2016

The Void (2017)

Practical effects hold a very special place in my heart. Among my first horror movie experiences were John Carpenter’s The Thing, the 80’s remake of The Fly (mmmm, Jeff Goldblum), and The Evil Dead, and their outstanding effects work have eaten their way into my brain and have never left. I’m a firm believer that when practical and make-up effects are done right, they surpass anything you can do with a computer and a green screen.

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The Void is a Canadian (woo!) body horror/ cosmic horror/ throwback horror flick from Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski, who are responsible for the purposefully-bad movies Manborg and Father’s Day. They know their way around ’80s schlock and are adept at creating throwbacks and homages to the movies and scenes they love.

This movie takes place in an unnamed small rural town, where local cop Daniel comes across a bloody man stumbling through the country roads while on patrol. After bringing him to the local, semi-defunct hospital, Daniel’s problems start multiplying like deranged rabbits. A pregnant teenager coming to the end of her term in the waiting room. Two manic men brandishing guns storm into the hospital looking to kill the man Daniel just brought in, spewing nonsense about monsters and occult magic. Multiple hooded figures, possibly cultists, begin surrounding the hospital en masse, clearly waiting for something. Pretty soon, one of the hospital’s nurses begins acting completely deranged, killing a bedridden patient and then clipping her skin face off before erupting into the bubbling bulbous monstrosity of flesh, appendages, and orifices.

And then things get bad.

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

2016 was a big year for horror movies about people being held in one location against their will. Green Room, Hush, and 10 Cloverfield Lane all featured our protagonists caught in a pickle, stuck in a room or house trying to escape. I’m always interested in one-location films because I love to see how the filmmakers work around only having one type of location available to film in. It’s harder to make your movies more engaging when you can only work with a bunch of dingy rooms in an old house, so when they pull it off it elevates the film to something a little more special for me. When I heard that Fede Alvarez (director of the 2013 Evil Dead remake, which I love) was going to be making another horror film set mostly in one house, I was totally sold.

mv5bytkyzthhodmtowyyns00ytc4ltlkytetymi3ytvknmyxmwyzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjk1mjkyodu-_v1_Don’t Breathe is Alvarez’s second full length film, and sees him pairing up with Jane Levy again as his leading lady. Levy played the drug-addled Mia in Evil Dead, and returns in Don’t Breathe as Rocky, a young woman in a broken family trying to escape her shitty life in Detroit with her younger sister. Rocky, her boyfriend Money (played by Daniel Zovatto who was Greg from It Follows, and yes, Money is the character’s real name) and her friend Alex played by Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps, Prisoners) break into houses and sell off whatever valuables they can steal to get by. Alex’s father works for a home security alarm company, and Alex takes advantage of his knowledge of the security systems to help their burglaries go off with out a hitch. After finding out that a blind war veteran (Stephen Lang)  came into a large amount of money after his daughter was killed in a car accident, our intrepid band of deplorables set their sights on his house for what could be the last heist they’ll ever need to pull.

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The Big Short (2015) & Arrival (2016)

Let’s take a break from the Halloween madness that’s been going on here on the blog and move towards adult films. No. Not, like, porn. Like, films with more mature themes than dumb slasher flicks. Okay, mature themes still sounds like porn, but I swear they aren’t porn. Just, screw it. I watched The Big Short a while ago and never wrote about it, and I saw Arrival in December.

The Big Short (2015)

mv5bndc4mthhn2etzjmznc00zdjmlthiztgtnthly2uxzwmznjdkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndk3nzu2mtq-_v1_sx640_cr00640999_al_The Big Short is a drama based on the true story of a small group of people in the financial industry who predicted the housing crisis of the mid-2000s and tried to play it to their advantage. It stars Christian Bale as Michael Burry (the most metal hedge fund manager ever), Steve Carell as Mark Baum (just serious Steve Carell), Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett (a bit of a sleazey salesman, but still my bae), and Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert (an eccentric, retired trader).

I honestly really liked The Big Short. I’ve never found a subject like the housing crisis an interesting topic of conversation (let alone a movie), and the folks behind The Big Short understood that I sat in the majority  with that opinion. They managed to make a fun, lighthearted, and still effective drama about a couple of dudes who wanted to play the major banks and make a ton of money. While there was a cast of protagonists, there was still no clear cut “good guy” throughout the movie, but the writing was pretty heavy-handed when trying to establish the big name banks of the United States as the “bad guys”.

The constant celebrity cameos and fourth wall breaking were a nice touch to keep things speeding along pretty quickly despite a running time over two hours. My only complaint with the hyperstylized non-narrative bits (and the fact that this movie focuses mostly on high rolling business folk) felt very much like a carbon copy of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which only came out two years prior.

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I also really enjoyed the ensemble cast of the film, particularly because their characters were all of different moral fibers and had different motivations throughout the film. A few of the characters actually never interact with each other, which is nice, because going in to this movie, I thought it would be a big financial superhero team up where a bunch of fund managers fight off the big banks. I also enjoyed how the film focused on these characters interacting and reacting to the plot of the housing crisis, and didn’t get muddled by becoming a personal drama. Once the results of the plot unfolded, the film ended. I’ve got to commend The Big Short for being  a tight little drama that stayed fun, engaging and interesting despite it’s heavy subject matter. This is definitely in my list of favorite movies from 2015, I would highly recommend it.

Arrival (2016)

mv5bmtexmzu0odcxndheqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mde1oti4mzay-_v1_sy1000_cr006401000_al_Flipping 180 degrees from a realistic drama about one of the most crippling financial crises in Western history to a mind-bending sci-fi drama about aliens landing on Earth, Arrival stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and was directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicaro, Enemy), one of the best directors working today. Adams and Renner play linguist Louise Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly respectively, who are called to action by the U.S. military (Forest Whitaker plays Colonel Weber) after twelve mysterious space crafts have landed across the globe. Banks and Donnelly are in charge of developing and establishing communication with the aliens on board the ship to determine their motivations. They’re racing against the clock though, because not every nation is keen on making scientific inquiry with these visitors, and global tensions rise by the minute.

It’s so exciting to see really interesting, restrained sci-fi coming out. As much as I like space schlock, neat, coherent, intelligent sci-fi flicks always have a special place in my heart. While I would consider this a kind of alien invasion film, don’t get your hopes up for  Arrival to be Independence Day 3. A large portion of this film is dedicated to Louise and Ian learning to communicate with the aliens and learning their language. Only near the end do things start escalating quicker and quicker before the movie takes off with one of most interesting conclusions to a story arc I’ve seen in a long time.

The acting was superb in Arrival from everyone, and the great sets, effects, and score helped keep me immersed for the whole thing. I got lots of Under the Skin and 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes from the way certain scenes were shot, particularly the sequences inside the alien ship. The haunting and almost ambient music sounded almost like the film was scored by Sunn O))), and the monolithic design on the ship paired with the unexpected design of the aliens made for a pretty unsettling experience whenever it all came together.

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Similar to Enemy, Arrival is a little open ended in the way you can interpret it. It’s definitely a movie that benefits from repeat viewings, with lots of little, subtle hints in the script and screenplay that all work together like clockwork to help keep the movie as neat and clean, yet as deep as possible. One of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen in a long time, and one of my favorites from last year. Check it out as soon as you can.

-David

Fender Bender (2016)

2016 is was an interesting point in the timeline of slasher movies. We’ve seen the rise (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, Friday the 13th) and fall (Jason Takes Manhattan, Silent Night Deadly Night 2) of the subgenre in the late ’70s and ’80s, its revival and the introduction of the meta-slasher in the ’90s (Scream), then the shortlived wave of slasher reboots in the mid 2000s, and finally the meta-meta-slashers (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, The Final Girls) of the later 2000s and the 2010s. Turns out after 40 some odd years of masked dudes killing people with every sharp, blunt, and pointy object known to man, the one blood-filled well has run dry. Or has it?

mv5bnzmxodi1mjctotayoc00ngfilwjmotktytzmogi5ymi3ztkzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzmyodaznw-_v1_sy1000_cr008701000_al_It has. Fender Bender is a slasher film written and directed by Mark Pavia (slightly known for his rendition of Stephen King’s The Night Flier), starring Makenzie Vega (The Good Wife, Saw, and Sin City) and Bill Sage (a throwaway character in American Psycho). You know you’re in for a treat watching a movie with such a distinguished horror pedigree.

Fender Bender follows Hilary, a young woman who gets into a small car accident in her mom’s new car. After exchanging insurance information with the man who hit her, she suspects him of following and stalking her and her friends over the weekend when her parents are away.  Stalking turns into murderin’, and Hilary’s got to fight for her life if she wants to survive.

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La La Land (2016)

Whoops, I guess I lied when I said I won’t be going to a theater anytime soon. Turns out I’ll be going out to the movies more times in December than I have all year. My family makes a tradition of going out to watch a movie on Christmas Day, and this year we were torn, so we all got together and watched the trailers for a handful of new releases and then voted on which we’d want to watch. The options were Sing, Moana, Lion, and La La Land. Based on the title of this post, I’m sure you’re smart enough to deduce what we ended up seeing.

mv5bmzuzndm2nzm2mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwntm3ntg4ote-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_La La Land is the third full length film from writer/ director Damien Chazelle. “Hmmm… Damien Chazelle, how come that name sounds kind of familiar?” I hear you say. Maybe it’s because he wrote the cartoonish Grand Piano, or the dour and intense 10 Cloverfield Lane. Maybe it’s because his last directing effort was a little movie about drumming and throwing chairs called Whiplash. Chazelle has only been on the radar for a handful of years, but apparently he’s only able to crank out the hits.

La La Land is a very simple movie with a very simple premise. Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist aspiring to own his own jazz club and keep jazz alive and thriving in the L.A. scene. Emma Stone plays Mia, an aspiring but struggling actress who is trying to navigate her way through the Hollywood minefield to make a name for herself. They meet, and fall in love. Life ensues.

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Shin Godzilla (2016)

mv5bote4mjdlztqtmguwms00zdhklthinwutzdc3nzyxmgezzmfhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntk0mzmzoda-_v1_sy1000_cr006521000_al_Shin Godzilla, a.k.a. Shin Gojira, a.k.a. Godzilla Resurgence (not to be confused with Independence Day: Resurgence) is the latest Godzilla movie to stomp its way into the box office. You may be a little confused about this film since you probably haven’t heard of it. There’s a bit of a special reason for that. Toho Co. Ltd. is the company that started it all over sixty years ago with 1954’s Godzilla and finally, after the Americans’ shaky run with the series, the reins have been passed back over to the masters to continue the Godzilla franchise they way it was intended. Shin Godzilla is currently under limited release in the United States and Canada, showing on less than 500 screens for one week only. I don’t know if Toho plans on making a full wide release in North America or not, but for the time being, you’ve only got a couple more days if you’re interested in seeing this newest slab of kaiju cinema.

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Sinister (2012) & The Witch (2016)

Sometimes I don’t want to write 1000 words on one movie, so I’m going to start a new series of posts called Rapid Rambles where I’ll rattle off about a couple movies just to get my thoughts on intangible internet paper. Since it’s October it’s time for spooky movies. Now, because my friends and I are nerds we’ve been having horror movie dates every weekend for a few weeks now, but now that Halloween season is officially upon us it’s time to ramp up the scares and dive head first into the macabre. Today, I’ll be babbling about a movie I really liked, and a movie I really didn’t. (more…)