 52% audience
Mikey: 4/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Newlyweds are terrorized by demonic forces after moving into a large house that was the site of a grisly mass murder a year before.”

Mikey: So I noticed it’s possible to show the 70’s without it being all in sepiatone. It seems No Tell Motel has lied to me again.

Solee: You just can’t trust horror movies anymore. This was a remake of a 1979 movie starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. Have you seen the original?

Mikey: Um, I think I may have. There’s kind of a whole series of these, and I know last year I saw an Asylum-made rip-off of it, The Amityville Haunting (a found-footage funfest, of course! I gave it 1/5). And of course it is based on a “true” story, which gets quotes because it’s an entirely different situation than Emily Rose. This story is a yarn spun by the guy who lived in the house, which, while I don’t have all the details, basically turns out to be an elaborate hoax (got him a book deal and all these movies and lots of fame!). Pardon me if that’s not certain, but it seems to be from a cursory examination.

Solee: So it’s more like The Witch - based on something that happened in real life, but mostly fictionalized?

Mikey: Well, it’s based on a fiction that was told to people in real life? The DeFeo murders, which start the movie, are true. Then the Lutz family moved into the house, moved out shortly after, and made up this story about ghosts almost making them kill each other in the same fashion as the DeFeos (which itself is interesting: Ronnie did kill the family, and did claim voices made him do it, but later admitted he was just seriously high, and never had heard voices).

Solee: Dang. People are terrifying. This is one of those horror movies that really chills me. I’m not really afraid of zombies or witches or aliens...

Mikey: You ain’t afraid of no ghost?

Solee: Exactly! But I think human beings at their worst are absolutely horrifying. So it’s movies like this - with completely human monsters, based on completely human monsters - that make me turn on all the lights as I walk through the house at dusk and double check the locks on the doors before I go to bed at night. This crap really happens!

Mikey: It is definitely the one real monster we can find! It doesn’t really get me in horror movies though, usually. It’s kind of like “I could see that in real life. Show me a ghost!” I guess I don’t really double-check doors or anything anyway. White male privilege.

Solee: You’re statistically more likely to pick up the ax than to have to climb to the top of the steepest roof in the world to escape from someone with an ax.

Mikey: True, Ryan Reynolds and I are almost identical twins! Mostly in the abs department.

Solee: Mmmmm….

Mikey: But man, that was one steep roof. I mean, I guess that’s real, but whoa. That was probably the scariest part for me. I don’t like heights!

Solee: There were some pretty amazing wide shots while they were climbing around up there. If not for the imminent death coming from all directions, it would be pretty awesome to have a view like that.

Mikey: I’ll pass on that. Or maybe install a nice balcony or something? I even get twitchy on balconies. Okay, so this is the polar opposite of #Horror - every second of this movie, something is happening. Non-stop, rapid-fire action (too rapid-fire during the initial flashback - this movie needs an epilepsy warning). Did it seem crazy fast-paced to you?

Solee: I wasn’t crazy about the super fast lightning flashes during the flashback. The whole movie did seems to just zoom along, but not in a bad way. I was completely engaged as all this craziness happened. It didn’t come across as unbelievable in its speed, either. They did the little montage-y bit to show time passing as they moved in, but that worked. There was a point when I suddenly realized that they had been there for less than a month. I was surprised… but not really bothered.

Mikey: The pace kept it always interesting! They weren’t afraid to show you the ghosts either, it was like a ghost in the corner of every shot. Constant bombardment of the supernatural, instead of the very common slow-burn horror where you’re never quite sure if anything is happening.

Solee: I just realized that I was way less skeptical of the ghosts/demons in this movie than I was in Emily Rose. I’m not sure why… maybe because I didn’t really believe that aspect to be part of the “true story”, which doesn’t make much sense. I just watched it as a horror film rather than constantly trying to figure out what was REALLY happening when they thought they saw these things.

Mikey: This goes back to the two different versions of “true”. Emily Rose was claiming to tell the true story of an exorcism (but it did leave you the option of interpretation). This movie was more “let’s tell you the story Mr. Lutz told us”. Which I don’t find as bothersome, even though it bothers me that he’s getting rich and famous from lying.

Solee: I found this quote by Sandor Stern, screenwriter of the 1979 version, that fits that: “I wasn't really concerned about whether or not it was a true story. It didn't matter to me. I had to create a reality of my own.” I think you’re right. The makers of this movie were just telling a fun story, not trying to push an agenda.

Mikey: Kind of a campfire ghost story. It’s interesting that it’s become such a cultural touchstone, spawning a whole series of movies, and everybody knows about them. I knew the flies were going to come pouring in at some point, I remembered that (you know, I am pretty sure I saw the original).

Solee: I’m tempted to go watch the original at some point. You know, I said earlier that this movie wasn’t pushing an agenda, but there was one agenda that came through pretty clearly: White people stole Native American land and abused native people and now we’re paying for it.

Mikey: I bet they wish we’d pay for it! But yeah, I’m not sure that was in the original movie. What came to mind for me was Poltergeist - the Indian burial ground is a trope. I guess they had to bring out some kind of “old” explanation for all this, because they had to have a supernatural reason for the first murders.

Solee: Trope! That’s what was bothering me. I got very irritated when the Rev. Ketchum aspect was revealed, and I wasn’t sure exactly why. It’s because not only did we steal land and spread small pox and do all kinds of horrible things to Native Americans, but NOW we appropriate that history to get sympathy for ourselves! “Look at what the scary Indian ghosts are doing to us!” This movie focused more on the evil white guy and the little girl (I want to ask a question about that later), but most movies make the tortured ghosts of a tortured people into the bad guys. That’s just… ugh.

Mikey: Yeah, I don’t know if there were scary Indian ghosts, I think it was more that Ketchum was so evil, he’s the evil force here (remember he slit his own throat to live forever - which by the way: bad strategy). The torturing of Indians was just an example of why he’s evil. I also had a question about Jody! You go.

Solee: So, I totally understand why Ketchum is a ghost there and his role in everything that has happened all along. And I get that Jody was the little sister of the guy who went nuts and killed his whole family in a drug induced rage… But why is she the only ghost of his family left? Why weren’t his brothers and his parents there helping drive this family crazy (or protect them? Is that what Jody was trying to do? I dunno.)?

Mikey: Oh wow, I just invented a theory! I’m 100% sure this is not what the filmmakers intended, but it’s the story I’m going to tell you, just like Mr. Lutz. So the DeFeo family, like dozens before them I’ll assume, murdered each other (okay, one guy did the murdering) due to the ghost. Once murdered, the whole family was ghostly. Then over time, Ketchum “kaught ‘em and killed ‘em”, eating their souls to sustain his eternal ghostliness. Jody was the last one left, and in the final shot of the movie, we see her sucked up at last. Sad really.

Solee: That’s an interesting theory. It makes sense. I agree that it probably wasn’t actually in this making, but it should have been!

Mikey: I’m hoping to become world-famous for it and they make movies out of it. Not so much movies as appendices to this movie. “By the way, Mike said this was happening…”

Solee: Haha! Good luck with that. So there are a couple more things I wanted to talk about. First, how about that babysitter?

Mikey: Yeah, maybe if the parents had spent five minutes (or one) speaking to her before letting her watch their kids, they would’ve known what an awful babysitter she was.

Solee: Dude. I knew she was an awful babysitter as soon as I saw the shirt she was wearing!

Mikey: That was a funny moment. It seemed like it would’ve been a very classic Ryan Reynolds line to have said what you did after the mom asked “Can I get your coat?” - “Can I put it back on you?”

Solee: Except he was playing a macho 70’s man, so he just exchanged a nudge and a wink with the 13 year old boy they were leaving to be molested by this nasty woman. *sigh* Thinking about it, that’s the only person that the Jody ghost was really aggressive towards. She REALLY didn’t like that babysitter.

Mikey: Yeah, they had history - she had babysat her in life. Apparently equally well.

Solee: I wasn’t all that sorry for the poor traumatized babysitter after that night. I was more sorry for the brothers, having experienced such a scary thing AND getting blamed for how things ended. Not fair at all.

Mikey: Well, these kids had a very rough life the whole time in the house. Oh wait, I can’t believe I haven’t said this yet: this was a near-clone of The Shining. And what I want to say is that it was unfair of the movie to make him be a not-really-wanted stepdad. If he was their real loving father, the turn to being really nasty and scary would be so much more perplexing and difficult for the kids. As it was, it was more like “Oh yeah, now we’re seeing what he’s really like!” (from the kids’ perspective)

Solee: But then the tension of “will he treat them well?” wouldn’t have been there from the beginning. And he did go through a pretty dramatic transformation. He was a really decent guy, caring about the kids, putting up with the stress of step-parenting, etc. Ryan Reynolds was a great choice for this character because he makes the sweet, endearing, charming side of it very believable, but he also plays scary, angry, abusive quite believably. He was fricking terrifying by the middle of the movie.

Mikey: The wood-chopping scene was very hard to watch! That was one of my favorites. Although it calls to mind what I never knew was a trope: what is with guys under demonic threat becoming obsessed with chopping tons of wood?

Solee: Maybe that’s an unintended side-effect of the real trope: ax murderers!

Mikey: But no axe-murdering in The Witch or whichever other movie we saw that did this, … maybe I’m wrong about that one since I don’t remember which one.

Solee: It was definitely in The Witch. Not sure about any others. I don’t remember anyone getting ax murdered, or even ax injured, though. That’s still a major trope. It’s what we say when we’re suspicious of someone. *I* was a potential ax murderer, if you ask your mom! ;)

Mikey: I remember well! I think Emily Rose might have had a large amount of chopped wood. I’m looking through our list because I wanna say there were at least 3 besides this movie! Oh, Kill List I’m pretty sure.

Solee: And you mentioned The Shining… I wouldn’t be surprised to see wood chopping in that one. Some of the ALL WORK that makes JOHNNY A DULL BOY.

Mikey: Oh, I don’t know. Fine. It’s weird.

Oh, I have one last note: I thought it was funny when the ghosts were trying to be scary (oh hey, that moment was another one of Jody seemingly being grabbed… he was trying to katch 'em!), and the people were just not looking. I think it’d be fun to make a horror movie where the people just never see the ghosts because they’re looking the wrong way the whole time. Horror-comedy.


Solee: Yes. I would love to see that movie made. The audience is scared the whole time, waiting for something bad to happen, but nothing does. The people just go about their business. I think it would have to be a short because that would get irritating and boring after a while.

Mikey: Doesn’t have to be a short, just make a totally unrelated movie! A romantic comedy with frustrated ghosts in the background trying to scare everyone. Anyway…

Solee: So, there was one other thing I wanted to bring up, too. I thought it was interesting that the haunting/possession of the step-dad had a somatic manifestation. When he was at the house, he displayed flu-like symptoms - throwing up, being tired, headache, etc. I haven’t really seen that in other movies. There are physical symptoms, but they seem to usually be more along the peeling skin or being thrown across the room or pinned to the ceiling variety. This felt more realistic to me. There was definitely something wrong, but it was something he could write off as illness.

Mikey: That would make a good drug ad: “If you experience being pinned to the ceiling or thrown across the room, discontinue use immediately and contact your doctor.” I liked that element, and I have a thought that it was along the lines of punishment for resisting. I’m sure he felt much healthier when he started getting crazy and murderous. It was something to help drive him to do it.

Solee: Good point. There was one moment when I was pulled out of the fictional story and made to question what had really gone down with the real people. The step-dad was in full-blown crazy mode, about to put the ax into the older boy, when mom cocked the shotgun and put it against his temple. He completely froze. The threat of bodily harm/death brought him up cold. In that moment, my only thought was “Oh… so this guy wasn’t actually possessed or out of control at all… he was just in a killing mood”. Crazy, but not so crazy he didn’t remember what a shotgun to the temple meant.

Mikey: Of course, then he slowly pulled it around to point at his forehead instead, which was full of crazy. But you know, your comment fits with my theory! Ketchum couldn’t let him be killed before he had provided sufficient fresh souls. Just one wouldn’t be enough.

Solee: Well that backfired. He got NOTHING from this family. Well… he got the dog. That was sad. But poor Rev. Ketchum is going to be hungry for a while.

Mikey: They always kill the dog :(

Solee: I know. So… anything else? Are you ready to rate?

Mikey: Yep, this was a good movie. Not my favorite ever, but well-made and really fast-paced in a way that kept it interesting despite the plot being as simple as “dad gets crazier until he tries to kill everyone”. I will award that 4 stars!

Solee: Aside from being an overdone storyline, I don’t have any issues with this movie and there were things I REALLY liked. I’m going to give it 4.5 out of 5. This is one I’d recommend to people.

Mikey: Good deal! We better watch something terrible next!

Solee: Sounds like a plan. How about i-Lived?
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: i-Lived 02:14 PM -- Mon October 17, 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.

i-Lived (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 4.5/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 19% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 2.5/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A young online app reviewer's latest assignment mysteriously improves his life, but also starts to tear him apart.”

Solee: In choosing i-LIVED, we were looking for something ridiculous and almost funny in its failure. We were nervous about going down the #Horror road again, though. Where do you think this movie falls? Are you glad we watched it?

Mikey: Well, I am thankful that it’s far from #Horror. It’s not what I expected, and it’s not much like other things. Well, I will say it reminded me a lot of a movie I watched last year called 13 Sins - a guy enters a contest where they progressively ask him to do more horrible things for larger rewards. He can (they say) quit anytime, but he forfeits all the money if he does. Kinda similar. How did you feel about this one?

Solee: I feel like it’s either not nearly as clever as it wants to be or I’m not nearly as clever as I want to be. I was left with this sense that I must be missing something because the overall story is so simple. But maybe that’s okay. It was told in a mostly intriguing, only occasionally annoying way. But it was pretty predictable.

Mikey: Now that occasional annoyance didn’t seem so occasional to me. My biggest problem with this movie was the dream sequences. Or rather the near-constant dream state. Basically the entire movie was an endless string of “horrible things are happening… WAIT it was a dream.” They intentionally made it almost impossible to tell what was dream and what was real, and they did it in such a way that it’s actually impossible to know what the true sequence of events is. He’d go to do something, but it turns out that was a dream, so did he do the thing (only without all the weirdness) or did he never do that thing? Who knows? In one case, we know - he does the same thing later (get a call from his dad where his mom sneaks up behind his dad) without the weirdness… so I guess that was a prophetic dream?

Solee: It was a threat from the app! I read a few reviews/comments that talked about how “not really demonic” the story was, but I disagree. It didn’t come right out and say “You’ve made a deal with the devil” in so many words, but that’s exactly what was happening.

Mikey: Absolutely. I bet if you pause the many shots of the EULA he refused to read, it literally said “you give us your soul” in it. They couldn’t be much more blatant!

Solee: YES! I thought about stopping to see if we could read any of it, but I didn’t care enough. I think that was one of the flaws of the story. The guy was a jerk even before he made a deal with the devil. So it wasn’t all that much of a shock that he was willing to steal a suit or punch someone or, frankly, even kill someone. He had the kind of slippery morals that made it possible for him to justify any decision.

Mikey: Yeah, the slippery morals of the kind of twerp who makes youtube videos that constantly repeat the last word over and over. “Welcome to J-Tech reviews, J-Tech reviews, J-Tech reviews PEW PEW!!!” Ugh, too real and too scary.

Solee: I will say that the actor who played Josh did so quite well. He was a believable twerp. And he did a good job of portraying the “this is wrong… but I really want my reward, so I guess I have to do it” attitude that Josh had. I didn’t actually have a problem with any of the actors or the writing. I think my issues mostly belong at the director’s feet.

Mikey: I’m not so impressed with the writing. First of all, my dream problem I already mentioned (but it could be that I was only dreaming it, and now I’m waking up to see the real movie!), but also this was as you said such a basic plot we’ve seen a hundred times. Strip away the dreams and you have: guy sells his soul for earthly rewards, gets the rewards as advertised, but doesn’t like the dark side he has to go through to get them, and (spoilers) kills himself to escape. Of course that’s no escape, it’s really just ending the rewards and starting the eternal torment early, so bad choice.

Solee: Oh… I totally didn’t make that connection before. You’re right! Just one more trick of the devil. So, we never actually see “The Devil”. But we see his minions: the guy (guys?) with the sunglasses, for example. What about Greta? Is Greta in league with the Devil or was she just another app user with questionable morals?

Mikey: I say we met the devil! Who did the sunglasses guys bring him to, with the horns? Devil!

Solee: Oh, right! I forgot about him.

Mikey: Exactly! He was a weak devil. I was very unimpressed. I don’t know about Greta. I think there was potential for a much more interesting story if they had gotten into the idea that all these users were kind of being used on each other, like if Greta were another user, like the guy he punched at the coffee house was. But they don’t clarify that. She kind of seems like a reluctant demon.

Solee: I’ve read that story! It’s called Needful Things by Stephen King. THAT would have made a much better movie.

Mikey: They did make a movie of that! Don’t think I’ve seen it… but yeah, that is exactly it!

Solee: We both commented about the dialogue in an early scene between Josh and his buddy, Bobby. They were bantering back and forth, slinging insults at each other. It felt very real and natural. Then later, I made a note about how horribly stilted the dialogue was when he was in the car with Greta and we were hearing just his very monotone side of a phone conversation. I’m not sure that I have a question about this… it was just an inconsistency that I noticed and which disappointed me.

Mikey: Yes, that scene stood out to the point that I almost feel like it was improvised entirely. I just got a really positive vibe from his friend (not that he seems like a good guy at all, but like a good character, and a good actor), and at that early point I thought things were going in a good direction. But then that scene turned out to be completely unique in the movie. Everything else was much more Saturday Afternoon Special quality.

Solee: Yep. His character got very flat and weird as things progressed. I don’t blame the actor for it… I think he was doing a good job of showing what was written for him. But it was a very strange choice. It didn’t really SAY anything. Josh could have been super high and excited by his new awesome life or he could have been super creeped out by what he had to do… but instead he was just… flat affect. There was nothing there.

Mikey: Maybe those two things canceled each other out. It seemed like they handled his rise to greatness in a very strange way. I think maybe it was budgetary - they couldn’t afford fancy stuff like you’d see in a big Hollywood movie, so it had to be kind of subtle. Although that’s realistic - when you make your first million, you don’t really move anywhere, it’s all kind of behind the scenes and eating out a little more often (or a lot). But you do pay your rent, Josh.

Solee: Ugh. The rent. What a jerk.

I found the last scene, which I think was supposed to show just how rich and amazing his life was, very off-putting. I know it was supposed to be that, too, but there just didn’t seem to be enough there to justify all the things he did. He had a big house and a fancy suit. But he’s sitting at the big dining room table all alone eating a bowl of soup that he obviously just heated up in the microwave himself. No servants. No gaggles of friends or pretend friends. And no girl… which was the WHOLE POINT.

Mikey: That’s my note: his very first wish (well, after a six-pack) was Greta. So why isn’t she part of that ‘fabulous’ life that he was droning through in misery? It seemed random and strange. I did like the tone of the final montage, the partying and wealth going on with him just completely stone dead in the middle of it all. Still, makes no sense to do that Greta-less. Maybe the point was he rejected her since she was pretty creepy and all, and he was miserable and in no mood for devil-obligated affection, but I think we needed to see that to know it.

Solee: Maybe we did see it. During the really confusing bit with the land-lady and the twin Gretas, there’s a scene where he’s sitting in the corner yelling at her to go away. I wasn’t sure that had really happened, but I guess it did?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure Greta really existed for most of the movie. I think the movie settled on yes, but I think there was more potential if she didn’t. Or if she was there, but wasn’t at all what he pictured in his mind.

Mikey: That dreamy unreality and mish-mash with reality is it. It just made the movie incomprehensible. I think they intended that effect, so we’re lost like he is, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Speaking of no Greta, it was again his buddy (who was not in the movie enough) who tried to dredge up a bit of interest in the plot with that idea. Josh asked his buddy, “Have you seen Greta?” when he arrived at a party, and the buddy said, “I don’t even know what she looks like!” so that was the one moment where you suddenly wonder if she exists. Of course, if she doesn’t, then I feel like the devil was violating the EULA (not that I read it either).


Solee: I’m sure SOMETHING existed. I think the Devil probably has some pretty hardcore law firms on his side to make sure he can get away with crap like that. Wolfram & Hart come to mind.

Mikey: I was gonna say that!

Solee: We’re totally geeks.

Mikey: But the EULA was the thing I kept giggling about. Like the whole plot basically hinged on the fact that no human being would ever bother reading a license agreement before agreeing to it. I think that’s a totally true thing that is really funny. I think they meant it more seriously than I took it, though. They just kinda got right in my wheelhouse with that one.

Solee: Yep. It struck really close to home for me, too. I mean, how many times have I clicked “Agree” on some ridiculously stupid app I downloaded? I could be signing away anything and I wouldn’t know it. But people think that ignorance is an excuse. I think most people think that they’re safe because they could just tell the judge, “I didn’t read it!” and everything will work out. Didn’t work that way with the Devil!

Mikey: I think the key is to make sure the app’s name backwards isn’t Devil. If it’s not, you’re fine.

Solee: Whew.

Mikey: So, if you were running Soltech Reviews, how many stars would you give this app?

Solee: The app? Or the movie about the app?

Mikey: Well… let’s do the movie. It’s hard to judge an app that does good things but costs you your immortal soul (that’s even more than $2.99!).

Solee: I think most people would consider their immortal soul a cheap price to pay… until after the fact. I am going to give this movie 2.5 out of 5. I feel like it maybe earned a 3, but I just didn’t like it that much.

Mikey: And I didn’t like it that much I think, because I give it a 2! I didn’t hate it, but I think “enjoyed it” is a bar too high.

Solee: Yeah. It wasn’t horrible. We’ve SEEN horrible. But it was weak. It could have been done better. I want to send this movie to its room to think about what it has done.

Mikey: And that’s where I plan to take us next… with Needful Things!

Solee: REALLY!? That’s awesome. I love that story. Although, I know that, historically, Stephen King movie adaptations are not great. I’m still excited.

Mikey: Just beware, it’s going to cost us $2.99 to watch, which is nearly your immortal soul.

Solee: I guess I won’t know whether it’s a good deal until after we watch.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Needful Things 04:14 PM -- Tue October 18, 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.

Needful Things (1993)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.2/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 26% critics, 44% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 3.5/5
We watched on Amazon ($2.99).


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A mysterious new shop opens in a small town which always seems to stock the deepest desires of each shopper, with a price far heavier than expected.”

Solee: I was very excited to watch this movie. Probably more excited than any other we’ve seen this month. How did you feel going in?

Mikey: Well, I live for new experiences, and I knew I had seen this before (and read the book of course!), so it wasn’t my first choice. But I was excited to go into the contrast with i-Lived, and it seems to fit into our month of movies as something different than the others (90’s movie, Stephen King, cursed objects plot… everything different!).

So let’s start by letting readers know: Stephen King is awesome. If you’ve only watched movies based on his works, you have no idea. His writing is all about the characters, and boy howdy are there some characters in this movie. But anyway, movies of his works are a pale shadow of the real thing, so crack open a book, kids. King is the best.


Solee: I’m always shocked and disappointed when I hear someone say they don’t like King’s books because of the writing (rather than because of the horror, which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea). I will admit, I think tiny judgey things about people who say that. He is always the first person who comes to mind when asked about my favorite authors. He’s not all super fancy and literary, but he develops characters like no one I’ve ever read before. That leads to my main complaint with this movie… I was missing all the fun details that I knew because I’d read the book. They felt all flat and one dimensional without all the history that connected the different members of this town together.

Mikey: My biggest note was that this should be a TV series, not a movie.

Solee: Yes! Like another of my favorite King stories, The Stand!

Mikey: There are way too many characters and too many things going on in this movie to work in 2 hours. Imagine the series: each episode we get 2 or 3 intertwining tales as people are sicced on each other by Leland Gaunt (and by the end of the season, an intrepid team is taking him down. A 1-season show). All about the characters, which is how Stephen King intended it.

On a related note, this movie reminded me of Friday The 13th: The Series, which was about an antique shop that sold cursed objects and not at all about a hockey-masked serial killer.


Solee: It’s hard to make a series about a hockey-masked serial killer just killing everyone he meets. Not a lot of distance in that one.

Mikey: Scream Queens is pretty fun!

Solee: Ehhh. It has its moments.

I was a little disappointed that nobody got stabbed with a hay hook. There was a perfect moment of foreshadowing (which turned out to just be character establishment), but I was WAITING for that hay hook to make a re-appearance the whole time!

Mikey: Whoa, I made a note of that and forgot about it! No reason she shouldn’t have been using it in her fight.

Solee: I want to say that it was used in the book, but now I’m not completely sure of that.

Mikey: I read the book long long ago, and only once unlike some people…

Solee: At least… 4 times! Maybe more! I like familiar places!

Mikey: I told you I like new experiences! I have read It (not this book, the one entitled It) at least 3 times though.

So here’s the thing… I know Leland came to town and pitted everyone against each other, but wasn’t it strange how almost everyone in town had some sort of debilitating mental illness to begin with? These were crazy people!


Solee: Yeah… I think that’s an adaptation thing. There were way more normal people in the book, but normal isn’t as interesting as “killed her husband with a meat fork” or “thinks people are replacing his regular mirrors with two-way mirrors”.

Mikey: It was helpful to cram the turn from friendly to deadly into 2 hours if you start crazy.

Solee: I was disappointed how they removed 90% of the Alan and Polly stuff. They both had all kinds of interesting history that played into their relationship and their individual interactions with Gaunt, but that was all scrapped. They are the main characters of the book and they come off as almost peripheral in the movie.

Mikey: Well, I think Alan is the main character of the movie. Polly is certainly sidelined though.

Solee: Alan is only central in the way any lead cop is central to a crime story. We didn’t learn anything about him. For all we know from the movie, he COULD be embezzling town funds!

Speaking of crime stories… this was categorized as crime-drama instead of horror. Thoughts on that?

Mikey: “Crime, Drama, Fantasy” on IMDB. I think that is a lump of toss. Yeah, I said it!

Solee: Wait. A lump of toss??

Mikey: A bag of floss! A wad of crumpets. When the devil shows up in town and starts selling people their greatest fantasies with a side order of kill-your-neighbor, I don’t know what else you need to add to fit under horror. I mean, it wasn’t a scary movie by any means, but hardly anything we’ve watched this month was scary.

Solee: This is classic horror if you ask me.

Mikey: So that brings up my question: is he the devil, or some kind of demon who just has this particular job?

Solee: So interesting that you ask that. I asked myself if it was possible that he was even the embodiment of Death, as in of the four horsemen. I settled on the Devil, though. I think he was more interested in destroying their souls than collecting them.

Mikey: Yeah, there’s something to the idea that he is Death. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but when he basically becomes a heavy arms dealer, it feels like it. Just kind of roaming the world, finding hot-spots, and inflaming them more.

Solee: There’s another major change that they made which seems to make this more of a possibility. In the book, the items each person coveted turned out to be nothing special. The Sandy Koufax card (YES, it was SANDY KOUFAX, not Mickey Mantle!) that Brian Rusk died for turned out to be some no-name guy, which confused Sheriff Pangborn even more. I think only the devil would have the kind of power to persuade all these people that the junk he handed them was their heart’s desire.

Mikey: Actually, what it sounds like is Loki! The whole thing does. An illusionist and trickster who just wants to cause chaos. Too bad his initials weren’t R.F. though, huh?

Solee: YES. He even talks about seeing some of the characters before, and you know how King likes to work crossovers into his stories. But WAIT. I just had an epiphany!!

What if he IS Death and he had interacted with Alan before when his kid and wife died in a car accident and with Brian when a brother died (? maybe). Of course, neither of those things is in the movie… so…

Mikey: Yeah, they made a bit of an issue of how Leland had this deja-vu recognition of most of the people he met. That certainly seems important, but I’m not sure exactly what it means. That’s as good an idea as any!

Solee: I’m sure it’s not connected to the movie, and probably not even the book… but it’s fun to add layers. :)

Mikey: It’s making me want to read the book again… but if I did that I’d have to go through all his books again.

Solee: Did you have a favorite character, cursed item or character melt-down?

Mikey: I don’t know… it’s more that I liked the whole setup. I think it’s very unique, and it’s fun to see how he used people against each other, to leave them thinking someone else was the culprit, and just build up these rivalries until they exploded. Although no poison bullets in the movie!

Solee: It’s definitely a lesson in avoiding assumptions! I have always liked the Danforth Keaton storyline. He’s such an unlikeable character and has so many other issues… he’s the perfect plaything for Gaunt. And I thought his magic horse game was a clever idea.

Mikey: Yeah, that was cool! It seemed like the movie overdid him. He was the focal point of everything pretty much. He seems like he could be a horror movie all on his own. The whole scene with his wife in the garage was some scary stuff.

Solee: I guess I’m not the only one who liked his storyline!

You said something about a remake with Felicia Day as the Nettie character. Can I submit Hugh Laurie as a potential Leland Gaunt?

Mikey: That sounds awesome! I thought you were going to say for Buster, which would also work well. Sadly I’m not sure where we can fit in Benedict Cumberbatch. Unless he were Gaunt...

Solee: OOhh. He’s make a good Leland, for sure.

Mikey: When I watch movies, my mind goes different places. The thing that came to mind near the beginning of this movie was logistics. The movie wants to set up Leland Gaunt as this otherworldly demonic being (which he is, it’s fair), but he is opening a business in this town. So I imagine the backstory: this creepy demon had to go around dealing with a real estate agent, then get a business license (probably had to get a driver’s license to do that), and on and on. It’s interesting to think about.

Solee: Hahaha! I hadn’t even thought about it. That’s funny. I wonder if there’s a story in that…

Mikey: With Dracula, he always has minions who handle those earthly affairs and prepare his castle for him, but I didn’t see any minions!

Solee: Leland is of the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” mindset, apparently.

I didn’t realize this movie was so old. That says something for the acting and such… but there are a couple of things that seemed really bad, but are actually probably just indicators of age: the soundtrack and the special effects. What did you notice about those?

Mikey: I noted those same two things. The electric shock when people first touched their cursed item was awful. They could’ve so easily just had no visual effect and it would’ve looked so much better. And my note on the music was “Toodle doodle doo music” - when Brian was riding his bike around, they fired up the Spielberg machine to the max, let’s hear happy toodles to tell the viewers “a kid is riding a bike and full of wonder and adventure”. It’s an artifact of the 80’s that hadn’t quite died yet.

Solee: The music that stood out to me were the selections that played when all hell was breaking loose in town. They were sooooo generic and what I consider to be overdone and unoriginal - like Ave Maria, for example. Now I’m wondering if they were original to the time and are only overdone NOW.

Mikey: Oh yeah, I know what you mean. I think that’s kind of a 90’s thing in a way. Apocalyptic.

Solee: Yes. It all makes more sense coming from the early 90s. I honestly thought this was more recent. Or maybe I just forgot that the early 90’s were a LONG time ago.

Mikey: Us elderly people have that issue. I graduated high school the year this came out!

Solee: You are an OLD man!! Are you going to open an antique store and start bargaining for people’s souls?

Mikey: Antique games maybe… Sega Genesis, SNES. I never had a SNES of my own.

Solee: Oh, now THAT I can totally see happening. Will you put a bell over the door?

Mikey: Oh yeah! They kept showing the shot of the bell ringing on top of the door, and every time I thought the day was going to repeat itself (Buffy issues).

Solee: It was EXACTLY the same sound as that episode of Buffy. Took me a minute to move past that, too.

So the real question raised by this movie is: Was this a town full of good people?

Mikey: No. A town full of crazy people, for sure. The way they portrayed people, it was almost like Alan and Polly had been mistakenly thrown into an insane asylum and had to find a way out.

Solee: Except that maybe Polly was there because she was just tooo boring to be allowed out in the real world. Blegh. I didn’t like her character AT ALL.

Mikey: I was expecting some real drama and angst over her arthritis cure, but I think that was coming from the book memories.

Solee: Yes. It was a much bigger deal in the book. Also, we got to find out what was inside the charm he gave her… remember?

Mikey: I had been expecting a spider, as usual.

Solee: YYEEEESSSS! It’s ALWAYS a spider with King. I think he must be deathly afraid of them.

Mikey: Maligned animals again. I would like to ask of you your rating of this movie… or do you have more insights to share?

Solee: The only other thing I wanted to ask was: do you think it would be so easy to sway humans in general? Or was it the result of the underlying crazy in Castle Rock? Is humanity really so quick to throw over its morality and decency for a bauble?

Mikey: I think the movie did a bad job of making that reasonable. The people went pretty quickly from “okay, that’s a minor prank” to “I’m gonna murder that guy!” But I do think it requires magic regardless - that wasn’t just a Mickey Mantle card, it was a magic one that gave him weird visions of baseball excitement. These people were possessed to a degree. I don’t think you could achieve anything like this with real-world objects even if they were amazingly great (like handing out stacks of thousand-dollar bills, which is probably the best choice of object for every person on earth).

Solee: I think you’re right, to a degree. Those items were magical, but they were also specifically picked to elicit happier, more innocent times. I think there’s a fair length people will go for that thing that reduces the distance between “when I was happy” and “now”. Look at how powerful the phrase “Make America Great Again” has proven to be.

Mikey: That’s exactly what I was thinking of. Everybody wants to go back to those “good old days”, which it turns out were horrible and racist and didn’t have mongolian bbq restaurants.

Solee: Or the internet!! I think the world is pretty darn great right now.

Mikey: Oh the internet!! I mean come on! Cat gifs. Yeah, his magic wouldn’t work on me, I don’t think there’s a “then” I want to go back to. I’d love to rewind my physical self to being 25 or so, but not anything in my life. I get to review halloween movies!

Solee: Youth is wasted on the young! So are we ready to rate? I’m taking your silence as a yes. I give it a solid 3.5 out of 5. It was fun to watch. The acting was okay. It’s dated, but not horribly so. It got a little cheesy in places. The story is decent, even though it’s a shadow of the book. I think if I hadn’t read (and loved) the book, I might have given it a 4, but as it is I know it could have been sooo much better.

Mikey: I almost feel the other way around - appreciating what they’re trying to do makes me like it more than if I just came in to this movie not knowing anything. But I can’t know for sure! I was going to say 3.5 out of 5 too, so I think I better do that. It was a fun movie, nothing real deep or life-changing, but worth seeing.

Solee: Exactly. Do you have plans for our next movie yet?

Mikey: Tomorrow, we shall see Green Room.

Solee: Sounds like a plan.

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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Green Room 08:38 PM -- Wed October 19, 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.

Green Room (2015)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 7.1/10
Metacritic: 79
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% critics, 75% audience
Mikey: 5/5
Solee: 5/5
We watched on Vudu ($4.99).


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.”

Mikey: My big disappointment with this movie is not a fair one: the top review on IMDB said “Don’t read anything about this movie before you see it! Just watch!” which misled me into thinking there would be some huge twist, and it would blow my mind. I can’t fault the movie for not living up to my misinterpretation of some random guy on IMDB, but I was let down when it didn’t turn out this whole thing was a metaphorical transdimensional journey through somebody’s head, or something. So, spoilers, but there’s really no twist to this movie. Were you also expecting one?

Solee: I guess I was because you had told me about that comment… but I wasn’t super invested in one. And once we started watching, I wasn’t thinking about anything but what was happening on the screen. This was one of the more riveting of the movies we’ve seen so far.

Mikey: And it was. Very real, that’s the word I want to throw around for this movie. Sometimes very painfully so.

Solee: Yes. There’s a pain I get in my gut when I see someone who has been injured in real life, like a sympathy cramp or whatever. I don’t generally get them for movies, as movie violence is either ridiculously fake or so over the top I can’t relate to it. The injuries in this movie had my stomach in knots.

Mikey: Yes! We talked in an earlier movie about gore and I said the most it does to me is gross me out, but I felt the gut punch from seeing these injuries. You said it best: it’s like seeing a real person injured badly, it hurts you as well. It raised the stakes and made me invested in the characters, since apparently my internal organs were invested.

Solee: It made it harder for me to watch, but in an oddly good way. There were pieces I just couldn’t look at, but I was almost sad I couldn’t keep watching the movie. I’m not sure I can describe it, but normally, I don’t care about missing the bits that make me close my eyes, cover my ears, and hum loudly. This movie made me turn away, but regretfully.

Mikey: That realism is throughout. One thing I kept thinking about this movie is that this situation (people witnessed a stabbing, and so now are being held hostage… in an almost friendly way?... to prevent them from reporting it) would be no big deal in a lot of movies. It seems so minor, but it’s a real life horror. It could absolutely happen, and the characters were appropriately terrified by it. I think about ghost movies we watch where the people only seem to minorly care that their friends were sliced apart by phantom blades in front of them, while these people were absolutely terrified that skinheads were outside the door with guns. It was all real.

Solee: I found the characters to be chillingly real, too. On both sides. The “Ain’t Rights” reminded me A LOT of my brother and his band, Nopamine. They were mostly normal people who gave each other crap and eschewed many of the rules of normal society, but who were willing to sacrifice to look out for one another.

And the skin-heads… well, I don’t know many skinheads in real life, but these guys seemed believable. They were ruthless, but not in a ridiculous, careless way. They were smart in their actions and that made them that much more terrifying.

Mikey: I’m glad your skinhead count is lowish? I liked that it wasn’t a mindless army ready to murder. There was a lot of reluctance, and more than one traitor (who became traitors mainly on the basis that this was further than they were willing to go). That’s more of that sneaky reality. Only Captain Picard was a true villain.

Solee: I dunno. There were some pretty scary kids in his crew. The guy who was willing to get stabbed in the gut for $300 (which he then stupidly returned to Cpt Picard for “safe keeping” as he was hauled off to jail) to create the cover-up was pretty villainous.

Mikey: Oh, that one was super real! That’s a teenager for you. Young and dedicated to the cause. Probably would wuss out on killing though (I bet those two kids didn’t have the infamous Red Laces).

Solee: Thinking back, it was the folks that looked like they were in their late 20s, early 30s who were least loyal. That’s a brain development thing, I think. The brain finally matures to the point of being able to make your own decisions instead of just blindly following someone charismatic. Sometimes.

Mikey: Yeah, the teenagers are kind of cult-like, but as they get older, they see the cracks in the armor. Speaking of more realism, this movie included not only cell phones, but working reception! And they got a call off to 911! Yet the movie didn’t collapse (actually it was key to the plot).

Solee: In a way that makes it even scarier. No more relying on “Well, I’d have a working cell phone” as justification as to why this couldn’t happen to me.

Mikey: Yeah, the complexity and thought behind the skinheads’ plan was scary and real. They thought about the angles realistically. They didn’t get everything, but they thought about the real things you would think about, and really plotted how to get rid of these kids in a way that they could skate by. That was the flip-side to this being a real-life horror: the villains were real-life capable, not overwhelming monsters, and they were appropriately concerned about the situation. A movie villain normally would be like “shoot ‘em all in the head and toss the bodies in the swamp”, but these guys spent the whole movie trying to carefully figure out how to extricate themselves from a situation involving a single girl being stabbed.

Solee: They had a lot riding on it. I think a whole world of hurt would have rained down on them if the local law enforcement could get the tiniest bit of leverage.

The question of whether this was truly a “horror” movie has come up. What are your thoughts on that? Does this qualify?

Mikey: I really don’t think it is. It’s listed as “Crime, Horror, Music” on IMDB. Crime absolutely. Music, questionably (it’s about musicians, but it’s definitely not a ‘music’ movie). But this is not horror. Which is funny because it is the most horrifying one we’ve seen, but it’s those little specific cultural cues that tell me this is not horror. The same events could’ve been portrayed as horror, but I think they would’ve had to keep the villains more opaque (not let us see their internal squabbles and see them as human and fallible), and spend a lot more time confused and in the dark. I guess that’s the main thing: don’t let us see both sides. Just give us the band’s view and leave us scared and wondering about what was going on outside. And throw a cat at someone.

Solee: I guess I see your point. I don’t want to. I want this to count because it’s the kind of horror that I like… but what that really means is that I really don’t like horror. I like thrillers, crime and suspense.

Mikey: Thriller and suspense are absolutely the words for this.

Solee: Okay… I have a series of deep questions, not necessarily related to one another. Ready?

Mikey: 1,2,3,4 !!!! >SCREAMING PROFANITIES<

Solee: You’d make a GREAT punk rocker. So the first question is about the philosophy of anarchy. The Ain’t Rights were pretty anarchist - as are most punk bands, I suspect - and don’t have much respect or need for rules. They do what they want, when they want. Then they get locked in a room by some guys who obviously want them dead. I guess my question is… are there really anarchists in foxholes?

Mikey: “Anarchy! I don’t even know what that means, but I love it!”
Well… I don’t see why not really, I mean, if you’re in a bad situation, you can employ a lack of rules in battling it. In fact, there’s a big discussion in this movie over how to fight back - with regimented army precision, or wild abandon. Which certainly epitomizes the distinction. I’m actually not sure which way they go in the end, because he seems to be going nuts, but he’s doing it in a very calculated way as part of a sophisticated plan. So I guess it’s precision, but looking like anarchy.

Maybe that’s an underlying theme in this movie, because it’s the anarchist punks battling the rigidly authoritarian skinheads - who style themselves as anarchists, but are anything but. They believe strictly in the rule of law (not American law of course, but their leaders’ law over the followers), and a hierarchy. Very far right ideology meeting very far left. Or something?


Solee: I’ve gone back and forth on this. I originally wondered it earlier in the movie when the band was trying very hard to get the police to come help them. Then when they talked about the real war/paintball war dichotomy, I thought maybe they’d successfully argued the point.

Aside - that whole discussion made me think of the Colonists using non-traditional methods to fight the British army’s very traditional style.

Mikey: Totally! But aside aside: I saw in the trivia that the paintball story is true (it happened to the director), and that Rick Spears was actually the name of the guy who did the kamikaze attack.

Solee: Not surprising. It felt like a real story. Anyway, by the end, I was back to thinking that, although they may have thought they were doing things their own way, they were using some pretty traditional strategies. It didn’t feel like anarchy at the end. It just felt exhausted and hurt and hopeful it was over.

Mikey: They were sure beaten down. That’s another anti-horror note: it was fun to watch the goodguys “win” (the few of them that survived), with clever planning and strategy. That’s illegal in a horror movie, but almost mandatory in all other forms of movie. Well, there’s always The Final Girl, I suppose.

Solee: She just happened to have a friend this time. So that actually covered two of my questions (the second was going to be about the paintball theory).

Mikey: Wait - in between your deep questions, I’d like to pose dumb questions: As this movie suggests, does duct tape really fix everything?

Solee: Absolutely. I’m going to have nightmares about that kid’s arm for years though. *shudder*

Mikey: That’s some special effects!

Solee: And the way they unzipped the big guy with the box cutter!? blegh.

Mikey: You don’t have to describe each bit of gore to me!

Solee: I want our viewers to have nightmares, too!

Mikey: Are they viewers? I think there’s some debate about that.

Solee: Do you think there is anyone else in the wide realm of people who know us who would get that reference? We’re such geeks. And not even the cool kind. Just really geeky geeks.

Mikey: I think that joke was 100% for us alone.

Solee: Alright. So I don’t remember the cool question I was going to ask about this next thing, but it was without a doubt my favorite thing from the whole movie, so I have to at least mention it. One of the band members says “We won’t all live, but **** it, maybe we won’t all die.” That kind of encapsulates the whole of the punk rock scene (what little of it, I know) in one sentence. They seem to have this almost careless attitude about their own mortality, but an almost rabid sense of loyalty and protection toward “their people”. It’s quite touching.

Mikey: Yes, that was a good line. And it goes back to my favorite thing in the movie to harp on: these kids fully understood the danger they were in. Even when the skinheads were being polite and pretending the cops were on their way, these guys were freaked out and really knew they were in deep. So opposite to most horror movies where people ignore the screaming face they see on a videotape and just go back to sleep in the same haunted bedroom. I really appreciated that. Everything about this movie was overly real.

Solee: And at the same time… they kept their wits about them way better than most people do in even minorly frustrating situations. They were scared, but they didn’t really turn on each other and they didn’t melt into puddles of goo. I had a lot of respect for the kids in this band. I’d say I wanted to be their friend, but I’m WAY not cool enough to hang out with them.

Mikey: That’s okay, they’re mostly dead now. It was nice not to sit through a bunch of blubbering and screaming like you usually have to, as well. But again, it wasn’t like they were action stars, they were just so realistic.

Solee: I’m surprised you haven’t brought up the saddest thing about this movie…

Mikey: I almost changed what I was saying so I wouldn’t make you start blubbering! This was the last movie with Anton Yelchin to be released. His death really affects you a lot! And it is pretty upsetting.

Solee: Yes. It’s strange because I don’t normally get all attached to actors… I get attached to characters, and I know they aren’t real… but when I read about Anton’s death, it really struck me as shockingly unfair and sad. I honestly can’t think about him without having an extreme emotional reaction. I’m glad I thought he was an Elijah Wood look-alike through most of the movie.

Mikey: Yes, normally celebrities die for appropriate reasons that are sad in a whole different way: drug overdose, accident on movie set, drug overdose, alcohol poisoning, drug overdose. But this was just random death out of the blue (his car crushed him when it started rolling due to some kind of problem with the gear shift).

Solee: I think that’s the thing that gets me. It’s just so random and unexpected. I don’t know what kind of person he really was - maybe he had all kind of high risk behaviors that would have eventually caught up with him - but that’s the kind of thing that gets normal people. It’s a reminder that we can’t protect ourselves or our loved ones from everything, no matter how hard we might try.

Mikey: When I saw Donald Trump bloviating the other day, I had a sadder thought: that the world lost Phil Hartman (imagine his impression!), and that is a more tragic death than random cars - mental illness and murder.

Solee: Yep. The world is a scary place, made scarier by all the humans roaming it!

Mikey: Which this movie accurately portrays.

Solee: I have one last question. You have anything more to say before I ask it?

Mikey: Sounds like it is going to be a fatal question! No, I have no final words.

Solee: We’ll you’re going to have to come up with some because my final question is… What is your desert island band?

Mikey: [cut to credits, you’ll never know] Ha!

Solee: Is that your answer??? You’re a cheater.

Mikey: No, but it’s a hard question. Since I’m not going to a desert island anytime soon, I will save the hard work of narrowing it down for right before the trip, and just give you some of the candidates: Linkin Park, Fort Minor, Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer (counts as one!), Green Day, hmm… I bet it would end up being Dresden Dolls. But I so like to hear a little of everything, I would be mad with a single band. What is your desert island band?

Solee: I feel like I should be doing some research into these bands to find out which of them is made up of strong, smart individuals who are most likely to be able to help me off a desert island… but I suppose to don’t get to bring the ACTUAL band. In that case, I think it would have to be Linkin Park. If I had their whole oeuvre, it would cover most of my needs… music to mope to (because I’m trapped on a desert island), music to get me pumped up, music to sing along to… Yep. That would do it.

Mikey: I didn’t think we got the real band. Maybe I want the London Philharmonic so I have like 50 people helping me. Or consuming my coconuts, hmm, maybe not.

Solee: If you have a bunch of people, you’re more likely to have one you really don’t like… you know, when it comes time to choose who to eat first…

Mikey: So I’m selecting on the basis of meat. Let’s get off this island.

Solee: Time to rate Green Room?

Mikey: Am I always first? This is a great movie. It’s hard to watch, but not as much as you would think. It’s riveting and intense in a way that is so much more low-key than usual. I hate to say it, but “real”. Let’s call this a 5/5 just to be nice to Anton.

Solee: Oh, snap. I was looking away from what you were typing so that you wouldn’t influence my vote. I was going to go with 4.5, but couldn’t think of any reason to actually dock it that .5, so I ended up on 5 out of 5! With the caveat that it’s not really a horror film, of course.

Mikey: But so horrific. Join us again tomorrow for The Pact!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Pact 02:41 PM -- Thu October 20, 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 Pact (2012)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 5.8/10
Metacritic: 54
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% critics, 41% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 3/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “As a woman struggles to come to grips with her past in the wake of her mother's death and the disappearance of her sister, an unsettling presence emerges in her childhood home.”

Mikey: It’s Christmastime in Horror-Land again! And once again it doesn’t factor into the plot at all. Why do they do it?

Solee: I really don’t know, but I noticed that, too. My best theory is that they are taking advantage of the enhanced juxtaposition between the traditional feelings of family, love, peace, etc associated with Christmas and the terror found in horror stories. I’m not sure that it makes that big a difference anymore. It’s a pretty played out idea.

Mikey: I guess you see that in this movie during the one reference they have: the little girl who tells Annie “Merry Christmas”, while Annie’s in the midst of a mental breakdown. Although that feels more like a juxtaposition against the completely broken family (and more recently missing family members) that she’s dealing with. Not so much the horror as the loneliness and sadness.

Solee: Well, nothing magnifies loss and loneliness like the holidays! So I guess it does do something for the tone of the movie.

Mikey: Not as much as if they mentioned it or pointed it out beyond one random shot of a Christmas tree and one comment! Seems lazy. Anyway, what else is going on in this movie?

Solee: The whole first scene was setting us up for a movie with Nicole, and then the movie is actually about the sister who shows up looking for her. I thought that was interesting.

Mikey: Yeah, she was outta there. Not a lot of screentime. It was funny how two of the characters simply vanished (not that we didn’t learn where they ended up), no fanfare, just out of the movie. And a 3rd almost as much.

Solee: That’s the kind of horror I like… when they disappear with very little blood and gore! It did add to the question of whether this was a supernatural baddie or a not.

Mikey: Actually, that was a twist I didn’t see coming - we gave the spoiler warning, so don’t complain! There was definitely a ghost, but the badguy was something special for Solee: a serial killer!

Solee: YAY! Serial killer! Squee!

Mikey: Better than Ryan Reynolds?

Solee: No way. This serial killer was actually pretty lame. I prefer to follow them, learn what creepy thoughts they are thinking, discover what twisted childhood event turned them evil… this was just BAM. Serial Killer. The end.

Mikey: He was certainly not explored. But there was a certain Sixth Sense element to looking back at the earlier ‘haunting’ moments and realizing it was him creeping around the house. In fact, that’s pretty unsettling (strange that it would be worse to have it be a human - your own uncle, in fact - rather than a disembodied spirit!).

Solee: I made a note of that. How creepy would it be to discover that the whole time you were growing up, there was a whole, live human being living in a room (and basement) that you didn’t know was there? I mean, he was slinking out to drink Dr. Peppers from their fridge while they were sleeping.

Mikey: He was. He’s basically you.

Solee: And peeping into their bedroom! Wait. What? No! I drink my Dr. Peppers right out in the open like a totally normal non-serial killer.

Mikey: The Dr. Peppers I know about anyway. Those peepholes got me - how could they not have noticed these holes in all their walls? I notice all kinds of scratches and dents in our walls!

Solee: I feel like they were not the most attentive of little girls. Also, their crazy mother locked them in the closet that served as the portal to her serial killer brother’s lair when they were “bad”. They were probably focused on other things.

Plus that wallpaper is hideous. It probably burned to look at it too long.

Mikey: That’s for sure. The wallpaper was a major element of the movie - so major it features prominently in the movie poster (actually just checked - they used much more tame wallpaper in the poster).

Hey, I think this movie actually qualifies as the “scariest” one we’ve seen this month because you made a squawking noise! And the moment when the split ghost steps through the doorway definitely had a physical impact on me. I didn’t jump, just you know, a manly tough guy reaction of some kind.


Solee: It was somewhat scary. There was definitely a jump scare that got me, though. You know how I love those scenes where everything is painfully normal until - BAM - you notice a head hanging from the light fixture or there’s a shadow that doesn’t match what’s in the room. Soo creepy.

Mikey: It’s worse because it actually was a real shadow. I think maybe what gets me is the opposite. The ghost loomed out of the blackness of the doorway. I knew it was coming, and it didn’t move fast, but it was an unsettling image!

Solee: Oh! Where she looked like a picture facing off to the side for a long time and then suddenly looked straight at us?

Mikey: Yeah!

Solee: Yeah. That was not what I was expecting. I knew she’d look at us, but I expected to see her turn. What did you think of the ghostly disembodied hand pointing in the living room?

Mikey: Nothing scary about that (well, in real life there sure would be), but it was a fun thing. The ghost in this movie was very pointy. Pointing at everything. She had an agenda, I guess.

Solee: You know if more ghosts were as communicative as she was, way fewer people would have to die to get their message. Just spit it out, ghosts!

Mikey: She was a friendly ghost. Speaking of which, they hired a zombie to fight a ghost!

Solee: That girl was on some HARD CORE drugs. Or maybe she was dying of consumption? She did not look well.

Mikey: In my head, the story is that she takes very heavy drugs, but it’s for a reason: to quiet the very real voices and images she faces every day.

Solee: Headcanon accepted. (that’s a phrase I’ve seen a lot in the comments of the Dr. Who facebook page I recently liked. I never thought I’d get a chance to use it!)

Mikey: And Daleks have head-cannons.

Solee: And whisks and plungers. If it weren’t for the constant extermination, they’d be pretty handy to have around. Although I’m not sure I’d use a whisk that had been that close to a plunger...

Mikey: Good point! So, this movie was very slow. And very depressing and somber. That’s super common in horror movies - they are the most blah and grim things ever (when they’re not manic gore-fests). And I was realizing as I watched that that is one of the things I love in horror. Just slow, grim, depressing imagery… just I don’t know why that would be a good thing, but I really dig those grey movies that lumber along and sap all the joy out of you. Sick?

Solee: Probably. I actually noted the depressing tone of the movie, too. Horror flicks are always really gray or brown or some other washed-out sad filter. As though things can’t be scary unless they are dreary.

Speaking of slow… there was WAY too much foot in that one slow motion bit. We had to stare at a close up of her foot for, like, twelve minutes!

Mikey: Kind of a #Horror moment! That shot seemed out of place. There was nothing else in the movie like it. I guess since we found out a moment later that it was a dream, they were trying to show us the “running through mud” feeling you get in dreams.

Solee: I know that feeling. But that scene did not make me feel it.

Mikey: No, I only got that idea in the next shot, when the door slammed on her as she was reaching for it. Until then I was mostly going “what is her foot up to??”

Solee: And then she ran out in her underwear and hopped on her motorcycle. Thank goodness the Merry Christmas girl was there to remind her that she needed a helmet. And pants. Sheesh. There were a whole lot of moments in this woman’s life when I was wondering what the heck she was thinking. I did not relate to her at all and so struggled to understand her motivation.

Mikey: She did seem a little opaque. Partly because she almost never had anyone to talk to, so we just kind of watched what she did and didn’t know why. I didn’t have a real problem with that though. She was trying to solve the problem, as good protagonists do.

Solee: GOOD protagonists SHUT THE DOOR when they pee.

Mikey: I actually think good protagonists never pee. It’s kind of a movie rule.

Solee: That makes me think of Pulp Fiction.

Mikey: I know what you mean! That’s the problem, movie characters can’t use the bathroom unless they have an ulterior plot reason! Like every movie ever where they go in and encounter somebody in the stall next to them, or something crawling out of the toilet, or argue with somebody while washing hands.

Solee: yeah… I kind of feel like I shouldn’t go to the bathroom ever again, now. Bathrooms are dangerous.

Mikey: Oh hey, what gets me is when a character says they have to go to the bathroom, but on the way they get into some hijinks and they just continue the hijinks, or run back to tell their friends or something… what happened to the peeing? You can’t just skip the bathroom! It’s not optional.

Solee: Blinking. Peeing. Sleeping. Sneezing. There are so many things that real life requires that get in the way of drama and good editing. Real life is a mess!

Mikey: Right, a sneeze means you’re dying of the virus that’s going to wipe out humanity (or you are trying to hide from armed guards and it’s dusty).

Solee: Speaking of boring real life things… It’s a good thing that woman only had one dress. It would have been much harder to tell it was her in all those different pictures.

Mikey: I never recognized her face at all, so yeah, good thing. That seemed a little too silly. They could’ve just had the character recognize her face, like human beings do with their brains.

Solee: She was pretty non-descript. She looked a lot like all the other straight haired, blond, white girls in that movie.

Mikey: She needed an eyepatch.

Solee: Oh! And about eyes. So the serial killer had one blue eye and one green eye. And at the very end of the movie it’s pointed out that so does Annie. I feel like we were supposed to see that much earlier, but I totally missed it. I feel like a major plot point like that needs to be obvious enough for us to notice, don’t you?

Mikey: That was okay with me, because it didn’t matter (actually, I don’t understand why they bothered) - she knew it was her uncle from the beginning, so who cares if there’s some physical marker of relationship?

Solee: I kept waiting for the reveal that she wasn’t actually a sister to her sister. That Basement Uncle was actually Basement Daddy. Or something like that. But that didn’t seem to happen.

Mikey: Whoa wait… maybe they’re assuming we know more about genetics than we do. Mismatched eyes (heterochromia, Google says) might require a direct connection and that’s the big secret. Seems like a leap for a Hollywood movie to make! But there is a The Pact 2 - I was kind of wondering, since they made such a big deal of the eyes at the end, if she was going to turn into the same kind of killer for the sequel.

Solee: The ending of this movie left me VERY cold. I was confused, but not in a way that made me want to puzzle it out. If it weren’t for us talking about it now, I’d probably never have thought about it again. Not an interesting cliff-hanger. Just one that made me say “Huh?” and then move on with my life.

Mikey: Are you talking about the entire wrap-up, or that final shot of the hole in the wall?

Solee: The final shot for sure… but kind of the whole thing. I mean, either it’s a ridiculously simple plot or it’s more complex in a way that doesn’t provide enough clues to understand it. Or I am less clever than I think I am. But THAT can’t be it.

Mikey: Inconceivable! The final shot felt like the kind of completely meaningless bit of tacked-on noise that most horror movies end with - the hand from the grave trope. But the ending in general… it worked for me. I didn’t care about the eye stuff, just the general business of beating the serial killer and setting the ghost free and moving on with life. Pretty standard business! If there was a deep eye issue going on, it is for more clever people than us.

Solee: Standard, yes. I’ve seen too many movies this month for standard to impress or satisfy. I want something exciting and NEW. I know why movie critics always sound so jaded now!

Mikey: New is fun! But I think I liked this movie better than you did. Shall we test that theory now?

Solee: RATINGS! So there were some things I liked about this movie, but overall it wasn’t all that impressing. I’m giving it a very average 3 out of 5.

Mikey: I liked a lot of things about this movie! It really was scary, and it had a good twist that all made sense, and it had some good powerful emotional nonsense. But it wasn’t breaking new ground all in all, it was kind of average - but a little above, due to the good stuff I said. Hence my rating of 3.5 out of 5.

Solee: I can live with that. Did this satisfy your desire for a ghost movie?

Mikey: My hunger cannot be sated! But in deference to a moment in our last conversation, I think we’ll watch The Final Girls next. A classic horror trope!

Solee: I like when they get meta and make horror movies about how dumb horror movies are!
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