3 New Horror Movie Reviews
See my full list of posted reviews here…
A Quiet Place Part II
It’s a story as old as cosmic dust: success breeds more attempts at success. A Quiet Place (2018) was a beautifully crafted horror film, revealing it’s plot in a slow and easy burn. Even its protagonist, a sightless monster attracted to tear apart humans who can be found only when they make noise, is craftily revealed only in flashes at first, but on full display during our climax. It touches on themes of survival, group cohesion, the power of love and its doom-bound sacrifice.
AQPPII tries and almost succeeds at being as good, yet IMHO in its attempt at greater complexity comes directorial tumult. This is not to say that John Krazinski’s directing is poor, indeed I consider him to be a rising star in movie directing. Yet combined with a script that tries to achieve too much at the same exact time, I cannot help but think the constant switching between scenes at one key sequence and at the very end misses the mark on a few occasions.
This is both a prequel and a sequel to AQP. The first ½ of the first reel tells the story of our characters in AQP before the events of that film, while introducing a new character to us in the form of Cillian Murphy, who finally and perfectly plays a decent guy for once. The first film’s settlement becomes abandoned, for a reason never made believable, with a new setting in its place, new situations and of course Cillian Murphy, whom we met earlier. The flow and progress are not as tense and enjoyable as before, while some of the same setups occur multiple times.
Despite the inevitable trip-ups with increased complexity, the film is now entrenched as part of a successful film franchise, and most likely more sequels and spin-offs are already in the planning. Please do see AQPPII. But if you wait until it’s out of the theatres, I won’t judge you too harshly.
Spiral: From the Book of Saw
YOU WILL BE WARNED BEFORE SPOILERS
Confusion abounds in the latest installment of the Saw franchise. This is the 9th movie in the series, and attempts to separate itself from the previous movies while also being aware of the events within. And while being even more of a cop-centered drama than Saw II, it taps into the prevailing social justice angst against police by concentrating solely on them and their deeds.
Chris Rock performs his role rather well as the police detective who has his whole department against him. This is played through a directorial over-emphasis on the sneers and backhanded insults of his fellow cops, with cheesy micro-plots and common – almost tiring – tropes. His father, a former district sergeant, is Samuel L. Jackson, who must be under contract to be in every 7th film made right now. Max Minghella, from the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale”, is so emotionless and evenhanded in his performance, it’s difficult to figure out if the directing geared his persona in this manner or if he’s just a shitty actor. For me, it meant figuring out parts of the ‘twist’ early on.
The setting also seems to have changed. These movies always have the police cruisers and badges carry the monikers “Metro Police” or “South District”. The first movie gives us 2 indications of setting: a license plate clearly from New Jersey, and a shot of Washington DC. Yet this one is clearly set in Philadelphia, and the familiarity carries over to the new location. This is important because unlike actual police detective procedures, the top-notch detectives never contact previous departments which have had to deal with Jigsaw killings. The events here are copy-cat. And with reference back to Jigsaw, our games begin.
Fans of police dramas will enjoy this movie more than fans of the horror aspects of the franchise. But if the ending makes the movie, then the ending unwound this Spiral. I won’t be so bold as to point out exactly who the coordinator of the major mayhem is, but that person is – at the very end – seen by several police going into an elevator. This makes me wonder what will be happening for what I am certain will be sequels. The killer is now known, which will make it more difficult for the killer to operate.
With enough meandering threads through this loose shoelace of a plot, I can only recommend this one to the most die-hard fans of the franchise. If you want action, go see Godzilla vs. Kong. If you want body horror, turn on your Roku and see Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor. If you want ghoulish horror, see the slightly better – yet imperfect – Army of the Dead.
I’m not sure I’d care if Spiral swirls down the drain.
Army of the Dead
YOU WILL BE WARNED BEFORE SPOILERS
Zack Snyder is legendary, yet still relatively young in his career. When you hear of a Zack Snyder film, you know you will be treated to craftily-built scenes, shots with both slo-mo and speed ramping, maybe even the occasional subject out of focus. He is known for his exciting, engaging style of filmmaking. Ned Kuczmynda on MovieBabble called his 300 (2007) “probably his most atmospherically brilliant.” I would agree, and even say, in most cases “atmospherically elegant.” His other films have also had a patina of dinginess, darkness and subtly stark brutality in line with each movie’s intended tone. On the utterly divisive side, his Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016) was considered a reckless hodgepodge by many (but one I actually liked more than most of my fellow fantasy fans).
Along with the flurry of zombie movies and TV/streaming which sprouted from the success of “The Walking Dead”, knowing Snyder was going to tackle this horror subgenre was both exciting news, and yet another sad Hollywood example of success begetting success, hooking the major studio mimeograph money machine up to a turbine engine, churning film after film with lockstep – dare I say zombie-like — predictability.
So here’s the setup. Las Vegas is closed off, a high barrier of shipping containers surrounds the city, and refugee camps line the outside of the zombie wall.
The plot is simple. The owner of one of the casinos has $ 200 million in cash in the main vault. He hires former mercenary Scott Ward (played by Dave Batista, Drax from the 2 [soon to be 3] Guardians of the Galaxy movies) to lead a team to the vault, and hopefully get out alive, able to keep and divvy up $ 50 million between them. Batista hires a crew, starting with a helicopter pilot, since there just so happens to be a helicopter on the roof of the casino, and others to help break the safe and defend the team. One of his team is former(?)/current(?) love interest Maria Cruz, played by the absolutely lovelylicious Ana de la Reguera.
Scott’s daughter also happens to be in on the exploitations, and typical daddy/daughter astrictions play themselves out (“I’m coming with you”, “No way in hell are you coming with me”…).
Army of the Dead does try to be different. Here, for one instance, there are 2 levels of zombies. We have the unthinking ghouls, who are somehow mostly stacked in neat piles so our team doesn’t have to walk on them, and then the alpha zombies, who have a society, caste system, love and pregnancy. Once the containers are breached and our team gets to journey inside the exclusion zone, one of the team mates, who had been inside the zone several times and is the official unofficial tour guide, mentions the neatly-stacked and desiccated zombie bodies. She notes they only come alive with rain. There’s one fucking terrifying missed opportunity. Who wouldn’t have loved to see that?
Other flaws include predictability, overworn tropes, a tittle of flat-falling humor chucked in for shits ‘n giggles, and a barely understandable love triangle between the former mother of Ward’s daughter and Cruz that is both confusing and with poorly defined characters. At the end, Ward’s daughter risks the team’s lives to rescue some members of the camp outside the container wall. So we expect them to be part of the ending. Instead, when the escape copter crashes, it’s only the pilot, Ward and his daughter. The other 2 people in the rescue helicopter are not shown, not even given a second thought, and no explanation for their absence is given.
Here, style wins over substance. I think of what AotD could have been.
My review? Kinda’ good, but nowhere near great.