In Theaters Now: Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark

In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive WITH SPOILERS behind the cut. 

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Pictured: The leading face of my nightmares from 1992-1993. What up, Harold? 

Overall

As an experience, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is a delightfully creepy tale.  Based on the legendary book series illustrated by someone who very probably hated children and wanted them to lose sleep, the film creates a narrative out of the otherwise disparate and well-loved stories. The Wendigo (my fave!), The Big Toe, and a few others I’ll refrain from mentioning are present.  The story structure is simple: taking place in Halloween 1968, some kids who trespass into a local haunted house and steal a book of ghost stories that belonged to the local crazy lady must deal with the aftermath. The book’s stories, written in blood, almost always kill the protagonist, and there are both old stories and new ones that appear as events unfold. There are haunted houses, creepy music boxes, mental hospitals, a jerk bully, and all the classic fare.

I would recommend the film for fans of horror, the original book series, and people looking for a thrill. But I stress: just because it’s rated PG-13 doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for children. One family had a 4-year-old present, and while he was chattering away before the movie, I hope his lapse into silence was because he fell asleep and not into a state of paralytic horror. Bad Parenting Decision, Random Family.

Although the movie is a delightful and terrifying romp, it didn’t have the emotional depth I was hoping for. I mention this because when Guillermo Del Toro’s name is attached to something, I expect an emotional payoff.  André Øvredal directed the film and I know he knows how to tell an emotional story because he made The Trollhunter. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t worth seeing, but if you’re looking for Deep Meaning Subtext as I did, you’ll leaving feeling a bit let down.

For more in-depth discussion involving spoilers, dive below the cut!

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In the Name of the Monster, the Robot, and the Bleeding Ghost ~ An Art Installation

No reviews today, but I did want to share this fantastic art installation in LA.

Gallery Nucleus has a limited art event inspired by the works of Guillermo Del Toro – hence the titular reference to the monster, robot, and bleeding ghost. The artworks are created by fans and artists and come from any and all of Del Toro’s works, from the most recent Oscar-nominated The Shape of Water  all the way back to The Devil’s Backbone.  The media run the gamut from charcoals to sculpture and represent a wide variety of styles. And all of them are gorgeous! I wish I could go.

If, like me, you can’t get to LA let alone drop a grand on art, you can enjoy the offerings online through this link. I’ve included a few screenshots to give you a taste, with the artists credited. As always, I wasn’t paid to write this post, I just thought the installation was neat.

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‘The Shape of Love’ ~ Nathan Anderson
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‘Three Tasks’ ~ Carly Janine Mazur 

I love how in this one, Ofelia is split by the labyrinth motif, invoking the duality of her life. Even her skin tone varies a bit – a nice touch.

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‘The Prophecy of William of Ox’ ~ Tomas Hijo

I think I love this one the best – I love works that evoke illuminated manuscripts while putting a clever spin on them (I have one of The Hobbit). Translating Del Toro’s name into that of a monk is a masterful touch. I bet the colors are amazing in person!

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‘A Thousand Children Eaten’ ~ Rebnor

Bless the artist who came up with this and the person who bought it. I appreciate the artistry, and the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the all-time great disturbing monsters of cinema, but this couldn’t hang on the wall in my house. Me + too much wine one dark night x walking around a corner too fast = – artwork. Art shouldn’t be accessible to high-strung drunk people. I applaud the artist and the buyer for being much braver than I am.

If you are in LA and love art based on cinema, I highly encourage you to check it out. Then leave a comment and tell us all about!

In the Name of the Monster, the Robot, and the Bleeding Ghost closes January 28th, so you’d better hurry!

Conversations: The Shape of Water

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Good morning! This week my co-author Achariya and I were able to attend an advance screening of The Shape of Water. We loved it and we had thoughts. The following are those thoughts. The section here is spoiler-free, but spoilers do appear in the discussions below the cut. Enjoy, and feel free to chime in!

JEN: Let me get this right out of the way – I loved it, I want people to support it, but I also recognize it’s not for everyone. Also there were three movies that I couldn’t help but think about: Amelie, for the love story, Splash, also for the love story, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, mostly because of the Amphibian Man but also because that latter touched on concepts of loneliness.

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Breathe water or breathe air – get you a man who can do both.

ACHARIYA: Last night when I left the theater, I called my dad, a cinephile from way back. I told him the bare outlines of the plot, and he said, “Oh, obviously Guillermo Del Toro is a student of film, and has also seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein — he’s likely well versed in the genre of the relatable monster.” And yes, I also loved it.

JEN: Also I can’t help but think of this as Del Toro thumbing his nose at Universal’s failed attempt to launch a Dark Universe franchise; I read that he was offered the Dark Universe and turned it down. Had he taken it on we would be seeing a Creature From the Black Lagoon remake very like this, along with all the other well-loved monsters. Here’s a man who can’t write an unsympathetic monster, who will always see layers to every villain but most of all to the ugly, unloved, and broken. It’s a damned shame we won’t see those from him.

ACHA: I would argue that the introductory lines of the movie pointed to the true monster — and Del Toro was absolutely able to write an unsympathetic villain. It just wasn’t the one that you’d think. (More about that in spoilers!)

JEN: One more thing before we get into the spoilers – I found the movie brilliant because of the complete removal of its universe from reality, while still managing to feel believable. All the questions I had stemmed from situations that were created within the movie – there was never a moment where I thought ‘Well that can’t happen because X.’ The story had my complete buy-in.

ACHA: And I’d posit that this is in part because the audience has been given a perfect character through which to react to and question the movie, the main character’s best friend, Zelda (played by Octavia Spencer). Her responses throughout were exactly what mine were: “What?” “You did what??” “I — what?” And then, her ultimate sympathy and acceptance for the main character: “Okay, whatever works for you.”

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