Haunter is Horror Evolved

Haunter

Which makes it Gengar. You may not have heard that I was gonna Raichu a review about it, because I’m glad you came and Togepi-k to see what it was all about anyway.

I haven’t seen Groundhog Day in maybe four, five years, but Haunter brought the memory right back. The genres are completely different, Groundhog day being a romantic comedy with Bill Murray, and Haunter being a vaguely psychological horror thriller with Abigail Breslin. You remember Abigail, right? The adorable girl from Little Miss Sunshine? See, there’s no sunshine where she is this time around, but there is plenty of fog. And ghosts. I had trouble transitioning from stripping and dancing to Super Freak, but I digress.

HaunterHaunter’s premise and execution are commendable, making this one of the few horror movies that’s actually worth watching for the plot. In it, Lisa (Breslin) is quite dead, but isn’t aware of it. What she is aware of is the single day that she’s forced to experience over and over again, all variations caused by her actions insignificant and lost when the next loop begins. Her attempts to break free of the cycle incite a medley of strange sounds and voices, all of which serve the dual purpose of startling both you and her while pointing to clues that explain what the heck happened.

That’s when the Pale Man comes. Disguised as a phone line repairman, he politely asks Lisa to ignore the strange happenings in the house and to just act as if everything is normal. There certainly won’t be any problems if she does that. She doesn’t listen, of course, and he doesn’t like it. The more Lisa listens to the whispers, the closer she comes to understanding the nature of her reality. Trying to find where the bodies are buried ends up taking a literal turn and revealing that she isn’t the only one whose spirit has been claimed by the house.

HaunterHaunter is a once-off watch, but that isn’t a bad thing. The intricacies of its plot are unique enough to keep you guessing what’s going to happen, and though it isn’t terribly visceral or full of jump-scares, you’ll find yourself in a perpetual state of unease until the climax. The ending is bland, but as with happiness, the meaning is in the path you walk, not the destination you seek. This film may not be happiness itself, but it’s definitely a fun way to waste an hour and a half.

Dee Rudebeck of TheGuardian mentions Groundhog Day as well, which makes me a little sad inside because I’m not the unique butterfly I thought I was. Also according to the speaker of the guardian, Haunter is a bit slow and uninspired, which I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH GO WATCH THE MOVIE. Ahem. Here’s the link to the alt review: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/apr/03/haunter-review-horror-abigail-breslin#start-of-comments

Light Reading Turns Dark in Ninth Gate

Ninth Gate

Cancel the search party, we found him: Johnny Depp in a crappy Satanic horror movie called Ninth Gate. I only call it crappy because it’s one of those forgettable Netflix once-offs that’s lovely to see once, but any more than that and we’re going to have a problem. The problem is, the protagonists are too pretty. Both of ‘em. Johnny Depp and Emmanuelle Seigner? Get to the sex scene unprepared and you might rupture a blood vessel. Get to it several times, and you might rupture a lot more than that. That’s a joke, see.

Ninth GateAs I was saying before you interrupted me, Ninth Gate is a film about collectors of Satanist literature, and the things they will do to see their goals through to the end. Dean Corso is a dealer of rare books, and a scoundrel when it comes to undercutting his competitors, and it is for that very reason that Boris Balkan hires him to hunt down one of the rarest pieces of Satanist literature known to man: The Ninth Gate of the Kingdom of Shadows. More than a book hunt, Corso is hired to validate the authenticity of the remaining three copies of this ancient, eeevil tome.

On the flipside, Lena Olin, the wife of the man who sold Balkan the sacred Satanist work, wants her property back at all costs. “At all costs” to a worshipper of the King of Demons should have obvious implications, suffice it to say she plays the part of the antagonist up until the moment in which she doesn’t.

Ninth GateThroughout his journey, Corso is offered assistance by an unnamed girl with an air of mystery about her. At least, that’s what is intended. If you’ve even an inkling of how Satan works by movie standards, you’ll know exactly which role Emmanuelle Seigner fills with her evasive half-answers, curious disappearances, and glowing eyes. Spoiler alert, of course, but it doesn’t play a very large role in the greater plot. No, the sex scene isn’t a part of the greater plot. Get off my back, you.

I would say Ninth Gate would go down best preceded or followed by Rosemary’s Baby, as the two have thematic similarities that blend well. If you’re hoping Johnny Depp will make this one great, you’ll be disappointed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kill some time watching him fend off cultists in goofy robes.

Ninth GateTotal Film pulls no punches in saying that Ninth Gate is just another heaping helping of Satan’s leavings. Unoriginal, uninspired, the like. Ninth Gate is standard as far as throwaway horror movies go, which leads me to believe that the only reason this review was so brutal is because of Depp’s presence in the cast. I could be wrong, but good actors in bad movies tend to yield such brutal reviews. Here’s the alt review so you can see if I’m right: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/the-ninth-gate

The Twist in the Room at the House at the End of the Street

House at the End of the Street

House at the End of the Street has got more twists than a 1960s dance floor, I tell ya what. Jennifer Lawrence has to put up with some shit. I mean that in both a plot and a bone-breaking sense. Well, there’s one bone-breaking twist, and it in itself is an emotional twist that misleads viewers. Even the suspenseful climax will keep you guessing. Gosh darn I hate reviewing good movies because I don’t want to spoil anything.

House at the End of the StreetElissa and her recently divorced mom move into a big house near a national park, only affordable because the house at the end of the street *cough* was where a family was slaughtered, leaving only one person alive… Ryan. And he still lives there. The entire town brands him a freak and hates him, as they don’t know the true story behind his family’s murder. You don’t either, so stop making crass assumptions. Quasi-spoiler, once Elissa and Ryan get a little chummy, he reveals that his brain-damaged sister Carrie-Anne killed everyone before drowning in a river. Her body was never found, so local legends have cropped up of her living in the woods.

House at the End of the StreetThere is a short introduction to the town douchebag, Tyler, which gives you someone to hate. He runs some kind of afterschool charity club which is actually a front for some stereotypical high school partying. Elissa doesn’t take too kindly to being propositioned by the drunk and “pathetically horny” Tyler lad. Aside from that, the only role he plays is trying to beat up Ryan right before things get dramatic climactic, so feel free to fully disregard him as a mechanism to incite an emotional response from you, the prospective audience. Was that too meta?

House at the End of the StreetJennifer Lawrence isn’t too bad in a horror movie victim role. Since the movie focuses more on scares oriented around the story rather than story oriented around the scares, there’s enough room for Elissa to actually receive some quality characterization, particularly by the dynamic between her and her mother. I actually found myself getting a little “involved” during the final confrontation.

Overall, House at the End of the Street comes off as a quality, modern horror story. Its only blatant clichés are a flashlight that’s low on batteries and a villain that comes back for a final scare. If you’re expecting to be doing a seeing of the boobies, you must be going to a different venue of cinematic event showing, for this instance is dedicated to the being of the quality. Ten outta ten.

Stephen Holden of NYTimes ripped House at the End of the Street for ripping from Psycho, which I haven’t seen for reasons unknown. If you want to watch something for entertainment, my mostly neutral and out-of-context review is the one for you. If you want to assess this flick as cinematic art, check out the alt review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/22/movies/the-house-at-the-end-of-the-street-with-jennifer-lawrence.html?_r=0

American Mary, Living the Dream

American Mary

American Mary is a film that I don’t think really deserves to be stuffed in the horror genre. There are horror elements, of course, like extreme body modification and a climactic murder, but this film is largely character driven. If not for how desperate the director was to sexualize Mary to hell and back, I’d consider American Mary to be nearly flawless. I’ll get more into that later, but for now, the plot.

Mary is training to become a surgeon under a hardass yet encouraging teacher, and funds are tight. For lack of any better ideas, she decides to take up working in a strip club to make ends meet. The owner, having looked over her resume, offers her $5,000 in cash to perform surgery on one of his lackeys who was savagely beaten. Unable to turn down that kind of money, Mary stitches him up and sets the wheels in motion.

American MarySoon after, she begins to receive calls from a plastic surgery addict named Beatress Johnson who is apparently looking for some unorthodox surgery for a friend. Mary turns her down initially, but she caves once the Betty Boop lookin’ gal starts offering big bucks, as that’s basically her weak point. Hey, if you can do what you’re good at and make a shitload of cash off of it, why not, right? The surgery scene is tame compared to what you’d normally expect in slasher movies, though you might have sympathy pains during the nipple removal bit. Oop, did I say that out loud? Spoiler! Ooh hoo hoo.

After finding her footing financially, one of her teachers invites her to a surgeon party, which she decides to attend. Donning a tacky and skimpy dress, she finds herself drugged and raped by her old teacher. Who would have thought, huh? Apparently he thought she had become a prostitute to make money, which… explains why he rapes her? I don’t follow that logic at all, but it sets up a revenge scene that is pretty satisfying.

American MaryMary practices every extreme body modification she can on her rapist teacher after paying the strip club’s owner to have him “acquired” and beaten. After that, the remainder of the film focuses on her body modification, and some of its dire consequences. Er, not the consequences of having body modification, but of doing them. The conclusion of American Mary could not have been better. If you end up liking the movie, I guarantee the ending will score high. No hints aside from what I’ve already said.

As for the sexualization that I mentioned earlier, I feel as though it’s unnecessary and distracts from the story. The movie is too serious to be campy, so the sexy outfits during surgery and constant boobs and butts everywhere seem out of place. I suppose mixing sex and surgery can be considered avant-garde, but the way it’s done in this film makes it seem tacky. Like they believed they wouldn’t be able to sell Mary’s story without throwing in some blatant titillation, you know? It’s a damn shame, because Mary is a likeable character. You don’t need to see her ass to figure that out. If you do, then you’re a confusing person and you’ll probably glean a lot more from the film than I did.

American MaryMatt Glasby of TotalFilm found the rape revenge to be empowering. While I do enjoy a bit of justified retaliatory torture, it tends to draw focus from the fact that Mary’s shitsack teacher probably shouldn’t have played the rape game in the first place. It’s good that he got his dick chopped off. Right, well, here’s the alt review: http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/american-mary

Serenity and Psychic Secrets

Serenity

Serenity feels like it’s an episode of a sci-fi something that I wouldn’t mind watching regularly. Then again, I’m an absolute sucker for space mercenaries; the merc charm just gets me. On the flipside, I’m not really a fan of political themes, but sci-fi tends to harbor them all but reliably. Serenity is a ship full of Alliance dissenters, Alliance being the powerful and controlling organization that’s trying to swallow up the known universe. Of course, they’ve got some deep dark secrets that a member of Serenity’s crew might just know, so they engage covert operation “murder the shit out of that person really fast.”

SerenityDr. Simon Tam, with the help of Serenity’s crew, counter-kidnaps his sister River from an Alliance training facility, where she was being mentally programmed for nefarious purposes. The Alliance is not pleased with this loss, especially considering River is a high-grade psychic who happened to peek into the minds of everyone around her during her training, which includes politicians. Politicians who held highly classified secrets that would critically drop the public opinion of the Alliance if they were to be released, at that. The Operative is hired to kill everyone who came in contact with River after her escape, and ensure her safe return before the Alliance’s dirty laundry is put out to dry.

Initially, the crew of Serenity has no idea why they’re being hunted down by government assassins, or why River suddenly flips her shit and starts killing everyone after seeing a cheerful octopus themed commercial. Simon puts her to sleep with a code word, which raises all kinds of questions, eventually shuffling them to Mr. Universe for answers. Mr. Universe is an infamous hacker who hides in a nebula-encased outer planet and broadcasts pirate signals. He decodes the commercial and reveals it to be a subliminal message meant to activate River’s programmed combat training.

SerenityAfter that, it’s a battle against time, the government, and battle-hungry insane cannibalistic rapey Reavers to figure out the Alliance secret and make it public before the crew of Serenity is collectively subjugated and/or wiped out. Hint: The secret has something to do with the Reavers. But I’m not telling you anything else! It’s a great watch, so you’ll enjoy the ride. Plenty of emotional ups and downs, and a conclusion worthy of a top-notch sci-fi thriller!

So, it turns out Serenity is the movie of a failed TV series that didn’t make it past its first season. Coulda fooled me! Olly Richards of EmpireOnline says that whether you’re genre savvy or just looking for some fighty space-action, Serenity is the movie for you. Though it relies on worn but beloved character archetypes, it has a feel all its own. Here’s the alt review! Not that you need to read it: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=10125