Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Movie Roundup #13: This Is The End

So we’ve finally come to the end of this tumultuous, rather terrible year. I’d say I’m happy, except I think the next four years have the potential to make 2016 look like child’s play. The silver lining? Some really great horror movies came out this year, and I bet we’ll have enough nightmare fodder for many, many more in 2017. So that’s sort of a silver lining if you like being scared all the time (I do, though I prefer my scares to be fictional).

To be completely honest, I temporarily lost my taste for horror movies over the last couple of months; I think real life became so horrifying that it made it difficult to willingly subject myself to anything even remotely gloomy. Luckily I’m bouncing back, if gradually. Even so, I’ve missed some of the most lauded horror films of the latter half of 2016 (The Eyes of My Mother, Under the Shadow, The Wailing). Hopefully I’ll get to those soon, but because I feel like I’ve missed a lot of goodies, I’m refraining from doing a best-of-2016 post this year. Apologies, but I would love it if readers would leave their personal favorites of the year in the comments.

So this is my last post of 2016 – but I promise to be back with a vengeance come January.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016). Everyone is raving about this one, and for good reason. It’s an enigmatic, suspenseful, original little slice of horror that’s a joy to watch unfold. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have great chemistry playing father and son; as things get worse and worse, we see them confront challenges in tandem with an unspoken rapport that seems entirely authentic. The story is mostly confined to the morgue and these two characters, so that chemistry is essential. But even Jane Doe (played by Olwen Kelly, who used yoga techniques to contort her body and control her breathing) made a lasting impression without ever speaking a line.

Trash Fire (2016). I haven’t seen this movie getting a lot of love from the horror community, but I absolutely adored it. The cast of unrepentantly horrible characters is totally my cup of tea, and Adrian Grenier, Angela Trimbur, and Fionnula Flanagan all knock it out of the park as deeply unlikeable, selfish, neurotic people. I also love the strange roles AnnaLynne McCord has been trying on recently in movies like this and Excision. The ending of the film is a bit underwhelming, but at the same time it seems like it couldn’t possibly have ended any other way. The ending is inevitable, final, and probably the best-case scenario if we’re being really honest.

Always Shine (2016). This is another under-the-radar one that I really enjoyed. Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald are both excellent as actresses attempting to resuscitate a friendship that’s been all but destroyed by jealousy and insecurity. But it’s Davis who steals the show as the less successful (but technically better) actress who seems typecast as the angry, aggressive sideshow in her own life. It’s a fascinating, somewhat depressing depiction of the many ways women are expected to contort themselves to “fit” in this world.

The Monster (2016). I wasn’t as taken with this as I hoped I would be, considering it’s directed by Bryan Bertino. I suppose my expectations were misplaced, though; I was hoping for a slow-burn suspense, much like Bertino’s The Strangers, and what I got was a full-on monster movie. That’s just my fault for not taking the title at face value. Even so, I never felt fully immersed in this monster-flick-slash-mother-daughter-drama; the two elements felt a bit too cobbled together, and the many flashbacks only served to take me out of the present story. Not a bad movie by any means, but not one I think I’ll remember.

Evolution (2016). This was weird and beautiful, but possibly too weird for me to fully enjoy it. I don’t know. I generally like small horror movies that are billed as “folk tales” in whatever respect, but folk tales usually have a moral to them and I’m not sure what this movie was trying to say. I don’t know if I didn’t get this movie or if it didn’t get me, but I think we’ll just have to agree that we’re both great and we need to see other people in order to be fully appreciated.

Pet (2016). This is pure trashy exploitation, and fun enough if you let it be. That’s really all I can say about it. A good midnight movie, assuming it’s free.

Blair Witch (2016). I wanted to like this, I really did… but I did not like this. I’ve said it all before, but most found footage horror movies are so painfully generic, so painfully beat-by-beat familiar, and this one is no exception. It just read like an amped-up version of the original Blair Witch Project, stripped of its realness and suspense. I will say that the tunnel scene with Lisa had me curled up in a ball (claustrophobia!), and the weird way time morphed in the woods added an interesting element, but I wasn’t crazy about anything else in this reboot/sequel.

Morgan (2016). I think I called it on this one. Morgan is fine, albeit entirely predictable and a bit nonsensical (someone is going to need to explain Paul Giamatti’s character’s motivations to me if I’m ever going to be able to like this movie). Anya Taylor-Joy deserves better. Hell, the entire cast – Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kate Mara, Rose Leslie, the aforementioned Paul – deserves better. These people are too good to be in something so basic.

When the Bough Breaks (2016). Let me preface this by saying I love Single White Female, the Lifetime channel, and all 90s-esque thrillers. This movie ticks all three of those boxes, because although it’s not technically any of those things, it could easily be any of those things. A cheesy fun time (but yes, objectively Not a Good Movie).

Yoga Hosers (2016). To be fair, I only watched the first half hour of this. Thirty minutes in, I’d reached my limit on bad accents, wooden acting, and cringe-worthy references to teenagers and their technology. I hoped it would be endearing, but it was definitely just annoying. Weirdly enough, it kind of made me want to revisit Tusk (an impulse I will surely regret). I hate to hate on Kevin Smith – Red State is my jam – but this was insufferable.

What have you watched lately? What were your favorites films of 2016? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Women of the Apocalypse

Sometimes it starts with a bang.

The Divide (2011)
Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Other times, power is given up willingly.
So slowly, you don't even notice it happening until it's too late.

The Purge (2013)

But it always plays out the same. They take…

The Divide (2011)

…and they take…

The Walking Dead (2010)

…and they take.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

But we’re stronger, because we have to be.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

So we fight.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
28 Days Later (2002)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Stake Land (2010)
Planet Terror (2007)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Into the Forest (2015)
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

And we don't stop fighting.

So far, this is the most I've been able to cobble together as far as "feelings" about the election go. I'm trying to focus my efforts mainly offline and in the real world, but I encourage everyone to stay informed, and to donate as much time and money as you can towards the causes you care about. If ever there was a time to stand up for what you believe in, now is it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

#31HorrorFilms31Days Roundup

This was a less exciting Halloween than past years: There were hardly any new movies coming out to anticipate (in fact, all the movies I'm hyped up for seem to be coming out in November and December this year, which is a little odd), and the election season has been kicking my ass and making life generally unpleasant. I'm pretty much living for November 9th, when I hope America will start its slow and painful transition back to sanity. But I digress.

The sad truth is that I failed the #31HorrorFilms31Days challenge - for the first time in years! But I still feel a duty to exhaustively detail and analyze everything I did watch, so. Click here to see all the movies I watched on Storify, or just read about the highlights here. Although I spent a lot of October enjoying old favorites (The Shining, Misery, Arachnophobia, Idle Hands, The Craft, Dawn of the Dead, etc. etc.), there were some new films, or at least new-to-me films, that I also liked. Some trends and a few recs from my month of viewing:

Vampires. I watched a fair amount of Anne Rice this month - more than I've probably watched since I was a teenager. Although Queen of the Damned was just as cheesy as I remembered, I really liked Interview with the Vampire (which I'd never seen before!), and another vampire flick from director Neil Jordan, Byzantium. I recommend them both, but Byzantium was really a standout of the month for me.

Mind benders. I've been reading a lot of this blog lately, and the author turned me on to several mind-bending scifi/psychological/horror films. Circle, They Look Like People, and Containment were all recs from that site, and I enjoyed them all to a degree, though Circle was my favorite of the three. (On the non-horror front, I loved Z For Zachariah, another rec.) On this same wavelength, I feel I have to mention that I also watched the third season of Black Mirror in October and really, really liked it. My standout episodes were the same as basically everyone on the internet (San Junipero, Playtest, Nosedive, in that order), but it bears repeating because they were really great.

Old favorites. There were lots and lots of oldies-but-goodies, but allow me to mention a few of the lesser-discussed ones. Mother's Day is a horror remake I never hear anyone talk about, and maybe that's fair... it's not a huge standout in any respect, but it is solidly entertaining. Delightfully nihilistic and nasty, and featuring a performance by Rebecca De Mornay (who plays unhinged amazingly well) as the titular mother, this was a nice surprise. The Collector and 1408 were two other horror films I expected to be terrible but were actually quite solid. Oh, and now that I've rewatched it, I really can't stop singing nostalgic praises for Idle Hands. It's just so much fun.

Brand new. Looking back, I only watched two recently released films: Lights Out and Jack Goes Home. Lights Out had a more interesting premise than I originally gave it credit for, and was a lot better than I expected. That being said, there wasn't anything terribly original about the way it was made that would compel me to watch it again. Jack Goes Home was a much more mixed bag, and admittedly had a lot of issues, but I ended up kind of loving it. Rory Culkin and Lin Shaye really commit to their wild performances in what is a crazy story. I might have to write a full review on it.

So there you have it. Another Halloween has passed, sadly, and now we're onto the holidays (ugh, already?). Luckily there's a lot of great stuff coming out in the next couple of months: Trash Fire, Sun Choke, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, The Monster, Evolution, Pet, and The Autopsy of Jane Doe are all films I'm looking forward to. What are you anticipating in the coming months? And how was your Halloween; did you do better than I did at #31HorrorFilms31Days? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, October 28, 2016

(My) Definitive List of Movies to Watch on Halloween

For most people, picking which movies to watch on Halloween isn’t a fraught decision – pop in any “scary” movie (from Hocus Pocus to Saw XI-whatever), and they’re set. For horror junkies who already watch scary movies 24/7, though, not just any movie will do when Halloween rolls around. After all, how do you commemorate the best day of the year (come at me, Christmas people) when what you’re doing isn’t all that different from a normal Monday night?

For me, Halloween isn’t so much about being scared out of my wits (a feeling I strive for the other 364 days of the year) as it is about capturing the spirit of the day, and maybe recapturing a little of what it was like when you were a kid. Thus, I give you my list of the absolute best movies to watch on Halloween night.

Idle Hands. If you’re in the mood for something purely fun, Idle Hands is where it’s at. This 90s teen-stoner-serial-killer-possession movie about a kid with a murderous hand is goofy, gross, a little scary, and full of Halloween goodness without delving into kids’ movie territory (sorry, but I just can’t get into Hocus Pocus like other people can). In what will prove to be a running theme in this list, it also takes place on Halloween, and therefore highlights some awesomely 90s costumes (there’s something so Britney Spears circa Baby One More Time about Jessica Alba in an angel costume… or is that just me?). Yes, this is a nostalgic pick, but it still holds up all these years later in the pantheon of teen comedies, and it’s a good horror comedy to boot.

Anything Stephen King. There’s something so quintessentially Halloween about a Stephen King adaptation, isn’t there? Something about the way King tells a story just feels classic, cozy, and creepy all at once. Some of my favorites are Pet Sematary, Misery, and The Shining. I also recently enjoyed Mercy, though that’s more a matter of taste. Hell, this could be your theme for the whole day if you let it – there are so many King adaptations (but be prepared for a broad range in quality). Bonus points if you watch with a Redrum cocktail.

May. If you need something scarier – or gorier – I recommend May, a film about a lonely young woman who endeavors to make herself a new best friend by any means necessary. This early film from Lucky McKee is heart wrenching and repulsive in equal measure, and Angela Bettis is fantastic in the vulnerable lead role. If weird is your schtick, or you fancy yourself a true outsider in a world of posers, or if you just couldn’t find anyone to go trick-or-treating with you, May will help let your freak flag fly on Halloween night.

Trick ’r Treat. Full disclosure: this has been my Halloween movie of choice for at least the last five years. I know it’s not a revolutionary stance in the horror world, but I just don’t think there’s any movie out there that quite encapsulates the feeling of Halloween like this one. It’s silly and fun, but also shockingly nasty at times. The vignette style ensures that there’s something in there for everyone, and the film even introduces an indelible new horror icon in the form of Sam. I hope every year for a movie that can top this one, but a part of me is pleased each year that nothing has.

Halloween. You knew this had to be on the list, right? And I’m obviously talking original, 1978, John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis with bad hair Halloween, for which there is no replacement. (To be fair, I do watch Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies pretty much every year, for reasons mostly unknown to me… but to watch those on Halloween night would seem truly blasphemous.) Maybe it’s because I grew up watching AMC’s Halloween marathon every year as a kid – do they still do that? I don’t have cable anymore, so I don’t know, but I hope they do – but to me, this movie is Halloween.

So what are your favorite Halloween flicks? Let me know what you'll be watching this year in the comments or on Twitter!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Movie Roundup #12: All the Movies I Watched Before #31HorrorFilms31Days

You know, Halloween Month (known to regular people as October, I guess) has not been going as it normally does for me. I’m just not feeling it as much as usual, and #31HorrorFilms31Days actually feels like a bit of a struggle for the first time ever. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it’s horror’s fault (I would never blame you, horror). There have been some amazing movies in the last several months; in fact, it’s been one of the best years for horror that I can remember. But it kind of seems like all the great movies came out before October, and there’s very little left to look forward to or enjoy right now. And some of the movies I am still looking forward to aren’t coming out until November or December (Trash Fire, The Monster, Evolution, The Autopsy of Jane Doe). So I’ve mostly been watching old favorites and, honestly, a lot of middling horror that's been sitting in my Netflix queue forever.

BUT, I guess that isn’t terrible news – it means I saw a lot of great (or at least noteworthy) horror in September, and I think I have some excellent stuff to look forward to as the year comes to an end. So let’s take a little look.

The Neon Demon (2016). Girl moves to L.A. to become a model and becomes wildly successful – not least because she’s only 16 (15?) years old. As a comment on our society’s obsession with youth, this wasn’t half bad. As a piece of entertainment… well, let me put it this way: I’m a huge fan of movies that don’t make a ton of narrative sense, but are gorgeous to look at and pick apart, and even I didn’t really like this movie. It is lovely to look at, but the message behind the pretty imagery is so overt and simple, there’s not much to say once the credits roll. Like a pretty face in a magazine, there’s just not a lot beneath the surface that makes this all that worth delving into.

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016). John Wayne Cleaver is a teenager with all the markers of a sociopath (with a name like that, what did his mother expect?), but who’s trying very hard to be a good person. When a serial killer comes to his town, John becomes obsessed with catching and stopping him. I liked so much about this movie – the bleak setting, the excellent acting (Christopher Lloyd!), the weird premise. On those points alone, I would recommend it. But there’s also a lot that’s just… strange. For example, the fact that John’s mother knows he has homicidal tendencies and he’s been seeing a psychiatrist about it just seemed odd and a little weirdly blasé. There’s also a big twist that completely changes the genre of the movie from what you thought it was to what it really is… and how much you like that twist will probably determine how much you like the film. I enjoyed it overall, but I didn’t love the direction it took once the twist was revealed – but like I said, that’s more about personal preference in terms of genre than a comment on the quality of the film.

Into the Forest (2016). Give me Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, and a post-apocalyptic premise, and I am all in. This is a fairly simple story: two sisters come of age in the wake of a massive (worldwide?) power outage. There are no zombies, no radiation poisoning, and hardly any characters other than the two women, but it’s an affecting little drama nonetheless. I suppose it’s a stretch to call it horror, but it has many of the same themes as any great apocalypse horror flick, as well as some gut-wrenching moments – and this is my blog, dammit, so I’m recommending it.

31 (2016). I was excited about Rob Zombie’s latest (and notably, crowd-funded) film, because it seemed like the story was contained enough that it might not have the same issues as so many of his other films. Although there certainly were things I liked about 31, it unfortunately still suffered from its fair share of poor writing, dialogue, and pacing (and… not beat a dead horse, but its reliance on Sheri Moon Zombie’s acting). For example, I loved how video-gamey the setup and progression was: the captured and unwilling “contestants” are put in a closed-course maze of sorts and forced to fight increasingly bloodthirsty killers to the death. However, the finale was an immense letdown that soured the entire film for me. Worth watching once if you’re a Zombie fan, but I seriously doubt non-fans will find much to like.

Don’t Breathe (2016). I wrote a bit about this movie here, but the general gist of it is: I loved this movie. It was full of twists and turns and suspense that truly never lets up until the credits roll. I can only hope that director Fede Alvarez and actress Jane Levy continue to work in horror, because Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead (2013) were two of my favorite horror-watching experiences in recent memory. Don’t Breathe is a movie like The Strangers, in that I imagine I’ll be able to watch it for years to come and still feel thrilled by it, despite knowing what’s coming.

Satanic (2016). What is with all these horror movies with adjectives as titles? Although I’ve liked some of them (Insidious, Sinister), I hate the trend, and this film’s title is as generic as the movie itself. Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair. I did enjoy the setup: four friends on their way to Coachella (yeah…) make a detour in L.A. to tour true-crime occult sites and encounter a mysterious woman who knows quite a bit about one particular crime. That’s kind of a great premise, if you ask me. I would watch that movie, in theory (minus the Coachella part). But what starts out as a mildly intriguing affair devolves into something so full of horror clichés and so dull, I couldn’t possibly recommend it in good conscience.

The Forest (2016). I know this came out quite a while ago, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so I thought I should mention it. A woman heads into Japan’s Suicide Forest (yes, that is a real, and really creepy, place) to find her missing twin sister. There’s nothing revolutionary, or even very unique, about this movie aside from the setting, but it hit all the right notes as far as creeping me out while watching it in my house on a dark night alone. I’d give it a shot, especially if Japanese-inspired horror tends to spook you like it does me.

Tell Me How I Die (2016). I could barely finish this one. Students looking for a way to make extra cash agree to take part in an experiment that has unexpected (and frankly, ridiculous) side effects: chiefly, they allow some subjects to see the future. Oh, and there’s also a serial killer on the loose inside the lab, because how else are you going to spice things up? Actually: there are a million other directions this movie could have gone that would have made more sense and been more entertaining.

Friend Request (2016). I actually didn’t finish this one. Let this be the death knell for social media-themed horror movies, please. (I know it won't be.)

What movies have you seen lately? What are you looking forward to?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Guest Post: Tracing Innovative Women Characters in Horror

The following is a guest post.

Even though women have started playing a wider variety of roles in horror movies, many still have stereotypical female characters. However, there are some truly excellent horror movies with unconventional female characters, and it appears that women’s roles in the genre are slowly changing. The following films have female leads who don’t fit any of the usual genre stereotypes. Fair warning: Due to the nature of this post, there are spoilers.

Scream (1996)

Scream is a slasher film about a high school student, Sidney (Neve Campbell), who is targeted by a killer called Ghostface. At first the story follows the typical course of a slasher flick, with various teenagers being killed in gory ways. However, Scream soon reveals itself to be a satirical take on traditional slasher movies. After many deaths, some hilarious moments and a few twists, Sidney discovers her friend Stu is the killer. She eventually kills him, only to discover Ghostface is not one killer but two - Sidney's boyfriend is the second killer, and she manages to kill him as well.

As a satirical take on slasher flicks, Scream mocks many of the features of typical slasher movies. One of the major tropes in slasher movies is the "final girl" - the female character who ultimately defeats the killer. She must be a virgin who avoids vices such as drinking and drugs. Usually, the girls who get killed in slasher films are not virgins or considered virtuous. Both Halloween and Friday the 13th are good examples of this motif, wherein the final girl is a "wholesome" virgin. Scream, however, breaks this trope. The characters in Scream even point out the rules of horror movies. The number one rule is “don’t have sex.”

At the beginning of the movie, Sydney is a virgin, but in the course of the film she has sex with her boyfriend, Billy. Yet she survives and goes on to kill Ghostface (both of them!). Despite learning some horrible truths about her mother, watching her friends being murdered and fighting for her life, Sidney survives and turns the final girl trope on its head. Scream ultimately allowed slasher films to break the rule of the virtuous final girl in a way that still resonates today. The 2013 movie Chastity Bites is an excellent example of this.

The Descent (2005)

The Descent is an adventure horror movie about six women who go spelunking in an attempt to help one member of the group, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), cope with the death of her family. After they enter the cave, the mouth of the cave collapses, trapping the women. As they try to find a way out, they realize creatures that have a taste for human flesh are hunting them. In their fight for survival, the women are killed off one by one. Eventually, only Sarah is left, and the movie ends with Sarah still trapped in the cave, listening as the hungry creatures approach.

In adventure horror movies where people are trapped with a monster, women are often portrayed as mere arm candy or as damsels in distress. It’s also uncommon to find a horror movie that solely stars women. While The Descent is an action horror movie, all the characters are women, and they do not take on stereotypical roles. Instead, they’re an adventurous group of friends looking for some excitement. Despite losing her family, Sarah isn’t a helpless wreck. Rather, she shows a huge amount of strength and only continues to grow stronger as the movie progresses. Indeed, The Descent offers a take on women in horror movies that remains somewhat uncommon today.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook is a psychological horror movie that tells the story of Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Sam. After Sam’s father dies, a troubled Amelia has to raise Sam on her own, though she finds it increasingly difficult to manage. One night, Sam asks Amelia to read him a book about a monster called the Babadook. Sam becomes obsessed with the Babadook and believes it’s hunting them. To her horror, Amelia soon realizes that the Babadook is real and is stalking them. After a harrowing ordeal, Amelia finally overcomes the Babadook and keeps it locked in the basement where she occasionally feeds it worms.

On its face, The Babadook appears to be a movie about a monster, and in a way it is. But the monster is actually a metaphor for Amelia’s grief. Initially, Amelia tries to deny her grief, but the Babadook won’t allow it. At one point, it even tells her that if she keeps trying to deny its existence, it will only get stronger. Eventually, Amelia comes to the realization that the only way to overcome the Babadook is to accept it. After she accepts that it is real, she gains control over it. She keeps it in the basement and occasionally feeds it, just as one occasionally revisits grief psychologically.

This insightful movie is really a story about one woman’s struggle to accept her own grief, thereby preventing it from destroying her son and herself. Her struggle takes her through the many stages of grief, from denial to acceptance. Essie Davis’ excellent acting portrays Amelia as a troubled woman who finds the strength within herself to deal with grief, as well as its physical manifestation as the Babadook. Incidentally (or not), The Babadook was written and directed by a woman, Jennifer Kent.

With their tough (both mentally and physically) and unique female characters, these three horror movies trace a positive trend in the genre: a move away from stereotypical roles for women toward more empowering ones. Hopefully, this trend will only continue, and we'll see more nontraditional female leads in future horror movies. Perhaps we’ll even see a few more convincing female villains!

These are by no means the only horror movies with innovative female characters. What is your favorite horror movie with strong or unusual female stars?

Cassie Philips writes blog posts about tech and entertainment at SecureThoughts. She’s particularly interested in how women’s roles in movies have changed over the last few decades and what that says about society’s views on women in general.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Movie Trailers Are Ruining My Life

It’s the beginning of September, and although it’s still a blistering 90+ degrees on a regular basis here in Philly, the promise of fall is in the air. It teases and torments me in the form of witch and black cat decorations set out a month early in grocery store aisles, in the annoying Starbucks ads for pumpkin spice lattes that are suddenly popping up in my email inbox, and in the many, many trailers for horror movies that are slated to come out over the next two months or so. I will only complain about the latter in this post, a.k.a. diatribe.

Let me start by saying that it is a good time to be a horror fan. Seriously. There is some great stuff coming out these days: 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Invitation, The Witch, Green Room, Don’t Breathe. Go back another year or two and I could name at least fifteen more movies I’ve loved. And looking ahead, there are at least ten more I’m extremely excited about seeing. But now, let’s take one of those movies as an example of an insidious trend that's been creeping up on me for a while, but only started ruining my life - my very sanity - in the last few weeks: Morgan.

Morgan looks great. It had me hooked based on its lead, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), and the tagline alone: “A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.” I follow a lot of horror blogs, so I caught this one clip early on:

Like I said, I was sold. Good cast, good production value, a tense moment, sold. No need to lay out all the gritty details for me, thanks, I’d rather be surprised. Unfortunately, the powers that be (i.e. 20th Century Fox) could not let it rest. I went to see a horror movie in theaters soon after, and there was the trailer for Morgan, laying out every last detail of the film in, as far as I can tell, explicit detail. I mean really, compare the clip above to the trailer:

Now, I could be wrong. There could be oodles of plot left untouched, ready to be discovered only by those willing to fork over twelve bucks for a ticket to the show. But for my taste, this trailer tells way too much. I’ve already learned everything I need to know about Morgan, including exactly where her story is headed (if not how it ends). The element of surprise – of shock and awe – is gone for me. I know too much. And I have some shocking information for studio heads and trailer editors: I’m now far less inclined to go see Morgan in theaters.

I know, I know. Those in the biz claim that showing more of a film’s plot in the trailer makes audiences more likely to go see it. But dammit, pandering to the lowest common denominator is why we can’t have nice things, and I am so unspeakably tired of it. Why must stupid people constantly ruin things for the rest of us?

Yes, I said stupid people. I’m sorry if this offends you, but watching the entire plot of a movie in two minutes and then paying good money to watch it all play out again is stupid. Sure, it sucks to waste twelve dollars on a crappy movie, and maybe seeing the whole thing condensed makes you feel surer about your choice, but listen up, because boy do I have news for you: that’s what reviews are for. Do two minutes of research before heading to the theater (yes, I’m looking at you, person who decides which movie to see while waiting in line based on the titles on the marquee) and you can be fairly secure in the quality of movie you’re paying to see.

But apparently two minutes on Google is too much to ask of the average theatergoer these days.

This problem is especially egregious when it comes to horror films, which generally rely heavily on the element of surprise to, you know, surprise and scare audiences. Give away the biggest scares in the trailer, and what are you left with? Not me wetting my pants with fear and anticipation, that’s for sure.

Now I must harp on a film (just the trailer for a film) that I absolutely, genuinely love, and for that I am sorry – but it must be done. You see, I went to see Don’t Breathe last week, and it was every bit the pulse-pounding, heart-hammering thrill I’d hoped it would be. And you know why? Well, first of all, because it’s a great film – that certainly can’t be undersold. But also because: I went in completely blind. I knew the logline for the film and nothing more, aside from the fact that the director was a favorite of mine and the film had some positive buzz. I avoided trailers like the plague. I literally left a theater once to avoid any whiff of a spoiler.

And it paid off. It was one of the most suspenseful, exciting theater experiences I’ve had in years. Had I watched the trailer, though? It gives away a huge spoiler. If you haven’t seen it, I’m giving you fair warning, do not watch it. But if you’ve seen the movie already, let’s examine:

Less than two minutes in, bam. Giant spoiler. If I saw that before seeing the film, I would’ve spent the entire first half of the movie waiting for that moment, knowing it was coming sooner or later, and it would have colored the entire experience for me for the worse. And for those viewers that had that experience, rather than the one I got to enjoy – full of tension, anxiety, and genuine shock – that is a damn shame.

I know it’s not up to the filmmakers; like everything else, this comes down to money and marketing. As long as spoilery trailers rake in the bucks, they’ll surely continue churning them out. I can only send this futile yawp of frustration out into the ether, with little to no hope that anyone who can actually change things will take notice.

But I will “vote” with my dollars. I probably won’t see Morgan in theaters unless someone can convince me that there’s much more to the story than what’s shown in the trailer. And I’ll continue fleeing auditoriums during Blair Witch trailers (please, universe, don’t ruin this for me) like a fool, hoping that someday, someone will listen. Until then, ignore the weirdo in the next row humming through the previews with her eyes closed and her ears plugged. She’s not crazy, I swear.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Currently Listening To: Southern Gothic

You guys may or may not know that I'm a huge fan of The Pretty Reckless (I actually noted this vital truth on my newly-updated About/Contact page, so check that out if you want to know some useless facts about me). I get made fun of for this a lot, but there's no shame in my game, man. Have you heard TPR lately? No? Well get back to me when you've listened to their latest single, Take Me Down.

If you liked that, you might like the music that's been on my mind lately - specifically southern gothic. Whether it be rock, folk, or blues, it's all a little dark, a little creepy. You might not be able to pinpoint why, exactly. Like the music that played on repeat during The Strangers. It just does something weird to your backbone, you know?

What are you listening to these days? And what are your favorite creepy tunes?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Movie Roundup #11

A few more quickie reviews – because the summer is long, hot, and way too busy, amiright? So here’s what’s good.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (a.k.a. February) (2016). This film about creepy girls at a creepy boarding school sounded absolutely tailor-made for me – and in a lot of ways, it was. After all, is there anything better than a creepy boarding school story? Nope. I really enjoyed the leisurely, atmospheric way the story was told (it truly dripped atmosphere, so, score), though at times it was just a tiny bit too leisurely for my taste. However, I think future viewings will only yield more and more, so this film is a win in my book.

The Ones Below (2016). A horror film about mothers, parenting, and paranoia. This had a lot of Rosemary’s Baby vibes, in a very good way, but still managed to be its own film (unlike, for example, Mickey Keating’s recent Darling, which was stylish but far too imitative of the movies it was inspired by).

Even Lambs Have Teeth (2016). Y’all… I kind of loved this. It’s a little sleazy, a little bit of a mixed bag – and I loved it. It takes the rape revenge subgenre and makes it fun. Is it weird that I just said that?

The Shallows (2016). I had (definitely unreasonably) high hopes for this one, and I was sorely disappointed. That might be unfair of me, because this film did pretty much exactly what I imagine it set out to do. As a lover of single-setting horror movies, though, this one fell short of a lot of the ones I’ve loved in the past (Black Water, Frozen, The Ruins). It doesn’t help that I have a strong aversion to Blake Lively’s acting (but a simultaneous obsession with her Instagram… who can figure).

47 Meters Down (2016). It’s hard to set an entire movie underwater, so I give this one points for trying. Mandy Moore is adorable and a really likable heroine, but unfortunately she's given very little to work with here. This movie was slow, often funny when it wasn't meant to be, and ultimately very forgettable. Not the worst summer watch I've seen, but I don't recommend it.

Rebirth (2016). This Netflix original was a bit of a letdown. It started out strong with plenty of paranoia, but it never really evolved into anything more than those first few scenes at the Rebirth compound. I wish there had been more to it.

The Purge: Election Year (2016). I maintain that the original Purge is the greatest Purge. The sequels are just mediocre action movies. (Not to mention the most interesting character in Election Year was killed off way too soon.)

Urge (2016). This movie was slightly better than The Loft, which it reminded me of for some reason. But that’s not an endorsement.

What've you been watching these days? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!