Friday, October 28, 2016

1012. Lat den ratte komma in

Lat den ratte komma in
Let the Right One In
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

We have reached the conclusion of our scary movie month, which is just as well, because I was really running out of horror entries.  I hope everyone has a great Halloween.  I know I will be consuming candy corn by the pound in honor of this sacred day.

Oskar lives with his mother Yvonne in a suburb of Stockholm.  Oskar is regularly bullied by the kids in his school and fantasizes often about getting revenge.  He meets his new next door neighbor, Eli, a pale girl his age who resides with a mysterious older man.  The two become close, although it is apparent that Eli is not quite what she seems.  Things get pretty gross.

I am not sure anyone gets genuinely frightened by vampires.  While there are some images in this film that are...unsettling, I am not sure I would even classify this is as a horror movie.  It's more like a romance that is occasionally disgusting.  The filmmakers make up for this by including many shots of pure beauty.

Despite the unusual juxtaposition, I still found my attention waning.  I could see where the narrative was going to take us and I spent most of the film waiting for characters to figure out what the audience already knew.

I would recommend this if you are in the mood for something different, but if you are looking for something scary, please see my previous raves.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Almost every scene contains the color red.  When are we all going to stop ripping off The Sixth Sense?

Friday, October 21, 2016

1011. Black Swan

Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

This film was a big deal when it was released, but I rarely hear it mentioned now as anyone's favorite movie.  I do hear references to the lesbian scene, which we have all collectively decided was awesome.

Nina is a timid ballerina in a New York City ballet company.  I don't think filmmakers are capable of portraying a happy ballerina, so you know this isn't going to end well.  Nina lives with her controlling mother (in my opinion, there is nothing scarier than a mother in a horror movie).  Nina's company is putting on Swan Lake and the director chooses Nina for the lead role.  Nina is able to perform the White Swan's part perfectly, but is unable to full embody the Black Swan role.  Slowly, she begins to get in her touch with her dark side.

I've only been to the ballet once in London.  I imagined that the experience would be dark and erotic, perhaps a little confusing, but utterly engaging.  I was a bit off the mark, but this movie felt like everything I imagined a ballet should be.

This is not the kind of movie that is packed with jump scares, but the characters have enough darkness in them that they manage to be genuinely chilling.  A beautifully twisted film.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Winona Ryder only has four minutes of screen time.

Natalie Portman's dancing double, Sarah Lane, has stated that she doesn't feel like she has gotten the credit she deserves, as she performed most of the dancing.  Aronofsky later said that Portman did 80% of her own dancing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

1010. The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard

This is one of my favorite horror movies of all time.  As such, I have kind of dreaded writing about it.  I always feel as though I can be rather incoherent in my gushing.  So prepare yourselves.  I also worship Joss Whedon, so gushing might get a bit out of control.

I should probably start by saying that this movie is made for horror movie fans (more specifically, slasher movie fans) and if you don't enjoy those, you might not get a lot out of this film.  On the other hand, if you are like me and have spent many nights searching the darkest corners of Netflix trying to discover a decent slasher movie because you have seen all the famous ones already, this movie will speak to you.  Five friends decide to spend their break in a remote cabin in the woods.  Now I think, given this premise, we would all have certain expectations about what will happen and who will survive.  But this is Joss Whedon, people!  He lives to defy our expectations and break our hearts into a thousand pieces.

Being self aware doesn't always work in films.  I have seen movies that spend a lot of time winking at the camera, while still exhausting the same tired tropes.  Just because you are know you are performing cliches doesn't mean you are excused.  This movie manages to acknowledge many horror movie conventions while still being fresh.  I would go into more detail, but I am not sure what qualifies as spoilers in a film like this.

Anyway, I might go into more details about why I love this movie in the comments section, so I will give a preliminary spoiler warning.  But I will close with this Joss Whedon quote: "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke."

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Drew Goddard was inspired by his upbringing in Los Alamos, where scientists lived ordinary, routine lives while building nuclear weapons.

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard wrote the script in three days.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

1009. Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity
Directed by Oren Peli

I had a hard time deciding what I would rank this film.  On the one hand, I have seen this movie enough times that I am forced to admit it is a favorite, and thus deserving of a five star ranking.  On the other hand, some of the criticisms of this movie are too valid to ignore.  Oh well, I'll stick to my guns and award it five stars.  This degree of heroic honesty is definitely deserving of a medal.

Since as far back as she can remember, Katie has been haunted by an unknown demonic presence.  Lately, the "incidents" have gotten significantly worse, prompting Katie's boyfriend, Micah, to begin filming the house to document the paranormal activity.

I've heard a lot of people complain about the lack of scares in this movie.  True; objectively, a sheet moving on its own isn't the darkest image that has ever been conjured by horror movies.  As a personal preference, I have always enjoyed scary movies that allow the audience to come up with their own versions of the monster (i.e. The Blair Witch Project, Jaws, etc).  The shower scene in Psycho will always be more chilling to me than watching some bimbo getting her head ripped off (this was a scene in Most Likely to Die; avoid at all costs).

To that end, I enjoyed the subtlety and rising tensions of this film.  There are so many instances in horror movies where the audience feels completely removed from the characters.  We think "well, I would never go in there" or "I would never wander off alone like that."  This thinking severely limits the ability of a film to really freak us out.  However, I found Katie's actions in this movie to be pretty plausible.  Micah, on the other hand, behaved in the typical horror movie boyfriend fashion.  I might stage a haunting before I move in with a guy, just to see if he transforms into a total asshole.  I can foresee absolutely nothing going wrong with this plan.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The ending in the film was based on a suggestion made by Steven Spielberg.

The actors improvised most of their dialogue.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

1008. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Directed by Wes Anderson

Happy October everyone!  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, as it combines the best things in the world: horror movies and candy.  In honor of that sacred day, I am going to do several scary movie posts throughout the month.

Anyway, first we have to take care of this film.  I invited my sister to watch this with me, but she bailed halfway through.  Knowing that this was on the List, I bravely soldiered on alone.  The film is a story within a story within a story...I am not sure why this method was chosen.  Maybe it allowed for more celebrity cameos.  I am not sure if Wes Anderson just wanted to give his film more star power or if a lot of actors just wanted to be in a Wes Anderson movie, but this film is packed with cameos.  It was actually kind of distracting.  But I digress.

Monsieur Gustave is the Grand Budapest Hotel's concierge.  He attends to the sexual needs of many of the older guests of the hotel, but only if they are blonde (some things never change).  Gustave befriends a young lobby boy and takes him on as his protege.  One of Gustave's lovers die under mysterious circumstances, leaving him in possession of a priceless painting.  Naturally, Gustave is suspected of the murder.

I have enjoyed the previous Wes Anderson films on the List and was looking forward to this one.  I always loved how literary his movies were.  However, I think Anderson has become a bit too infatuated with his own style (I thought the same thing about The Hateful Eight if you recall).  This movie was just too much.  Too many moments were odd merely for the sake of being odd.  I felt like he was sacrificing a cohesive story for his own strange style.

At least the film looked beautiful and everyone in the (slightly overcrowded) cast was extremely talented.  Still, I should have kept track of how many times I rolled my eyes.  I might have set a record.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

First Wes Anderson film to win an Oscar.

Tilda Swinton spent ten hours in the make up chair everyday