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What's going on at Hamumu?11:07 PM -- Thu November 2, 2017


That's what's going on! Robot Wants It All is a PC game which begins as a compilation of all the previous Robot Wants games. Since Flash has died, these games are getting harder and harder for people to access, so I thought it would be a good project to compile them together into a format that'll last a while (hopefully...). And it means you can play them with a gamepad, which I can already tell you makes them so much better!

Of course, in addition to the old games (which you can still play on our site, provided your browser allows Flash to run!), we have plenty of other content to make it worth your while. Exactly what new content is coming is not entirely set in stone yet, and we're gonna keep that info under our yerf-hats for now. Traditionally I tend to add a lot more junk to games than they need, so you can expect more of that. One thing I can say is that obviously Robot will be going on an adventure to collect something new. He does, after all, want it all.

This project is being programmed by Anthony Salter, an old indie pal. I am doing the design and the art. It'll take a while, because we're doing a lot more than just porting the games, but I'll be sure to keep you all updated as we move along. But I might keep some things for a surprise, because, well, I'm Hamumu.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: 2017 Wrap-Up05:20 PM -- Wed November 1, 2017

Mikey: Well, it looks like we have now watched 31 horror movies. Actually 29 horror movies, one comedy (Netherbeast Incorporated), and one thriller (Stonehearst Asylum), by my subjective calculations. We have each awarded six five-star ratings (counting 5+ as a 5). So I guess the obvious first question is: What was the best movie of them all?

Solee: Wow. We’re just diving right in, huh? Okay … I am having a very hard time choosing. This is so different from last year, when I had a very clear-cut favorite. The Monster is high on my list. The acting was SUPERB in that. But I remember that could have had a stronger punch.

Mikey: I am surprised to hear The Monster get mentioned before Get Out from you! For me, the two of them fit a similar mold. I really loved what they were doing underneath - the meaning and the production itself, while the actual plot in both movies was nothing special, no big twists, just kind of a threat that the characters face and defeat (to varying degrees).

Solee: I’m getting to Get Out! Patience, grasshopper! (Although I agree with your assessment.) I legit can’t decide which is my favorite out of Get Out, Under the Shadow, and Train to Busan. I love them all for so many reasons. Primarily, they all had great stories that were told with skill. Maybe I need to hear what you have to say while I think about it. Which was YOUR favorite?

Mikey: I am finding myself in trouble as well. Maybe there doesn’t have to be one favorite. Train To Busan was really really fun, moreso than the others because it was just that: a fun movie. The others had all kinds of deep stuff going on. Looks like we are ignoring the other movie that actually earned a “5+” (Acting’s Highest Honor) from us: The Babadook. That might be my favorite. I don’t know though, to watch it again would entail hearing that screeching kid again, and that really puts a damper on it.

Solee: Yeah … I can see that I gave it a 5, but I don’t feel it still sitting on my heart the way the ones I’ve mentioned are. Those movies made a lasting impression. I thought The Babadook did … but it seems it didn’t last as long. I really liked that Get Out, Under the Shadow, and Train to Busan all had a level of “importance” to their story. They are addressing real issues through the medium of horror.

Mikey: BA-BA-DOOK dook dook! The allegorical depression film!? Seems like a real issue to me. I think it did such an amazing job of talking about the issue.

Solee: Ugh. You’re right. I can’t have FOUR favorites, can I??? We watched too many high quality movies this month!!

Mikey: I think we screwed up pretty badly. But since nobody wants to just hear us agonizing, I guess we can close out this segment by just telling people the movies they need to see: The Monster, The Babadook, Get Out, Under The Shadow, and Train To Busan.

Solee: Yep. How about you tell us some of the stats you gathered this month? What did we watch? How?

Mikey: I am SO full of stats you should stop me when you hear something interesting to discuss. We watched movies from the average year of 2010.7, which averaged 95.71 minutes in length, and on average I rated them 3.11, while you rated them 3.35 (so generous!).

Solee: Last year, I had a slightly higher average rating, too. I’m clearly just nicer than you.

Mikey: Yep. Fifteen of the movies were rated R, five were rated PG-13, and eleven were not rated. We do watch a lot of unknown stuff!

Solee: The unrated stuff … is that the lower quality and indie stuff?

Mikey: Definitely less well-known… However, Train To Busan is one of the unrated ones, and it’s not even indie. I guess just not released in US theaters.

Solee: So is Babadook!

Mikey: I kinda wonder if some of them are just oversights, but IMDB is usually quite accurate. Also of note, back to being nice, is that we are somewhat nicer than the critics and other human beings: our combined average rating is 18.71% higher than the critics, and 13.41% higher than the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings for these movies. I always attribute that to the fact that we judge them as horror movies though, and not just as general movies.

Solee: That’s a lot of data, Mikey! One of the things you track all month are tags like “witch” or “pregnant” or “insane”. I know that we worked hard to spread our choices out among different tags. Are there any that we hit last year but didn’t hit this year?

Mikey: Well, we had a different set of foreign films - this year, we had two Aussie movies, and one each of Italian, Filipino, Iranian, Korean, and British. Other than that, I tried to make sure we found stuff from all the same categories, but we failed to discover a first-person movie (two of those last year! The only two I’ve ever seen!), a courtroom drama (quite rare in horror…), and a musical (sad face). The other big difference is that last year it felt like just about every movie made the female protagonist pregnant to up the danger, and this year we only had one movie - Train To Busan - where pregnancy was any real factor at all.

Solee: I see our most common tag was ghost (7), followed by serial killer (6) and found footage (5). There were significantly more ghost (12) and driven insane by ghosts (11) movies last year. Do you think we avoided them this year or were there fewer to choose from?

Mikey: There were quite a few movies this year that I couldn’t quite tag the “monster type” for. The Ruins is about evil plants, Get Out is just … I don’t know, bad doctors? And others. I do think it was a very different batch of movies. Last year was your typical bunch of haunted houses, and we had very little of that this year (I’m gonna guess about 7!). This year I got to tag two movies’ villains as “disease” (Cabin Fever and The Thaw), which is a new category (even if The Thaw was really bugs). It’s not an exact science.

Solee: It certainly gives us an interesting perspective on our viewing habits though.

Mikey: One habit we developed this year was watching Amazon Prime movies. It was our biggest source of movies - Twelve of them were on there (second place was Netflix with seven). And we watched 2 movies in the theaters this year, both of them their opening day! That would be It and Happy Death Day. Which incidentally makes Happy Death Day our most recently released movie, while Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the oldest, and also happens to be my age!

Solee: I notice we paid (beyond our regular subscription fees) for seven movies this year, compared to nine last year. We’re cheap! If we can’t get it for free, we tend to skip it. Luckily, there are a plethora of free horror movies to access.

Mikey: Plethora hardly begins to describe it! All the streaming services are just buried in cheap, terrible, horror movies. I want to drink them all in. So, beyond pointless numbers, are there are any deep insights we’ve gained with these movies? How have we grown as people after 31 days of enforced entertainment?

Solee: I want to celebrate movies as a form of cultural understanding. I mentioned this in one of our reviews, but I think that watching horror is an interesting way to look into a culture on a deeper level. Our fears are based on things we learn from the moment of our first breath. I appreciate horror as a way of learning about other cultures and gauging my own understanding. Like how they say you know you understand a language fluently when you can make/understand jokes. Not that I am saying I understand the Filipino or Australian cultures … but I got some insight into what I don’t know about those cultures through the movies. Or something deep like that.

Mikey: I think there are some things we saw that were unique to foreign cultures. The Filipino movie (Haunted Mansion) really showed off the Catholicism that’s such a part of their culture. The Iranian movie (Under The Shadow) was all about the women’s issues in Iran. The Korean movie (Train To Busan) was heavily focused on issues of workaholism that I’ve heard about from there before. And the Aussie movies? 95% kangaroos.

Solee: I’m also reminded of how we discussed the social commentary in the horror movies last year. This year we definitely saw more of that with the allegorical studies of depression (Babadook), single parenting (Train to Busan, The Monster), people with disabilities (Disappointments Room), mental health issues (Stonehearst Asylum, Split), and, of course, racism (Get Out).

Mikey: I feel like we did get a lot more depth than I am familiar with seeing in the horror genre! All those messages and depth instead of kids getting stabbed with machetes. It’s weird. I guess that’s what comes of looking up too many “best horror movies” lists. Turns out that’s what makes them good. In fact, we probably only avoided the deep stuff when we skipped the lists and just picked movies based on their cover art. Which did lead to some garbage (Mark of the Witch).

Solee: Ugh. That’s how we marked off the “score of zero” box! Anyway, I’m sure we’ll do more horror movies next year. Do you think we should go for high-brow informative horror or get back into the cheesy monsters?

Mikey: You know, I’m not sure what the right solution is. But I will say what we did this year felt pretty good. We got a nice mix of crap and quality (overall, our rating average was only about 2% higher than last year), and we honestly got surprised on the regular by incredible movies. I definitely don’t mind that experience! I think I’ll be back to something similar next year. Why not? I’m always up to have my mind blown!

Solee: I just realized what we haven’t done much of that I want to work into the rotation next year: old classics! I want to dig further back into the roots of horror and explore some of the originals! We did that a little with Chainsaw Massacre this year, but I want to go back to the 50s and see what they thought was scary then!

Mikey: Hoo boy. I’m always hesitant to do that without 2 robots and a man in a jumpsuit sitting in silhouette in front of the movie. But we definitely didn’t do much of that this year. We watched only 2 movies from before 2000 (Nightmare On Elm Street 3 and Texas Chainsaw).

Solee: I’m the robot! You’re the man in the jumpsuit! Any last words for this BHE Wrap-up?

Mikey: Hmm. I wish I could remember some terrible line from one of these movies to throw out for a cheap laugh. So just remember kids, watch horror movies! They could help you learn how to manage your depression, or at least battle your inner/outer demons.

Solee: Terrific. Done. Now it’s time to decorate for Christmas, right??

Mikey: THE HORROR!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Halloween Marathon04:09 AM -- Wed November 1, 2017

So it's Halloween day, and I decided to indulge in my dream of seeing all the horror movies. I woke up around 8am, put on the first one I found, and just kept going all day. The following movies are ones that were in my various lists for potential consideration, but they're all ones we skipped in favor of other movies, so they're not exactly the cream of the crop. Here are my quick takes on a whole bunch of horror movies - with no spoilers. Enjoy! It was a fun Halloween!

BOO (2005)
Rating: 1/5
This is one of those throwback movies - made in 2005, but done in a total 80's style. It did provide me with what I've been missing all month: a story about a ghost, figuring out what that ghost wants, and the heroes try to solve the problem. It actually was interesting on that level. However, it was ridiculous, with terrible acting, effects, everything. Just super cheeseball. Which of course was a lot of fun for me. Interestingly, it's the second movie this month (along with Ghosts of Darkness) to feature shooting ghosts in the face as a way to get rid of them!
Best line: Can't pick just one. There was "If you shoot me in the face, I'll kick your [butt]!". as well as when Marie walked up to a mirror that had "Who are you?" written on it and just perkily said "I'm Marie, silly!". Then there was "You think if the living are afraid of dying, then the dead would be afraid of living again." And finally the classically confusing line "Are you fools to think you can leave without me?" (Hmm, I don't know, are they?)

Home (2016)
Rating: 1/5
A classic haunted house story. Worst child actress I've ever seen. Kind of a decent twist at the end, actually, that makes it all (sorta) make sense, but it's all so dumb to begin with, and presented in such a pedestrian way, that it's just not okay. Until the twist explains things, I think it's fair to say this was a movie about an evil ventriloquist air conditioner that hates dishes. Which probably makes you want to see the movie, but I really don't recommend you make that mistake.
Best line: "I've never seen a couple of 'womens'. I mean, it's kind of like the Easter Bunny or unicorns, you always talk about them but you never think they're real."

The Strangers (2008)
Rating: 2/5
This is very similar to a French movie I reviewed long ago, Ils (Them). I don't know if the "true events" this is based on are the same "true events" the other one was based on. I hope so, since I don't want this to be a common true event. Like Ils, there's not much to this movie - people get terrorized, and they either get out of it or they don't. It's a polished production with real actors, so it's not terrible, but on the other hand, it sort of is terrible because there's absolutely no point to it except to watch people suffer. At no point is any motivation explained, or any plot present other than said suffering. Not my bag, jack.
Best line: One of the very few lines in the entire movie - "Why are you doing this to us?" ... "Because you were home."

Charlotte (2017)
Rating: 3/5
Well now, you know I can't resist a horror anthology! In this movie, an evil doll forces a babysitter to watch scary stories on the TV. It's lightweight, cheeseball, horror with a little twist (usually super obvious) to almost every story. Exactly what I like in an anthology. Still, super cheesy. There's one story about girl scouts selling cookies that is really good stuff... just a crazy Twilight Zone episode. There are also a few not-at-all-cheeseball stories (not quality, necessarily, just dark and serious), so I'm not at all sure what audience this movie is for. I guess it's for me, because it's fun for me even if it isn't actually good!
Best line: "I've never knocked out two little girls with a baseball bat before, but I'm willing to give it a try!"

Beacon Point (2017)
Rating: 1.5/5
This movie looks and feels like a SyFy Original. But instead of battling a giant CGI monster, it's this trippy story of alien abduction told through weird dreams and inexplicable events you have to tie together yourself. It's not super opaque, but it's not your typical on-the-nose alien movie. It's a little artsy, but mostly it's a SyFy movie. Neither scary nor interesting.
Best line: Nothing stands out. But there is a character named Cheese!

Dark Ride (2006)
Rating: 1.5/5
Gory slasher movie with all the basics: a group of teens going to stay somewhere scary for "fun", a hitchhiker who is clearly crazy, a psycho escaping the asylum, extremely implausible attacks like jamming a flashlight through a person's body, and a general disregard for the laws of physics. In fact I can't think of any teen slasher cliche that's missing here. Theere's really no point to seeing this movie, but until I got utterly bored towards the end I was sort of enjoying it. Sort of.
Best line: "He was a doctor or banker or, I don't know, a mortician or something."

Rec 4: Apocalypse (2014)
Rating: 3/5
En Espanol! We reviewed [Rec] last year. Even though this is 3 movies later, it sure looks like it follows right on after that, beginning with a rescue of the main character from that movie. I dunno what happened in #2 and #3, but I guess it wasn't much! This is zombies on an oil tanker. Not found footage, this time around. It's pretty much a toned-down Resident Evil. Still ridiculous and crazy and pseudoscientific, just with less kung-fu.
Best line: (translated for you) "It's just a flesh wound." Or perhaps "MONKEYS!!!"

Hush (2016)
Rating: 4/5
It's kind of Don't Breathe turned sideways - a killer shows up to stalk a deaf woman. It's similar to The Strangers above, but really much better on every level. Whereas that was just a celebration of torture, this is more of an ode to survival. Plus it's got a couple of fun tricks, even if it doesn't have any major twists.
Best line: "THE END. Money now please."

Demonic (2015)
Rating: 3.5/5
This movie begins with the scene we never see: you know in found footage, they always have "These tapes were recovered..."? Well, this movie starts with said recovery! The cops go into a haunted house and there are cameras, lights, and laptops everywhere. So we end up with a combo of police procedural, found footage, and haunted house. It's an interesting idea I have not seen before. What ensues thereafter is a lot of silliness and melodrama and it doesn't all add up, but you know, it was a fun ride the whole way.
Best line: "They don't usually convict houses in the state of Louisiana."

Well, it's 11pm, and I don't have it in me to last another whole movie. I think nine movies in a day is quite the achievement. I truly feel like an accomplished human being now. I'm looking forward to 11 months off from my movie-watching job, but I'm also really looking forward to next October as well! I do love bad horror movies.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Blair Witch01:37 AM -- Wed November 1, 2017

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

Blair Witch (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch.”
IMDB Rating: 5.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 47/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 35% critics, 29% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So for our big Halloween day finish, we’re going back to the well! We both have a history with The Blair Witch Project, and hadn’t seen this recent sequel (though we did see the stupid Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2). So how would you set up your experience with the Blair Witch Franchise?

Solee: Well, there are exactly two theater movies I can remember being truly afraid of while watching. One is E.T. (I was six and those hazmat suits were terrifying.) The other is the BWP. I watched it literally on the edge of my seat and I distinctly remember feeling VERY unhappy that I had to walk across a dark parking lot to get to my car afterward. I did NOT feel the same way about BW2.

Mikey: No no, that was a silly movie. I also had the scariest experience watching BWP in the theater. I don’t think anything else has ever matched it. And we did rewatch that movie, and found it was actually pretty scary even in retrospect, though obviously not the same as a first-time viewing in the theater, the first time we ever saw a found footage movie!

Solee: Was it really the first of that genre? That explains why I found it so terrifying then. I always have a very physical reaction to the panting-into-the-microphone aspect of found footage films. If I’d never experienced it before, I’m not surprised I was so wrapped up in it.

Mikey: Yeah, people say The Last Broadcast was the original (and many claim Blair Witch Project is a total rip-off of it). I’ve always wanted to see that movie, but it’s not easy to come by. But they came out at nearly the same time. I’m sure there were some indie found footage movies before that, but whatever. That reaction you mentioned leads me to a moment, near the end of this movie, when Lisa is crawling through a teeny tiny dirt tunnel. That was very claustrophobia-inducing. I honestly can’t be sure that the found footage aspect of it helped that, but it sure was something that made me feel like I was right there, trapped in a very tiny space.

Solee: I felt the same. Most of the footage designed to raise anxiety (swirling camera, minimal lighting, running through the woods) was just annoying to me. But that crawling through the increasingly narrow tunnel scene was very stressful. I did not like it. Especially after having that moment of “oh, she’s the safest one of the bunch” after she got locked into that wooden box.

Mikey: Well, she was being stored for later killing, I assume, so not a great place to be. But I do feel that same feeling, where it just doesn’t match the original in terms of anxiety. It felt so much less real, and had so many pointless gimmicks (like… what did the drone ever accomplish?), that I just wasn’t sucked in by the realism that you had in the first movie. You could say this movie was a lot more exciting - we weren’t left with effectively nothing happening, which is what the first movie had. But more isn’t always more!

Solee: The drone was a complete waste of opportunity. Basically, the only thing it did was give Ashley a reason to climb into and then fall out of a tree. BWP was original and edgy. This was very commercial and [word for basic, boring, done plot]. It felt like they were trying everything and even though they gave explanation (which was lacking in the original), I still feel like I don’t understand most of what happened. If the backstory is all about a witch, why does it have such an alien invasion feel to it??

Mikey: Oh yes! At the end of the movie, we get that light-through-the-walls moment that is straight out of any UFO movie. I really thought they were gonna go with aliens (honestly, it could be aliens as written, who knows?). And yes, they had a whole lot of disparate elements which don’t really seem to clearly connect. Full disclosure: just before writing this review, I was looking for a freeze-frame of the “Stick Monster” that we see very briefly in the movie, just out of curiosity (wondering how much like the stick figures it looked - not very, actually), and I ended up tumbling down a rabbit hole of Blair Witch Theorists. There were so many screenshots and explanations and ideas going around. Turns out nobody actually knows what it is all about. But apparently the filmmakers at some point declared that the stick monster is not the witch - it’s another one of her victims. Which is silly, since the extended limbs on it fit the whole story about the witch being left to die on a makeshift rack. I have so many more ideas in my head now from this journey I went on… I dunno man. Whoa.

Solee: The part that REALLY doesn’t fit for me is the thing living in Ashley’s foot.

Mikey: YES!

Solee: I mean, it was one thing to have her be injured and get an infection and have that play into the chase, but there was clearly a critter in there and I don’t know what that has to do with anything. It’s almost ridiculous.

Mikey: Like it was from another movie. Specifically, The Ruins. I had this notion that the witch is connected to the woods, and the stick-men, so like sticks were gonna grow through her leg and basically replace her with a giant stick-woman. That would’ve been silly, but at least it would’ve connected to the concept. Maybe it’s what was happening, but we got not enough info to know, just one little weed yanked from her leg. Her constant tripping got real old, for sure. I don’t know what they were trying to say there. Was it that her foot hurt so she couldn’t walk right? It sounded like her ankle broke in about twelve places overall.

Solee: I like that theory, actually. I dunno, man. At first I thought she was tripping because of the pain. Then I thought maybe because the critter or branch was moving around in there. Finally, I just gave up trying to figure it out. She’s just real clumsy. There were lots of little homages to the original movie. Were there any that particularly stood out to you, good or bad?

Mikey: Oh, that’s one thing I found in my rabbit-hole! All the little video glitches throughout the movie actually were super-quick, scrambled up, shots from the first movie! Speaking of homage. I think the part at the end where Heather’s brother was crying and apologizing to her was good… it was pretty on-the-nose, but it makes the connection we want for a sequel.

Solee: Yeah, every Blair Witch movie needs a good snot-face monologue. Or dialogue in this case. I liked the way Peter had a temper and started kicking that tent like he wanted to kick it all the way to the river.

Mikey: Blair Witch movies are mostly about kicking things into rivers, as we all know. Not an homage (I think) but I did like one thing about the structure of this movie: right away, after the first night, when stick figures showed up, everybody immediately agreed “this is just too weird. Not worth it, we’re leaving.” Of course, they were trapped by witch-magic, which just goes to show other horror movies: people don’t have to make stupid choices to keep the plot going (not that this movie was devoid of them). I like that immediate appropriate reaction instead of demanding to press on.

Solee: It’s always easier to relate to people who aren’t being complete morons. Regarding the witch-magic … did the first movie have a never-ending night, too? They made a big deal out of how this darkness was lasting for days.

Mikey: I am pretty sure it did, only on the final night. They were waking up and it was still dark, and it just never stopped being dark. But one thing I know it had, which this movie was full of, was time being screwed up in general. Like Lane and Talia being lost for days, in the course of half a day for the other people. The witch clearly can manipulate time and gets things all out of whack. I really enjoyed that element and have a whole ending discussion about it.

Solee: Hmm. I’m excited to hear your discussion of it, but I didn’t love that aspect of the movie.

Mikey: What! That’s the whole joy!

Solee: Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but it didn’t seem like it made sense. I mean, I get that it was trying to be confusing and discombobulating, but it was just too much.

Mikey: I think “just too much” was the whole agenda for this sequel. Turn Blair Witch up to 11. Bad idea. I don’t really think it made sense, I was mostly in my head in a better movie that took that idea and ran with it. Here’s the thought: in the ending, we have James going into the house, and doors keep shutting behind him (standard ghost stuff). Then Lisa goes into the house, and what’s the first thing she does? She shuts and locks the front door. Immediately I was like “Oh snap are they going there??” I was really hoping for the ending to be this thing where it was all time looped around on itself, so that there were no ghosts or anything weird, just these two people causing things to happen for each other, out of time sequence. There is some of that in the movie - Peter appears in the corner, then is gone, Heather even appears in a brief flash, and we get the shot of the mirror from the very beginning of the movie which was supposedly old footage. It all adds up to time wrapping around, I just don’t think they worked it out cleanly, or executed it well enough. And they added a stick monster.

Solee: That is a really good idea. That would have made it very clever. Without making that obvious enough to understand, thought, it’s just chaos. How did you feel about the addition of the “locals” who made fake stick monsters and then got lost in the woods? Were they necessary? Or were they like the drone?

Mikey: I don’t know… I can’t actually think of a purpose they served, other than the misdirect of the first night of stick men. Which was sort of interesting, but ultimately doesn’t matter. And I guess they gave us our replacement for the old serial killer. OH WAIT. They gave us my favorite moment of the movie! When Ashley snaps that stick man, it is so incredibly shocking. And it also is what starts off the fireworks. The movie from that moment on is in full endgame mode, just running around crazy. Too crazy, I’m pretty sure, but that little event is just… wow. What’d you think of that, and the locals themselves?

Solee: The snapping of the stick figure with Talia’s hair, which resulted in the very dramatic snapping of Talia, was nothing short of genius. It came on so suddenly that I didn’t have any time to get there on my own. Usually, with this sort of thing I’ve already thought, “oh, what if they …” so I’m braced for it. In this case it was a total shock, like a bus coming from off screen, and I loved it. Aside from that, I didn’t love the locals. I feel like everything involving them could have been cut out and that time could have been used to elaborate on the time-manipulation. Or the foot worm. Or give the drone some usefulness. Anything would have been better.

Mikey: I totally agree, more movies need to move with that kind of speed (not constantly), to really surprise you. It was cray cray. Sadly it was also in the trailer, and it’s also why I clicked off the trailer while you were in the kitchen and said “oh yeah, we need to see this one!” so that’s the lesson for this movie, kids: never watch the trailer! It ruins everything.

But our time here is up. There’s lots more I could say about this here witch, but I’ll let you instead say how you rate it!

Solee: I’m kind of sad about this rating because I wanted to love it for nostalgic reasons even if it wasn’t all that good for itself. It didn’t really work that way. It wasn’t the worst movie we’ve seen, but it is a far cry from the best and a far cry from the original. I was NOT scared while watching this movie at all. My overriding emotion was one of annoyance. I’m going to give this movie a solid 3.

Mikey: I see those annoyances. We forgot to mention all the horrible sound in the first half of this movie - tons of super loud noises out of the blue for no reason, probably meant to build tension, but it just made it hard to watch. And that’s where I think this movie would’ve done much better by dropping the found footage and just being a real movie. The ear cameras, the drone, all that was silly. Just send the kids into the woods and make it real. But with that said, I didn’t hate it all. I didn’t love it either, so you know I’m going full 3 out of 5 on this one. It was not the crass cash-in sequel I thought it would be, but it was a long drop down from the original.

So that’s it for 2017! So sad! I’m gonna watch lots more movies anyway and just not tell anyone about them. Join us tomorrow for a quick (unlike last year) wrap-up about the whole month. Happy Halloween, everybody!

Solee: You say quick … but have you MET us? I’m not sure we can possibly rehash the whole month in a reasonable amount of time! I guess we’ll have to see what we can manage.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Sacrament07:11 PM -- Mon October 30, 2017

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

The Sacrament (2013)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A news team trails a man as he travels into the world of Eden Parish to find his missing sister, where it becomes apparent that this paradise may not be as it seems.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% critics, 47% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: We watched The Sacrament last night. How did you settle on that movie for our second-to-last horror movie of the month?

Mikey: It was a tough call. But it was on some of those “best of” lists, and the core idea for me was that it was a high-end version of found footage. A known director/writer (Ti West, who did The House Of The Devil which I did a video review of), and some money behind it. Not your normal found footage. I hope we don’t have to have especially brilliant choices for our last couple, that’s too much pressure!

Solee: I don’t have to … but I think we might accidentally end up with some pretty decent films. This is what happens when we let Best Of lists influence our choices! So the premise here is that VICE is recording footage to create a documentary about a potential cult that the photographer’s sister has joined. Did it “work” as a found footage movie for you?

Mikey: What I found interesting about it is that it is not a mockumentary. It kinda starts out as one, but what you see throughout the movie is the raw footage these guys are filming in the course of making a documentary. As opposed to formatting this movie as if it were the finished product. I’m not sure if that’s better or not, but it does make good sense, and solves the whole “why are they filming” dilemma very easily. And they definitely seemed like the real deal, although they may not have been making the most brilliant choices. Well, the real deal except for how they were “speechless for an hour” when the guy told them his sister had joined a cult. That’s a lot of speechless.

Solee: Yeah … I don’t believe any of those guys could be speechless about anything for more than 30 seconds. They spent a lot of time talking to the camera, which is to be expected, I guess. While we were watching, you mentioned an episode of Reply All where a couple of guys go to India trying to chase down a telemarketing scam. It kind of boggles my mind that there are people who see this kind of sketchy, questionable behavior (scams, cults, etc) and their first response is “I have to get myself right in the middle of that even though I have no power or authority in any way!” Would you ever consider doing what they did?

Mikey: Nope. The Reply All episode was fascinating because I could see just how far they could get without any authority, by simply being pushy and having it be known that they were “journalists” - meaning whoever they talked to knew that they would spread information they learned to the world. It really is a lot of power to just say that. Of course it’s also potential reason to kill you. Or your entire own cult, in this case. It’s pretty amazing what these people do in the real world, and it definitely takes more guts than my abdomen contains.

Of course, that was a problem I had with this particular cult. What they were doing was actually totally fine. Like super duper fine. People getting together to live in a commune, and not hurt anybody. If they just dropped the paranoia part of it - get rid of the guards, let anybody leave if they want - then what would the government care about it? Enjoy your commune. I feel like Father created his own trouble, and it is quite possible he is not the genius that Caroline thought he was.

Solee: At the very least, he was not at all confident in the fact that people REALLY want to live that way. I think that’s a valid concern--that if he let people leave, they would--because people are not great at committing to big change or sacrifice long term. And if people get to leave, they’d want to take their money with them. I think it was all about the money for Father. He had convinced these people to give him all their worldly possessions and do manual labor for him, so that he and Caroline, who was apparently sleeping with him, could have all the control and break their arbitrary rules. That kind of thing would get out, even as rumor, if people were allowed to leave and then they’d have a harder time convincing new people to hand over all their cash and pick up a hoe.

Mikey: Doesn’t seem that expensive to run such a commune to me, plant some plants. But I’m not sure it was all about money for Father, or he would’ve (as I had kept hoping to see) skipped town with the money and Caroline as soon as everybody had had their Kool-Aid. I was actually surprised he was serious about this stuff.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not convinced he was really all that serious about it. He SAYS that’s why he offed himself, but I definitely got an “I won’t go to jail” vibe instead of an “I must follow my flock” vibe. He knew the jig was up.

Mikey: That makes sense. But it brings up my biggest issue: As soon as he felt there was a whiff of trouble - these documentarians might make the government come down on him at some unspecified future point - everybody gotta die. I mean, dude, wait until the helicopters show up at least. It could easily be years! Although personally, I’d rather get shot than die from poison Kool-Aid, so I’d stick it out.

Solee: He was jumping the gun (the one held by hired guards who didn’t give a crap about any of this nonsense). I’m surprised this was the first time anyone thought to be suspicious. I wonder if Caroline was the first wealthy person to get suckered in. The first one who had people with the curiosity and resources to come looking for her.

Mikey: No wonder she got the special spot! They probably should’ve just turned them away at the gate.

Solee: Yeah...but after what I heard from that Reply All podcast, that would not have deterred these journalists for long! It was definitely all about the money (and how the money was important to keep her “family” growing) for Caroline. She killed her own brother because he wouldn’t agree to join her and--more importantly--contribute his wealth to the flock. That girl was not in a stable mental place.

Mikey: So all this talk about what somebody would and wouldn’t do, and what their mindset was, brings to mind the fact that this is obviously very much based on the real massacre at Jonestown (warning: true news, really disturbing and graphic account of horrible events). And to put it bluntly, I’d much rather have watched a real documentary about that than this fictional story. I don’t know too much about it beyond Kool-Aid (except I do know that isn’t the actual brand they used!), and the real thing would be very interesting. I feel like I wasted my time watching this instead. Did you feel like this was a worthwhile endeavor?

Solee: I don’t regret watching it … it was well done and had tension that kept me interested. I wouldn’t call it the best movie ever or anything. I’m not sure I could handle watching a documentary like that about Jonestown. My brain has very different reactions to things that are make-believe vs reporting of actual events that have really happened to really real people. I can find the slaughter fests of Rob Zombie’s imagination quite entertaining but I don’t EVER watch True Crime stuff. It’s just a step too close to think about the actual people who experienced that kind of trauma. I see what you mean though. The story of Jonestown can be a learning experience, whereas this movie was pretty much just voyeuristic.

Mikey: Yes, the learning experience and just the reality of it. I don’t want to see the real bodies laying around, but I do want to see interviews and information about what people were thinking. I feel like the events in this movie weren’t very interesting. There was no big twist, no exciting moments really. Even when they were being hunted by guys with guns, it just felt kind of blah. Whereas even if the story of real Jonestown is much more boring in terms of actual events, it’s way more interesting by virtue of being real. Although, shocking twist, I’ve actually heard it is a lot more interesting as well!

Solee: Huh. I don’t know much about Jonestown. One of those Really Sad Things that I have kind of avoided learning too much about. Slight change of topic … I read on IMDB that there was a different ending originally proposed. In that ending, the helicopter pilot doesn’t get shot. As he flies them out, he says something about “following the Father’s orders” and crashes the chopper. Would changing the ending change much for you?

Mikey: I’m always in favor of a twist! That’s what was really lacking. Everything happened in real basic fashion. I can’t believe the pilot was still alive. Those guards are not good at their jobs. And that would’ve certainly put those survivors in a pickle if he hadn’t been. I don’t know, I feel let down by this movie in a way that’s hard to describe. I think this story could be done in a very unsettling and intense way, but that they didn’t do it. Hiding under a bed while a guard comes in and searches the room is a very tense concept, but I didn’t feel nervous at all during that scene. Also the fakey throat-slitting in that scene should’ve been pretty crazy too, but again, I was like oh, okay, she’s dead. Maybe I need to go join a cult to rediscover my inner child. Did you get the good tension the movie wanted to throw our way?

Solee: No, I agree with you. The overall premise of the story was anxiety producing for me, but the way it was told didn’t really make the most of the events. They seemed to rely a lot on shock value (OMG! She slit her throat! … OMG! She lit herself on fire!) instead of storytelling technique to put the audience on edge. That seems a little lazy to me.

Mikey: Yeah, I get that for sure. Which is weird in a movie about a mass suicide - something that is more disturbing than shocking. Like the core of the whole movie is this big event full of dread which does not jump out and shock you, so why are they trying to get you with ‘shock’ moments all the time? I guess they’re mixing it up. So, I suppose our time here is done, and we must give out our ratings. M’lady?

Solee: Like I said earlier, it wasn’t a terrible movie and I don’t regret watching it. Honestly, I didn’t notice the problems you mentioned until you brought them up. That doesn’t mean the problems weren’t there, but it makes me think this is a decent enough movie to distract from the bigger flaws if you’re not looking too closely. I guess that means I’m going to go middle of the road and give it a 3. What about you?

Mikey: Unsurprisingly, I go lower. I did stay invested in the movie throughout, but it was all too low-key. I never got that big hook or great tension to really suck me in. And I am throwing in extra minus for the fact that it’s a less interesting version of a real thing. They could’ve made something original that was bad, but instead they took something real and did a worse job of it than reality did. So I mark them down for wasting celluloid. Or probably hard drive space, more likely. Which leaves us at a 2 out of 5. Not a disaster by any means, but just not worth it to me. Your time would be better spent outside of this particular cult.

Solee: I suspect that statement is true in a lot of cases.

SO. It’s my job to pick the very last movie of the month now. I don’t know what to do!! Do I want to go funny? Or artistic? Or straight up slasher? There are still so many good choices on our list.

Mikey: And more deliciously, BAD choices! The real horror is that you have to choose.

Solee: Truth. I’m going to go back to some of my horror roots and pick Blair Witch (2016), the sequel to the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Mikey: That’s some classic Hommel, because I’ve previously reviewed both The Blair Witch Project, AND Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2! Let’s do it!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Thirst02:02 PM -- Sun October 29, 2017

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

Thirst (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“When a group of wayward teens arrive at a desert boot camp, with no communication, and nowhere to run to, they realize their only chance for survival is to fight for their lives.”
IMDB Rating: 4.4/10
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, it seems that you wanted to ensure we didn’t go too crazy with the good movies, and you pointed us to Thirst. Success?

Solee: Thirst is not a great movie. But it IS a great movie to laugh at. It hits a lot of my favorite ridiculous horror moments. So I consider that a success.

Mikey: It also hits the “sci-fi” button on our checklist, at this point leaving “first person”, “musical”, and “courtroom drama” all we’re missing for the month. Sure hope we can find a first-person musical courtroom drama horror movie for one of our next two.

Solee: I’m sure that would be a quality film. Since you brought up the alien … let’s discuss it. Is this alien scary? Original?

Mikey: Definitely NOT scary. I think it’s pretty original though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an alien land on earth that turned out to be a cyborg. This one is about 80% robot. And no explanation ever given, no info about him at all, just cyborg alien lands and starts eating. And has a baby on board. Which I’m actually cool with - I don’t think we need to have a Scientist Character who magically explains just what the alien is about. My big issue with the alien is the fact that its “thirst” did NOT MATTER. It could’ve been stabbing people, or burning them, or anything else, and it would be the exact same plot. I needed this movie about people in the desert to have some thematic thirst involved. I put a hint to the screenwriters in italics there...

Solee: There are so many ways they could have gone with that too, as thirst can be just about any deep desire, metaphorically. They weren’t thinking metaphorically with this movie. It was all very literal. We DID have a couple of pseudo-scientists, though. Remember how Nerdy Kid and Girl Crush simultaneously realized that there was some kind of static electricity thing happening? SCIENCE!

Mikey: Yeah, they were ridiculous MacGyver people out of the blue. Even though they had no smarts at all for the first half of the movie. And then they created an electro-explodo deathtrap for the monster. Oh, and pipe bombs, made offscreen in minutes, just “surprise, here’s some pipe bombs!” Wow. Way to go Luis. Courtney on the other hand didn’t even know how a shotgun worked and resolutely refused to learn.

Okay, so what did you think about the whole Second Chances system, since you’re a teacher of defiant children yourself?

Solee: Oh, I taught small defiant children. Or the occasional solitary tall one. I don’t do groups of tall defiant children. Too scary. I did NOT like their approach to “reprogramming” these kids though. There were glimpses of good strategy, but for the most part it was all “I’m bigger than you so you better straighten up” which NEVER works. That being said, it was sadly realistic. I believe that there are programs just like this out there, taking broken, traumatized children and breaking them even further. Those kids needed to visit Discovery Horse! They needed CONNECTION, not whatever the heck Second Chances was trying to do.

Mikey: So the confusion I had, which you may be able to explain, is what incentive did these kids have to obey anything they were told? I don’t feel like these people held any power over them except “you better do what I say!” Or perhaps the fact they’d be left to die in the desert.

Solee: You’re exactly right. The entire program was based on fear and threats. Not the foundation for a successful program for troubled teens. As evidenced by the fact that none of those kids made any progress until after BossyPants Counselor and Meathead Guide were dead.

Mikey: So you’re saying the alien is part of the program? They just chew through a couple of counselors each session. Maybe they rehydrate them for next time.

Solee: They are ACT-TORS! I don’t think the alien was a planned part of the program, no. But I do think that facing the alien (certain death) was more helpful in their growth than being forced into the desert with strangers. Even the alien couldn’t rehabilitate some of those kids though. This movie had an irredeemably bad character, just like Train to Busan. Trapper was just a nasty person through and through. Even the alien didn’t want to eat him. Just killed him.

Mikey: I made a note of that! Nobody wants to drink Trapper. Now that you mention Busan, I have to discuss that. The start of this movie had me bored out of my mind. It was introducing characters, they were going on their hike, bickering and being petty and stupid. And I was like, I get it. I see the character traits you are showing me. You contrast that with Train To Busan, where they managed to quickly introduce a dozen characters and you got a feel for their personality in moments. We didn’t have to spend half the train ride watching each one call their family and discuss a personal issue to understand how they worked. It’s just infinitely better filmmaking!

Solee: Infinitely better writing, for sure. I just read an article about the importance of inner conflict and growth as well as outer conflict in creating a story people want to experience. This movie was definitely lacking in the inner conflict and all the ridiculously fake explosions in the world weren’t going to make up for the fact that our characters didn’t grow. Except for Roth. I think Roth had a bit of an arc.

Mikey: I think the writers spent all of their time on him. It was certainly his movie. Which reminds me of his uncle Burt - we got a little talk about how he was an MMA fighter, and angst over having killed a man in the ring, and so he’s trying to get out from under th- BAM HE’S DEAD. Royally missed opportunity, right?

Solee: Totally. Especially since we learned all this about his past--he killed a guy in the ring, he’s being sued for assaulting a minor on a previous trip--and he’s STILL doing all that crap right up to the point that the alien sticks a straw in him. Yes, he saves Trapper right before he dies … but that’s not enough to show anything. That could have been pure instinct. I wanted to see that he had done these things in the past, but since then he’s started his own counseling and has dealt with some of his own past traumas and has learned to connect with the kids on a meaningful level during these trips, but The Man doesn’t know it yet so he’s still got this bad reputation. THEN have him sacrifice himself to save the kid. And THEN have the kid actually learn something from the fact that he’s met an adult who listened, connected and put his own life on the line to protect him. THAT’S a Second Chances trip!! It’s COMPELLING!

Mikey: And I just wanted to see him put the alien in a headlock. But no, we can’t have nice things. One other thing that got to me throughout the movie was that somebody would die, and then a minute later, everybody is smiling and laughing about something. Even Burt’s WIFE didn’t care he was dead after the first scene they told her. They have no object permanence, they’re like Busan zombies.

Solee: My final note as credits rolled? How Roth ended the movie: “Sure, my whole family and everyone I knew died, but I have a new girlfriend who only got chewed on by an alien a little bit, so it’s all good!” Super weird how there were no real emotions in this movie. I wonder what that says about the folks that wrote and directed it.

Mikey: Speaking of her, seems like the chewing was not a big deal, which is really weird. Perfectly healthy after a baby alien has been gnawing on your sternum for an hour or two. But anyway, why was the giant two-ton mechanical alien so sneaky?! It could pop up five feet away undetected. And then of course go on a noisy rampage with no stealth whatsoever. I feel like they should’ve included a cloaking device scene to explain this. Just have it fade in when it pops up.

Solee: Maybe it was malfunctioning? I know we’ve ripped on the plot a lot here, but there’s one more thing I HAVE to mention. When Roth and the kids get back to the base camp and the helicopter pilot is there, Roth gets SUPER defensive and yells, “We didn’t kill her!” even though the pilot has done nothing to suggest that they had and it’s obvious that she’s been mauled by some kind of wild animal. What was up with Roth? Why does he feel so guilty? WHAT IS HE HIDING??

Mikey: That’s the moment the movie really needed to twist - unreliable narrator, no alien, they killed them all, and the pilot is next. I don’t even know how that plot would make sense, yet somehow it would still be more compelling.

Solee: YES! Oh, well.

Mikey: Well, do you have more to discuss? I could point out the crazy technobabble that suddenly spurted from these otherwise ordinary teens at one point, but I just did, so I am done!

Solee: I could point out that the alien was able to chase down a pick-up truck, but unable to catch a four-wheeler, but I kinda feel like I’m kicking this movie after we already have it curled up in a ball on the asphalt. Ratings?

Mikey: Ratings! The trick with this movie is that it’s a total SyFy Original Movie (probably not actually, it’s more of a style than a reality), but it just doesn’t have the fun and self-awareness of a lot of those. It feels like it’s trying to be good, and that’s just a little sad rather than funny. I think that puts it on par with last year’s Behemoth, which suffered from a similar problem, though frankly had more silly fun to it, but this was higher-quality in real movie terms. So it’s another 1.5 out of 5 from me. How about you?

Solee: I think I enjoyed making fun of this movie a little more than you did. I agree that it is taking itself too seriously, but sometimes that’s where the fun is. (I realize that I’m not a very nice person as I’m saying this.) They are just so oblivious to how off it all is from where they were aiming. The story was super broken and the characters both under- and over-developed. But I do enjoy a hugely overdone CGI explosion. So … I guess I’m going to give it a 2. This is the kind of movie I would watch with the nieces and nephews so we can laugh about it together.

Mikey: Yep, that’s exactly how I was thinking of viewing it! But I thought it would be much more boring for us than the unbelievably amazing Land Shark, which is highly recommended viewing if this is your category! Also if you are a fan of eyebrows.

Solee: And very scientific things like charts and counting. I *heart* Land Shark so much! I know we’re not seeing that tomorrow … so what are we seeing?

Mikey: Now I’m sad we’re not seeing that. Please everyone, go watch it now! It’s on Amazon Prime. But we are relegated to The Sacrament, a found-footage cult movie!

Solee: Awesome!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Train To Busan03:15 PM -- Sat October 28, 2017

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

Train To Busan (2016)
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.”
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 72/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% critics, 88% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Solee: Yesterday, our guest reviewer, Colin, recommended that we watch Train to Busan. It was already on our list of movies to see, right? How did it get on that list? More importantly, do we still get to blame Colin if we didn’t like it?

Mikey: I think we can always blame Colin for our ills. But the movie was on the list because of one of the many “Best N Horror Movies on Service-Name” articles I looked at during the month. People sure seem to like it. It’s Zombies On A Train. Also, it ended up on our list in part because of that - our first zombie movie of the month (if you don’t count one short segment in Patient Seven).

Solee: It also adds to our list of horror films from other countries, since it’s from South Korea. We watched it in Korean with English subtitles, which is always fun. I feel like I pay closer attention when I can’t pretend I’m listening while I play on my iPhone. The movie starts with the basic roving camera showing us the variety of people on the train (and cluing us in on who is going to be important to the story).

Mikey: Which brings me to my overall take: while this is very clearly a zombie movie, what it is more than that is a Disaster Movie. It’s all the tropes of a disaster movie, where you get to know the assorted people who are going to be trapped in the disaster (too many for a normal cast, but they disappear fast), and then our heroes and villains who make their way through. It was like all those 70’s disaster films.

Solee: Yep. They made a point of having characters from several different walks of life: the high school baseball team and their one cheerleader, the married couple expecting a child, the spinster sisters, the spineless railroad employee, the homeless man who knows more than he should, and the rich jerk. That’s on top of the main characters, a workaholic father and his emotionally neglected young daughter.

Mikey: Yeah, there’s a very big element of emotional manipulation (which I suppose is what all movies are, end to end, but nevermind that), where they have these over-the-top villain characters, and over-the-top good guys who will save anyone, and you can’t help but cheer and jeer the appropriate people as it goes along. Although I think one place they let me down was the end of the rich jerk. He was the absolute supervillain of this movie, and I just didn’t feel like he got the big horrible end he needed.

Solee: We didn’t even get to see him get bit! He’s one of those characters that you really want to see get their comeuppance on screen. He got it, we just didn’t get the release of seeing it happen. Instead, they humanized him by showing him as a scared little boy, which is probably the source of all his terrible behavior in the first place. This movie really tried to make each character feel real and relatable.

Mikey: It was just a fun experience rooting for the good and booing the evil. Another interesting thing going on in this movie was their take on zombies. Putting them on a train posed an interesting challenge - there’s not really any room to maneuver, or directions to go in. Just back and forth. So to make that work, they made the zombies rely almost entirely on sight (with some hearing, but not great hearing). They were able to pull a lot of tricks to get past them as a result. Oh, and P.S. FAST ZOMBIES.

Solee: For sure. That was one of the scarier things for me. I spend a lot of time mocking people in zombie movies for being unable to get away from the slow, lumbering corpses. I had total sympathy for people trying to get away from these zombies. They even sped up the film to make them seem faster and jerky in that way that Korean and Japanese films so often do with their supernatural monsters. It’s very effective on me. Gives me the creepy-crawlies! I thought it was interesting that they established that the zombies could not work doors and they had very little object permanence. Once people were out of sight, they were safe.

Mikey: And yet, it was always very dangerous! The zombies also did a little of the World War Z pile-up trick and similar things, but what I liked was that they would quickly cut away from these CGI zombie pile-ups, they were just a little hint of “whoa, that’s a flood of zombies”, instead of shoving it in your face as a spectacle. Although when they all grabbed on the train at the end, that was a little goofy. Made me concerned for the actors involved. Also made me think of the horrible fire ant rafts in the Houston floods.

Solee: That was definitely an obstacle I didn’t expect them to have to deal with. There was a moment, as the passengers were safe in a train car watching absolute carnage on the platform outside, when I realized that there’s a very specific horror in watching mass violence from a safe place. It’s the same trauma that people experience watching tragedy on the news (in my experience: 9/11, Columbine, various riots). We forget how much it affects us, as humans who tend to like to be proactive and solution-oriented, to see things we can’t do anything about. That’s not something that comes up in horror films often, as having the characters actually experience the trauma first-hand is more exciting … but the train element allowed the second-hand violence to be traumatic in this film. I thought that was something unique and special.

Mikey: I see what you mean, that is interesting.

Solee: Another less-common trauma that was addressed briefly was that terror of knowing something bad has happened to someone you love but not knowing the details. The main character’s mother calls him and it’s clear that she’s becoming a zombie, but we never see what happened to her. He never knows. People tend to find comfort in details and he (and consequently we) were denied them. Upped the tension, I think.

Mikey: It is a rare trick that we actually never got to know what happened to her. Other movies would’ve shown us the other side and left only him in the dark. I did notice that Zombie Mom was still able to hang up the phone at the end, though! Which brings me to this movie’s Protagonist Magic: if you are a main character, you turn into zombie a lot slower than anybody else. This movie featured the quickest turn of any zombies in history - 2 seconds is about what I’d call it. Unless you were a main character, where it could be as much as 3 or 4 minutes. His mother was on the slower side, at thirty seconds or so.

Solee: It depended on whether they had important lessons to impart to us before they died!

Mikey: That is the heart of Protagonist Magic… whatever helps the story more! Speaking of that story, I believe this entire movie was created to teach a very specific lesson to a very specific person. What did we learn, Solee?

Solee: You can’t see it because I’m in another room, but I just rolled my eyes SO HARD at you. Haha!

Mikey: I could feel it.

Solee: The super duper evil guy, the COO of Stallion Express (not sure what that is), completely embodied Solee’s #1 Rule of Infection. He had a zero tolerance policy about anyone who had been anywhere near the zombies and was the first to shout “he’s infected!” whenever things weren’t going his way. He was a real jerk, but the thing is … he wasn’t WRONG. There WAS an infected individual. They should have been quarantined in some way. But he was doing it for all the wrong reasons. He wasn’t invoking The Rule to protect the masses … he was invoking it to protect his own sorry butt. It DID make me question my rule a bit, thought, I will admit that.

Mikey: He was so wrong! I mean, sure, actual infected people are a problem, but since they turn in 2 seconds, we know who they are. These people were clearly not infected and he was just Solee-ing all up and down the place! Punk. And then he killed Jin-hee in the most shocking and unacceptable moment of the film.

Solee: The husband of the pregnant lady WAS infected!

Mikey: Yeah, and he sacrificed himself bravely so the other people could get through, not himself! These were good folks, not like Solee Express.

Solee: In THIS movie, the infected folk mostly sacrificed themselves. They were very noble about it. This is not how normal zombie movies go … there’s always SOMEONE who has to hide their infection until they can’t control themselves. You and I both know which way real life would go. We live in America, land of Bad Things Can’t Happen to Me and I Am the Exception to All the Rules! The #1 Rule of Infection is necessary.

Mikey: But he didn’t need to know their honesty, he knew they’d turn in 2 seconds, so there’s nothing to hide (unless of course they are a protagonist).

Solee: EXACTLY. There’s always that one character that somehow manages to spread the infection to the group.

Mikey: Well, I can see that we won’t get anywhere on this politically-charged issue. So I will just relegate myself to dying moments after the next zombie apocalypse begins and move on: Speaking of sacrifice, what do you think about Jong-gil’s suicidal final act to reunite with her sister In-gil? Not really thinking about others there...

Solee: I was legit SHOCKED at that. It did not at all seem in keeping with the very strong message of “take care of others” the whole movie was based around. I honestly don’t understand how she made that choice. Her sister had just sacrificed herself to save her and the rest of the people in that car and Jong-gil just opened the door and let them all in. Crazy.

I want to mention a couple of people we haven’t brought up yet before we move on to ratings. First, Yong-guk, the sole surviving baseball player went above and beyond to protect Jin-hee, the cheerleader. That was an interesting bit of teenage drama thrown into the mix and I liked how he really stepped up. Actually, all the baseball players really stepped up. Teenagers, FTW.

And finally, my favorite side character of the whole movie was the conductor. That man took his responsibility for his passengers very seriously and he didn’t have the benefit of other people to work with. He was alone basically the whole movie, making the decisions and taking the risks that he thought would best protect his passengers and I have huge respect for him. I was SUPER mad when the rich jerk threw him to the zombies to save himself.

Mikey: You just go and go with this movie! We’re almost out of time here, but I want to mention my favorite person, not such a side character: Sang-hwa, who taught the main character to actually care about his child, was the best with his pummeling of zombies with his bare hands. When he got into it, it was like this weird moment where the movie sidestepped from normal zombie movie to superhero brawling. It was pretty ridiculous, but lots of fun. It also made me wonder if breaking a zombie’s neck actually stops it, because he did that a lot.

Solee: Sang-hwa was a tough guy with a heart. Every girl’s dream! So how are you rating this movie?

Mikey: This is not an artsy-fartsy piece with a bunch of metaphors and depth. It’s an action horror disaster movie with lightweight characters that you care about the same way you care about your favorite sitcom character. I don’t want to see Pam & Jim get a divorce, and I don’t want to see Sang-hwa get bitten by a zombie. But that isn’t a bad thing! Not every movie has to be artsy-fartsy. I don’t want to always be moping around in black and white metaphors. Sometimes, I just want to give 5 out of 5 to a movie for being a step up from your usual blah action nonsense. It was really great for what it was!

Solee: I agree! Our plethora of faithful readers are going to stop trusting my judgement because it seems like I’m handing out a lot of 5s this year, but I am happily giving this movie a 5. It was fun. It was heartfelt. It was action packed. I was more scared in a “oh, HE can’t die” way than in an “OMG WHAT WAS THAT” way, but I was scared. And I would definitely recommend it to others. Plus, it was fun to watch a Korean film.

Mikey: Okay then! So many good movies. This is a weird BHE year. What is happening next?

Solee: I want to promise that I’ll pick something terrible … but there are still some really promising movies on our list. I guess I’m going to go with Thirst (2015, not the Korean film).
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Devil's Rejects04:54 PM -- Fri October 27, 2017

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

The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“The murderous, backwoods Firefly family take to the road to escape a vengeful police force which is not afraid of being as ruthless as their target.”
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Metacritic Rating: 53/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 53% critics, 78% audience
Solee: 4.5/5
Mikey: 4/5
Colin: 2/5
Amy: 3.5/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Solee: Today, we’re lucky enough to have two guest reviewers! Amy and Colin joined us in watching The Devil’s Rejects (which we’ve had in the plans since we watched Rob Zombie’s first movie, House of 1000 Corpses last year) and are going to let us know what they thought of it. They have not seen House of 1000 Corpses, however. Did you guys think that affected the way you watched this film?

Amy: I don't feel like missing the first movie impacted the second one much except missing the callbacks, or maybe some of the background detail callbacks (don't know if there were any) but the background did have a lot of fun details that made it worth paying attention to.

Colin: Unless House of 1000 Corpses talks about how the saintly God-fearing Firefly family turned into the *ahem* “protagonists”, there’s probably no reason to watch the first one.

Solee: NO! SOOoooo wrong. The first one is the best horror film ever made! It does not, however, give us any further insight into this family and why they are the way they are. Which is one of the things I liked most about them. They’re just murderous. Don’t judge.

Mikey: Why would you judge? I feel like there are lots of reasons to watch the first one, and I think the second one doesn’t give you an idea of what they are. It’s an entirely different experience all over the place.

Solee: The consistent element that I get from both movies, which I believe comes from Rob Zombie’s unique outlook on life, is that the movie is very clear on right and wrong. There’s no attempt to justify what this people are doing … they are horrible people … but there is also no shying away from evil. It’s just there. Mr. Zombie is not afraid to tell a story about horrible people doing horrible things.

Amy: It didn't feel clear on right and wrong to me. Both the family and the Sheriff were truly twisted people that left me confused on who the protagonists and antagonists are. Maybe the whole movie was antagonists.

Colin: Looking at what “right” and “wrong” are in this movie looks to be a futile endeavor. Like Solee said, awful people doing awful things may be the entire point of this movie. I guess horror exploitation films really aren’t my bag.

Mikey: There were a lot of really uncomfortable scenes along those lines. Like I’ve seen lots of killers who brutally kill their victims, or even torture them in a traditional sense (stabbing, burning, all the good stuff). But these guys are just truly sadistic, and live to make the victims… I don’t know, suffer is one word. Traumatized them. And us.

Solee: It was definitely traumatic to watch. Perhaps a more accurate way to say what I was trying to say is that Rob Zombie isn’t afraid to make a movie where the “protagonists” plot-wise are still very much antagonists according to the norms of society. Neither of his movies has a hero. Nobody saves the day.

Amy: Perhaps the message was about family? Even though the family was horrible murderous people (and I hesitate to call them people) they had a very strong family bond and supported each other.

Colin: I disagree that there wasn’t a hero that saved the day. Let’s talk for a moment about Deputy Dobson. He followed instructions to finally save the day. The sheriff told him that “dying isn’t an option.” Well, guess what?! He didn’t die. He lived to save the day at the end of the movie. He was probably my favorite character.

Mikey: What’s interesting is that you’re talking truth, and yet the movie didn’t feel like he saved the day. More of a sad farewell to our “heroes”. The movie definitely was of the opinion that the Firefly family was… I won’t say goodguys, but the people to root for. I think. I did have a hard time towards the end watching the sheriff vs. the family and going “wait, what am I supposed to be rooting for right now?”

Solee: It was difficult, and as Colin was pointing out there WAS a hero, I realized just how invested in this family of killers I got. Which is … disturbing. While I abhor everything they did and definitely believe they needed to be stopped, I did NOT have trouble during the family vs sheriff scenes. The sheriff was just as bad as them. He didn’t just want to stop them, he wanted to torture them. He wanted to inflict trauma on other human beings. He just did it under a fake veneer of “cop”. He lied to himself and pretended that it was a noble cause while the family accepts who they are and don’t pretend to be anything better than they are.

Colin: That’s kind of the question I think Rob Zombie might make us look at and then try to answer: What is the purpose of “law and order” if sometimes the people we entrust to enforce our laws choose to go haywire?

Solee: Seems like a question that has a lot of relevance in today’s political environment.

Colin: Rob Zombie is prescient! NostroZombus

Solee: One other thing that relates to this topic. In writing they say “Write your villains like they are the heroes of their own story.” This is a PERFECT example of that.

Amy: Disturbing and questionable plot aside, there were some great aspects to the movie. It had a full array of memorable one liners, brilliant transitions, and a good use of soundtrack.

Mikey: There were a ton of really funny lines. I would love to quote them, but alas, this movie held the world record (according to some estimates) for most F-Bombs in a single movie for a while.

Solee: “I love famous people … they’re so much better than the real thing.” That was my favorite line. I really liked the way some of the scenes were broken up by still shots. It was like looking at the scrapbook pages they would eventually make out of that event.

Colin: Speaking of memorable quotes, are we going to talk about the chicken salesman?

Mikey: Hmm, he might be tough to talk about in a family setting. But that was probably the scene that had the whole room laughing the hardest. Which leads to a pretty vital question: Who was everybody’s favorite character? I wish mine was Captain Spaulding, because I loved him so much in the first movie, but he really lost a lot of his charm this time around. He just wasn’t having as much fun. I think Otis was my favorite - the maniacal serial killer who is not remotely maniacal. Just a cool dude.

Solee: Cool might be stretching it a little, given where he was and who he was with at the beginning of the movie, but Otis was also my favorite. He had this air of an older brother who is always having to give in to his spoiled little sister and at the end was definitely all about sticking together as a family to the bitter end. He’s a terrible human being, but he had some very human qualities.

Mikey: Well, it’s the acting choices - none of that gravelly creepy monster voice, just talking in a banal way about how he’s gonna murder ya’ll.

Amy: I don't think I have a favorite character. It was hard to like anyone in the movie. Maybe the nurse who tries to help the girl on the road. She was the best human in the show.

Colin: Yeah, I like movies that have clear cut good guys. Sometimes I like to think and be rewarded for thinking long about a movie...but horror movies sometimes are just about saving the day and stopping the bad guys. Escapism at its finest!

Mikey: Oh, I feel like horror movies are rarely about saving the day. Usually they end very badly for the heroes. But it’s still fun escapism!

Amy: I actually prefer grey areas with black and white, good and bad, being subjective. I just found it hard to be charmed or enamored by any of the characters of this movie.

Mikey: It is interesting to note that this is a movie that doesn’t have a lot of grey area… it’s all very black and black.

Solee: I think that might be what makes Rob Zombie’s movies stand out to me. There’s no attempt to justify the movie. There’s no effort to make the watcher feel better about wanting to watch a horror film. If we’re really honest, watching horror is about watching bad things happen to people and most horror films wrap it up in a “save the day” scenario to make us feel less like we’re watching snuff films. This movie makes no such attempt. It WANTS you to feel uncomfortable and a little bad about what you’ve chosen to watch.

Mikey: I definitely felt uncomfortable quite a bit more than I did in 1000 Corpses, which was more of a traditional slasher movie - bunch of college kids out on a trip get into trouble and get murdered. This was much more… out there? Just these are crazy people, so who knows when they’re going to turn even darker than right now. Unpredictable.

Colin: It’s true, every murder in this movie seemed...well, they were never done as a punchline. The family went out of their way to show that they are bad people and that tone really made me want to cover my eyes.

Solee: Can I just mention quickly that I was super weirded out by how much the guy playing Otis reminded me of Will Forte. It added an extra surreal layer to all of his scenes for me.

Mikey: You can mention it if I can mention that Brian Posehn showed up out of the blue! No real layer added there, just fun.

Solee: That was fun, especially since we’re rewatching Mr. Show now. Amy? Colin? Any odd tidbits to add? Little things that stuck out?

Colin: The music was spot on. Every scene that had a major song playing was great! Even though it was “top 40…”

Mikey: Oh yes, the music is well worthy of mention. No big surprise from a rock star director, but really did great things to many scenes.

Solee: I think we lost Amy!

Amy: I'm here. I was just thinking more about some of the transitions. Like the coffee one. And the screaming one. And the billboard in the background when they first go on the run.

Solee: There was a definite skill in the attention to the fine details of this movie. So, the timer has gone off, which means it’s time for each of us to rate the movie on a scale of 0-5 (0 being the worst, 5 being the best). Who’s first?

Mikey: But to be clear, it’s a 1-5 scale. Zero is for GOOD REASONS ONLY. Guests first, of course.

Amy: I’d give it a 3.5. Slightly better than average but has a few things holding it back from greatness.

Colin: There are many things holding this movie from greatness. I’m giving it a 2 out of 5, not because it was a bad horror flick, which it was. Good horror should make you uncomfortable and afraid, but I’m giving it a score of 2 simply because the violence seemed to done just for shock value. Where there was great & funny moments, they were overshadowed by the sheer brutality. Not my kind of horror.

Mikey: Well, let’s save the highest rating for last and let me go now! I did find the movie funny a lot of the time, and the skill and technique employed in creating the visuals was undeniable, so it’s really well done. But I just couldn’t really get into the idea of rooting for badguys, who are fighting against badguys, with the help of badguy friends. It just needed some sort of counterbalance, and the plot didn’t click with me most likely because of that. However, I really liked so much of how it was made. In the end though, it’s not as good as House of 1000 Corpses. It’s not even in the same league. It is a 4 out of 5.

Solee: I fully understand each of your scores. This is definitely not your average horror movie and it’s not going to work for everyone. I’d go so far as to say it’s not going to work for MOST. That being said, it worked for me. I loved the acting. I thought it was skillfully done to a level unmatched by many horror movies. The soundtrack was both enjoyable AND perfect for the scenes. I agree that it wasn’t as good as House of 1000 Corpses, but I think that’s because they tried to commercialize this one a bit. It’s been tamed and that is a shame. I give this movie a 4.5 out of 5 anyway. I hope that doesn’t make anyone worry about my sanity! I’m not plotting to kill anyone, I swear.

Colin: “tame” lol

Mikey: Yeah, this is the tame commercialized version, like the My Little Pony equivalent. So Amy and Colin, don’t you wanna see House of 1000 Corpses NOW?

Solee: They probably won’t ever trust us to chose a movie for them again.

Mikey: That’s okay, because tomorrow we’re letting them choose a movie for us - we’ll be watching Train To Busan, on Colin’s recommendation. So blame him.

Colin: *gasp* I never!

Solee: Thanks for being part of our conversation, guys! It was fun to hear your take on things.

Amy: Thanks for inviting us. It was a good time.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Reaping02:50 PM -- Thu October 26, 2017

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

The Reaping (2007)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A former Christian missionary, who specializes in debunking religious phenomena, investigates a small town which seems to be suffering from the 10 biblical plagues.”
IMDB Rating: 5.7/10
Metacritic Rating: 36/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 8% critics, 49% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: I saw you flipping through the options on Netflix. What was the magic formula that sucked you into The Reaping?

Solee: You know, I’m not even entirely sure. Did I pick this movie?

Mikey: You did! You always pick Satan vs. God movies. That’s why you did it.

Solee: Oh, RIGHT! I remember. I watched the preview and there were plagues of locusts and what-not. I find that kind of thing fascinating. Just like Katherine in the movie, I am drawn to finding scientific explanations for those kinds of phenomena. The world is a very cool place full of lots of bizarre things.

Mikey: That is true. Some less bizarre than others, like when it rained frogs for all of 20 seconds, and about 20 frogs total. Some plagues are better than others.

Solee: But they were the really BIG frogs like at the fair when you have to use the rubber mallet to launch them into spinning lilypads! I think it was the locusts that really drew me in. There were just so many of them. I’m not afraid of grasshoppers or anything that looks like a grasshopper … until there are billions of them and they cover you like a blanket and suffocate you. *shudder* Which was your favorite plague?

Mikey: That was easily the best one. And there were definitely more than 20 locusts. That brings up another issue, but it was an ending-twist issue, so maybe better for later. Instead, let me complain about a plague! The water turned to blood. It was clearly still water, just red. Which I was fine with, because it could certainly have blood in it to make it red. But they got their lab results back and were all “no way, it’s human blood. For that area it’d take like 200,000 people to make that much blood!” Wait wait wait. There is NO WAY that was all blood. It was clearly water. I can’t believe they are proposing that the red water they showed us was 100% blood. That’s just bad. Don’t they know blood is thicker than water?

Solee: They couldn’t get the permits for replacing the entire bayou with red corn syrup.

Mikey: If they’re not willing to destroy an entire ecosystem to make the movie, I don’t feel like I need to watch the movie.

Solee: To be fair, they clearly spent a large portion of their budget on CGI stuff: frogs, flies, skinny cows (not the ice cream bar), lice, locusts, birds, darkness, meteors … all that took a pretty penny, I’m sure.

Mikey: I forgot about the meteors, they were pretty crazy. There was one cow in the background of one shot that was the most awful CGI ever. But overall I thought that stuff was well done. Well, the one cow and the lice were bad. The lice was just little black dots swarming over their heads. I don’t think lice move like that.

Solee: I had another complaint about the lice … why was their FIRST reaction to shave all the children bald? Lice is basically a plague that occurs in every elementary school at least once a year. There are other ways of handling it.

Mikey: It’s tough when you also have boils and locusts to worry about. The quick fix is where you go.

Solee: Oh! I forgot about the boils. Think that was CGI? Or makeup?

Mikey: Just makeup. That was appropriate. Although the people who had the boils were all dead. That made me feel like this was a little more serious than your average boil. Perhaps Satan (or God?) got confused and boiled them.

Solee: You’ve brought us to the real question of the movie. Was it God or Satan who sent those plagues? At one point, it was explained that Satan was using them to protect his “perfect child”, but that child turned out to be an Angel from God, so was it really God warning them? Or did the fact that the final plague/sacrifice actually end up showing that it was Satan the whole time??

Mikey: Oh, I thought there was no question, but now I see what you are saying. So, once all the facts are in, it appears that God had sent the plagues to stop the cultists from hurting his baby girl (though… I don’t get it, why did their evil rituals result in some sort of angel-baby?). But then the end result of all the plagues going off is that the cult, presumably, got their devil-baby in Katherine’s belly. Which I want to point out was supposed to only have the eyes of the devil, so come on, you’re gonna condemn a kid for her eye color? Even if it’s magma red?

Solee: I think the whole idea that Loren was the perfect child sent by Satan was all misdirection. She was sent by God to disrupt the devil-worshippers’ plan which was to get the devil-baby into Katherine all along. Unfortunately, God’s plagues (particularly the one involving the sacrifice of all those first-borns) were part of Satan’s plan. It was that final sacrifice that really finalized the Katherine-is-carrying-the-Devil’s-son plan.

Mikey: There does seem to be some broken logic in here somewhere. I guess we can just go with “God did the right thing, but Satan is super sneaky and knew it was coming and played it out”. Which leads into the whole issue of omniscience and whatnot, but I’m gonna toss that one aside. What I really want to discuss is the fact that the sequel is gonna be the best Odd Couple sibling rivalry ever!

Solee: Like … Good Omens by Gaiman and Pratchett? (Which is being filmed right now, I believe.)

Mikey: I don’t remember the details, but if it’s about Devil-Baby and Angel-Baby arguing over which’s Food Cake they’re going to have for their 5th birthday party (oh, I guess she’s like 12 years older than him… but maybe he grows supernaturally fast, like they sometimes do), then YES.

Solee: Sounds like fun to me! This isn’t just a God vs Satan movie, it’s also a Science vs Faith movie. It’s unclear as to whether God or Satan ends up winning, but it’s pretty obvious that Faith wins out over Science here.

Mikey: Well, not so fast! That’s the trouble with fictional movies. No faith is involved at all. Those cultists exploded in front of her face, so Science says that stuff is real. You can’t beat science! That’s the thing in a movie, the “skeptical” side is proven wrong by the fact that the actual facts are supernatural. And you can use science to verify them, even (like a test to prove the river is 100% human blood and not at all just using editing software to shift regular water to red).

Solee: Hmm. So it’s actually that the science is different in that fictional world? Interesting take. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I don’t think the directors thought of it that way either, though.

Mikey: That’s the tricky thing… whenever a movie tries to say “this supernatural thing is real, see here’s the evidence!!” they’re actually changing it from supernatural to natural. If you can get evidence, then it can be investigated. I won’t make a claim as to whether the supernatural is real, in the real world, because it’s impossible to know - by being supernatural, it is beyond the ability to investigate (BUT it is not real, sorry guys!).

Solee: I don’t know. There was definitely something to Katherine’s willingness, if only momentarily, to sacrifice a young girl to stop the devil even though her own daughter being killed the same way is what destroyed her faith in the first place. That was a pretty strong message of faith over science to me.

Mikey: I see what you mean… the idea that she’d be willing to do that is kind of nuts, when a normal character would be like “Um, no, killing a kid doesn’t fix plagues.” I hadn’t even really clicked in on that because I was just thinking in horror movie terms, where that just makes sense. Of course you kill the kid! Solee’s Rule of Plagues.

Solee: The Bible is really the only place where murdering children is the go-to solution for anything. Even the movies where killing the scary kid has to be done are generally possession movies. It’s actually pretty disturbing, now that I think about it.

Mikey: And in fact they usually aren’t willing to do it at all, or trying everything they can instead of killing anybody. So it is pretty creepy, actually. Especially when plugged into this “real world” scenario. You can imagine a real person saying “yup, this Hurricane Jose is just too big. I think killing that little kid should fix it!” or worse yet, a preacher proclaiming that that’s the case.

Solee: And we’ve just established the biggest reason for my lack of faith. Too often it’s used to the detriment of the weaker folk. Anyway, the “Does God exist?” part of this movie was the least interesting part to me. I don’t usually care for movies that revolve around someone getting their faith back after tragedy, but this one was well done in so many aspects that I didn’t mind that part. I thought the acting was good and the filmography was done well.

Mikey: One last remark on faith: It bothers me that movies like this want to say “see, this is why you should have faith” when what they actually show on screen involves no faith at all. She believed in things at the end of the movie because she had proof, not any faith. I find that frustrating. But yeah, it was some fancy actors (Hilary Swank and Idris Elba) doing fancy acting. Not another found-footage slasher for sure.

Solee: IMDB called it “horror, thriller”. Did it hit the horror category for you?

Mikey: I think it was on the edge. What it really felt the most like was that “genre” where a detective from the North visits a weird little part of the South and gets entwined in mysteries and tries to solve a crime. Which is definitely a type of thriller. But obviously it wasn’t literally that. It had a lot of the elements of that, but I think you get the cult and devil-baby angles and you can legally claim it as horror. Is that fair?

Solee: Seems fair to me. Those locusts were pretty horrific. And there were elements of possession, which is a pretty classic horror. It wasn’t overly scary for me, though. I guess it had a low-level of anxiety that ran throughout, but I definitely will remember it more as a suspenseful movie than a scary one.

Mikey: Ooh, suspense is definitely the word I wanted instead of thriller up above! So, do you feel prepared to rate this Southern Gothic Suspense Possession Cult Film?

Solee: I guess. I thought I enjoyed this movie while I was watching it, but it’s less than 14 hours later and I’m already feeling very ambivalent about it. I suspect in a week, I’ll have forgotten most of it. That’s generally not a good sign for a movie. I’m not even sure why I feel this way, since I feel pretty positively about all the different elements of the film. They just didn’t add up to something that connected with me. So … a 3? It wasn’t terrible. But it didn’t click.

Mikey: Wow, I think you have described my feelings! I don’t hold any hate for the movie, it seemed fine to watch, but is very much forgettable. I think we throw that right in the middle with another 3. It’s not worth watching, yet it’s not actually bad. Interesting.

And that brings us to our next movie, which will hopefully be good, worth watching, and interesting to boot: The Devil's Rejects.

Solee: That seems like asking a lot! But I have faith.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Mark of the Witch02:22 PM -- Wed October 25, 2017

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

Mark Of The Witch (2014)
AKA Another
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“A beautiful young woman is driven into a dark underworld of demonic possession, desire, and extreme indulgences when she learns she may be the devil's kin.”
IMDB Rating: 2.8/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 43% critics, 38% audience
Solee: 0/5
Mikey: 0/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So. We just watched this movie. Both of us. Together. That happened, and it can’t unhappen. How did we end up in a universe where this sequence of events occurred?

Solee: An unhappy convergence of events led to this hellish nightmare. It was really my turn to pick, but I wasn’t feeling motivated to do so. I told you to take over, but suggested that we watch something with a witch, a checkbox we’ve yet to hit this month. Then we threw 75 minutes of our lives away.

Mikey: I feel like good times were had by all. Anyone listening in would have enjoyed the laughter of free spirits.

Solee: Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. I have emotions like a real human person.

Mikey: Wow, with chops like that, you could be in a movie! Perhaps this movie! I guess the biggest concern is whether you’re capable of moving around in extreme slow motion. Constantly.

Solee: I’m not even capable of WATCHING someone move around in extreme slow motion constantly. I’m not sure our Beloved Readers are going to understand the massive volume of slo-mo footage we just sat through. This movie was just over an hour long? If we’d watched the slo-mo parts at normal speed, I’m pretty sure it would be, like, 35 minutes. TOPS. And if they cut out all the parts that were completely unnecessary to the story? This is a 7-minute short.

Mikey: And incidentally, that’s exactly how long the credits were - which were, I am not kidding, in slow motion. Yes, text scrolling up a screen in slow motion. It’s a real thing that we actually saw (and fast forwarded through). So, with that said, I don’t know if it’s too early for this question, but I think we won’t be spending a ton of time discussing this movie: Solange. Is this movie better or worse than #Horror? The readers deserve to know.

Solee: I wish I could say there was some hesitation as I pondered this very important question but … it was SO MUCH WORSE. Which, honestly, isn’t a thing I thought was possible. I’m actually sitting here wishing for #Horror as a palate cleanser. It’s possible I’ve forgotten some of #Horror’s worst offenses, though.

Mikey: I have a much harder time with the question. They’re just so differently terrible. I will give this movie credit because about ⅔ of the way through, it starts having bits and pieces of plot appear in addition to the utterly random slow-motion shots that don’t connect to anything before or after them. Whereas #Horror never stopped with the particular brand of awful it contained. But on the other hand, once we actually encountered people engaging in dialogue, we got to experience the acting in this movie, and that too became problematic. Not to mention the fireball launching.

Solee: Sorry, I got distracted reading our review of #Horror last year, trying to remind myself of it’s travesties. I had completely forgotten the synchronized swimming routine. This gives me hope that in time, I will forget the … well, the EVERYTHING about Mark of the Witch. Acting. Plot. CGI fire superimposed over old ladies fighting. This movie felt like someone cut up a bunch of footage (possibly from several different movies) shuffled it up, and then taped it back together randomly.

Mikey: Except we know it’s not different movies, because every single frame of this movie prominently features the lead actress’s face dead center, in soft lighting. This was a movie about a girl who is obsessed with herself, made by a director who is obsessed with her.

Solee: I absolutely HATE when one character is filmed in that soft, fuzzy filter and everyone else looks like real life (or worse). That actress certainly got the best of everything. She’s got one hell of an agent. I mean, if you discount the fact that she allowed her to agree to do this movie. Earlier in the month, you mentioned the Halloween episode of The Office where Gabe brings in a film of random clips all spliced together to make the viewer uncomfortable (because even plot is a comfort) … I felt like I was watching that again.

Mikey: Yep, there were huge portions like that. There were parts where they just went out of the way to not be linear and clear. Like she’s suddenly in the middle of a conversation with her friend which you later realize must be half a day later, as she’s in different clothes. Then bam, cut to her coming home from work hours later. I feel like maybe they filmed an actual story, and then were like “This makes too much sense! Put it in slo-mo and cut out 90% of it!” I do want to give them credit though: the scene where she sleeps for the entire night, they at least did that one in fast-motion instead of making us watch the whole thing.

Solee: A legitimate concern, given that they made us watch them walk all the way across the hospital parking lot for no reason.

Mikey: With no dialogue. In slow motion.

Solee: There’s a small part of me that wonders how this movie with it’s jerkiness and random clips of nastiness could feel sooooo different from House of 1000 Corpses, which employed a lot of the same weird filters and slanty camera work and such. Then the larger part of my brain reminds me that House of 1000 Corpses used that to artistic effect in the midst of an actual story. That seems to make ALL the difference.

Mikey: That reminds me: there’s a scene about ¾ of the way through the movie, where Aunt Ruth explains (basically this scene IS the entire movie, everything else could be discarded since she actually tells you what is going on) that “this is how it starts, with these weird dreams”. So… was everything before that a dream? It explains a lot.

Solee: Maybe? I don’t know. I guess Auntie Exposition was supposed to be the person we related to? She was a witch who had apparently switched sides, devoted herself to Jesus, and vowed to stop stealing young women’s bodies to keep herself young.

Mikey: Of course that’s before the end of the movie, after her death, when she decides “meh, alright” and possesses a new body. In a completely different ritual which is almost identical to the “giving birth” ritual instead of to the “taking over a body” ritual.

Solee: I think we were supposed to see that she was being forced to continue by her sister. But she certainly didn’t put up much of a fight. These characters did not understand how emotions work at all. They were always smiling when they should have been frowning or frowning when they should have been trying to look innocent. I’ve seen that used to good effect in other movies--The Babadook, for example--but in this one it just looked like the actors had no idea what they were actually saying, so they were adding random facial expressions.

Mikey: I think emotions are hard when you’re pretty. They’re like math or whatevers.

Solee: Ha. Ha. Ha. So, I could go on and on and on about all the terrible details of this movie, but I don’t think that would be entertaining. Did you have anything else you wanted to mention?

Mikey: Just that the scene when Aunt Ruth stabs herself was straight out of Sharknado with the CGI blood. Zero out of five.

Solee: Oh, one last thing from me, too. There was a montage of Jordyn running down the street and ending up in a weird room and then going to Aunt Ruth’s hospital/nursing home and for the entire time she wasn’t wearing any pants. Also, each perspective change (about once every 5 seconds) also had a different Instagram filter applied to it. Anyway. ZERO. So many zeros.

Mikey: Okay wait, to round out the no-pants discussion, I want to add my favorite scene in the entire movie was when Aunt Ruth said “I think you’re old enough to be told this now…” in the scene you refer to, and then you yelled “you need to wear pants when you leave the house!”

Solee: She was DEFINITELY old enough to know that. She was 18 going on 25. Although, to be fair … that whole series of events could have been part of a dream sequence. I often leave the house with no pants in my nightmares.

Mikey: I’ve never had a nightmare so bad it involved watching this movie before! How are we going to follow this one up?

Solee: Well, tomorrow I’m going to pick a good one. I’m thinking The Reaping will fit the bill.

Mikey: The only way to go is up!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Butcher Possessions06:24 PM -- Tue October 24, 2017

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

The Butcher Possessions (2014)
AKA Beckoning The Butcher
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“When Chris Shaw takes his friends out to an isolated house to make a web video, they summon an evil spirit and must fight for survival once it begins to hunt them down.”
IMDB Rating: 4.8/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 38% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Solee: The Butcher Possessions is a unique kind of found footage movie, as it is formatted like a True Crime documentary. Did you know when you chose it? What, besides the found footage aspect, made you choose this movie?

Mikey: I didn’t know that. I definitely picked it because it was your basic found footage cheese, seemed like the perfect thing to break our streak of high quality movies! I do enjoy the documentary format to it, much like Lake Mungo. I want to make special note though of the poster for this movie which has literally nothing to do with the movie. It’s as if you advertised Buffy The Vampire Slayer by showing a picture of Tom Cruise from Interview With The Vampire.

Solee: I was going to mention the same thing. I actually decided NOT to watch this movie several times because I didn’t want to see the movie that poster was advertising. I needn’t have worried!

Mikey: You shouldn’t be scared, you can never go wrong with a found footage movie! This one being Australian, incidentally, for more international flair.

Solee: Yeah, you and I have differing views on what can go “wrong” in a found footage movie, I think. I actually liked the True Crime doc approach because it allowed for some flexibility in the storytelling. They didn’t have to get every single detail in the “original” found footage because they had interviews with Chris’s family and the psychic to fill in the blanks. There were fewer instance of “why the hell are they recording that?” as a result.

Mikey: Although they did include a few heated arguments over whether filming should be happening, which always feels like a waste of time. If they skipped that and just filmed anyway, it’s not like audiences would be screaming “ah c’mon, you shouldn’t be filming!” (yet it’s something I like to note about found footage anyway). The documentary thing is great because it makes it more real. There’s no real situation where you would get an edited-together collection of footage from a dead person, but a documentary explains it and gives you that sort of outside voice to it which adds an air of authority. The found footage in this case comes from a kid who is a YouTube star for making videos of himself attempting various ‘ghost summoning rituals’ and filming the (lack of) results. What do you think about that?

Solee: I think it felt very realistic. Even the fact that he doesn’t really believe it and he never gets any proof but he still keeps putting the videos out there and people keep watching them all felt real to me. I’m sure I could go on YouTube right now and find a dozen people doing just that who are making actual money at it. The world is a very strange place.

Mikey: I just typed “ghost summoning ritual” into YouTube (which it autocompleted for me, even), and there are a whole pile of videos, some of which have over 5 million views.

Solee: Dude. We are in the WRONG business. I thought it was interesting that this movie gave us not one, but TWO different rituals to try. Not that it told us to try them, but COME ON, MICHAEL. Lots of people who watch this movie are going to try these rituals, right?

Mikey: Sorry, got distracted reading the blurbs on these. Wow, they’re dumb. I’m sure people will, though the fact that I couldn’t find the movie on Metacritic, and it only has user reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and only 6 reviews on IMDB, suggests that we don’t have to worry about too many people doing that. Good thing, because we don’t want to summon The Butcher!

Solee: I’ve heard that my old high school, which was recently replaced by a fancy new high school thanks to some bad flooding a couple of years ago, is haunted. Maybe we could make our own YouTube channel!

Mikey: Seems too late if they replaced it. The ghosts were in the boards they threw away.

Solee: By replaced, I meant they built a new one in a different place and now the kids go there. The old one is still sitting there, full of mildew and ghosts!

Mikey: OOOOH!!!

Solee: Anyway. The kids in the movie each signed their name and added a drop of their own blood (with the notable exception of Tara, the sole survivor) for the ritual. As I was watching, I felt a definite difference in my reaction to that (Oh, guys, that’s NOT a good idea) compared to my reaction to his first ritual with the drowned doll and the rice (This is silly). You are much more skeptical and less superstitious than I am. Did you feel differently about the two rituals? Or did they have the same “power” to you?

Mikey: Well, I think there’s always a part of you that is like NOPE when somebody says to sign your name in blood (or drop of blood next to it, as in this case!). I mean it is a little unsanitary, I didn’t see anybody sterilizing that thumbtack. But it sorta gets you, it does feel like there’s something dangerous about it, with the candle and the words and all. It’s silly, and I’m 100% certain that both rituals would be equally effective in real life, but also toward the end of the movie when Chris is saying “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen!” you sort of automatically go “Yeah you did, what did you expect to happen?” It made me think how I would never do a ritual like that. I know it wouldn’t do anything, yet I still wouldn’t do it, and not just because it’s dumb, but because there’s always that sort of in-built superstition that if the point of the ritual is to summon a demon, why on earth would you try in the first place? On the other hand, I felt about the same about his first ritual too.

Solee: That was one of my big notes for the movie. He says he didn’t want anything to happen … but that’s not true. He desperately wanted something to happen. Even during the worst of it, he was recording. He told the girls it was for “anyone who finds this” but in his heart of hearts, he believed he was invincible and he’d have a story that would make him famous. That’s how kids that age think, in terms of invincibility and fame. I’m sure he didn’t want his friends to die, but he didn’t think that far ahead. He didn’t think about what it would mean if it were true. He just went on ahead. The only one who survived is the one who DID kind of believe, which ultimately saved her. Sort of.

Mikey: I liked how they did that, it was actually pretty subtle, how he’d be talking to the camera and describing the situation and somebody would be like “seriously, the show is over, stop it”, and I didn’t even realize he was ‘making a show’ until they said it, because I’m watching the show and trying to get info. Although I would like to point out that none of them signed their names, they all just printed them. Pretty weak. They were probably afraid of a real demon.

Solee: The actors, you mean? There was a whole green room discussion about how the script called for them to sign and they were all “HECK NO.” I like that idea.

Mikey: They were just super happy they got to use fake blood instead of real, since they heard the psychic discuss the danger.

Solee: All part of the negotiations of working on a horror film! So … let’s talk about the actual story for a bit. The ghost story behind this movie. It feels super weak to me. Sure, there were lots of scary bits where the camera is flailing around and the gaggle of girls are screaming, but I don’t feel like I understand the Butcher or anything about his motivation. The psychic could have given us a lot more information about that.

Mikey: Yes, they made a point of how the Butcher ritual was some random thing he found on the Deep Web (and that, scariest of all, the producers couldn’t find it themselves OH NO MUST BE A GHOST WEB SITE!!!), which meant that there was absolutely zero lore attached to the ghost. That could’ve easily been fixed by simply making it “this is a ritual that summons Jane Doe, who died at this house at XYZ street!” And we could learn about Jane murdering her family and whatnot. Because that was another issue I had - they picked the house they did because it was spooky. There was literally no history to the house or anything, just “wouldn’t it be scary to do this here?” On the one hand, I appreciate the ‘realism’ of that: ghosts/demons aren’t tied to a location, they are in the netherworld and can come through anywhere. But on the other hand, that’s a whole layer of lore that would improve the movie.

Solee: Yep. As much as I liked how the found footage was handled, the movie overall was disappointing. It was all flash and no actual substance. Which is a shame because I thought the movie was skillfully put together and I thought the actors did a nice job. It could have been so much more with a little bump to the writing.

Mikey: It did feel like it was “what would be scary?” rather than “this is the story we want to tell.” Which is not the right way to make a movie. Although I think it’s how they make Paranormal Activity movies! Speaking of, scary?

Solee: Not really. I did realize the long seconds of nothing happening while someone pants into the microphone gets my heart racing every time, but other than that, it wasn’t scary. They even had one instance of Paranormal Activity-like rearranging of furniture, but because there were, like, five minutes between times when we saw that room it was too easy to picture one of them doing it. Or imagine the props guys rushing in to reset the scene with everything upside down. The brilliance of PA is that all the cabinet doors open when you glance away for a couple seconds. I did have one jump scare but it wasn’t because it was scary … just unexpected. What did you think? Scary?

Mikey: I think it would have been much easier to fear if it were late at night with all the lights off. We watched in the morning with way too much sun streaming in, and that really killed the vibe. There was potential here, with the quiet creepy room and then something banging somewhere. I can’t quite tell if it was poorly executed or just the sunny morning viewing that ruined that. Also the dogs were in there watching with us, and they are noisy and distracting. I will point out that they didn’t seem to be scared though.

Solee: I don’t think it was the light. We’ve watched a lot of these movies in daylight and I’ve been scared. This one just didn’t quite do it for me. Maybe it was the light for you, though. Anyway, are you ready to rate?

Mikey: You calling me a baby!? Fine, I will rate this movie. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I viscerally disliked the psychic lady, and I don’t think I can explain why. Something smarmy about her. But overall, I would like to give this movie a 2 out of 5. It was not too bad for a bad movie, but it was definitely not a good movie. How do you feel?

Solee: What I’m learning about myself right this second is that I have a strong preference for a bad movie with a good story over a goodish movie with a lame story. I’m also going to give this a 2. It just wasn’t interesting enough to be worth the watch, even though it was pretty well done.

Mikey: Okay then. HOLY CRAP A REAL JUMP SCARE.

Solee: I heard it too. You know what really adds to the atmosphere while watching horror movies? The CONSTANT smacking of birds into our windows this fall. NOT COOL, BIRDS.

Mikey: I’m worried about this one. There is a feather left on the window :(. But I’ll assume he’s just stunned.

Solee: I’m sure that’s correct. I am starting to wonder what kind of curse was put on our house last winter though. We’ve had swarms of mosquitoes coming down the chimney … and now the bird … Maybe we need an exorcist?

Mikey: Oh the mosquito invasion was worse than any horror movie. Speaking of those, what is the next one we are watching?

Solee: I have decided that we should watch a witch movie. But I abdicated selection responsibility to you.

Mikey: In that case, I am setting us up with a winner: Mark of the Witch (2014, AKA Another).
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Under The Shadow05:44 PM -- Mon October 23, 2017

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

Under The Shadow (2016)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.”
IMDB Rating: 7.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 84/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% critics, 74% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: So once again you have thrown us pell-mell into a movie with a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Do you even horror, bro? We’re supposed to be watching schlocky trash!

Solee: I guess I’m just too classy for that kind of nonsense! Actually, I have truly tried to pick terrible movies a couple of times, only to have them turn out to be good and/or entertaining in unexpected ways. This isn’t one of those movies, though. I picked this one because, as I said with Haunted Mansion, I really enjoy watching foreign horror films for the insight it gives me into other cultures. People always talk about how you know you understand a language when you can understand humor in that language. I think the same can be said regarding cultures and what they consider “horror”.

Mikey: This movie is Iranian, by the way. That brings me to a tricky problem I have - I worry I am too lenient when it comes to foreign horror, because there’s so much you can excuse because you aren’t familiar with the culture. What might actually be terrible, you’re just like “well, that’s apparently how they do things!” In Iran, they always include the boom mic in shots! (Not a real example, didn’t see one) So I always wonder if it’s really as good as I think, or if I’m just uncultured. But it definitely helps give you a window into another culture. Especially this movie moreso than some. For us in the West, finding out what an ordinary home in Iran was like in the 80’s is completely news (then again, as I mentioned, how do I know this is ordinary?).

Solee: That was one of my first notes on this movie, actually. During the establishing scenes in the beginning, we saw the director of the college drinking tea (he put a sugar cube in his mouth and drank his tea around it), we saw the interior of an apartment building complete with a doorbell set-up that was quite different than we see here, and we saw the interior decorations of what appeared to be a normal house. Granted I don’t know how “normal” any of these things were, but it was definitely a far cry from the images we see on the news when Iran comes up. In America, we get so caught up in celebrating tradition and historical significance that I think we often forget that other cultures are progressing through time the same way we are. A big part of our inability to connect or relate to people from other cultures is that we insist on picturing them as their ancestors lived. It’s like if people assumed Minnesotans all still lived in tiny log cabins and sod houses, getting around by horse and buggy. Anyway. To circle back to my original point, I agree that it’s difficult to know what’s normal or skilled storytelling, but I still enjoy seeing something more than AP photos of war-torn streets.

Mikey: One thing it made me think, to get overtly political, is how we have been talking about the red/blue divide in America of late, and how each side sees the other as demonic monsters that can’t be reasoned with. But here we see the Real Monsters - Iran, the Great Satan (oh wait, that’s what they supposedly call US). And they aren’t just regular people, they’re totally cool (if extremely stressed at the moment). Like I would rather hang out with that family than many Americans. Sorta like genetics - the difference between them and us is smaller than the difference between us and other members of our own group (that might be a weird analogy, but it’s too big to explain).

Solee: I think I understand what you’re saying. I was interested in how it portrayed the political divide in Iran at that time. Essentially it was the same as the divide here. There are people who want things to be more liberal and people who want things to be more conservative. Those sides clashed and Shideh’s career as a doctor was compromised because she took a political stand and ended up on the losing side. There was a lot that made me think of The Handmaid’s Tale (the series). There are turning points in history that are only recognized as important after the fact. To be honest, that was the scariest part of this movie to me. That we might be on one of those slippery turning points and I don’t trust that things will turn out the way we want.

Mikey: I definitely saw the Handmaid parts here. In fact, there’s a big feminist element to this movie. Maybe it’s too obvious to say, but when the big finale involved the mother and daughter being trapped underneath a giant cloth, I think we can see what the shadow they are under is. Going into it, I had only heard about the war lurking over them, but I think there was a lot more about oppressed women than anything else in the movie.

Solee: I find it fascinating that you brought that up first because I thought I was going to be getting way out there and reading too much into the ending when I said exactly that. We’ve been talking a lot about gender norms and expectations lately, especially in the context of harassment, abuse and how women are basically treated as less-than in so many cases. I, too, thought the big bad being made of cloth and shown as a hijab several times was telling. Taking it directly, Shideh was afraid of losing Dorsa to a culture that expected her to be subservient. Also, the hijab melted into a goo on the floor, which Shideh was sinking into. That seemed to represent how she felt she was being sucked into this new normal that she had fought against. She was stuck in this new set of expectations that demanded she place the arbitrary rules of men ahead of the safety of herself or her daughter.

Mikey: Too deep! And I’d like to point out that her Jane Fonda tape got mysteriously trashed. That fits right in there (it’s what the authorities would’ve done if they had the chance). So I guess this is all a big mass of metaphors. To jump back out into the “just a movie” arena, what is up with dreams in horror movies? I bet it’s the majority of horror movies that include nightmare sequences, and this one had plenty. And of course, they’re always the kind of dreams where the dreamer doesn’t realize they are dreaming.

Solee: That was another area where I’m pretty sure I missed some of the cultural clues. I bet if we watched a bunch of Iranian horror films (are there a bunch?) we’d see that things like the funny camera angles and the movements that didn’t quite fit with each other (she held her arms out too long after her daughter went in to hug her) are signals that indicate dream sequence. Anyway, yes, dreams are a big deal in horror films. Which always makes sense to me because 1) nightmares are a thing everyone can relate to and 2) the first reaction to seeing something unbelieveable is often to assume “I must be dreaming”.

Mikey: Right, we have all had nightmares. Seems like a cop-out in a movie though. To address your question, I stumbled across something interesting (Let's Talk About Iranian Horror Films) - There aren’t a lot I guess, but wow, each one of these sounds super interesting. Fish & Cat is all shot in one take???

Solee: I feel like we should be watching a lot more foreign films. Like for real.

Mikey: Most likely true. But then you can’t play iPhone games while you watch!

Solee: Not a bad thing. So, the horror of this horror film is the djinn, which is not an unusual horror monster (by that, I mean I’ve heard of them before), but also not one I’m super familiar with. The way it wasn’t overly explained makes me think it’s a fairly common evil character in Iran. Like vampires or ghosts here. We don’t tend to overly explain things like garlic and whatnot, because it’s assumed everyone knows the basics. What do you know about the djinn?

Mikey: Well, [The word djinn comes from the Arabic jinn, a plural noun that means both "demons or spirits" and also, literally, "hidden from sight."] I think had they said dybbuk or some other culturally specific variation it would’ve worked the same - it’s an unknown, presumed to be mythical, threat that can do anything because we don’t know what it can actually do. Although they did throw in a couple specifics - it traveled on the wind, and if it took your favorite possession, it could follow you anywhere. Which ended up a key point. I think we got all the info we needed, I felt quite comfortable with it. That’s how I like my monsters, governed by rules, but a little vague and mysterious.

Solee: If the rules are too spelled out and complex, it’s too hard to make the story work around them, I think. You end up with funny plot issues like “why didn’t they just ___”. Did you find the djinn in this movie scary?

Mikey: Yeah, it wasn’t super creepy, but they really did a lot better than probably most of the movies we’ve watched. When her ‘husband’ was in the bed, but she couldn’t see his face, and there was just… something wrong - that was disturbing. And the sudden appearance of the sheet-monster who then dashed into the apartment, that was a good one. And when the man-of-some-sort ran up into the ceiling hole. Lots of good stuff. My big question, which I think is cultural and beyond either of us, is why the sheet monster had that black and white pattern on it. I would’ve expected either all black or all white. I wonder why that was the case.

Solee: I don’t know. Could have cultural significance. Could just be that’s what they had available? I found the whole movie unsettling, but I wasn’t super bothered by the djinn. No more than by the super creepy family that owned/ran the apartment building. I did have one big jump scare, though, when the hand came through the window in her dream. I jumped right out of my skin.

Mikey: I saw that! That’s why they stick in nightmares everywhere, so they can shock you. Well, other than mentioning the ball of magical cat fur, is there anything else we need to cover before we rate this film?

Solee: Um … there’s a lot to this film that we haven’t mentioned. The mute neighbor boy. The fight the mother and daughter had. The way the doll was returned all cut to bits. But I don’t think I have anything else major to say. I’m ready to rate.

Mikey: There were a lot of elements. In fact, we had a hearty dose of family drama going before any bombs or djinns hit. This was definitely one of those moody, slow, movies that really builds up its tone. So, how do you rate that tone?

Solee: I liked the layers of stress and tension all piling on top of one another to make this unbearable situation. It may be that I’m giving it all kinds of leeway because it’s foreign, but I’m going to give it a 5. I liked this movie and I would recommend it. It’s not terrifying on the supernatural level, but it’s scary on a much more realistic level. I thought the acting was very good, by the way. The family dynamics seemed very authentic. What did you think?

Mikey: I forgot to mention that. Besides getting a glimpse into life in Iran, this also really felt like a look at what it’s like to live in a place that’s under attack. Very overwhelming. And like you, I don’t know if I am fooled by those crazy foreigners or not, but I’m giving it a 5 too! I really can’t think of anything to complain about with this movie at all. It’s just dandy. And not a boom mic in sight.

Solee: I’m honestly a little overwhelmed by all the 5s we’re handing out this month. I’m trying to be critical, but we’re just picking too many awesome movies!

Mikey: I’m sorry. I was going to perpetuate the problem by picking another one from the list I found of the Best Horror on Netflix, but let’s take it easy and watch some garbage. How about The Butcher Possessions (also known as Beckoning The Butcher)?

Solee: I’ll have my iPhone games at the ready.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Ruins05:51 PM -- Sun October 22, 2017

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

The Ruins (2008)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of friends whose leisurely Mexican holiday takes a turn for the worse when they, along with a fellow tourist, embark on a remote archaeological dig in the jungle where something evil lives among the ruins.”
IMDB Rating: 5.9/10
Metacritic Rating: 44/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 48% critics, 30% audience
Solee: 3.5/5
Mikey: 3.5/5
We watched this on Hulu.

Solee: When you chose this movie, you said you had read the novel upon which it is based. How closely did it stick to the novel? Which did you prefer?

Mikey: It was surprisingly close to the novel actually. I don’t remember it super well, but every one of the big issues they had to deal with was straight from there. Of course there was more to it - there was a growing dread, because at first it’s just grabby plants, then they mimic sounds (but hey, it’s just noise, it doesn’t know what it means, right?), then they realize it’s intelligent and evil. It ends up laughing at them as it kills them. It’s pretty dark! I think they did a good job with it in the movie. How did it grab you?

Solee: I’m not usually a huge fan of “monster” movies, as they are generally pretty cheesy. This one had a lot of the same flaws--one-sided characters, generic settings--but the monster itself was quite creepy. Especially when the flowers appeared and would mimic the people. The visual there was very unsettling.

Mikey: Yeah, we got our classic band of college kids from every horror movie. I listed them as German, Leader, Whiny, Sexy, and Other Guy. Other Guy might have been The Jock though. And Whiny was probably The Nerd. But mostly just whiny. German isn’t a standard slot in these movies, but I guess he was the token sacrifice since he didn’t get to do much. Things went bad really fast in this movie.

Solee: I liked that about it. It does lead to shallower characters, but let’s face it … we weren’t going to really get to know these kids. It’s much better to throw them right into the fire and watch them squirm longer than to drag out the “look these are real people” bits. Don’t get me wrong, I like “real people” movies better … but this wasn’t a thinking woman’s movie. This was a monster flick and it did monster flick well.

Mikey: Yeah, The Monster spent forever on their life, and was time well-spent. But this was a different idea. This was popcorn! I will say it attacked me in the same way The Thaw did: entities aren’t supposed to go inside your body. It’s not good. I was very stressed out, and I would definitely suffer the same paranoia that Stacy did (which turned out valid).

Solee: Yep, my body got very creepy crawly whenever the vines got their tendrils on a person. My gag reflex was on high alert whenever they were pulling vines out of someone. BLEGH.

Mikey: Yeah. Yikes.

Solee: I was very disappointed that Jeff, who I thought really stepped up during the crisis situations, didn’t make it, but Amy, who did nothing but whine and complain through the WHOLE move, was the sole survivor. This movie did not have a happy ending.

Mikey: I think they were setting up Amy with a sort of arc. As Stacy went crazy, she kind of stepped up and was soothing her. But there just wasn’t enough character to arc with. And to be fair, Jeff didn’t so much not make it as step up even more during the final crisis. He stepped way up.

Solee: Life Lesson: Don’t step up to Mayans who feel it is their sacred duty to stop you from spreading the infectious, man-eating plant around the planet. They’re gonna take you down. Those Mayans definitely understand Solee’s #1 Rule of Infection.

Mikey: I was on their side for the whole movie. This was a white privilege trespassing-because-we-can movie. One of them even said “Four Americans on a vacation don’t just disappear” as reason why they were going to get out alive. Somebody will care about us, we’re American! I really liked that the Mayans weren’t bad in any way, they were totally right and it just made a bad situation for the main characters who didn’t know what they were doing. That’s so much better than having a silly villain who wants to do something evil (worse yet when they know it’s evil, they just like to be evil). That feels much more real.

Solee: There’s a part of me that feels like those kids could have done a better job of surviving. They did some really dumb things. But when I think about it, I can’t really think of anything that would have worked against a plant that was essentially mind-controlling them and guards who knew they’d already been infected. What would you have done differently if you found yourself on a sentient-plant-infested temple?

Mikey: I’m curious about this mind-controlling. What do you refer to there?

Solee: Well, maybe not mind control so much as it drove them insane. Those kids were not acting normally toward one another. Or was that just another example of how I’m too old for movies about college kids now? Because I don’t care if you’re my worst enemy … if we’re trapped and you’re the only person around to collaborate with, you’ve become my new best friend. All the other crap can wait until we’re not on the brink of death.

Mikey: Huh, I took all that as the result of extreme stress. I mean, here’s the thing to your original question: I don’t think it matters one bit what I would do differently. There was no way anybody was getting off that pyramid (nevermind that one did). It’s just a literally impossible situation. Once they touched those plants, it was all over. Which is the horror of it all. And explains a lot of stress being felt.

Solee: Do you think more of them would have gotten off if they had gone with the run-for-it strategy earlier? Eric was in pretty good shape until Stacy put a paring knife through his chest.

Mikey: That was shocking and seemed very implausible even in her lashing out. But anyway, I don’t think so. I think it’s a miracle (a bad one) that even one of them got away. The Mayans were doing their best to save the world! Speaking of her getting away, I found an alternate ending to this movie on Youtube, which is exactly what I expected to see at the end. I knew that would happen!

Solee: WHY DID THEY CUT THAT?? I wanted that ending. I’m disappointed that wasn’t part of the actual movie. It needed to be. If only so that I could see Amy get her just reward for being soooo unpleasant.

Mikey: I know, it was so short too, and it only adds to it. Plus now we can have the sequel where they have to salt around the entire city she was buried in.

Solee: I mean, with a monster this invincible, it sorta seems like the beginning of the end for humanity, right?

Mikey: It does feel that way, although I have a hard time figuring why the Mayans never just burned that pyramid in the first place. Seems like fire would work. I’m about 80% sure the book had a clear-cut explanation for why this wasn’t an option (and clearly the people stuck on top didn’t have the means to do it), but once it’s settled in in America, that seems reasonable. Although then you think about everything she touched on the whole way back...

Solee: Yeah. Amy selfishly doomed the whole world. Typical Amy. What did you think of Dr. Jeff’s efforts to save the German by cutting off his legs medieval surgeon style?

Mikey: Well… I think he was right. They only showed quick shots in the movie, but that was exposed bone. It was bad. Bad bad. Yikes. This was indeed a stressful movie, and it was well-done so that you really felt the tension instead of laughing at stupid effects or bad acting. One thing with Dr. Jeff though - I think that was bad casting. He just looked like a total villain the entire movie. Maybe I’m just prejudiced against him.

Solee: No, I agree. I kept waiting for him to go evil in some way. Like when the leg surgery was happening, there were facial expressions that made me wonder if he REALLY thought it was the best thing for Mathias or if it was the plants trying to inflict more horror on them somehow. I bet that could have been alleviated with a different hairstyle or something. There was a sinister look to him.

Mikey: I feel bad that we are dooming him to villain roles because of his looks. We’re eyebrow-shaming (not sure it was eyebrows, that was just the most villainous facial feature I could think of). It’s interesting though, I never had the notion that the plants were controlling anybody in any way, and you are going there again. I really wonder what I would think had I not read the book beforehand.

Solee: Well, I’m not trying to push that theory … I just watched the whole movie through that particular lens. Maybe it’s because Get Out had a sound trigger for mind-control. Those sentient flowers could definitely have come up with something. Even just the constant buzzing/ringing noises would have driven them a little crazy and that’s a form of control, isn’t it? The plant evolved knowing that if it made humans crazy enough they’d lash out.

Mikey: That makes sense to me. It certainly made an effort to torment them. Well, do you have more insights to share, or a rating?

Solee: I’m ready to rate. I am going to give this movie a solid 3.5. It wasn’t anything spectacular in any way, but it wasn’t bad enough to really hate it. The premise was interesting and it was fun to despise the character of Amy. It was middle of the road. You?

Mikey: Well, I think this movie was really well-done, surprisingly so. I was super impressed by it, on a technical and creative level. But the specific creation which they did such a good job making was still just “a bunch of college kids with no personality go party at a cabin in the woods and get murdered” as usual. So I think I have to join you right on the 3.5 spot. Enjoyable and well-made, but it lacks that something special to make it a work of art rather than another shlocky murderfest. Which is harsh, because it was good. If it even just had cleverly written characters who you cared about, I think that would jump it right up to a 5.

Solee: I think you’re right about that. There’s not a lot of 2s or 4s in this kind of thing. This could have been very good with the right touch.

Mikey: So close! Perhaps our next movie will hit the mark. What is that?

Solee: Oh, I’m choosing to wow us with Under The Shadow!
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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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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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Belittling Horror Excessively: Stonehearst Asylum04:18 PM -- Wed October 11, 2017

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

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“An Oxford graduate takes up a job in a mental asylum, only to discover that the "revolutionary" new treatments are inhumane and that there is more going on than meets the eye.”
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Metacritic Rating: 52/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 53% critics, 49% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 4/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: Okay, looks like we have a Solee pick, and we start with our usual question: why Stonehearst Asylum?

Solee: I was flipping through the scary movies you’ve saved into our Netflix movie queue (thank goodness for Netflix profiles!) and the cast of this one caught my eye. Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Kate Beckinsale … all names I recognize and respect as actors. I figured with such a classy cast, it must be good. And after some of the movies we’ve seen recently, I was ready for good.

Mikey: Our second Kate Beckinsale of the month (The Disappointments Room), and we haven’t even tried an Underworld movie, which is where I always think of her from. Not so classy, that. And for that matter, this movie: not so horror. Right?

Solee: You and I have a different threshold for horror. Or rather, I don’t really care for horror so much as I do thrillers and mysteries. This had everything I like in a creepy movie - psychology, twists, murder, true love, etc.

Mikey: True love… more like obsession and lust. That was one of my issues (until the twist explained it): that he saw this woman for 2 seconds and decided she was the best thing ever. Um, that’s her looks you like. But anyway, I think this plot could’ve been horror, but there would be different directorial choices in making it. Darker, more mysterious, more shocking. I call this drama/thriller.

Solee: I agree. About the romance and the categorization. I particularly liked all the quotable lines in this film. “Death cannot be prevented … it’s a foolish physician who tries.” “We’re all mad, Dr. Newgate. Some are simply not mad enough to admit it.” Kingsley is easy to listen to.

Mikey: Yeah, he had a lot of clever soundbites about how to treat his patients well. I liked the twist that his treatment was actually better than the real doctor’s. But it was all so easy, that I feel like there’s a message there about how the quotable simple cures aren’t real. Not that Dr. Salt was doing the right thing (it was the 1800’s after all), but that feel-good claptrap might seem nice for a little while before it all falls apart.

Solee: OOH. I’m feeling almost as triggered as Dr. Lamb was at the use of the word “madness”! Just kidding, but my big take-away from this movie was almost exactly the opposite of that. I found much of what was happening at the asylum to be a good analogy for teaching these days. There is the way you’re trained to do it … and then there’s the way that treats students like human beings. And all my life I’ve dealt with the fact that those who can’t think outside the box think the ones who can are crazy for being willing to do so.

Mikey: Well, I think this movie seemed to start out with a simple idea: the “treat people like people” philosophy was just plainly better than the “drug them into oblivion” method. But as it went along, we saw the flaws. It all started to collapse, because these people weren’t normal, they needed special care, not to just be treated like anybody else. So what I saw there was kind of a plea for modern psychology - yes, throw away the barbarism and treat people with respect, but just going all the way to freedom and normalcy doesn’t cut it. Which is nuanced. I wrote one note that this movie seemed like psychiatry vs. psychology, though I think that’s much more simplified.

Solee: I think the same idea applies to most fields of study. Use new, proven methods, but don’t forget that we are always dealing with human beings. For some reason humans have a hard time with that concept.

Mikey: OH! I thought multiple times during this movie, and again during this discussion, of a podcast I heard recently. They were talking about a guy who has made it his mission in life to get all nursing homes shut down. To remove the very concept of a nursing home (he has some fancier model with more respect for the patient he’s working on). They talked about all kinds of statistics of how people die so much quicker when they go into a nursing home, and lose their faculties quickly and all that, and it all has to do with the way that nursing homes are so built around regular routine. The people have no new stimulation in their lives, everything is carefully built to prevent anything surprising and new, which just breaks you down. And I definitely saw that here. People languishing under solitary sedation, allowed to flourish with social interaction.

Solee: That makes a lot of sense to me. We are a society built around factory culture and it’s clearly unhealthy for our mental state. Did you notice how the movie suggested that electroshock therapy was invented by Dr. Lamb in order to punish Dr. Salt?

Mikey: Yeah, I wondered if he really invented it, or more likely it was one of Dr. Salt’s tools that he was claiming.

Solee: Oh, that makes more sense.

Mikey: Well, he was a doctor too, so who knows! Medicine was the wild west back then, I imagine. Everybody inventing their own snake oil. I felt like there was a bit of a cop-out with that: they wiped Dr. Salt’s brain so that when the staff was rescued, the conflict was over. If Dr. Salt had been healthy, he would’ve re-taken charge… and would that be good? Much more complex.

Solee: NO. That would NOT have been good. What was good was they put the former head nurse in charge. She seemed to represent the balance between humanity and science.

Mikey: I think so… but Dr. Salt represented the actual rules of modern medicine at the time. Possibly. It’s also possible he got away with horrible things by being out in a remote area alone.

Solee: I think it’s a little of both. I suspect those kinds of places were located out in remote areas partly because their methods were “shocking”. It was much easier for “polite society” to push their “disappointments” out to the edges of civilization and let folks like Dr. Salt to what they will.

Mikey: I think it was interesting that in our Disappointments Room review, you mentioned how asylums were the more modern version of disappointments rooms (was that also mentioned in the movie?). This movie even called them “disappointments to their families”. Kate Beckinsale seems to only do movies about this concept. Based on this sample of two.

Solee: Clearly a scientifically sound study. So there were two big twists in this movie. Did either of them catch you off-guard?

Mikey: Well, I made a note, the very first time Dr. Newgate met Dr. Lamb: “I already suspect the new guy”. I thought Dr. Lamb seemed like the real deal, but Dr. Newgate was fishy. So I was kind of jumping one twist ahead. But I was almost disappointments’d when they revealed the staff was being held captive. I mean, it’s such a huge cliche, the inmates are running the asylum… but I should note that this is based on an 1845 Poe story (“The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether”), so it’s probably the original incarnation.

Solee: I was suspicious of Mickey Finn from the moment he appeared at the front gate. I had figured out that they were the inmates before it was revealed (although maybe not as much before as I should have). I was not expecting the second twist. I’m not sure why not, because it wasn’t really that shocking, but I didn’t get there on my own.

Mikey: I am glad of it, because his unhealthy obsession seemed like stupid Hollywood romance until they revealed he was actually obsessed. Mickey Finn certainly did have a hard time hiding his particular creepiness. But that’s pretty standard for orderlies at an asylum, so I didn’t mind.

On a different note, I want to point out a problem I had: I enjoyed the way Dr. Newgate escaped from Dr. Lamb - it’s fun when somebody is in an inescapable predicament and yet finds a legitimate way out rather than something arbitrary like being rescued. But the effect that the photo had on Dr. Lamb doesn’t make sense to me. He carried this photo with him all the time. Did he carry it without ever looking at it? If he constantly looked at it, as you might imagine, it shouldn’t have had a huge impact on him to see it. If he did in fact never look at it, and had it like some kind of talisman… well, I guess okay, but how likely is it that somebody would go completely catatonic from looking at an image of their trauma? I think I would’ve gone with him having some kind of horrible outburst or something that set up an escape.

Solee: I feel compelled to point out that it was wrapped up and stuffed in the wall. I don’t think it was something he pulled out to stare at. I think it was something he desperately wanted to forget but that he couldn’t actually allow himself to let go of.

Mikey: But it was hidden away for good reason - his chess game against Dr. Salt. There’s no proof he avoided looking at it. And he would’ve had to look at it at one point in his life to put it in there. So I have my doubts. Mostly because I think reactions that extreme are pretty far out of the norm. And certainly Dr. Newgate couldn’t have expected it. Though I guess he was just trying whatever he had.

Solee: I see what you’re saying. It didn’t bother me though. So how would you end up rating this movie?

Mikey: Weeeelll… I do not qualify this as a horror movie, so let’s just throw that right down the body tube. But I did enjoy it. It was very interesting, and twists are always helpful. I was displeased when the twist of the staff being held captive was revealed super early on, but it worked because they twisted more later. It seemed like that could’ve been something that unraveled with time. But anyway, it was fun in the end, and it did not disappointments with the psychological conflicts. I would give it a 4 out of 5. What would you do for this film?

Solee: I just want to say up front that I know how biased this rating is and I don’t care. I completely agree with you that this wasn’t really horror … and I’m still giving it a 5. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I liked the story, I liked the acting, I liked the visuals and soundtrack choices, and I actually feel like watching it was a valuable use of my time. So, it gets a 5.

Mikey: Wha-boooom! Well, I hope we can turn that smile upside-down with our next film, The Monster (2016).

Solee: Sounds … amazing!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Jeepers Creepers05:22 PM -- Tue October 10, 2017

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

Jeepers Creepers (2001)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 45% critics, 48% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched on Hulu.

Solee: You realized as we watched the opening scene of Jeepers Creepers that you had seen it before. There’s obviously something about it that calls to you. Do you know what that thing is?

Mikey: Well, I quickly realized it, but I also quickly after forgot it, because I remembered nothing about the movie. So it didn’t call very loudly to me. Nonetheless, I remember when it came out that people were talking about it, and it was one of those popular horror movies. So I thought we should check it out! Had you heard about it in advance?

Solee: I vaguely remember the title. In 2001, I was not watching many horror films or paying attention to them, as I recall. I had no idea what it was about, although I know the song well enough to suspect eyes were involved. Let’s start by talking about the craft. What did you think of how the movie was put together?

Mikey: At first, it looked surprisingly like a TV movie. There’s something about long slow crossfades and white text with no drop shadows (or something… no outline?) that just screams TV movie. But even though I really didn’t like either of the two main characters, I did feel like this was a big step up from the usual teenagers-getting-slashed movie in terms of acting. It was a little cartoony, but that beats deadpan and unaware of how humans emote.

Solee: Now that you mention it, I didn’t really care much about either of them. But not in a cheering-for-them-to-die way, like in most movies with dumb teens as the protagonists. I feel like this movie did a much better job of portraying a sibling relationship than others we’ve seen recently (I’m looking at you, Altar!) The acting wasn’t hideous … but I did make a note about how I just CAN’T take Justin Long and his stretchy face seriously. He just has a face for comedy (and I mean that as a compliment!).

Mikey: I suppose that’s kind of sad, but true. What was even more cartoony was that bit where the monster jumped up on the roof of a house, and it followed with one of those cartoon sequences where the camera pans down through the house and we hear the bang-pow-smack-MROWR noises as he clunks his way through. That was just not the right choice for horror. But back to the pair in general, they were just rude to everybody who tried to help them!

Solee: Yeah. I’m a skeptic and I often wish horror characters weren’t so easily convinced that they are facing supernatural stuff, but this Tricia was just too skeptical for her own good. I mean, she’d already seen enough crazy stuff with her own peepers to take the psychic lady seriously, if you ask me.

Mikey: Jeepers! The same psychic lady who called them out of the blue, knowing their names and describing things they had seen when alone. She’s either psychic or stalking them, either way just acting like she’s dumb doesn’t make a lot of sense. There was a running theme of them not being concerned enough with the things they saw. Not like some movies where they fail to emote, but they’d stare dumbstruck at something (such as a demon picking up a severed head and licking it) for minutes on end before they decide it’s time to run.

Solee: I had the same problem with the initial scene involving the big tube leading underground (is there a word for that?).

Mikey: That’s a Body Tube.

Solee: DUH. I knew that. I was right on the tip of my tongue. My streeeeetchy, streeeeetchy tongue. Anyway, from where they were standing, it appeared that there was no other way out. And it was obvious you couldn’t climb back up the Body Tube. AND YET. He decides to hang face first into the darkness where they suspect a body has been dumped and which they themselves have indicated smells terrible. That’s just Stupid Movie Decision Making in action.

Mikey: I can’t believe you had a problem with that tongue. You like gummy worms!

Solee: *gag*

Mikey: I agree with you about getting in the tube (but think of what a hero that makes him! Except in other scenes he’s a cringey coward). But I did like the overall path of how the plot begins. It was fun that these two basically stumbled across the monster doing his thing, in the middle of a killing spree. It’s almost like we’re catching a side-story to an existing movie. And it was believable that they’d decide they need to try to help the bodies. They just did such a bad job of being careful and fast about it. Not nearly enough effort put into surviving.

Solee: Yep. And I’m very concerned about that car. Even before the accident, it was obviously the slowest vehicle in the world (not counting the RV they passed). They spent WAY too much time inching past the murder house making eye contact with the scary demon.

Mikey: You should be concerned about that car, it’s clearly near-impossible to drive.

Solee: AND the cigarette lighter is broken!

Mikey: The true horror of the movie! But speaking of driving past his house… I know this is a rural area in the middle of nowhere, but his body-dump church is right on that road which is clearly not *dead dead* (we saw at least 3 cars use it in like half an hour), and he dumps bodies in broad daylight… and he’s never been caught in over 20 years (the urban legend couple was in there from 20 years ago)? Well, I guess he doesn’t operate except for 23 days, once every 23 years though. But still, those bodies have then been sitting in there for 23 years. Questionable, I say. Even for 23 days, I don’t buy it.

Solee: Perhaps there’s an element of bewitching the town, like in IT? Those diners were pretty sedate and unconcerned. The cat lady was a little more lively, although not very helpful.

Mikey: That’s true, he did seem to feed on fear… so a creature who awakens every 23/27 years to feed on the fears of a town for a season. Similarities indeed. A tiny town, which by the way has more cops than all of LA County. More heavily armed, too.

Solee: That police station was a hopping place. Of course, that didn’t help them solve all those missing person cases. Thank goodness for the psychic, cherie.

Mikey: Right, I was bothered by her, because one of the awkward difficult challenges of horror is explaining the backstory to your ghost/demon/monster. In some movies the hero goes to the library and finds old microfiche articles, sometimes they just find it all on google, sometimes an old guy knows the local legend. In this movie they just said, “Ah screw it, the DA from Bones magically knows it all and is compelled to tell our heroes.” Exposition cop-out. They could’ve done better with no explanation and just having the scenes where he eats the guys and regrows his hand/leg. We’d get it.

Solee: Hahaha! Yes. Yes, we would. It wasn’t subtle. Can we go back to the cat lady for a second? She was played by Eileen Brennan, whom we both recognized immediately. She has a very distinctive voice. You said, “Oh, from Clue” as I said, “She was in Babes In Toyland”. I feel like this moment in time sums up our respective pop-cultural backgrounds pretty well.

Mikey: Yeah, Clue was one of the five or six movies we had on a VHS tape recorded off the TV (TVs used to not record themselves magically, and also there were these rectangles of plastic that could record the picture from a TV, called VHS tapes. Look it up) as I was growing up, that we watched again and again. I don’t know why we didn’t just record more movies, but we kinda just watched the ones we had. It was harder in those days since there was no channel that told you what was on all the other channels. We had that IN PAPER FORM.

Solee: That’s funny because Babes in Toyland was the same for us. It was recorded off the TV, with the first few minutes missing, probably because we were trying to find a tape we were willing to record over. You know, because the idea of going out to buy blank tapes never occurred to us. That’s still a movie I have fond memories of. It had Keanu Reeves in it, back when he was super cute and popular.

Mikey: Just like Justin Long! But back to eating body parts, or at least talking about doing so. I just wanted to point out that all the fake body parts in this movie looked really fake. They had some cover for that because apparently the monster had shellacked them (which is weird - his interest in taxidermy was never explained, although I guess he needs hobbies), but they did not look good. Like the gummy tongue.

Solee: They were very department store mannequin, which was weird to me because I thought the demon was well done. The makeup and special effects were decent. That makes me think the mannequin aspect of the bodies was intentional. Very strange choice.

Mikey: Maybe they spent their budget on the demon. Regarding his makeup, I think a huge flaw in this movie is the fact that we see him. A lot, and in great detail in good lighting. That’s such a fundamental rule of horror. It ruins any scare factor he holds. He basically becomes Cardassian #7 from Deep Space Nine. With wings. Who’d he eat to grow wings anyway?

Solee: There WERE a lot of birds in this movie. Maybe when people get scarce…? Although they looked more like bat wings. He had some pretty fancy headgear at the end, too.

Mikey: Yeah, he ate a spider’s legs, but he did it while thinking really hard about his head. That’s the kind of hijinks he gets up to during his 23 year break. I like that this was an original monster rather than some tradition we already knew, that was fun. I just didn’t need Cherie to explain it all to me.

Solee: Before we get to ratings, I want to point out one last thing that annoyed me: Tricia did NOT understand how the demon worked or how human anatomy/genetics works. The demon has her brother and she keeps telling the demon to take her instead. Girl! That demon spent the whole movie sniffing out which of you he wanted! And your claim that you “have everything the same inside” is just ridiculous. I was annoyed by that. I mean, even if they’d been twins (maybe they were?), they obviously weren’t identical twins!

Mikey: Fairly obviously. That entire impassioned speech made for such an anticlimactic ending. I fully expected another scene to the movie - she should’ve followed him to his new lair and had a showdown. The final bit is fine - horror movies don’t have to end happy - but this just didn’t feel like the end at all.

Solee: YES! She said all that and then the next thing we know, she’s given up, slouching in the police station, waiting for her mommy and daddy to pick her up and his face has become a mask. I was seriously surprised to see ending credits. I needed something more.

Mikey: For sure. Also, apparently it wasn’t just his peepers he wanted, it was also the back of his head. That was odd, but I guess they really wanted that final shot of the eye through the hole.

Solee: Yeah. It was an unsettling shot. So what are you going to rate Jeepers Creepers?

Mikey: Well, it definitely is all over the place rating-wise. Good things and bad things abound. It held my interest pretty well, even though most of the time I was scoffing about how dumb one thing or another was. So I’ll go with a 3. Let’s stick it right in the middle. What do you think?

Solee: I’m right there with you. It was obviously done by folks who understand movie making. But there were flaws I can’t ignore. So I’m giving it a 3 as well.

Mikey: Twinsies!!

Solee: Twinsies, indeed! :)

Mikey: I hope you’ve picked out an amazing movie (possibly featuring creepy evil twinsies) for us next.

Solee: For our viewing pleasure tomorrow, I've chosen Stonehearst Asylum!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: My Bloody Valentine 3D05:27 PM -- Mon October 9, 2017

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

My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one that believes he's innocent.”
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 51/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 57% critics, 44% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.

Mikey: I always have to ask: what made you settle on this one?

Solee: It was 10% interest in the murder mystery aspect and 90% excitement at recognizing Dean Winchester as a main character!

Mikey: What I was surprised by was that 2009 is right in the middle of Supernatural. I feel like he could’ve done better.

Solee: I feel like you are right. Jensen Ackles is a better TV actor than movie actor. Or maybe it was the script/director. I dunno. Either way, this movie wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Mikey: No, but it does certainly start right off with a bang - I think there are 22 kills in the first ten minutes of the movie before it settles down and starts telling the actual story.

Solee: I even said aloud, “Oh, they’re just making out in a corner. It’s much too early in the story for them to be dead!” Technically, I was right. Those particular kids weren’t dead, but IMMEDIATELY after I said that, we saw about 10 people get pickaxed through the brain. It was shocking.

Mikey: It’s all the more shocking when the pickaxe can plow right through bone and brain, but do no damage to your eyeball as it simply pops it out of your head, speared like a cocktail weenie. That was one of the moments that helped us realize we were watching a 3D movie (in 2D).

Solee: I was actually very relieved when you figured that out. Some very weird scenes made a lot more sense in that context. I’m kinda sad I didn’t get to see it in 3D.

Mikey: It would’ve been a fun gimmick. Without it, it was just terrible CGI. Which I guess it would’ve been in 3D as well, but the extra dimension would distract us. All of the big gore moments featured some ridiculous CGI that made this movie look, to me, like a TV movie rather than a big budget Hollywood thing (considering it was 2009, not 1999).

Solee: Yeah. It was ridiculous. That being said, this was probably the most grossed out I’ve been so far this month. I think that’s partly because pickax isn’t a weapon I’m used to seeing. And that scene with the shovel!! Blegh.

Mikey: It is certainly well suited to going right through people. A lot of eyes were averted during this movie, but I watched the shovel scene. It was probably the worst CGI of the whole movie, I couldn’t look away. This whole thing was just incredibly brutal… just a lot of non-stop killin’.

Solee: I also wanted to look away from the terrible plotting of this movie. There were a whole lot of things being asserted without ANY supporting evidence. I have never written a murder mystery because I fear ending up with something as convoluted and clumsy as this.

Mikey: I don’t think that would happen. I got very tired of them being sure it was Harry Warden, a man they knew was dead. I mean, maybe if there were some crazy ghosty things happening, you might have one character who’s insisting that, but everybody was so sure. It was not believable. I found myself caught by the whole ‘mystery’ angle though, I kept considering each suspect and having ideas about them. So it did entertain me in that way. Though - no surprise - the end result ruined that. The fact that scenes we had previously seen (and not in a “so, Sheriff, here’s what happened…” flashback) actually didn’t happen the way we saw them just undermines any hope of the movie working. The movie itself was an unreliable narrator, in what felt like a very unfair way, where something like The Usual Suspects is brilliant (because it IS a “so, Sheriff, here’s what happened…” flashback!).

Solee: Yes. It left me feeling like I’d been lied to. I HATE that. Many of my notes are about that. And I’m still not entirely sure how the movie ended. Or how the director/screenwriters THINK it ended. Was this a split personality movie? A haunting? A possession? Sadly, I’m wondering that in a cranky way, not a ooooh-that-was-interesting way.

Mikey: I’m calling it yet another split personality. A very unexplained one. At one point I had a great theory going that I wrote down, that Sheriff Axel and Deputy Martin were working together, and I thought the end would involve somebody running from the miner and ending up right in front of another miner, for that “whoa, how’d he move so fast?” moment. Remember the meaningful glance they shared outside the store? Totally should’ve happened. And it would’ve fit the actual scenes we had seen before that point.

Solee: Once again, we come up with a better plot than the movie makers. We should move to Hollywoodland. I don’t have anything meaningful to add to this conversation. Just a few random, disjointed observations.

Mikey: Well, here is my last comment on the above issue: I am pretty sure that two-killer thing is the twist in Scream, which is what this movie was trying to be (Sheriff Axel even looked like Dewey!). So probably best for them not to do it. And maybe I didn’t invent it as much as remember it. What observations do you have? I have a couple.

Solee: Well … for one thing, I’ve never seen a character who was more comfortable being naked than Irene.

Mikey: YES! The longest full-frontal nude scene in cinematic history!

Solee: I was honestly jealous at how she was able to just handle things in the moment, completely disregarding the fact that she had no clothes. I was NOT, however, jealous of her total inability to aim a gun.

Mikey: That was so weird. I’ve never seen anybody act like that, it was like the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Solee: Indeed. There are a couple of positive notes in my fancy notebook, though. First of all, I think it’s a positive things (in terms of a horror movie) that I made an unintentional, audible gasp each time someone was killed. Secondly, there was a scene in a grocery/convenience store. The characters ran around smashing things and generally creating chaos and I found it very satisfying. I would love to have the opportunity to just smash the hell out of a space at some point. It left me wondering whether it was a very expensive set or a real store that had been willing to let the movie makers wreck havoc.

Mikey: So you like breaking stuff. Me too! I think in general the kills didn’t get to me (one of my notes early on was “the kills have no drama or tension”, which is true, he just ran up to each person and chopped them down and moved on), but one specific scenario, which came up a lot, really gets to me: the pickaxe is stuck in the wall or floor, and somebody’s head is being slowly pushed toward it as they struggle not to get impaled. Now that’s got tension to it!

Solee: You just don’t like seeing impending eye injury! That’s one of your sensitivities!

Mikey: Especially eyes, but any body part is scary for that. Hey, here’s something I will note: that dryer was amazingly hot. The housekeeper who got stuffed in it was COOKED. Also, surprising she fit. And that it could turn with a person’s weight in it.

Solee: Clearly an industrial strength dryer.

Mikey: Well, let’s get down to it. What kind of rating do you give this 3D experience? Without the 3D.

Solee: I think this is a pretty solid 2. It’s not great in many ways, but it’s not sooo bad that it deserves a 1. I’m not sure that I’d recommend it to anyone, but I’m not going to actively tell people to avoid it. What are you going to give it?

Mikey: That sounds pretty good. I remained interested with the mystery (until it betrayed me at the end), and it certainly kept moving. But it was also stupid. Especially after it betrayed me. I will share your 2 rating. Not your finest work, Dean.

Solee: I’m tempted to watch some of my favorite episodes of Supernatural to clear my palate.

Mikey: Well, after your marathon, we will be tuning in to Jeepers Creepers tomorrow to dirty it up again!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors04:29 PM -- Sun October 8, 2017

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

Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A psychiatrist familiar with knife-wielding dream demon Freddy Krueger helps teens at a mental hospital battle the killer who is invading their dreams.”
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% critics, 67% audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 2.5/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: So last night you made me watch A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. My first question is … what do you have to say for yourself?

Mikey: Okay dude. There are so many reasons why this was a good idea! First of all, this was payback for you feeding me your beloved movie from your youth. Secondly, it actually came to mind back on day 1, when we watched IT. I hope you see the similarities. Thirdly, it’s fun! Fourthly, it is indeed a movie from my youth. I’ve probably seen it three or four times, way back when I was a teenager. The hypodermic needle scene was one I remembered well.

Solee: That was one of the better moments. So let’s talk about this IT comparison you’re making. The bad guy takes on the form of the victim’s fears … sorta. Does the comparison go deeper for you?

Mikey: Not deeper, completely different. That is kinda-sorta true, but isn’t what I thought about. It was about the larger world ignoring the monster, and only this group of kids was preparing to take it on, and they have some special power to defeat him. It’s about the team vs. the monster.

Solee: That’s a totally valid comparison that I didn’t think of at all. Cool. And both groups of “kids” are 80s kids. But totally different. How is that possible?

Mikey: Well this group was beautiful. And bad.

Solee: With a mohawk! They definitely represented the shiny dresses and synth music side of the 80s, whereas the IT kids were the biking until dark and playing unsupervised in sewage runoff side.

Mikey: Don’t let the IT kids fool you - they were just younger and nerdier. When they age a few more years, they’ll be listening to The Cure and wearing Members Only jackets themselves.

Solee: Yeah… I guess you’re right. This is what makes me a Xennial (blegh … just kidding, that’s a stupid term). I was born in the late 70s, but didn’t start getting into pop culture until the 90s. So I completely missed the Boy George, big hair, jewel-toned makeup stuff. That and I was pretty nerdy, relatively speaking.

Mikey: Me too! But while I reject the term Xennial forever and always, my youth was The Goldbergs for sure. I had a Members Only jacket, and it had buttoned epaulets. And I certainly listened to The Cure.

Solee: And YOU STILL listen to 80s pop more than is healthy.

Mikey: That statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. I maintain it is beneficial on many levels.

Solee: Whatever. So, as I rewatched Chain Saw Massacre, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have the same impact as when I watched at a younger age. How did Dream Warriors hold up for you?

Mikey: Well, I’m not great at memory, but I can definitely recall it was a little scary when I originally saw it. I think the puckering track-marks were not as mildly discomforting as they were this time. And the Great Wizard (thankfully not Grand Wizard) was not as stupid. I probably thought it was cool, though I doubt I would acknowledge that.

Solee: Haha! Yeah. Kids are dumb. Speaking of kids … why were movie makers in the 80s so scared of little girls on tricycles?

Mikey: I’m not sure where that comes from, but it is pervasive. I will acknowledge that this movie included quite a few rather creepy images. A lot more effective than I expected. From little things like Freddy’s saran-wrapped head coming out of the Terminator TV (silly overall, but his head was … creepy), to the big nasty moment of the whole movie which was incredibly effective: the marionette scene. Horrifying.

Solee: That was legit uncomfortable for me to watch. I don’t even like thinking about it now. But the rest of the movie felt like sitting through someone telling me about their scary dream. I’m sure it was weird and scary for THEM, but for me … just boring.

Mikey: I liked it more than that, but it definitely had the dream-like quality of “anything can happen, so who cares what happens?” I spent a lot of time thinking about the rules, and why Freddy didn’t just instakill them all at any moment. Seemed like he didn’t have any actual constraints...

Solee: It was pretty silly how their every attempt to fight him was INSTANTLY defeated by the fact that he could make them think they were awake when they were actually asleep. They’d try … think they failed … go their separate ways … and BAM. FREDDY.

Mikey: Yeah, the whole “woke up but it’s still a dream” has never been leveraged more extensively (except maybe in all other Elm Street movies). I have actually had that dream before, but the writers seem to think that’s how all dreams are. Like every time these people fall asleep, they immediately start dreaming of themselves waking up in the same exact spot they fell asleep.

Solee: You’d think at some point they’d clue into that fact. These weren’t the brightest kids. I feel like movies from the 80s in general didn’t age well. Is that because people were so caught up in themselves? This movie that seemed Very Scary at the time it was made is now a movie I’d watch for a good laugh. I’m sure that’s not what the director was going for.

Mikey: It probably wasn’t all that scary for adults. It was definitely a silly concept. I think there are trends. In the 80s there were grungy grindhouse things like the 70s, but the more popular ones were the mass-market almost-family-friendly things like this. Things were beginning to get sanitized for the mass audience, while it was more Wild West in the 70s. Of course, it did feature significant nudity, and a lot of really angry swearing. Didn’t it seem like Freddy really held a lot of unexplored rage towards these kids? I mean he couldn’t hold himself back.

Solee: He was pretty angry. One of the more vengeful monsters, seeing as he’s come back for many movies to seek revenge for his death. And he pretty much succeeded the first time! Guy needs some therapy.

Mikey: That’s the real way to take him down, a therapist falls asleep and counsels him.

Solee: Changing the subject, this was another movie that included teenagers self-harming. It handled it very differently from Split, though. In Dream Warriors, the self-harm was used for shock value (a room full of hanging teenagers, cutting, drug use). It certainly didn’t treat the idea of suffering and self-harm as a badge of honor, either.

Mikey: I forgot the room of hanging people. I don’t remember the context of that. But in the case of drugs and suicide, we actually see both of them being treated (though the wrist-cutting was actually Freddy, but hey, her mom thought she was trying to kill herself, and took care of her and got her help). So kind of good that way, these kids are getting therapy (from a terrible therapist).

Solee: One of my other notes was about how disturbing these therapists were. One of them is a horrible person who clearly doesn’t like kids and the other one is creepily trying to establish a romantic relationship between himself and a much younger intern. Neither of them is someone I’d trust with the mental health of my loved ones. And unfortunately, neither one is completely off-base for what one might find in the system.

Mikey: And the intern herself should’ve been receiving therapy, not giving it. Also, interns don’t get their own offices. But hey, maybe this whole movie is a powerful, scathing indictment of The System, and a desperate plea for change, falling on deaf ears! Or it’s a Freddy movie.

Solee: Sounds like one of my worst nightmares. Wait. Am I awake or asleep right now??

Mikey: Do you see your deadbeat dad floating down from the ceiling in sparklies?

Solee: Sparkly Daddy! That was by far the most ridiculous thing in a movie full of ridiculous things.

Mikey: Yes, on top of the Harryhausen stop-motion skeleton battle, that was ten times worse. But the dad was nothing but ruination to this movie. The thing I couldn’t get over from the get-go was how the scrawny little doctor bullied him into helping him find the bones when he didn’t want to… and then he’s just going along with it all the way, like he’s cool with it.

Solee: It’s the power of creepy, power-imbalanced, inappropriate workplace romance, Michael!

Mikey: It sure is. His behavior was absolute nonsense. Mad props to the writers of this movie all around, for nothing making any sense at any point. One of my big notes was that I actually think this is a really cool and clever movie concept, and I bet it could be remade today (from a new script, obviously), as a really great movie. Everybody with the powers of their dreams and whatnot.

Solee: Could it? Or has that idea already been co-opted and done better by movies like Inception and Dr. Strange?

Mikey: Those feel very different to me. To me, the core of this movie is that this group of people, each with their own issues and powers, get together to fight the evil only they can beat. Basically, it’s what X-Men has done better. I say the remake needs to have serious rules - Freddy can only do X, Y, and Z which is why they don’t all die in the first two seconds, and gradually they all learn what they can do, and in the end it takes a combination of what they can all do to defeat him. Wait, it’s Mystery Men! I love that movie!

Solee: You sure do. That was another one I didn’t really get. I have a feeling we’re going to have very different ratings for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. You go first!

Mikey: You have to master your rage, or your rage will be your master. Not so different actually. This was really dumb, and didn’t have much to redeem it. Like I said, the concept was really cool, but no part of the execution was (except for that incredibly gross marionette scene). So I think this is a solid… 2.5. I’m bringing that up a little because honestly, it is sorta fun all around. I didn’t get bored like you, because I’m always waiting to see what Freddy will do next. How low can you go?

Solee: Not so different after all. I’m giving it a 2. I should probably give it a 1 since I was truly bored with it, but I am giving it a boost for living through the 80s and because I might actually recommend it to someone as a laugh. I can appreciate scary movies that are silly. I just don’t think I was in the right mindset to appreciate this one as that while watching it.

Mikey: Good! The other good news is that our next movie is a Solee pick! What is it going to be?

Solee: Well, I’m very excited to see My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009 remake). But in 2D.

Mikey: Ah, how romantic.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Split01:49 PM -- Sat October 7, 2017

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

Split (2017)
Rated PG-13
IMDB Says:
“Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.”
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Metacritic Rating: 62/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 74% critics, 79% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 4.5/5
We paid to watch this on FandangoNow.

Solee: So we watched Split, the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s been a long time since we’ve watched something of his.

Mikey: I know I’ve missed everything since The Village… although we did see Devil (trapped in the elevator with the devil movie), which he just wrote. People are always saying we weren’t missing much.

Solee: I don’t know about you, but that’s been an intentional void on my part. I loved Sixth Sense and Signs so much. Then there was the one with the trees and Mark Wahlberg and I just couldn’t ...

Mikey: Haha, the trees. Outrun the wind!

Solee: YES. It was just too much. Actually, I wasn’t all that enamoured with Unbreakable, either, but I know that many people were.

Mikey: Yes, I loved that! Not as much as the first two, but a very fun superhero movie. Not to jump right to the end of this movie, but the nod to Unbreakable in it kind of indicates to me that this movie is actually also a supervillain origin story. More than kind of, actually.

Solee: Oh, TOTALLY. The fact that he didn’t get caught seals that up with a pretty bow. Anyway, so I was hopeful about this movie--as previously discussed, I love psychological thrillers above all else--but also very cautious. Also, whenever I go into a movie with a “twist” feeling like I already know what the twist is … well, that always leaves me wondering.

Mikey: Was there a twist? What is it you predicted?

Solee: I hadn’t seen much about Split prior to watching it, mostly intentionally because Shyamalan likes his twists and I didn’t want anything spoiled, but I knew there were multiple personalities. I’ve realized that wasn’t really a secret (see movie poster above!), but I didn’t know that going in.

Mikey: Wow, definitely not a twist so much as it is the synopsis of the movie! I do feel like there wasn’t a twist to the movie. I think it suffered for that, and it’s a Shyame that that’s the case when you least expect it. Perhaps that is the twist!

Solee: Yes, I missed the twist. Shyamalan does good twist. The other thing he does well is to take things that seem loosely related and knot them together into vital elements of survival. The terrible things that happened to Casey were terrible AND the thing that allowed her to survive, not only because Beast respected her suffering, but also because of the accumulated knowledge she had. Those other girls who had never suffered had no idea how to survive.

Mikey: On a related note, at first I thought the idea that saying his full name was his kryptonite seemed silly and artificial, but as soon as they did the flashback to show why it worked, it was just perfect.

Solee: Agreed! It was a heartbreaking and horribly real touch.

Mikey: I also liked that it only worked once and then he was over it. He was changing rapidly.

Solee: That’s the kind of kryptonite that’s too easy to use if it always works. Speaking of changing rapidly, I thought James McAvoy did a fantastic job playing the different personalities. It was very clear who he was at any given time without being over the top and silly.

Mikey: And on the flipside, the explanation of the entire process of having the split personalities worked. I like that they actually understood what they were, rather than a whole series of people constantly going “why am I suddenly here? Where have I been?” which is more typical. They used a lot of information they had clearly been taught by their therapist. His therapist...

Solee: They seemed to prefer the plural pronouns. They used “us” and “we” all the time.

Mikey: The funny thing is I used the plural because I was actually thinking of them as a bunch of different characters all working together to hold the girls captive. I sometimes forgot it was just one.

Solee: Wasn’t that kind of the point? They were a bunch of different characters who just happen to share a single body.

Mikey: I’m just saying they did a good job!

Solee: Yes, they did. Well, he (McAvoy, who I assume identifies as a single male) did a good job portraying them. Pronouns are complicated.

Mikey: Zhey certainly are. Do you want to know my twist to the movie?

Solee: Yes! At one point you said, “OH!” like you thought you knew what was going to happen. What were you thinking?

Mikey: I was disappointed this didn’t play out, and I feel like I out-Shyamalaned Shyamalan. But at the same time, it’s quite possible he decided against this twist because it was too obvious, it was the twist you would expect to encounter. But no twist isn’t really better… anyway! About halfway through, at the point where Casey’s flashbacks had included her confrontation with her uncle where he took the gun away from her, and the therapist had told Dennis that she was convinced that The Beast wasn’t another personality of his, and he said he had seen the Beast himself, I was like OH SNAP. You see, it was well established that it was intense trauma that brought on the multiple personalities, he had sought a powerful one to protect him from the trauma. So I decided she had done the same - and The Beast was her alternate personality (which had killed her uncle shortly after that scene, possibly with her bare hands), based on the whole “let’s play animals” issue, and poor Dennis was going to find out you shouldn’t unleash The Beast. But then there’d be some serious coincidence to the initial kidnapping I guess (since he would have had to know who she was - he was taking her, along with two sacrifices to her). But still, it fit so neatly with everything. I was disappointed. She could’ve even been another patient.

Solee: I had a similar thought. I thought that the three girls were actually only one girl and it’s just that she could experience them simultaneously, so we were seeing the situation through her perception. He’d followed her long enough to realize that she was like him and that’s why she was the right “food” for the Beast. The separating of them was “symbolic” and he knew how to do it because of his work with the therapist. But then I realized that the news had reported three girls missing, so that couldn’t be it.

Mikey: That’s super good actually! They would’ve had to change a bit for it, but that is a very interesting twist as well. I just realized that the fact they were in a zoo was actually supposed to be something of a twist - the whole “long mane of hair”, “skin like a rhino”, we were supposed to go “oh I get it” when we saw the zoo. Was not a big twist.

Solee: I kinda did … but in a reveal way, definitely not in a twist way. It was just new information that made things fit together tighter. A twist makes you take everything you know and completely rearrange it.

Mikey: Oh, and twist #2 from me: at the end, when he had her trapped in the cage and was breaking in… instead of going “oh, you suffered too, you’re cool”, I was kind of overwhelmed for a moment by the sheer amount of trauma she had just suffered over this whole experience, and how terrified she must be at that moment, and was like “oh, NOW she’s going to split”... either as a little coda once she’s rescued, or as her way to save herself from him. I kind of can’t believe she didn’t, since that was sorta the whole premise.

Solee: I’m glad she didn’t. Disassociative Identity Disorder (which they never called by name in the movie; it was always D.I.D.) is extremely rare (hence the “will they believe we exist now?” thread running throughout) and having her split too would almost seem like making light of it to me.

Mikey: Well, this is a movie, not reality! It’s gotta feed the core concept. Feed the beast! But you know what I think it did instead, which was a movie thing feeding the beast? It had her as his opposite - she had survived and held strong in herself. Foils. Also I can’t believe that the news report even called it D.I.D. with no explanation, that felt weird.

Solee: Right at this moment I’m a little mad that they brought Bruce Willis in as the “superhero” instead of allowing her to be the Beast’s archnemesis. They didn’t actually go that far, but there was a definite whiff of “oh, thank God, the Hero is here now”.

Mikey: I don’t know, I feel like Bruce was more of an in-joke than any kind of savior, though I suppose that’s the sequel implication: Unbreakable Vs. Beast Showdown Extreme.

Solee: They didn’t even give her the satisfaction of ratting that bastard of an uncle out to the cops on screen.

Mikey: I would’ve liked that, but I do like that she was never some superhero who could actually defeat the Beast. She survived more than won, and that is human.

Solee: Yes. It brings me back to what I thought the theme of the movie was. It felt like an exploration of privilege vs survival. Honestly, while I thought it was well done, I’m unhappy with the underlying message of the movie, which seems to be “you must suffer to be worthy”. This is a concept I’ve struggled with as I attempt to be a Writer. Those two girls who had such privilege (but were clearly smart, kind, strong, etc) were basically thrown away and Casey survived ONLY because the Beast valued her because of the abuse she’d experienced both at the hands of her uncle and from herself. In fact, the fact that the trauma of her sexual abuse pushed her into self-harm was the real reason she was spared. I don’t like the idea that teenagers might be watching this and internalizing the idea of self-harm as a form of protection. At that point, it felt like a story being written by someone who hadn’t yet handled their own trauma in a healthy way.

Mikey: I hadn’t really processed what it meant (on a broader level) that her suffering is what let her be spared. It is strange as a ‘moral’ to the film. I’m not quite sure what to make of it!

Solee: Well, I know that I will be putting a self-harm warning on this review and I am not at all sure I’d recommend it to some of my loved ones who have dealt with self-harm. It didn’t feel empowering enough at the end.

Mikey: I have an idea that the only reason for the self-harm was because they couldn’t have that scene without it - he wouldn’t have been able to see her emotional scars, so they had to physically embody them. And it was done without thinking of the issues you brought up. But I’m still wondering what the theme was, because it is weird. Then again, it’s coming from someone who is known to have made movies about how much his critics have torn him down (The Lady In The Water, from what I’ve read), and has indeed been scorned and ridiculed for years… also a man of color, living in America. So maybe he’s looking for something there. A point to the suffering he’s endured! Maybe that’s getting too deep and personal.

Solee: I’m sure there are deep, personal messages in there. I’m glad he has an outlet for working through his emotional upheaval. I’m just not sure he utilized the proper sensitivity readers for this one. So given all that we’ve talked about, how would you rate Split?

Mikey: Well, now I’m having doubts after thinking about what it all means, but in truth, I don’t think I fully got the meaning. I think there’s more there than I can understand as someone who has never really suffered at all (and the fact that I find that embarrassing to say is something else to discuss… suffering does seem to make you worthy!). So I won’t worry too much about that, and I’ll just say that I give this one a 4.5 for being quite engrossing and enjoyable, even if it didn’t twist the way I wanted it to (twice!).

Solee: I’m going to give it a 4. I have some definite issues with it, but they are issues that spark discussion, which I find useful. The movie was very well done. Oh! I didn’t get to point out how often the characters were looking directly into the camera or moving directly away from the camera. The level of eye-contact from the characters in this movie was unsettling. The acting was phenomenal, and I have to give Shyamalan’s directing props for that. And it was definitely interesting and enjoyable.

Mikey: The level of technical prowess across the board definitely is respectable. It meant we talked about deep stuff instead of laughing about why they were looking for stairs in a drawer. So that’s clearly high marks.

Solee: Indeed. I hope M. Night gets to feel good about this one. Because he has had to handle his fair share of critic abuse. It’s tough when your very first thing blows everyone away. They want everything that follows to meet that same bar of excellence!

Mikey: 'Cause once you got a theory of how the thing works, everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first. But he’s not a robot, and not a monkey, and he will not dance even if the beat is funky.

Solee: EXACTLY. I’ll try to hold no such high standards for whatever comes next.

Mikey: That’s good because we will be enjoying A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors next! I saw it more than once when I was young, and I can’t wait to compare it to IT, which is the whole reason I decided we needed to see it this year. It is… not exactly the Freddy Krueger movie you’re expecting (but I suspect you still need to avoid high standards).

Solee: Perfect.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre09:03 PM -- Fri October 6, 2017

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

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“Two siblings visit their grandfather's grave in Texas along with three of their friends and are attacked by a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.”
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 75/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% critics, 82% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So here we sit, having just finished a movie that you have chosen for us to see. Really now, what do you have to say for yourself?

Solee: Well … I clearly didn’t remember the movie very well. BUT in my defense, I can see why I liked it in the first place. It has some definite shades of House of 1000 Corpses to it. Very surreal, very violent, very bizarre.

Mikey: I suspect due to the linear flow of time, those shades run the other direction, but we’ll get into that! I had never seen this movie before, and you were always so shocked at that, so at long last, you decided I needed to be educated. And indeed, my eyes were opened. I think it’s interesting to note that this movie predates Halloween by 4 years, and Friday The 13th by 6, so it’s not just “one of the originals”, it is the original slasher movie. I think.

Solee: It’s definitely a “must see” among horror films for that reason. I honestly can’t imagine how shocking it must have been when it first came out. It’s pretty shocking still! SHOCKING.

Mikey: Shocking, I say! That gets to my main, overarching thought with this whole thing. You remember that episode of The Office where they had a Halloween party, and asked Gabe to provide a ‘spooky movie’ for them to watch? What he provided was simply a series of disgusting/disturbing images, intercut with hidden camera footage of the actual office workers (when someone said there was no plot, he said something about how “even if it’s horrific, a plot is a little comfort, isn’t it? This is truly disturbing”). That’s the feeling I got from this movie. Every inch of it crawled with unsettling-ness. Everything was meant to disturb you and put you off, and I suspect that’s about all it was meant to do.

Solee: At one point while we were watching, I thought something very similar. There IS a plot to this movie, but it’s so simplistic as to be almost non-existent. It sets up the events--kids are on a road trip to visit some family history--but once the slashing starts the plot disappears. There is zero attempt to explain the bad guys. We have NO idea who they are or why they are there at the end of the movie. These days, even the most slasher of movies tries to throw in some “motivation” or explanation as to why. Do you think that’s the natural evolution of the genre? We explain things now because we’re no longer afraid of the mere existence of boogiemen?

Mikey: One note I had is that this felt like an entirely different genre of movie than the ones I like. It’s not “horror” as we know it, though it’s clearly horrific. It’s more the cinematic equivalent of a walk-through haunted house. Just “look here, isn’t that weird?” “does THIS scare you?” “how about this?” It’s not a movie, really, just a thrill ride. Kind of like Paranormal Activity, actually, the difference being that that movie tries to elicit fear in the jump-scare sense, while Texas Chain Saw Massacre tries to elicit disgust and a deep-seated horror. Almost meta - “I am horrified that I am watching this”. So then yes, I think the genre has evolved, into an actual movie genre, as opposed to just a use of celluloid to shock.

Solee: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. I think that that kind of evolution comes from desensitization. We’ve seen so many gross/disturbing things thanks to more pervasive media, fake blood and a girl screaming constantly while running from a chainsaw don’t get our hearts pumping like they used to. Culturally we’ve grown to be more afraid of how easy it is for people to be corrupted/broken through abuse and trauma. Or maybe that’s just me. I always find the real world reasons for horror more scary than anything supernatural.

Mikey: Here’s a thought I am having: when you see a monster in a movie, and it’s gonna get the hero, you can only appreciate that through empathy. You’re not in danger. So all you feel there is empathetic fear. Whereas when you see disgusting things (and unsettling things), that’s happening to you. You are witnessing something gross, and being grossed out (or something wrong). It’s not fear (and you could throw jump-scares in this set - they happen to you too. It’s a way to get fear that actually affects you personally), but it’s direct instead of requiring you to buy into the movie. I think this movie is an attack on the viewer, instead of an attack on the screen victim. All the constant screaming, horrible sound effects, Franklin’s unbelievably grating behavior, etc. Those are all aimed at the viewer, to hurt you. It’s not a pleasant experience.

Solee: SO MANY THINGS TO SAY! First, I agree with you regarding the sounds. They are an actual assault on the viewer. The grossness of the images, though, fall into a different category for me. Because I think any visual input requires some level of empathy. Filth or slime or what-have-you cause us to react because we know what those things feel like in real life. At least that’s how it feels to me. Just the image alone doesn’t upset me … it’s what the image represents, and that seems like empathy in some sense. Finally, you made me think about how much our lizard brain--our deeper, uncontrollable instincts--are involved in the watching of horror movies that rely on “unsettling” us. It’s all about using sounds and visuals that trigger that innate fight or flight response, isn’t it?

Mikey: That is definitely what jump scares are about! I do want to say that this movie isn’t big on “gross-out” scenes like slime and blood. I keep hauling out the word ‘unsettling’ because that feels right. Like when they pick up the hitchhiker, and he’s got all these weird mannerisms and he’s just full of menace without actually threatening them (at first), he’s just so weird, and you’re so concerned about what he might pull out of his bag next. You’re just totally on edge (and all the sounds and visuals play into it). So I guess I just want to point out to our readers that this isn’t one of those big gross-out movies. It’s just cosmically wrong. Though if you don’t like couches made of human skeletons, well...

Solee: One of my notes was about how often the characters facial expressions didn’t fit. Not only the situation, but also what they were saying. That felt like a deeply ingrained fear--as humans, we’re wired to use visual cues to assess safety and truth. When what people say and what they look like or do don’t line up, it’s very upsetting on an unconscious, emotional level. This used that to great effect.

Mikey: Yes, I think upsetting is another good word here. Upsetting and unsettling. My one last thing before I will let that whole discussion die so we can pick apart random bits, is that during the dinner scene, they did a whole bunch of extreme close-ups of the girl’s eye. That was so very Gabe. Deeply unsettling. Showing her whole face would show her fear better, tell the story more clearly, but showing the eye alone made it so much less pleasant for the viewer.

Solee: True. I didn’t think of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. Another emotional trigger they used to good effect was Franklin and his wheelchair. There were five kids on this trip--two couples and Franklin (the little brother, like in The Altar). I liked how they didn’t make a big deal out of his disability. I’m not sure they even mentioned why he used a wheelchair, it was just a part of who he was. Anyway, there were several scenes where Franklin ended up isolated physically because the couples moved faster and more easily through the bushes and house, but also emotionally because the couples ran off in their own directions and he was left to his own devices. That tapped some abandonment issues for viewers, I suspect.

Mikey: That’s actually more diversity than you’re likely to see today! I spent a lot of time concerned about how he was going to function in the movie, but in the end I couldn’t believe how far through the woods he was able to get (in fact, I think I kind of couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t super real).

Solee: Except that this is an house he used to visit when he was a kid and it had clearly been adapted to suit his needs in some aspects. One of the other kids made comment about Franklin getting to the swimming hole in his wheelchair, so perhaps the paths in the woods, while overgrown, were originally planned with his wheelchair in mind?

Mikey: Oh, I took that more like they were just mocking him and saying he had never gone there himself. But it is certainly possible the paths were set up for him. The house didn’t look particularly so, with a whole upstairs that had zero accessibility. Reminds me of one of my notes: I always question why a group of teens is going to stay at whatever random cabin in the woods in every movie, but in this movie most of all. That place was an absolute dump and a half. I know it had family value, but they were acting like this was a fun camp-out. Gross.

Solee: Were they really planning to stay overnight? Or did that only happen because they ran out of gas or whatever? And then a couple of them “disappeared” (read: got chainsawed without the others knowing) and the rest waited until after dark to go looking for them? Now we’re getting into the things that bothered me … but they can all be explained by the fact that plot was completely ignored.

Mikey: Good point, I don’t actually know if that was the plan or not. I found this to be the original “people making stupid choices” movie as well (which fits right in with slasher). Pretty much the wrong choice at every turn. Including the ten or twelve times that girl jumped through glass windows!

Solee: Well, a couple of those times, going through glass was infinitely preferable to the alternative. Wanna hear the Horror Movie Life Lesson I found most glaring in this movie? (Aside from DON’T PICK UP TWEEKED OUT HITCHIKERS!)

Mikey:: I always want to know!

Solee: Life Lesson #183: An open door is not the same as an invitation to enter. Especially when said door is attached to a creepy house in the middle of nowhere and belonging to strangers. Why do people always walk into busted up houses just because the door’s hanging open?? UGH.

Mikey: Yeah, I’m on Leatherface’s side for sure. He just wants to be left alone. It wasn’t even just that the door was open, it was “well, if you’re not going to answer when I yell, I’m gonna come in and find you! I’m entitled to your time, stranger” Real consent problem. These kids were budding telemarketers - I’m super glad they died.

Solee: Seriously. This is why I always call before visiting someone.

Mikey: Well, I have tons more notes and could say things all day about this, which surely makes it High Art, but we gotta stop boring the readers. Would you like to share your rating with us?

Solee: Hmmm. So I didn’t really enjoy watching this movie … but I think that means they did something right. It hasn’t aged well, in terms of being something that is still impressive by today’s standards, but it was obviously groundbreaking at the time it came out. I kind of feel like I need to boost my rating a little out of respect for elderly movies, so I’m going to give it a 4. If I based it on how much I liked it, I’d give it a 3, but I don’t think this movie was trying to be liked. How about you? What’s your rating?

Mikey: Whoa! I should point out also that you are being respectful to the memory of Tobe Hooper, who died just about a month ago. I, on the other hand, will do no such thing. As I said before, this didn’t feel like it even belonged in the genre I enjoy. I wouldn’t argue calling it horror, it’s just not the same horror. I like to learn about what ghosts want and try to placate them. So, in that vein, I will award this grating, noisy, off-putting assault on the senses a 2. I’d give it a 1 for my enjoyment level, but a 2 for really spawning the whole idea of slasher films. And, we haven’t really mentioned this beyond your one comment, but House of 1000 Corpses is very, very heavily inspired by this, and is amazing. So bonus point.

Solee: I just looked back at last year’s reviews and confirmed that you have House of 1000 Corpses a 5 out of 5! So I feel compelled to ask if you know what it is that caused you to react so differently to this one?

Mikey: I think there’s a million ways it is better, but at the core of the difference is one simple thing: Corpses is a winking, fun, madcap homage to this movie. Texas is a dead-serious, self-important lumbering monster of art, intent on jabbing your brainpan with an icepick.

Solee: Well said. That feels about right.

Mikey: To be sure, I think Tobe Hooper accomplished exactly what he wanted with this movie, he did a great job in terms of creating an art piece. But he shouldn’t have wanted to do that to me.

Solee: Haha! Art can be painful. Since his art birthed a whole new genre that eventually led to Corpses, I’m going to forgive him the 45 minutes of incessant screaming.

Mikey: Maybe I’m convincing myself of why this movie has such high critical reviews, but I think my rating is more about whether I recommend others watch this, and I don’t. So I will stand strong.

Solee: Fair enough. So what’s next??

Mikey: I think we’re about to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, by finally letting me pick a movie! I hope this one counts as Horror rather than Thriller. I guess we’ll find out: it’s time to watch Split, so hooray for M. Night Shyamalan!

Solee: Mmmmm … psychology-based horror! My favorite!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Patient Seven08:54 PM -- Thu October 5, 2017

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

Patient Seven (2016)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“The film centers on Dr. Marcus, a renowned psychiatrist who has chosen 6 severe mentally ill and dangerous patients from the Spring Valley Mental Hospital to interview as part of research for his new book. As Dr. Marcus interviews each patient, one by one the horrors they’ve committed begin to unfold. However, Dr. Marcus soon learns that there is one patient who ties them all together.”
IMDB Rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 29% audience
Solee: 4.5/5
Mikey: 4/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So you chose this movie (though from a list I made for potential consideration). I always like to know: what made you go with this one?

Solee: I like anything psychological. So when I saw that there was a psychiatrist and a mental hospital AND it was hinted that Dr. Marcus wasn’t as clean-cut as we might believe (I think that was in the Amazon Prime synopsis--something about wondering who really belonged in the hospital) … well, that hit all the right buttons for me.

Mikey: And then it slowly dawned on us after the first couple of patients… a SURPRISE ANTHOLOGY! Nobody expects the Surprise Anthology. This movie was actually a series of seven short films, all by different directors, stitched together with a wrap-around story of interviewing asylum patients.

Solee: I feel like it should be stated here that I LOATHE the idea of movie anthologies and if I had known it was an anthology I wouldn’t have picked it.

Mikey: But I love anthologies!

Solee: I SHOULD love anthologies. I’m all about the short story! But most movie anthologies are so poorly done. It’s not like in a book where you can turn the page, see a new title and adjust your mindset for something new. I find movie anthologies very jarring. Usually.

Mikey: Once we knew it was an anthology though, it was quite clear when a new one was starting. We even got flashy transitions. I was thinking during this movie that what is great about short stories is that, while someone will happily publish something completely rote in long-form (i.e. a zombie movie that is everything you’d expect, no surprises), they’ll routinely reject any short-form that doesn’t have some sort of twist or gimmick (usually). So you get a collection of fun and interesting twists, or at least attempts at them. Short stories are sort of like jokes in that sense - there’s almost always a punchline, which long-form movies/books often do not have. I think in this movie, we got that about half the time.

Solee: Related Aside: I've recently been addicted to the stories from a blog called Little Fears. Each story is VERY short, sometimes more of a long-form pun, and the author wrote a blog post about how people who buy his books get mad that they are filled with "jokes" instead of stories. Except that you are exactly right ... very short fiction is often built around a joke or gimmick of some kind. I think that's what I like about it: the unexpectedness of the endings. And this movie did that very well. Each piece was unique and interesting in some way.

Mikey: What made it hard to tell this was an anthology, besides the fact that they usually announce that in advance, is that the first story ends abruptly and really… there’s like no story to it at all. I’m honestly not sure what it was trying to say. So I left that ‘flashback’ assuming it was just the first piece of a connected larger story.

Solee: Me, too. I wonder if that was done intentionally to keep the “secret” of the anthology or if that was just a poorly chosen first story. It was more of a vignette, giving us a peek into the life of this poor little girl with the hallucinating mother. Also, it would have been more twisty if Dr. Marcus hadn’t told us what happened before it even started!

Mikey: That’s true. And then at the end of it, he said “and then you killed her”, which I found confusing because I can’t imagine a scenario how she could’ve possibly killed her mother from the point where it ended!

Solee: Several of them felt like they had been shoehorned rather roughly into the overall movie. Which is my main problem with anthologies. This one did better than most, in trying to make them all work together, but it was pretty clear to me that the writers/directors of the individual pieces weren’t told or didn’t care about the thread tying them all together.

Mikey: Yes, I got the impression that they put out a call for short films, collected them all, and then said “let’s come up with a way to connect these”. And didn’t do it very well. It would’ve actually been better if they hadn’t tried to make it so ‘connected’. Just make it the doctor reading some case files, and then we fade into the movie of the case file.

Solee: The problem there is that the main character of the piece often wasn’t even the person the doctor was interviewing! I really had a problem with JD’s story because of that. He wasn’t even IN the story really, and there he is in the hospital? The “recurring nightmare drives you crazy” explanation can only be used so often and to minimal success, if you ask me.

Mikey: That was ridiculous. I think it supports my theory - they clearly had no access to ANY of the actors involved in the shorts, so they came up with all these dumb connections to cover it - you were a kid back then, you were the ZOMBIE, you were just a dead body the whole time wrapped in plastic, you aren’t even from New Zealand so you try to fake the accent and sound cockney instead....

Solee: Aaahhhhh… I only just realized that is true! They didn’t have ANY of the same actors! Huh. All that aside, it’s still one of the better anthologies we’ve seen.

Mikey: I will confess to having a lot of fun the whole time. It’s always important to pick favorites and least favorites. So best/worst stories? Not counting the wrap-around which was the worst.

Solee: My favorite was … Sarah’s story: “The Sleeping Plot” (the little New Zealand girl scamming money to buy a shovel). I liked how silly it was while still being creepy. The color choices, the music, the girl’s acting choices … they all worked together to make it feel like sugary Saturday morning breakfast cereal, but with maggots at the bottom of the bowl. What was your favorite?

Mikey: That one was awesome actually. I also really enjoyed “The Body” (Theon Greyjoy as American Psycho), which was really weird, and really funny. It even had a random twist ending for no reason. Though I had a real problem with how nobody noticed that the feet hanging out of his dead body were absolutely undeniably real human feet, two inches from their faces, as they were carrying it. Could’ve just fully wrapped it to prevent that.

Solee: That was just the icing on the cake. I felt SO MUCH SYMPATHY for this poor murderer just trying to do his job, being harassed by all these idiots who were too stupid to even know the difference between real feet and fake feet. It was a workplace comedy like Office Space, only with murder. So what was your least favorite?

Mikey: One stands out as the worst for me pretty easily - the first one (“The Visitant”). It’s just not even a story at all. I get how it sort of has a twist, where we don’t quite know what reality is, but it’s more like one scene out of a much longer movie, and the monster is way way too visible, nothing scary about that.

Solee: Ah, but the special effects for that monster were a-MAZE-ing! I agree it wasn’t a whole story, but I loved the choices the director made in filming it, so I rank it higher than my least favorite: “Undying Love”, the zombie girlfriend. First of all, it was SOOOO slow to get going. I was bored. Secondly, that twist wasn’t all that twisty. I hadn’t figured it out, mostly because I was desperately trying to figure out if I had accidentally chosen an anthology movie at this point, but also because I was just not interested enough to care where it was going. And that is a very played out zombie twist. Shaun of the Dead did it better.

Mikey: Well, obviously! But that one I liked! You only had to sit through a few minutes of setup, and then BAM punchline, over. It hits hard with it because it works hard to make you think the opposite. And it did have a twist, unlike “The Evaded” (my 2nd-least-favorite), which was also a straightforward zombie story, only zero twist at all. Just “here’s the same dilemma we face in every zombie movie”. In other likes, “The Banishing” was good (though the exact twist from an episode of Angel), and “Death Scenes” was good. Almost the same twist. A good ratio of good to bad in here, I did enjoy it overall.

Solee: “The Banishing” and “Death Scenes” were also on the top of my list. I especially liked realizing that the vampire slayer had gotten himself arrested on purpose.

Mikey: Oh, but speaking of how lame it was that they didn’t have access to the actors, that connection was horrible. “You hired somebody to kill vampires for you”... ugh.

Solee: Hahaha! I totally didn’t realize that’s why they did that. I did wonder why the institutionalized guy (who looked plenty capable of killing things) was dedicated enough to stalk the vampires and make sure of their identities, but too dainty to actually kill them himself.

Mikey: Yeah, he looked like a vampire himself. Of course he hired someone who looked even more like one. Good short.

Solee: It had a subtle touch that I liked. The vampire slayer rearranged the pictures into a cross, which gave him the slight advantage he needed in that interrogation room. I liked that detail very much.

Mikey: Yep, I liked it. So, do we need to dive into ratings and wrap this up with a crazy wrap-around story about two people, who look nothing like us, reviewing movies on the internet?

Solee: I refuse to LIVE an anthology! I will rate this anthology though. Hmm … this might be a little high, but I’m going to be generous and give it a 4.5 out of 5. I enjoyed watching these shorts and I appreciate the effort that was put into making it more than just a bunch of taped together monster stories. And the skill and effort that went into each short was very obvious. These were done by people who clearly knew what they were doing and enjoyed doing it. That goes a long way in my book (Solee’s Big Book of Horror Movie Ratings).

Mikey: I can’t believe an anthology has scored a 4.5 in Solee’s Big Book. So hard to deal with that. Especially since it’s higher than what I had in mind! I had lots of fun and really enjoyed this, but that’s only a 4 from me. Dumb movie, but fun movie. Going out and finding short films to watch would be a pain, it’s nice of someone to collect them together for me, and then throw some cheese on them to tie them together.

Solee: Like movie spaghetti!

Mikey: I don’t usually tie my spaghetti, but you can. Tomorrow, we shall be watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). The original! Stay tuned!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Cabin Fever02:51 PM -- Wed October 4, 2017

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

Cabin Fever (2002)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of five college graduates rent a cabin in the woods and begin to fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.”
IMDB Rating: 5.6/10
Metacritic Rating: 56/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% critics, 44% audience
Solee: 3.5/5
Mikey: 3/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: So, we watched the original Cabin Fever last night. When you settled on this movie you told me, “I think this is going to be gory.” Is gory a category you enjoy? If so, what is it you like about this subgenre of horror movies?

Mikey: I did not lie to you, to be sure! I don’t care for gore. In general it is one of those things that I just am not interested in, but not particularly put off by. I do avert my eyes from things that are too awful, but it takes pretty awful to have that effect on me (or anything, however mild, involving eyes). So the gore, and the fact that I was fairly convinced that was the sole “merit” to this movie, is the reason I didn’t watch it all these years since it came out. I don’t need to watch something for the purpose of seeing gore. But people have said it was good, so I decided it was time to see.

Solee: Because of the gore and the lack of taking itself seriously, this movie reminded me--in a very vague sense--of a movie we watched last year. Can you guess which one?

Mikey: Maybe the same one I thought of at a point or two… House of 1000 Corpses?

Solee: YES! It is a bizarre combination of slyly hilarious and really disturbing. I’m a little concerned at how much I like that combination. House of 1000 Corpses did end up being my all-month favorite last year.

Mikey: I KNOW! I don’t think this was anywhere near on par, but the stylistic similarity was there. I think it’s the throwback to 70’s/80’s grungy horror. Always with a knowing wink, though. This was unquestionably one of those “director loves old movies from the genre so steals all he can from them” scenarios.

Solee: Which I do NOT have a problem with. Especially when it’s done well. This was … not done terribly. One of my notes is that the characters were all very tropey (the rich guy jerk, the good guy, the sexy girl, the girl next door, the redneck were all represented) BUT their stereotypes were established with just-nextdoor-to-normal things. For example, the loser/immature redneck left the campfire unattended to go shoot things and pee in the woods.

Mikey: Well, I think there was some reality and natural behavior brought into it. Like the good guy and his unrequited love, the way that played out was not strictly to trope, more like just a realistic situation. It was never over-the-top like “she loves him now” or “she thinks he’s a loser”, just sort of muddled.

Solee: Maybe that’s it. It felt less stereotypical because they acted like real people, not characters. For part of the time, that is.

Mikey: I think the comedic take on things gives you lots of leeway… if something is a stereotype, well you’re just kidding. If it’s not, then good for you for dodging stereotypes! If a scene comes across silly instead of good, that’s fine too. It’s the Chandler Technique.

Solee: Clever strategy. It worked on me! One of my favorite characters was Dennis. You know what they say about Dennis, right?

Mikey: Don’t sit next to him.

Solee: Yep! That was one of the jokes that had a callback later … what was that called?

Mikey: That’s a Brick Joke. They had two major ones in this movie, and it made them very funny to call way back to something you saw an hour ago, out of the blue.

Solee: I feel like Brick Jokes are a sign that the writer/director are clever and have a sense of humor. Which then makes the whole movie better. Anyway, what did you think of the plot? Unknown zombie-like pathogen meets gang of college kids on week-long vacation in the woods. Did the story work for you?

Mikey: One of the reasons I never saw this movie before is that I knew what it was about in a vague sense (an ordinary disease, no monsters or zombies), and I didn’t see how that sounded very interesting. But in practice, it actually was interesting as the driver to all kinds of crazy situations. All the quarantine madness and people violently protecting themselves against infection. Kind of the same issues as zombies, just with nobody (usually) trying to infect you intentionally. Or eat your brains. So I think it was a good idea for a movie, very different than anything else.

Solee: Throw in the fact that the locals are all loco and it was the perfect recipe for violent hijinks.

Mikey: Yes, it had to take place in this really goofy world of nutso people to really be fun, much like House of 1000 Corpses. You can probably make any story interesting by making all the people nuts.

Solee: It’s easy to take it too far or at least get the balance wrong and make those over the top characters ruin the movie though. Did you have a favorite bit in the movie?

Mikey: Hmm. I don’t know if it was actually fun enough for me to have a favorite bit that stands out. That’s why I say it wasn’t on par with the other movie… it was all riding around just below my level of deep appreciation. Like one thing I noticed was that I should have loved Dennis’ “Pancakes!!” scene, and I didn’t. It was okay, but you’d think all that craziness would’ve been amazing, and it was just okay. That’s sort of how I feel about the whole thing. It might not have gone crazy down quite the right avenue for me.

Solee: I remember feeling like I was going to rate it poorly as the final credits rolled last night, but as I look back at my notes, I’m actually remembering it fondly. I think that’s because I’m remembering the goofy and forgetting some of the really nasty stuff. OH. I just remember the really nastiest scene (which I don’t think we can describe due to our possible audience) and … blegh. It was REALLY a gross movie.

Mikey: Yep, that was definitely the goal of the movie for sure. I was surprised actually at how tame it was though. I can recall two scenes that were really too gross (the other was in a bathtub), and other than that nothing really grossed me out. There must have been 20 gallons of blood vomited in this movie, and my only thought about that was “Man, vomiting blood is so much less disgusting than vomiting vomit!”

Solee: Hmmm … I think we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that one. So the one thing I really didn’t like was all the instances of racism, sexism and homophobia being used as “jokes”. They weren’t the “we need to be better” kind of jokes, either. Just straight up exclusionist type things. I think the movie could have been done just as well without them.

Mikey: I think the creators would use some excuses about how it takes place in the 80’s and it’s realistic and all that, and I think that’s bunko. It’s not a documentary. I think the clothes pretty much covered 80’s for us.

Solee: There’s a way to include some of that behavior to really develop a hateful character … but these weren’t the “bad guys” of the movie. They were the “heroes”, if you will. Yes, you were supposed to see that they were being dumb, but it gave off a “boys will be boys” vibe that I dislike intensely.

Mikey: I totally agree, but one other factor does remain: as modern as a number like 2002 sounds, it’s actually 15 years ago. I suspect these same people would do things differently today! The world is changing fast.

Solee: I think you’re right about that. And how on Earth did 2002 get to be 15 years into the past? It was, like, LAST YEAR that we were all worried Y2K would cause all the nukes in the world to go off.

Mikey: I think Y2K DID happen, and it caused a massive timespace distortion. That’s the only reasonable explanation.

Solee: Ha! True story. So … speaking of the distant past, Rider Strong (of Boy Meets World sidekick fame) is one of the main characters in this movie. That really threw me for a loop. I couldn’t stop seeing him as Shawn Hunter. I kept waiting for Topanga to show up.

Mikey: I reviewed a Topanga movie (that was aMAHzing) a few years ago in BHE! Hey, sudden realization speaking of the distant past: 2002 is as long ago as 1987 was before 2002. So they were making this movie about as far before them as they are before us. Or something. Deep.

Solee: It’s that nostalgia loop, like I was talking about for IT, only a 15 year loop instead of a 35 year one.

Mikey: I want to throw down real quick with some major writing issues I had with this movie before we quit. Just to get these out there: after Bert met the infected stranger and warned him away, he acted like nothing had happened and they all just had a bonfire until eventually he showed up. The guy was laying like 50 feet away and had already seen their cabin. Super weird. Also, you can’t make a car stop working by hitting it a few times with a bat! All the cars in this movie were crazy fragile. Also … oh I forgot the third one. These are some things that were really bugging me and seemed like major flaws in the writing.

Solee: It was a little weak in places. Like when the sexy girl decided to “go for help” the next morning and they just let her wander off into the woods alone in her tight, tight jeans.

Mikey: Slo-mo jeans!

Solee: Indeed. So when you combine all the issues and all the goriness and all the silly jokes … where does it fall on the rating scale for you?

Mikey: I was surprised at how well-done this was. It definitely held my interest (I especially enjoyed trying to track who all was infected). Oh that reminds me of a huge problem: the disease’s incubation rate was both totally random and ludicrously fast (when it wasn’t slow)! This was not a realistic situation. Anyway, I found myself totally engrossed and enjoying it, but I also respect that it wasn’t super great either. So that lands us right where you’d expect: at a solid 3.

Solee: I was going to give it a 3 last night, but I think now I want to give it a 3.5. This movie obviously knew it wasn’t going to be the next Great American Movie, and it used humor to make up for it in a way that worked on me. That being said, it was WAY too gory for me. I can see how some people would really enjoy it, though. And it was pretty polished all around. Except for that terribly terrible fake deer at the end!

Mikey: Oh, that crazy deer. So do you think this movie would work without the gore? I guess it’d be more of a comedy.

Solee: That’s a good question and I think … no. The comedy is only funny because it’s the contrast to horrific violence and gore. Without the counterpoint effect, it would just be corny. Some of those jokes were almost punny.

Mikey: Everybody loves a pun!

Solee: NO.

Mikey: Do you want to close by sharing Solee’s Rules For Infection?

Solee: Heck yeah! Solee’s Rules for Infection are easy. 1) Don’t get infected. 2) If you DO get infected, you’re done for. Humanely, but immediately. #SorryNotSorry Too many zombie movies get rolling because someone can’t say goodbye to a loved one who has clearly been exposed to the virus. Instead of a quick, clean bullet to the brain, they let them linger on in pain, usually infecting lots of other people. NOT COOL. I will say that these kids almost did a decent job of this. But then they didn’t. And look where it got them.

Mikey: It scares me that I live with you and sometimes get colds.

Solee: You just better hope you don’t get a cold during the zombie apocalypse. The thing is, it’s NEVER symptoms that really look like something innocuous. Even I wouldn’t have taken out the Girl Next Door when she was feeling nauseous. That’s a perfectly normal reaction to watching someone burn to death. Once it was clear she had what the hermit guy had … game over. It’s always that someone is trying to bite other people’s faces off or their own faces are sliding off in puddles of goo and their loved ones are saying “Oh, I’m sure he’ll be alright soon.” NO.

Mikey: Okay, so it’s a rash I should be afraid of having. I will never let you see if I get one.

Solee: THAT’S EVEN WORSE! Hahaha! Maybe we should avoid zombie/virus movies for a bit. What’s coming up next?

Mikey: Oh no, my arm is itching… I mean IT’S NOT IT’S FINE. Let’s just go watch Patient Seven.

Solee:
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Disappointments Room07:54 PM -- Tue October 3, 2017

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

The Disappointments Room (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A mother and her young son release unimaginable horrors from the attic of their rural dream home.”
IMDB Rating: 4.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 31/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 0% critics, 17% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: Wow, my first comment on this movie is that the IMDB synopsis is way off.

Solee: Indeed. I’m not sure I’ve seen a synopsis that failed quite so hard at capturing a movie while still being factually accurate.

Mikey: Yes, there was a mother and a son in here. And like in every ghost (or demon) movie ever, the second the family moved into the house, we see the son talking to the demon/ghost! Or so it seems.

Solee: I think in this case, that’s what was happening, although we don’t find out for a while. That cat was there to protect him, just like he said it was. Brave, brave kitty.

Mikey: Interesting … so you think he was talking to a ghost (or a magic cat)?

Solee: Yes, I think the spirit of that girl was influencing the cat. She was trying to protect them the whole time.

Mikey: I had the opposite impression! This is one of those movies I tag with the “natural” tag - seemingly supernatural events could actually just be natural. Mama was just nutso. Though there is no proof either way.

Solee: That’s a totally valid perspective. It really could go either way, don’t you think? I don’t remember anything that settled it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mikey: I think it’s left up to us, and I think we chose opposite endings! What I am left with though is to wonder what really happened to the cat, and to the poolboy/contractor. Especially him - the cat could’ve just been gotten by any old animal.

Solee: *gasp* Or Mama got it?? While in a fugue state?

Mikey: She clearly had major problems. I think the climactic moment when she bludgeons her son to death with a hammer… that was so very shocking, and I really thought it was going to be that for real.

Solee: To be fair, that’s not what happened in either scenario. Either she was bludgeoning the ghost or she was bludgeoning NEXT to her son. But, yes, I did think that her little boy was gone-zo and I was terrified to find out what she’d REALLY done to her daughter.

Mikey: Yes, she has a history of infanticide. During that whole scene I was just biting my nails, thinking “they can’t really be going there, can they?” and I’m not sure why. People getting beaten with hammers is nothing new in horror. But her own son, unintentionally (or tricked into doing it), is just so so dark.

Solee: And with such violence. It wasn’t “oops, I dropped my hammer on you”. It was hard core smashing. Blegh. I don’t even like thinking about it!

Mikey: So since we’ve already jumped to the ending, let me cover my big issue with the movie. Huge issue. I was hooked in from the beginning, all set to get exactly what I dream of: a haunted house and a slow process of revealing exactly what the ghost is and what it wants, and resolving it at the end. It took until about ⅔ of the way through before it stopped doing that and instead just becoming a blast of events happening (or not happening - very confusing), and then wrapping up with nothing really happening. I hated how it all came together, or didn’t. Did that work for you?

Solee: I didn’t hate it … but it was very anti-climactic to me. I guess, as horrible as it was, it was … I hate to say it, but too normal? Like, I’m not really all that shocked that those stuffy, high-society types from that era (early 1900s?) would keep their deformed kid in the attic and then murder her when they get tired of taking care of her. I honestly don’t like what that says about my jaded-ness at this point. And perhaps that was partly the fault of the story-telling. It was building up with all that tension and what-not and then there’s just a very flat scene where Old-timey Daddy Dearest puts a hammer through deformed daughter’s skull while her mother watches from across the room (where he threw her, to be fair). It didn’t have the emotional impact that the mother-son thing did in the next scene, that’s for sure.

Mikey: That is for sure. I just realized as you were saying that that this is (as best I recall), the exact backstory of The Ring. The girl wasn’t deformed, but they kept her in a disappointments room! It’s a great concept that really was very minimally a part of this movie. It needed to come into play somehow in the present, like her locking her son in it or something weird.

Solee: Yes! The two stories didn’t overlap enough. Sure the ghosts were there in the house and yes, the room was scary, but otherwise there was no connection. And the present day dad (who I’m going to have something to say about later) and son were totally disconnected from the haunting, which was weird.

Mikey: Well, that’s why I watched a different movie than you - they had no idea there was a haunting because it was 100% in her head! It’s weird because I’m totally convinced of that. It seems very dead-set to me from all the elements I saw!

Solee: Sure, I see that. And it made the story not work for me. I mean … they didn’t seem to care a whole lot about her or her issues either way. I guess one could argue that they’ve been dealing with it for a long time and are somewhat desensitized to it, but STILL. It’s like they just did their own thing and ignored her for huge chunks of time.

Mikey: They sure did. It was two separate worlds, like she was alone in the house (with her poolboy) and her husband was alone in a different house with his son. Very strange, but I guess you could make some argument about how that shows the disconnection she feels as part of her issues. The thing with this movie is, it was all very polished and well-crafted, but it just plain didn’t work at all.

Solee: Agreed. Can we talk about her husband for a bit? Because I did not like him AT ALL.

Mikey: I’ve heard!

Solee: He’s got a huge inferiority complex and he just waves it around, taking credit for her work, cutting her out of a conversation with the roofer (who is not a poolboy at all, btw) -

Mikey: He’s a poolboy!

Solee: - and generally treating her like she’s crazy. I mean … maybe she IS, but he doesn’t treat her like I would expect a husband to treat wife who was struggling with mental health issues.

Mikey: Yep, he seemed very awful.

Solee: What I DID like was that she was not taking that passive aggressive, mansplaining, man-baby lying down. She put him in his place every time he pulled that garbage. Of course, then they acted like she was “getting all emotional”, but I still appreciated that she did it and she did it well.

Mikey: Yeah, that’s kind of like the movie (or the writer or director) mansplaining at that point. That whole thing is another issue too big to get into that I see in all media, but in general he seemed like a “play-xbox-while-the-wife-works” kinda guy. You are lucky to have no idea what that’s like!

Solee: Well, like many of the characters in this movie, what the screenwriter wrote is a very generic, simplified, stereotypical version of a real person like that. There was a scene early on where they were talking to the lady who owned the “general store” and it was like if someone who had never left Manhattan tried to write a person who lived in the midwest entirely based on things they’d seen and read about the midwest.

Mikey: I definitely got that vibe. Rich city folk moving out to the country for fresh air is such a classic movie trope. I suspect most of the writers of such things don’t know how that actually works. And why does this podunk American town have a giant castle in it?

Solee: Because the story needed a giant castle, duh. There were a lot of big “robber baron” houses build by railroad fatcats and such, but this felt extreme even for that. I guess that’s partly because people today are less likely to be as impressed by the size of what would have been impressive in the early 1900s. It’s like accounting for inflation.

Mikey: I think you have a point! So, other than pointing out the movie’s cluelessness about the logistics of mold remediation, I have nothing more to add here. How about you?

Solee: Haha! We know about that, don’t we? *sigh* I do want to go back to the idea of the disappointments room for a second. I found that very poignant. My aunt was born with Down Syndrome around the 1950s. By then disappointments rooms had been replaced with the equally disturbing asylum. Another way for folks to hide embarrassing offspring. That was recommended for my aunt, but my grandparents refused. They raised her alongside my mother and never treated her like anything other than the daughter she was. They were pretty ahead of their time and I find it disturbing how little progress has been made in this regard in the last 70 years. It’s a lot better, but there are still way too many people who think it’s okay to treat people with disabilities differently than those without.

Mikey: Yeah… and what you just said would’ve been a much more powerful movie!

Solee: True dat. One thing I actually LOVED about the movie was that the librarian/historian was played by Marcia DeRousse, a little person actor, and it wasn’t mentioned at all. The son was a little surprised, but none of them actually mentioned it. They just went on with the discussion about the disappointments rooms. And I only just a few minutes ago realized that her character would have felt particularly strongly about the idea, being someone who would have ended up in one if she’d been born in the wrong time to the wrong family.

Mikey: That’s funny because I was going to mention Tyrion Lannister earlier, but I didn’t want to bring up the Lannisters two reviews in a row. I honestly didn’t even realize she was a little person… Thinking back I see the eyelines, and I thought she was just standing on a lower floor than them. Oops!

Solee: It wasn’t highlighted at all. The scene was about a historian imparting her wisdom. Her height wasn’t relevant. (Although if they’d written the more meaningful story we discussed earlier, she might have had some thoughts on it.)

Mikey: Yeah, I think that is good. People actually come in all sorts of different formats, we’re not all tall blond straight skinny white people with big muscles and fully functioning body parts (or “poolboys” as I like to call them). It’s nice when the normals get represented a bit.

But this brings us to the moment of official rating. Officially, you must rate this movie now.

Solee: Officially, I give this movie a … 3 out of 5. It had polish, like you said, and the acting was good. I don’t regret watching it, but I surely wouldn’t watch it again and I’m not sure I’d strongly recommend it to anyone. It was an “eh” movie, in my official opinion. How about you?

Mikey: You know, in the first 15 minutes, I might have given a 5. Then in the next 30, maybe a 4. Then a 3 for a while… and by the end I was worn down to a solid 2. Great filmmaking in service of a garbage script. Just not worth watching at all. Incidentally, did you know this movie has a LOWER score than Altar on IMDB? I wouldn’t go that far.

Solee: Well, that’s just ridiculous. You know what I want to watch next? The movie we talked about where they tackle the crappy way society treats people with disabilities and challenges us to be better, all while giving us an exciting horror story. Alas … that is not a movie that exists as far as I know.

Mikey: I’m not aware of it either (hey, the kid in Silver Bullet is in a wheelchair, though!), but I do know we are about to watch Cabin Fever. Close enough! (Note: they apparently have already remade this movie for some reason, even using the same exact script. We’ll be seeing the 2002 original).
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Altar11:50 PM -- Mon October 2, 2017

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

Altar (2016)
Unrated
IMDB Says:
“ALTAR is the terrifying story of a group of former college classmates who get lost driving to a college reunion camp out in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something much darker. They must battle to escape the evil they unleashed to not only save their own lives but their souls as well.”
IMDB Rating: 4.0/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Solee: 1/5
Mikey: 1/5
We watched this on Hulu.

Solee: So we watched Altar, a 2016 movie about some kids lost in the woods. You chose this one. Was there a method behind your madness?

Mikey: Well, I looked through Hulu’s movie list and the title and picture seemed interesting, so I clicked and saw it was found footage, and was like, “there we go.” I think I was specifically trying to avoid quality. Don’t want two good ones in a row, you know.

Solee: Is it too soon in this conversation for me to say you succeeded in that? This was the tropey-est of tropey movies.

Mikey: I want to single it out for the most lampshades ever hung on one movie in history. While they proceeded to do everything the same as every movie, they constantly mentioned “We’re not like those people in scary movies, we’re gonna do the smart thing!”

Solee: Those kids wouldn’t know smart if it glowed bright blue and snuck up on them with an ax. So found footage movies are tricky because we have to believe that they’d be recording the whole thing. What did you think about this one? Believable?

Mikey: No. And they really kept harping on it. Not the usual “Stop filming, Jim! You’re so obnoxious!” but just endless references to the camera. Probably every 5th line of dialogue was something about the camera. I’m gonna set it over here, I stole it, you sure like filming, etc.

Solee: My theory is that they were ad-libbing a lot of the dialogue. One of those scripts where the director said “A and B have to happen in this scene” and maybe gave one of the actors a secret task and then let them just ham it up. These kids weren’t so good at the ad-libbing, so there was lots of talk about the camera and the weather and lots of girls touching their hair.

Mikey: That kind of filmmaking requires a lot of faith in your actors. Misplaced faith in this case.

Solee: Agreed. I was also mildly put off by the whole idea of Bo using the camera to “work through his Asperger's”. Working through his grief around the death of his parents I totally believe. But only someone who didn’t know anything about Asperger's syndrome would phrase it that way. Which makes me think they were using that diagnosis as a plot vehicle instead of for the purpose of diverse, interesting characters. That being said, I DID like the actor who played Bo.

Mikey: I did think he did a good job. I actually think they all did pretty well in terms of acting (except the jock and his high-school girlfriend), it’s just that they didn’t know how to ad-lib. HOWEVER, how about an honorable mention to Ripper? That guy was just some *wow* acting. Not the good kind of wow.

Solee: TERRIBLE. I’m sorry to be so harsh to Mr. Wainwright, but there was NO emotion or energy in that character. And if that was an intentional choice, it was a mistake. He was integral to the Horror Movie Life Lesson of the Movie -

Mikey: Was that “people have different ages all the time”?

Solee: Hahaha! No, although that sweet, dumb “She’s 18, guys!” girl had a point. No, the HMLLotM this time was “Don’t pop off to creepy strangers carrying weapons.”

Mikey: Speaking of creepy strangers, I can’t believe the super creepy weirdo couple they met and camped out with (and their adorable rottweiler-pug puppy!) turned out not to be part of this evil cult that I assume exists somewhere.

Solee: Same! Maybe they were part of a rival cult? They were definitely part of something weird. I mean … that “storage tent”. Like with the Asperger's … it reads like someone who has never actually been camping trying to write a camping scene.

Mikey: Yeah, there’s some backstory we’re missing about the battling cults.

Solee: Now, THAT’S a movie I want to watch.

Mikey: Okay, so this movie tells you nothing. In brief, the kids go into the woods, run across an evil altar, and it possesses one of them who kills the others. Sooo… this altar surely requires a cult, right? It didn’t just happen. And Ripper is … some well-meaning guy who likes carrying axes and wanted to make sure everybody was safe? Or the cult leader?

Solee: My take was that the altar held a demon. Ripper let the demon out the first time … leading to the deaths of the newlyweds, which MAYBE contained it again? Because he said something about them letting it out after they fiddled with the glowy balls. Anyway, this time, the kids took the bad guy out RIGHT AWAY LIKE SMART PEOPLE and it attached itself to Bo.

Mikey: They did say they were going to do that. But there’s holes in that. I mean, he sure wasn’t possessed like Bo was (when he met the kids, I mean). Was it post-possession depression? Probably not, since he was just as surly and weird when he was telling the honeymooners not to go for a walk.

Solee: Maybe he was a surly, creepy serial killer type who just happened to also be possessed by a demon. He didn’t seem possessed when he met them on the road, just creepy. And ax-wielding.

Mikey: Yeah, normal road behavior. I think we have put more thought into this movie than the creators at this point.

Solee: Yep. There were a ridiculous number of holes in the timing/travel. None of it made sense if you thought about it. Best just not to think about it.

Mikey: That’s what the writer said! Now, the other thing the writer said was “I love Game of Thrones! How can I get Cersei and Jamie Lannister into my movie?”

Solee: Come on … it wasn’t THAT bad. But there was definitely a brother-sister sexual tension going on that I did NOT like. And it was completely unnecessary. They went all out with the taboo relationships in this film: teacher/student, old guy/young girl, brother/sister. And none of it moved the plot.

Mikey: Maybe it did, and we just haven’t figured out the plot yet. Well, that aside, I want to point out that we had a… hmm… a very special scene at the end of the movie where Bo levitates his camera into following him around rather than having to carry it anymore. The most core problem I have with this, well is probably the silliness of it, but secondmost is WHY? He doesn’t have any reason to film anything if he’s a murdering demon man! He doesn’t care about the camera! Levitate the knife into some throats instead!

Solee: Ax-wielding guy still loved his ax after being possessed. Camera-loving guy still loves his camera!

Mikey: Just more of the taboo relationships.

Solee: Haha! It all comes down to the fact that they needed to show what Bo was doing, but had killed off anyone who could hold the camera for him. Gah. This movie has film school project all over it. It feels like the horror was an afterthought. Like a bunch of film school kids had a project due on Monday and a weekend trip in the mountains planned and were like “Hey! What if we do them together!” and then they realized half-way through that they had to actually do something scary.

Mikey: Wish they had! Ba-dum-tssh!

Solee: Right?! This was the least scary scary movie we’ve watched together. Aside from ones that were being goofy on purpose. This felt like it was taking itself seriously and just missing the mark completely. Even the jump scares didn’t get me and jump scares ALWAYS get me.

Mikey: I think you’re right. They even managed to make walking through the woods at night with only a flashlight seem blasé and relaxing. I feel like that’s an easy one to get right. On that walk, by the way… one of them heard something in the woods, and they all go to investigate, and then walk for HOURS. If it was that far away, you wouldn’t have heard it!

Solee: It kind of makes sense though … because they also drove forward for 3 ½ - 4 hours after realizing they were lost. “I don’t even know how I’d turn around here!” *facepalm*

Mikey: Plenty of padding in this movie. Not sure there was any content between the padding, actually.

Solee: That reminds me. I did have one semi-thoughtful note from this movie (out of three pages of incredulous mocking): found footage films often have the “outsider” as the camera operator. It’s almost like directors/writers think that the misfit will have a clearer, more neutral perspective on the group because they aren’t in the middle of it. I think that’s total BS. The one left out carries SOOO much baggage about the group, collectively and as individuals. So many inner stories. It’s a flawed premise that most of these found footage films are built on.

Mikey: That is deep thoughts. I think they did it looking for scenes like the one where he decides to interview Chelsea - if he knew her, he wouldn’t be doing that (only he totally would, especially since this is a college reunion, so he wouldn’t have seen her in years). Not worth it.

Solee: Nope. So … I feel like I’ve ragged on this movie enough and I literally don’t have any positive notes (except YAY! PICKLES LIVED!) so … ratings?

Mikey: Pickles! You did appreciate Bo. I think ratings. That’s pretty easy here. I think we’ll find worse this month, but I still feel good giving a 1/5 for this winner.

Solee: Ha! At first I read that as ½ out of 5 and I was like … yeah, I can see that! I am with you on a 1, though. I definitely don’t want to give it more, but I want to reserve the 0 for something truly heinous.

Mikey: Remember #Horror was our only 0… hard to equal!

Solee: I thought that was the one. Wow. That was a truly terrible film. Please tell me that we have something better in the docket for tomorrow...

Mikey: I can’t promise that, I can only promise that it’s The Disappointments Room. Hope it doesn’t disappoint!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: IT02:23 PM -- Sun October 1, 2017

Hey everybody! It's my favorite time of year! I get to spend this month watching a horror movie every day, and then discussing it in overwhelming, excruciating detail with my wife! Nothing could be more awesome. Well actually, we do limit ourselves for time, to avoid creating an unreadable novel of discussion. It would be more awesome to actually keep rambling and be able to cover every single little thing about every movie. But here in the real world, here is what we are able to discuss about each movie in forty-five minutes. Enjoy!

Oh, and as always, we will spoil all of these movies extensively during our reviews, so you should watch it first. In addition, we aren’t going to explain what we’re talking about, so that’s another reason you should probably watch it first. And then join the discussion in the comments below!

Okay, one last note: the last line of every review tells you what the movie for the next day is going to be. So if you don’t want to be spoiled on this movie, but do want to know what the next movie is so you can watch it first, read the last line!

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

It (2017)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.”
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 70/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% critics, 89% audience
Solee: 4/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this in the theater.

Mikey: It’s 2017, and here we are again at my favorite time of year! It’s time to review movies!! YAY!

Solee: Yay! We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come up with a clever plan for this year’s reviews, and here we are … back to the basics. A Google Docs convo from two different rooms in the same house.

Mikey: I really wanted to do a podcast, but… yeah. Hard things are hard. Let’s start this month off with a bang by watching a brand new movie in the theater!!

Solee: DONE! We actually left the house to see IT on the first day it was available here. What were you expecting?

Mikey: First showing of the first day! Not for the review though, but because we are both big fans of the book and Stephen King. We got to “enjoy” the movie version of The Dark Tower a month or two earlier, and now IT has come for us.

Solee: [spoiler alert: DT was NOT good. *sadface*]

Mikey: I had higher expectations of this one. Just from the previews it looked pretty good. But how could they possibly take a 1200+ page novel and crush it into a 2 hour movie? There are a ton of characters, who do a ton of things (a big chunk of the book involves all the other townsfolk, not just the main kids). So I expected something like Dark Tower, but better - the ideas and images of the book, in an Easy Reader format.

Solee: IT is one of my favorite King books. I’ve read it at least 5 times. I did not have high hopes for the movie because the trailers made it look like it was going to be a straight up horror flick. The magic behind the book (and most of King’s work, if you ask me) is that he gets way into people’s heads. You get to know each character, even side characters, on a very intimate level. That’s just not possible in a movie format. And yet … I was extremely pleased with the movie.

Mikey: Yes, actually I should say the trailers made me expect it was a “clown as Freddy Krueger” movie (whereas in the book, the clown is not so central - It can appear in any form and just uses the clown a bunch of times), which we sorta did get, but it was much more true to the book than I expected. I was happy!

Solee: I was relieved when I realized, about half-way through, that they weren’t going to try to do the whole book. This was very clearly a movie with a sequel set-up. Which actually fits the book quite well, if you unshuffle all the past and present scenes.

Mikey: I got scared at the point you got relieved! I thought they were going to do only the kid half, sure, but I thought that was it. Just ignore half the point of the book. The sequel-bait made it better.

Solee: The REAL horror would have been if this movie didn’t do well enough and they scrapped the second half!

Mikey: I’m really glad that’s not the case. I’m burned by The Dark Tower.

Solee: And just about every other adaptation of Stephen King books!

Mikey: I guess I’m glad Dark Tower didn’t do well and spawn more sequel garbage, but we still need the 8 season TV series for it…

Solee: Yes, please. But this review is about IT. What did you think of the casting?

Mikey: That was really great actually… One thing about this movie is that it’s pretty much the Stranger Things movie. So similar all around. I guess 80’s nostalgia is all the rage today (especially since if they were being true to the book, it would’ve been in the 50’s). So just like Stranger Things, these actors (one of which is from Stranger Things) really made you feel the “nerds growing up in the 80’s” vibe that just makes it very real and moving.

Solee: Interesting rabbit trail … King wrote the book in ‘86. He was born in ‘47, so the 50s were his coming of age period. Those of us who read the book in the 80s are now about the same age he was when he wrote about his coming of age. So it makes perfect sense that all us 40ish folks are waxing nostalgic about the 80s. Apparently your 40s is when that happens.

Mikey: That just makes me question my accomplishments. Kind of like when you see 18 year old superstars, only not so bad since I’m just now at the age where I haven’t written IT. P.S. IT was the first book I remember reading. It obviously wasn’t the first book I read (imagine THAT) but I read it much younger than I should have, maybe at 12 or 13. I found it on my parents’ bookshelf and just chewed through 1200 pages in a couple weeks, and then started grabbing every Stephen King book I could find. It is very formative to me! I still say it’s my favorite book, but it’s been like 10 years since I read it (for the second or third time, obviously…).

Solee: King’s “Eyes of the Dragon” was the first horror book I remember reading, also at about age 12. I did the same as you; once I finished that, I devoured everything of his I could get my hands on.

Mikey: Definitely my favorite writer, by miles! So rabbit trails aside, this was a movie. Was it a scary movie?

Solee: I’m going to say yes. I thought Skarsgaard did a lovely job of being creepy and there were lots of subtle things throughout the movie that really ramped up the tension. For example: the folks who were about to be eaten up would have a moment when their eyes looked like the clown’s eyes. The director didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it happened often enough for me to think it was very intentional.

Mikey: You told me that after the movie and it was too late for me to check. I’ll have to see next time. The woes of seeing a movie in a theater! I thought it was kind of in the middle for scares… it wasn’t super creepy (had some adventure/fantasy/action elements), but it did have its share of scary moments. I think the giant Pennywise in the garage was the most shocking moment for me.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not sure I have a stand-out moment, but I remember jumping several times. I’m a big fan of the psychological horror, though, and IT has that in spades. The monster takes on the form of each person’s fear and these kids had plenty of crap to draw from in their lives.

Mikey: Yeah, I think Bev’s story was the most powerful. That could’ve been a movie of its own, just caught in that family life and tormented by a malevolent spirit. But we’ve seen those movies before, so I’m glad this one was different!

Solee: Was it THAT different though?

Mikey: Well, I mean it was about all the kids, and their quest to defeat It. That’s a lot different from “boo hoo, my life is horrible, the ghost is harassing me, AND I’M DEAD NOW.” which is all ghost movies.

Solee: I see. I’m wondering just how “unique” IT is. When I think about it … there are plenty of coming of age movies. And plenty of your-fear-manifested movies. Maybe not so many of the two combined? It doesn’t feel super original to me, but maybe that’s because 1) it’s a go-to story for King, and 2) I’ve read this exact story soooo often.

Mikey: I think it’s a unique movie. The combination, plus it’s just very rare that “horror” has any kind of quest, or any victory for our heroes, or really heroes for that matter (let’s just cheer for their deaths!). And it does impact the horror of it, it’s just not as scary when you know you have heroes in there. They’re sure to win in the end, and their very strength in facing the threat ruins the horror - it’s not scary if they’re not scared. Which brings me to my issues with the ending. That make sense though? It has real horror, mixed with real action/fantasy/adventure.

Solee: Quick comment on that … it’s a fine line to walk in horror storytelling, I think. If you make the characters relatable and strong, the audience isn’t truly afraid of their death (although that sets up some pretty devastating storylines, ie: Hoban Washburne) and if you make them expendable enough for people to wonder whether they will live or die, they tend to have less depth. I think this razor-wire is why so many horror movies are just terrible.

Mikey: Yeah, this movie leaned more on the side of making you care about characters, and I think that’s the better path, since you know, stories are about characters. I think most horror movies have that introduction phase at the beginning and you’re just rolling your eyes through it, going “when can we kill these people already?”

Solee: Indeed. Turns out there’s an art to writing good stories. Who knew?

Mikey: Stephen King! So I found an issue both times the characters confront Pennywise, and I think it’s a result of condensing a huge book. In the big book, there’s this dread built up over weeks of events and a very real fear to the confrontation, we know it’s dangerous because each of them has been personally attacked multiple times along the way. In the movie, each kid kind of gets one little jump-scare from Pennywise to let them see the threat, and then they face him. So then the actual fight seems weak… it also has to do with the very concept: because It feeds on fear, the only way they beat it is by overcoming their fear and being tougher than It. So in the end, it comes down to them beating a clown with a lead pipe. It’s… really appropriate, and a good concept, but it doesn’t work well in the movie. It’s just kids murdering a poor man.

Solee: YES! That scene disturbed me and I just now realized the logistics behind why. Because if they aren’t afraid of It, if they stop believing in its supernatural power, then they essentially believe it’s just a regular guy. A regular guy they can take turns attacking. I know that’s not the story … but that’s how it came across on screen and it was disconcerting.

Mikey: That’s a good point, just a dude. It reminds me of a negative review I saw on IMDB - the reviewer thought it was crazy how all the adults in the town were evil, and the bullies were so extremely horrible. He thought that on top of the kid-eating monster, that was absurd, but he didn’t know that all that was part of the kid-eating monster. I’m not sure if the movie failed to impart that, or if he just didn’t get it, because I read the book, so I understood it anyway.

Solee: I don’t think that was addressed well in the movie.

Mikey: I really liked how that came off in the movie, though I think it could’ve used some on-the-nose explication (the balloon in the backseat of the car was a clue…). Just seeing these people get really creepy smiles and be really inappropriate. I liked that angle, though it probably needed more clarity.

Solee: So, after all that, how would you rate this new version of IT?

Mikey: As a fan of the book (it’s my favorite!), and how well this interpreted it, about as well as you could in 2 hours, I don’t know if I can go lower than 5/5. I want to, because it’s not perfect, but we grade on a curve in October. This was surprisingly great.

Solee: I’m going to give it a 4/5. Which is surprising because I tend to rate higher than you. I did really enjoy this movie. But I don’t think the “horror” is what I enjoyed about it. It’s just a great movie. Compared to other horror movies, though … I know I’m going to see ones I like more for that specific element. Does that seem unfair? Sorry, Mr. King.

Mikey: Now I feel dumb for fiving it! Actually during the movie, I kept finding myself having to re-adjust my expectations, because it really is a mix of genres. I kept trying to force myself to just look at it as a story, context-free, and whether I enjoyed the storytelling or not. And trying not to judge it on the book. This was a hard movie to properly rate!

Solee: Yes. I think it’s fairly clear from this discussion that we failed to consider it “context-free”. I’m okay with that. Even though I only gave it a 4 for the purposes of BHE, I would go see it again and I am glad I saw it in the theater. So that says something.

Mikey: One more note from me! What I really appreciated about this movie was Stephen King coming to life - it was all about the characters. I can always go for more movies like that. That’s what Firefly is too. Doesn’t matter it’s space cowboys, or evil clowns, what matters is how fun the people are.

Solee: Agreed. So how fun are the people in our next movie??

Mikey: I’ll tell you tomorrow after we’ve seen Altar (2016)!
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We're back!09:17 PM -- Mon September 11, 2017

I fixed the site! SO QUICKLY! I bet you didn't even notice it was down. We're now hosted at a new place, with a lot of fancy new server power under the hood (not that we needed it, but it's good to be up-to-date). Enjoy the forums once again, and let me know if you see things broken on the site. I'm not sure what all broke during the transition process.
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Assembly Programming For Fun!02:42 AM -- Sun May 28, 2017

Yeah, I'm still alive! For a minute there last month it looked like I was going to get somewhere with the website. I had somebody all set up to help me do it, but when he looked through it, we discovered all manner of complex issues as to what exactly we wanted to do and how we wanted it to end up (the site as-is does not function anymore, so changes need to be made...). So we're kinda back to square one, and I've been super busy transitioning Growtopia to Ubisoft. But we're getting somewhere. It'll happen, someday.

Anyway, I wanted to chat a bit about the idea of programming games (not the act of programming games, but rather playing games that are about programming). That's a genre that is very niche, and there aren't a ton of games in it, but nevertheless I intend to go deeper yet and specifically focus on games about assembly-language programming! There are even fewer of them, but they're the ones that are really fun!

You see, assembly language itself is basically a logic puzzle. It's the most straightforward and simple type of programming, in that there are just a few different possible instructions (sometimes very few), and each instruction is incredibly simple - it can have one, or in some languages/situations, two values attached to it, and that's it. For example "MOV AX,7" (I don't even remember if that's accurate 6502 assembly, but it's something like that) is an assembly instruction. It means "put a 7 into the register AX". Of course in a game, it might be more verbose but it comes down to the same thing. Super simple individual lines, able to access only a select few registers (data storage spots), and yet Turing complete. So it's very easy to grasp, yet very very complicated to get it do something worthwhile, and it's that process of building up from simple blocks into vast structures that makes it so compelling. If you can make the little parts work, then put them together logically, you'll have a bigger working unit. Simple concepts combining into great complexity.

So I thought I had played a few of these games lately, but it turns out it was just two. I just finished Human Resource Machine today (though I cheated on the last puzzle, which was like an order of magnitude bigger and more complex than all the ones before it!), and other games I've played along these lines are TIS-100 (I failed to finish, it gets hard!), and Carnage Heart (but that's going waaayyy back to the 90's). I know there's also Shenzhen IO, which I haven't played. SpaceChem actually shares many traits though it'd be hard to call it assembly language programming. It's no coincidence that three of the five games I just named are all made by Zachtronics. I guess there aren't a lot of people in the assembly game arena! It's too bad, because it really is fun, and makes programming accessible to anyone who likes logic puzzles. A great learning tool as well as a fun puzzle.

Anyway, if you like puzzles, you might want to try this kind because it'll really worm into your brain, and as a bonus it'll teach you a lot about programming! Human Resource Machine is a really nice simple example. The early puzzles are fun and easy, though you'll really need some chops to get all the way to the end. TIS-100 is way more hardcore. I would not recommend starting there if you aren't a programmer yourself.

I would love to hear about any others you know of in the comments, but yeah... the site isn't working too hot right now, speaking of programming. It'll be back soonish(tm)!
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Checking in!03:14 PM -- Thu March 30, 2017

It has only been a few months since my last entry here. It's still true that I beat Bloodborne though. Still pretty amazing, I hope you're impressed. On that note, I just started playing Dark Souls 3 yesterday, so yeah.

Anyway, lots of big stuff going on. The good news from a Hamumu.com perspective is that I am talking to somebody about working on getting the site back up and running, because I still don't have time to do so myself. Hopefully that will work. And by the way, I have had a new site design in hand for several years now, with no time to set it up, so hopefully we won't just be restoring the missing functionality - we'll have a full overhaul, totally new look!

In mildly interesting other news, we have sold Growtopia to Ubisoft! Yeah, that's kind of a big deal. Seth and I will still be working on it for a while, helping them learn how to run the game and what the secrets of our awesomeness are. I'm really looking forward to this... freedom and free time to create the things I want to make again, instead of being chained to Growtopia 24/7. My life has been very different for the last four years, and while I have had an outlet for creativity - the updates I've been doing for Growtopia are often as complex as entire games - I haven't been free to just do what I want, it's all been inside the framework of that game. So I am really looking forward to that freedom, especially just inside my head. My brain will be set free by not being tied to those little block-headed creatures all day. It's been very draining. And there's so much more to it than simply making the updates. Nobody who isn't involved in the process can understand what it takes out of you to be facing the onslaught of millions of players, all wanting their personal issue fixed (or sometimes just want to shout profanities at me), every day. Our tech support staff are truly amazing for fighting that tide.

So once everything is handled, and I can step back out of the limelight, I am going to take a BREAK. I've said I was going to take a year off, but those in the know have said I wouldn't be able to handle that. I don't really know what the future holds, I'm just glad to be free to find out. It's gonna be a break whether I take a break or not. Yay!
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I BEAT BLOODBORNE!04:12 PM -- Sat December 3, 2016

That's an all-caps title! So this is a Hamumu Revumu. Bloodborne is a truly amazing game. It's by From Software, the infamous Dark Souls guys, and this is every bit a Dark Souls game except in a different universe. And that's part of what's so great - it's an infinitely better universe! While the lore/story/world of Dark Souls is all knights in heavy armor (even the weird mutant bosses are generally either dragons or giant knights in armor) and other boring medieval stuff, the world of Bloodborne is this amazing gothic steampunk Lovecraftian insanity. I can't remember the last time I was so deeply invested in a game's looks. Just wandering this realistic (well, hyper-real? All kinds of impossibly vast architecture going on) run-down 1800's city is a treat. The artwork is incredible. The views of cathedrals and spires, the gloomy atmosphere, every part of the style is just perfectly tuned to my brainwaves.

Inside that grim world are the most hideous and disturbing creatures of any game I've ever played. I love them and want to snuggle them. There's so many I could point out, but lemme just hit on two: First of all, the fat crows. Yep, fat crows. In a game filled with twisted demonic beings, these fat crows sitting on the ground should be perfectly fine. But they are actually the only enemy to cause a physical revulsion reaction in me. See, they're just crows, but they look like they're dead laying on the ground. If you get close, they come towards you, but not in a squawky fast way (not yet!), oh no, they sloooowly lurch along the ground like slugs. The model is nothing but a realistic crow, but with the animation and sound they managed to make it absolutely horrifying. And of course when it gets close, it does leap at your face.

Secondly, there are these massive creatures that cling to the sides of buildings, generally posing you no harm at all. They are definitely very disturbing in appearance, with insanely long limbs and a face full of tentacles. But the real trick is, you can't see them at all. As far as you know for about the first half of the game, they don't exist. You think you're just in a city full of werewolves, madmen, and ogres. But once you raise your Insight stat enough (it seems to represent your knowledge of the occult, and your ability to perceive it), suddenly they're just there. And you realize that this whole time you've been walking around beneath these towering monsters that could've squashed you at any moment. That's a nasty sight. There is at least one that can grab you before you're able to see them too, which is just a random death out of the blue if you lack the Insight to understand it. Here's a video, which also shows you the amazing style of the architecture and visuals a bit:

Come on, that's creepy. So I've written all these paragraphs, about a video game, and it's me writing it, and I haven't even mentioned the gameplay yet! Gameplay is officially all I care about in games! But this game, I'm telling you: the world, the story, the visuals, the sound (oh man, the sound is CRUNCHY and LOUD and upsetting all on its own), it all builds a masterpiece. I should also give a shout-out to the story: It's a good story, to the extent I understand it. Which is the point: the story is delivered in tiny cryptic tidbits you pick up as you play, rather than expository cutscenes. Everything is a clue, right down to "why does that type of monster or item show up in this area?" which would be throwaway in any other game. I don't entirely know what happened in the story, but I have my ideas, and from reading online, so does everybody else. It makes you think, and that's a good thing. There are a ton of elements I would've never even known about if it weren't for my massive FAQ-cheating at the game - entire sidequests that aren't explained, you just have to think for yourself "maybe that guy would like to come to the church instead of being eaten by monsters". You can miss so much of it all, but the clues are there to find.

So gameplay. It's super fun. In short, it's your typical action-RPG: you level up, you slash monsters with sharp things (cool sharp things that can transform between two modes), and you complete 'quests' (though there is no quest log and you may not even realize you're on a quest). Before this, I played Dark Souls (years after everyone else did). I didn't get super far in it. Steam says I've played 12 hours, most of which was probably grinding to get strong enough to beat the first 2 or 3 bosses. I was surprised how much I liked that game. I recommend it as well, and I feel like I should go back to it. Bloodborne is remarkably similar in almost every way. You can see all the same game systems in action, just slightly tweaked, and I don't doubt this is built from the same codebase. Bloodborne is better though. It's much more fast-paced. One nice trick is that when you get injured, most of the health you lose can be gained back by simply hitting enemies, but it becomes permanently lost after a few seconds. This means that when some enormous monstrosity pounds you into the ground, instead of going to hide behind a pillar, you are almost forced to charge back at it and start wailing away to recover what you lost. It's really satisfying to end up beating a guy with full health even though he hit you several times. There's also a huge emphasis on rolling around to dodge attacks. You don't get a shield in this game (well, there is one you can find at some point, but I never tried it, and I've heard it said that it was included as a joke), so it's either dodge or be hit.

And the badguys hit hard. Being from the makers of Dark Souls, this game is near-impossible in terms of difficulty. You can literally die in a single combo from an ordinary enemy even when you are fairly over-leveled for the area you're in. But you know, people talk about the infamous difficulty of these games a lot, and it really isn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, it's among the hardest games I've played, but there's a real difference in a game like this, where I can learn better strategies (or just level up), and something hard like VVVVVV or Super Meat Boy or Super Hexagon... those games I find so much harder because it's just brutal failure constantly and insane reflex testing. You can't really get that much better at them. In Bloodborne, nearly every boss killed me a few times, but even when they did, I always was left feeling like there was plenty of spare time and visible warnings of the danger, it's just that each mistake is punished severely. This is so much more forgiving in terms of timing than a game like Super Hexagon, where you have to be perfect every second. Here you can roll away, drink a potion, and try again. I am avoiding the age-old adage of "it's hard, but when you die it feels like your fault" - that's (usually) true, but it's more than that. It's that it's actually not that hard. It just requires you to learn through dying a few times (which is not penalized harshly at all).

A large part of the difficulty is like that - memorization can get you very far in this game. Once you've been through an area a few times, what felt like an insurmountable challenge is nearly child's play... as long as you don't make any mistakes. It's strange to praise this, but it's very fun that the world never changes. You can memorize every enemy's placement, and know exactly what to do. There's a real shift in the gameplay resulting from the lack of shift in the enemies: you start out exploring slowly and stealthily, and testing each enemy's reactions and abilities, then after a few deaths (or many), you're running through full-tilt chopping off heads as you go. Then you reach a new area and start all over. It's actually more dynamic than it would be if it were randomized - that'd just be repetitive. This way changes over time (not that every game should be so static, it just really works here). There are fairly long stretches of the game with no enemies at all, but you don't know that the first time through the area, so you inch along waiting for death to pop out around a corner...

I certainly wouldn't recommend this game to non-gamers in any way. It's the hardest of hardcore gaming. But it feels fair. Except maybe that stupid forest full of snakes... but even that I got through on my 3rd or 4th try. And each time I made good progress, I'd unlock a shortcut. The shortcuts are amazing. You'll make your way through a big convoluted area only to find you're right back where you started, and can open a door connecting it to where you began. Again, hard, but fair. You get through the hard part and then you don't have to do it again, the shortcut is there. I was stopped cold a few times with the game, saying to myself "Okay, guess I've gotten all I can out of this game, it's too hard for me." and set it aside for a week or two, but inevitably I was drawn back to give it another shot, until finally yesterday I actually won the game, months after I started. It was an immensely satisfying experience. I keep thinking about firing it up again to either work on a different character build or continue in New Game+ mode. I'm not sure why I would do that, but I certainly feel the call of the Great Ones in my corrupted blood.

Have I said enough? I've said too much. Bloodborne is great and comes highly recommended, as long as you are a hardcore gamer who likes scary stuff. There are things I would change for sure, but they're not even worth mentioning.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 303:59 PM -- Thu November 3, 2016

And welcome to the final part of our wrap up! If you haven’t read them yet, you should start with Part 1 and Part 2.

TWISTS

Mikey: So in addition to a lack of teenagers chopped to bits, another big thing we missed this month was twists! I tagged two of our movies with the “Twist” tag: The Canal and The Uninvited (and I thought I was being generous with The Canal). My favorite thing in all of movie-dom is a huge plot twist that completely redefines everything you’ve seen beforehand. Did M. Night Shyamalan spoil me for twists just like I am spoiled for scares, or did we really see a lot of straightforward narratives? (Honorable mention: there were some twists in Holidays between all the various stories)

Solee: I feel like we saw a lot of very uninspiring plots this month. There were very few surprises and I pretty much knew how things would turn out based on the IMDB description most of the time.

Mikey: We did have that group of movies that were very surprising we mentioned before, but they weren’t “twists” where everything changes, just unexpected events along the way to an expected conclusion. I really appreciated those, but I do miss having my mind blown apart.

Solee: I think we’re more likely to get that mind-blowing twist from movies that are labeled “thriller” than from “horror” these days, especially since anything that strays from the standard “horror” fare gets panned by the critics.

Mikey: You’re right about that. Psychological Thriller November? Maybe later when we’ve had time to recover from this month of not getting anything real done.

Just to wrap up with a few random notes from the tags I made:
  • We saw 5 movies that took place during Christmas time. Popular for horror, I guess!
  • No fewer than 11 movies earned my “Driven” tag, which means they featured people being driven insane by ghosts. Very common idea.
  • We saw 7 movies which earned the Cheese tag.
  • Only 5 of our movies got a Gore tag, but I was pretty picky about that - they had to really focus on gore, not just have one really bloody thing.
  • 5 serial killers, 7 demons, 12 ghosts, 3 cults, 2 “monsters” (the Behemoth and the Shadow Puppets monster), only 2 zombies, and just one witch.
  • Only 4 found footage movies! Sad.
  • Four comedies (or attempted comedies).
  • Four Sci-Fi movies.
  • Surprisingly only 3 movies which featured a pregnant woman. Seems like I flipped past a hundred of those while searching for movies.
  • Even more surprising that we got two first-person view movies! The first two I’ve ever seen.
  • Four foreign movies: Irish, Spanish, Israeli, and British.
  • Only 3 movies earned the coveted Insane tag for being totally insane.
  • Unsurprisingly, only one courtroom drama!
Solee: To be accurate, there were only three movies with pregnant women, but one of those movies was Holidays, which had several different pregnancy related stories.

Mikey: Yes, well we also had a lot more than 2 zombies, but I’m just counting up how many movies featured them!

Solee: I have two questions before we bring this monster discussion to a close. First, do you think you chose different movies because I was participating with you?

Mikey: I think there was an influence. One thing I didn’t do was spend the entire afternoon flipping through movies to find just the perfect one, because that drives you insane!

Solee: Wait. You DIDN’T do that???

Mikey: It’s so much worse when you’re not looking. I think I also semi-consciously tried to find “good” movies (which worked!). On my own, I would plow through a lot more found footage garbage.

Solee: And weird mutant creature combinations?

Mikey: Nah, I don’t really go for those in the marathon (at least not in large numbers). That’s more for watching with my sister! Oh, I also avoided foreign movies more because subtitles can be difficult when somebody is half-blind from laser beams.

Solee: I am honestly disappointed by how much this stupid eye thing affected our movie watching. I would have enjoyed more foreign films. Next year!

Mikey: The gears are already turning...

ARTWORK

Solee: And my last question: What did you think of my drawings? Favorite? Least favorite?

Mikey: Oh the drawings!! My favorite thing about this month was having somebody else be the one spending all this time on arts and crafts instead of me! The drawings were awesome. Let’s see…
  • Best Picture 2016: Kill List, i-Lived, and The Pact

  • Oh there’s so many others… Amityville, Sympathy (yes, the doodle), The Invitation

  • Anyway, on to my least favorite even though I surely loved them all with all my heart: I think The Final Girls. It’s an ugly house regardless of how you draw it. It even looked weird in the movie!

Solee: Yes. I think that Final Girls was one of the first ones post-surgery. My heart definitely wasn’t in it. Ouija and Beacon 77 are pretty bad. And The Witch was a total cop-out. I’m disappointed that I went that the tracing route, even once.


Mikey: The Witch would be super impressive if I didn’t know you cheated. It’s a good way to learn, though!

Solee: I was quite proud of the wine glass from The Invitation because I traced it first and then drew it all over again on my own. Learning!

Mikey: Honorable mentions to [REC*] because of how fun it is and how much you hate it.


Solee: I do hate those stick figures. I think my overall favorite was the shotgun from i-LIVED. That turned out WAY better than I expected.

Mikey: That’s why it won Best Picture! So… anything else we need to know about this awesome month of awesome movies? And terrible ones?

Solee: I think that pretty much wraps it up. And it only took us… 2.5 hours and 11 pages! Special props to anyone who managed to read to this point.

Mikey: I don’t even care if anybody reads it, this was just all fun for me. I had the best time.

Solee: Ditto. Now… let’s have lunch. And maybe watch Cabin in the Woods because it’s the BEST Halloween movie ever! (Yes, it’s actually Oct 31 as we’re writing this…)

Mikey: It is Halloween tradition! I hope no kids show up so I can eat all the candy we got.

Solee: Except the mini Butterfingers. Those are mine.

Mikey: All the time (see I rhymed, right?).

Solee: Better than a leprechaun!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 203:57 PM -- Wed November 2, 2016

Be sure to read Part 1 of this discussion before this, or it won't make any sense. It was just way too huge to make into a single post. There will be 3 parts. Enjoy!

Mikey: Back to the deep stuff you were saying, horror is very subjective. Even to the point of what is or isn’t horror. It’s a major reason The Witch made me mad (now there’s a movie that didn’t meet expectations, but I didn’t approve). We watched 2 movies this month that I tagged “Thriller” because I think they weren’t really horror movies (this happens every year to varying degrees): Sympathy, Said The Shark and Green Room. There was also one tagged Comedy without the accompanying Horror tag: The Final Girls. Some might argue that, but to me it is clearly a comedy movie about horror, not a horror-comedy, since it makes not even a moment’s effort to scare you.

Solee: One of the ways horror is similar to comedy is that context thing. We are a pretty jaded society at this point. We (well, most of us) have a pretty decent understanding of how our environment - weather, celestial beings, etc - work. We’ve traveled far enough into space and the depths of the ocean and the far corners of the earth for fewer of us to accept “Here Be Monsters” without evidence of some kind. We’ve also grown more accustomed to how movie magic is done. So horror movies have to work a lot harder to actually be scary. There were very few movies that truly SCARED me, and none that left me afraid to walk into a dark room at night.

Mikey: I’m worried about my level of jade in my bloodstream. I remember in earlier years of these reviews having some nights where I’d finish my movie and go out to feed the dogs and really have a lot of nervous thoughts as I wandered out into the dark. I think that is a question of becoming jaded moreso than the movies getting less scary, and that’s a sad thing to see. I wish I could still be so affected.

Solee: With age comes wisdom…

Mikey: Wisdom is laaaame pbblblblltltbbtltt.

SCARY STUFF

Solee: Accepted. I, personally, am always more terrified by the thriller/social commentary aspect of horror movies anyway. And we had some pretty horrific movies in that regard: Green Room, The Invitation, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, to name a few.

Mikey: Man, I think The Invitation might have been the most unsettling thing we watched this month. Is there a moment in the whole month that you remember as your biggest actual scare? What made you jump out of your seat?

Solee: I feel like I’m forgetting a more recent movie that made me jump… but the one I do remember is [*REC]. I definitely jumped - and possibly even squealed a little - near the end of that movie. What about you?

Mikey: I wanna give some shout-outs to a couple movies… first is my answer to this question: as far as I can remember, the time I most was shaken up was the one I commented on in The Pact - when the ghost loomed out of the black doorway and suddenly turned. That just got me.

But in honorable mentions, I feel like The Canal was a very effective horror movie. The latter half of that movie was full of some really creepy moments.


Solee: Yes. I agree that those were on the scarier side… also The Uninvited, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and JeruZalem had some unsettling moments.

Mikey: Ouija is another I wanted to award in that way. It’s sad now, looking back, to realize we didn’t watch a single Asian movie this month, which is something I think I’ve done in all previous years. I wonder if the reason these particular ones felt so creepy was their use of Asian-style ghosts, and as a result, the creepiness comes from unfamiliarity. It’s a chance to sneak around our jaded brains by showing us something we haven’t seen in 100 movies already.

Solee: Yes, we talked about that during our review of The Uninvited. When I think of the scariest movies I’ve seen in the past, I always think of Ringu (the inspiration for the American remake, The Ring) and the woman’s ghost corpse crawling out of the well. *shudder*

Mikey: I have reviewed many movies of that genetic line over the years and they are so very creepy. There was one I loved, Pulse, which was clearly very allegorical about life in Japan, where people would one by one vanish, fading into the wallpaper and leaving a black smudge behind, until eventually our hero was the only person left. There’s some disturbing stuff coming from across the sea!

THE CHARACTERS

Solee: So let’s talk about characters a little. Who was most annoying?

Mikey: The obvious answer is Zoe (your choice!), but that is misleading, because while we had double the Zoe annoyance, the entire cast of Hollows Grove was actually infinitely more obnoxious! At least the two guys who ran the SPIT show were. Awful human beings, and so grating to watch.

Solee: Most Annoying goes to the girls of #Horror for me.

Mikey: OH NO I had wiped them from my mind! AUUUUGHGHHHHH. Okay, while I recover from the memories, why don’t you tell me who you think was the smartest character we met this month?

Solee: Oh, that’s tough. So many horror characters are dumb as posts. I think Smartest goes jointly to Perry and JP of Intruders. They were the only “victims” to think logically about how to escape instead of just flailing around like Kermit.

Mikey: I think we saw more like that in other movies… the Green Room guys were planning things pretty well, the girl in The Pact was doing her thing (when she wasn’t in slow motion), and I feel like the people of Ouija didn’t get a lot of chance to show off their brains but didn’t make overtly terrible choices. Maybe. There was also a lot of fake-smart like Butch in Leprechaun In The Hood and the entire cast of Beacon 77 but I don’t count fake-smart. I guess… I’m going to be sneaky and rate the smartest as the psychotic girl in The Uninvited. She had a plan and she made it work, all the way.

Solee: Wow. I didn’t expect that. Huh. Okay… so who was the character you’d most want to hang out with?

Mikey: Hmm. I looked at our list and came up with two answers which are both horrible people who wouldn’t even be pleasant. But they’re … likeable? Gal from Kill List, and Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses. They are both really abrasive, but funny and friendly at the same time. And both murderers.

Solee: Oh, totally Captain Spaulding. He’d make me VERY uncomfortable at first… and then again when I found out he was a serial killer, but in between, he’d be great fun to talk to. I would also like to hang out with the kids of the Ain’t Rights, the punk band from Green Room.

Mikey: That floppy hand would freak me out. Oh wait, you know who was a cool guy? The sheriff from Needful Things. Okay, putting aside having to interact with them, which character did we see that was the most well-realized all month? Who was a real person up on screen?

Solee: Whoo… I have to think about this one for a minute… I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one. There were several who stand out to me as “real” people: Jerry from The Voices, Thomasin from The Witch, and Omar from JeruZalem. There were layers to them that made them feel authentic. I was pleased with the multi-faceted characters in The Amityville Horror and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, as well.

Mikey: Well with that big list, I just want to toss in a few other ones of note: Everybody but the lawyer and Conrad in Intruders was a real live human being. Everybody but possibly the cultists in The Invitation. Keeping that trend going, everybody but the cultists in Kill List. Kill List began with some amazing human stuff before it got weird. And Green Room, which was so real I spent the whole time thinking of the real people it reminded me of. Seems like we didn’t watch enough groups of teenagers get murdered in the woods this month, with so many good characters!

Solee: Not for lack of trying! But it does seem as though we landed on some very well-written characters. I’m sure that influenced my scores for the better. I like good characters. So let’s wrap up this segment with one last superlative pair: the Nicest and the Meanest characters of the month!

Mikey: Mmm… I think the nicest character is pretty easily Jerry from The Voices, I mean if you don’t mind getting killed. But the meanest, that can be tricky with horror movies. Oh wait, I group nominate all the girls from #Horror. A movie entirely about being mean.

Solee: I am completely with you on the #Horror gals being the meanest. They were just awful, and made even more awful by being around one another. For nicest, I think Jerry is a good choice, but I’m going to reach deep into the characters we met and pull out a side character! I nominate Emily Rose’s boyfriend. That guy not only stuck by his girlfriend when she lost her mind, but also stood by the priest on trial for killing her. He was a very patient fella.

Mikey: That’s some deep cuts! He was a good guy, that we only saw for about 2 minutes.

Solee: Well, you took my first answer! I guess I could also nominate Anna from Intruders, but she was so emotionally crippled it was hard to see whether she was really a good person under it all… or if she was really a serial killer like her brother.

Mikey: I’d be concerned that any kindness she showed was more weakness than kindness. She seems dangerous.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The 2016 Wrap-Up Part 102:59 PM -- Tue November 1, 2016

And so, another year of reviewing movies draws to a close. I love doing it every year, and this was the most fun one we've done, thanks to my partner in terror. What follows is our discussion of how it all went down. It is a huge discussion, so I've broken it up into multiple parts to be posted over a few days. And even so there's still so much more we could say about all this!


PART I

Solee: It is November. We’re officially through the month of scary and into the month of food. I want to start by saying I’m super proud of us for sticking to the schedule so well. I think there was only one day that I didn’t get a post up, and that was because I forgot to automate it, not because it wasn’t written. We did very well. Go, us!

Mikey: It may be the first year I didn’t have any mishaps with the watching or posting, actually. Usually I’m either a movie or two short, or I go a few days into November. What a team.

Solee: Before we get into the analysis of the movies, I also want to say that I really enjoyed doing this with you. It was fun to have something entertaining, but also “required” to do together so we couldn’t end up just doing nothing. I am already looking forward to our plans for next year.

Mikey: I find having to do something that the “public” will see (all 3 of the people who read this!) really makes all the difference in staying motivated. But really this was just for us, to have some fun. I like doing these kinds of projects, but I will also say I am glad we’re done. It’s amazing how much of your day can be eaten up with watching a movie and writing a review of it (and posting the review). Not even counting extraneous time-wastage, that adds up to 3 hours and 15 minutes by itself, 7 days a week.

Solee: And when you add in drawing the picture…

THE STATISTICS

Mikey: I did forget about the drawing - that was on you this year, and it certainly took a long time each day too. I appreciated it! So enough of our woes as such put-upon laborers… let’s get to the movies!

I took the time to do my mostest favoritestest activity of all this month: creating a spreadsheet of the movies, with all kinds of statistics and even tagging each movie with specific tags like Cheese, Ghost, and Found Footage. It wouldn’t be a spreadsheet without calculations, so it also calculated averages of ratings and things, and added up how often each tag appeared. Just to quickly cover the most basic and useless stats:

On average, we watched movies from the year 2010.1 which were 93.81 minutes long.


Solee: According to my calculations, the median year of our movie selections was 2014. We watched 10 movies from 2015!

Mikey: Making that Pi A La Mode! Our movies altogether earned an average rating of 5.6/10 on IMDB.

On Metacritic, the average was 53/100, though 13 of the movies were not listed on Metacritic.

Rotten Tomatoes critics gave our movies a 57% average, except 9 movies they didn’t cover.

The much pickier Rotten Tomatoes audience had a 44% average, and the only movie they didn’t cover was Sympathy, Said The Shark. Guess that one was super indie! To be fair, the 8 movies they rated that critics didn’t were probably terrible, so that brings the average down.

Speaking of picky, on average I rated movies 3.05, and you rated them 3.21, so I guess I am the more picky audience (but still kinder than Rotten Tomatoes people!).


Solee: I’m surprised by that. I went into this thinking you would rate things much higher than me, but now that we’ve done it, I can see that you like to hate your horror. The worse it is, the more fun you have watching it.

Mikey: I’m not sure about that final conclusion, but I agree with the surprise. I thought I would be dragging you through movies you were going to loathe, but you had a good time all the way through. Was there a worst experience for you? I mean, I know which movie was the worst one, since it’s the only one we both gave a big fat ZERO rating (#Horror), but in terms of having to watch actual horror, was there another you wish you could have avoided?

Solee: I can honestly say, no. Each one, even the ones that I hated, had something interesting about them that I’d be sad to have missed. There are plenty of them I wouldn’t want to watch again, though! What about you?

Mikey: I agree with that. There are lots of movies in general I’m glad I watched that I don’t need to ever repeat. You know… other than the fact that it was fun to see James Marsters do something, I really didn’t need to ever see Shadow Puppets. I think that was the movie that felt the most like a waste of my time (even though we saw Behemoth!). But then again, there was the mean girl in there with the faces she made...

THE RATINGS

Solee: Yeah… we had very different opinions about Shadow Puppets. You gave it 1.5 and I gave it a 3. At this moment I can’t remember a single things about Behemoth… so maybe that is one I didn’t need to see.

Mikey: Oh come on, there was Zoe and her romance with the Cigarette-Smoking Man...

Solee: OOOHH. Right. I choose that one as my Didn’t Need To See. In fact, I’d recommend #Horror before it, if only because you can’t really understand that level of bad that #Horror is without actually experiencing it.

Mikey: Wow. That’s true, but it’s like saying you don’t know how bad waterboarding is until you try it. I’ll take other peoples’ word for it.

Solee: Obviously, I’m someone who sniffs the milk, gags at how sour it is, and then immediately hands it to whomever is standing near. “Smell this!” Misery loves company!

Mikey: I can verify that you are that person. Now what I found interesting is that Shadow Puppets isn’t our biggest rating discrepancy: The VVitch is, with my 2.5 to your 4.5. What happened there?

Solee: Whoa. I don’t know. After looking back at our review, I see that it was one of our earlier reviews where we did separate interviews, as was Shadow Puppets. I wonder if we influenced one another less through that format. Anyway, I gave it a lot of credit for being well done, beautiful to look at, and thought provoking. My main problem with The VVitch was that it had one more scene than I needed at the end. I wanted it to remain open ended. Do you remember why you rated it so low?

Mikey: I was definitely one of those True Horror Fans who felt betrayed and angry at the hype - the trailers make this movie look like the scariest thing in the world, and it is very very far from it, so failed expectations is a part of it. I also made note in my review of how un-fun it was to see. Despite my discussion earlier this month about how I enjoy grim, grey, slow movies (like The Sixth Sense), this movie was really nothing but a celebration of how awful the characters had it. Let’s just wallow in misery. I guess sometimes that’s the movie I want, but maybe only if a ghost is involved (or more importantly, a twist).

I do feel like the joint interviews gave us both a chance to reflect, and probably get influenced by the other. I really liked it though! I noticed many times where your ideas gave me a new appreciation for what I had seen.


Solee: I’m pretty awesome. Just kidding. I liked the joint interviews better, too. They provided for much deeper discussions I think. Going back to the idea of grim, grey movies, I think that’s something that generally appeals to critics and the folks who hand out awards. It’s almost as though they feel you deserve higher praise if your movies looks like it has suffered. And on the flip side of that coin, they tear you apart like savage dogs if you look like you had too much fun making your movie, as shown by the reception of House of 1000 Corpses within the critical world.

Mikey: Which perfectly brings me to my next statistic! I calculated the difference between the average of our ratings, and how the critics rated each movie… I can tell you that the movies we disagreed with the critics the most on were #Horror (we rated 41/100 lower than they did… but to be fair, most critics aren’t allowed a zero rating), and actually several others we rated much much higher than critics: No Tell Motel and House of 1000 Corpses were the biggest offenders where we averaged 63/100 higher than the critics. That makes sense to me.

Solee: Yep. House of 1000 Corpses was just amazing. It was Art with a capital A, and I think any critic that didn’t recognize that should have his or her credentials stripped. No Tell Motel had the SBIG bump to carry it. It was classically bad in a way that is SO fun to watch. (Sorry, TJ!)

Mikey: Critics never appreciate bad movies for some reason. Looking at my discrepancy ratings, it’s actually pretty amazing… there are only 5 movies we rated worse than the critics. All the rest, we rated higher than critics, many many of them by a huge margin. I think the biggest reason is that we were saying “5/5 is a perfect horror movie” where critics were saying it’s not this deep meaningful movie in general, even if it’s really good horror.

Solee: Right. I know I was using a very skewed scale to rate these movies. If we were rating on the Every Movie Ever Made scale, many of them would have been lower. I also know that my rating scale is very subjective. If I had fun watching the movie, it got a higher rating whether it was “good” or not.

Mikey: If I were having to rate these movies officially, for good, there would definitely be a lot fewer 5s. I’m happy to dish out the 5s during October, it’s all about asking the question “should other people see this movie?” If the answer is absolutely they should, that’s a 5. And I’m a pop-culture guy, not a high art guy. I don’t want to see boring German expressionism, I wanna see 1000 corpses, all in a house.

I ran a similar statistic - comparing our ratings to the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings. I thought we’d be much more in line with them, since they’re our buddies, but it turns out it’s only slightly different than the critic situation. In this case, Intruders is the movie where we’re most off the norm - we rated that movie 72/100 higher than the general audience! That messes me up. People are dumb.


Solee: I had a moment of “Oh, geez, was I influenced by the fact that I knew someone involved was reading the review” when you said that… but NO. It was a damn good movie. I honestly can’t guess why people wouldn’t like it. So I continue to stand by my 5. People SHOULD watch that movie.

Mikey: Yes, they gave it 28/100. That’s crazy. I have more I want to say about that movie and a couple related others in a minute. But about these discrepancies, our #Horror rating fares much better against the audience - we were only 9/100 off on that. Humans knew to flee the theater on that one.

Solee: Sooooooooo bad.

Mikey: So, on the topic of Intruders, as well as House of 1000 Corpses and Green Room, the thing these movies had in common, which netted all of them 5s from both of us, is that they were something totally new. Each one of them completely failed to meet our expectations, time and again throughout the movie, so we were constantly surprised. They didn’t follow movie conventions and that made them fresh and inventive. It seems like the general audience doesn’t agree - they want to be spoonfed the same old pablum (though Green Room was pretty well appreciated across the board).

Solee: Ooh! Pablum! You’re breaking out the big vocabulary!
I agree, and it reminds me of something I was saying prior to starting this record of our discussion: Horror is much like comedy in its subjectivity and its reliance on context and timing. I’m not surprised that we don’t agree with the general public regarding which horror movies are worth watching. We are Firefly fans. We’re eternally doomed to falling in love with things that aren’t popular enough to continue to exist.

Mikey: We are Firefly fans! So I want to point out one more brief statistic: We had two movies with a Zoe in them (both obnoxious), one movie that had both a Malcolm and a Zoe, and one movie with a Firefly family. So that sums up the Firefly connections for the year.

Solee: We also came across several Leverage connections, and we ended up seeing quite a bit of Ryan Reynolds.

Mikey: And one case of Sir Patrick Stewart.

That's the end of PART I. Come back tomorrow to continue the tale of the movies we watched... hey, it's interesting to me at least!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Leprechaun In The Hood01:51 PM -- Mon October 31, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Leprechaun In The Hood (2000)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 3.6/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 33% critics, 32% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 1.5/5
We watched on Starz.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “When three rappers want to get even with a pimp, they accidentally unleash a leprechaun who goes on a killing rampage in the 'hood.”

Mikey: Hey, Coolio was in this movie. Did you know that? I think I know when it was - he shook the hands of the guys after their “successful” performance. I don’t think he spoke or faced the camera.

Solee: I’m not sure I’d know who Coolio was in real life, much less as a cameo. I recognize Ice-T, though! His acting skills are questionable, but I love him.

Mikey: I just like Ice-T. There’s a really good movie, Surviving The Game, starring him. He just seems like a good guy. You know, for an ex-pimp.

Solee: Yeah. He seems like he’d be interesting to talk to. I’ve been a fan of him on Law & Order for a very long time.

Mikey: Here’s my favorite Goof from this movie on IMDB: “If the Leprechaun was turned to stone in the 1970s and was not reverted to normal until present day, that would make the events of Leprechaun, Leprechaun 2 and Leprechaun 3 impossible, as the Leprechaun would still have been stone (this time line error does not affect the events depicted in Leprechaun 4: In Space, as that movie took place in the future).” - Somebody who’s very concerned with the lore.

Solee: That’s funny. And the kind of thing that would bother me, too. It’s a sign of sloppy writing.

Mikey: Well wait - the best thing about it is how it compares to this piece of Trivia from the movie (spoilers!): “Is the only film in the series where the Leprechaun doesn't die.” So clearly, it’s important whether the Leprechaun was stone or not...

Solee: Wait. It died in the other… 4 movies?

Mikey: That’s what IMDB says anyway!

Solee: Huh. Well, maybe they just thought he died. That little guy was tough to kill. He didn’t have much trouble killing, though. Just a flick of the wrist. Like driving with Anya.

Mikey: Yes, very similar. That was one of my major issues with this movie. It seems pretty clear the writers and/or director didn’t really care about the logic of events. This psychic leprechaun could kill anyone with a single gesture, but he had all kinds of difficulties achieving his goals.

Solee: Sometimes he forgets he has those powers. It’s a side-effect of dying all those times. And simultaneously spending 30 years stoned.

Mikey: I guess being dead, literally stoned, and colloquially stoned simultaneously does a pretty good number on your memory.

Solee: It messes up your ability to rhyme as well. Time and mine do NOT rhyme!!

Mikey: I KNOW!! For a guy who speaks almost exclusively in rhyme, he was horrible at it. Literally every time he started a rhyme, he’d say the first line of it, and in my head I finished it (because it seemed so obvious…), and then he’d say the end of it and my ending was a million times better than his.

Solee: To be fair, you probably spend more time creating rhymes than he does. It’s kind of your jam.

Mikey: It ought to be his jam, I would think. Why don’t you buy him a drink? See! Better than his! He’d do the kind of failed rhymes you hear as jokes sometimes like “I’ll shoot you in the head, and then you’ll… no longer live!” But not intentionally.

Solee: Hahaha. Now you’re just being mean to the poor Lep. So what did you think of our three “heroes”: Postmaster P, Stray Bullet, and the eternal virgin, Butch?

Mikey: The eternal virgin who apparently spends most of his time making sure everyone around him knows he’s a virgin. Kind of atypical.

Solee: He’s obviously spends too much time with his nose in books to get a girl. He was the “nerd” in the group.

Mikey: Yes, he was really clever to pick up a copy of Leprechauns For Dummies. I actually liked that, I admit. But I liked the three heroes pretty much… this movie was so weird. They actually seemed like good actors, who thought they were in a serious movie. There was pathos and whatnot.

Solee: Yes! I spend a lot of time during the course of horror movies rooting for the monster and waiting impatiently for the stupid, arrogant or otherwise annoying main characters to die. This was the first movie where I was legitimately sorry to see them get killed.

Mikey: I was really surprised that 66% of them got killed. They seemed destined to be the heroic champions of it all. But you know, that’s part of the strangeness with this movie: the basic core of the plot was super simple, of course - just take the Leprechaun’s gold and he hunts you down and kills you - but the way it actually played out was surprisingly complex, with Mack Daddy after them, and the church people, and all sorts of side issues. I’m not saying it was a good plot, due to the fact that it was terrible, but it’s like somebody put a lot of thought into this movie for some reason.

Solee: There was a lesson in this movie, too. A real one, not just the “Don’t wish on random lamps” or “always let the slutty girl go through the door first” kind of lessons most horror movies have. This one had a pretty strong message about attitude and selling out and the true cost of sacrificing your soul in pursuit of your dreams. It wasn’t an original message, but like the deaths hitting me, it seemed to be more meaningful than I expected.

Mikey: Wow, I didn’t even know those were lessons I was supposed to have learned. I’m gonna confine my wishing to specific lamps from now on! There was a big on-the-nose bit about Postmaster P bringing us positivity, and Mack Daddy demanding they drop that and rap about killing and drugs. I was truly, deeply, disappointed this movie didn’t end with them turning it around and going positive and making some ridiculous Disney rap about helping grandmas across the street as their big smash hit to become stars.

Solee: They totally could have used the golden flute to make the masses eat that up. But instead they just sank to Mack Daddy’s level. *sigh*

Mikey: The powers of that flute were pretty unclear to me. Mostly it just made people zone out, but sometimes it made them like your raps (I believe Zamfir has one of these). I could really use that (the second feature, not the first).

Solee: I feel like they were leaning pretty heavily on the assumption that we had watched all the previous Leprechaun movies and needed no further information. At the end I was thinking a magic flute would make Kanye West make a LOT more sense to me.

Mikey: Right, the aforementioned lore that this movie trashed with its stone leprechaun! Kanye is a mystery, alright.

Solee: This movie was full of silliness that I can see being very funny to certain people at certain points in their lives. Or under a certain amount of influence from the chronic. This makes me like it more than I would otherwise… not that it’s all that hard to be funny to stoners and teenagers, but still. It WAS a tiny bit funny.

Mikey: Ehhhh… I was really surprised at how dull this whole thing felt. Not that it was slow, but just so unfunny and uninteresting. The one scene that really stood out for me, and totally made me laugh, felt like it belonged in a different movie. It was when the three heroes were hiding, crouched down, and getting prepped to go do something. It went down the line of the three of them “You ready? Yeah, you ready? You?” Only it was four of them… the Leprechaun was sitting at the end of the row and just joined in. Then they all jumped up screaming after they realized he was there. It was a total cartoon slapstick move. The whole movie should’ve been that, but instead it had all kinds of almost-serious stuff, and semi-adult jokes that were just out of place in a movie about an evil leprechaun.

Solee: Yeah. It was dumb. But I laughed when they used douche and jelly on an electric heating pad to create a fire because those two water-based items are “so combustible” together.

Mikey: That was a good unintentional comedy bit… like MacGyver if the laws of physics didn’t apply.

Solee: You think it was really unintentional? Do you think the writers REALLY thought that would work?

Mikey: That’s a very good question… I was kinda going that way (more thinking they didn’t care, they just wanted to Macgyver together two ‘chemicals’), but it could very well have been a fun joke for scientists. In a movie that discusses the difference between triiodide solutions and methiodide (??? Whatever he said at the beginning), it makes sense.

Solee: And physical vs METAphysical interactions...

Mikey: That was something that made me laugh some too. I guess there were some jokes worth laughing at. But not too many. I just feel like it tried to bring in too many real issues instead of just having these guys Scooby Doo their way around a leprechaun.

Solee: It is straddling a fence it probably shouldn’t be trying to straddle. I was disappointed in some of the intentional jokes aimed at transgender people. The whole character of Miss Fontaine was extremely homophobic and transphobic.

Mikey: It was. That whole part was so weird, like why did they even have a trans character they visited? It must be that they thought that would be full of comedy, but it was more a bit disturbing. At first it seemed like they were being surprisingly tolerant for 2000 with these guys just being cool with Miss Fontaine, but it devolved pretty quickly.

Solee: Yes. It bothered me. As did some of the more stereotypical actions of the black characters. I’m not sure if this was a movie made ABOUT black guys or BY black guys. Either way, it often headed into territory that was outside my experience or understanding, leaving me unsure whether I should laugh or be offended.

Mikey: I know what you mean. It was so much more In The Hood than it was Leprechaun, I was surprised. It really focused on that kind of stuff you’d see in a movie about inner city life, the guns and gangs and drugs, rather than a goofy leprechaun attack. It was such a dichotomy of stereotypical stuff mixed with people who often seemed very real (mostly the three main guys).

Solee: You know what really bothered me about it? It is the kind of movie that Donald Trump would watch and totally believe to be The Truth about inner city life.

Mikey: Yes, his interchangeable use of the terms “African American” and “inner city”. A confluence that’s offensive in both directions.

Solee: Now that we’ve acknowledged that there are some serious and significant issues with this movie… can we talk about how awesome it was to try to beat the leprechaun with four-leaf-clover laced weed? That was a great idea and I was disappointed that it didn’t work better. I was expecting some real funny there and didn’t get it.

Mikey: Right, I think that was a fun idea that went nowhere at all. It seems that defines most of the movie. Anything that happened in the whole movie only had repercussions for a few seconds and then we move on to the next scenario starting from scratch (with maybe a few more dead humans).

Solee: Except the “Zombie Fly Girls”, who weren’t dead at all. They weren’t zombies! They were possessed. After a month of watching horror flicks, I’m actually pretty offended and irritated that they would make such a rookie mistake.

Mikey: Yeah, that was a pretty low blow. Speaking of which, earlier we did have an actual zombie fly girl - Jackie Cee (whoever she was… did we have any info about her ever?). That is an example of one of those scenes that just kinda happened. She looked zombie-ish, Jackie Dee looked upset about it, and then we moved on to the next scene, assuming he is dead now I guess.

Solee: I had/have no idea who Jackie Cee was before she appeared as a zombie, other than she was clearly someone Jackie Dee was into.

Mikey: I wish we had been able to meet Jackie Ayy and Jackie Bee too.

Solee: They are probably zombies, too. Safer to avoid all the Jackies.

Mikey: That’s the biggest lesson of the movie I think. That, and leprechauns are very flammable.

Solee: Haha. Indeed.

To be honest, I’m a little sad that we’re ending the month on such a flat note. We picked this movie so we could end on a crazy, silly film, but this just didn’t supply.

Mikey: I want to let our viewers (are we sure they’re viewers?) in on a little secret: there was a different final movie we watched first, which was far better. Hilarious. But, as we watched it, we realized we couldn’t cover it. It was pretty much pornography. I won’t name names, but it was funny!

Solee: Pornography without any actual sex. The same level of plot, acting, set design, and editing as a porno, and the occasional nudity, but nothing actually naughty. Unless you think marionette rabbits who tear people apart are naughty.

Mikey: I’d say that’s a fairly naughty rabbit. Yeah, we actually discovered through IMDB that the movie was made by and starred people involved in actual pornography. They were just trying something different! Anyway, that was another sad thing.

Solee: Yep. Very sad that we couldn’t review it in all it’s ridiculous glory. Oh well. Such is the nature of the Horror Movie Marathon… lots of disappointment with the occasional gem.

Mikey: Yes, and that’s the goal. To sift through the bloody corpses to find the occasional live one. And it’s totally worth it to me. I think tomorrow we will do a run-down of the hits and misses of the month, yes? One last discussion.

Solee: I was hoping we’d do our wrap-up as a discussion! Glad you suggested it. I think it will be interesting to look back at the month as a whole, especially to revisit some of the earlier movies in light of what came later.

Mikey: I look forward to it, and I have many notes already. I think it will be more fun than this movie, which leads me to ask… how do you rate it?

Solee: Oh, yeah. We have to rate! Um… I am going to give this a 1.5 out of 5. And that .5 is only because I appreciated the effort to have a deeper meaning and the main characters had arcs that made me sad when they died. Otherwise this movie didn’t have much going for it.

Mikey: Hmm, I feel much the same. I can’t go all the way down to 1 for this, but it’s definitely not So Bad It’s Good. I think I’ll give it a 2. I realized after we started discussing that even though I was bored during the movie, I was jam-packed with things I wanted to say about it. So I guess it was super duper deep. The Schindler’s List of Leprechaun movies.

Solee: Ooh. Ouch. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Hollows Grove02:53 PM -- Sun October 30, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Hollows Grove (2014)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 22% audience
Mikey: 1.5/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A young filmmaker documents his ghost-hunting, reality show friends as their routine investigation of an abandoned orphanage turns into a nightmare from which they can't escape.”

Mikey: I’m sad that this is our second-to-last movie, but it might be nice for me to actually have a little spare time in which to do work instead of just watching movies and writing reviews 24/7. When I look at the list of horror movies available on Netflix or Hulu, I just want to spend the rest of my life churning through them all. So many terrible low-budget things to enjoy.

Solee: I am also sorrowful that this is coming to an end. Although, having a daily movie/interview/picture schedule is a little challenging when real life rears its ugly head.

Mikey: I took a long time picking the movie for today, and I think I passed up some real winners before settling on… this.

Solee: Don’t spoil our review now!

Mikey: Warning: this review is CLASSIFIED. You should not be reading it. But if you are, please look through it to provide us any information you can about what happens in it.

Solee: I don’t think I’m a fan of the “movie within some other medium” format. Unless it’s Peter Falk reading the best love story of all time to Kevin from the Wonder Years.

Mikey: I enjoy that technique! However, the wrap-around of this movie, where some FBI guy tells us it’s classified, was just a… well, to quote a famous author, it was a pram full of bugbears.

Solee: Don’t reference your songs within your songs. It’s pretentious.

Mikey: Hey, you referenced a song! Cool. It was silly. And the “final shock” of the movie was even more silly. A box full of ghost? That was hilarious. It reminds me of when I visited Hawaii as a kid, and we drove up through the clouds on a volcano, and we held zip-lock bags outside the window to try to collect clouds for souvenirs. Works better with ghosts, I see.

Solee: That is an adorable story. What is NOT adorable is the acronym for this ridiculous ghost hunting team: SPIT (Spirit & Paranormal Investigation Team). And they weren’t even authentic ghost hunters. They were money grubbing scam artists!

Mikey: Hey, that’s still something I appreciate! The whole “fake guys meet the real thing” angle. Fun. Just like Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Solee: I liked it in Ouija. They were at least respectful of the idea and of the people who believed. The SPIT guys are just stupid.

Mikey: They were such horrible people. SPIT was a good acronym for them.

Solee: I couldn’t decide if it was really bad acting or if they were all written very poorly, but I didn’t like any of the main characters. This was one of those movies where very early on I made a note about how happy I was going to be when they all got their come-uppance at the hands of ghosts.

Mikey: The acting was horrendous. It was the girl I noticed most (which I feel bad for, since she was the most abused of them). She was soooo bad. It was reminiscent of The Ouija Experiment as opposed to Origin of Evil.

Solee: Speaking of the girl… she was most abused by the ghosts, but also by her co-workers. They were a bunch of super handsy, gropey guys.

Mikey: Oh yeah, I meant the guys. You’ll notice she joined the ghost’s team as soon as she got a chance! I think that was wise.

Solee: I’m not sure “joined the team” is what you call it when a ghost lifts you 6 feet into the air and then throws you to the ground.

Mikey: But then she immediately went nuts and murdered her friend. She was totally picking sides.

Solee: Ha. I guess. She did get murdery pretty fast.

I liked how the FBI guys left in plenty of visual and audio glitches so that as we were watching we wouldn’t forget that this was found footage.

Mikey: They couldn’t cut those out, maybe there were clues! Hey wait a second, I forgot my favorite note! After she murdered her friend, she becomes a power-walking demon. That was so hilarious.

Solee: She REALLY wanted to get up those stairs and apparently the floaty, flying aspect of possession doesn’t kick in for a bit. She looked like she had joined the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Mikey: Another fine moment: we’ve commented multiple times about how when somebody gets attacked by a cat in these movies, it always just looks like somebody threw a cat at them. This movie cuts out the middleman - someone literally threw a cat at these guys. Hard.

Solee: Shot a cat out of a cannon, maybe. Even the characters were like “Why did that cat just hit that wall at mach speed?”

Mikey: Poor kitty.

Solee: Shortly before the cat-cannon scene they were standing around getting ready to head out into the darkness in what was clearly an ad-libbed bit. It was like these actors had never spoken to other people before in their lives. I noted that they really should have had a director like Kevin Smith, who writes really great dialogue and then doesn’t allow his actors to stray from it.

Mikey: Somebody needed to rein these guys in. There was a great line near the end, where the last remaining guy hears his name being called from the darkness, and he says “Now somebody’s calling my name? What?” That doesn’t sound so bad written down, but I had to make a note of it because it was so not what a human being would do.

Solee: Unless he was trying to get out of an awkward situation. “Um… I think I hear someone calling me... “ Was he at a really uncomfortable dinner party?

Mikey: No, he was in a haunted hospital. I guess that’s something you want to get out of too. He was certainly trying to pry the door open.

Solee: Maybe he could tell this movie was going to be awful and was trying to get out of it. “I’d love to finish my scene here, but I think I hear a ghost calling me. I have to go get murdered now.”

Mikey: That’s pretty much how it went down, actually.

Solee: Did you notice that 99% of the movie was shot through the camera of Harold, but a couple of random times they jumped into a different camera? The first time, was for no apparent reason when they started showing the filming from the official “show” camera. Later it was more logical when it jumped into the camera of the main guy (Tim?) as he was being killed.

Mikey: Well, I will allow it - the FBI guy at the beginning said something about that, I forget what. But he indicated it would happen. On that note, I thought it was interesting that this guy who was documenting their production of the show was really basically just filming their show a second time, over their shoulders. He didn’t ask questions or anything, just filmed what they were filming.

Solee: He did ask questions a couple of times, and got SCREAMED at by Tim or whatever his name was. That dude had some emotion regulating issues. As a writer, the camera hopping happening as rarely as it did came across as poor writing. The author couldn’t figure out how to make that information fit into the POV he’d established, so he cheated and shifted POV to accomplish it. Poor form.

Mikey: Sounds about par for this course. Similar to the real director, the guys making the SPIT show-within-a-show put no effort into their show. They’d deliver a semi-correct line reading and just keep going. Close enough! One take.

Solee: OH! That reminds me that I totally heard one of the characters fumble half way through a line (not on camera for their show within a show!) and restart that line at the beginning again. It COULD have been written that way. I mean, sometimes that happens to people. BUT I am 110% convinced that either the director didn’t notice or they figured, “Eh… maybe they’ll think it was written that way.” and let it stand.

Mikey: As I was watching them film their SPIT show, I kept thinking “Is that really how these ghost hunting shows are done?” - from the way they’d hold the camera 2 inches from the guy’s face, to the super quick effortless bits of dialog and no coverage, to the totally unplanned approach. And in the end I kind of decided that the people making this movie, as movie-makers themselves, probably know more about making a show than I do, so maybe I’m learning something. But maybe you’re proving that that’s just how these guys make movies, and not actually how anybody with any talent does.

Solee: No idea. But I wouldn’t watch their show. And I don’t need to watch this movie again. Aside from the general terribleness of it, I didn’t make many notes. It was just NOT an interesting plot. I can kind of see where an interesting story is hidden in there… but it needed a lot more editing and rewriting to find it.

Mikey: Here’s the shocking twist of the movie: Lance Henriksen is in it. He’s a big movie star. I really wonder what that was about. Was his grandson the director? No idea. But he was certainly the best actor on display, for what little he did. And even he didn’t do that well.

Solee: Who was he?

Mikey: Bill.

Solee: Oh. Really? That guy was a Really Good Actor™ ? I wouldn’t have guessed that. Especially from the very poor line readings during his first scene. He was totally phoning it in.

Mikey: Nominated for 3 Golden Globes! He was definitely phoning it in. Weird.

Solee: The set was creepy. I would have been nervous walking around in the dark in there. Especially if some special effects guy had been in earlier to set up creepy happenings.

Mikey: I see you digging for silver linings!

Solee: Yes. I feel bad about how much I’m hating on this movie. But I really didn’t like it. It wasn’t good enough to be a good movie and it wasn’t bad enough to be a good bad movie. It’s just blah.

Mikey: Well, do you think you can encapsulate that dislike into a numerical format?

Solee: Ummm.. 2.5 out of 5? I am afraid that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember.

Mikey: WHOA. I did not see that coming. I wouldn’t even go that high and I have a deep abiding love for all found footage. I award this movie the coveted 1.5 out of 5, throwing in that extra 0.5 because there was a certain SBIG factor at play, especially with the shocking final twist.

Solee: Would it be inappropriate for me to drop my score to a 2 now?

Mikey: I can’t decide your rating for you! Believe in yourself!

Solee: I’m just not sure. Yes. I’m dropping it. 2 out of 5.

Mikey: Peer pressure.

Solee: Probably, but I’m okay with that. So, we’re down to our very last movie!! And we’ve saved something extra special for the grand finale, haven’t we?

Mikey: This is a total game-changer. I think we may have a problem with our scale being limited to only 5 stars when it comes to our opinions of the unimaginable wonder that is Leprechaun In The Hood.

Solee: I’m already wondering if you’ll let me get away with negative integers. Just from the title.

Mikey: I’ve seen snippets of Leprechaun movies on TV back in the days when we had cable. Or maybe back in the days when people rented VHS tapes at Blockbuster. I truly can’t wait for what is sure to be the most terrifying movie of the month.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Intruders 201502:29 PM -- Sat October 29, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Intruders (2015)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 5.7/10
Metacritic: 39
Rotten Tomatoes: 47% critics, 28% audience
Mikey: 5/5
Solee: 5/5
We watched on Vudu ($2.99). Sadly it is also on Starz, where it's free if you have a subscription. Like we do.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Anna suffers from agoraphobia so crippling that when a trio of criminals break into her house, she cannot bring herself to flee. But what the intruders don't realize is that agoraphobia is not her only problem.”

Note: This is one of many movies with the title Intruders, and it also has an alternate title, Shut In, which is also the title of another movie released in 2016. So to be clear, this is the 2015 (or 2016 - it was released in January 2016) movie starring Beth Riesgraf, with cover art of a house floating in the air with assorted knives and axes hanging down from it. Cool cover art.

I also reviewed the 2011 movie Intruders here: Hamumu Journal - I recommend it!

Solee: So I want to start this interview with a little background information because I’m a little intimidated by this particular review. After we reviewed the movie No Tell Motel, I received a tweet from @TeaJaySee (not someone I knew) saying, “I genuinely enjoyed reading this exchange! Thoughtful, funny and spot-on.” A little research clued me into the fact that he was the writer of No Tell Motel! We had a great little back and forth, which ended with him suggesting that we watch his latest work, Intruders, to see an example of a movie that turned out closer to what he had imagined in his head when he wrote it.

Mikey: So scary! Are we going to make him angry today and feel his wrath?

Solee: Well, he was super chill about the first review, which is cool because it wasn’t particularly flattering. I think he’d be fine with whatever we said. (He’s obviously got a thicker skin and better sense of self-worth as a writer than I do!) However… after seeing the movie, I’m more concerned that he’s going to think I’m trying to kiss up to him by saying nice things. I just want to be clear up front that I actually forgot until about ⅔ of the way through the movie, that it was his movie. So, most of my notes were made without any sense of “ooh… I can’t say that!” I think I got more critical after I remembered because I didn’t want to sound too fangirl. Did you remember we were reviewing a movie by someone who might actually read it?

Mikey: I did, it’s why I picked it! Don’t worry, I will be unflinchingly honest: this movie was a bucket full of turtles!

Solee: Yeah. I don’t know what that means. It sounds good to me, though. Turtles are cool.

Mikey: I guess it does. So, this is our second Leverage connection (and 3rd mention of it) of the month, with Beth Riesgraf starring, and once again typecast as a crazy person.

Solee: Stereotypes are created for a reason… just saying… I was actually really excited to see her. I am a fan. And she just has one of those faces that make you want to fix everything for her if she’s sad. Like Willow or Kaylee. She’s the “heart” of a cast.

Mikey: Yes, just jumping right into mega-spoiler territory, she was not the in-control mastermind of this house of terror that she was supposed to be. That was something unexpected that brought a big dose of realism and empathy to things: she was barely holding it together, despite having an elaborate deathtrap on remote control. One could argue she wasn’t holding it together at all.

Solee: Not really. I don’t think anyone who is so trapped in place that they can’t walk through an open door to escape three guys who are definitely going to kill her is really holding anything together. I don’t know what it feels like to be so agoraphobic that I would rather face certain death than stepping out my front door, but I liked the way she portrayed it. In those moments where she was frozen, you could see the internal struggle.

Mikey: There were a bunch of times in the movie where she ‘let’ somebody escape, or gain the upper hand, and just based on Hollywood convention, I was waiting for her to let the other shoe drop, like a huge blade on a pendulum slicing them in half. But every time it turned out she just wasn’t doing a good job of controlling them. It was just a very unique thing that made her more of a real person than a movie villain. And for that matter, her victims, who were in some ways the actual villains of the movie, were also drawn in an empathetic way.

Solee: For sure. The brothers had some interesting interactions that felt real, with the irritation and bickering turning to protection and grief so quickly. I know that feeling. And I thought Danny’s character and her relationship with him was fascinating. There was a will-they-won’t-they thing that kept getting overshadowed by the actuality of their lives.

Mikey: I guess there was one true villain: Perry. And in fact, killing him was her one time she acted like a supernatural killer herself, just popping up behind from out of nowhere and taking him down. Once he was out of the way, everything was very muddled and grey.

I had a note that it was great that we were seeing people (both sides) being smart and tough, instead of hearing them scream and whine about their situation like most horror movies.


Solee: That stood out to me, too. I absolutely hate the screaming and flailing about that most horror movie characters do, falling down and rolling around on the ground while the bad guy catches up to them instead of getting up on their freakin’ feet again, or huddling in a corner instead of finding SOMETHING to protect themselves with. These were people I could relate to. And you know how much scarier I think things are when they are relatable instead of supernatural.

Mikey: Oh oh oh! Back to where we started, I think we’ve found T.J. Cimfel’s trademark: in this movie, there are some stairs, which are controlled by a remote to slide away into the wall. She stores the remote in a drawer, so in fact in this movie, as in No Tell Motel, we find characters looking in drawers for a set of stairs!

Solee: You were so happy to see that! :)

Mikey: It was my favorite part of No Tell Motel.

Solee: We still talk about that. I don’t think we’ll ever talk about stairs or ladders in our house again without referencing No Tell Motel.

There’s another commonality I noticed: rape victims who get revenge. Both movies have female characters who have been victimized, but who do something to throw off the mantle of victim. Not necessarily in a healthy, therapist-approved kind of way in this case, but still...

Mikey: No, her coping strategy wasn’t really straight out of the diagnostic manual, but I guess it works for her. I had a note about the ending of the movie, in that it felt too low key, not like the big dramatic showdown it should’ve been, but that kind of ties into everything in the movie - everything kind of subverted expectations to go a little more simple and real, instead of the big bang you expect. I don’t know why I made a note of it negatively in the ending when I liked it before that.

Solee: I want to share the sequence of notes I made at the end…
“She killed rapist herself… will it change anything?”
“Nope. She still can’t go out.”
“Culkin eye roll. LOVE IT.”
“Or maybe… YES!”
“BURN THAT [house] DOWN.”

I thought it was great that there was a moment where everything she had just experienced might have been for naught, that she might still be trapped by what had happened to her as a child, as so many people are. I would have accepted that as an ending - I’m sort of a fan of the really depressing ending - but I got VERY excited for her when she finally took those steps out and removed all chance of her retreating back into her shell.

Mikey: Removed them pretty thoroughly. Yeah, it’s kind of sad for her that she is about to end up trapped again for the rest of her life in an even smaller space, but for the purposes of this story it’s cathartic.

Solee: Woah. I didn’t even think of that. I think she will be less confined than she’s been for the last 10 years. Even if she’s physically confined, her mind has been freed.

Mikey: Deep. Although maybe by burning it down, the evidence that’s left just points to surviving an attack by the three guys and engaging in self-defense, and not decades of murder and torture. Who knows?

Solee: It depends on how well the contents of that chest-freezer survive.

Mikey: Oh man, I completely forgot the freezer! It’s probably worth noting that every time we are in a Home Depot, I like to check out the chest freezers and see if there is one big enough to hold you.

Solee: I’m glad you pointed that out. Now it’s on record, should I make a sudden disappearance in the future.

Mikey: That would make me sad. I wanna keep you by my side!

Solee: Hence the Solee-sized freezer!

I think it was interesting and a layer deeper than I expected that JP decided to try to rape her himself. She was using him as a surrogate for her original abuser, but he put himself into the role for real. That had the dual benefit of making her actions more acceptable to me as a viewer (she didn’t just kill him because she’s screwed up, he was putting her in actual immediate danger) and giving her actions the extra realism that “fixed” her agoraphobia.

Mikey: That was one of those moments I was expecting more Hollywood than I got - when he shoved her down, I was thinking like “Oh man, that was a big mistake.” and it was… he did get killed, but in a way that realistically was very much on the edge, could’ve gone either way. What I had expected was some hidden switch to drop bricks on his head or whatever. Something where she’d give a little evil grin and destroy him. I’m really actually glad we never got that kind of fake stuff, but just a rough and real situation. So many times I had those “ah yeah, here it comes…” moments in my head, always subverted.

Which leads me into my alternate ending. About midway through the movie, I had an idea of a huge twist that was kind of blowing up in my head. And my twist would’ve been really cool… but it would’ve flipped the entire movie on its head, and we would’ve lost all that subtlety and realism, because I was thinking big and crazy. My idea was that Conrad had never been her brother. He was just the latest in a long line of surrogate brothers, drugged beyond comprehensibility (notice nobody but her ever saw him coherent and speaking), and by the end of this movie, she was going to make JP the next one (“put on the shirt in the drawer!”). It kinda would’ve been cool… but it would’ve made her a standard horror villain.


Solee: That would have been fun. It’s become clear to me that we both enjoy a good “unreliable narrator” twist, but I agree… it would have been a much more Hollywood plot then. I really loved the interactions between her and her brother in the beginning. They were obviously very close. It was kind of fun to suddenly realize that her sweet, caring, protective brother was also a massive serial killer. For what some might consider a good reason… but still a serial killer. I suspect he would have killed one way or another. This just gave him a sense of justification.

Mikey: I’m glad we have a legal system and vigilantism is illegal. I do so love a big twist. But this movie really was all twists, because everything always went a different direction than I expected. Pretty impressive.

Solee: What I find impressive about that, is that the writing, acting, directing, whatever, made the twists flow together smoothly. We’ve seen plenty of movies that were constant twists and turns, but that end up just being exhausting. There’s a fine line between a well done complex storyline and a convoluted rat’s nest of ideas (ahem, Beacon77, I’m looking at you!). This movie did a great job of staying on the right side of that line.

Mikey: Cease your prattling! No twist is ever bad! ALL TWISTS ALL THE TIME.

Solee: Ugh.

Mikey: They always kill the pets first :(.

Solee: I know. It’s awful. That’s a psychological thing, I think. Build up the tension by killing off something less than human. It backfires with people like you, though.

Mikey: Yes, I like animals much better than people. Case in point: they don’t smash peoples’ heads with hammers.

Solee: Very valid point. I want to bring up Perry again. We mentioned his death earlier, but we didn’t really talk about what a completely waste of skin he was. He was just a horrible, horrible person - in a very realistic, I’ve met people like this kind of way - and I was very much looking forward to his demise.

Mikey: Don’t let those people near your birds. I would add that he had some really funny lines, in a horrible way. He was well-played by Martin Starr.

Solee: “He WAS your friend. Now he’s a doorstop.” That was a terrible thing to say, but Martin said it so brilliantly. He makes a really good jerk.

Mikey: That may not be to his credit… seems like he played that in Party Down too. Less murdery though.

Solee: Well, if you take away the murdery bits, he’s just a snarky guy. I can relate to that.

Mikey: Yes you can. What else you got here?

Solee: I’m trying to come up some criticisms… Oh. The Lawyer Lady was stupid beyond belief. “Oh, sure… of course that’s your radiator shouting “help” from inside that locked wooden box. I’ll just be on my way.”

Mikey: She just didn’t want to get stabbed. She was so far from stupid, she saw the knife block missing one, and she even had you fooled!

Solee: Maybe that’s the case. I honestly don’t have any other complaints about this movie… Wait. I did struggle just a bit with the initial premise that she’d just bust out her duffle bag full of money and shove it at the Meals On Wheels guy. Except that she had just lost the only person that meant anything to her, and she obviously had feelings for Mr. M.O.W.… so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. How did you feel about that?

Mikey: That totally works for me, because I identify with it: total shut-in, doesn’t know how people interact, who is at her greatest stress level possible at this moment having just lost the only person she interacts with… once again I am identifying with the crazy serial killer. It made perfect sense to me.

Solee: Yeah. Me, too. I just was hoping to find something I could be harsh about… but nope. I’m totally fangirling over this movie.

Mikey: Sorry. Give me your shocking twist of a rating.

Solee: ZERO OUT OF FIVE!

Mikey: SHOCK!!! TWIST!!!

Solee: Just kidding. I’m giving this a 5 out of 5. It was scary enough to fit in a horror marathon, but did such a nice job of avoiding stereotypes and tropes that I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some truly gruesome moments - Danny’s knee!! *shudder* - but mostly it was just a really good foray into the horror that is humanity. My favorite kind of horror. What is your rating?

Mikey: This is where my problem lies. I am so stuck. I really want to give this a 4.5 out of 5. But I don’t know what is wrong with it to knock it down from 5. It is doing something very unique and I really respect that, but somehow I feel like I need to not give it the 5 (maybe because I’m no fangirl!). I just don’t know how to justify it. What should I do!?

Solee: Trust your gut. Ratings are about how the movie made YOU feel. Sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly where those feelings come from… but that doesn’t change them. If the movie didn’t WOW you in the same way that the other 5 out of 5s did… then 4.5 is very respectable.

Mikey: So, I looked at the list. Green Room, The Uninvited, and House of 1000 Corpses are the other 5s. Can I say this is less than them?

Solee: See for me, Intruders is just as good as The Uninvited. And possibly Green Room. I should have given House of 1000 Corpses a 5.5.

Mikey: Illegal! And still amazing to me to hear coming out of your face (or fingers)!! I should note that you have one other 5/5 that I don’t: The Voices. Anyway, I don’t see why this is any worse than those movies for me. I will begrudgingly allow it. Five of five.

Solee: I will say that watching Intruders makes me wish I could see what No Tell Motel looked like in T.J.’s head. I bet it was interesting. I’m looking forward to more stories by him.

Mikey: I am dead certain that in the original script, those stairs were in the drawer.

Solee: Hahahaha! Maybe he’ll tweet me and verify that. Tomorrow, we return to the world of found footage.

Mikey: Hooray! Yes, I felt that with only 3 found footage movies this month, the ratio was much too low for my usual October, so it was time to kick it into gear one last time.

Solee: You like your shaky-cam.

Mikey: I’m not even sure I do. I must, because I always want more. I just don’t know why. This one is entitled Hollows Grove, and not Grover’s Hollow, which is the terrifying story of a beheaded muppet on a rampage.

Solee: Hahahaha. You’re so dumb. <3
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Belittling Horror Excessively: House of 1000 Corpses01:59 PM -- Fri October 28, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.0/10
Metacritic: 31
Rotten Tomatoes: 19% critics, 65% audience
Mikey: 5/5
Solee: 5/5
We watched on Fandango ($1.99).


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Two teenage couples traveling across the backwoods of Texas searching for urban legends of murder end up as prisoners of a bizarre and sadistic backwater family of serial killers.”

Solee: Today’s movie was one I went into with equal parts trepidation and curiosity. House of 1000 Corpses, written and directed by Rob Zombie, promised to be a gore-fest and it kept its promise in a big way.

Mikey: Not nearly as big a way as I expected! I’ve been watching Ash vs. Evil Dead on the side, and I have to say it’s about 100x as gory as anything we watched for these reviews. This movie really surprised me with how reasonable it stayed, in terms of torture and gore. I’m not sure I even averted my eyes at any point. I was surprised by a lot of things in this movie, not the least of which (in fact, the most of which) were outbursts by my own wife during and after it…

Solee: THEY PEELED THE FACE AND CHEST OFF A GUY AND WORE IT AS A COSTUME TO TALK TO THE GUY’S DAUGHTER.

Mikey: Oh come on, who doesn’t do that at a family event?

Solee: I’m not going to any more Hommel family gatherings. Period.

Mikey: I think the gist of my thought here is that this movie wasn’t nearly the insane grotesquerie that I had been led to believe by the mass media. It’s kind of like hearing about GTA turning our kids into killers and then finding out how lame it actually is (man, I hate that game - the shooting controls are scarier than this movie).

Not that this movie was lame. It was a ton of fun. I think it’s worth pointing out that two of our “heroes” in this movie are played by Chris Hardwick and Rainn Wilson. This movie is completely filled with intentional comedy, and we laughed a lot (though it’s pretty far from a horror-comedy).


Solee: Seeing Chris Hardwick totally made my day. He played the role of someone who is obsessed with “freaks” and is excited about the strangeness of it all when he should be terrified perfectly.

It was the intentionality of the humor that really grabbed me, I think. Seeing this movie makes me think that Rob Zombie must be pretty freaking smart. You can’t hit all those right notes by accident.

Mikey: I’ve seen him discuss things, he’s definitely a smart guy! Artsy. Half the fun of this movie was just, as somebody who has watched hundreds of episodes of @Midnight, seeing Chris Hardwick being this ridiculous guy. It was like watching your buddy act like an idiot in a movie.

That was kind of where the fun came from in general: all the characters were so over-the-top and wacky. Captain Spaulding was this charming, affable guy who just gets along with everybody (in a kind of nasty way). With great fashion sense. Not at all the mass murderer he actually is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a murderer portrayed in that way, just so personable. And all the Firefly family each had their own crazy way about them which was unique and a little out of left field. Except maybe Tiny.

About halfway through the movie, Rufus shows up and says “Okay, your car’s fixed, you can go.” and I half-believed they really were going to let them go, because everything was just so off-kilter instead of traditionally evil.


Solee: Off-kilter is the perfect way to describe it. And the editing was designed to keep you that way. Much of the story was told in montages of still shots between scenes. Or with family movie style footage. This family was so NORMAL if you removed the murdery bits. They bickered and had their traditions and defended one another from outsiders.

I, too, loved Captain Spaulding. He was a jerk, but I’ve met lots of people who are equally abrasive without being serial killers (I think…). From the very first mention of chicken, I was terrified that we were going to find out they were serving their victims, battered and fried, to passers-by. But that didn’t happen. What do you think of that? Missed opportunity, or normalcy that accentuates the wierdness?

Mikey: That’s totally part of what they were doing… these people were way off, but any time you thought “Oh, they’re going there!” they just wouldn’t. Like they served a big family dinner to the kids they had semi-kidnapped - that was a perfect opportunity for it to be some horrifying slop, or again cannibalist, or full of worms, or something crazy. But they actually skipped right over the majority of that meal, and the implication from what I could see is that it was all perfectly decent food. The weirdness was always hidden around a different corner than you expected. I loved that Captain Spaulding just served really good fried chicken. It was another of his interests besides killin’.

Solee: I think the unexpected is necessary for both humor and horror. And clearly, Mr. Zombie understands our culture enough to know what is expected and how to dance away from it like a bull-fighter from the horns.

So this movie takes place in the midwest in the 70’s where all hitchhiking horror stories come from. Seriously, the 70’s are pretty much we why can’t have nice things now.

Mikey: They were certainly an ugly time. That brings me back to a note you made: this movie was filmed in normal high-quality picture (see my amazing knowledge of film technique?), but every few minutes they’d have a cut away to the nastiest, chunkiest, grindhouse 8mm film that had been aged for 20 years - just to show us what was happening in the other room, or flash back to something. It was a really interesting technique. The whole movie was an ode to grindhouse cinema of the 70’s, but rather than subject us to a terrible quality image for the entire movie, he just used it to highlight these little cutaways. It was another great little touch. I keep being surprised, I just didn’t expect this to be so well done.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 19% of critics thought this movie was good, and their criticisms are absolutely vicious: “Possibly the greatest waste of celluloid since Jerry Lewis was first allowed to stand before a camera.”, “Mr. Zombie's shameless pilfering, derivative and uninspired writing, and ham-fisted direction result in a chaotic mess.”, and so on. I don’t get it! This is not just a great movie, but it’s also a very artistic one (in a very low-brow way). They really put a lot into making this, and it makes me wonder that critics completely miss what’s going on here. The same critics who probably applaud everything Quentin Tarantino does, which is virtually identical. Disapproving of the outsider musician trying his hand at movies?


Solee: I’m sure that’s part of it. But I absolutely DO NOT get “professional” reviews of movies. They are almost always 180 degrees off from what I think. The fact that they couldn’t see the genius in this movie is why I don’t feel bad about disliking movies they rave about. Movie critics are just people with opinions they put on one leg at a time like the rest of us. The soundtrack selections for this movie were perfectly surreal, too. Baby Firefly lip-syncing to the Betty Boop song was hilarious. And I will never hear the song Brickhouse without shivering again.

Mikey: Hmm, I don’t remember when Brickhouse was in there. I jump right into my opinions with both feet though.

Solee: Baby was doing something horrible as Brickhouse played. It was perfect.

Mikey: Agatha Crispies! Just wanted to be sure we said that in this review.

Solee: I even included them in my picture! I wasn’t sure what I was going to draw until I saw that box. That makes me think about Tiny. Despite having been set on fire by his own father and the injuries he sustained from that, he seemed to be the most mentally stable of them all. I think he was truly going to let the girl leave.

Mikey: Yeah, he was just like whatever. I think maybe more out of obliviousness than mental stability. We didn’t get a whole lot of insight into his thoughts. Whenever I see one of those giant guys in a movie (the actor was an actual “giant”), I always think about how they try to portray them as hugely intimidating and powerful, but they move like they actually are: crippled and constantly uncomfortable. It’s not very believable. Not that he was doing big Andre The Giant moves or anything.

Solee: With characters like that - and with anyone who is cast as grotesquely fat or ugly - I always wonder how the actor feels about being seen as the perfect person to pull that off. Starlets have nervous breakdowns because they start being cast as the older sister when they reach 40. How must it feel to constantly have Hollywoodland tell you that you are the perfect amount of fat to play a guy everyone mocks for being fat?

Is it weird that this movie feels almost more respectful? I mean, everyone in this movie was screwed up in some way, but those things were celebrated, not mocked. Or maybe I’m giving it too much credit.

Mikey: It doesn’t feel as bad as a lot of movies in that way. I always appreciate when they don’t include a little person in their cast of “look at these weirdos!” That’s a rough Hollywood life - there’s always work for you, as long as you like being portrayed as either a freak or an elf. I think about that stuff all the time. It doesn’t even have to be “grotesque” - it’s “This girl is playing the hot girl the guy is after, we think you’re perfect to play the one who’s not good enough!” There’s a lot of self-esteem issues in Hollywood… but if you want to have somebody play the role of “so ugly the main character makes a face and ducks out of the room”, I guess you have to find somebody to play it. Maybe it’s the script you need to fix.

Solee: Hollywood needs to fix a LOT of their scripts, that’s for sure. Game of Thrones has put a dent in the little person in film stereotype, though. Actually, Peter Dinklage has consistently played characters that challenge that stereotype.

Mikey: Yes, that seems to be his thing! I hope it’s making a dent. Really, all the freaks of this movie other than Tiny were just ordinary people who had really bad thoughts in their heads. And bad teeth. And bad hair usually. Pretty reasonable, and kind of shows the rest of Hollywood that you can do that. But then I suppose the people who do have deformities are then out of a job. Heaven forbid they get cast as normal people.

Solee: I like that we’re slowly moving in that direction. There’s a lot of road to cover, still, but I think the voices of all sorts of minorities are being heard more clearly and one of the things they are saying is “I want to see people like ME on my television.” Gradually that sentiment is overtaking the “Eww, seeing two boys kissing or a person who looks different than I do makes me uncomfortable!” voices.

I’m not sure what more I have to say about this movie. It was amazing. There are too many clever little bits to mention them all. You really have to watch it to appreciate the artistry.

Mikey: I have this to say: I was surprised by the movie, sure, but I was blown away by the reaction it got from you! This was not the kind of thing I thought would be rocking your socks off, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you happier with a movie in your life! It was quite a thing to witness, especially considering this is a grindhouse gorefest about people being tortured to death. It’s just like a Halloween miracle. So, I guess we should get to your rating, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise at this point.

Solee: I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to it as well. I am not sure what caused me to feel so positively about this flick, but I really did like it. I think there’s a very dark and scary part of me that doesn’t get to see the light of day very often, but every once in a while something with the right combination of depth and darkness and unexpectedness comes along. Or maybe I’m just a fan of Rob Zombie. I tend to react positively to his music even though it’s well outside my normal Beatles-Pink-Taylor Swift-Creedence Clearwater Revival rotation. I am giving this movie a 5 out of 5. I loved everything about it. The writing, the acting, the set design, the soundtrack, the editing… literally everything about it. The critics are idiots.

Mikey: There’s a real difference for me between a movie I’m enjoying and one I’m not. When a movie is fun, I get lost and will suddenly ‘wake up’ and go “oh hey, I’ve been lost in this movie for a while!” When a movie is not, it’s just pictures on a screen and I’m using my mental energy to keep the plot and characters straight in my head (or I’m ignoring it instead…). I’m surprised how often this month I have had lots of fun, not just with the high rated movies. This movie was of course very engrossing. I was hooked from the first scene, watching Captain Spaulding just do his jabbering (and by the way, the guy who robbed him was practically Yosemite Sam, that’s a note I made).

As far as downsides, I think there were too many characters in the movie - it’s weird that Dr. Satan was a whole different thing and we had to find him down there (along with a random ‘zombie monster guy’ of his), instead of being one of the family, and there were just an awful lot of family members. Plus Captain Spaulding and his buddy. And the three cops. And the four victims. That’s a lot of characters, which could have been condensed. But they were fun characters.

I want people to watch this movie. I was really torn beforehand over whether we should see this, or the sequel The Devil’s Rejects, which gets much better reviews from both humans and critics. I’m really glad we went for the original. Hope you all don’t mind seeing a skinned face (I had forgotten about that, it really was the grossest thing in there)! I grant this the official 5 out of 5 from Hamumu.


Solee: It was the grossest… but there was also some skeleton hanky-panky. That was pretty disturbing, too, in a whole different way.

So, next we watch a movie I’m a little nervous to review, Intruders. We’ll talk about why it makes me nervous tomorrow.

Mikey: For those watching along, be aware that there are like 100 movies named Intruders or similar. The one we are watching is a 2015 (or 2016, according to some sources) movie starring Beth Riesgraf and Rory Culkin, and the cover art for it is a house floating in the air with knives and axes hanging down from it. It is also known as Shut In, which conveniently is also the name of another 2016 movie. Check it out!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Altergeist02:04 PM -- Thu October 27, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Altergeist (2014)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 3.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 25% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “King's Ransom Winery is one of the most haunted places in America, with a long history of bizarre suicides. Six ghost hunters have been given the rare opportunity to conduct a paranormal investigation. What they discover terrifies them.”

Mikey: Another horror movie about a pregnant woman! I was going to say that’s all we watch, but I dug through our list and we’ve avoided them pretty carefully, which is hard to do since there are millions. This was our third this month, I think.

Solee: This movie makes up for our efforts to skirt this issue, though. There were LOTS of pregnant ladies in this one.

Mikey: As in Holidays, so I think we probably have about 31 pregnant women even if we didn’t have them in all 31 movies!

Solee: Yep. That’s not a trope I find necessary or even all that palatable. Although, given the somewhat creepy nature of growing another organism inside oneself (sorry, all you pregnant ladies!), and the great plot opportunities for one thing - alien, ghost, etc - sneaking into another thing - sweet little baby, hormonal lady, etc - I can see why it’s used so often.

Mikey: Like Russian nesting dolls!

Solee: That makes me think of ghost inside alien inside baby inside mother. The horror-birth equivalent of a turducken.

Mikey: Not nearly enough turduckens in horror movies. My final word on pregnancy-related horror movies is that I understand how it gives you some new plots that require it (like this movie - all about the pregnancy), but it bugs me when they just throw it in there to make the woman more vulnerable and/or raise the stakes (killing her is a twofer!).

Solee: Even in this movie, where it’s integral to the plot, I don’t love it because I think it’s pretty lazy, unoriginal writing. Rape and incest are too often used as a convenient launch pad for completely unrelated plots. I could go on a huge soap-box rant, but I’ll leave it at… lazy writing.

Mikey: Yes, same idea: look how traumatized this woman is now, we can go anywhere with this.

Solee: Exactly.

Mikey: But there’s more to this movie! There’s arguing couples, and arguing couples, and couples arguing simultaneously while we cut between them to enjoy all the arguments at max intensity!

Solee: Which was clearly upsetting the spirits. Spirits are very sensitive to things like that. They really prefer when couples calmly talk things out.

Mikey: They’re like relationship counselors in that way. So, spirits… were those ghosts, or were they some kind of artifact of alien technology? Was this Ghosts Vs. Aliens, or alien tech that left behind ‘energy remnants’ or something?

Solee: I completely missed any alien tech aspect. It felt like an alien invasion story where the victims of the aliens stuck around as ghosts. To help future victims? I’m not so sure about that part.

Mikey: That just bugs me, in a way akin to Beacon 77 - they’re asking you to accept too many premises. Like why are these deaths so very ghosty, if you’re not going to use the aliens as an explanation? I mean, these ghosts were seriously ghosty! Not just vague whispers.

Solee: There were also some pretty strong time-travel undertones. There was a girl ghost who was seen on video near the middle of the movie, who I suspect was actually footage of one of the people watching that video much later in the movie, after she died and was doing her ghostly thing.

Mikey: Yeah, I had no idea who she was. Speaking of time, that’s what I would’ve been into: if the ghosts (which looked kind of technological, like snippets of floating video footage, you know? That helped push me towards an alien idea and not being sure they were normal ghosts) had not been interactive, but rather had been people unstuck in time, repeating loops over and over, due to the aliens. Heck, if the aliens were so into fear, they could’ve used that to study them in their most frightened moments over and over.

Solee: Once again, the ghost/alien/badguy was reaching into their victims’ pasts to use their memories and experiences against them. That’s been a fairly common theme this month.

Mikey: Did they? Seemed like they just (very lackadaisically) were using human wombs to make alien babies, and everything else was kind of a mess because they weren’t very good at their jobs.

Solee: It was weak, but it was there… The one guy was afraid of guns because his cousin shot himself. He ended up shooting himself.

Mikey: Oh wait, actually that’s one of my notes as well! I remember it now! Everybody dying in ironic/meaningful ways. Right, because the aliens sorta possessed all the males, and used them to either kill the females or themselves, in the most ironic way they could think of. They bred out fear, not irony.

Solee: I actually made a note that I HOPED the aliens were possessing the men, because otherwise every male in this movie was domineering, abusive and/or misogynistic in some way. It would be sad to think that’s all the writer could write.

Mikey: Yeah, I think it was control though. Like especially the guy with his brother and the gun, it’s obvious. Oh, and Ashen (some name!) killing everyone in the car. Very directed.

Solee: That’s the conclusion I came to as well.

Mikey: Which all brings to mind the part I least understood, also my favorite part: when the guy went into the room they weren’t allowed into, and had the scariest part of the movie (the only scary part of the movie), where he found all the dolls and eventually got “killed” by a ghost. Then later, he’s back and we never have a single moment explaining it, or him looking at the camera with an evil grin, or anything. He’s just normal. Possibly possessed by aliens, though how that fits in, I don’t even know. And even if so, no evil grin.

Solee: I did note that he had a voice in his head telling him to kill… but I was very confused as to whose voice it was.

Mikey: He apparently pushed the girl off the bridge, but then made a very convincing argument that he didn’t. I believed him!

Solee: Apparently he was possessed by an alien with a shaky grasp on reality. Can we talk about the alien storyline and the “lesson” it presents for a second? If I understood correctly, it goes something like this:
  1. Aliens breed fear out of themselves.
  2. Lack of fear, somehow being representative of all impassioned emotion in their culture, leads to lack of sex.
  3. Stealing human babies is how they choose to reproduce.
Is that pretty much how it goes?

Mikey: No, I have some corrections from my understanding: Apparently if you remove fear, you lose all emotions automatically. They said it, so fine, that’s how it works. But they don’t steal babies - she wasn’t pregnant at all. She came to this place, got abducted and injected with an alien fetus. Now she’s back and they want to harvest. They just use human wombs for their alien babies.

Solee: Ooooohhhh. Right. I remember the scene with her floating in an empty room having a tadpole inserted into her bellybutton.

Mikey: Those scenes remind me that this movie was surprisingly polished and high budget for otherwise being very SyFy Original Movie.

Solee: Indeed. There were some interesting things done with cuts and flashbacks and such, too. Although I don’t think they were as clear as the director/writer intended.

Mikey: Back to the alien babies for one more remark: Okay, so they didn’t have the desire to breed anymore. Couldn’t they just do it out of duty? I mean, come on. You don’t have to cross the universe - if you have the technology to insert tadpoles in bellybuttons, you don’t even need any desire! And they probably grow better in alien bellies anyway.

Solee: OR. Do some de-evolving and breed fear back into themselves. Find that one alien who’s still a little twitchy during thunderstorms and start him having some babies! It would take time… but, c’mon, aliens, it’s about the ethics of the situation!

Mikey: They bred out morality! But you know, these aliens must have been really scared of fear to not think to undo that change. So they had nothing to fear but fear itself!

Solee: Bet you never thought you’d be quoting FDR in a horror movie review.

Mikey: It has all been foreordained in the Bible Code.

Solee: Also foreordained: the obligatory up-the-nose-of-a-hysterical-female shot in found footage films.

Mikey: Hey, I don’t remember that happening! Also, we should let our viewers know, this isn’t a found footage movie, which is weird since it’s entirely about a camera crew filming stuff. It’s just that most of the time, it’s not their footage we see.

Solee: There are found footage elements. Dax-cam! Mike-cam! Jason-cam!

Mikey: Yuppers. The very beginning of the movie was crazy to me - it was a guy running around filming himself on his iPhone, but instead of showing us that footage, they were filming him doing it. I liked the Mike-Cam.

Solee: I thought we’d be using the phrase “Thirteen times!” regularly in our review. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Mikey: Oh no, I forgot about that at least thirteen times! I remember saying it in the next movie we watched at least (Spoiler: we watched our next movie before writing this review).

Solee: Even the characters in Altergeist failed to stick to “thirteen times”. I counted 28 stabs to take out Maya. It was… gruesome.

Mikey: Yep, 13 would’ve been much more proper.

Solee: I also noted that while most of the women (and some of the men) spent a lot of time crying onscreen, the make-up designer apparently has never cried or seen crying people in real life. “Crying” was shown, every single time, by making a big perfect triangle of wet under the eyes. I found it quite strange.

Mikey: Anime tears! In the end, I was confused by this movie. Of what was happening, I couldn’t tell what was being caused by ghosts, what by aliens, and what was just really bad decision making. Or even if the ghosts were good (some clearly were, but were others murderers?). It was a mess.

Solee: Agreed. It falls into the category of movies that leaves me questioning all the wrong things but fails to give me anything of real substance to mull over. I was more irritated than challenged by the plot twists.

Mikey: That all adds up to a rating of 2 from me, I think. Not really worth watching.

Solee: That’s exactly what I was going to give it! There are some stronger elements… the sets and mechanics weren’t bad… but overall, it just wasn’t worth the time. 2 out of 5.

Mikey: Right, they clearly spent a bunch of money on this bad story. So, are you prepared to face the unlimited terror of the House of 1000 Corpses!?!?

Solee: I am SO ready. Bring it on, Rob Zombie!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Beacon 7703:03 PM -- Wed October 26, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Beacon 77 (or The 7th Dimension) (2009)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 4.7/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 50% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 2.5/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Two young women arrive at a curious penthouse apartment, led by one's crush on her tutor….He's part of a trio of computer hackers about to embark on the ultimate job on the world's most mysterious mainframe.”

Mikey: Do I need to shout “SHUT UP ZOE!” at another movie, right after Behemoth?

Solee: Yes, yes you do. That girl couldn’t decide what level to dial her emotions up to.

Mikey: I did feel like she got a lot more acceptable as a character after the first third of the movie, but wow, in the early going, she made the other Zoe seem positively pleasant.

Solee: The first third?

Mikey: Yeah, I made that note before any of the crazy stuff happened, when she was going nuts at Malcolm, in a very Behemoth-Zoe style.

Solee: Yeah, the thing is, one minute she’s so in love with him that she’s going to give up everything in her world to be with him, and then the next minute she’s raging at him because he’s going to do something that’s clearly important and part of his job. It’s like she was only happy when she was the center of his attention, which is not a healthy foundation for a relationship.

Mikey: Not that Declan and Kenny offered an example of healthy relationships either.

Solee: No… but they weren’t an actual relationship anymore.

Mikey: Some of them knew that more than others.

Solee: So this movie was jam-packed with every philosophy 101 concept that I ever talked about with anyone during a late-night sleepover as a teenager. Like it wanted to be clever, but it just came across as trying too hard.

Mikey: It’s funny that I can see a movie about a ghost killing everybody, and a psychic comes in and explains how it’s all being caused by energy in the house which was triggered by angry emotions… but this movie, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief hard enough to get even close to believing all twenty of the conspiracy theories they were intertwining.

Solee: Wow, every single thing that they looked up turned out to be a conspiracy. There was not a single “Nope, that was just a coincidence! The roads were just bad the day Diana’s bodyguard was driving too fast.”

Mikey: Of course they were all conspiracies, because the Vatican, the CIA, and the Pentagon were all working together to track down these bedroom hackers, using their MK-Ultra remote viewers and Bible-Code-powered Dan Brown assassins.

It was just too many ridiculous things, that some people in real life actually believe, all stacked together, to make this movie super implausible.


Solee: So what I think is interesting is that you focused in on all those conspiracy things, and what I focused in on was all the physics things they tried to put in there, the strange physics stuff of “the dimensions just beyond our powers of observation” and the idea of a 2-dimensional world. When Declan was drawing on the toilet paper, he was obviously representing wormholes or folding space.

Mikey: Which was never talked about or referenced again - he did it in private, apparently solved the universe doing it, and that was that.

Solee: Yeah, by drawing some lines and dots on toilet paper, he gained psychic powers. Which he used to throw his ex-girlfriend off a building.

Mikey: RIGHT! That’s the big thing I want to bring up. This might take some words. First of all, I find this kind of apocalyptic stuff very interesting, where somebody figures out how to break the rules of the world, and our reality falls apart. That’s fun, deep philosophical story stuff. But, in this movie, as in several others I’ve seen (Lucy comes to mind, as well as a few time-travel movies), all that fancy philosophical world-changing stuff ends up funneling down to somebody getting stabbed with a kitchen knife, and that’s pretty much the whole conflict. That is such a massive waste of interesting ideas.

Solee: I suspect that that funneling down happens because most people can’t think about the massive world-changing outside-our-powers-of-observation type concepts for too long.

Mikey: I feel like if you just wanted to write a story about somebody stabbing other people, even if it’s somebody with psychic powers, you can do that. You don’t have to spend half the movie discussing philosophy to bring it up. Just have him sign a contract with the devil, or get struck by lightning, and go with it.

Solee: I think it all boils down to they were trying to do something science-based, only they totally failed because their science was drowned in conspiracy theories.

Mikey: But all I’m asking for is that the guy, instead of pushing his girlfriend off a balcony, stabbing his friend, and shooting glass through a psychic girl… just have him tear the world open, or turn into pure energy, or anything that would be magical enough to justify all the philosophizing.

Solee: Okay, you get that he destroyed the world at the end, right? He brought about the end times. Not on schedule, but still. He just had to mundanely kill all the people that were trying to stop him doing that for some reason.

Mikey: I know - he destroyed the world off-screen. What I’m asking for, is for the movie to provide this payoff instead of being a simple slasher in the end.

Solee: I don’t think there’s any way the movie could’ve provided that in a way that didn’t come across as disappointing. It’s like how the scary monster is always scarier off-screen than when they bring it on-screen and you see that’s crappy CGI or a marionette in the shape of a mangy rabbit.

Mikey: If he could’ve just been as impressive as Neo, that would’ve been alright.

Solee: There were a lot of moments where this movie was trying to be The Matrix. Like how she could hear the code well enough to know whether they were being tracked.

Mikey: There was some classic hacking excitement in here. Like how the Pentagon had a letterhead for their hacking screens, and how they had to type a bible passage to get past Vatican security, and how they had one guy who they had literally chosen because he’s really good at typing fast and accurately. No computer skills whatsoever, just an awesome typist.

Solee: “He’s the fastest accurate typist.”

Mikey: It’s like a superpower.

Solee: Of course, some college student was able to do the job for him for about two-thirds of the time, as they tried to “configure the matrix”.

Mikey: I have to say, that’s pretty much how things are gonna go for you if your superpower is fast, accurate typing. No matter how fast or accurate, the average college student is still not that far behind you.

Solee: One other quote of note was that, when the CIA disconnected them, it was okay because they were still “just about connected”.

Mikey: Close enough!

Solee: It’s like horseshoes.

Mikey: Actually, what it was like, towards the very end of the movie, was The Tommyknockers. That was a vibe I totally got when he was using his super-brain to wire ordinary computers together into a special super computer.

Solee: True. Reference accepted. So can we talk for a moment about how Declan was basically Hugh Laurie? He looked similar to him, he had the same mouth structure so he sounded like him, he had a lot of similar mannerisms, and he was similarly condescending and sarcastic, right down to the facial expressions.

Mikey: So not so much Hugh Laurie as House. Also, he was crippled. And a genius. I guess. Sorta. I didn’t notice that but trying to picture him in my head I see it a bit. He sure wasn’t a nice guy.

Solee: I think it’s interesting that the Bible Code knew everything about everything except that Declan and Ragnarok were the same person.

Mikey: That search system didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But it sure did bring up the most useless prophecies ever: “JFK - Oswald, conspiracy, grassy knoll”. Uh yeah, we knew that.

Solee: And they couldn’t look up Princess Diana because they didn’t know what had really happened, so instead they bring up JFK’s murder, one of the most questioned events in US history? She’s like “I think we can all agree on what happened there, right guys?”

Mikey: Yeah, good move. Oh, I did like the “butterfly effect” montage at the end of the movie, kind of showing you how everything ended up where it did, except that none of it was really strongly consequential enough to give you that “Oh, that’s what that meant” feeling. It was a bunch of minor mishaps that were vaguely related.

Solee: Yes, by the time they revealed what happened to the vagrant woman, it was no longer of any importance compared to the fact that Declan was ending the world.

Mikey: I think the gist of the montage, and a lot of other elements in the movie, was to say that everything led up to this moment, there was no other way it could have happened.

Solee: Which is interesting, because I have a quote of Declan saying “Time is not linear.” Maybe that relates to what he was drawing on the toilet paper, but everything else in the movie points to time being a step-by-step thing that you cannot break free from. It’s almost like Declan was in a different movie that we didn’t get to see, because he had these huge breakthrough moments that we were told nothing about. Like it was a cross-over event. We need to find the movie that he was crossing over from!

Mikey: I think I’ve seen enough about Declan in this movie, I’m good. Yeah, the whole idea of the Bible Code was that the Bible secretly contained a blueprint of everything that would ever happen, which meant that you couldn’t stop it, because if you did, that would’ve already been talked about in the code. So why did Declan have to do anything? It was just happening.

Solee: Because earlier on, they were talking about the reason they wanted to decipher the Bible Code was because it would contain things like the cure for cancer, which could then be implemented earlier than it would have happened, saving lots of lives. But what they really did was implement the end of the world earlier than it would have happened, ending all lives. College kids are stupid. Well-intentioned but stupid.

Mikey: And really into amateur philosophy! But I don’t think they brought about the end any earlier, since after all, with the proper Google search, they discovered the code told them that Declan was ending the world tonight. So, there you go. No choice. Not really much of a story then.

Oh wait, I do want to give Declan credit for transcending his human form, at the very end of the movie. That is the kind of thing I wanted him to do. But he still ran around stabbing and being a psycho first, which is boring and not pertinent to the big issues they talked about.


Solee: Well, it fits with the idea that anyone who wants a position of power the most is the person who should have it least, which always makes me think of Douglas Adams.

Mikey: What, that he shouldn’t have been allowed to write books?

Solee: No, somewhere in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, we meet the true ruler of the universe, and it turns out he’s a hermit who lives on some forgotten planet and has no idea he’s in charge.

So there was one premise to this movie that falls into my list of story concepts I really enjoy, and that is the moment of destruction being a moment of great understanding. I’m always intrigued by the idea of large amounts of time encapsulated within a short amount of brain activity. In real life, I often experience this when I have lengthy, elaborate dreams because I’ve dozed off for five minutes.

Mikey: And I already mentioned mine, but I really like those ideas of just completely up-ending reality, like transcending it and moving to a higher level or whatever. I think this movie had fun ideas, mixed into the pot with every conspiracy theory and amateur 4:20 philosophy idea.

Solee: Alright, I think it’s time for you to tell me how you rate this movie!

Mikey: Ouch, that’s a difficult question. It wasn’t very good. But whenever people are babbling and making diagrams about dimensions, I am interested and wondering how it will all play out (the not-very-good lies in how that played out - not very well). So, I have to go pretty low on the ratings, just to discourage further filmmakers from taking big ideas and turning them into slasher movies. I will give this movie a 2 out of 5.

Solee: I am also going to choose my rating in an effort to curb certain moviemaking behaviors. In my case, I want to punish them for thinking that shouting lots of vaguely clever-sounding things very quickly and in a very sarcastic I’m-smarter-than-you tone will trick me into thinking that this movie is clever. I wanted to like it, but it just was so unlikeable. Much like the character of Declan. So I am giving this movie a 2.5 out of 5.

Mikey: Okay, let’s move on to Altergeist next. It’s like Poltergeist, but altered.

Solee: I suspect there will be less metaphysics in Altergeist.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Ouija: Origin Of Evil02:07 PM -- Tue October 25, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016)
Rated PG-13
IMDB rating: 7.0/10
Metacritic: 65
Rotten Tomatoes: 81% critics, 70% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 4/5
We watched in an actual movie theater! With popcorn and soda.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their seance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home.”

Mikey: I’m still enjoying the popcorn and root beer we got at this movie! That’s a unique bonus our previous movies haven’t offered.

Whoa, huge twist: while collecting IMDB info, I just discovered this is a prequel to a 2014 movie, Ouija. I’ve seen my share of movies with Ouija in the title (the hilarious The Ouija Experiment and its sequel for two), but sadly not that one.


Solee: Seeing a movie in the theater is definitely a different experience than watching it in our living room. I almost feel like it’s unfair to compare the two.

Mikey: The mega bass, high volume, and all-encompassing screen definitely help with the scares, and the mood. I think it explains a lot of the dichotomous reviews many horror movies get.

Solee: I remember seeing The Blair Witch Project in the theaters and feeling like it was absolutely the most terrifying thing ever. I’m pretty sure if I’d seen it at home I would have thought it was stupid. I think the theater experience definitely improved this movie.

Mikey: This is why I keep saying we need a theater room! Oh, and I had the exact same experience with Blair Witch. I saw it when it came out in the theaters. Amazing and tense experience. I also reviewed it later when we watched it at home, and a lot of punch was gone, but I enjoyed it.

Solee: Well, Ouija gave me some definite jump scares. And they were the kind I like best when I know they’re coming and I’m all tensed up for them and that makes me jump even more. They did an excellent job of putting creepy people shaped shadows in the background.

Mikey: As soon as they started looking through the planchette, I knew there were going to be some nice jump scares to come. The last time they did that though, I wasn’t too impressed - the stuff that happened moved so fast it couldn’t even scare me. I had no idea what was going on.

Solee: Any time they throw the monster/demon/alien/whatever in my face to try to scare me it just annoys me. I like when it’s so subtle you miss it if you don’t know where to look. I think there’s a skill to putting something in the shadows and tricking the viewer into looking in the right spot without being obvious about it. That’s where horror directing and editing can be very impressive.

Mikey: There should be some kind of bible of horror movies, with all the different types of scares explained. I feel like I know a lot of directors who could benefit from the lessons. And there are a lot of different ways to scare. I liked when the girl opened her mouth a wee bit too big, like when she was sucking in the TV.

Solee: I liked that, too! It felt very “foreign film” to me. Like that’s something you would see in Asian horror. I am always creeped out by the crawling on the wall or hanging down from the ceiling shots, as well. It’s just so… unsettling.

Mikey: That’s not where people belong! But when she decided to run up the wall instead of climbing the stairs, that didn’t do it for me. Sometimes that stuff is a little too wire-work instead of creepy spider movement.

Solee: You are SO SENSITIVE to that stuff. You always say that about Superhero movies, too.

Mikey: I’m glad they did wirework instead of replacing her with a CGI Spiderman!

Solee: How do you feel about the “Oh, look, there’s a great big room behind this wall that we never knew about and that somehow is either still contained within our property or has also never been noticed by the owners of the house next door” trope? Why are so many basements so much bigger than they seem to be?

Mikey: I think that might be one of my favorite plot elements in movies. It just opens up a whole new world. But it bugs the crap out of me when, like in this movie, it’s so absurdly large that it defies all reason that they didn’t know it was there. I wouldn’t notice a missing closet-sized space in my house unless I happened to be doing some measuring or something, but a room bigger than our living room? I think that thing extended onto the neighbors’ property.

Solee: When T.A.R.D.I.S. technology is used for evil…

Mikey: Oh, you’re probably sad the badguys were guys in black morphsuits instead of weeping angels!

Solee: Not sad at all. I will totally sleep tonight after watching dripping morphsuits climb into a little girl’s stretched out mouth. I would not sleep with Weeping Angels on the brain.

Mikey: You have such specific pathologies. I have to find a movie about evil statues.

Solee: I honestly don’t know how you can be so cavalier about them!

Mikey: They’re fictional, you know...

Solee: *leans into mic* WRONG.

Mikey: You’re such a nasty woman.

Solee: Yep. But not as nasty as the sound of someone’s neck breaking. Ugh. That’s totally another one of my pathologies. I HATE that.

Mikey: Yes it is! It doesn’t bother me, but then cracking knuckles bother you almost as much. I just don’t like eye stuff, which this movie was gloriously free of. Well, except the slingshot, but that was off screen.

Solee: That was one of several things that happened in this movie which would have caused some SERIOUS repercussions in real life that were completely ignored in the movie. Understandably so, but I sometimes get caught up on those things.

Mikey: Well, you know I like to impose real-life logistics on horror movies! I think this movie did glide along (it was pretty fast-moving, not one of those bleak, slow, grey movies), skipping right over a lot of realities just to get the story told.

Solee: Can’t say I disapprove. Oddly, I didn’t disapprove of the style of the movie either. Usually I hate when things are set in the 70’s because I think that era was inherently ugly. The clothes the girls and their mom wore looked true to the era, but also like something I’d pick up at a funky thrift store and wear today. Except the nightgowns. Those were SO frilly.

Mikey: Speaking of clothes, as you kept pointing out during the movie, it was kind of a funny choice that the main character’s Catholic schoolgirl skirt was a good 3 inches shorter than every other girl at her school. I was going to point out what a girl-power movie this was, but that undermines it a bit.

Solee: That skirt! Maybe they just skipped over the many times a day she got her knuckles rapped by nuns. Or maybe they were cutting her some slack because her dad had died recently.

Mikey: It’s logistics I have a problem with again: this was a school uniform, so clearly at some point she (or her mother?) actually went in and re-cut the skirt to be shorter! Maybe she just rolled up the top.

Solee: Obviously, you never went to Catholic school. You just roll it at the top! Every good Catholic girl knows that. (I am not sure how I learned that… I am neither Catholic, nor a good girl.)

Mikey: I would catch on fire if I did.

Solee: Given the movies we’ve watched this month, I have to tell you that statement makes me a tad nervous. Should I have a vial of Holy Water on hand, just in case?

Mikey: I guess, if you want to scald me! Rude.

Solee: Speaking of the occult, have you ever played with a Ouija board?

Mikey: Oh wow, we should’ve started with that discussion! Yes, I have! We owned one, and I remember one memorable time playing with it: we were driving cross country in our van, so the rumbly nature of it made the spirits particularly talkative.

Solee: Creepy. Did you learn anything interesting?

Mikey: No, because even at the time, whatever age I was, I 100% understood it was a pram full of bugbears.

Solee: WHERE DO YOU GET THESE SAYINGS???

Mikey: The spirits whisper them into my ears! Did you have a Ouija board?

Solee: I think someone maybe brought one to a sleepover when I was a pre-teen. I have never been a believer of that kind of stuff, though, so I thought it was all nonsense. And even when I was a pre-teen, the shrieks of pre-teen girls pretending to be terrified annoyed the hell out of me. I wish it had been when I was just a tad older. I could have had some REAL fun making that board talk. *insert evil laughter*

Mikey: Don’t mess with forces you don’t understand!

So I did want to bring up the initial premise of the movie. I’ve seen it before, and it’s one I enjoy: the family worked together to perform fake seances (which of course led to them being shocked to find real ghosts later). I don’t know, that ‘inside view’ of the scammer is always appealing to me.


Solee: Me, too. That’s why we’re such fans of Leverage!

Mikey: Yes, it’s always time for a heist!

Solee: I think there’s a level of realism when they show the seances being a total scam in the beginning. Gives me a place to connect with the story.

Mikey: On the opposite end of the movie, and the opposite end of the appreciation scale, I feel like the denouement of this movie was… illogical, random, and incomprehensible. I’m still not sure what all happened after they finished ‘beating’ the ghosts and we moved over to the asylum, but I’m fairly sure that it didn’t all make sense together.

Solee: The ghosts were clearly not beaten. But I thought it was pretty firmly established (in the basement) that the younger sister had died and been reunited with her father. Yet, there she is (in the asylum) crawling around on the ceiling after her sister summons her.

Mikey: And killing a doctor (we assume)! Yet we don’t worry about that and just skip forward 20 or 30 years (in the Funny Part After The Credits). To… the dead sister having a child so apparently she was alive all along? Or some other sister we didn’t know about did.

Solee: At least 40 years… and yeah… the Funny Part After the Credits didn’t make any sense at all. Unless it wasn’t really a niece at all, but was actually her ghost-demon-sister.

Mikey: That makes so much more sense! Every movie should come with you on the side as the movie’s Anger Translator. Except more like a Story Translator.

Solee: Lucky for you, all of your movies do!

Mikey: Not during previous years of Halloween reviews, so this has been a very enjoyable year!

Solee: Just another way I’ve wormed my way into your life so you can’t live without me.

Mikey: True dat. So in this movie, the Ouija board has 3 rules: ‘Don’t play alone’, ‘don’t play in a graveyard’, and ‘always say Goodbye’. It’s interesting because in The Ouija Experiment, the plot (such as it was) also hinged on a set of 3 Ouija rules, but they were slightly different. I think they were ‘never ask them how they died’, ‘always say goodbye’, and… ah, I forgot the last one. I highly recommend that movie - it is hilarious.

By the way, in this movie they broke every rule repeatedly, and they never once said goodbye. I mean, at least do it right once!


Solee: Upon doing some quick research, it appears that the original “rules” were much less interesting: Museum of Talking Boards

Mikey: And upon my quick research, the missing rule was ‘Never ask them how you will die’. Oh, that movie is so funny… “Based on true events” But yeah, those real rules are pretty dull.

Solee: Sorry… didn’t mean to distract from your point. They were pretty careless with this game, even after they knew it was really connecting them with the “other side”. Kinda makes me wonder how the story would have gone differently if they’d been more respectful of the power of the Ouija.

Mikey: That’s no fun at all. It’s like a movie where people follow the rules of gun safety so nobody gets shot.

Solee: Oh, I know. Wouldn’t make a good movie… just makes for interesting thinking. Well, did you have more to say or is it time to rate?

Mikey: Unfortunately, in a dark theater, I couldn’t take any notes, so I have had to rely entirely on my brainpower up to this point. I think my brain is all kaput. You have to rate first this time!

Solee: Ok. So, I’m trying not to let the big-screen, big-sound experience influence my score. I liked the overall vibe of the movie. I thought the acting was believable and the sets/costumes were great. Plot-wise, it got a little shaky in places and it wasn’t super original (ex-Nazi continuing his horribleness in suburban America… that’s been done), but it wasn’t awful to watch. And I liked the special effects. It’s one of the few movies to actually make me jump. I guess… 4 out of 5? 4.5? No… 4. I think that extra .5 is theater boost.

Mikey: This was one of the more well-built productions we’ve seen this month (not a surprise, since ⅔ of them were never released in theaters at all). The acting was plenty good, all the sets and effects expensive and thus effective. It also moved at a good pace for what it was trying to do, and was interesting. But no mind-melting twists, no deep thoughts underneath. Basically, a technical success with no special sauce poured on top. I consider that to be somewhere around 3.5 or 4… Hmm. Let’s make it different from yours: 3.5.

Solee: Fair enough. Tomorrow we return to the small screen, watching Beacon 77 in our living room, right?

Mikey: The movie also known as The 7th Dimension (which is a few extra dimensions, shouldn’t we learn about numbers 5 and 6 first?). Let’s hope it’s fun!

Solee: Maybe they figured those were covered with those Hypercube movies?

Mikey: Ooh, a Cube movie would be fun.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Behemoth03:16 PM -- Mon October 24, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Behemoth (2011)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 3.6/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A% critics, 12% audience
Mikey: 1.5/5
Solee: 2.5/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Scientists discover a giant creature under the Earth that is wrapped around the entire planet. When the creature wakes all grumpy, it causes worldwide destruction.”

Mikey: SHUT UP ZOE.

Solee: Zoe was the waitress girl, right?

Mikey: Yes, the extremely intelligent and and thought-provoking waitress girl.

Solee: Oh, I thought you meant the super-condescending, rude, and incredibly stupid waitress girl. Maybe there were two Zoes.

Mikey: No, I was employing a technique known as sarcasm. You know how I look away whenever I see eyes about to get stabbed in movies? My ears tried to do that when she talked.

Solee: Hahaha, that’s an awesome description. I think you better check your vectors before you wreck your vectors!

Mikey: I’ll get around to checking them at “oh ten hundred hours”, which is a real time and not random words.

Solee: Absolutely, and don’t take earthquake for an answer!

This movie was a wealth of really stupid quotable lines. By the way, I’m 20, not 16.

Mikey: So, I think we have prepared our audience for a taste of the dialogue they’re in for here. But I don’t want to oversell it, I’ve seen much more amusing bad movies.

Solee: Yeah, but this one feels pretty high on my list actually. It was really cheesy. It was like if Tremors had taken place in the Pacific Northwest.

Mikey: Oh it wishes!! Tremors is awesome!

Solee: I do not think you know what that word means.

Mikey: Just to be clear: Tremors is actually a good movie. High-budget Hollywood production with good actors, who are intentionally being comedic and really entertaining. This is SyFy Original Movie garbage.

Solee: I accept that, and still think Tremors is a stupid movie.

Mikey: I accept that but wonder what I got myself into with this marriage.

Solee: You’re only just now starting to wonder?

So the premise of this movie is very backwards in that it’s the old guy who’s ranting and raving about climate change and how Earth is going to destroy us to save itself, and all the young people totally dismiss him and say things like “How can we be affecting the planet?”

Mikey: That was a little odd, though the crazy old coot who is actually right about the monster is a time-honored tradition. Also, it should be noted that the big solution to global warming in this movie is to kill the monster that’s punishing us for causing it, and just go on doing what we do.

Solee: Kill it with a nuke shot from a rocket launcher!

Mikey: That was an interesting lack of twist: I don’t think I’ve seen one of these monster movies where the final weapon for victory is just sitting there, pre-made for exactly this purpose, and they just need to go get it and use it. A little less interesting than MacGyvering something up and figuring things out.

Solee: It goes along well with the fact that the old guy told us exactly how to kill the monster about 20 minutes before the monster was actually discovered. Conveniently remembered in a super on-the-nose flashback at the end of the movie!

Mikey: Of course, where else was he going to aim?

Solee: “Oh, I have to kill it in its heart? It’s a good thing you told me! I was gonna go for the pinkie toe!”

Mikey: Pinkie tentacle. That explanation he gave frustrated me so much. He was trying to explain to his daughter that a monster was coming, by citing legends, then in the middle of it he says “it’s like when Marduk shot the arrow down its throat to split its heart!” - No, that is not a part of what you were saying at all. That’s how you kill the monster, not anything about the fact that a monster is coming. It was so badly written.

Solee: As was the rest of the movie. Site 14! Epicenter of entity! Singularity event!

Mikey: Actually, the line I wrote down was this (verbatim from the movie): “Let’s go, let’s go. ‘Sgo, ‘sgo, ‘sgo! Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Solee: They really wanted to get out of there! Of course if they wanted to get out faster, they maybe should’ve not aimed for the center of every single puddle on the road.

Mikey: That seemed to be coming from the director, since every driver did the same thing. It’s like The Matrix - the water is symbolic!

Solee: At least there was something symbolic. So I wanna talk about how horribly written the fiance was. They spent a lot of time building up that relationship and trying to tell us how long they’d been together and how much they were in love, but failed to actually show us anything that made me care at all when her fiance got eaten by the monster. It was a classic example of telling instead of showing, and I’m not even sure how that’s possible in a visual medium!

Mikey: What, didn’t you see when she kicked him in the butt playfully? TRUE LOVE.

Solee: Of course even when they were showing us things, they were showing in a way that came across as telling. Like when Zoe and the old guy kept falling off the ladder in such a way as to loudly announce to us “This ladder is shaking” without making it seem anything like the ladder was actually shaking.

Mikey: I made a note that one of the biggest conflicts in the movie is Man vs. Ladder. They spent like 20 minutes on it, and the entire arc for Zoe and Old Man was “Will they climb into the attic”.

Solee: Did you miss the whole May-December subplot? Because there is definitely something going on between Zoe and Old Man. There were several moments where I half-expected them to lean in and kiss each other.

Mikey: So you admit that the filmmakers did an excellent job of showing romance!

Solee: Weird skeezy romance, sure. She was like 12!

Mikey: Ageist. So that was one side of the story. On the other side of things we had the Rugged Man and his Lost Love trying to save his little sister and kill the monster, which was another unique conflict: as he was struggling to put together the rocket launcher, I couldn’t help but picture an IKEA horror movie where the entire danger revolves around whether you can get the furniture built in time.

Solee: “But do you have the right size Allen wrench to build your rocket launcher?!”

Mikey: “Where’s Tab B!?!”

Solee: So this is the ultimate in government conspiracy movies, because apparently the government knew for six months that this was going to happen, and said nothing to the people who lived on this mountain that was built out of squid.

Mikey: Oh yeah, I wanted to note that: this monster literally encircled the world, right? But when it popped out of the mountain I was like “Eh. Is that it?” I mean, it was like a fairly big dragon with some reasonably long tentacles, like maybe 100 yards or something. Bad design.

Solee: I don’t feel like the movie actually said anything about it encircling the world. I think the IMDB description said that, and it’s unsupported.

Mikey: Actually, if you paid attention to the genius dialogue, you would’ve noticed when they said there were tremors all around the world and other thermal activity. So it was going off, girlfriend.

Solee: I think there were some pretty intense leaps of logic in this movie when it comes to science. Like “Oh my god, there are three dead squirrels, there must be a 3 foot layer of carbon dioxide covering this mountain”, or “There are several hot spots located all around the world, it must be one giant planet-sized entity” instead of a nest of mountain-sized squid living in our planet.

Mikey: That brings to mind why I was almost a bit excited about this movie (before I saw it): I have actually always had this image in my head of giant creatures living under the Earth. Whenever I am driving cross country and see vast plains or something, I make a special effort to picture what it would look like if the entire scene in front of me heaved up and a monster tore up out of it. So I was kind of hoping to be primally triggered by this movie. Too bad they opted for baby squid instead.

Solee: That’s a thing you do?!

Mikey: It actually is, like for real. Is that a recognized mental disorder?

Solee: It should be! I would like to point out that this movie is clearly some kind of PSA about carbon dioxide poisoning, because they literally described, in its entirety, the effects of carbon dioxide poisoning three times.

Mikey: All part of the global warming preaching going on! If only they offered a better solution than “As long as we kill the monster, we can keep trashing the planet.”

Solee: If only. Oh! Did you notice that the chopper was not at all affected by the huge blast wave that came from the bomb? Like, we could see it, but it didn’t move the helicopter in the slightest.

Mikey: I did not, but really wasn’t expecting that level of accuracy after they shot a special missile that knew how to steer down monster throats at a giant dragon that popped out of a mountain.

Solee: Hey, that was a high-tech missile! The government spent six months building it, out of IKEA parts.

Mikey: Before we rate, I just want to add that this movie featured a trope I enjoy but never believe: the investigation wall, where you stick every picture and article you can find up with thumbtacks and connect them all with string. Does that really help you figure things out?

Solee: It helps Sherlock Holmes figure things out! He does it all the time on Elementary. Maybe we should start a wall to investigate this!

Mikey: That seems like sound science! How do you rate Behemoth?

Solee: Well, I thought it was dumb, but in a way that made me laugh lots of times, so I’m going to give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Mikey: During my post-movie nap, I spent a while thinking about how to rate this. I feel like there are two separate scales: On the one hand there’s the Actually Good scale, how most people rate movies. But then you also need the SBIG scale, for whether it’s So Bad It’s Good. Because that’s not a binary thing - some movies are more SBIG than others. #Horror was just awful, an SBIG of 0 to go with its Actually Good of 0. No Tell Motel was a bad movie with very high SBIG.

I bring up all that complexity because I want to point out that this movie felt very mediocre on the SBIG scale. It was obviously a bad movie, maybe an 0.5 out of 5, and it wasn’t unwatchable-bad, but it wasn’t hilariously bad, so maybe a 3 out of 5 SBIG. Which I will say comes out to a grand total of 1.5 out of 5 overall. I could’ve gone with more hilarity in the badness.


Solee: I’m actually surprised that I rated this higher than you did!

Mikey: My standards for bad movies are high!

Solee: Tomorrow, we have a special twist: We’re going to the actual theater to watch Ouija: Origin of Evil which came out yesterday!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: JeruZalem02:16 PM -- Sun October 23, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

JeruZalem (2015)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.7/10
Metacritic: 45
Rotten Tomatoes: 57% critics, 58% audience
Mikey: 4/5
Solee: 4/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “When a couple of American young adults fly to Israel to visit the city of Jerusalem, a biblical nightmare falls upon the city.”

Solee: Okay. Let’s do this quickly so my eyes don’t quit on me halfway through. I have a bunch of notes on this movie!

Mikey: I just want to point out that you just endured my real-life horror movie: somebody sliced up your eyes. (She had lasik surgery)

Solee: Mine, too! I have literally ALL MY LIFE had nightmares about not being able to open my eyes. That first day of recovery was much more traumatic because of that than I had been led to believe. Hopefully it will all be worth it and I will become one of those people who tells other people to “Do it! It’s not that bad!”

Mikey: My fingers are crossed that it will all be wonderful. But to get this done quick, we should talk about the movie!

Solee: So it’s called JeruZalem, with a big red Z in the middle, which is pretty telling.

Mikey: After watching it, I thought about it a bit and decided it’s pretty close to 100% a zombie movie. The only unzombie things are that the ‘zombies’ have wings, there aren’t that many of them (in the end we see there are, but during the course of the movie, the people never have to deal with very many), and they seemed smarter, except for how they’d often just stand back and show off their wings instead of doing anything.

Solee: They certainly felt more vengeful than insatiable. This is what you get if you posit that zombies are a Heaven/Hell thing instead of a “whoops, I whipped up a really bad batch of the flu” thing, I guess.

Mikey: Right, whatever their goal was (world domination perhaps?), they didn’t need to eat people like zombies do, they were just sort of violently going about their agenda.

Solee: Which was what, exactly? I honestly have no idea. I ended this movie with the same level of confusion as [*REC]. I have no idea what the “lesson” of this movie was. Aside from “Get out of Tel Aviv before Yom Kippur!”

Mikey: Yeah, I don’t think there was any explanation of it, but the final shot of them all pouring out of the city kind of felt like a general Destroy All Humans situation. About as detailed a plot as your average alien movie.

Solee: Given that and the behavior of the rest of the zombies, I was SUPER disappointed in the appearance of Sarah’s brother. He didn’t really help them. He didn’t really attack them. He might as well have not shown up at all. Was that just God, biting his thumb at Sarah because of the nasty “wish” she sent him? “Sure, I’ll bring your brother back… but you’re not going to like it….”

Mikey: Probably. It’s interesting since she was already bitten by that point, so she was definitely doomed. But it was saying something, between him and Rachel, that the undead weren’t totally mindless, they still had memories and stuff. She sure lost her mind quick when she changed though: straight into “join the flock” mode. At least she didn’t eat Kevin first.

Solee: Rachel, too. She was controlled enough to take herself out before she hurt Sarah.

Mikey: Yup. Whatever that all means. So we should point out that this is our second first-person perspective movie of the month! Which may also be the second one I’ve ever seen.

Solee: I liked this one better, I think because it wasn’t trying to head-hop like Sympathy, Said the Shark. It was just one girl and her Google Glass, which I think is a hilarious premise and basically established this movie as outdated before it even hit the big screen.

Mikey: Outdated… or prescient!? We might all be wearing those next year! I wonder if a large part of the idea of this movie came out of the facial recognition system. They were just like “Oh, and it recognizes her dead brother!” and wrote a movie around that. Fun gimmick. Kind of annoying, but not actually that bad. I’d say it’s not as bad as the more standard gimmick of found footage: the insanely obnoxious person who refuses to stop filming.

Solee: Agreed. I get a little sea-sick from any found footage movie, but this one was easier to get into than others I’ve seen. I didn’t exactly FORGET about the gimmick, but I could accept it more easily. I know what it’s like to have to wear whatever glasses you can get your hands on in order to see!

Mikey: But not anymore!

Solee: Now I have no glasses to help me see! I just have to be patient and let my eyeballs heal.

Mikey: I have so many notes on this movie, but they’re all assorted little tidbits. Seems like there was a lot going on, and not to spoil the ratings, but I really had fun with this. Just as I think the filmmakers had fun with the idea of the Google Glass.

Solee: I have lots of snippets of notes, too. One bigger topic I want to bring up is “implicit bias”. I first noted it when Sarah couldn’t bring herself to kill her clearly infected and obviously becoming dangerous friend or even tie her up or leave her behind… but she stuck a sword through the muslim guy’s throat without even thinking about it. A guy who had been with her through the whole escape. I mean, yeah, he popped up out of the darkness, and she was all hyped up on adrenaline, but that’s kinda the point of “implicit bias”. She saw him as instantly dangerous even though he was completely harmless and just as terrified as her.

Mikey: I don’t feel like that’s fair! Like you said, she killed him before she saw him. It wasn’t what he looked like, it was the fact that he popped up out of the darkness. I think she would’ve killed her friend too in that case, she was just lashing out before processing what she was seeing, since she was so scared.

Solee: Maybe.

Mikey: BUT it leads into my own personal safety concern I have had for a while: you always say “shoot him already!” the second somebody has a sniffle in a zombie movie! I just know one day you’re going to decapitate me because I get a sore throat.

Solee: Only if we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. If that’s the case, it’s true. I’m gonna be super sad about it, but the ONLY way to survive with zombies around is to ruthlessly get rid of anyone who has been infected. I’ve learned that from all the zombie movies YOU made me watch.

Mikey: Profiling.

Solee: Definitely. I’m not done with the implicit bias topic, though. Because I have to admit to my own implicit bias. I’m not at all proud of it, but I was much more suspicious of the muslim family that ran the hotel than anyone else. They did some pretty suspicious stuff, but I was also just waiting for Omar to turn out to be involved in whatever was going down, with his hashish-getting, chest-hair showing, 3rd person-talking self.

Mikey: I would never blame Omar! Mikey says Omar is good. His family did seem a bit creepy, and the fact they’d always be muttering things in languages we didn’t know, in the middle of a horror movie, made you wonder what they were up to.

Solee: Yes, he was good. Not the kind of guy I’d take home on a first day without having a roommate around, but that has nothing to do with his ethnicity and everything to do with the 3rd person references and the lack of personal space. I am ashamed that I was so quick to assume that he and they were going to be evil in some way, though. Tells me I have some biases I wasn’t aware of and which I’d like to work on eradicating.

Mikey: That makes me think of something I really liked about the movie: it was actually made by Israelis, and it prominently features this idea throughout that Catholics, Jews, and Muslims are all in it together in Jerusalem - stuck dealing with the same problems, and because they’re all together, they have learned to be cool with each other in that space. It’s a window into another world, and I felt like I was learning what somebody else’s existence is like there. I really liked Omar and how he represented “just a dude” who was Muslim, instead of any stereotypes (well, any Muslim stereotypes - he was a hound-dog stereotype).

Solee: Yep. That idea of all three religions working together came in early during the Vatican footage when “all three Abrahamic religions” were working together to try to save the woman.

Mikey: A 3-way exorcism! No wonder it didn’t work! Poor confused God(s?).

Solee: That would have been a mess of a trial to find out whether they were to blame for her death! I really did like how that theme of playing and working together followed through all the way to the point when Omar, Kevin and Sarah were each praying in their own language.

Mikey: Clear symbolism! And that’s something with this movie, I was feeling like there was a lot more here than most of what we’ve watched this month. I’m not saying it wasn’t a basic zombie movie and pretty silly, but you could see there were thoughts and ideas behind it, and you can get a lot more out of this movie than just “Aah, real zombies”.

Solee: Ha. I see what you did there.

Mikey: Oh I went there.

Solee: It was a smart movie. But not to the point of overthinking itself. Which is a fine line to walk in horror. I’m sure the white dresses the girls were wearing for Yom Kippur were symbolic in a lot of ways I don’t completely understand because I’m not a student of theology, but purity and forgiveness come to mind along with the judgement they mentioned.

Mikey: I’m usually looking for smarts and overthinking in the plot, stuff for me to figure out and mysteries to solve. This movie had none of that - it really was just basic running from monsters - but it did have that smartness on a different level entirely, like you are saying.

Solee: And then every so often there would be something ridiculous, like the classic “sound of wings extending.” Which we totally would have missed if we didn’t use closed captioning like old people.

Mikey: Closed captioning often adds fun. I also liked when her Google Glass suffered serious damage to the point where it was launching cat videos at her against her will.

Solee: HERE IS A CAT WEARING A BURRITO HAT. WATCH IT. WAAAATCH IT.

That Google Glass was pretty high level. It could face recognize ANYONE, not just people from her social media network. And it could hear not just her voice and breathing, but also the blood rushing through her ears at the end.

Mikey: That has frightening privacy implications! The facial recognition, not the blood noise. It also has unlimited recording space, and records everything you look at for eternity. Amazing, and also frightening privacy implications.

Solee: The only thing it doesn’t do…? Night vision. Which was unfortunate for Sarah.

Mikey: I was waiting for the night vision to come out for a long time. I mean, come on, how can you do found footage with no night vision? But they did.

Solee: Maybe it was disabled during one of the :( FATAL ERRORS.

Mikey: Yes, every time she fell down or smacked her face, it would frown at her and say FATAL ERROR. In the end, I’m very disappointed the movie didn’t end as I predicted it would: “:( FATAL ERROR”

Solee: Huge missed opportunity. Yuuuge.

Mikey: I forgot to fast-forward for the traditional Funny Part After The Credits. If they were smart, they would’ve added it there - the glasses falling from her now-airborne face, way way down, to crash on the ground with a FATAL ERROR :(.

Solee: Oh, snap. That would have been perfect. The Google glasses on the soaring demon made me think of the go-pro vids I’ve seen where squirrels have taken go-pros and run up trees. Just another clever pairing of recording technology and blissfully unaware wildlife!

Mikey: Yep. I kept being bothered that she was flapping her wings all the way around in front of her face, but I think about that eagle footage and you do see things a little more than you’d expect, so maybe that’s super ultra 100% real.

Solee: Mega-totally-true. Ready to rate? Did we touch on most of your notes?

Mikey: Not at all, but that’s okay! Except to note that there’s some serious Cloverfield going on in this movie. And the characters don’t seem nearly concerned enough about it.

My final impression of this movie is that is a simple, pretty lame, movie, made by talented and capable people. They were slumming. Where it ends up is something of a strange dichotomy. But overall, it was both pretty compelling (with all the cultural stuff), and full of fun moments (with the Google Glass and sometimes the monsters, though they sometimes were kind of stupid). I don’t want to rate it too high, but that’s mostly because I know other people have rated it very low and I don’t want to feel like a sucker. The truth is I kind of maybe loved it. I’m gonna go for a 4! Fun movie, all the way down. But not high art.


Solee: Agreed. The acting was decent. The directing was well done. The plot was simple, but there were nuances that allow for discussion and ongoing thought after the credits roll. I liked that it was a twist on the normal zombie monster. It was a movie I think a lot of people could enjoy watching, provided they like horror and can stomach a found footage flick. I am also giving it a 4, and I don’t care that it makes me look like a sucker. I’ve disagreed with the ratings on most of the movies this month. And for once it’s fun to think something is BETTER than everyone says.

Mikey: Good on you! Speaking of credits, I did go back and check and there is no Funny Part After The Credits. Sad.

Solee: Sad indeed. What are you thinking for tomorrow?

Mikey: I was working on some data regarding what we’ve watched this month, and what I’m finding a shortage of so far is… well, Sci-Fi is something we’ve only hit once (I tagged Shadow Puppets as sci-fi). We haven’t seen one of those dumb SyFy original monster movies or similar...

Solee: Sounds like we have a movie with a tiger-tarantula-gorilla hybrid in our future!

Mikey: TARANTIGERILLA IS ALREADY OUT!?!?

Solee: You wish. Maybe we can see Behemoth, though.

Mikey: See you there!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Canal03:49 PM -- Sat October 22, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Canal (2014)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 5.9/10
Metacritic: 55
Rotten Tomatoes: 79% critics, 50% audience
Mikey: 4/5
Solee: 4/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A depressed and stressed film archivist finds his sanity crumbling after he is given an old 16mm film reel with footage from a horrific murder that occurred in the early 1900's.”

Note: We did this interview verbally, with me transcribing the whole thing, because Solee was recovering from Lasik surgery! Previous interviews had us in separate rooms, communicating via Google Doc.

Mikey: Christmas again!?

Solee: We’re going to have to analyze what percentage of our horror movies were Christmas-themed in our final round-up. It’s becoming such a common trope that I didn’t even notice it.

What I did notice was how freakin’ cute that kid was!

Mikey: Pshaw, kids. One of my notes, speaking of him, was that this movie has a horrifying ending.

Solee: We’re gonna talk about the ending already!?

Mikey: No, proceed onto other topics!

Solee: Well it’s clear from the beginning that the wife is cheating on her husband. “Steve from work” was not texting her about work.

Mikey: It gets even clearer and much more graphic later on. But the husband isn’t so innocent either, right?

Solee: Right, he’s cheating with his brain if not with anything else. So the tension is already established in this household, long before we learn about the previous tenants.

Mikey: Yes, perhaps the ghosts needed a wedge to get in.

Solee: Which is opposite The Amityville Horror, where the family felt pretty solid. There was a distinctive change in personality with the dad in that movie. In this movie, the dad seemed like he was on the edge of hitting her with a hammer anyway.

Mikey: I don’t see it to be that tense, he seems like a hapless, semi-clueless doof with a manipulative sneaky wife. But then he seems to develop a clue at the same time he gets semi-sorta-possessed by a filmstrip?

Solee: Sorta possessed? He got way possessed! He got all disassociative, he was removing himself from his own memories. That is not a good sign. I know that because I took Psych 101.

Mikey: It felt like it was a progressive thing, but you’re right - it starts right off that first night with him killing her and having no idea he did. So I guess that was a pretty serious and sudden break with reality.

Solee: Through the whole movie, I wasn’t convinced he was possessed, and not having a mental breakdown instead. Even at the end, I was still not sure he wasn’t just crazy. In Amityville I totally felt like there were ghosts making him do things. The Canal feels more like The Exorcism of Emily Rose in that I’m not convinced it wasn’t all in his head.

Mikey: That’s an interesting perspective… there’s nothing in there that contradicts that, I believe. There’s that horrifying ending I mentioned, which suggests spooky things, but I suppose that his son could be having a similar breakdown. Yeah, it does leave it open, with him being the only one who ever truly sees ghosts. There is a brief final shot of his son’s ghost seen by someone else.

Solee: Which made her smile! That was a note I took: “Creepy realtor lady smiles at the kid she knows isn’t in the house”? She was up to something. She was also the one who didn’t tell them about the house’s history.

Mikey: You know, what we learned about the ghosts was some kind of cult stuff. It’s very possible that she is a living person who is in this cult, and brings people to the house to get locked into it like the father and son appeared to be in the end. And the wife.

On another note, I noted multiple things in this movie that I recognized from other movies we’ve seen - The magic camera that sees ghosts from Paranormal Activity, skyping and seeing a ghost in the background of the shot from The Pact, and of course Zoolander hiding inside the walls from Zoolander (not actually, but Solee commented that it looked like Zoolander). There was also a thing with red light all over the place, which I know I’ve seen used in other ghost movies. And of course Christmas like every horror movie ever made.


Solee: So what we’re saying is this movie was full of a lot of tropes (and Zoolander)?

Mikey: I don’t know, I think those are more like coincidences to me, rather than basic tropes, Except the Christmas thing, and of course red light.

Solee: One trope that I did notice is how there’s a parallel between the current family and the family that was involved in the previous tragedy. I was irritated about how obtuse he was being about the parallels, like I wanted him to notice “Hey, I have a nanny, and a son”. I wanted him to see where this was going, but it took him a long time to send the nanny and son away for safety.

Mikey: That’s a real classic ghost trope for sure. There’s always the parallels. Do you think that was more of a movie thing, or was it actually part of what the ghosts ‘needed’?

Solee: I think it is something the ghosts need, that they need to find somebody similar to them, the more similar the better.

Mikey: So there are probably ghosts in just about every house then, and most of them are super frustrated that nobody’s showing up who meets their profile!

Solee: Probably!

I liked the detective in this movie. He was surprisingly unlikeable, but that worked.

Mikey: By your theory, he was certainly right about everything. And even if it’s ghosts, he still was pretty much.

Solee: When the guy told him it was ghosts, the detective laughed at him, which I thought was amusing.

Mikey: So I want to say that this movie had some effective creepy imagery, not to mention a truly awful undead birth sequence.

Solee: Ugh, I marked that as the grossest scene we’ve seen yet.

Mikey: Yes, that was not good. But lots of creepy Korean-esque ghosts crawling around, and people hiding in walls.

Solee: Yes, who knew Irish ghosts were so similar to Korean ghosts?

Mikey: I picture Irish ghosts being very sheet-like and transparent, so I bet this is more about cultural influence than Irish tradition.

Solee: Yeah, I imagine them being all wraith-like on the moor.

Mikey: We had a bit of a moor here, with the titular Canal, but the ghosts were very solid and creaky. Zombie-ish.

Oh, and early on, when the guy is at the funeral for his wife, his wife’s mother (I presume) spent several minutes trying to make it clear to him that he should feel bad for his wife’s boyfriend who surely was also very sad about this. Ugh. Tasteless.


Solee: Her mom was awful.

Mikey: Which brings to mind your first point, that there was trouble in this marriage already. Everybody but the crazy guy saw this as a failed marriage and were just waiting for her to leave. So I think there’s a lot of darkness under there and support for the no-ghosts-just-crazy theory.

Solee: Yes, he was suffering from some serious denial. My whole last page of notes is me flip-flopping between him being controlled by ghosts and him being extremely psychotic. I just kept going back and forth.

Mikey: The movie really pushes this confusion with very clear ghost stuff going on, but then right towards the end, they reveal that all of that that you saw is very expressly not happening. It’s all what he thinks is happening, and reality is totally different. Which is more than an unreliable narrator, it’s a full-on liar of a narrator.

Solee: Which would normally make me crazy and make me dislike the movie. I don’t like being lied to and being misled by the movie. However, in this movie, I think he’s really lying to himself and that’s what we’re seeing. I think he really believed that there were ghosts controlling him.

Mikey: Oh I think the movie emphasizes that with all the re-written scenes he sees while roaming the sewers. He’s finally seeing the truth, and whether ghosts made him see things wrong or he was just crazy, we don’t know.

Solee: And when he died by being pulled down into the water, that could easily be him committing suicide once he’s realized what he did.

Mikey: That makes sense!

Solee: Which leads us to the ending. The last scene was very clearly and obviously leading up to this kid killing himself. But that very idea is so foreign to American films that my brain refused to accept that it was going to happen -

Mikey: So you substituted a new reality and didn’t see things as they really happened?

Solee: OMG I’m being possessed by a ghost! At least my ghost possesses me with happy thoughts. Anyway, when it did happen, even though I totally knew it was coming, it was a clasp-my-hands-over-my-mouth-and-gasp level of shock. I had forgotten this was an Irish movie, so when he jumped out of the car, my immediate thought was “Where did this movie come from?” because an American movie wouldn’t do that.

Mikey: It was definitely a very shocking ending, and I’m pretty jaded about this stuff, but it surprised me for sure. And it turns around an expectation, where you’d think the newly-ghostified dad would be looking out for his kid, but instead he was sucking him right into the darkness with him.

Solee: Again, it makes me think of Amityville Horror, where Jody who should’ve been protecting them was just trying to get them to join her.

Mikey: I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s a possibility! Her motives were quite vague.

Solee: She totally lied to that kid and told her if she jumped off the roof, she’d get to go see her Daddy!

Mikey: Oh yeah, she did. That kind of messes with my original Amityville theory about sucking up the souls, but oh well.

Solee: It doesn’t mess with it too much, because I think even well-meaning ghosts have such loneliness that they sometimes say what needs to be said to get themselves some company.

Mikey: And she was a little girl, who would be more inclined to think of herself that way, without considering what it means for the victim. But that’s the wrong movie! Let’s rate this movie!

Solee: This was one of those few movies that can get away with open-ended without seeming non-commital. I was captivated through the whole thing. I found the characters very interesting, and that means I’m going to give it a 4 out of 5.

Mikey: I think this was an effective horror movie, probably a step beyond most we’ve watched this month in terms of horror. It wasn’t about jump scares, it was about horribleness, which I have a PhD in. I liked it a lot, yet there’s something lacking that makes me not love it. But I wanna respect the good stuff in here, and give it a 4 too.

To correct our relative shortage of both found footage and zombie movies this month, we're gonna check out JeruZalem tomorrow - and that Z in the middle is big and red, so you know where this is going.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Final Girls03:01 PM -- Fri October 21, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Final Girls (2015)
Rated PG-13
IMDB rating: 6.6/10
Metacritic: 59
Rotten Tomatoes: 71% critics, 70% audience
Mikey: 3/5
Solee: 3/5
We watched on Fandango ($1.99).


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom's most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film's maniacal killer.”

Solee: The Final Girls had a star-studded cast! And by star-studded, I mean there were lots of faces we recognized. Does familiarity affect your enjoyment of a movie?

Mikey: There’s something about familiarity… Like when the “joke” on Family Guy (or a lot of movies) is “whoa, this is some celebrity in this place you wouldn’t expect to see them!” or “recognize this moment from a popular movie?” It’s not funny in any way, yet you are amused by it. So sure, it’s fun to see Maeby in another movie, like we did a couple days ago in Green Room. Quite a coincidence that.

But also, that stuff I just mentioned is kind of the basis of this movie - it’s all about “oh, I see, that’s that trope from horror movies I’m so familiar with!” Not so much a joke as a reference (by the way, this is a comedy).


Solee: It was definitely comedic, in a Wet Hot American Summer meets Scream kind of way. Lots of goofy young adult drama. The kind of stuff anyone who survived past 25 can relate to in one way or another.

Mikey: That’s a good reference you just made too! It is very Wet Hot. However, and this is where I am stuck. I was kind of rolling along having a decent time, but I kept sitting there waiting for it to click and be amazing. It was all okay, but it never really caught fire and made me laugh a bunch. It should’ve been just the movie for me, so I think they failed somewhere.

Solee: That’s interesting because one of the things that I noticed is that I wrote fewer notes for this movie than any of the others. I thought maybe it was because I was preoccupied with the picture I was drawing, but it’s not that. I paid attention to the whole movie. I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t bad enough for me to comment or good enough for me to comment. It was very “safe”. Marketable, maybe?

Mikey: That could be. I also took very very few notes. In fact I see exactly four comments in my notes. One of them is “outtakes” (I do enjoy when the credits are full of outtakes! Every movie should do it!). But the safeness relates to another one: this is definitely a comedy about horror, not a horror-comedy. Don’t you think?

Solee: Well, it’s definitely super mild. It’s got a lot of the classic horror tropes, but not in a scary way. So I guess I agree. I liked how there were several ways it took the classic trope and turned it on its head. Like how it was almost cartoon-like in its color scheme. We were just commenting on how dreary horror movies are yesterday. Although, that’s just more evidence that it’s comedy instead of horror, isn’t it?

Mikey: The colors were crazy! That was another note: Why is VHS 80’s horror done up in this fairyland super-color style? That’s not how it looked onscreen! Weird choice.

Solee: I think it was to highlight the fantasy aspect of where they were. It was a big clue to the characters that they weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Mikey: Yeah, but it kind of emphasizes that these weren’t horror aficionados taking aim at horror (maybe they were, just didn’t seem that way). Like Shaun of The Dead made a comedy of horror - all the look and feel of horror, except everybody is being silly. This had the look and feel of… the Teletubbies? It was crazy! I’m not really complaining, just confused a bit. In fact, when they did the flashback, it all became black and white, so why wasn’t the non-flashback scratchy VHS quality?

Solee: Maybe because it would have been horrendously annoying to watch a whole movie like that? But Teletubbies is EXACTLY right!

Mikey: It could be that! Anyway, that’s kind of my overall feel: they kept things too mild. There could’ve been actual horror (which I think would’ve been a good counterpoint to silly comedy), and the comedy could’ve been funnier or at least more extreme (for instance, Adam Devine is playing his usual character, only I feel he was holding back from how raunchy he would normally be). There was also a big blob of sentimental goo in this movie. Good or bad?

Solee: You know me, I love me some sentimental goo. Actually, the mother/daughter stuff was what kept it from being completely unoriginal. And I thought House’s team member and the American Horror Story girl did a nice job of playing that relationship. It was sweet.

Mikey: OH MY GOSH. Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil.

Solee: What about it?

Mikey: That’s horror-comedy! I just thought of it. Proceed.

Solee: Yes, that is horror-comedy. Plus it has Alan Tudyk, whom I adore.

Mikey: Malin Ackerman wasn’t on House, you should edit!

Solee: Really? *checks IMDB* Huh. What do you know. She looks EXACTLY like … *checks IMDB* .... Huh. Nope. She looks nothing like Jennifer Morrison. Why do I know Malin Ackerman??

Mikey: I’m not sure, she looks like she belongs on House, M.D.

Solee: Oh. Because Jennifer Morrison was blonde for a season of House! I bet that’s it.

Mikey: All blondes look alike!

I think they tried to have it not just both ways in this movie, but all the ways. They wanted horror, comedy, teen romance, family drama, and pathos, oh, and action movie at the end! That explains the mildness. They couldn’t go very far in any of those directions without cutting one of them.


Solee: Or without losing the audience for one of them. They weren’t willing to get raunchy like Wet Hot American Summer. They weren’t willing to get gory like Scream.

Mikey: Or totally ludicrous like Scary Movie.

Solee: Right. Or super slutty like, well, ALL movies like this. Although they did go that route a little. They built a booby trap!

Mikey: They didn’t, though! The one time someone actually removed her top, it was very specifically off-screen. Mildness! That was a funny bit though, but again it kind of went flat… the whole booby trap sequence was the centerpiece of the movie, and the set-up for it seemed good, but when it actually all went off, it was just kind of blah. I liked when they knew they were in slow motion though.

Solee: That was funny. “Whhhaaaattt’sssss hhhaaaappppppeennnniinnnnnnnnggggg?”

Mikey: That was a part of what kept me interested in the movie: they had this situation where they were inside a movie, which they took further than pretty much any other similar movie I can think of, and I was interested in how the rules of their movie universe worked, and to learn more about it.

Solee: You mentioned the flashback earlier, but I forget to say that I really liked how they did that. The weird pillars of goo dripping down as the flashback took over. That was cool.

Mikey: And it was fun that they exploited that feature to escape from the badguy later too!

Solee: It was a clever idea, at least. It didn’t really work the way they hoped. One of my favorite gags was how they all hopped over the “Summer 1958” lettering. Silliness!

Mikey: Yep, the gist of all the “we’re in a movie” effects was basically taking the normally 2D things that happen on a movie screen (like titling and flashback wavy lines) and putting them into the 3D world they were in. Which was fun.

Solee: Yep. So I have to get a little political for a minute. The whole “only virgins survive” thing is a classic aspect of this kind of horror. But it’s just SOOOO sex-negative and misogynistic. When are we going to outgrow that?

Mikey: Well, they were showing us the ideas of the 80’s, so that could be the movie even if we had already outgrown it.

Solee: Yeah, but they managed to have one of their guys shoot down the classic 80’s gay bashing. And they gave the “mean girl” depth. There were plenty of 80’s things they pointed out and then clearly negated. The virgin thing though … they just ran with that.

Mikey: That’s true. But I’m not sure what else they could’ve done. They could’ve had a male virgin (which I’m sure there was in that group…), as a bit of subversion.

Solee: I was SURE that the film geek was going to end up being a virgin - thus explaining why the bad guy didn’t kill him. But then the bad guy killed him!

Mikey: And he survived it and died again shortly after! But yeah, that would’ve been really fun, and on top of it, it could’ve been a trick: The badguy doesn’t kill him and just walks away, so they all think “Oh, we’re not being attacked because we’re not in the movie”, but then later one of them gets killed because they were wrong about why the geek didn’t die.

Solee: YES. That’s what I was expecting. A little red herring!

Mikey: That would be a more interesting movie! So much they could’ve done to spice this up.

Solee: Yep. This premise and cast had a lot of potential that just wasn’t completely realized.

Mikey: Oh, the other thing I figured early on: every 92 minutes, the movie restarted when they were first waiting by the roadside. I thought the whole movie was going to be a Groundhog Day situation where they would retry over and over until they got it right. That would’ve also been a lot more fun.

Solee: Yeah, they set that universe rule up and then completely ignored it. They could have had them “finish” the movie with the mom alive a couple of times only to have it reset. Then they could have realized that the only way to get out was for her to die. Similar to what they did, but with more build-up.

Mikey: They seemed a little too sure of how things worked at the end. I didn’t even understand the rules like they did, I just went along with it. Oh, and the other mislead about those 92 minutes is I kept thinking “This day is taking a full day for them!” as the movie went on, figuring it should be all accelerated and only 92 minutes total (which I mean, the movie actually was, but they didn’t make it feel shortened).

Solee: There was a missed joke opportunity for them to be jumping from place to place, like the movie jumping from scene to scene. Cutting things like sleeping or peeing!

Mikey: Yeah, they were very haphazard with how cuts and things would affect them - like they all got pulled into this specific flashback (and got all teleported into a corner of the room during a later scene of the flashback), but for the rest of the movie, they’re just living lives as normal, not being jumped around.

Solee: Someone wasn’t thinking very deeply when they made this movie. That pretty much covers my thoughts on this movie. Although I did note that each of the original “movie” characters had a match in the “newcomer” characters. I thought that was cute. And also could have been utilized more.

Mikey: Right, when you pointed that out, I was thinking it was going to mean something important - they were each going to take the place of an original character as the originals died or something. But nope, just a coincidence. I guess it must be time for us to rate this thing!

Solee: I guess so. Before we started this conversation I was pretty sure it was going to get a 4, but talking about it has pointed out just how weak it really was. It was enjoyable and easy to watch, but there wasn’t anything spectacular about it and it could have been a LOT better with a little effort. I give The Final Girls a 3 out of 5. You?

Mikey: You said it! This is an inoffensive easy watch, which isn’t really a compliment. I also feel like that warrants a 3. That might be a little high, but the pleasantness makes you think you don’t want to hurt it. Poor lil’ movie.

Our next film is entitled The Canal and purports to be a mystery with ghosts. Sounds good to me! I hope it’s not a root canal.


Solee: I love mysteries! And you love ghosts! This should be the perfect movie for us.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Pact02:41 PM -- Thu October 20, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Pact (2012)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 5.8/10
Metacritic: 54
Rotten Tomatoes: 65% critics, 41% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 3/5
We watched on Netflix.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: YAY! Serial killer! Squee!

Mikey: Better than Ryan Reynolds?

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

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

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

Mikey: He was. He’s basically you.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mikey: Yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: And Daleks have head-cannons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: GOOD protagonists SHUT THE DOOR when they pee.

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

Solee: That makes me think of Pulp Fiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: She needed an eyepatch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: I like when they get meta and make horror movies about how dumb horror movies are!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Green Room08:38 PM -- Wed October 19, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: That’s some special effects!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Which this movie accurately portrays.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Time to rate Green Room?

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

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

Mikey: But so horrific. Join us again tomorrow for The Pact!
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Needful Things04:14 PM -- Tue October 18, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Mikey: Scream Queens is pretty fun!

Solee: Ehhh. It has its moments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Wait. A lump of toss??

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

Solee: This is classic horror if you ask me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Tomorrow, we shall see Green Room.

Solee: Sounds like a plan.

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Belittling Horror Excessively: i-Lived02:14 PM -- Mon October 17, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Oh, right! I forgot about him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Ugh. The rent. What a jerk.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mikey: I was gonna say that!

Solee: We’re totally geeks.

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

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

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

Solee: Whew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: I guess I won’t know whether it’s a good deal until after we watch.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Amityville Horror (2005)02:23 PM -- Sun October 16, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Amityville Horror (2005)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 6.0/10
Metacritic: 33
Rotten Tomatoes: 23% critics, 52% audience
Mikey: 4/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Hulu.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: You ain’t afraid of no ghost?

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

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

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

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

Solee: Mmmmm….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: They always kill the dog :(

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

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

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

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

Solee: Sounds like a plan. How about i-Lived?
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Belittling Horror Excessively: #Horror01:51 PM -- Sat October 15, 2016

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

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Solee: Haha! Or your husband.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: And that movie will be the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror (Ryan Reynolds again?). Watch with us, won't you?
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Exorcism of Emily Rose02:46 PM -- Fri October 14, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: You object on the basis of silliness.

Solee: YES!

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

This movie inspires long diatribes.


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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: But the movie bought it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Solee: #ridiculous
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Uninvited01:45 PM -- Thu October 13, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Never start a land war in Asia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: 90% of everything is crap!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Oh, valid point!

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

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

Mikey: Yeah, five stars earned fair and square.

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

Mikey: And that will be The Exorcism of Emily Rose, so be sure to join us.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Sympathy, Said The Shark01:51 AM -- Thu October 13, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: HAHAHA!

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

Solee: Agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Great analogy. Yes. It felt forced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: WHA? WHY would you do that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Belittling Horror Excessively: No Tell Motel02:38 PM -- Tue October 11, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mikey: yeah, they were collectively The Worst.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Rocking horses are scary, yo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Haha. Maybe.

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

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

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

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

Solee: This made Hell House look downright cozy.

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Horrorbleness?

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Yes, that will be tricky, because I have no problem sitting through horrible. It’s all fun. Tomorrow we have a movie with an amazing title: Sympathy, Said The Shark.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Kill List08:33 PM -- Mon October 10, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mikey: That was early! And gross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: WAIT. What does MP stand for again?

Mikey: Member of Parliament!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Pizza!

Mikey: And after the pizza, our movie tomorrow will be No-Tell Motel. Join us again, won't you?
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Legend of Hell House05:46 PM -- Sun October 9, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Voices01:25 AM -- Sun October 9, 2016

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

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Why did the cat have an Irish accent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Oh, you don’t know how? Hmm.

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

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

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Belittling Horror Excessively: Holidays03:52 PM -- Fri October 7, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Four stars!

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

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

Solee: Yeah. That one. Things got NUTS.

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

Solee: THAT DOCTOR!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solee: Aliens!!

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Wait, it’s intentional!?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Women’s wish fulfillment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Dreamy!

This conversation also appears on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Witch03:04 PM -- Thu October 6, 2016

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey: Now that the movie's over, how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was pretty much universally wrong. Oops.

Mikey: Were you scared at any point?

Solee: No. This was not a scary movie. I was seriously disturbed by some of the imagery, but in a “Whoa, they really went there” kind of way instead of a “I’m super grossed out” kind of way.

Mikey: What on earth was the witch up to? It’s pretty clear she got youth from the baby, but she wasn’t done tormenting the family at that point. She absolutely drove them to ruin. What was her goal?

Solee: This is a very good question. She’s clearly not a good neighbor. I mean, she IS a witch. I’m sure having to kidnap babies and turn them to facial cream regularly in order to keep her figure is a little hard on the sanity.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - Goodish?
Directing - Good, except the ending
Acting - Good
I want to give the writing a Good, but I was unhappy with the ending. The directing, aside from the screechy bits of the soundtrack, was very good. I was very impressed by the acting.

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: For once I actually have an answer to this question! I would have ended the film one scene earlier. After Thomasin laid her head on the table, I would have rolled credits. It would have left it open enough for people who wanted it to be a witch movie to imagine she ran off into the woods to join the witch, and it would have allowed others to wonder whether it was all in her head the whole time.

Mikey: I felt at the end of the movie that there was something of a theme at play, something a little more universal. This girl had been perfectly innocent and good, but eventually, with everybody demanding she was a witch (and okay, the loss of her entire family as well), she finally snapped and said “You want me to be a witch, I’ll be a witch!” Do you think this was a conscious thing? I can see this element at play with teenagers today: “If everybody’s going to assume I’m up to no good, then there’s no point in even trying to do good, I might as well get the benefits of breaking the rules!”

Solee: I feel like there was definitely an element of that. By the end, she really didn’t have anything else to lose. She certainly wouldn’t have been welcomed back into the village with open arms. I don’t blame her at all for throwing up her hands and going with the flow.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie?

Solee: I give this movie a 4.5 out of 5. I’m glad we watched it, even if it wasn’t scary at all. I’m still thinking about different possible messages and interpretations now, more than 24 hours later. That’s always a sign of a good movie to me.

Mikey: Only when I was prepping this interview to put up did I notice the big discrepancy on Rotten Tomatoes - 91% critics, 55% audience? That makes perfect sense to me. This movie is definitely more for the critics than for horror fans, and I think the previews were a bundle of lies. Not a scary movie.

But come on back tomorrow anyway, to watch Holidays with us. It's an anthology! And here's a little programming note: we're changing the format starting tomorrow. From now on, there's just one "interview" - a conversation between the two of us. It's so much more fun for us, and a lot easier and more interesting for you to read. Everybody wins this Halloween!

But for now, for my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: [REC]07:54 PM -- Wed October 5, 2016

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

[REC] (2007)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 7.5/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: 90% critics, 81% audience
Mikey: 3.5/5
Solee: 3.5/5 (or 1.5/5...)
We watched on Amazon, which cost real live money!


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “A television reporter and cameraman follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.”

For the first time this month, we took the plunge by spending money on a movie. We watched it on a cold, rainy night, and got interrupted by a flurry of phone calls and barking dogs, which kind of killed the flow.

Mikey: A foreign film! How do you feel about that? Obviously this one was dubbed (which we know is a bad thing! Yuck), but what about subtitled ones?

Solee: I like to watch TV while doing something else - knitting, sewing, reading, playing iPhone games - and foreign language films really mess with that. If we set that aside, I am usually intrigued by foreign films in a hesitant way. I blame watching “Burnt by the Sun”, a Russian film that won an academy award in 1995, as an impressionable teenager. American films tend to over-explain everything, wrap up all the loose ends, and give you at least a glimmer of hope to grab onto. Most of the foreign films I’ve seen have been obtuse and intensely depressing. These are not bad things… they just require more effort on my part to watch, so I tend to put off watching them. I am just another lazy American! However, when I do end up watching foreign films I am typically more captivated and more moved than I am with American films.

Mikey: The dubbing was bad, let’s just agree on that because c’mon. How did that impact the experience?

Solee: Oh, it was AWFUL. I wish I could have watched it with just subtitles. The voice-over actors were SO bad and I am concerned that some of the characters came off even more awful than they really were because of the way their lines were translated. I am really not sure if this was a racist movie with racist screenwriter and director or if it was social commentary turned racist through racist dubbing decisions. It definitely lowered my opinion of the movie.

Mikey: But it’s another fine found footage movie! I love em! How did you feel about the verisimilitude here? Was it “real”?

Solee: [For readers who, like myself, are unsure of the meaning of verisimilitude, it means the appearance of truth, likelihood] I’m taking this to mean that you’re asking how realistic or believable the plot was to me. In a strictly scientific, present tense sense, not at all. Zombies are not a thing. I may joke about having a zombie apocalypse plan, but it’s all a joke. In a storytelling sense, I was able to suspend reality enough to accept the premise. I thought the idea of investigative reporting stumbling on something more than they expected more believable than the typical “young adults record every second of their lives” idea most found footage films rely on.

Mikey: You’ve asked me, so I want to ask you: how do you feel about the found footage genre?

Solee: On one hand, I tend to like them because they are a great place to find that pan-across-the-scene-until-something-pops-out-at-you moment that I like (see interview about Paranormal Activity). On the other hand, they are usually super cheesy. There’s a lot of storytelling gymnastics that has to happen to get every part of a story recorded by a character in the story. That is often not done well. Example: you are one of two survivors in a building filled with zombies and you’re STILL hauling a giant camera around with you as though recording for posterity is more important than saving your own posterior. Nope. I don’t believe it. Although I will say it was clever that they made the camera the only way for her to see where she was going at the end. It actually made sense for her to still have the camera pointed at the monster at that point.

Mikey: What we have here is unquestionably a gorefest. I know that’s not up your alley. What’s your official stance on gore, as we’ve already heard you’re okay with it in pursuit of a psychological theme?

Solee: I will literally close my eyes, cover my ears and hum so that I don’t have to see or hear really epic gory stuff. I am much more grossed out by sounds than sights, and this movie had tons of cracking bones, crunching skulls and other icky sounds. It’s not that it makes me feel sick, it's that I feel something akin to pain. My nervous system gets all sympathetic and over-reactive. I have the same problem at the dentist. I KNOW I don’t feel anything, but if I hear the drill, I get just as tense as if I’m feeling the pain.

Mikey: For me, gore is something of a non-factor. If it does bother me, it’s just gross or something I don’t want to see, it’s not “scary” in any sense. It doesn’t really elicit an emotional reaction in me other than disgust. So I want to get somebody else’s perspective, and I have you at gunpoint right now, so I will ask you: does gore work to make things more scary? Is a horror movie accomplishing something when they show gore? Am I missing part of the experience here, or is disgust the only goal?

Solee: I don’t feel scared by gore. I feel turned off by it. It makes me unwilling to watch. I think if a movie has forced someone to turn away from the screen it has failed in its attempt to scare them. In fact, I think if they had violence off-screen, so I had to cover my ears, but I were captivated to the point where I didn’t actually look away, I’d be more scared. I find old Hitchcock films and old episodes of the Twilight Zone much scarier than modern horror films and they almost never had any on-screen violence or gore.

Mikey: It's half-time! Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: This is clearly a zombie movie at this point (something I did not know at the beginning). I know there’s an old lady and a young lady running around upstairs zombified. I know the cop and the firefighter are going to come up zombie any minute. Clearly, the little girl has caught the virus as well, probably from her dog who is the reason this whole quarantine happened. The way mom is carrying her around with her face right up by her neck makes me very nervous. As for what’s coming… things are going to get out of hand very quickly. They always do with zombies. (Why is it that nobody in a zombie movie has ever seen a zombie movie??) I suspect that only one person will make it out alive and it’s very possible that they will bring the virus out with them. I’m very confident. I’m less confident about who that someone will be. I’m predicting either the journalist or the bad-ass firefighter.

Mikey: This movie is very short at an hour and 18 minutes. Did that work in its favor or against it?

Solee: I think it was good for it to be short. I was ready to be done with that movie by the time it ended. Although, perhaps with another 30 minutes they could have explained what they were trying to do with all that attic nonsense.

Mikey: What’s up with gramps? How did they manage to not encounter the oft-mentioned sick grandpa who was said to be lurking upstairs? Or did I miss it?

Solee: If you missed it, so did I. I kept waiting for an old Korean man to either attack someone or wave them into his apartment filled with ancient cures for zombies. Instead, he just never appeared.

Mikey: At the end, this movie makes a turn: it’s a zombie movie, and suddenly it’s a possession movie. That’s a pretty big twist. Did that all make sense to you? Can you explain it to me?

Solee: Nope. I have no idea what was going on there. It sounded like scientists made the zombification happen… but I don’t know what they were trying to do when it happened. I have no idea how the zombie girl from all the newspaper articles got from Rome to Barcelona. And where the hell was the scientist? Zombified, I’d assume, but obviously not in that apartment…

Mikey: After watching the movie, how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was right about all hell breaking loose. I was wrong about anyone surviving or escaping the quarantine. Although, maybe the Korean grandpa made it out?

Mikey: I'm sure he did, he's safe and sound with Claire from The Invitation. Were you scared at any point?

Solee: YES! This was the first movie we’ve watched this season that truly scared me. I was 110% sure the camera guy was going to see a scary face as he panned around up at the top of the attic ladder. I knew it was coming, but it still scared the crap out of me. That was the best part of the whole movie.

The night vision parts could have been scary except that they didn’t feel at all realistic to me. I thought the Patient Zero zombie was pretty creepy looking… but then she didn’t seem to act or react with any consistent motivation. Why was she rummaging through drawers and papers? And why couldn’t she see them if she could see well enough to be looking for something on the table?

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly? It’s okay if you want to re-use good/bad/ugly.

Solee: Writing - Good/Bad
Directing - Good
Acting - who knows? The voice over-acting was atrocious.
I am not sure how to rate the writing, as I’m convinced that the original was very different from what we got. I didn’t like the characters, I found them very static and generic. There really wasn’t much growth from the beginning to the end. In fact, at about halfway through I made the following note to myself: “These are really horrible people. I’m not sure I’ll be sorry to lose any but the firefighters.” On the other hand, there was an effort to make things different at the end… I just can’t tell if it was a failed attempt or a successful attempt that I completely failed to understand. Maybe there’s a cultural barrier at play?
I really wish we’d seen it in the original Spanish with subtitles.

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: There was no need, in my opinion, to get all religious and metaphysical with the story. Scientist messes with DNA. Scientist creates uncontrollable contagious virus that causes dead to attack. Scientist gets eaten. That’s a time-honored storyline and I don’t think it was improved with all the other bits tacked on.

Mikey: Aw, that was my favorite part. This movie has a pretty incredible critical reception, and the audience seems to agree (90% critics, 81% audience at Rotten Tomatoes). For a horror movie, that’s pretty crazy. Where do you see this effect coming from?

Solee: I can’t explain those high ratings except to say that the original must have been MUCH better than the dubbed version. Seriously, it just wasn’t that special. Now I’m questioning my own judgement. Is this a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes? Or did I really fail to get the point of the movie?

Mikey: I'm on that same boat with you. So then how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I have to answer this question two ways.
Personally, I would rate this movie 1.5 out of 5 so that Netflix wouldn’t recommend anything else like it. I did not enjoy watching or hearing all the biting.
If I take my own preferences out of the equation it would rate much higher… maybe 3.5 out of 5. It was a solid story for the most part and I think it did what zombie movies aim to do. It didn’t really wow me, though.

Mikey: I'm calling that a 3.5, because this ain't Netflix! Tomorrow, we will be reviewing The Witch, so come back and check it out. If you missed the earlier link, you can find Solee's interview of me at SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Invitation03:23 PM -- Tue October 4, 2016

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Invitation (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB rating: 6.7/10
Metacritic: 74
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% critics, 71% audience
Mikey: 4.5/5
Solee: 4.5/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.”

Mikey: I'm gonna jump right in the deep end of this psychological horror: Is pain optional? Is it just physical and changeable? Can you beat it with your brain?

Solee: To a certain extent, I believe we can control the pain we feel, both physical and emotional. Some people are better at this than others. I also believe that pain can serve a purpose. Physical pain keeps us from destroying this fragile vessel we call our body. Emotional pain can help us make decisions and provide the contrast needed to get us to truly appreciate the good things in our lives.

Mikey: Speaking of painful, how soon would you have left that party? Or tried to...

Solee: I wouldn’t have gone to that party in the first place! Oh, hey, my ex wants me to come hang out in what used to be my fancy house so that I can see how happy she and her new lover are? No thank you. And I certainly wouldn’t ask my new significant other to go either. Seeing how close-knit those friends were, I can kind of understand him wanting to reconnect with them, but he should have just had his own party and invited them (and NOT the ex or the creepy dude she’s with now).

That being said, I’m afraid that my “Minnesota Nice” upbringing might have kept me stuck in that dinner party until I met a grisly end if I had actually gone. I would like to think I’d have been smart, like Claire, and bailed when things got too sketchy for me, but I would have been worried about insulting the hosts and making my friends think I wasn’t cool enough to hang. Sad, but true.

Mikey: Something I caught just from a brief aside in this movie really was interesting to me: Grief and sadness are backwards-looking emotions that serve no purpose. They don’t plan for the future in any way, they are just a way of ruminating about what has happened previously. Joy and hope on the other hand are completely forward-looking emotions, thinking about the future and planning for it. Obviously we can’t really choose what we feel, but it seemed like an interesting observation to me. What do you think about this? Do you think grief serves an important purpose, or would you skip it if you could?

Solee: We clearly share a brain. I kind of answered this question up above before I saw you asking it here. I think there are lessons to be learned from grief. I also feel that sometimes grief is the price we pay for joy. For example, losing my grandmother was very difficult for me, but that pain was the result of many years of love and happiness with her. I’m willing to pay that price.

I agree about the forward and backward thinking aspects of these emotions. It’s easy to be trapped in grief, unable to move forward. Even when we don’t realize it, unaddressed grief can influence our lives in a myriad of ways. Because of this, I think it’s important to actually deal with grief. Not to give too much of the ending away, but Will and Eden were both pretty messed up in their grief. Will looked much more broken on the outside, but I think he was actually the healthier of the two, because he was facing his grief instead of hiding from it.

Mikey: Half-time analysis! Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I’m confident that I understand what’s happened up to this point. I understand the history of these characters and their general relationships to one another. What I don’t know is where this is all going. The story has been written in such a way that I truly don’t know which direction it will finally break and I will find either way believable. I give the writers props for walking this fine line.

In the very beginning I was 110% sure there was going to be a bloodbath at some point in this movie. Now, I’m not at all sure it will actually happen that way, mostly because I can’t figure out WHY the bloodbath will start.

I am completely confident that I am very uncomfortable at this dinner party and I would like to go home now.

Mikey: Something interesting I felt at the end of this movie was actual relief when the murderin’ started up. I was finally able to relax and stop worrying about it. Did you experience something like this? How did the movie change for you at that pivotal moment?

Solee: Yes! I didn’t think of it in those exact terms, but there was a definite release once I finally knew without a doubt what was really going on. This was by far the most stressful movie of the ones we’ve watched so far.

Mikey: The movie makes no comment on this matter, so it’s up to you: Did Claire get away?

Solee: Gah. I don’t knoooowww! I’m going to say yes, she got away. She was the only one smart enough to listen to her gut and bail and I think she did it early enough that she would have actually gotten away. But there’s a very real possibility her little white car is still there on the other side of that wall with a corpse in it.

Mikey: I declare she's toast. But with the movie over now, how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was so wishy-washy with my predictions that I don’t feel like I can take too much credit for being right about anything. My initial gut instinct was very accurate, but I had given up on a lot of that by half-time. I should have trusted myself!

Mikey: Were you scared at any point?

Solee: I prefer thrillers like this to other types of horror films because I love that nervous, edgy feeling you get when you’re not quite sure whether there’s even something bad happening. (In movies… I HATE it in real life.) I was on the edge of my seat for most of the movie. Once the dying started, there were several moments that made me flinch, but I’m not sure that was fear. I think it was more sympathetic reactions.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - Good
Directing - Good
Acting - Good

It feels very disinteresting to give them all high marks, but I actually really enjoyed this movie. The writing kept me interested all the way through. Nothing really jumped out at me regarding the directing, which I assume means they did a decent job. I would have noticed annoying music or cheesy editing. (I did think the mirror shot was a little “on the nose”, but it also looked pretty cool, so I forgive it.) I thought the acting was pretty good. Usually with horror films you have to watch people to way over-the-top fear. I felt like the fear was authentic. Also, I liked the more realistic ways people died in this movie.

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Hmmm. I can’t think of anything I’d change! I thought it wrapped things up nicely, but left you things to think about the next day. It was exciting, but realistic (within the horror universe). I thought it was very well done. I don’t often say that about horror!

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this one a 4.5 out of 5. Actually, I liked this one. It would have to be something pretty good, like a dinner party with friends, to take me away from it.

Mikey: You can go to the dinner party without me. If you wanna check out my take on this particular dinner party, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

For tomorrow, our movie will finally be [REC], a movie I've been trying to watch for these horror reviews since they started in 2011. Technological advances have finally made it possible (Roku, with its awesome search system across all different movie apps and access to pay-per-view of nearly any movie in history). I'm so glad the dark ages are over.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Shadow Puppets02:00 PM -- Mon October 3, 2016

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Shadow Puppets (2007)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.9/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 22% audience
Mikey: 1.5/5
Solee: 3/5
We watched on Amazon Prime.


An original work by Solange!
IMDB’s description: “Eight strangers with no memories find themselves trapped in an abandoned facility. As they desperately try to find answers and escape, their own Shadows attempt to consume them from the darkness.”

We watched this movie together in the early afternoon on a grey fall day.

Mikey: Spike! You were excited to find a movie with Spike in it, just as I had hoped. What did you think about seeing him be American? How did he do in this movie?

Solee: Yes, I was excited to see Spike. He’s a cutie. He did pretty well in this movie. I thought his character was pretty believable and I only spent the first few minutes pretending it was actually Spike the Vampire in there. I did imagine this movie being done as a Buffy episode, though. That would have been fun.

Mikey: It definitely would've improved it. What did you think of the “science” in this movie? Do you think it’s a fairly accurate representation of how brain swiping works? (Bonus question: why on earth is it “swiping” instead of “wiping”?)

Solee: I think it’s probably harder to “swipe” a brain than they made it seem. If it were easy, it would happen more often. Governments are generally very good at exploiting any technology that comes along in horrible ways and very bad at actually keeping secrets secret for long. That being said, I felt like it suited the story of this movie well and it was believable to serve to move the plot forward.

“Swiping” is a highly technical term. I wouldn’t expect you to understand now that you’ve been swi… I mean… would you like a treatment?

Mikey: Yes, I enjoy my treatments. You are on record as finding this to be a better movie than the last two. Without spoiling your ratings, can you delve into that? What had you hooked?

Solee: I’m a sucker for a mystery, especially when the story offers up clues so that I can feel clever when I notice them and put them together correctly. I liked picking up on the little things like the swiper being used 8 times.

I also enjoy anything that has a psychological aspect. I’ll watch the nastiest, goriest movie if it’s a psychological thriller. Criminal Minds is one of my favorite shows because it’s all about what drives people to do the things they do. This movie had a variety of different personalities all driven by different things.

Mikey: Did the creators just pick the name “Shadow Puppets” because it’s a common phrase with the word ‘shadow’ in it, or does it mean something to the movie?

Solee: I honestly have NO IDEA what that name has to do with this movie. It’s almost like they used a random name generator. So wierd.

Mikey: Halfway in, do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I’m struggling with this because I didn’t take notes and I don’t remember how I felt at the halfway mark. Um… I knew Spike was the big bad. I knew it was going to be a lot of running around and finding people and not knowing who to trust. I don’t really remember where I thought it would end up. I know I was intrigued.

Mikey: Are you regretting your decision to participate in my Halloween Movie reviews yet?

Solee: Not at all! I love trying to come up with interesting questions and seeing your answers. I always like finding out what’s going on that head of yours. And now that I get to answer questions too, I’m even more entertained.

Mikey: Fun for me too! The movie's over. How right or wrong were you about your predictions? You knew Spike was the badguy the moment you saw him. Why?

Solee: There are actually two reasons I accused him right out of the gate. First of all, I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know that the character being played by the most recognizable actor is ALWAYS the killer. Secondly, in these locked room movies, the bad guy always locks himself in with the victims. It’s almost always the first person the protagonist meets. So he was a dead-ringer for me.

Mikey: I'm concerned that you are locked in here with me now. Were you scared at any point?

Solee: There were a few scenes that had my anxiety level on the rise. However, just as I’d really start to get into it, the Mean Girl would make some ridiculous face or scream in some insane way that made me laugh.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly?

Solee: Writing - not quite Bad, not quite Good
Directing - same?
Acting - Badish?

I am having a hard time committing to an answer for any of them. The storyline was interesting, but in a pretty generic way. I don’t really feel as though there was much to make this stand out from any other locked room story. I don’t remember any obviously annoying directorial things like songs or whatever. On the other hand, some of the acting was SO bad that I have to put some of the blame on the director. Or maybe some of those actors were just that bad? The Mean Girl was pretty awful. But some of them were decent - not good, mind you - and I feel bad lumping them all together in the Ugly category.
This question is too hard. I’m moving on!

Mikey: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Huh. So I don’t really remember how it ended, aside from lots more people getting stabbed by shadows. I know there was an explanation as to why they were all mind-swiped. I know who the bad guy was… but I don’t even remember if anyone survived. I guess that says something for the quality of the story (or lack thereof). I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved by changing the climax. I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. The whole thing would have to be rewritten to make that happen. I don’t remember having any real problems with the climax, it wrapped things up well enough to make me think, “Huh. Ok.” It just wasn’t enough to make me mull it over past the ending credits.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie 3 out of 5. It wasn’t anything special, but it wasn’t the worst way to spend a couple of hours. I’d be willing to watch it while folding laundry.

Mikey: Wow, folks... check out Solee's interview, for my more negative thoughts!

Tomorrow, we're watching The Invitation, so watch along with us.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Dead Room07:16 PM -- Sun October 2, 2016

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

The Dead Room (2016)
Rated TV-MA
IMDB rating: 4.7/10
Metacritic: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, 23% audience
Mikey: 2.5/5
Solee: 2/5
We watched on Netflix.


An original work by Solange
IMDB’s description: “When a terrified family flees a desolate southern New Zealand farmhouse, two cynical scientists and a young psychic are sent to investigate their claims of a haunting. There they encounter a powerful spirit that will protect the house's secrets at all costs.”

To set the scene a bit, we watched this movie in the evening, with a full moon hanging over the river. It was dimly lit. I was sick, and Solee was exhausted. I guess we were ready to hit The Dead Room!

Mikey: I think our views on this movie differed more than the usual. Not a fan of the psychic in shortie shorts?

Solee: I was pretty “meh” about the whole film right up until the end, at which point it just became disappointing. I thought her short shorts and thigh high socks were a little silly, yes. She can wear whatever she is comfortable in, but I’d probably wear something with a higher protective value.

Mikey: Hey, ghosts don't shoot guns, we don't need kevlar. We’ve now watched houses haunted in two ways: an invisible ghost in a normal movie, and a visible one in found footage. What’s better?

Solee: I preferred the invisible ghost, actually. I think once a ghost is visible, some of the mystery has gone out of it. Allowing the viewer to imagine their scariest ghost is infinitely scarier than committing to a specific CGI effect.

Mikey: That is always the way. Okay, the “tech guy” in this looked like Ryan Stiles. Would this movie have been better if it were Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie as the ghost hunters? What are some key differences?

Solee: Heck, yeah! I would watch the “Who’s Line” cast redo that movie in a heartbeat! Wayne Brady would make a terrific singing psychic and I’m sure Colin Mochrie would have no trouble with the pompous scientist character. Cheesy horror with a sense of humor is always better than cheesy, taking-itself-seriously horror.

Mikey: I have to admit that would be awesome. Not just a ghost movie, but them literally performing this exact movie for us. So what was the deal with the room of flies? Did you ever notice that door being opened again? Was it just a red herring?

Solee: Oh, this movie… it was just chock full of unfulfilled promises! The room full of flies that suddenly disappeared. The baby crib that was never explained or utilized. The dreamcatcher. The… well, I don’t remember what else, but I know the first act was full of pistols that were never used to shoot anyone in the third act. This is a high crime in writing and I was offended by it.

Mikey: Okay, it's half time! Do you feel like you understand what’s happening at this point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I feel like I understood the gist of the story. Family is scared away mid-dinner by a ghost (which only appeared at precisely 3 am at any point in the movie… why was this family eating dinner at 3 am??), insurance company hires ghost hunters to prove the ghosts don’t exists (because, I guess, there is some insurance payout in New Zealand for haunted houses?), ghost hunters discover ghost and decide to deal with it. Pretty basic, really. I figure the ghost will prove to be hardier than they expect, doing some damage, and then they will chase it off with the pseudo-science the skeptic character was spouting. I’m expecting to learn backstory along the way that explains the room (ahem… the Dead Room?) that clearly has a dead body in it (soooo many flies) and includes something sad about a baby. :( I’m 75% confident that I know, roughly, how this will play out.

Mikey: So confident... The movie's over now, so how right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I was right about how things would pan out. I was very wrong about the backstory. They told us nothing. I find that disappointing, because the whole point of a ghost story is the psychology of why there’s an angry ghost in the first place.

Mikey: Right, this movie didn’t offer any explanation for its ghosts, so now that’s your job. What’s the backstory?

Solee: Well, since there was nothing to indicate that the ghosts were connected to the family they ran off, I’m going to say that they have been in the house for a long time. Based on the outfit, I’d say sometime in the 1800s, the woman was kidnapped by a couple of Really Bad Dudes. They did Really Bad Things to her and drove her mad. The police and a number of the farmers from the area spent a long time searching for her. One of the farmers helping with the search was her fiance, a big burly guy with a heart of gold who loved her very much. The police surrounded the house where the Really Bad Dudes were holding the woman. Frightened, they killed her, but not until her lover heard her screaming for help. He ran into the house in a failed attempt to save her and was also killed by the Really Bad Dudes. The ghost of the madwoman, unable to differentiate between those who hurt her and those who were trying to help her, became extremely dangerous and the ghost of her lover remained by her side, soothing her and driving away all who might fall victim to her misplaced rage. At least, until the ghost hunters expelled him from this realm.

Mikey: Wow, that is a big improvement. I still feel it's not enough to justify what she was like, but I'll take it. Were you scared at any point?

Solee: Not being able to see the ghost through the majority of the film was definitely unsettling. I was primed for jump scares much of the movie but I’m not sure that I was every really truly surprised by anything. I certainly didn’t feel all that attached to the characters. It was obvious that they were going to be ghost fodder, and frankly none of them were all that likeable, so I wasn’t really scared of the emotional impact of them getting eaten.

Mikey: You have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly? It’s okay if you want to re-use good/bad/ugly.

Solee: Writing - Ugly
Directing - Good
Acting - Bad
I’m going to give directing the Good because I liked the way the invisible ghost affected things in the house. The banging doors, jangling light fixtures, etc were creepy and well done. There are several examples of hauntingly pretty shots of the hallway and the front door. The acting gets the Bad because they weren’t able to make me feel like they were real people. If I’m constantly thinking “Yep, that’s what the skeptic would say now” or “No, the psychic wouldn’t react like that” then you’ve failed to make your character more than a stereotype. The Ugly goes to the writing because it’s almost as though there were no writing. They probably could have gotten the exact same movie if the director took a few people who were familiar with the ghost story genre, put them in a creepy house and said, “Pretend there’s a ghost in there with you.”

Mikey: I think that's probably true, actually. I'd kind of like to see that improv movie (or better yet the one we talked about above). Anyway, here's the game: You have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: No question, I would put some backstory in there. I would explain why the woman was tied up in the basement to die. I would explain why her ghost was so angry and why the other ghost was protecting people from her. There’s so much potential there and it’s sad to see it wasted. The ending was nothing more than jump scares, frantic running, and people being dragged off.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie 2 out of 5. If there had been an actual story it would have gotten a 3. If the acting had been even a tiny big worse, it would have gotten a 1.
That being said, it wasn’t all that arduous to watch. I would rather change and wash all the linens in the house that watch this movie.

Mikey: Wow, I think it'd have to be pretty horrifying (like a Hugh Grant romantic comedy) to do that kind of damage to me personally.

Tomorrow, we will be reviewing Shadow Puppets, so come back and check it out. If you missed the earlier link, you can find Solee's interview of me at SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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Belittling Horror Excessively: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension05:26 PM -- Sat October 1, 2016

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Welcome to the latest round of Belittling Horror Excessively! As you may know, each October, I watch a horror movie every day, and write up a review of it. I try something a little different almost every year, and this time we definitely have something new for you... interviews! For the first time ever, I’ve managed to convince my lovely wife Solange to watch the movies with me, and I will be interviewing her for her opinion on each movie. Conversely, she’s going to interview me as well! The interviews of me will be posted on her blog, and my interviews of her are going to be right here (don’t worry, we’ll link to each other). Solee is not a horror movie fan, though she’s also not the type who refuse to ever watch one, but it will definitely give you a different perspective, as I will gleefully watch the worst horror movies back-to-back.

Per usual, you should be warned that these reviews SERIOUSLY CONTAIN SPOILERS. We hold nothing back and will totally spoil every movie we watch. If you care about ever seeing these movies, and you haven’t, then first of all, I’d urge you to go see them. That’s part of the fun! But if you’re not going to do that, I’d recommend not reading the interviews. They will spoil the movie, for sure. They also won’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the movie, as we don’t explain anything we’re talking about.

With that said, here is our first interview. For my thoughts on this movie, check out Solange's post on SoloRien.wordpress.com.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) (#6 in series)
Rated R
IMDB rating: 4.5/10
Metacritic: 30
Rotten Tomatoes: 13% critics, 28% audience
Mikey: 2/5
Solee: 1/5
We watched on Hulu.


An original work by Solange accompanies each review!
IMDB’s description: “Using a special camera that can see spirits, a family must protect their daughter from an evil entity with a sinister plan.”

Mikey: Rather atypically, I am interviewing you about a week after the movie here rather than right away. So I want to get into that: how memorable was this movie?

Solee: I have pretty vivid images of the different rooms being recorded during the dead of night. I also remember how annoying it was when the brother first arrived. Oh, and there was this brief moment when the little girl was floating up by the ceiling having a conversation with Toby and all you could see in the frame were her feet. I think I even rewound to rewatch that bit. I found it surprisingly unsettling. I think it was that she was just up there giggling and being totally chill about it.

Mikey: What did you think of the big Christmas tree in this movie?

Solee: I LOVED that Christmas tree! You know I always want to have the biggest tree I can manage and I’d love to leave the twinkly lights on 24/7 from Thanksgiving through New Years! In this particular movie, the Christmas tree seems to be that constant reminder of normal. As life in that house got stranger and stranger, there was this big symbol of peace and joy shining in the night. It didn’t change the strangeness or protect them from the bad things that happened to them, though, which I think says something.

Mikey: Scary movies aren’t generally considered your thing. Did this one scare you?

Solee: I have always enjoyed the Paranormal Activity movies because I am a big fan of staring at a perfectly normal scene wondering where the scary thing is going to suddenly appear. I like it best when it’s something super subtle, like eyes peering out of a dark corner, that I might have missed. It makes me think about what I might be missing in the dark corners of my own house. Sadly, this movie did NOT live up to the rest of the Paranormal Activity line. The fact that we could see the scary thing coming spoiled all the fun for me.

I know that I jumped several times as things rushed the camera, but I don’t count that as being scared and I think that movies (and directors) who rely on involuntary reactions are being lazy. I remember being worried for the mom as she was leaning into the fireplace. And as I mentioned earlier, I was unsettled by the giggling girl on the ceiling just out of frame. I don’t think I was really scared at any point though.

Mikey: Yeah, I had a similar reaction! During the movie, you said you like when they pan away, pan back, and see furniture on the ceiling. What else is a Paranormal Activity fun-time for you?

Solee: Oh, yeah! I love when the furniture is suddenly rearranged or the drawers and cupboards are all opened in the space of a few seconds. I don’t find blood and guts or dripping beasties as scary as psychological terror. I think it’s because I don’t really believe in ghosts or vampires or swamp things. I do, however, believe that the mind is a malleable thing, easily manipulated into thinking bad things.

Mikey: You know I found Moustache Mike annoying. What was your take on him? You usually like Mikes!

Solee: Mikes are my favorite. But that moustache! And anyone who moves into your house uninvited, hits on your in-laws, and breaks your stuff without remorse is annoying. He was just one of those guys who never thinks about what anyone else is thinking and that is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think I cheered when he and the caterpillar he kept on his lip got eaten.

Mikey: Each time we watch one of these movies, we pause it at the halfway mark (or as close to that as we remember to push the pause button), and each write down our predictions. So Solee, do you feel like you understand what’s happening at the halfway point? Do you feel like you know where the movie is going? If so, how confident are you in your predictions?

Solee: I didn’t really feel confident that I knew what was going on at all. I know I’ve seen all the other Paranormal Activity movies, but I don’t keep things like that in my memory banks, so I felt like I was missing background knowledge that might have made things make more sense. I was pretty sure everyone in the family was going to die and I figured we’d see lots of creepy things happening in the night while nobody was watching. Beyond that, I didn’t have much in the way of predictions.

Mikey: (After the movie ended) How right or wrong were you about your predictions?

Solee: I wasn’t too far off, but considering how vague my predictions were, that’s not saying much.

Mikey: Okay, you have three areas to consider in this movie: Writing, Directing (including editing, music and cinematography), and Acting. Which was good, which was bad, and which was ugly? It’s okay if you want to re-use good/bad/ugly.

Solee:
Writing - Ugly
Directing - Bad
Acting - Bad

I was very disappointed in this movie. The acting could have been worse, but it’s a far cry from good. The directing, as I mentioned before, seemed to rely on throwing things in my face to make me flinch. That might be because the writing was just so very very horrible, though. The characters were unbelievable, the pacing was super slow, and they wandered too far away from the few things I liked about the previous movies.

Mikey: Okay, that’s fair... So now you have no control over the entire movie… except the very ending. What would you change about the climax to make it better? What’d they do wrong?

Solee: Honestly, I don’t remember much about the climax of the movie. I think that says something about how wrong it went. Once the portal opened, I was done. One thing I would definitely do differently: I would have had some kind of explanation wrapping up the connection between the two timelines and explaining a little about what was going on. You decided to veer off the beaten path of the Paranormal Activity canon, Mr Screenwriter, so it’s up to YOU to make it make sense to me.

Mikey: Finally, how would you rate this movie? Since you don’t really care for horror movies, let me phrase it this way: what is the most unpleasant thing you would rather have done than watch the movie?

Solee: I give this movie a 1 out of 5. It was not good. I think I’d rather clean bathrooms than watch this movie again. In fact, it’s going to make me think twice about any future Paranormal Activity movies, too.

Mikey: Ouch!

Tomorrow, we will be reviewing The Dead Room, so come back and check it out. If you missed the earlier link, you can find Solee's interview of me at SoloRien.wordpress.com.
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BHE Reviews incoming!01:59 PM -- Fri September 30, 2016

[First, the forums are still down. Still no ETA, still haven't even started any work on them. I know. It's just how my life is these days!]

As many of you know, every year for many years now I have reviewed a horror movie a day throughout October. It's fun. I likes it. But each year I try to do something a little different with it. And this year, I was surprised to discover my wife was interested in being involved. So what we have for you this year is something entirely new: my wife and I will both watch a movie each day together, and then we'll be interviewing each other about it! It's kinda weird, but it comes with a drawing by my wife, so it's fun. I'll be posting my interviews of her on this website, and she'll be posting her interviews of me on her blog, SoloRien. I'll be linking each day if you want to keep up with the whole thing.

In honor of this auspicious month, I've also modified the site a bit so you can post comments on the journal unregistered. So share your own thoughts!

I'll try to give you a day of warning so you can watch the movie too, as per usual we are going to be spoiling it to high heaven. Especially with this interview format, we need to be free to talk about all the parts of the movie. So if you'd like to watch along (it shouldn't be too hard: nearly everything we watch is available on either Netflix or Hulu... er, at least in the USA it is), prepare yourself tonight with our first film: Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.

Happy Halloween!
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Cheap games!04:02 PM -- Mon September 5, 2016

Hey, I just reduced the prices on all our games by a totally insane amount. The $20 games are now $5 games, Supreme is now $10, and others are even cheaper. Except for Mia's Happy Day, but that's a charity thing, come on dude. This is a permanent change. Enjoy cheap old games that have a hard time running on modern hardware!

And yes, the forum is still down, so you can't actually sign in to make purchases like this go into your Dumb Account if you're not logged in right now... sorry! One thing at a time I guess (and as usual, that one thing is more Growtopia updates).
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Yeah, still no forums, but virtual reality!04:38 PM -- Mon August 15, 2016

Haven't even started. It's been Player Appreciation Week in Growtopia which not only means the usual update launch, but actually significant time every day managing daily releases of the new stuff, and watching for all the potential blow-ups they cause (we did well this time, no major bugs!). On top of that, I am rushing big-time on certain future updates that are majorly complex and need to get done and tested. So I'm not really in a place where I can spend time on the site (surprise, surprise). It is yet another thing dragging on my mind constantly though, if that's any consolation.

In other news, I got the HTC Vive VR system about a month ago! VR gaming is ... hard to describe. It really is something new. I mean, on the one hand it's exactly what you think: you play a game, but the "screen" is all around you. But how that actually works out in practice is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Witness Solorien play Fruit Ninja VR:

Now, when I say it's so new and strange, I'm actually speaking specifically of the HTC Vive. I got one of the Oculus Rift development kits way back when and tried it out for about half an hour, and it was... okay. This is a whole different story. This is what's called "room scale" VR. That means you've got a lot more going for you than just a 360 degree view. There are sensors on the walls (you have to drill and install them! Or put them up on tripods), which track the position of the helmet and controllers, so you really are in a full 3D space. It's not a very big space, mind you (4m x 3m is about the biggest I could get going, and that's not too much smaller than what they claim is the biggest their sensors support), but it gives you enough room to sidestep, crouch, step around things and more. There's a system that shows you a holodeck-style grid when you get too close to the edge of your space, so you don't walk into any walls.

It's really amazing to actually be in that virtual space. It's completely convincing, whatever it may happen to be showing you. You are there. At least as long as you don't run into any glitchiness - sometimes the view will start to jitter, or much much worse, you can end up 'shifted' vertically so you can no longer touch the floor, or you're a little under it. That can make some games unplayable. But glitches have been rare. For the most part, it's just this immersive world.

As you can imagine, with such a small space, your game options are actually pretty limited though. There have been a variety of attempts to get around this limitation with varying success. First, I should note that almost every VR game you can get at this point isn't much of a game. They're all either "My First Unity Project", or if they are professional quality works, they're tiny little tech demos rather than full-blown games. So there's not that much going on, it's really just the experience that's so impressive, not the games themselves.

So with that said, some games get around the space limitations by offering a teleport ability - you can hold a button to aim a target somewhere in the world, and then you teleport to the spot you chose. This works pretty well, actually, but it's not really great for fast-paced action, and it doesn't make sense in most games. It also has a strange effect of almost making you feel like you can't walk - having two different methods of moving around, one of which is confined to a small space, makes your brain just stick to the teleporting one, even for tiny distances (If I could teleport in real life, I probably wouldn't walk much either!). It also requires a sort of arbitrarily amazing technology in the in-game world: "Oh, my character can teleport? Okay". One game, Unseen Diplomacy, has a whole different take that feels incredible (but requires a huge amount of space - more than I could fit in the room you see in the video. I had to put my sensors up in tripods in a bigger room to try it): you explore tiny little rooms, much smaller than your whole VR space, then go through a door into the next room. Then from there, into the next, to the next, to the next. You can explore an infinitely large complex with this system. How? Simple: each room's exit is 90 degrees turned from the last room's. You end up just walking in a circle around your VR space! But what was so great about this was that it really felt like I was traveling through a real world, even though topologically the new rooms were actually in places that previous rooms were earlier. Unseen Diplomacy is fun, but like most VR games, it's about 5 minutes long in total.

There are a million other things I could say about my VR experience, but here's the gist: VR games are in their absolute infancy. You're basically playing Pong (in fact, you can - there are at least 2 pong games I know of for the Vive). But the sensation of doing that in a virtual space is just amazing, not to mention way healthier than sitting at a desk. At this point, it's amazing enough to make it worth your time, if not your $800 (OUCH), but I do hope developers start producing more robust games. It can certainly be done, and I'd love to do it myself one day. Right now people are just beginning to figure out the basics, but as they get their footing, I think we'll see a whole new world of gaming. Not one that replaces traditional gaming, but an alternative that becomes popular in its own right.
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Whither yon forums?08:14 PM -- Tue July 19, 2016

Yeah, you may have noticed our forums have disappeared. It's a complicated story involving outdated technology, and the easiest solution was to put it out of its misery for now. I've had a new website basically finished for at least a year now, but no time to put it up and verify it all works and all that. I've had plans about that, but boy, when Growtopia is an endless stream of minor crises and a huge update every month, and then you have to also live life, which can be a tricky process on its own (I even had to vacuum today! Imagine!), it's hard to dig into something as complex as a database-driven website.

I guess this dead forum is the incentive I need to get to work on that... or at least I hope it is. No data is lost or anything, I'll just install a current version of VBulletin on the new site and migrate the data. Hamumu is heading into the mysterious future! Sometime in the mysterious future.
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Hamumu Revumu: The Warcraft Movie!09:36 PM -- Tue June 14, 2016

As a long long time Warcraft player (Warcraft 1 all the way through, Warcraft 2 probably twice through, Wacraft 3 and expansions at least twice through, and WoW for something like 8 years straight), I had been eagerly anticipating the Warcraft movie for quite some time and checking out all the little hints and teasers as they came up.

When it was near to release (or I think had already been released in China and other markets), reviews started to come in, calling it dull, confusing, and just plain bad. That was about what I had assumed would happen, but there was a surprise in store for me when I went to go see it yesterday!

It was good! I highly recommend it as a movie. I don't care if you are a Warcraft fan or not, I feel like that has virtually nothing to do with the experience. There are a few fun little references for WoW players in there*, but on the whole, Warcraft knowledge is really not a factor. There are a ton of names in the movie I recognized immediately, like Gul'dan, Lothar, and Khadgar, but that didn't really mean much other than that I knew how to spell the names I was hearing. I guess I did have a little bonus fun with things like seeing Stormwind in movie form, but there was nothing that you had to know the game to "get". My wife saw the movie with me and found it equally engaging without knowing anything about it. In fact, she went into it very reluctantly, thinking the idea of a movie from that stupid game I had always been playing sounded absolutely terrible. But she may have even enjoyed it more than I did.

It's not a deep movie, and it doesn't have shocking twists and amazing moments. It's not a cinematic masterpiece. It's just a fun, solid adventure. One of the things I liked best is that it's funny throughout, in a really good and subtle way. I haven't seen Lord of The Rings in many many years, but I feel pretty confident this movie was a lot more enjoyable than any of those were. I really don't understand where the reviews came from, especially calling it dull or slow. It's nothing but action.

I will say the one thing that really pulled me out of the movie every time was a surprise: the CGI orcs were great. Totally convincing (although the fights between them and real actors were pretty weak overall, I thought). All the other CGI was equally great. But for some insane reason, whenever the heroes would go for a journey through the woods, they'd walk through these hilariously bad sets instead of a real forest. Like a dirt floor with a bunch of plants just jammed into the ground every foot or two. I could not understand why they did that. You'd see this amazing CGI landscape behind them, but at their feet was approximately what you see in the average aquarium.

So all in all: it's not groundbreaking cinema (except maybe in terms of facial animation). It's not high art. But it is definitely fun all around. I saw the new X-Men movie 2 days earlier, and I can confidently say Warcraft is a far superior version of almost the exact same thing (a group of superheroes preventing the end of the world... never seen that in a movie before!). Now, it definitely wasn't better than Deadpool, though. If there aren't sequels to Warcraft, I will be deeply disappointed. I'm happy to catch every new one as soon as it comes out, just like the Marvel movies. I can't wait to watch The Lich King movie!

* Some references: a guy gets sheeped at one point, there's a murloc in the corner of one scene that goes "mrglrglrrglrl", and at the very end of the movie, a fishing bobber! Odd thing to be a fun reference, yet it was somehow. Plus all the places they go and most of the characters are straight out of the game.
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More Hamumu Revumus11:14 PM -- Wed May 18, 2016

Lemme just blast through a few games I've played in the last 6 months so that I have them reviewed and can stop trying to remember details (note: I already don't remember details or what exactly I liked and disliked, so deal with that!).

Mad Max
At first I loved this game. It felt like it was gonna be so awesome, and hearkened back to ye olde days of Autoduel on the Apple II (and also Interstate '76, more recently, which I loved the soundtrack to and lost). You younguns won't know about Autoduel, but it was great. You'd kill badguys to get money to upgrade your car and stick guns and flamethrowers out of every side in a top-down murderfest. Delightful.

Mad Max is the same concept, but in keeping with your usual AAA story-adventure-movie game, the RPG upgrades aren't very meaningful since you eventually get them all. The only question is which order you get them in. But it is fun to improve your car and decide how it functions. There's a lot I enjoyed, especially going into the bandit camps and conquering them, one by one. That's always satisfying.

What brings it down from greatness is a few things. The car physics are too real (though not very real at all, I admit) - it's just not that fun to drive, because the car feels heavy and hard to maneuver, and half the time you're skidding out of control. It gets better as you get upgrades (unless you upgrade your armor, which adds weight!), but even at the best it can be, it still isn't the responsive fun arcadey driving I would want to have. That completely put me off of the races you can enter in the game - they were horribly unfun, since the only joy in a race is the driving, which is not enjoyable here. I felt like a game focused around a car should have a fun car experience! I loved firing my harpoons at other cars, but not so much steering.

Also, the fighting suffers similarly - it just isn't as arcadey as it could be. It's the exact same fighting system as Batman Arkham games, only slower (you can't instantly switch from one move to another), which again brings that feeling of slogging through mud rather than dancing around free as a bird.

So all in all, it was close to greatness. I really tried to have a lot of fun (and I did keep playing all the way to the end), but it was just lacking that visceral control joy that you want from a game.

DmC: Devil May Cry
To clarify since it's poorly named, this is the reboot of Devil May Cry, where he's younger and has black hair. It's awesome. It definitely has joyful control funtimes. It suffers downsides in a lot of the same ways as other DmC games I've played - the upgrades are practically meaningless, doing the move you want is difficult and confusing, and the levels are pure railroading from one point to the next. But the actual murderin' is always fun, and I'm always a fun of games that focus on juggling hapless enemies with continuous attacks. Not my favorite game ever, but very enjoyable.

Saint's Row: Gat Out Of Hell
The BEST Saint's Row game ever. This is practically an expansion to Saint's Row IV, and thus is very short, but that's part of the charm. You're not dragging out an endless search for little powerups all over the place, or finding 400 unfun side-games to finish, or grinding out points for all your abilities. It's all completely focused - you get your upgrades, you kill everybody and blow up everything, and you rush to the finish in 4-8 hours. This game is the only one I can remember in the past 10 years where I stuck with it after winning to try to rack up every achievement just because I enjoyed what I was doing in the game. I am 2 achievements short: one for playing co-op, which I won't do, and the other for playing 20 hours. I have 19 hours played, but just leaving it on another hour seems dumb.

It's all about getting insane powers and annihilating everything with them. One of the weapons is the Ark of the Covenant. Another is a recliner with machine guns and missile launchers built in. The best gun is just a machine gun that shoots diamonds and makes everybody you kill explode into money you can collect. Plus you have wings, and one of the most fun flight systems in any game I can remember. It just feels good to run around and fight in this game. Two thumbs up.

Tomb Raider
Not the old one, the new one (not the newest one, but the first in the new series. Clear?). This is a really good game. It's fun to go around and collect all the secret things, and shooting guys with arrows is fun. Stealth is fun. But it suffers from AAA problems like Mad Max does, though not all the same ones: it has that same sort of "we want the animation to look good, so who cares how the gameplay feels" aspect, where you can't act at certain times just because it would mess up the animation (bad idea, developers: let me mess up the animation in order to have fun and feel in control!). It also has the usual problem of playing for 3 seconds and then sitting through a cutscene, again and again. The worst is when your character does things in cutscenes that you could've done in gameplay, like fighting someone or climbing a wall. Why am I watching something I could be playing? And it has the same thing as Mad Max, where the upgrades are meaningless since you eventually get them all - you only choose the order. Let me design a character! Play a role, perhaps even.

All in all, this is actually a really good game, way better than I had expected it to be before playing (I never liked Tomb Raider games in the old days). I would definitely recommend it.

Batman: Arkham Knight
If there is one series, besides Borderlands, that is my absolute addiction, it is the Arkham games. Okay, Diablo too. And Ratchet & Clank. Anyway, Arkham Knight is a clear-cut finale to the Arkham series, and it is a good one. At first, I didn't think so - unlike the previous games, this one really makes you work to get into it and understand how to play. I'm a veteran with probably a hundred or more hours between the previous games in the series and I was still mostly lost for the first couple of hours of this game. It does a terrible job of bringing you into things and teaching you and pointing you toward your objectives. Even by the time I finished the game, I never got used to the awful system they have for selecting which 'mission' you want to be working on.

So, once I did get used to how to play this game, it is what you'd expect: awesomesauce. Batman games are amazing. To be fair, this is probably the worst one, but that still makes it an awesome game. There is a fair amount of really annoying "car platforming" to be done, but the tank battles you do with your car are actually quite fun, for exactly the reason that Mad Max's fun is compromised: they don't care about realism at all, and your car can switch from normal driving mode into this pure arcade tank mode where you can strafe like you're playing Quake. It's instantly responsive, and really fun to control. It's not very "Batman", but I enjoyed it, which is more than I can say for most games when they switch from their normal gameplay to any sort of alternate mode.

There's also a bunch of great "detective work" to do (never enough - I really want a game like this that focuses in on crime investigation instead of fighting and shooting. The time manipulation you do to solve crimes is very cool), a megaton of hidden things to find (I found them all, because you're never done with Batman while the Riddler remains at large), and a lot of fun traditional Batman brawling with all the gadgets. I love the stealth parts as always. The story is also always good in these games, far more so than almost any other video game. That darn Joker, what a rascal! Anyway, it's a truly great Batman game, provided you can figure out how to play it. So that's it. A bunch of big games I played recently and thought you should know about.
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How To Get Insanely Rich Making Videogames04:28 PM -- Tue March 22, 2016

I got an email the other day, not so different from many questions I have been asked over the years. It comes from an aspiring indie, and the details are always different, but the core question is the same: how can I make money making video games? So I started writing an answer, and it got wordy as I tend to do, so here it is for public consumption:

How To Get Insanely Rich Making Videogames*

I only ever worked for a game company for about 9 months at the end of my college years (I would've continued, but they folded!). After that, I had savings to keep me living (very very very very cheaply) for a year or two, so I decided to get in there and crank out a game. I ended up having it published by eGames, and this got me the money to keep going for a while more, while I built up my own website of games that I sold direct to consumers, and still do. I was all-in on indie game development, no side job.

But this is not a story for today. It was before 2000, and the market was unbelievably different. What I did will never work today. In those days, there were people making very good six-figure livings just selling games direct from their website, which is no longer a remote possibility. Everything is done through app stores now and only the top few games on each app store make any real money. It is a nearly impossible market to survive. I was very lucky to be in at the time I was. It just worked out, and even then I was on the absolute brink of bankruptcy right before Growtopia, as the market changed around me. I had calculated my budget and literally would have to decide which of my utility bills to pay if something didn't change within the next 3 months (Growtopia launched before that 3rd month!). I rode a few other waves along the way, making Flash games for sponsorship, and then later flash games for a specific company for pay. Those waves petered out very quickly, and if it weren't for the great luck of striking gold with Growtopia, I would've been done as an indie, forced into a job bagging groceries or flipping burgers.

It is all doom and gloom, sadly - there is no realistic chance to succeed as an indie today. It happens, sure, like it happened with Growtopia or Flappy Bird, but these are the 1 in a million smash hits, and you can't operate your life on the basis that you'll be 1 in a million. You need to plan to be within the middle of the bell curve, and have contingencies for the low end of it. And in the present day, the middle of the indie bell curve is probably around $1000/yr. Statistic completely made up by The Hamumu Institute For Not Learning. It's not a liveable salary, for sure. So what can you do to make it in an industry where the norm is total failure, and the glut of quality games is only growing?

Nothing, really. There isn't a way to survive it except to be one of the smash hits. If the average is not liveable, then you can't live with the average. Which doesn't mean you can't do it, it means you have to do it on the side while something else is sustaining you. Then when you find that smash hit, you can quit your day job and be happy, but until then, it's just hard hard work.

I've never been willing to do that, because I know, from working at a game company, that my energy is completely sapped by a day job and there's nothing left to work on my own project. I know it from Growtopia too - I'd love to be doing other things, like entering 48-hour contests, but my brain is all-in on Growtopia. There's no creative juice left to make something else. I am just a TV and video-game zombie once the work is done. So I have been blessed with unbelievable luck, and coming from a privileged background, to be able to get away with being truly indie the whole time, and just scrape by until I hit the big time with Growtopia.

Brief aside: If you don't like my completely made-up statistics, here's a handy bit of info from Gamasutra: "Fifty-seven percent of indie game developers (including both solo indies and members of indie teams across all pay ranges) made under $500 in game sales." so I was doubling the reality! That article is interesting reading: 6 Key Points From The 2014 Indie Salary Report.

Anyway, while I definitely counsel that you need to have a day job, that it's just not possible to make it otherwise, I do have a strategy to offer: the only way to get one of those smash hits is a huge dose of luck. But luck isn't magic - it consists of being in the right place at the right time with the right game. So my formula for success is very simple: just keep making - and FINISHING and RELEASING - games. The benefits are many:
  1. Each game you release is one more chance at happening to be in the right place at the right time. If a smash hit is one in a million, then once you release 2 games, you're down to 1 in 500,000. And besides, hits are relative - I would've been ecstatic with two orders of magnitude less income than I got with Growtopia. That broadens the range of 'success' by a whole lot. If you have a "hit" that makes you $50,000, that is certainly enough to keep you going for at least a year (or two or three, depending on your location and lifestyle). Just to be clear, $50,000 is not easy. It's still deep into the very skinny nose of the bell curve, and getting worse all the time as the market gets more and more flooded.

  2. Each game you release, you get better at the art of making games. You will do better every time. Not every game will do better - some will flop completely (Mia's Happy Day), while some will catch fire (Robot Wants Kitty). But every time your skills will improve so the quality level will rise, and you'll be inching up that bell curve. You start at the bottom, you know, not the middle.

  3. Each game you release, you get better at knowing what works. Which means your "random" shots at the right time and right place get a lot less random. We made Growtopia knowing that a multiplayer game based on sandbox creativity and social interaction would do well. We did not know how well!

  4. Each game you release is one more game by you, so one more chance to catch a customer who might be interested in your others. Each one boosts up the others. Or it does if you retain ownership of your work and people can see your name and logo on the game! Selling out to a publisher isn't always ideal.

  5. Each game you release is an income stream. Many streams forge a mighty river. In theory. The streams do dry up over time, so you need to keep adding new ones, but I still make money (pennies) from games I made in 1998-2000. That's a long long stream, and with enough games, it adds up to pizza money. That's better than ramen money, anyway.

  6. Each game you release is the phrase I used to start the descriptions of each of these numbers. I wrote this one as a joke but I do want to add a real point: I said "release", not make. A game you don't polish to completion, and release to the public in a way that will actually reach a decent crowd (which today means an app store), might as well have never been made. Releasing is all that counts. Everybody's got the Greatest Game Ever half-made, it's the person who finishes and releases the Mediocrest Game Ever that makes money. And all those benefits I enumerated above, you don't get those without releasing your game. You don't even get notably better at making games until you release games. Because finishing is the hard part, and it's where all the lessons come in. Well, except for the really painful lessons you get after release, when people start to say what they think of your work!
So you are pretty well guaranteed not to get rich quick making games, and you're nearly guaranteed not to get rich in the long term either, but there's a chance. Most importantly, if you keep at it - which means keeping it funded with an alternate job - there's a very good chance that it can become a nice side business. In a decade or two of constant effort.

Just as a final note to help you picture the path to success, Growtopia was (based on quickly scanning my website) my 67th released game, released in exactly the 20th year since my first released game (SPISPOPD!). That's a whole lot of games and a whole lot of years, and I consider myself far beyond lucky that I was able to keep myself afloat for all that time before I finally had that success. Don't rely on luck though - get a real job, you bum.

* You won't.
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Hamumu Revumu: Prototype 1 & 205:03 PM -- Tue February 2, 2016

Prototype 1 & 2

TL;DR: The first one is insanity. The second one is insanely awesome. Infamous-style "superhero smashing up a city" free-roaming 3rd person action games, with tons of leveling up, and a funky little bit of very original stealth.

Kombat Kuality: Both games use roughly the same control scheme, which is sensible and quite playable. It's fun to run around chopping guys up, and your power level is significantly over 9000 - you can literally sweep through an entire crowd of enemies and leave them all chopped in half, or pick up a tank and throw it. The difference is this: in the first game, everything happens at such a ludicrous pace, and so much junk is being thrown at you from every direction, that you can die in the blink of an eye, or completely clear a battle without a scratch. You can be juggled by tank blasts until you die with no chance to escape, or you can dive bomb everybody and level the whole block. You never know until you try, and it is pure chaos and luck. It's pretty fun, but also very frustrating.

In the second game, all of that is cleaned up into gaming bliss. You can still mow down a crowd of guys, and you can still take massive damage, but it's understandable and expectable. The chaos is controlled, the feel is polished, and it is fun.

Story Stupid? The storyline continues on fluidly from the first game to the second, and while it's a little hand-waving just to get through the gameplay, it's also quite interesting and brings up some real philosophical issues. I actually spent a while thinking about the big issue that comes to play in the first game, which I daresay qualifies as a notable twist. It's definitely a video game, not a Russian novel, but I did have Real Thoughts while playing! There's also an element of sucking up peoples' memories as you play, to get little snippets of information building the bigger picture of what this world is like. Some of that is silly, and most of it is extraneous (I didn't need to get the memories of 50 different people who all think "wow, what we're doing here is pretty evil!"), but it does build a world beyond just you smashing up mindless drones.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: Prototype 1 is a questionable game. It's so utterly chaotic and just crazy that I can't even compare it to another game. It's kind of like a Ludum Dare game gone way too far. I couldn't put it down until the end mainly because I just couldn't stop wondering how this ever got released, and had to see the next level it would take things to. It's very buggy, in small ways like weird physics issues, and it's obvious that that's because they just let everything fly and couldn't possibly control everything. It's manic mayhem and I've never quite seen anything like it. You can jump up and down on top of a building until it collapses.

Prototype 2 is amazing. It's one of the best games I've ever played. It's all the ideas of Prototype 1, but smoothed out and polished down into a shining jewel. I think there are a lot of people who don't like this game for how it reins in the insanity of the first game, but I love it. The frustration is gone, but the slicing and dicing and car-throwing remains. It is a beautiful work of art. There is literally one criticism I came up with while playing: there are basically no boss monsters to fight. It's glaring enough that it seems like they ran out of money or something. The final boss could easily have transformed into a massive towering beast, but (spoiler I guess) it remains a human-sized thing for the entire fight. And prior to that, there's only one fight I would really classify as a boss fight (against a big beast), but it turns out to be super simple to defeat, and turns out to be just a regular big enemy you see later on multiple times. Not often, but it really loses the "big boss" punch. Luckily, the regular gameplay is so awesome, you're okay without the bosses.

I bought the RADNet add-on for Prototype 2 (which adds barely anything, but I'll take any more Prototype 2 I can get!) and will be starting over on hard difficulty one of these days. I can't wait to get back to it!
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Hamumu Revumu: Dead Island06:57 PM -- Wed January 20, 2016

Dead Island

TL;DR: Fun action surviving the zombie hordes and leveling up!

Gameplay Gist: Well, you run around a zombie-infested tropical resort, bashing in skulls (there are guns eventually, but even then, you mostly beat things with a stick), finding and crafting better weapons, and leveling up and increasing various skills. In a way, it's just a dungeon crawler with a coat of tropical zombie paint over it, but the nature of zombies and the modern technology changes things in various ways. It's definitely all about completing those quests.

Kombat Kuality: Thinking back, I'm not sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The fighting is actually pretty awkward. There's also an advanced control scheme available where you can directly aim your swings, but I tried that for about 30 seconds and turned it off. It's bad. Anyway, it's all quite simplistic without that - you just take your swings, aim for the head, and step back before you get bit. That's how it goes for the entire game, with just a few alternatives like dashing in and tackling a zombie, or triggering your Rage Mode to go nuts temporarily and punch their heads off. There are also special situations, like tossing a propane tank into a crowd and shooting it, or the various special types of zombies you have to handle in a different way. Somehow it just never got old even though I can't think of anything super interesting about the combat. You're always listening for that roar in the distance that tells you there's trouble.

Story Stupid? It's alright. The whole thing's a bit of a comic book as usual, but you're one of the very few people who are immune to the zombie virus, and you're trying to be a hero by helping people who are trapped in various places in the resort. Of course there are human villains and a government/military conspiracy, and a super-zombie (everybody loves those!). Pretty much everything you expect from a zombie story.

Wrapid Wrap-Up: I had been hesitant to get into this game from off-hand comments I had heard about it, but when I gave it a shot, I was very pleasantly surprised and totally hooked. Like I said above, I'm not entirely sure what the appeal is, but somehow it just works for me. Trying to collect items from all over, making forays into different areas, trying to combine quests so you don't have to make too many such forays, combining junk into super weapons, and clocking dead people in the head. It's just fun. There is enough variety in the situations and packs of zombies you encounter that you're constantly having to change up your strategy and pulling different tricks, and being surprised pretty regularly. Like walking around a corner face-first into an suicidal exploding zombie. The danger level is always just enough to keep you on edge and looking out for the energy drinks that are strangely scattered everywhere (and more strangely have a magical healing effect). I liked it all so much that I played all the way to the end, and then I started up Dead Island: Riptide almost immediately.

I did make the mistake of trying the new punching-focused character in Riptide, and I have to say I gave him a shot but I need to set him aside and try somebody else, or I think I might end up hating the game. Getting in close enough to punch a zombie is not fun. But other than that, my note on Riptide so far (a couple hours in) is that it's just about the same game, but improved in every way. Lots of really nice tweaks to spice it up.
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Growtopia 201603:40 PM -- Sat January 9, 2016

Where is Growtopia going in 2016?

You may have noticed the massive new update in Growtopia yesterday (or you haven't noticed it's massive, since many of the items are undiscovered...). In total, there are 29 new items added. Previously the goal for an update was around 10 items, but we did an update every 2 weeks. The new plan moving forward in 2016 is to do a single update each month, released as close to the 1st of the month as possible (this month was a problem because Apple shuts down for the holidays and we were transitioning from the every-other-week updates), so that each month has a 'theme' of its own, one major update which contains things you may not find right away, or may not even be obtainable right away (such as Carnival, Comet, or Locke items), so that as the month goes on, you piece it all together. There's also of course some items and changes to whatever holiday happens to occur during the month (Anniversary Week, in this case. Happy 3rd birthday, Growtopia!).

So what is the big idea here? We got more items this month than we would get in a typical month - on average there'd be 2 updates in a month, which would be an expected amount of 20 new items. But it was also easier for me to do. By doing a single big theme (Steampunk this month) instead of two smaller ones, it's much easier to make a variety of items. Previously I'd have to stop myself - "Oh, that's enough Adventure items for a pack, I have to move on to the next theme". And oh mama were there so many themes!! But now I can go crazy and put in all the things I'm thinking of. Or maybe not - there are actually a lot more potential items for the steam system, and I think I'll be adding them every so often, making it more and more functional. Maybe one day you'll be able to program your own games inside Growtopia, on a steam computer. Anyway, this new system of 1 big update per month allows each update to be fully fleshed out instead of just dipping your toe into a theme.

The other big benefit is that each update can be very meaningful. You're not going to see a month of "assorted random items". This month we introduce the powerful new steam technology, next month it's... well, you'll see. But it's an entirely new gameplay element again. I know what I'm adding in July and that's fun and different, and I have one other big idea definitely to come this year. I can't promise I have (or will come up with) 12 big game-changers like steam machines, but I do have a lot of big ideas, and if there isn't something game-changing in a month, at least there will be a big meaty update!

And the last benefit is just for me: even though it's more stuff for you, it's still less work for me! And it's more fun. I get to work on t