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

Who Ya Gonna Call? Why, Ghostbusters, of Course

GhostbustersSo pick up your phone and call! Ghostbusters! Or, you know, you could call me so you can hear my review of the movie. Or you could read this, I suppose. It’ll have to do. The preliminary outlook of this beloved 1984 flick is overwhelmingly positive. Who doesn’t like watching two nerds, a hornball nerd, and a cynical black guy go around capturing blobby looking ghosts? That’s the general idea, anyway. On with the review!

Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore (who comes in later) make up the quarter of specter snaring cadres. The three fellows are in college studying psychology, parapsychology, and the like, but in reality are trying to engage themselves in what I’ll term “spiritual activity.” In the first scene, the three catch wind of an unusual library disturbance, and their final plan is to run up to the ghost and “GET HER!” Ray’s plan, obviously. It fails spectacularly, but sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

A little bit of character description should help clarify things. Ray is the overenthusiastic ditz of the crew; intelligent, but prone to critical blunders. He provides the more childish perspective. Egon is the hardcore nerd. He handles all the major gear, planning, and statistics, while not offering too much in regards to characterization. Peter is what we could call the flirty, skeptical comedy relief. Early in the movie, he’s using a psychic test to pick up a cute blonde girl, then later on he tries to hook up with one of the Ghostbusters’ clients. Winston doesn’t play too huge a role, but manages to input a fair amount of cynical commentary before the curtains fall.

GhostbustersThen there’s Dana. She’s one of the Ghostbusters’ later jobs. After, of course, the Ghostbuster crew is kicked out of their college, forced to buy a borderline condemned building, and kick off their business with some advertising. In her apartment, eggs begin to cook themselves on the counter, and a colossal dog-like demon roars “ZUUL” at her from her refrigerator. If I were her, I would just move, but calling the Ghostbusters is also an acceptable stratagem.

This is all relevant, of course. Zuul is a follower of Gozer, who is an ancient Sumerian god that wants to wreak nonspecific havoc on the living world. Egon points out that the obscene number of ghosts they’ve captured point to a major event. After all, the rising of so many ghosts must mean something, right? It does indeed. It turns out that the apartment building Dana lives in is a catalyst for spiritual activity, and it acts as the beacon that brings Gozer the Gozerian back into the physical world.

An agent of the EPA, Walter Peck, shuts off the protective grid around the ghost storage facility because of a grudge. Dana, who has been possessed by Zuul, and Louis (her neighbor), who has been possessed by Vinz Clortho, use the pandemonium caused by the spirit breakout to meet up. Gatekeeper and Keymaster are united, and the door to Gozer’s dimension opens.

GhostbustersI’m not telling what happens next, because it’s dramatic and awesome and spoilers aren’t nearly as fashionable as everyone says. The effects in this movie are hilarious in both good ways and bad, the humor ranged from subtle to laugh out loud, and the plot is enigmatic, sudden, and satisfying. Overall, Ghostbusters is a good movie for people of all ages, providing you lack the seriousness that would render most of Bill Murray’s humor useless. Peter Venkman is Bill Murray, by the way. See, now you have to watch it! You can’t not like Bill Murray. Enjoy!

If you want a second opinion that’s negative, you’re hard-pressed to find it. Andrew Pulver of The Guardian has some great things to say about Ghostbusters as well. Check his opinion out here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/27/ghostbusters-review

Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s Take on Death

BeetlejuiceHumanity is often baffled by the question, “What happens when you die?” Some say you will simply decompose. Some say you will be judged by your deeds and sent to a place befitting of the verdict. Some say you will be reborn depending on how you lived your life. Beetlejuice has the kind of ideology that will make you very uncomfortable if you take it seriously. But seriously, who would take it seriously? Tim Burton directed it. Danny Elfman did the music. This movie isn’t here to preach; it’s here to weird you out and make you laugh.

A gaudy introduction, I’m sure, but I do declare that Beetlejuice deserves it. As a live action movie based upon an old cartoon series, it scores remarkably well with most critics and reviewers. In this case, it scores well with me. The first positives that come to mind are: costumes, humor, and visual effects. Mind you, this is a 1988 production, so it’s obviously not a CG-holic like most films nowadays.

Adam and Barbara Maitland start the movie strong by dying within the first fifteen minutes. Better to get that out of the way so the real conflict can go down. They live in a huge house that they spent a lot of time decorating, which is a real shame. They die, they spend a lot of time in a waiting room, and they come back to find out that the Deetzes, an “artistic” family from New York, have moved into their house. They don’t really want to have their home torn down and fixed back up after all the work they’ve done on it, so they seek assistance in clearing the Deetz family out.

BeetlejuiceBeetlejuice is the first to offer his assistance, but from his conduct, it’s obvious that the lights upstairs are a little dim. Or insane. Their case worker, Juno, tells them to avoid Beetlejuice at all costs, but to no avail. He quickly proves to be a threat, and is sent back to the realm of the dead. Of course, he doesn’t take too kindly to that.

Lydia, the gothic looking gloomy daughter of the Deetzes, can see the Maitlands because she is strange and unusual, something specified in the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. As Lydia gets closer to the Maitlands and learns their story, Beetlejuice gets closer to Lydia. He uses her fear of the Maitlands leaving to trick her into bringing him into the world of the living, but not before Otho, the interior decorator, uses the Handbook to perform a little bit of necromancy.

Now that I think about it, I’m leaving out a whole lot of what makes this movie great; The little snippets of weirdness scattered here and there. For example, an explorer with a shrunken head checking Barbara out. Beetlejuice feeling up the legs of a woman who had been cut in half. Adam gets offered a cigarette by a man who burned to death smoking in bed. The visual effects are realistic yet comedic. The comedy is morbid and hilarious.

BeetlejuiceBeetlejuice is what I like to call a “childhood classic.” On its own, it’s kind of a unorthodox, surreal movie with little more to offer than disturbing laughs and a fairly straightforward plot. It’s a good movie for both kids and adults, although I should inform you that Beetlejuice says the fuck word at a point. He’s a very angry person. He also makes the movie awesome. I think you should watch it.

Spirited Away, a Miyazaki Masterpiece

Spirited AwayHayao Miyazaki never makes a bad movie. Let me say that again, just so you know how serious I am. I’ll even italicize some of it for emphasis. Hayao Miyazaki never makes a bad movie. Sometimes he makes one that sort of shoots for the moon and hits mediocre. This is not one of those movies.

Spirited Away is a mix of folklore and modern perspectives that makes a sweet story enjoyable by almost anyone. It has fantastic characters, amazing art, astounding scenery, and many other overwhelmingly positive traits that will quickly drain my pool of flattering adjectives. Maybe a general description of the plot will help expand your understanding.

Chihiro is a young girl lacking in self-confidence and burdened by skepticism. She, her mother, and her father, have recently moved to a new house far away from her old home. She’s not too pleased with this, considering she’s leaving all of her friends behind. Her parents are sympathetic, but also eager to see Chihiro welcome the idea of a new school and life more openly. It takes a little more than an inspiring speech to pull that off.

Spirited AwayOn the drive there, Chihiro’s dad tries to take a shortcut, which leads them into an old train station, then into what looks like an abandoned theme park. Their curiosity getting the better of them, Chihiro’s parents decide to explore a bit. Then daddy’s bloodhound nose catches wind of a delicious meal (a lot of food), ready to eat. As they pig out, Chihiro is shouting for them to cut it out and come back, but to no avail. A few minutes of exploration later, the plot hits her like a truck full of bricks and shovels.

A strange boy in strange garb appears and tells Chihiro to leave quickly, before it gets dark. He blows what looks like blue flower petals from his hands, calling it a distraction while Chihiro attempts to make her getaway. To her horror, her parents have been turned into pigs. The boy, called Haku, finds her soon after and tells her to get a job at the bath house by asking the boiler man, Komaji. This is where her awkward and perilous adventure begins.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to justify the art style or quality. Hayao Miyazaki never disappoints when it comes to breathtaking visuals. I never thought I’d use “breathtaking” when describing a movie’s aesthetics for fear of sounding insincere or corny, but the only visual comparison I can offer is that of Vanillaware’s games.

Spirited AwayThe characters are great, too. They manage to cram a lot in there, but they each play their own separate part in the bittersweet story of Chihiro and her stay at the bath house of spirits. No-Face, Zeniba, Ubaba’s kid and pets, the frog, the three green heads… I’m not telling you who any of these characters are, though. Plot essential, you see.

It’s 125 minutes, but it’s definitely not a short movie by plot and action standards. There isn’t a whole lot of filler, if any at all, but that’s not surprising considering that it is a Myazaki movie. I think I should point out that while normally spamming the maker’s name isn’t any solid reassurance of quality… I won’t lie, it actually is in this case. This movie is good because Miyazaki made it, and because I’m reviewing it having watched it over twenty times and agreeing. Can you dig it?

The Uninvited is Hard to Watch

The UninvitedI suppose that title’s more than a bit misleading because of the lack of context. “Hard to watch but easy to enjoy” would be a much more fitting description. I can warn you ahead of time that this movie has both Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel in it constantly wearing cute outfits and constantly having the camera zoom to see what’s going on with their face. Normally that’d be annoying, but since they’re probably the most adorable actresses I know (aside from Chiaki Kuriyama), the entire movie was more than tolerable.

First thing to cover, The Uninvited is an American rendition of the Korean psychological horror film, Tale of Two Sisters. I’ve seen both of these movies, and my professional movie reviewer opinion is that The Uninvited’s plot is much easier to comprehend. Amazingly enough, it doesn’t take a hit to quality as a result of its transition, which is really quite the milestone in modern films.

Anna Rydell (Browning) is a fifteen year old girl who is returning from a mental hospital after being treated for delusional behavior and suicidal tendencies. Alex (Kebbel) is her sister and best friend, the one who’s unconditionally loving and trusting. Steven, the father, is rather aloof and cold since the death of his wife, even after he gets together with a woman named Rachel. Anna doesn’t like her much. In fact, as the movie progresses, they try to kill eachother. But more on that in a bit.

The UninvitedAs this is a horror flick, Anna is haunted by images of her dying mother (among other things). Once upon a darker time, her disabled and resented mom was kept in a boathouse with a bell tied to her wrist. Whenever she rang, Anna or Alex would come to help her. A great explosive tragedy befell her, however, taking her life. As Anna and Alex gradually delve deeper into the enigmatic past of Rachel, they begin to suspect her of murder. Not only of their mother,  but of three children as well, all of whom haunt Anna in sleep and in the waking as freaky spirit things.

It doesn’t take long for Anna’s sympathetic boyfriend to get dragged into this as well. After a set of brief encounters, he joins the ranks of the shadowy, twisted revenants Rachel has supposedly murdered. Because of the ambiguous nature of Anna and Alex’s suspicion, one can never be too sure what happened to him. The police said he fell off a sea cliff, which is simple enough. But what if he was pushed? What if the explosion that claimed there mother was the result of tinkering? And what of the pearl necklace that Rachel has? Does the fact that one just like it appears in an image related to the three dead kids mean anything?

The UninvitedBefore they can draw any conclusions, though, Rachel catches wind of their research and takes it upon herself to intervene. By the exciting conclusion, you discover that there’s much more to this movie than a murder mystery. It’s much deeper, much more confusing, infinitely more psychological. If you’ve seen Tale of Two Sisters, shut up and keep the ending to yourself. It’s an awesome twist; even I don’t want to spoil it.

The horror aspect of this movie is magnificently done. The camera techniques are something to pay special attention to, because they really catalyze the tension before the scares. Either that or Emily Browning really just pulls you in with her performance. That may be me gushing, but that doesn’t mean that The Uninvited isn’t a damned good film. See it for the scares, the nostalgia of Tale of Two Sisters, or just for two of the cutest actresses in the film industry. Whichever reason, it won’t disappoint.