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Belittling Horror Excessively: Get Out10:10 PM -- Sat October 21, 2017

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

Get Out (2017)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“It's time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambience will give way to a nightmare.”
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Metacritic Rating: 84/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% critics, 87% audience
Solee: 5+/5
Mikey: 5/5
We paid to watch this on FandangoNow.

Mikey: So this viewing has been a long long time in the making. I don’t really need to ask why you wanted to see this, but perhaps you can discuss the topic for the benefit of our vast readership.

Solee: Obviously, this movie has gotten a lot of hype. I wanted to see it when I first heard about it, but it was such a perfect choice for our October tradition, that we resisted. Aside from all the good press (99% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics? Unheard of!), we’re also big fans of Key and Peele, so we knew that if it wasn’t scary, it would at least be scathingly funny. At least that’s what I was thinking. Anything you want to add?

Mikey: I remember the first time I heard of this movie and I checked out the trailer, and I spent the whole time just waiting to laugh. “Oh, this is gonna be the twist to a joke!” “Wait, now it’s coming…” It did not come. Though the actual movie has lots of humor in it, but it’s certainly not what I was expecting from Jordan Peele. Oh, and any time we ever mentioned this movie to anyone (or they brought it up), the room would drop into hushed tones. “Oh, you have to see it. Just go now.” The reverence!

Solee: I think the purpose of the movie was to create conversation around a topic that immediately hushes people: racial tension. Whether you are black or white, this movie is scary on a very personal level as well as on the level of the story of a man being body-snatched.

Mikey: Very personal to me! I obviously don’t know what it feels like to be in Chris’s shoes, but this movie perfectly captured the horror and agony of visiting other peoples’ family and being thrust into whatever weirdness they are in. You know, there are movies about killer snakes that people afraid of snakes just can’t watch. This is that movie for me - social anxiety made into a movie.

Solee: That’s interesting to hear because I didn’t think of it in terms of that at all. I’m much more comfortable meeting new people than you are, though. I struggled a lot in the first half with the blind optimism and unconscious privilege that Rose displayed. I know that I have many of the same blindspots she appeared to have and I often worry about what dumb things I’m saying without realizing how dumb they really are. Like how surprised she is that he’s worried her parents don’t know she’s bringing home a black man. “Oh, should I tell them?” She’s just oblivious, and I’m just aware enough to know that I have ignorances I don’t know about.

Mikey: That’s funny and appropriate that you identify with her while I absolutely identify with Chris. I have social anxiety, and that feeling he got from all the awkward racial tension, combined with wondering what was going on with the robotic people, combined with the basic awkwardness of a weird family (and a drunk, aggressive son), that all added up to just what it feels like to me to be in an ordinary social situation. It was painful and sort of cathartic to see it on screen.

Solee: I think it’s a sign of a well done movie when it can trigger individual revelations like that within a larger context. I thought it was hard to watch this movie with the conflicts I was seeing; I can’t imagine how much bigger and more difficult it must have been with the added stress you feel just dealing with groups of people. I guess that’s representative of how different it is for you and I to simply be in those kinds of situations.

Mikey: Well, and then no ignoring the real elephant in this room, that wasn’t the point of the movie at all. This was all about race, and that’s the source of the awkwardness and much of the horror. I think this is one of them Important Movies.

Solee: Agreed, and I’m honestly not all that surprised to see an Important Issue being well-received when presented within an informal box like a horror film. Peele did an excellent job of writing a difficult story in a way that is accessible to many. He got his point across without turning it into a lecture.

Mikey: What’s amazing is that this movie was such a massive hit, both critically and commercially. Despite the things we hear daily in the news, there is a wide audience out there ready to look at this stuff and consider other peoples’ perspectives. But enough about that, the real star of this movie is the fact that Rose told Chris “Don’t forget your cozy clothes”, which I immediately recognized as their equivalent to “comfy pants” (which is what we call sweatpants in this house), which I always make sure I bring anytime I’m going to stay over somewhere. Hmm, maybe that’s not the real star.

Solee: Cozy clothes! Otherwise known as clothes now that I rarely have to leave the house. I thought Allison Williams (Rose) did a really good job of being both of her roles. I came into the movie knowing that she was not what she initially seemed, and I’m a little sad about that. I wonder how long she would have kept me convinced that she was on Chris’s side, had I not had that spoiler.

Mikey: Well, that’s where I think she did too good of a job. There was no hint of sinister motives until she flipped. But on the other hand, she wouldn’t be able to do the job she does if she wasn’t very good at pretending to like people.

Solee: It definitely felt like she enjoyed her job as “Finder” for this family. Creepy. The part I never really got comfortable with was the grandparents. For the purpose of the story, it makes sense that they got their new bodies and then pretended to be the caretaker and maid … but I don’t believe that two people who feel entitled enough to steal someone else’s body when their own wore out would be able to play subservient as well as they did.

Mikey: Right, I feel like the movie worked really hard to play up the false notion that the victims were just Stepford People rather than inhabited bodies, and it did so too hard. Although now I just had the thought that Georgina might very well have been suffering from some Alzheimer’s or something… she was a bit scattered. And I kinda wanted to see Walter’s introduction scene again. It seemed creepy weird, but knowing he’s Rose’s grandpa (and a huge racist), it may actually work on that level - “get away from my granddaughter, but I can’t actually say that.”

Solee: All the scenes where Georgina was petting herself make more sense now. Granny is in there enjoying her new look. *shudder*

Mikey: And that brings me to my fundamental plot issue, which would unravel the whole point of the movie, but must be said: these people could’ve done so much better at what they were doing if they kidnapped white homeless people instead of well-to-do black people. Both on the “not get caught” angle, and for purposes of fitting their new body into their snooty community.

Solee: The thing is, the whole community is in on the “project”. And part of the really terrifying racism is that I don’t think they see themselves as racist AT ALL because they believe that black bodies are better. I think that’s the point of the reference to Jesse Owens’ win at the Olympics.

Mikey: Right, they did bring that up… the whole idea of black being in-fashion and whatnot made it more disturbing. I’m just thinking logistically. After all, they ended up getting caught because they took somebody who the heroes knew - wouldn’t happen with random homeless people!

Solee: But do you think these rich racists would see that? As far as they are concerned black people, poor people … anyone “below” them is essentially a material thing to be ignored or coveted according to their personal whims. That concern requires a level of humanizing that they weren’t capable of.

Mikey: That was a real part of the subtle insidiousness to the whole movie. On the surface, the party-goers all were perfectly reasonable, but underneath, they could never have done any of what they did if they didn’t completely believe that they were a superior race, and … I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s the same kind of subtle racism that creeps into modern America everywhere. Nothing overt like “you can’t come in here”, but an othering and just a deep-seated belief in superiority.

Solee: The unconscious belief that a black person who has been arrested must have done something wrong if they get shot but that a white person getting arrested has had their rights violated if the same things happens.

Mikey: Looters vs. salvagers.

Solee: Exactly. Single parents sacrificing for their children vs neglectful parents who can’t commit. Those kinds of value judgments are everywhere. Humans are judgmental by nature, and we love to draw those lines between Us and Them. I really like seeing entertainment like books or movies or songs that can bridge those divisions and create compassion in some way. Like you said … this is one of those Important Movies.

Mikey: You might say it can put white people’s heads in a black man’s body...

Solee: TOOO SOOON!

Mikey: But let me just say though… the ending is interesting. We got to see the original ending (with commentary) as well as the actual released ending. I thought personally that even the original ending didn’t go far enough (the original ending has cops arrive, and he goes to prison). Let’s be real: America, 2017, a black man is standing over a dead white girl, with another dead black man nearby (and a woman in a car, but the cops probably didn’t see that). Realistically, it’s no stretch to say he gets shot by the cops before he can submit to arrest. Harsh but not even unlikely in the real world.

Solee: I was having that same thought as he escaped. Each person he had to kill to get away (a perfectly normal thing in a horror movie) was one more body he’d have to try to explain. “They were trying to mind control me with science” wasn’t going to cut it.

Mikey: It’s something I think about in lots of horror movies that end with a sole survivor and police lights flashing. How are you going to explain it all? And in this case, with the perspective behind the movie, I really see no good way out. Although there is the evil science lab downstairs with a sawed-open head in it… that’s helpful.

Solee: The house burned down. No evidence.

Mikey: Not helpful! Hey, it’s the same ending as Intruders!

Solee: The ending is where I really realized my own privilege. I’ve never worried overly much about the survivors of horror films and how they were going to explain things. The cops come, they are saved. With this one, the cop car flashed its lights and I had a moment of panic, thinking that the neighborhood cops (who might have been recipients of a Coagula Procedure themselves for all we know) were about to shoot him. Thank God for Rod!

Mikey: And that’s where this movie goes a direction that is Non-Hollywood. Rod sort of became the star of the movie about ¾ of the way in (not for super long, but for a while). It was really unique, this bit comedy-relief character suddenly being the focus, because Chris was out of commission, and Rose turned out to be a badguy. I liked him.

Solee: I liked that it was a continuation of Chris’s inner demon. He lives with the regret of not going to look for his mother when she didn’t come home. She died, but he knows that there was a time when she could have been saved. Chris deals with this himself by going back for Georgina after she’s hit, but Rod really embodies the idea that it’s important to have someone looking for you. Rod doesn’t hesitate or deny the problem like Chris did. He gets to work finding his boy and as a result, he ends up saving him.

Mikey: What was funny was that Rod had the whole thing figured out about 2 sentences in from second-hand descriptions. Which made him seem like a crazy conspiracy theorist.

Solee: Yep. Rod was awesome. And one of the only TSA employees I’ve even liked.

Mikey: Ah, poor TSA.

Solee: I suspect we could continue talking about this movie for hours and hours, but maybe we should wrap this up? Are you ready for ratings?

Mikey: Yes, and I know where you are going with the rating, so I will surprise you a little. I thought this was not the amazing movie everybody had made it out to be! I really liked all the meaning behind it, and the subtle complexities employed to make it all come through, but in terms of the actual plot and how things worked out, it wasn’t anything amazing. Like just the big solutions to the problem, and the battle with the family, I think all of that could have been so much more clever, and had so many more twists.

So yeah, it’s a 5 out of 5, BUT not a 5+. Take that, establishment.

Solee: Okay. I’m going to really surprise you then … I give this movie a 2.

Mikey: WAHHHHAHHTTTT

Solee: Just kidding. It’s a 5+ all the way. It’s easily my favorite of the month and I can’t imagine we’re going to come across another in the next 10 days that changes that. It had the emotional and metaphorical depth that I thought was missing in The Monster and the basic horror story plot that Leaving D.C. couldn’t pull off. It was the best of both worlds and it’s going to be on my Must Watch recommendation list.

Mikey: I can approve that. Now I suspect we aren’t going to beat this, but we’re going to try anyway, starting tomorrow with The Ruins. I’ve read the book, now let’s see the movie!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Happy Death Day05:51 PM -- Fri October 20, 2017

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

Happy Death Day (2017)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer's identity.”
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Metacritic Rating: 57/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 68% critics, 71% audience
Solee: 3.5/5
Mikey: 4/5
We watched this in the theater.

Solee: We have seen yet ANOTHER October movie in the theater! Did you choose this one just because it was opening day?

Mikey: That’s pretty much it! I ordered a MoviePass about a month ago when that came around ($9.99 for as many movies as you want per month? Sure!), just to give it a try. They were massively backlogged, and my card just arrived a couple days ago. So I figured we needed to see a movie in the theater, and when I checked, there were no horror movies available, and this was the next one coming up. So here we are! Although I will say I belatedly remembered seeing the trailer for this and had actually been excited to see it, because it’s a fun concept: Groundhog’s Day serial killer.

Solee: Indeed. It was actually a lot like Groundhog’s Day with the repeating day, obviously, but also with her need to take a look at herself and deal with some emotional stuff she’s been stuffing away. What did you think of how they handled the basic mechanic of the movie: the time loop?

Mikey: I was a little disturbed when fairly early on, her friend says “wow, so you have unlimited chances” and they just went with that, without considering that she might only get 3 chances, or whatever. Why do you think you know how magic works? Dangerous conclusion. Of course, later I was happy when they addressed that by having this vague and inexplicable notion of her body suffering trauma each time she dies, that would presumably eventually kill her for good. So all in all, that was pretty fun for me. Are there other places this has been done besides Groundhog’s Day? I know there are… Well, of course TV Tropes has the ultimate answer list. How do you feel about that stuff?

Solee: Run, Lola, Run! I don’t remember much about that one, but I remember that I liked it. Anyway, I love when storytellers mess with time … except that so many people mess it up in super basic ways. I enjoyed it as a plot device in this movie, but I was super irritated by how sloppy they were with it. She ran across exactly the same things when she spent 10 minutes freaking out in Carter’s dorm room as when she bolted out of there right away. Nonsense. When I can suspend my logical thinking mind long enough, timey-wimey movies are some of my favorite.

I was actually really excited when I realized that they were going to have her suffer some consequences for all the repeated days, but then they totally failed to follow through. It was just disappointing.

Mikey: Pardon me, I was caught up in the TVTropes list. Man there’s a ton of these movies, and I’ve seen so many of them. I was also bothered by how her timing could vary and it didn’t seem to matter. That was just sloppy. But on the flip-side, what I really liked were the multiple ‘endings’, where she kept thinking she had it all worked out and had to go again. It was so absolutely expected that the one long, detailed day where she made up with her dad and did all the other just-right things surely had to be the last one, but it wasn’t. I feel like that was a really good subversion of expectation.

On the other hand, I can recall a certain person in the theater saying they thought they were too old for these kind of movies now. Perhaps that person could elaborate?

Solee: To be clear, that person meant “teenager/college cool kid gets retrospective” type movies. It’s just that so often even the enlightened, I’m-all-grown-up-now end of their arc leaves them in a place that just makes me sigh. For a perfect example: she finally realizes that she’s not a very good person and has some work to do to improve herself. The VERY FIRST THING she does is steal the sunglasses off the guy she’s walked past during a dozen repeats. He doesn’t know it’s a repeat! He can’t POSSIBLY get the “joke” or understand what’s happening beyond “Hey! That girl just stole my sunglasses right off my face!” I’m obviously growing old and stodgy.

Mikey: I have always been that. I call this her Ferris Bueller sequence, and the impression I really got from it (regardless of how ethical or good any of it was) was that it was really designed to hit you hard. Like it was a big “aww yeah!” moment of cool funtimes whee. But it really fell flat for me in that regard, which is where I get the idea that I too am too old. I totally understood how it was supposed to make me feel, but like you, I was more concerned that none of it was particularly good behavior, and it just didn’t have that ‘spark’ I needed to actually identify with her as being this amazing character (not like a great person, but really charming I guess is the word). Like later on when she pours the chocolate milk on the other girl. That’s a classic “bully comeuppance” scene, which is supposed to make you cheer, but it kinda just felt mean. Even though I would agree it’s generally appropriate comeuppance. It just didn’t have the spark!

Solee: Agreed. Actually, I had a big problem with how she handled that whole thing. I liked the tray full of fatty foods, but I think today’s youth have come a long way past dumping chocolate milk on a bully to get even. Bullying is such a prevalent thing and it’s talked about so much, that I wonder if young people would struggle to relate to that scene too. The good ones, that is. It was a bully getting even with a bully, not a good person standing up for someone being bullied. Does that make sense? Like you said, it totally missed the mark. What about the romance aspect? Did you buy the Tree/Carter relationship?

Mikey: That wasn’t bad really. It wasn’t like true love or anything, just a nice guy who did good things for her and obviously liked her, so she was like “hey, seems interesting.” I really did like the one true element of positive self-change she did (which was probably not believable at all, but it’s good Hollywood Magic): when she realized she had to kill herself to undo Carter’s death. On the other hand, it was actually really disturbing when she did it. I had kind of expected her to just do a bad job and let the badguy kill her.

Solee: I’ve been thinking about that, and I think the director was going for the shock value there. Again … it didn’t quite land where I wanted it to land.

Mikey: I think we are on the same page with this whole thing! I really liked it in so many ways, and it should’ve been just great, but it never quite landed with both feet. It all felt a little off, or a little weak.

Solee: I liked the mystery of not knowing who was trying to kill her. And I found the mask just staring at her, all the while knowing there was a person with normal, moving facial features underneath, very unsettling. I did NOT like the reveal, though. They could have sprinkled a couple of little clues and let us feel good about sorta figuring it out as it went along. But literally the only clue was the VERY on-the-nose shot of the cop in the hallway the first time she was in the hospital. Then they ignored the real bad guy completely until Tree saw something on the news and went “OH! I KNOW!” Lazy writing. I hate lazy writing.

Mikey: Okay wait! I caught the cop too, and then later on when she realized that killer was there, I was convinced that the killer was her dad. Meaning she knew he was a serial killer, and that was why she was ignoring his calls.

Solee: YEEESSSS!!!! I THOUGHT THAT TOOOOO!!!! WE HAVE GREAT MINDS!

Mikey: We sure do! I was so disappointed and confused when it turned out he was just some killer (who couldn’t possibly know it was her birthday). But they did fix that, and here is where I flex my great mind: when Tree was locking herself in her room one day, and sat down to eat the cupcake, and saw the creepy birthday card, I knew her roommate was the murderer. AND I knew the cupcake was poisoned! I was so scared when the serial killer showed up that they were dumping a perfectly good plot for random killer from nowhere. So so glad they fixed it.

Solee: Nuh-uh. HOW did you know? I totally didn’t clue into the cupcake thing until it was spelled out for me. *shameface*

Mikey: Totally. When she went to eat it and then got distracted I was like, oh snap. Plus the birthday card. I mean, it was all there. And the killer was somehow in her locked room, and messing with the remote. They did make it obvious, they just then covered it up with other things.

Solee: You clever boy. I did like that she thought she had it all worked out and couldn’t figure out why she’d looped again until she realized she’d died in her sleep. That was fun.

Mikey: Yeah, there was a lot of clever plot stuff in here. I think the only place they really fell down was in the human stuff. All her quippy little business when she was being Ferris Bueller was just not endearing at all.

Solee: To be completely honest … I think I liked her cupcake poisoning roommate a lot more than her. Maybe even after I knew she was a cupcake poisoning murderer.

Mikey: A MURDERER!!! I actually liked the girl who sat outside the sorority house listening to music the best.

Solee: The Japanese foreign exchange student? That was actually kinda funny. That poor girl just never knew what was happening. After the roommate landed on the sidewalk in front of her, she ran ACROSS her instead of away, though. That was weird.

Mikey: I totally noticed that too, it seemed odd. Perhaps it supports your foreign exchange theory (I thought she was just shy!).

Solee: So … anything else you want to cover before we move on to ratings?

Mikey: I just want to say there’s no way a school would make “The Babies” their team name. That would never go well. “What are you guys, a bunch of… oh right.” That’s my only remaining thought, given the woeful inability to take notes when you watch a movie in theaters. Anything more from you?

Solee: Just that it bugged me to NO END that she never fixed her lipstick even once through the whole movie. She just walked around with post-drinking half-lip lipstick on even after she looked in a mirror. That’s taking continuity TOO FAR.

Mikey: I’m sorry about that. I never noticed at all! I will throw my rating in now: a very fun convoluted series of twists, not scary in the slightest, with a lack of humanity, and a fair amount of comedy. A 4 out of 5. I really did have fun.

Solee: Ooh! This will be fun. I love it when I rate lower than you! I’m giving it a 3.5. I wanted to like it so much … and it clearly wanted to be liked, but it was trying too hard. It was funny, I had a good time, but I wouldn’t go on another date with this movie. It’s just too immature for me.

Mikey: That makes total sense. I will praise it further in this way: I think this is very much the movie Scream wishes it was. A far better take on very similar style and substance. But other people love Scream, while I think it’s dull and stupid.

Solee: Happy Death Day will probably go down in history as the greatest time loop horror movie ever made and we’re officially on record as “meh” about it. We’re so uncool.

Mikey: I’m not meh, I gave it a 4! It’s definitely the greatest time loop horror movie featuring a poison cupcake and a baby as a serial killer ever made. I’m sure our next movie will be better, though. Er, what is it?

Solee: I think it might be time for Get Out (2017).
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Haunted Mansion01:55 PM -- Thu October 19, 2017

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

Haunted Mansion (2015)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“A group of young people on retreat in a remote house find themselves haunted by a restless spirit.”
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, N/A audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 3.5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So let’s hear it… why did Haunted Mansion (not starring Eddie Murphy) call to you?

Solee: It was time for a foreign film! There’s a new level of fear that comes from watching foreign horror for me. I think it’s because it’s not playing to the same old tropes and traditions as horror done by American filmmakers. There’s a different collective cultural background at work--one I’m not familiar with--and that makes everything a little less expected. It raises the anxiety level.

Mikey: I always find it interesting to try out foreign movies. This is the first Filipino movie we’ve done in all of BHE history (that I can recall, anyway). The most interesting, and enjoyable, thing about it that I can recall is how they constantly switch between Filipino and English. That never stopped being fun for me.

Solee: Not knowing enough about the Filipino language and culture, I don’t know if that’s common or if that was supposed to provide us with information of some kind. I did notice that the “mean girls” spoke a lot more English than the others.

Mikey: Yes, a clear sign of evil. And mean girls brings me to the gist of the movie: This was a high school teen romance drama, which happened to have a ghost (or three) nearby. Am I right!?

Solee: Yes! It wasn’t until very close to the end that I realized this was one of those movies with a big teenaged cast that gets picked off one by one. I was so distracted by all the unfamiliar bits that I missed that it was exactly like all the stupid teen horror movies we always laugh at. Turns out I like it a lot better when it’s not stupid American teens.

Mikey: Well, I noticed that thing going on, but it was a little different because it was so focused on the teen drama. They weren’t just bodies for the ghost to eat, the movie was much more concerned with who was going to end up with who (before they died and solved that question).

Solee: Little Ella was quite the popular girl. She was very much written as the archetypal “perfect girl”. She was modest and pretty and kind. She had no flaws, aside from her ability to see ghosts, which was really a good thing she just hadn’t learned to appreciate yet. We’ve moved away from that kind of pure character in American storytelling. We like our heroes to be flawed like the mother in The Monster.

Mikey: Yeah… I actually do. The Mary Sue character is not the most creative concept. I liked her, but she was dumb. I liked her friend Faye more, with her *slow clap*. You seemed to enjoy her as well. What’d you think about the various players in our angsty drama?

Solee: There were quite a few typical teen drama horror characters I recognized. Megan and her friends were the mean girls, as we already mentioned. Faye was the quirky gal-pal. I did like her a lot. She was sarcastic in a humorous way. The two boys who were in love with Ella fit the popular boy and nerdy boy roles nicely. Even the peripheral characters filled roles with the player and the two girls who found out they were being played. It is funny to see that teenagers are teenagers regardless of culture to a great extent.

Mikey: There was a lot of legit-funny stuff in here. Not so much that it’s a comedy, but I suppose much like the American equivalent movie - characters being funny before they get murdered. But again, mostly coming from Faye.

Solee: I really wonder how much of this movie was supposed to be funny and how much was accidental. Horror movies are notorious for that and not understanding the traditions of a culture’s humor and horror leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. What if this is the Filipino equivalent of the Scream movies? Meant to be ridiculous.

Mikey: That’s a good theory. Because the part of the movie that was not so impressive was the ghosts. Especially the evil ghost who literally laughed constantly. She could do nothing except laugh. I thought that was really stupid, but if it was meant as a satire on regular horror instead of just something dumb, it’s pretty good. The nuances of foreign films!

Solee: I thought the special effects for the ghosts were pretty good, though. They were elaborate and didn’t have the cheesy look of cheap CGI. It all looked very professional. Same with the setting of the movie. I wanted to just wander around in this mansion looking at all the details.

Mikey: I did like the ghost of the guy who had been burned alive, all aglow with cinders. That was cool. But speaking of the mansion, you lead to my big question: what on Earth was the point of this “retreat”? It was neither fun nor educational. So why were they doing a field trip to this place? It was like “here’s an opportunity for you all to … sit around and be ordered to do stuff, but not school stuff.” Sign me up!

Solee: I got the sense that it was a parochial school of some kind. They were on a self-improvement retreat. The “Father” kept asking them to spend time with their own thoughts and list their blessings and atone for past wrongs. That reminds me of another aspect that stood out as different from the horror films we normally watch: there was a real sense that religious faith could truly protect them. The ghosts were definitely stopped in their tracks by real faith. That pretty much only shows up in possession movies in America and even then it’s often subverted to say that faith doesn’t work.

Mikey: Definitely a Catholic school. I guess it was a religious trip, which the kids did not seem to into. I did notice the crosses and such being effective, although not effective enough, it turns out. I wonder if that was just vague “Jesus Vs. Ghosts” mumbo-jumbo, or if it’s the actual mythology of ghosts in the Philippines. Definitely a more religious country than ours though, so it makes sense for that to be a background to the whole thing.

Solee: That’s what I thought.

Mikey: Though crosses or no crosses, I found it frustrating that the ghost could kill anybody in two seconds, except Ella, who she had to chase for hours and didn’t seem to even have the strength to hold her in place when she did get her claws on her. That was pure Protagonist Magic.

Solee: And I think there’s maybe a different approach to the scary vs plot aspect. There was a whole first scene that clearly demonstrated the scary, scary ghosts but told us NOTHING about who they were and had nothing to do with main plot OR the background plot as far as I could tell. Just an opportunity for them to SLAM us with ghosts right off the bat. And then at the end we had what felt like a very complete resolution followed by a whole lot of chasing and scariness again. It felt intentional and formulaic, but not the formula I’m used to.

Mikey: Oh I saw formula I am used to… we had the final ‘twist’ where you know the ghost isn’t really dead (not the whole final chase, but just the eyes at the end). So classic horror, and never makes any sense. So dumb. But I am very happy with this movie for actually ending instead of cutting off mid-sentence like certain movies. The bit at the beginning though… I guess it was just the usual setup scene: here is the haunted house, it is scary, look for it later, we’ll be back! Always kind of forced. I did like the actual twist-of-sorts, where we discover the rape story is not true, and the ghost has a very specific goal of keeping word from getting out. That is a ghost I like - motivation and logic.

Solee: I liked that reveal as well, but I had a bit of an issue with how it actually changed the story. In the beginning, we were told that Veronica was raped and became pregnant. She hung herself in shame and the people of the mansion killed Jaime in retribution. Later, once it’s revealed that Jaime didn’t rape her, that Jaime and Veronica were actually in love, the order gets changed. Veronica turns up pregnant, Amara lies about it and causes the people of the mansion to kill Jaime, and then Veronica hangs herself out of sorrow. You can’t have it both ways!

Mikey: I can see that, but on the other hand, it’s an old story. The details could be muddled, and what we thought was true was just off a bit.

Solee: Valid point.

Mikey: I did take issue with Dona Amara’s theory that her sister needed to marry somebody high-falutin’ in order to enrich/ennoble her family. If she’s so into all that nobility, then she should marry some prince. I mean, she’d like it! That was her whole thing. She didn’t even have any real interest in the poolboy. She would’ve gotten along great with Megan.

But hey, we need to get going to our next engagement (to be explained in a moment)... so would you like to rate this movie now?

Solee: I don’t know if it’s the actual movie itself or seeing it through the filter of another culture, but I enjoyed this movie a lot. It kept me very engaged and entertained. I spent a lot of time wishing I could spend a month living in that house (if it weren’t haunted). It seems like a good place to get some interesting writing done. So I’m going to give it a 4.

Mikey: It’s interesting that you liked the mansion so much. I didn’t even really register it, it was just the location. I’d much rather go live in the house that the guy Leaved D.C. for (again, if it weren’t haunted). As for the movie, I really felt the teen drama here. The ghost business felt almost tangential (less so toward the end, of course, as gummy tongues began to be ripped out). So with that not being my preferred area of interest, yet enjoying Buffyesque quips and such, it’s not my favorite. But it was fun nonetheless. So I will go a little lower with a 3.5 from me.

Solee: Ugh. Gummy tongues. Whhhhyyyyyy?

Mikey: And with the ratings dished out, we shall dash out to the theater once again to witness another movie on its opening day! That’s twice in one year, which is a BHE record! Join us tomorrow when we discuss our opinions of Happy Death Day.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Leaving D.C.07:33 PM -- Wed October 18, 2017

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

Leaving D.C. (2012)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“After 20 years of living in Washington, D.C., Mark Klein seeks much-needed solace by moving to the remote wilds of West Virginia.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 80% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 2.5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Solee: I don’t have to ask why you chose this movie. I KNOW what you were looking for! Was there more to it than the “found footage” element?

Mikey: There was one other thing - a ghost! I looked up the “13 best found footage movies on Netflix”. And this movie was not one of them (in part because it’s not on Netflix). But in the comments, someone mentioned it and I was surprised to see its high rating on IMDB. And here’s a secret: one of my absolute favorite found footage movies is Resolution - I even made you watch it with me after I reviewed it in 2013. And this sounded similar, with the story of a guy moving out into the woods to be alone before encountering weird things. It’s quite different, however.

Solee: So the big question with found footage movies is how do they handle the motivation behind creating the footage. This movie has the main character making video blogs to share with his OCD support group buddies back in DC. What did you think of that angle?

Mikey: It’s kind of dumb, I suppose, but I didn’t even give it a moment’s thought. I just bought in from the first moment and never even considered the issue. Which is certainly unique in found footage. One thing that completely sold this movie was the performance. The main character is unbelievably real, and not in the usual way a movie character can be. His behavior is really blah and dull, and he makes mistakes, and points out things that aren’t worth talking about, and all kinds of things that just show he is a truly real person. This is indistinguishable from real video footage. I know any number of people who could be the guy in this movie. It’s oscar-worthy how much this guy managed to be uninteresting!

Solee: There was an almost ignored secondary story in this found footage that I found more unsettling than the largely unsatisfying ghost story here. Mark sends some private videos to another support group member named Claire. At first it seems like they are good buds or maybe even romantically entangled. Then she arrives for her visit and it becomes VERY clear that this guy is delusional about the nature of their relationship. As a woman, I had a very visceral reaction to the situation this woman was in. Between his creepy “jokes” when she was actually in the house and his explosive reaction to finding out she was in a romantic relationship with someone else … there was a very real-world terror creating an undercurrent to the supernatural story. IN FACT. It’s just hitting me now that they put way more care and attention into weaving that story together than they did with the surface story. Interesting.

Mikey: I keep trying to respond to what you’re saying but I have to stop myself. I can’t say another word until I address the Gigantasaur in the room. This movie is one hour and sixteen minutes long. That’s real short. Which means there’s no excuse for the fact that it cuts off abruptly right when things really get going. There is no ending, there is no Resolution, every single thing is completely left hanging. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think it’s very important that our readers know this aspect of it, because once the movie’s over, it’s all we can really think about.

Solee: Yes. That is a crazy and noteworthy thing. And I don’t even know what to say about it because I do NOT understand why it happened.

Mikey: So with that said, I was noticing how that story is also completely left hanging. They really set up a conflict there, and some real worries about how he was going to act in the future. In fact, the threat of the ghost leading to him getting a gun, combined with his rage at (what is quite possibly not) a new romantic relationship for her, can easily come together into a big finish. You have to wonder if they ran out of money, or lost some footage, or what. We have these huge hanging threads of plot, all set to go somewhere… and nothing. And by the way, I loved how he had a completely different face in the private videos than the public ones. That’s scary too. On the one hand I was almost annoyed at how he seemed so mildly perturbed by this nightly haunting, but it turns out he was actually cracking up. He was just faking for the camera, as you find out when you see the private video.

Solee: WAIT. Are you saying he never believed the haunting aspect at all? That it was all for the benefit of his DC friends? That’s how he was luring them out to visit him … by making them worry about his safety and/or sanity??

Mikey: Oh no no no. I thought the ghost was real. I just felt like he didn’t have much reaction to it (which again was very realistic, I thought, instead of the frantic screaming). But he was cracking up in the private video. I really like your idea much better. Turn this whole thing around and it really really starts to get weird. He could totally have made those strangely-timed pictures, he showed us evidence he had the tools and probably the skills to do so.

Solee: Having finally clued into the fact that this was a movie about toxic masculinity disguised as a ghost movie, the ending makes a lot more sense. Just like you said … the real terror is not knowing how all these elements are going to come together. We didn’t meet Claire for very long, but what we did see from her is that she’s tried to be kind to this guy who refuses to acknowledge the social cues she’s putting out quite strongly. I legit almost want to watch it again with this idea in mind to see how things look different through this lens.

Mikey: I would just end up mad when it didn’t end again. But yeah, it is interesting to put it together. The relationship issues otherwise are such a small part of the movie, maybe 5 minutes or so of the runtime, and they just kind of vanish. The video where he flips out about her holding hands with a guy really kind of flips the movie on its head. He’s creepy, but then he gets aggressive and nasty. And then of course back to the public videos where he is calm and collected (but also drinking himself into a stupor). I’m so curious what the intent is now. Surely they didn’t intend to end where they did though, right? They wouldn’t do that to me.

Solee: I think it was a very conscious decision to end like that. I don’t know what the reasoning behind that decision was, but it was there. The camera goes floating up at a point when we supposedly know that he’s not in the room, so it would seem to be confirmation that there IS a ghost. I was honestly too focused on the fact that there was a drunk guy whose meds weren’t working running around in the dark with a gun. That’s a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

Mikey: And then that gets into the gun control issue. Not overtly addressed in the movie, but wow, what an indirect argument for gun control. He is scared there’s a ghost, so he goes and buys a gun (no waiting period!), and then he doesn’t really use the gun… until he gets drunk, at which point he thinks it’s a great idea to run into the woods and shoot wildly. Yep, much safer now. As is the world.

Solee: If only ALL the people were armed at ALL the times, we’d have world peace. [/soapbox]

Mikey: (just for clarity that was a /sarcastic /soapbox, since some insane people actually make that argument)

Solee: Yes. Good to clarify. It’s a mad, mad world. *sigh* SO …

Mikey: So I want to make sure to get in here a moment to say the reason I was so upset that it ended abruptly (and far too soon) is that I was absolutely invested in this movie. It was fascinating and compelling. Which is funny, because if you tried to describe it, it’d be totally boring. About 25% of the movie consists of looking at a screen of sound-editing software as he scrolls through a sound file looking for peaks and then pointing out “Nope, that’s just a fox”. But in practice, it’s so incredibly real and banal in a way that just makes it suck you right in. This is your uncle sharing his potential ghost story with you. Your creepy uncle, it turns out. So this movie was both boring and fascinating. It was magical.

Solee: I told you this during the movie, but listening to the sound files with him was the most anxious and jumpy I’ve felt all month. It’s unexplainable because it shouldn’t have been scary at all … but when he heard that chop-chop and the voice … yeah, I was scared. I think I was completely immersed in it as if *I* had been the one to make that recording. As if this were *my* backyard we were listening to. I’m not sure how they managed to do it, but it was GOOD.

Mikey: Yes, that reality was so overwhelming. Kind of like watching Bob Ross paint, in a way. I don’t know why I made that analogy, but it’s accurate. If this movie had wrapped up the story in even a mildly clever way, 5/5 all the way. Speaking of clever, when he started getting into the later audio, and how it synced up time-wise with earlier audio, I was so convinced he was going to build up an audio track piece by piece, out of order, to form the events of a past night. That could’ve been amazing. Instead that kinda went nowhere like so much else.

Solee: OOOH! That would have been cool. They really had a nice backstory to play with but they completely abandoned it. Same with the police officer who didn’t care about the stolen camera. There were things that could have been done there to ramp up tension and what-not. Instead he was just a crappy cop. I want to address the fact that City Folk always seem to think of the country as peaceful and quiet. Not true! It’s just noisy in a different way.

Mikey: A better way. Which leads me to an important fact about us: We lived for 7(?) years in Anza, California. Dead middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but meth labs, coyotes, and high desert scrub brush. That is a key part of why this movie was so effective for us. I identified so much with being all alone in the middle of nowhere, wondering if somebody was sneaking into my yard and doing something, and knowing there was really nothing I could do if they did (I can call the cops, but how long will they take?). This hit very close to home. I’ve had nights where I was woken by a weird noise and laid awake wondering what it could be, all bad thoughts. In fact, the screaming animal noise he didn’t recognize in the movie reminded me of the horrible sound of a rabbit screaming as one of our dogs killed it. We found that out the next morning when our garage door was literally splattered with blood. Speaking of horror.

Solee: I’m amused by the fact that you started that paragraph by saying it was better than living in the city. I agree with you … I’m just not sure you’re selling it to the masses at this point. I definitely prefer the disruption of rabbits and foxes and crows at 6am over constant traffic and the chaotic energy of unhappy people around me all the time.

Mikey: Yes, the weird screams aren’t the better noise. The crickets and stuff that made his “silence” register very loud on his audio file are the good noise of the wilderness.

Solee: Which goes back to my original point that those are sounds that City Folk find a little unsettling when they land in the country for the first time. The sounds we find comforting and soothing are eerie if you’ve always lived where people noises cover them up. I guess I’m ready to rate if you are.

Mikey: I have one thing to say, but I think it’s part of my rating comments, so you rate first today!

Solee: Ok … well … ugh. This one is HARD. It was so good at the deeper stuff that most movies fail. But it completely dropped the ball with the surface story, which ended up distracting significantly from the important bits. I really want to give it a 5, but I’m going to give it a 4. That ending, man. Not cool. Not at barely over an hour. They had time to flesh things out and they didn’t. Sad.

Mikey: Okay. What I want to add is that there were a lot of questions they brought up as the movie went along, and left completely hanging by the non-ending: the sounds, the flute, the girl and her father, the picture of the cat with the note, the skull (obviously the same cat…), and others I’m forgetting. These are clues which should’ve come to fruition in some way. Without a resolution, those are just junk. And that, in the end, crushes my rating of this movie. I think this is an absolutely amazing first hour of a movie, it just needed the other hour to wrap it up. Tie together the sexual harassment and the ghost. All the ghostly clues. Make a story, not just random footage. That, in the end, drags this easy 5 all the way down… to a 2.5.

Solee: OOHHHH, SNAP.

Mikey: It’s just not worth watching knowing that you will be left frustrated.

Solee: Wow. I see what you’re saying. Not disagreeing, but kinda shocked! I like it when you surprise me with your ratings! I feel a little like I was giving them too much leeway, but I don’t think I feel quite as betrayed as you.

Mikey: Well, I can see your side. If we were having fun for the whole runtime right up until the power went out or whatever it is happened to cut it short, then it’s good. But I am left with the sour note of unresolved issues. And that stain will never be cleaned from my soul. I will die not knowing whether he got decapitated with an axe or not. Punishment is warranted.

Solee: Ah … there’s the difference. I’ve already decided that the ghost got him and gave him his comeuppance. Claire is safe with her new beau and that’s all I’m really worried about.

Mikey: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CAT!?!?! Let’s just watch another movie.

Solee: Okay. How about Haunted Mansion (2015, not the Disney movie)?

Mikey: It better have an ending.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Ghosts of Darkness06:38 PM -- Tue October 17, 2017

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

Ghosts of Darkness (2017)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“Two paranormal investigators are unexpectedly thrown together in the hope of solving a 100 year mystery.”
IMDB Rating: 4.7/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, N/A audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 1.5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So, we had a whole discussion before picking our movie. Would you like to explain how we ended up in the Darkness with Ghosts?

Solee: We try to have a good balance of different kinds of movies, even though I’d watch nothing but psychological thrillers if it were up to me. And we’ve had a dearth of ghost movies so far this year. You like your ghost stories! Unfortunately for you, I was wrong about this being a ghost story.

Mikey: Wait, you were? Oh I think I see what you mean. It counts.

Solee: Jonathan very clearly schools us on the difference between ghosts and demons. And he is adamant that this is a demon.

Mikey: He surely is. And to be fair, you can’t normally shoot or stab a ghost. I notice the movie poster for this one is trying to make us feel like it’s some action thing where our manly hero Jack goes around shooting ghosts in the face. It did not turn out quite that way in practice.

Solee: There’s not a lot of truth in advertising on that poster. We still haven’t gotten a true ghost story, but as far as demon possessions go, this wasn’t half bad. It was like if the Odd Couple had lived in a haunted house. I’d watch it.

Mikey: Well, to be fair, we just watched Neverlake, which was a true ghost story. But WHOA we have some problems we need to address. This movie wasn’t half bad? Which half were you watching?!

Solee: I was watching the movie with the two mismatched co-workers who had to face wacky hijinx when someone accidentally loosed a demon into their workspace! Just kidding. I know it was dumb, but I kinda liked it. I think it was Jonathan that saved it for me, honestly. He was like if Rob Schneider and Johnny Depp had a love-child. He amused me. And he was good at what he did.

Mikey: Rob Schneider+Johnny Depp is an amazing example of the term “half-bad”! I agree with that though. The movie was more unintentionally funny than intentionally, but there were intentional funnies in there, and it was pretty much all on him. I think had they aimed at comedy instead, and dumped the wet blanket (Jack), they probably would’ve had something. The movie opens feeling like Clue, with The Butler giving them their task in stuffy form, and they could’ve just rolled with that into the hijinx we were promised.

Solee: Alas that isn’t what happened. What we got instead was a demon that killed everyone who tried to live in the house within three days. So our intrepid ghost hunters had to stay in the house for three days to prove that it wasn’t haunted. Which is dumb because you can’t prove a negative.

Mikey: Well, they could’ve proved it’s possible to live more than 3 days, at least. Not sure how great that would make the house, though. This movie was made for almost no money (IMDB says 35,000 £), and it does show. There were parts where I found myself wondering if the bad dialogue would’ve sounded fine if it was just being filmed in a quality way, with good lighting and all that. Maybe some background music. But some of it was truly bad writing, as well. I also read that they had only 3 weeks to shoot the movie, and a month total including the casting and planning. I think I can see that.

Solee: With that information, I’m actually pretty impressed at what they got. They must have spent most of their budget on special effects. And fake blood.

Mikey: It’s true, when you think about that lame CGI demon we saw, that probably cost them a significant portion, along with all the makeup effects and all. I guess these actors didn’t cost a lot. This was wow. I’m not sure what to say. So many cheesy crazy things. I like when Jonathan found a train set in one room and said “Wow, these people must have been loaded!”

Solee: I liked when Jack fell in the pool! I also liked how the demon would show up in mirrors or in the background behind a single headshot. It was fun to watch for it.

Mikey: I’m always in favor of things to spot in the background. I did have a Deep Thought in my notes: I find that bad movies go overboard with the ghosts. In this movie, they’d see whole people running around, and blood on the walls, and all kinds of things, one right after the other. While a good movie might let a single door creaking open be all the ‘ghost’ you see for 20 minutes. They just think more is going to be better, when really it just makes it not so supernatural. I did note that it felt like this movie was written by a 14-year old. Especially when they decided to shoot ghosts in the face. And had hair metal play during the credits.

Solee: I get that they weren’t actual ghosts, but it felt weird to me that they were fighting them by shooting them and stabbing them. I can’t think of many other movies where a demon can be defeated or even injured by purely physical means. For a minute I thought that it had to do with how the people had originally died (you know, they were stabbed to death, so the demon was susceptible to stabbing in that form) but that wasn’t the case. It just felt strange.

Mikey: It didn’t appear to be the case, but it sure would’ve been way more quality if it were. But then we’d also need a whole portion of the movie dedicated to learning that and then beating them back the right way. That is way smarter than this movie ever even tries to be. Oh, a good one: The phone rings, Jonathan picks it up, and then looks puzzled. “There’s no dial tone,” he says. Because that’s not how phones work! The stupid demon had to call back just because they didn’t understand how the phone worked the first time.

Solee: To be fair … it’s been a long time since rotary phones where a thing. Maybe they just forgot. It was a little funny that Jonathan answered, and handed it off to Jack saying, “It’s your wife.” Then, only after Jack has a conversation with her, Jack tells him that she’s been dead for several years. And Jonathan totally took it in stride. I dunno … I thought it was funny. YMMV. The woman who played Jack’s wife did a good job with her role. It couldn’t have been comfortable to sit in a bathtub covered with red goo for all those scenes.

Mikey: That was funny. I really wonder if Paul Flannery (Jonathan) thought he was doing a comedy. He actually was good at that. But he was doing very broad comedy, which was very much at odds with the mopey ghost business and Jack’s terrible overwrought trauma. I just have to imagine that if they had just swung 30 degrees toward the comedy side, they could’ve come out with the next Clerks. Swing and a miss. Jack even kind of reminds me of Dante.

Solee: That’s a fun idea. But we have to rate the movie they actually made, not the movie they could have made. Where does this one fall on a scale of 1-5 for you?

Mikey: Oh boy. I can’t deny there was fun to be had. But this was bad bad. Let’s throw it down with a 1.5. I don’t want to completely trash it, but I have to recognize that it was so badly done. What do you think?

Solee: I think I have to give it a 2. It wasn’t good, but it was fun, and I like fun! This would be a great Mystery Science Theater movie, don’t you think?

Mikey: I know Rifftrax does a lot of not-so-old movies like this. I would watch it for sure. Just as a tip to our readers, there are a whole bunch of old movies with the Rifftrax track overlaid on them available on Amazon Prime. Enjoy! As we will go ahead and enjoy our next movie tomorrow, Leaving D.C.!
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