Monday, January 14, 2019

Six Six Six Scary Movies in 150 Words or Less

I've gotten woefully behind on reviews again (the eternal drum-beat!), nowhere moreso than with a pile-up of horror flicks I've tried to catch up on as the year of 2018 ended. So here are six (natch) quick takes on six (natch) horror or at least horror-adjacent flicks...

The House With a Clock in its Walls -- It's really strange to realize that Eli Roth has now directed a film starring Cate Blanchett, isn't it? And I say that generally as a fan of Eli's work, a stalwart defender of both Hostel films. Do you think Cate sat down and watched Hostel II at some point to familiarize herself with her director? Maybe she's a secret Torture Porn enthusiast! I could totally see that being true. As with all of our great actors she's got a hint of madness in her eyes - it's not too far a stretch to picture Cate getting stoned and cackling as the infamous leg shaving scene happens in Cabin Fever. Does it seem as if I'm avoiding talking about The House With a Clock in it Walls? Yeah you ain't mistaken. Snooze, next. 

Unfriended: Dark Web -- Don't ask me how this franchise turned out actually pretty good, but here we are two movies in and the Unfriended movies have legit burrowed under my skin two times now. (Here's my review of the first one.) This one, as ever the case with horror sequels, feels the need to expand outward from the first one - speaking of Hostel II it kind of has the feeling of that, with a vast conspiracy of crazies (or... you might say... a Dark Web) turning tech on its dumb-dumb users. But conspiracies of crazy people are almost always fundamentally scarier to me than demon possession or ghost infants and this army of hooded google ghouls (Goo-Ghouls?) shiver me timbers. It's clever and mean enough to make you need the lights on later.

The Housemaid -- Jump-scares don't normally get me but there are a couple of fun jump-scares in this atmospheric South-Korean-directed Vietnam-set ghost flick that got me; mostly though it reads as kind of a wan mash-up of The Handmaiden and Ju-on. It's also comically unsexy when it thinks it's being sexy - there are a whole lot of humping scenes in here that're about as hot as swamp butt on a first date. It also suffers from hot fits of non-sensical plotting a la Karyn Kusama's Destroyer that only make sense at the end of the film, but which un-do the viewer's goodwill before the time you get there. You're so irritable at people doing what seem like dumb things at the time that it's hard to work up a care once their actual motivations get unfurled.

New Year, New You -- Not as glimmeringly unnerving as director Sophia Takal's 2016 film Always Shine with Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald was (here's my review of that) but, well, that starred Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald, after all. But Suki Waterhouse fares better here than she did in The Bad Batch I thought, and Mr. Robot's Carly Chaikan as her former teen tormentor turned lifestyle blogger is insidiously awful (thats a compliment - she's meant to be). Best in show is probably Melissa Bergland as the malleable hanger-on willing to go full psycho for web sensation status. Still I was a little turned off by the pile of dead lesbians by film's end, and the constraints of its format - this is a 90 minute episode of a Hulu anthology series Into the Dark - stay felt.
Apostle -- Starts out weird, gets way weirder - it's always a treat to see Michael Sheen (full stop) getting his nuts on (fuller stop) and his gig here as an old-timey preacher-man gone full woodland cult psychotic is a bonanza of bearded bug-eyed fun. The presence of Dan Stevens confusedly skulking about brings with it a whole meat-sack of reminders of his superhero TV series Legion though - these're both projects that often get lost up their own gobbledygook, and the more out-there their shenanigans the less invested turned my attention. Still it's kind of Baskin lite starring movie stars and, uh, that in itself is so crazy you can't help but be a bit impressed. 

Bird Box -- Our culture's become so infinitesimally fractured that we leap at any opportunity for something approaching a shared experience - anyway that's the only reason I can come up with for why this silly un-scary mash-up of ten things better things before it became such a meme generator and topic of conversation. Once we knew Netflix's numbers we grasped for what we could! Sandra Bullock does what she can - she is Sandra Bullock for a reason, after all - and there are lots of names here I have no doubt that Netflix's algorithms know we love watching (John Malkovich being John Malkovich! Tom Hollander being Tom Hollander! Trevante Rhodes... call me!) but like that SUV in Sarah Paulson's fickle hands it all just sort of crashes into the sky.


paul said...

i thought The House with the Clock in the Walls was fun. it's definitely a kid's movie, so maybe it just didn't have enough scares for you? I would put it next to Mary Poppins Returns.

Johnnie said...

I saw Apostle - it seemed as though the story was old and not fresh. I did enjoy the plant woman though as an old god of sorts.