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Belittling Horror Excessively: Neverlake05:15 PM -- Mon October 16, 2017

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

Neverlake (2013)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“On a trip home to Italy to visit her father, Jenny is thrown into a world of mystery, horror and legend as she is compelled to discover the truth behind all his secrets and lies.”
IMDB Rating: 5.4/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 42% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Solee: Neverlake starts with a very dramatic underwater scene and a voiceover reading of a Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) poem. Artistic or pretentious? What’s the difference?

Mikey: I think pretentious is in the eye of the beholder. But the real trick to doing it right is for it to matter. Like if we open with a quote about the meaning of free will, the movie better be something that contemplates the nature of free will. I’m not actually sure what this poem was about, nor am I sure I was listening. All I was thinking was “I’d totally play the video game that begins with this intro.”

Solee: It felt pretentious to me, but I honestly think the real problem might exist in me and my distaste for deep poetry. I just looked it up and according to this site the movie was inspired by the poem, which is called “The Sensitive Plant.” Shelley lived in Tuscany, which is the setting for this movie. I suspect there are lots of connections, just like you want, but we aren’t cultured enough to understand or recognize them. Let’s assume, for the purposes of all discussion to follow, that we know we’re talking out of our butts. With that in mind, what did you think of the movie as a horror flick?

Mikey: Well, I think it was talking above its means (if that’s a phrase). I checked that site and see that the Sensitive Plant is her dad. His wilting under pressure was just so minor… he was kind of just an evil villain. Especially I was noting that trying to explain your crazy plan to someone while stalking after them and cornering them is not really the best method. P.S. two in a row with evil villain dad trying to sacrifice his daughter to his cause!

Solee: I certainly wouldn’t have described the father as wilting under his secrets. He seemed perfectly comfortable with those secrets right up until Jenny stole the idols and broke his plan. The other woman, the love of his life and the mother of his sick daughter, was more of a sensitive plant than he was.

Mikey: I think he wilted under the pressure of being drowned by medusa. Which I doubt was in the poem.

Solee: One huge glaring question I have is why on earth did he expend all the time and energy to raise this daughter in a (relatively) normal life? He sent her to live with her gramma and then to a fancy boarding school. She had NO idea anything was off until she came home for this visit. Why wasn’t she locked up with the others?

Mikey: Right. Or perhaps they all got that treatment… although they clearly got yanked at younger ages than she did. It actually got me with the reveal that they were her siblings. I was expecting her mom to be chained up, but I couldn’t figure out what the point was until they did that. That is probably on me, because it’s obvious.

Solee: The whole thing also begs the question … why was she able to get to age 16 or whatever before he yanked a body part off of her? She was the oldest … she should have been the first! Or was she not actually the oldest? Was she the last born … just looked older because she was able to age so much more before she was needed?? There are just too many holes in this story.

Mikey: No, it made it clear she was oldest… Maya was 4 years older than her, and at some point it was revealed Maya was 20 (so our 20+ year old protagonist was playing 16), and so the other kids must have all come after her. Here’s an explanation: since she was first, he started out wishy-washy (sensitive and plant-like), and put her out in the world in a normal life, but later on he was hardcore about it and just churned out new body parts willy-nilly. Then finally at the end he felt the need to bring her back in because they were desperate.

Solee: Meh. I’m not buying it. The movie is easier to watch if you think of it as a fairy tale and don’t try to make it make sense. I realized this as the point where she was tasked with swimming to the bottom of the lake to retrieve the bronze body parts. VERY fairy tale like task.

Mikey: That’s probably the case for a lot of movies. I think the magic of the lake didn’t entirely make sense. Why did she need surgical replacement, along with the magic statue deposit? Etruscans certainly weren’t doing surgical limb replacements. Though maybe that’s because she had this rare and horrible disease. Plus the whole group of kids that were really ghosts… I mean, that’s a thing you see, but I don’t know. They didn’t seem ghostly enough. Especially the two boys who were bad actors.

Solee: It was very clear after the bronze parts were removed from the lake that the medicine behind her surgeries wasn’t sound. She completely fell apart. I think the surgeries were only possible through the magic of the lake.

Mikey: Yeah… I whatever that. Speaking of fairy tales, “Isn’t she pretty? She’ll be perfect!” She was quite the kid-shoved-into-a-witch’s-oven in this movie.

Solee: Haha! I was just going to say that as a writer I was sorely disappointed in the clumsy foreshadowing in this movie. “She’s very beautiful. Perfect, I’d say.” is the exact line. They could have had the same reveal later without giving the whole game away if it had gone like this: “Isn’t she beautiful?” “Oh, yes, she’s just perfect!” Still a little awkward and weird, but not so much that it shines a spotlight on the upcoming trouble.

Mikey: I felt weird about all the interactions. I guess it’s the fact that these people (Olga & Dad) don’t know how to interact with kids normally, but so much was just them being unable to act normal. I don’t know. I appreciated the level of mystery we saw - I spent the whole movie working on figuring out what each weird thing must mean. But I think in the end, some of it was just people being weird (though there was a lot of mystery, and it did come together in reasonable fashion, rather than leaving a lot hanging).

Solee: There was a tiny bit of the you’re-not-my-mom, step-parent aspect that I think could have been utilized more effectively.

Mikey: She certainly didn’t do a lot of advocating for herself. But I identified. She felt very awkward in this very weird household. I’m not sure she ever actually ate food. I got uncomfortable with the sheer number of times they sidestepped a meal! In fact… I think they did it with literally every meal? They’d mention one, and then skip it for one reason or another.

Solee: Now that you mention it, that was super weird. They were so busy being shady about things that they never thought to just introduce her to Olga’s daughter and explain that she needed a kidney transplant and ask if she’d be interested in donating. I mean, seriously! This is the one organ they could have gotten through legit means. I am completely baffled as to why they made it so complicated for themselves.

Mikey: That’s certainly true. Although she could’ve said no, and that would’ve made her surgery all the more suspicious. But I think the best explanation is that they were wrapped up in the nefariousness of their existing plot, they didn’t consider more reasonable paths.

Solee: I guess so. Speaking of her surgery, my absolute favorite moment of the movie was when she was dreaming and lifted her nightgown to see the right side of her stomach missing. That was very well done. Creepy and somehow beautiful at the same time.

Mikey: You are scary. That was well done. When it happened, I thought she was having her kidney stolen, so I win. So, she did have a bunch of prophetic dreams. I feel like the magic here was kind of all over the place. Everything is magic!

Solee: You definitely win, because I had NO IDEA at that point. Yes. It was a grab-bag of magic/fairy tale/occult stuff. And odd medical stuff. Which reminds me while she was in the hospital after her “adrenal gland surgery” I made a note asking if this was going to end up being a Munchausen by Proxy story. It isn’t … but that would have been fun, too. Anyway, I’m all out of things to say about this movie. Are you ready to rate?

Mikey: Oh, sorry for no Munchausen. Okay, I can go for it. I did like the mystery that kept adding more confusing elements and then did actually explain them all by the end. I didn’t like the lake silliness, and I didn’t like her creepy father (as a character. Obviously I didn’t like him as a person!). Olga was a better character. Good twist. Don’t know what Medusa was doing in the movie at all. So all in all, I want to give this a solid 3 of 5. It held my interest with the mystery.

Solee: For all my complaints about plot, I did enjoy this movie … sorta. It was pretty to look at and quite dramatic, if you like that sort of thing, but it was actually very slooooow. I guess I give it a 3, as well. I’m trying to decide if I regret losing the time it took to watch it, and I’m just very ambivalent about the whole thing. That’s generally not a good sign for a movie.

Mikey: Yeah, definitely middle-of-the-road fare. Like roadkill burgers! Which reminds me, tomorrow we will be watching your pick!

Solee: I shall choose something delicious: Ghosts of Darkness.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Thaw08:28 PM -- Sun October 15, 2017

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

The Thaw (2009)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A research expedition to the Arctic discovers that a melting polar ice cap has released a deadly prehistoric parasite.”
IMDB Rating: 5.2/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 23% audience
Solee: 3.5/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Hulu.

Mikey: Okay, Solee made a movie pick! From the depths of Hulu’s random collection. Why did this one speak to you?

Solee: Hmmm. So we’ve seen quite a few higher quality movies lately, so I guess I was looking for something that was a little riskier. You know, the kind of movie where you read the synopsis and think, “Ooh! THAT could be terrible!” I was also intrigued by the presence of Val Kilmer, who I used to have a crush on back in his Willow days. Did you know much about this one before we started?

Mikey: Nope! I knew nothing at all. But I did surmise it would be about an icy place. I used context clues. Which reminds me: what is it about arctic (or antarctic) research stations and paranoia and body horror? I kinda wonder what’s really going on at these research stations…

Solee: Having grown up in a very snowy place, I can say from first hand experience that months and months of unending cold and snow does crazy things to people. I’m just glad they never found a prehistoric mammoth filled with parasites in Moose Lake.

Mikey: I wouldn’t be sure they didn’t, but maybe a moose instead. So this movie, as the title implies, is all about global warming, fo sho. What did you think - using the issue as a backdrop, or a preachy propaganda piece?

Solee: The writer/directors may have felt they were using it as a backdrop, but it felt pretty heavy handed to me, and I fully agree with their stance. Well, right up to the point where they decide to unleash a deadly plague on humanity. That’s where I draw the line.

Mikey: My line might differ from yours. But I thought the most horrifying thing in the movie was the fact that it was made eight years ago and opens with (fictional) clips that could just as easily be on Fox News today. We have not moved an inch from a world filled with people who completely reject science as a concept. That makes me want to get started on a plague or two.

Solee: I think the guy who ended up with bugs on his pee-pee had a valid point. There are the people who deny climate change is happening, and that’s bad, but there are also the people who recognize on a cognitive level that it is happening and we are causing it and STILL don’t make changes to their lifestyles. Humans are a pretty selfish bunch as a whole.

Mikey: And the third group who are fully aware and understand the science, but stay on the anti-science side to make money and protect their short-term interests. Or as I call them, traitors to humanity. So now that we are preachy enough to be in the mood for this movie, let’s discuss Solee’s Rules of Infection!

Solee: I’m struggling with this at the moment because I just had a lengthy conversation with a friend about how I am 100%, without exception non-violent. HOWEVER. If I ever find myself in a movie world being overrun by a highly infectious disease or critter … YOU ALWAYS TAKE THEM OUT AT THE FIRST SIGN. I’m not sure this would have helped these kids though. The three who were infected got that way very early on before anyone had a clue. The only thing they could have done differently is to not let the sick ones suffer so long. So … ugh. I might be rethinking Solee’s #1 Rule of Infection. What is happening to me?!?

Mikey: You may be infected with neurobugs. I have a lot of separate issues with the infection situation in this movie. On the one hand, they weren’t anywhere near cautious enough. The very idea that a video camera is worth opening up the door to the room completely filled with bugs is insanity. Bugs that you know for a fact are eventually FATAL if they so much as bite you once. Nobody would ever go near one. In fact, I daresay the entire group would run as far and as fast as they could away from that house as soon as they understood the threat. But there was so much of that not taking it seriously enough - grabbing one and throwing it down to stomp on it, opening the door to a room full of them to let the definitely-dead-in-a-sec guy inside, handling the arm that was full of them. Just, you know, pay attention to the threat level!

Solee: They were pretty naive. Which is what the head scientist was counting on, I think. These were young college students.

Mikey: Oh man, and just getting up close to people covered with sores from unknown bugs! I think the bug-o-phobe should’ve just had a heart attack and died night one.

Solee: He certainly went from levitate-through-a-blanket-to-escape to sitting on the floor in a building crawling with deadly bugs pretty quickly. I didn’t love any of these characters. I couldn’t really connect with any of them and the only one I felt much respect for was the pilot. And later maybe the son of the oil baron. He seemed like a dumb frat boy at first, but he redeemed himself. The rest of them, I didn’t really care about.

Mikey: Yeah, they were idiots. But I will say this movie had me on edge like nothing we’ve seen this month. I spent the whole movie completely tense, so even though I didn’t care about the people, I was definitely right there with them in the situation. It wasn’t really a pleasant experience.

Solee: The whole “bug” theme taps into some pretty deep primitive fears, I think. And if this movie is to be believed, for good reason!

Mikey: I have big issues with ticks, because they’re the only bug that actually goes inside your body (well, the only common one). I can’t handle that. So this was right in my displeasure zone.

Solee: It wasn’t quite as visceral, but I was pretty triggered by the father/head scientist’s decision to have three students fly up to join him after he knew what was going on. And even worse, he made a point of uninviting ONLY his own daughter. Which is weird broken logic, because he wanted these three kids to carry the infection back with them. To the world where his daughter lives. He talked a lot about sacrifice and purpose, but he was really just a very amoral person. That’s right in my displeasure zone!

Mikey: His plan was certainly quite evil. But it didn’t really make sense to me. He had a bug inside him he wanted to sneak back into the world, so what were the kids for? More infection? I don’t know. The whole thing seems crazy. He could just have a box of bugs and open it up in New York, job done. But to defend him on charges of daughter-infestation, he did say that he expected the world to defeat the bugs. He wasn’t trying to wipe everybody out, just make them start talking and care about the threat by making it immediate. Which gives me parallels to disaster relief vs. preparedness (the massive waste of money we are in right now, repairing Houston, Puerto Rico, etc., when we should’ve spent money over the years making them ready for these disasters instead). People don’t care about anything unless it’s an immediate threat. People are bad. Bugs should eat them.

Solee: Yeah, I don’t know what his plan was, but it didn’t make sense. I am always really irritated by characters (and real life people) who firmly establish how untrustworthy they are and then expect the person/people they’ve hurt to just trust them and do what they are told without any explanation when an emergency hits. Sorry, dude. That’s not how it works. You’ve gotta earn my trust. If you start demanding that I do things “Gosh, the world must be on the brink of destruction in the form of prehistoric silverfish” isn’t going to be my first thought.

Mikey: Oh yeah! That brings to mind the Whedonism of it all. This entire movie was filled with people not telling other people the piece of information they needed to know. For no reason! “Hey, don’t come up here”, no need to give any info even when she’s saying “Why not?” Frustrating as always, and a Joss Whedon specialty. But he writes much better, of course.

Solee: Well, now that we’ve complained about it at length … was there anything you particularly liked?

Mikey: Well, like I said, the tension was absolutely there (I’m just mad I was more aware of it than the characters…). The arm-chopping scene was very real and agonizing. I think they did a really good job with the threat - there were a lot of “other shoes” we knew were going to drop, so you were always waiting for the next one. Ling’s illness, her boyfriend’s personal issue, the polar bear, the people at the field camp, the helicopters on the way, the pilot’s arm infection. All of these things were waiting to strike. No wonder I was so tense. What’d you like?

Solee: I didn’t really like the characters, but I liked the acting, if that makes sense. The writing of them was off in a way that made them unrelatable, but they did a good job with what they were given. I also liked the cinematography of it. There were some really great external establishing shots showing the vastness of the area and the isolation they were dealing with. As gross as they were, I thought they did the wounds and infection well. So often the gross parts of scary movies are all bad makeup or bad CGI. This was just authentically gross in a way that made my skin crawl.

Mikey: That’s true. Which brings me back to my complaint because I see my note on it: Seriously people, if somebody had chickenpox you wouldn’t get as close to them as they are to these people who have an unknown infection from a mystery insect. Stop touching them! Oh I got so mad. But, speaking of the authentic grossness, what I related this movie to a lot in my mind was Cabin Fever. Similarities, right? Nobody turns into a zombie, it’s just the infection that’s the problem.

Solee: I hadn’t made the connection, but absolutely! Very similar in their excellent grossness. The grayish goo that came out of their mouths as they were dying?? Terrifically terrible.

Mikey: Yes, most upsetting when Jane is choking on it. Ugh. This was upsetting to me in a way that Cabin Fever really wasn’t!

Solee: My final note is the all this sacrifice and scheming was for naught because, as we learned in Jurassic Park, “nature finds a way”. While they were up there shooting each other and burning down buildings, the bird from the very first scene was migrating to the nearest human population epicenter to start the apocalypse. Something to keep in mind if I end up in a similar situation, I suppose.

Mikey: I enjoyed that minor twist to the ending, I liked recognizing him from the first scene. Also reminds me that I don’t for a second believe that Evelyn actually remained uninfected. That’s ridiculous. But anyhow, if there is nothing else to note, perhaps you should give this movie a rating!

Solee: Hmmm. I think I’m going to give it a 3.5. It just wasn’t quite good enough to hang out in the company of 4s I’ve given out so far. But I definitely didn’t hate it. What about you?

Mikey: You rate high! I didn’t expect that after the coals it was just raked over (hopefully killing any insects inside). I thought it was pretty mediocre. There was some plus to it. I really like how it kept such a tense situation going, and you’re right about good cinematography, but I don’t like the writing and characters, or even the plot really for that matter. So I’ll put it in the middle - it’s a 3 out of 5.

Solee: Interesting note: we both rated this the same as we did Cabin Fever.

Mikey: Aw snap! We’re amazing. But not as amazing as our next movie, Neverlake! Or more amazing, we’ll see.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Babadook03:57 PM -- Sat October 14, 2017

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

The Babadook (2014)
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.”
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Metacritic Rating: 86/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 98% critics, 72% audience
Solee: 5+/5
Mikey: 5+/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Solee: You’ve talked about The Babadook many times. You’ve even seen it before, but you haven’t done a BHE review for it until now. Why is that? And what made you change your mind?

Mikey: I don’t know, have I really talked about it many times? Anyway, I’m glad I gave it a few years since I first saw it (shortly after a BHE one year, so too late to review). I barely remembered anything. But what changed my mind to go ahead and review was endless badgering every year from our fine readership (which numbers in the oneses!), and that I now have someone else to also watch with me, so it wouldn’t just be a total rerun.

Solee: It was certainly different from other things I’ve seen. Like if Neil Gaiman wrote a fairy tale for adults and then someone based a horror story on it? I dunno. It was odd. Did seeing it for a second time change anything for you?

Mikey: I don’t think so, because I really had no recollection. All I knew was that she destroyed the book and it came back. I really liked the book itself. It managed to be seriously creepy even though it was a real physical book (though the second time, the pop-up features were a little unbelievable, but probably possible…). They presented it well, not having some weird voice-over, but just flipping the camera to the words in order.

Solee: I thought that was very well done. I liked that it was more like we were reading the book ourselves. What a creepy story, too. It had the feel of a really dark fairy tale. Like back when fairy tales were morality lessons for adults instead of candy-colored princess stories for children. I’ve read a few of the modern, reimagined-for-adults fairy tales in my life and I don’t always love them. There’s something awkward about forcing a short story to become a full novel. Or a full movie.

Mikey: There was definitely a fairy tale to this movie, especially at the end when they start taking care of the Babadook (which story-wise makes like no sense. Let it DIE). But to me, from start to finish, I didn’t really see the fairy tale as much as a huge allegory for depression, and overcoming it, and while I’m not 100% on the meaning of feeding it worms, I feel like that’s part of it. You can’t just kill it and get rid of it, you have to live with it forever, the trick is to deal with it when it comes. It felt very powerful to me on that level. I think they did an awesome metaphorical job. It’s one of those movies where the literal facts of it don’t even make sense, it’s the underlying truth that is the story.

Solee: Like the Babadook says, “YOU CANNOT GET RID OF ME!” Did you watch the whole video reading the book. It addresses the reason they kept it some. The only way to survive is to give the Babadook a room of it’s own and acknowledge it. That keeps it small and manageable. Again, good allegory for depression.

Mikey: Yeah, I don’t think it’s exactly subtle, but it’s really good. It is a lot like… I’m not sure. Does Dr. Seuss write things like that? Somebody does. Very overt metaphor, so it’s really easy to go “Oooh, I get it!” and feel smart. P.S. Babadook is an anagram for A Bad Book.

Solee: Oooh! I like that. So one thing I realized from the fairy tale perspective (and I agree that allegory is a better category overall) is that while the main character is the mother, the hero of the story is really the little boy. He’s trying SO HARD to protect her, but because she doesn’t believe in the danger, she can’t believe in what he’s doing.

Mikey: Also he’s so incredibly irritating that he’s the cause of all her problems! AUGH I HATE THAT KID. Not that I really have a problem with him because that’s key to the whole plot, but oh man, did I not enjoy hearing him screaming and being horrible. That was probably my biggest problem with the movie, which is sad because I wouldn’t change it.

Solee: I also found the kid to be REALLY annoying, which is interesting to me. It’s basically just showing us what it’s like to deal with a 6 year old (although he seemed slightly younger than that to me) when you are simultaneously dealing with your own mental breakdown. Kids are challenging and if you aren’t well yourself, they can be almost impossible to tolerate. And the truth is, lots of parents are fighting their own battles while trying to raise irrational beings. Post-partum depression, mental illness, or (to flip the script a little) having a child with special needs … these all make parenting SO HARD and as a culture we’re not overly compassionate about that.

Mikey: They showed that in the movie too. Everybody telling her to get over it and why can’t she just control him? It really made you feel for her and root for her to choke him to death. No? Too far. But it did make you empathize with her. There was … I just can’t even properly gush about how perfectly this movie captured her string of severe problems all put together and how hard that has to be. Her kid in “reality” (whatever that is exactly) probably wasn’t very bad, but from inside her babadook, he seemed horrible. And one thing that seemed out of place until you started listing the things that make parenting hard - I never understood why she had this toothache the whole movie, but that’s just another one. Things happen, and if you are dealing with depression, raising a kid alone, insomnia, him getting kicked out of school, and all these things, and on top of it your tooth hurts the whole time? It’s just too much to take.

Solee: It’s literally enough to make you rip the tooth right out of your face.

Mikey: That was probably the actual defeat of the Babadook - she took her problems down by that one notch and now she can handle it.

Solee: That is a very interesting take. I know from my own experience that there is that breaking point where I just throw my hands up and say “I can’t.” When the stress is reduced back below that point, I can suddenly see a path through again. And sometimes a big thing is needed to reduce that stress. (I’ve never pulled a tooth from my mouth, though.) I thought Essie Davis (Amelia) did a great job of portraying that “descent into madness”. She moved from irritated to stressed to overwhelmed to drastic in a very believable way.

Mikey: I don’t approve of strangling dogs though. But to step back from the deep stuff, I want to say that this movie finally did it right after a series of complaints: the monster is always in the dark, and it’s really effective and you’re never quite sure what you’re seeing. There’s one great scene where I literally don’t even know what it’s trying to show - the end of the room is pitch black and these two… wings? arms? are slowly raising up out of the shadows. I don’t know what it is, but it really conveys menace.

Solee: I made a note about how great the lighting choices were for this movie right at that point. The funny thing is, we DO know what the Babadook looks like. He’s a creepy old guy in a stovepipe hat and a long coat. AND when he shows up it’s always in a way that he seems like so much more than that. I particularly liked when she was at the police station and she sees a hat and cloak on the coat hooks that looks like the Babadook. It was somehow even more terrifying to see that reminder of him right out in public in broad daylight. Reinforced the idea that there was no getting away.

Mikey: Yeah, that’s what he looks like in cartoons, but had they tried to show him in full-face in the ‘real world’, it would’ve been dumb. We’re left guessing how that plays out in reality, other than bits and pieces. I like that. But more than that, we keep hearing that this is just the skin he wears, and underneath is so much worse. We literally never even see a glimpse of the underneath. Just shots of people reacting to it. That’s good stuff.

And hey, just back to metaphor a second: perhaps the coat in the police station is the old “Depression lies” rule. That scene represents her being shamed into not seeking help, feeling like she has to handle things alone, just because her depression is telling her so. Classic.

Solee: True dat. One more thing about depression and then we can move on. I recently saw this comic discussion called Dog Years and I found it to be another powerful allegory/metaphor about depression. It has similar themes about how depression is something you can’t get rid of but that you can learn to live with.

Okay … so on a completely different note, this was an Australian movie, right?

Mikey: Ayuh! I don’t know how Australians say yes, so I went Maine.

Solee: I’m sure it’s similar. Or not. Anyway, I noticed that this movie had a common problem as one we watched last year, The Dead Room (which, on further inspection is actually from New Zealand, a completely different country!). They both did a terrible job of shooting day for night. That is one of my huge pet peeves. You’re not fooling anyone, Mr. Director. We can all see those harsh shadows that only come from SUNLIGHT.

Mikey: I didn’t really notice that, because what I was noticing was that their house was so starkly black & white… it looked suspiciously similar to the pages of the book. That was very nicely done.

Solee: The day-for-night thing was a minor problem compared to the oodles of creepy imagery in this movie. Roaches, popping light bulbs, the perspective stuttering around … there were lots of visuals that increased the tension and put you in the mind of Amelia.

Mikey: I will say that there is one noise the Babadook made, maybe two or three times, that is the monster equivalent of a Wilhelm Scream. I think I’ve heard it in twenty other movies, and it didn’t even sound similar to the other sounds he made, so it was really odd. [Update: I just read IMDB trivia and discovered the noise has actually appeared in the games Warcraft II, X-Com, Mortal Kombat III, and Resident Evil. Which makes me think it is the Wilhelm Scream of monsters and probably did appear in many movies. I bet it’s on some classic Hollywood sound effect CD. But I probably mostly recognized it from Warcraft.] But I would also like to note that this is yet another in our long line of movies where not being afraid of the monster pushes it back or fights it in some way!

Solee: It’s a deep-seated human nature kind of thing! So if you don’t have anything else, shall we move on to ratings?

Mikey: I just had one point I’ve been waiting to spring upon you when you least expect it: this is the metaphor you were waiting for in ! I mean, not the specific metaphor, but a monster that is one.

Solee: You are exactly right! And I found this movie more satisfying on a deeper level than The Monster because of it.

Mikey: Okay, as long as I have been allowed to spring that, I am willing to rate this movie. This is an easy 5+. I only like it more after having discussed it. I didn’t remember it being this amazing, I only remember liking it, but it really is saying something. And just on a visual/craft level it’s brilliant. So hooray for The Babadook!

Solee: It’s boring for me to do so, but I’m going to agree with you! 5+. I liked this movie very much. It was creepy for those who just wanted to be scared, and it was deep and meaningful for those who like something more. The acting was great. The folks making this movie clearly knew their craft. And, even though it is an allegory for something sad and difficult to talk about and it’s dark and scary … it’s still a relatively uplifting story from the perspective of someone who’s been struggling with a Babadook of my own lately. It has a very clear message of hope. I like that.

Mikey: We have lots of spots in the basement here we could stash it away. And in the meantime, we will be watching The Thaw tomorrow, so join us with your own dog or babadook, won’t you?
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Netherbeast Incorporated03:53 PM -- Fri October 13, 2017

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

Netherbeast Incorporated (2007)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“A quirky twist on the vampire tale, set in modern day corporate America”
IMDB Rating: 5.8/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 46% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: I think I know the answer, but it’s always the best way to start the conversation: Why’d you pick this particular movie today?

Solee: I was in the mood for something funny! And this had one of the Daves We Know AND Jason Mewes! For that matter Darrell Hammond and Judd Nelson are pretty funny, too. So … that was pretty much it. It looked like it would be silly.

Mikey: I think it met that criteria. Unless you have something to say about it, I’m just going to bypass the age-old question and say this is not a horror movie, it’s a comedy about horror stuff. There’s nothing scary at all, it’s just a comedy about vampires. Fair?

Solee: I think that’s a fair and accurate statement. But they prefer “Netherfolk.”

Mikey: And that is fair too. Which gets me to one of the notable elements of this movie: Exposition Explosion! Huge chunks of this movie are actually documentary-style explanations of the history and rules behind being Netherfolk, in order to explain what’s going on in the story. I really really think they could’ve made a far better movie by skipping all of that and figuring what they needed to have happen in the story to make those concepts clear instead.

Solee: It was lazy writing. It made me think of how Kevin Smith, bless his heart, thinks he writes best while super stoned. I’m imagining that the writers of this movie were totally baked during most of the process. I’m sure THEY thought this movie was really clever. I thought it was mildly amusing.

Mikey: I think that’s probably a good thought, because there were significant chunks of dialogue in this movie that I truly had no idea what they were talking about. This is a movie that is so wrapped up in itself that I felt like an outsider watching somebody else’s in-jokes.

Solee: Which is exactly what happens when you let stoners make movies. Sometimes it works … sometimes it doesn’t. Another “lazy writing” thing that bothered me: they used the term “Retardation” for the mental decline that happens to some vampires. They make the excuse that the term has “been around awhile” to get around the fact that they are using a pretty offensive word. If this was a movie made in the 70s, sure. That was a word they used more frequently then. NOW, though? We know better and it just comes across as lazy and rude to use the word even though you know you have to make an excuse for using it.

Mikey: Yeah, interesting that they included in the script the acknowledgement that they did know better, but used it anyway. But after I throw in this one sentence: [the chef was the worst actor ever, on par with Ripper from The Altar], I want to switch to praising the writing and acting to say that there were some funny lines, mostly from Darrell Hammond. “There are many reasons the tortoise beat the hare, poor sportsmanship and narcolepsy among them.”

Solee: [My theory regarding the chef is that he was a relative … or a contest winner.] “You wouldn’t eat spaghetti with a skateboard, WOULD YOU??”

Mikey: I wouldn’t. So, back to heaping condemnation on this, I would like to point out that the whole movie had the look and feel of a stage play. It was very… just badly made. Bad editing, writing, cinematography, lighting. It just looked bad. And some bad acting, but as that list of names you mentioned shows, many of the people in it were quite good.

Solee: I enjoyed the main guy, played by Steve Burns, very much and the relationship that developed between him and the resident human, Pearl, was actually pretty sweet. But there were some terrible choices made regarding the craft. Like sound! Why did it sound like cheap porn so much of the time?

Mikey: Right, the music was not good either. I’m confused as to the story of this movie’s creation. That is a documentary I’d watch. It seems like somebody really untalented was somehow able to convince a whole slew of high-end professionals to get involved. But then he didn’t add on any high-end professionals on the production side of things, just his buddies from the frat house. I have a feeling a skilled editor could’ve brought this movie up by about 50% alone, though there were some real flaws in the writing itself.

Solee: OH! I was just reading the trivia on IMDB to see if it mentioned any juicy gossip, but all I learned is where I recognize Steve Burns from! Do you know what else he’s done?

Mikey: I do not know!

Solee: BLUE’S CLUES!

Mikey: OH NO WAY! I totally recognize him now! Another top professional in his field!

Solee: It’s quite a leap from toddler TV to spoofy horror film. Or … maybe not? Haha!

Mikey: In other actor news, I have two remarks: Dave Foley is exactly who you want any time you want a sad sack office worker who is feeling really fed up with his coworkers. Also, Jason Mewes did a good job - he brought a certain feeling to his role that made it feel like he was ad-libbing, because it was so infused with his personality instead of just being a random dude. I have to wonder if Eye of the Jackal was ever written down anywhere.

Solee: Yep to both of those. I kinda love Dave Foley. He just seems like Good People, you know? Maybe it’s that he’s Canadian?

Mikey: Canadians are always nice, it’s actually the law up there.

Solee: *briefly distracted researching how to move to Canada* AND I was happy to see Jay Mewes looking so healthy. I’m not sure I could handle his personality in real life, but I was really scared we were going to wake up to learn about an overdose or a suicide for a few years there. I am glad he seems to have his life back on a better track. Or did 10 years ago. So I have two important discussion questions!

Mikey: And I have zero more notes, so let’s discuss!

Solee: Question, the First: do you prefer your monsters Traditional or Deconstructed? This movie took the idea of vampires and tossed it on its ear. How did that sit with you?

Mikey: I am in favor of it. I don’t want a half hour of video essay about it, though. I can figure it out from context, just tell me the story! I find the traditional monsters tiresome in general, and I think you can do a lot more with something new. Especially vampires which feel really lame to me in general. Do you like the new or the old?

Solee: I am a bit of a traditionalist most of the time. I read somewhere that people with anxiety like rewatching the same shows over and over (or rereading books I suppose) because there’s comfort in knowing how things are going to work out. I feel a little like that with the basic monsters. I like knowing the rules. That being said, just like with yesterday’s movie, I was jealous of the writing. Not because it was so good, but because it was so original. I liked that everything was just to the side of what you expect. Like reading a Douglas Adams book.

Mikey: Yes, this was somebody’s pet idea that they had spent a lot of time thinking out. Which is fun, I like to check that out.

Solee: I suppose this is one of the benefits of letting stoners make movies. ;) Question Dos was actually presented in the movie by Mr. Claymore on his final deathbed: How would you live differently if you had forever? (He’s comparing it to the age-old question of how one would change their life if they only had one day left, so feel free to address that as well.)

Mikey: Boy, I have given the “six months to live” notion some thought in the past, but I think if I had forever to live, it would change nothing. Unfortunately, I, like nearly everyone, already live like I’m going to live forever. We should be thinking with the proper perspective on how many years we have left (not freaking out that it’s so short, but just respecting the actual amount), but we just go on, assuming it will never end. For the short-time-left question, I can only conclude that I would be absolutely horrible at it. I have no special dreams to quickly resolve, nor holy shrines I need to visit. I’d probably spend it wallowing in grief over my upcoming demise, and crying about all the things I’ll never get to do, instead of just doing some of them. Not great. You would do better, right?

Solee: I really like your point about how we already live. It’s true. We (humans in general, white Americans specifically) tend to consider ourselves invincible. I suspect that after the first hundred years or so I’d start to get bored. I’d probably end up taking on all kinds of hobbies and learning them about half-way before moving on to something new. As far as only a day to live … that’s not much time. I couldn’t “see the world” or check a bunch of things off of a last minute bucket list. I can honestly say that I’m pretty much already living the life I’d live if I only had 24 hours left, too, which kind of makes me feel better. There would be some really good food and time with you, that’s for sure.

Mikey: Oh yes, food! I would probably spend my entire final day agonizing over which restaurant I needed to go to, and end up dying early of starvation.

Solee: Haha! We’d spend all day telling each other “I don’t care, you choose!”

Mikey: Psh, not if I’m dying! But that doesn’t mean I can figure out which is the one best choice!

Solee: WAIT. Is only one of us dying in your scenario?? Because I was assuming some kind of end-of-world situation. OBVIOUSLY, if you’re the only one dying, you get to choose.

Mikey: No, I understand, you just don’t want me to inconvenience you in my final hours. I’ll drive myself to the morgue.

Solee: Dude. You’re not gonna last 24 hours.

Mikey: Well, we’ve chatted past the edge of this movie now, so let’s wrap it up with a rating before I get in trouble. What do you say?

Solee: I WANT to be kind to this movie … but I’m not sure it ultimately deserves it. There were some positives, but overall, it was disappointing. And for the purposes of BHE, it was a total loss. I am going to have to give it a 2 with my most sincere apologies to the cast, all of whom, I’m sure, would be lots of fun to party with.

Mikey: I am right there with you. This is a 2. It’s not an Altar-level disaster, but it is far from good, and I don’t recommend it. Don’t let Dave Foley fool you! It’s mildly funny between being deeply confusing and off-putting.

Solee: So I guess we’re going to go to the far other end of the horror spectrum for the next one. You know, as a palate cleanser.

Mikey: Can’t put too many comedies in our horror marathon. So tomorrow, we’re going to finally succumb to the endless peer pressure. Ever since 2014, when The Babadook was released, I’ve gotten comments every single year that I should review it (usually, as it was this year, from more than one person the same year!). I’ve always skipped it because I’ve already seen it myself. But since you’re with me this year, and it has been several years since I saw it, it’s time to silence the voices in my head!

Solee: OOH. This should be fun. I know absolutely nothing about this movie. I’ve heard the name before. I think.

Mikey: Well, it’s all right there in the title - it’s about a babadook. See you then!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Monster03:54 PM -- Thu October 12, 2017

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

The Monster (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.”
IMDB Rating: 5.4/10
Metacritic Rating: 69/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% critics, 39% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Solee: The Monster. Was this film what you expected from the title?

Mikey: Well, I had found it based on synopsis, so it was what I expected based on that, other than that I really did not expect the intense and thorough character development. I figured they’d just be in the woods and get eaten. What were you expecting?

Solee: I didn’t look at the synopsis or anything, so I was basing my expectations solely on the title. I was expecting something cheesy and 70s-ish, I think. I was certainly not expecting a movie that had so much depth.

Mikey: I know, right?? I kept saying to myself “well, there’s your monster right there” over and over before they ever got to the woods.

Solee: I’ve been pretty regularly taking three pages of notes for these movie reviews. The Monster filled four pages and leaked onto a fifth! One thing I particularly liked was how well they portrayed the anxiety of the mother and the daughter. It all felt very realistic and authentic, as opposed to scripted. And much of it was in the actions--big ones like the mother not getting up until 4pm, and little ones like the knuckle cracking. The tension between two people who love each other, but have lots of baggage was obvious.

Mikey: I’ll just have to say right out that I got teary-eyed by the end, and all the acting was amazing, and the authenticity you mentioned - the stuff that happened didn’t require them to make idiotic choices (they did all relatively smart stuff), and the events happened in a believable organic way. We knew the ambulance and tow truck were coming, it made sense. Plus bonus points for having cell phones available and working without ruining any of the danger.

Solee: This story was tightly plotted, for sure. Everything knit together perfectly. And like you mentioned earlier, there was a constant underlying question: is THIS the monster? The tow-truck guy showed up and started doing his thing and I could not decide if he could be trusted. I felt the same anxiety I would have felt in the woods on a dark, stormy night with my well-being in the hands of a stranger.

Mikey: Tension all over the place! Probably the most engrossing movie we have seen this month. It’s hard to quite place that because I think IT is a better movie, but this is so much more intense and powerful. It was a character study more than anything else.

Solee: Yes. It reminded me intensely of Cast Away as it slowly revealed more and more about the character and their relationship. I am not sure I agree that IT was a better movie. I think they were comparable, and if The Monster had actually followed Cast Away into the world of movies that work on both a literal and metaphorical level, it would blow IT out of the water.

Mikey: And it is on the literal level where this doesn’t impress as much. The monster (a giant bat, I declare, although much toothier) is shown far too much, ruining the imagination factor, and I think just on a monster-attack-scenario level, this isn’t anything special. There’s nothing I really have to complain about there, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that that is where it doesn’t go above and beyond. You’re right: if the monster had tied into the story of their relationship in some smart-person way, it would’ve really been amazing.

Solee: There are obvious connections between the monster and the alcoholic, neglectful mother that could have been utilized more. However, I thought Zoe Kazan did an amazing job of embodying this character at the various points in her arc. By the end, I believed that this woman had found the inner strength to sacrifice herself for her daughter, something she clearly wasn’t able to do prior to that day.

Mikey: I feel like that’s more of the story we were told: nothing deeply metaphorical, just this messed-up relationship being forged in the fire of extreme adversity to be repaired (too late). Which is worthwhile.

Solee: It was a powerful tragedy. I am heartbroken for that little girl--an emotion the director left me in intentionally, btw--because she had to sacrifice what she always wanted to get what she always wanted.

Mikey: Yep, catch-22! I just had an interesting thought: this experience was obviously very impactful to her life, but in the end, I don’t think the daughter actually grew from it. I think she was already grown. Her mother grew a lot in handling this crisis, and her growth ultimately was the end of her. But it really just served to emphasize how much the daughter already took care of herself (and her mother), and was just plain capable of handling all this to begin with. In fact, it’s a bit like Split. Her suffering made her worthy.

Solee: Nice. Yes. I agree with that. It was clear from the very first scene that Lizzie was able to take care of the both of them. Her one weakness was a fear of monsters (which, given the plethora of human monsters in her life, I think is very reasonable) and by the end of the movie, she’s clearly conquered that fear. I am heartbroken and worried for her … but it’s probably not necessary. She’s one of those rare people who gets stronger in the wake of trauma.

Mikey: Speaking of monsters, I’m tired of people saying “there are no such things as monsters”. That’s stupid. There are monsters everywhere - if an alligator or a great white shark isn’t a monster, then the word monster has no meaning. Yes, there are no fuzzy blue one-eyed creatures in the closet, but there are certainly monsters (hopefully not in the closet). This movie could’ve been almost identical if the “monster” was a rabid bear (I thought for a while it was…).

Solee: I would have liked it better for that. I cannot remember a time when I was afraid of imaginary monsters. But when the “big bad” is a real life animal or a person or a disease … that’s the stuff of nightmares. Those things can really get you. Even if you do all the right things, like Lizzie and her mom did after the blow-out.

Mikey: One thing she did wrong is making her toy dog start singing its song… which had me so confused. What is the trigger for the song, and how is it so incredibly sensitive and random? And why does it play two different songs, always in the same order?

Solee: Kids toys are confusing. Do you mean the first time, in their car? Or the second time, in the ambulance?

Mikey: I know she used it on purpose in the ambulance! I actually made a note much earlier on that that dog would be used as a distraction later.

Solee: Clever, subtle foreshadowing is my favorite. I actually didn’t have a problem with the first singing. Those toys usually have a button in the paw or belly that triggers it. She could have easily bumped it or even done it out of habit. It was the thing she used to soothe herself when she was afraid of monsters.

Mikey: Oh, which reminds me of the HUGE JUMP SCARE right after that. That sure worked. And I really like how it made a complete mockery of the safety of staying in the car, which I was assuming would be just fine (I put in my notes that I would just sleep in the car until morning and be fine).

Solee: That was one of two major jumps for me. (The second was when she was kneeling next to the monster’s corpse … and I KNEW that one was coming.) I wasn’t expecting this one at all. I think that destruction of the illusion of safety was done very intentionally and again, it allowed me to be right there in the moment. This was honestly the highest caliber writing I’ve seen all month. Just SO GOOD. Change of topic: what about the monster? What did you think of the monster suit?

Mikey: Oh right, that’s another big win for this movie: a 100% practical monster. CGI would’ve looked like crap as it always does, and this was just a dude in a suit. Executed really well, there was only one scene where it felt like a suit (he was sitting hunched over, in far too much light, and I was like “oh yeah, there are his human legs, not at all the proportion this creature should have”). Although I saw on IMDB that when he is burning you can see the actor’s hand out of the suit. Poor guy.

Solee: I see what you’re saying and I definitely agree about the no-CGI being a good choice. AND I thought that was a dumb monster. I did not like the fact that I could picture the guy inside the suit. I actually used the phrase “dude in a rubber suit” in my notes. Like you said earlier, it would have been better if he stuck to the shadows. But I always think that’s true. The monsters they show are never as good as the monsters I picture in my head.

Mikey: That would’ve completely solved all dude-in-a-suit problems. They even had the plot point of the monster fearing light, so keep it in the dark! I always think of the alien in Alien. If you see it in full light, it’s just a guy with a goofy head and a tail, but they kept it always in the dark and only partly exposed to where it just became this confusing tangle of very alien limbs, and you had no idea what it really looked like. Absolute horror movie rule: never show the monster. I would amend that to “until the very end” which a lot of movies do, but don’t do that either. Just keep it hidden! Burn it up and let us see its charred corpse, that’s fine.

Solee: This was the … third? … monster who was repelled by a lack of fear this month. Has that always been a thing? Or is that a more modern trope?

Mikey: Even though it’s not a bear, I consider this monster just an animal. I don’t think it was anything so mystical. The flashlight was a big problem as it was adapted for night vision only, and that is what kept it at bay usually. Then when she’s face to face with it and acting tough, I can see it just being confused. That is not how prey acts.

Solee: Valid point. There were two moments where the “prey” stood it’s ground and the monster backed off. I can see the natural cause and effect there. I find it interesting that there are so many movies where being brave is the key. Humans are very invested in the concept of overcoming fear. I suppose there are anthropological reasons for that. We have progressed as a species because we are capable of reasoning our way past our primal fears.

Mikey: I think it’s sort of how classic stories have developed through the years - this is a trait we see as good, let’s make it the effective strategy in our story to encourage people to do it. Stories about wise, brave, clever, kind people to encourage humans to be those things.

Solee: Absolutely. Unfortunately, our cultural belief that fear and weakness are BAD THINGS TO BE HIDDEN has gone a long way toward hobbling our emotional evolution. But that’s a very long discussion and I can see that it’s time for ratings.

Mikey: You made me go first last time. RATE IT!

Solee: This one gets an unqualified 5 from me. If it had fully committed to the metaphorical layer that was so ALMOST there, I’d give it a 5+! I liked this movie on a deep, emotional level. The writing was phenomenal, the kind of writing I wish I could do. And the basics of the craft were commendable. A movie I definitely recommend. You?

Mikey: On a metaphorical level, I like how you qualified your unqualified 5. Me, I don’t think I will ever watch this movie again, and it’s not going to stick with me the way something that messes with your head like Triangle did, so that I always think about it and want to go back. But it is an unqualified 5 out of 5, because it is an amazing work of art that I really appreciated. Just a really powerful character study. With a man-bat. (Which reminds me, I kept having thoughts that it WAS a werebat and that Jesse and the mom would be coming back as werebats too).

Solee: As if there’s such a thing as “just” a really powerful character study! ;) We’ll have to look for The Monster 2: The Werebats for next year. Tonight, we watch Netherbeast Incorporated.
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