Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Skype Calls

Film: Unfriended
Format: Streaming video from Tubi on Fire!

I am continually thankful for the fact that the internet and social media did not become a thing until I was not merely an adult but an adult with kids. While there is almost certainly some embarrassing things in my Facebook history if I go back far enough, it would be so much worse if it went back to the mid-‘80s when I was in high school. I, and pretty much everyone in my generation, has been saved from unending shame by not having those parts of our lives displayed in public. Knowing that I had a MySpace page means I’ve been on social media for a long time, and I still managed to avoid that. This is relevant for the film Unfriended, which takes place primarily in a Skype call.

Unfriended is not the first movie to take place in an entirely online environment, but it is one of the first to do so. This is a natural progression from found footage. In fact, I would say that the online film is a sort of variation of found footage; the difference is that the footage is computerized and that rather than being found, we’re watching it happen in real time.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Yankee, Go Home

Film: Turistas
Format: Streaming video from Tubi on Fire!

Horror movies tend to reflect the fears of a nation at the time. It’s why there are trends in horror where it seems like movies with similar themes come out within the same years or group of years. Post 9/11, we got a lot of movies that were extremely xenophobic. The poster child for these was definitely Hostel, but there were plenty of imitators that followed. Movies like The Ruins jumped on the bandwagon of “bad stuff happens outside of the U.S.” Others, like the reprehensible Live Animals focused on people being kidnapped and put in cages for sport. None really went for the full pseudo-remake of Hostel like Turistas did, though. Sure, the action is moved to Brazil instead of post-Communist Eastern Europe, and we’re dealing with organ trafficking instead of sport torture, but the politics are very similar.

What I mean by that is that Turistas, purporting to be a movie about young people in danger, is very much a movie that revels in its xenophobia. The central message of the film is that foreign places are dangerous places. We can trust the people who speak English natively—the guy from the UK is fine, after all, but the people who come across as “foreign” (even though the film takes place in their country) are a danger to everyone around them.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Give 'Em a Hand

Film: Talk to Me
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Every time it feels like I’m going to get back into blogging more regularly, life seems to happen, and sadly I don’t see this changing until the start of next year. I’ve had Talk to Me recommended to me several times, and I had it sitting on a table for more than a week before I finally got the chance to watch it. Seeing it, I’m starting to wonder some things about my movie watching. Talk to Me is very much everything you likely want in a horror movie, and yet there was something about it that left me very much wanting.

What this has done, though, is given my some perspective on the horror genre, something that I am embarrassed to say has taken me until now to realize. Many, many horror movies deal with younger protagonists and friend groups. I always assumed at least at some level that this was because horror movies are often seen as kids’ fare, the sort of movies that are made to appeal to teens and 20-somethings. This gives the intended audience protagonist that they can feel connected to, and this is almost certainly a part of the truth. However, upon watching Talk to Me, I have realized another truth about character age in this genre: younger people are often used in these movies because many of them require the characters to make decisions that are clearly wrong, and that would clearly not be made by someone with even a little experience at life.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Layers Upon Layers

Film: Asteroid City
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

I watched Asteroid City last night, and it left me in something of a quandary. Typically when I watch something that I know will appear on this blog in one form or another, I review it immediately so that I am addressing the thoughts I have while it is all still fresh in my memory. I couldn’t really do that with Asteroid City because I wasn’t sure of what I thought about it or how I thought about it. Even now, more than 12 hours after watching, I’m still trying to make sense of it.

Wes Anderson has always been the twee-est of twee directors, and that’s not going to change with this one. All of his characters, as always, are defined by their quirks. Asteroid City gives us a constellation of people, many of whom are recognizable, legitimate stars who appear in this for a scene or two and say a line or two before vanishing. Jeff Goldblum, Margot Robbie, Hong Chau, Bob Balaban, Willem Dafoe, and others show up for a scene or two and then never really appear again. All of this is in service of a story that is about the creation of the story that we are watching—we’re looking at (essentially) a fictional documentary about the creation of a stage play and the actors who put on that play, and we are watching both the stage play as if it were the main story (which it is) and the actors behind the scenes. It’s multiple levels of meta.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Fan Service

Film: Evil Dead Rise
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on record as saying that the Scream franchise is the best slasher franchise running, all things being equal. As for what is the best horror franchise in general, there’s going to be some conversation. I think you can make a very strong case for the Evil Dead franchise. The remake/reboot of a decade ago was a higher-budget revamp of the original story with not a lot of changes, but it was visceral and brutal. The television show, Ash vs. Evil Dead, is a low point (my opinion), but could be argued to be not a part of the film series. Regardless, because the series has been solid so far, I went into Evil Dead Rise both with high expectations and some real fear. Eventually, there’s going to be an Evil Dead film that doesn’t measure up.

Fortunately, that’s not the case here; Evil Dead Rise manages to live up to the rest of the franchise. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground here, but it does offer a great deal of fan service, gore, and violence without overburdening the audience with things like plot. Don’t get me wrong—I’m very interested in narrative all of the time, but when a horror movie is clicking on all cylinders, there isn’t much more plot needed than “people in danger from scary thing.”

Monday, November 6, 2023


Film: The Blackening
Format: Blu-ray from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

A couple of days ago, I watched a movie called Gatlopp, which involved a group of people playing a cursed boardgame. It was reminiscent of Jumanji in some ways. It also involves someone playing the game being shot with an arrow. How strange, then, that within the same seven days I have now watched The Blackening, a movie in which a group of people play something like a cursed board game and in which someone is shot by a crossbow bolt. It’s a weird confluence of things happening in films, a bizarre coincidence.

The Blackening concerns a group of friends renting a cabin in the woods for a Juneteenth celebration weekend. We’re initially introduced to Morgan and Shawn (Yvonne Orji and Jay Pharoah), who are the first to arrive at the house. They find a game room that contains an extremely racist boardgame called The Blackening. The game essentially starts playing with them standing there. It asks a question (name a horror movie where a Black character survives to the end), they get it wrong, and Shawn is hit in the throat by a crossbow bolt, and Morgan is herself attacked. That’s going to set the stage for what is coming next.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

What I've Caught Up With, October 2023

I did a lot better catching up on movies in October. It helped that I had already pretty much set up the Halloween reviews, so I wasn't pressured into watching movies for that. In addition to the eight movies below, I knocked out a few others that got full reviews, notably Gaia and John Wick IV. I also caught up on a little TV--the latest season of Good Omens,and a few seasons further into The Blacklist, as well as most of both seasons of The Bear. As the year starts to wind down, I'm looking forward to the possibility of a few quiet weeks..not that this is likely to happen.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sixth Time's a Charm

Film: Scream VI
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

It’s entirely possible that my position on the Scream franchise should be taken with a grain of salt. If you think that’s because I don’t like the franchise, you’d be wrong. In fact, I think it’s far and away the best slasher franchise ever created. The reason that you might want to take that at face value is that I’m not a tremendous fan of slashers. I just don’t find them that interesting, so my opinion one which ones are the best isn’t going to carry as much water as it would if I were a die-hard fan. I was pleased that Scream VI was available at a local library, though, and snapped it up as soon as I saw it.

The joy, or one of the joys, of the Scream franchise is that it’s always about something more than just the movie’s plot. There’s always a meta-aspect to the film. Scream was about slasher movies; the sequel was about sequels and the third movie was about trilogies. The fourth Scream was about remakes and the follow-up to that was about reboots. Now, with the sixth film, we get a film about franchises. That means that throughout the course of the film, we’re going to play with, confirm, and subvert the expectations of slasher franchises as we once again dive into the world that features the Ghostface Killer.