In Theaters Now: Hereditary

 

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This poster is en Francais! Fancy!

As a lifelong horror fan, I can confidently say that there are two kinds of horror movies that do well at the box office.

The first kind of horror movie delivers on thrills and jump scares. Friends have fun clinging to each other, spilling popcorn and jumping in their seats. Afterward, the group quote lines at each other or mimic trademark gestures or sounds, and Halloween Horror Nights has a new haunted house theme. These movies are certainly effective, but it’s not that hard to leave them at the theater.

Hereditary is the other kind of horror movie.

I don’t mean I’m going to check under my bed for anything scary tonight. I mean something else entirely, and quite honestly I don’t even want to talk about it too much because I want people to experience the film for themselves. But I’m going to talk about it and so of course, spoilers will go below the cut. 

Hereditary begins with an obituary. A matriarch has died, and right away Annie (played by Toni Collette) gives a halting but brutally honest eulogy about the complicated relationship she had with her mother. Grandma’s death sets off a chain of events that at first seem normal to a family dealing with grief, but soon even the cracks start to show cracks.

Hereditary is getting mixed reviews, and for good reason: not everyone is going to get it. I don’t say that to sound cool or jaded, I say that because I could hear other moviegoers laughing at certain parts that I found incredibly effective–parts that were almost too effective. This movie upset me quite a bit at times, even though the projector broke two-thirds in and we had to wait half an hour for the staff to fix it.

But when the action started back up, nobody moved or laughed for the rest of the movie.

I can absolutely recommend Hereditary to fans of real, provocative horror. Casual filmgoers might want to wait for home release.

Continue reading “In Theaters Now: Hereditary”

In Theaters Now: A Quiet Place

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Shhhh….

After all the buzz surrounding it and a few recommendations from friends, I decided to see A Quiet Place in theaters. Being a horror fan, how could I not?

What A Quiet Place does well, it does very well. Tension draws out and there are genuine emotional scenes with real payoff, such as those moments when a character is finally, finally able to scream or even speak. However, I admit to being underwhelmed.

I am not saying this film was bad; far from it. I would rank it as above average for a mainstream Hollywood horror movie, which any horror fan will recognize as damning praise. From a technical filmmaking perspective, it was beautiful: John Krasinski, who stars and also directs, knows how to frame beautiful compositions, how to work with ambient lighting, how to film action so it’s exciting and tension so it’s heart-pumping, and how to draw evocative performances from his actors. The creatures look cool and their CGI is great.

As mentioned, the actors’ performances are strong, and there are several character moments that really resonate. Krasinski is great as a patient paternal figure, Emily Blunt is his tired, blonde, and eventually pregnant wife, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as the children work well together and the whole ensemble effectively portrays a nuclear family.

Most filmgoers and horror fans will enjoy the jump scares and leave the movie rattled, but I found myself frustrated by the end. There were a number of weaknesses that leapt out and jarred me right out of the narrative, and created what ultimately felt like a missed opportunity.

A more detailed unpacking appears below the cut. As always, there will be spoilers.

Continue reading “In Theaters Now: A Quiet Place”

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.”

Continue reading “Conversations: The Shape of Water”

Happy Wednesday!

This week will be a busy one – I’m seeing The Shape of Water, which I’m really looking forward to based on all the buzz surrounding it and because I love Del Toro. I’m also figuring out my Star Wars: The Last Jedi plans. Some places near me be will be showing the latter Thursday night, which I prefer to the massive presses of people in theaters on weekends.

Also, Xmas stuff, like wrapping and mailing presents, and non-Xmas stuff, working on my novel draft and some other writing projects.

Here is the International Trailer for Black Panther, which got me all het up this morning.

I feel bad for laughing at the narration at the end, but I did. My friend, who speaks a little Japanese, wrote it out as BU RA KU PANSA.

Stuff I have watched: 

Continue reading “Happy Wednesday!”