Friday, January 22, 2016

Ranking Blumhouse's Netflix Dump From Least-Worst to Worst

So Blumhouse recently dropped three new horror flicks directly to Netflix – Visions, The Veil, and Curve. This, of course, did not bode well for the quality of the films (you don't quietly drop a movie on Netflix if it's a real winner), but because they featured some bigger names – Jessica Alba, Thomas Jane, and Isla Fischer, to name a few – I was intrigued. At least the production value would be good, I figured. How bad could they really be?

Varying degrees of bad, is the answer. But all bad.

Thus, I decided to rank the films in order of Least Worst to Most Worst for your pleasure (and no, I don’t care about the grammar of my chosen title). You might thank me for saving you from wasting nearly five hours of your life – or closer to seven if, like me, you have to sit through one of the movies a harrowing second time in order to get half a grip on what’s going on. Luckily, only one of these movies even broke the 90-minute mark, so my sanity is still mostly intact. On the other hand, you might be smarter than me and realize that there’s not any point in even reading about mediocre horror churned out like so much sausage… but what are horror fans if not gluttons for punishment? I sat through a Saw movie every year for seven years, in theaters, “because it’s tradition.” Non-horror fans don’t know from pain.

So I've ranked them here, along with a handy little barometer for those looking for something to watch during this weekend's impending Snowmaggedon. Follow my advice at your own risk...

Least Worst: Visions

Seriously, doesn't she look adorable even while acting terrified of benign objects?
Isla Fisher plays a pregnant woman who moves to a vineyard with her husband to start a New Life (let’s start a bingo board of all the clichés right now). She’s recovering from a Traumatic Incident, is recently off painkillers (For the Baby), and there’s a Creepy Old House on the property that’s been Abandoned For Years. She starts seeing Visions, but are they just a product of her traumatized mind, or are they real?

…From the setup alone, you can probably imagine all of the two ways this thing can go. And that’s the movie’s main problem; it’s incredibly generic, from the spooky fog floating outside the window, to the menacing hooded figure that only the main character seems to see, to the incredibly obvious villain. There are hints of Rosemary’s Baby and Inside here, but that only makes it worse because those comparisons are so unbelievably out of this movie’s league. It’s an inoffensive unthrilling thriller that would be well suited to the Lifetime channel.

The Worst Things About This Movie: The fact that we see the villain coming from a mile away. The blandness of everything. The fact that a major "scare" involves a mannequin.
The Least Worst Things About This Movie: Isla Fisher looking adorably pregnant while running around screaming. The vineyard setting is nice.
Who Should Watch This Movie During the Storm: People who will spend all day cozy on the couch with some hot chocolate and want a "scary" movie that won't startle them out of their comfortable existence.

Medium Worst: Curve

This is what indifference looks like, people.
I was convinced that this would be my favorite of the three, since I have a curiously strong affinity for both wilderness survival horror and single-setting horror movies. Unfortunately, Curve turned out to be more 247 Degrees than The Ruins. (What? The Ruins is my favorite single setting horror film, bar none.) Okay, it wasn’t as bad as 247 Degrees, but it was pretty dull. Julianne Hough plays a bride-to-be taking a little road trip while contemplating breaking up with her fiancé. There’s a lot of exposition and sad music, which does little to make you care about the character’s situation or raise the stakes, until she offers a ride to a handsome stranger (who, obviously, turns out to be nuts – which, really… is The Hitcher not yet ingrained into our society’s collective psyche?). They end up getting in a car accident and Hough spends most of the movie trapped in the car, where her greatest adversary is a rat.

That pretty much sums up why this movie isn’t very good. Yes, there’s a psycho killer outside of the car, but he doesn’t really do anything other than occasionally taunt Hough and then walk away for long stretches of time. There is a pretty good bit with a flood, but the last part of the movie feels tacked-on and out of place, like it’s two different stories. They could have raised the stakes with the wilderness stuff and avoided a lot of the “crazy killer” clichés.

The Worst Things About This Movie: The movie fails to use the wilderness as an enemy as effectively as it could have, and Teddy Sears makes for a subpar replacement villain with all his scenery-chewing.
The Least Worst Things About This Movie: Per usual, Julianne Hough is pretty middle-of-the-road acting-wise, but she’s likeable enough. There are worse things you could watch while folding laundry.
Who Should Watch This Movie During the Storm: Those of us who will spend all day grumbling about shoveling our sidewalk and car out of the snow, and need to realize that a lot of people have it worse than us right now.

Most Worst: The Veil

No one saw this coming? Really??
Oh, boy. This movie. I’m not even entirely sure what to say about it, because while the first two films are just annoyingly generic, this one was… something else. Sadly for me, this is the only film of the three that was more than an hour and a half (93 minutes), and those extra three minutes felt much, much longer than they should have. I’m still not certain if The Veil was as nonsensical as I think it was, or if it was just so bad that I couldn’t focus on it long enough to keep up with what was going on. I actually sat through it twice, hoping that would help, but I think it only made me hate it more and understand it less.

The Veil is about the mass suicide of a Jonestown-like cult, with Thomas Jane playing the leader of The Church of Heaven’s Veil, Jim Jacobs – because they needed to make it just that obvious. Lily Rabe plays Sarah Hope, the lone survivor of the mass suicide, and Jessica Alba is the documentarian trying to uncover the “real” story. What ensues is far too many minutes of running around in the dark, flashbacks and videotapes of the cult performing hackneyed rituals, and way, way, way too much of Thomas Jane shouting out religious platitudes like an auctioneer on speed. I assume he was going for “mysteriously charismatic cult leader,” but he comes off like a crazed villain the entire time, and it’s impossible to understand why people would listen to him long enough to decide that killing themselves was an a-okay plan.

There’s also a ton of back-and-forth between time periods through videotapes, flashbacks, and actual time travel, and it’s just a total mess. Add in Jessica Alba being a pretty shitty crier and some truly illogical leaps, and you’ve got a movie that even Lily Rabe can’t save. I really hated this movie, y’all.

The Worst Things About This Movie: Thomas Jane’s interpretation of “charisma.” Jessica Alba and her crocodile tears.
The Least Worst Things About This Movie: Literally nothing.
Who Should Watch This Movie During the Storm: Stir-crazy people you want to push over the edge, you malicious bastard.

And that's that. Hopefully you've learned something. I'm off to contemplate my life choices now.

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