Movie Review: OVERLORD

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Overlord2018Poster.jpg

What happens when you take Band of Brothers, Wolfenstein, Frankenstein’s Army, Call of Duty Zombies and A Cure for Wellness and mash them together? You get a really awesome, unapologetic war/horror film that kicks ass.

Overlord comes from producer/director JJ Abrams and was constantly considered a Cloverfield 4 film until it was revealed not to be (although considering The Cloverfield Paradox, I’m not surprised if that angle was dropped). It was written by Billy Ray (Volcano, Flightplan, The Hunger Games, Captain Philips) and Mark L Smith (Vacancy, The Revenant) and directed by relative Australian newcomer Julius Avery (whose prior feature Son of a Gun was a mixed film) and everyone involved made a great little film. Overlord in reality is the kind of high concept genre film that films like kind of exploitation B-Movie Cannon Films would’ve made in the 80’s with Chuck Norris. But, thanks to its creative team and studio production values-it’s realised has the proper film it should be. Overlord is directed incredibly well with the right mix of long shots for clarity, edits to build tension and artistic visuals to help set the mood and atmosphere. This is probably thanks to the two cinematographers for the film: Laurie Rose (High Rise, Free-Fire) and Fabian Wagner (Justice League) and the truly amazing practical/CGI team that helped visualise this film. It feels like the perfect mix between a war film and a horror, while never devolving into pure stupidity or incomprehensibility.

The main thing that helps with this film is its cast. The main stand outs are Jovan Adepo (Mother!, Fences) as the lead soldier who is WAY over his head on a mission to help the D-Day landing with his Paratrooper team and the lead solider played by Wyatt Russel (Soldier, Cowboys and Aliens, 22 Jump Street) aka son of Kurt Russel who does a really fantastic job. Everyone else does a fantastic job with the Nazi Captain as a great bastard for the ages, although I wish the scientist got a bit more depth. I do like the depth and change to some characters as the story evolves. There’s no large overarching theme or subtle sub-text, because the focus is one the themes of violence, war and death in terms of each character and it works. Don’t expect as much detail in terms of how the horror/zombie aspect comes up, it’s about as vague as its explained in say Re-Animator.

Mostly the reason to see this movie is it’s a kickass, brutal, violent splatterhouse horror and action film with the visceral nature to do both well-giving thrills and scares in equal measure. There’s no giant horde moment like in World War Z or round 50 on Call of Duty Zombies, only a few ever really come into play. It’s a movie that’s all about wearing everyone down to get to that dark part. Main credit for this film is its score by Jed Kurzel (The Babadook, Assassin’s Creed, Alien Covenant) and the masterful sound work, seriously the sound team should get Oscar wins for this like Hacksaw Ridge and Dunkirk won as war films.

My main worry is people will throw this off as meaningless junk, even though it’s a really fun time at the cinemas. It’s easily one of my favourite films of the year and the kind of film genre fans who don’t want theme or politics would love. The only politics I can imagine would come into play is if…well…you think Nazis being killed is “political”. Because I’m gonna say it-Nazis dying on screen will never not be entertaining.

If I can come to any kind of conclusion: it really is just a better version of Frankenstein’s Army, just lacking the really creative monster designs. Just go see this.

 

Advertisements

Removing The Halo: It Comes at Night, “Post-Horror” and Death of the Author

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

It Comes at Night.png

I’ve been making a series of Top 10s on this blog for a while and while I enjoy praising and destroying films in equal measure: I feel my love for cinema has prevented me from finding an outright “Worst Film Ever”. The kind of film that’s worthy to write the equivalent to a 3 hour plus video on like what Bob Chipman did for Batman V Superman. Most of the films I dislike have problems mostly in one thing bringing down an entire film or just being a bad idea come to fruition. If I was to write a length excerpt of “Why Film X is utterly trash” they it couldn’t be a bad idea or a poorly executed one like Freddy Got Fingered, After Last Season, Red Billabong, The Circle, Birdemic, Snowman, The Room, Movie 43 or Fireproof. It couldn’t just big a big blockbuster with either baffling or lacking elements like 2017’s The Mummy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the 4th and 5th Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Phantom Menace or Stealth. It had to be a film that was made with the best intentions, by very talented people and misfired or lacked spectacularly. Something like Gods of Egypt, The Last Airbender or even Fifty Shades of Grey could’ve fit this bill-but they’ve been picked apart enough and I feel I don’t have much more to say on those. But, I am a genre filmmaker and lover-so I had to find a subject the frustrated me beyond a doubt. A film where the more I thought about it, the less I liked it as I understood it. And if you’ve read the title, yes-It Comes at Night is my choice for this. I recognise this isn’t going to be the most agreed on as It Comes at Night has a mixed reception between acclaim and hate and I’m not just going to say a bunch of dumb arguments as to why. In having understood the director as best I can and analyzing the film as much as possible in terms of genre and subversion-I think I can give a rather strong thesis on why It Comes at Night might just be the most frustrating horror film ever that truly fails.

1. POSITIVE QUALITIES
Obviously It Comes at Night doesn’t completely fail. For one, its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and rivals It Follows when it comes to low budget horror filmmaking craft and I hope the director of photography Drew Daniels goes on to truly successfully things. Its performances are all really great with Joel Edgerton proving he’s one of the truly underrated talents (Smokin’ Aces, The Square, Zero Dark Thirty, Bright) and his supporting cast that includes Carmen Ejogo (Alien Covenant) and Kelvin Harrison Jr (Mudbound) do great alone side him. Its tone and atmosphere perfectly capture the horror genre better than most horror films in making the fear palpable, thanks to a great use of score and sound design. And I’d be lying if I said that the ending wasn’t pretty goddamn horrifying, and maybe it’s because nothing was happening for most of the film-but that ending where it turns into a nightmarishly nihilistic and bleak end feels like perfect horror material. Unfortunately I now have to break down where this film starts going wrong, so lets start with one of the smallest things.

2. ASPECT RATIO
If you haven’t seen the movie you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. Basically this film has a lot of dream sequences and the film elects to differentiate these by the aspect ratio slowly shifting from a normal ratio to a much tighter one and when things turn nasty in the end, the ratio compresses even further. In most movies, aspect ratio changes are noticeable from shot to shot if they were filming on different cameras, like the final battle from Transformers: The Last Knight has this problem because they shot between IMAX and Red Cameras at the same time and both have different aspect ratios. Here however, it’s a deliberate choice…but it doesn’t really work. The aspect ratio shift feels like a post-production choice to differentiate dream sequences from reality, but one that doesn’t radically alter the look of the film. This effect is subtle…but it’s not like the windows stretching in We Are Still Here. I feel it’s somewhat supposed to create claustrophobic film more claustrophobic for the dreams…but it doesn’t work. If they wanted to effectively show a change in perspective without changing the cinematography more, why not just have a carefully controlled colour pallet swap? I don’t know, but the effect isn’t subtle enough that it actually works for a keen eye…and it’s stark enough that general audience will see it. It just falls into the category of dream sequences that tell little about the plot.

3. WHERE’S THE MONSTER?
If you’ve seen the trailer’s tagline which features an overt “Men in Monsters” text piece, and the film looks retrospectively like a low-key A Quiet Place-then many would think the “It” of the title is a monster like the Stephen King film of the same year. However, the film clearly isn’t about the “monster” that isn’t present or really even referenced. It’s not even a Blair Witch Project scenario where you never see the monster, but the characters experience the effect and maybe see it-it’s just whatever is there doesn’t show up. However, considering the post-apocalyptic nature, the “no going outside at night and keep the house locked” rules, the virus (That honestly doesn’t have any real threat apart from spreading) and the fact that certain things happen in the film shows that SOMETHING is around. Something must’ve done things like kill the dog and bring it to the house. Was it people? Zombies? Vampires? Monsters? Aliens? Is this an “I am Legend” Situation where they avoid the night for those reasons? Is this an isolated or global incident? We don’t know. And I KNOW an argument could be made for the questions posing interest…when in reality: it just is a bunch of questions that lead to a boring experience. While I didn’t need act 3 to turn into a monster movie when the film is clearly a drama, I did need something more. The film spends more time on dreams that make sure plot information is left out, rather than actually give clues or hints.

4. DECONSTRUCTION/SUBVERSION
Clearly It Comes at Night is a deconstructionist and subversive piece of survivalist horror fiction where the “Men in Charge” are paranoid and violent to the point they kind of are monsters…HOWEVER…Deconstruction and especially subversion rely on replacing Element A with Element X (and theme is not the replacement, you need substance to show that). For instance, The Dark Knight and Logan are deconstructionist and subversive takes on Batman and Wolverine respectively. The Dark Knight replaces fun brawls and wacky villains for a dark story and emotionally driven characters, while Logan replaces the comic book light action genre with a neo-western that’s ultra violent. Even in arthouse: Drive replaces car chases with nasty brawls and emotional depth. But what does It Comes at Night do to replace its lack of a monster or even hinted information? It doesn’t really. We’re given does of “non-information” for a mystery that may not matter, but doesn’t give anything else. The dreams don’t give information (Aside from possibly suggested home-wrecking lust?) and the film’s cinematography is its only use of telling theme or story…but it’s not really there. I didn’t need the film to turn in 28 Days Later or Night of the Living Dead or 10 Cloverfield Lane, I just needed it to do something more than just take away the fun stuff. The only thing this film has going on is the end where it goes from dark tension to decently shocking drama, but that’s not enough. And the question has to come to WHY director Trey Edward Schultz did this.

5. AUTHORIAL INTENT DONE WRONG
Trey Edward Shults is clearly a born talent: his use of cinematography, direction of actors and use of mood is far better than his contemporaries or even older talent. His work so far has been very palpable and emotional storytelling on a low budget and it mostly works. I think if given a Black Mirror episode, a Conjuring spin-off or even a Prisoners style thriller: he’d do great. His first feature was a drama called Krisha, then he did this rather respectable attempt at horror and now his next film will be a musical romance called Waves-so his diversity in material is great. Plus he’s influenced by Terrence Mallick, so how can I not respect the guy? Unfortunately, seeing as how this project is his baby: he’s the party most responsible.

Shults clearly had a thematic goal with this film, but of what…I couldn’t tell you. Obviously the “It” in the title is a reference to something…but Shults hasn’t said what and I can’t tell what. Shults has stated in interviews that the title is a reference to something and that any scenes that we aren’t privy to are in his head…but he won’t say. Now, this is not to say that directors NEED to state their intent. David Lynch and Darren Aronofsky are both great, respected and visionary auteurs who’ve never had to state their intent in their works. However, there is a difference: David Lynch’s works like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are SO clear in whatever Lynch’s mind is saying that you can’t miss it. Darren Aronofsky never stated what Mother! was about and that film’s various themes are as subtle as a brick to the spine. Directors who have stated their films’ themes like Denis Villeneuve on Enemy and Nicolas Winding Refn on Only God Forgives can help contextualise a film. But Shults has gone a bit to far with not stating or showing his intent.

His filmmaking is too subtle (weird as that sounds) but despite really amazing cinematography…it doesn’t say much of anything. Films like No Country for Old Men, Lawrence of Arabia, Heat, The Social Network and 2001: A Space Odyssey have their cinematography talked about because it displays the theme as much as the writing and performances. I don’t think I’ve seen a video on how great It Comes at Night’s cinematography is, because it doesn’t appear to be saying anything. And the It of the title (from as much looking as I could) could mean anything including: death, depression, fear, aggression, toxicity, lust, paranoia and unfortunately this lack of authorial control means one could hypothetically state the “It” is communism or homosexuality and you’d have very little to argue them wrong. The problem with all this is that is firstly removes so much information that any analysis can work and there’d be as little evidence in the film for any interpretation. Secondly, it means that the film unfortunately falls into pretentiousness where the film appears to be saying something profound…but it really isn’t. And lastly, it means that because Shults withholds information: he’s cheated the audience into letting them figure stuff out and robbed them of a more engaging experience. He’s stunted a film’s growth and engagement to hide it as much as possible-why is that?

6. DEATH OF THE AUTHOR
To try and argue this manner as simple as possible, there’s two genuinely agreed upon schools of thought for thematically reading a film: Auteur Theory and Death of the Author. Auteur Theory basically means the author (Of a book, film, song, comic, painting etc. is the one true intent) and Death of the Author pretends the author never existed and it’s only the audience’s interpretation that matters. To show two sides of this: John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween film often has a gender/sexual thematic reading with the masked killer hunting a young teen girl with the phallic knife to kill/penetrate her. However, this is technically a Death of the Author reading as Carpenter never intended that: his intention was for Michael Myers to be a representation of pure evil of the infinite abyss (which feels accurate considering his Lovecraftian themed films after). So Carpenter’s intent was missed and the common reading comes off as Freudian analysis (which is kind of outdated nowadays). 

A rather unfortunate side-effect (and level of distain) that comes from Auteur Theory is that is was started primarily by French filmmakers in the 1950’s to promote film as a true artform. Which meant many of the great auteurs were white hetero men and Auteur Theory feels like an elitist propping of old school dinosaur filmmakers. Honestly, I can acknowledge its foundational names do fit the catalogue and that Auteur directors don’t get a free pass from bad stuff like what Roman Polanski did. It does however bother me that many also hate Auteur Theory because letting a director/author have control over their work’s meaning in the public consciousness to them feels immoral in that many people collaborate on films and eventually a creator won’t be alive to tell you their intention. All well and good until context states that most films have a lead creative with a goal and intent for the film, and the internet exists so statements can last forever (plus good auteurs have their themes too loud to ignore). In general it feels like Auteur Theory has lost ground, because the majority wants to own a film more (which kind of feels like a Capitalist VS Communist argument and that’s not what I want to get into). What troubles me is when filmmakers purposefully execute such a lack of intent and voice just say ‘It can mean anything to anyone” and it usually renders a director self-stunting themselves and creative a voiceless, passionless film with no identity.

How this works for It Comes at Night is that Shults has clearly left the film as open as possible to as much interpretation as possible: thinking that equates to universal engagement. Unfortunately, it makes the film feel like it has no goal. One film often considering infinitely explorable and interpretable is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. And yes, there’s a lot one can make from that film; but Kubrick has scenes that clearly relate to evolution, technology and advancements. The film starts with apes who eventually learn to use tools, cuts to humans using spaceships, introduces a robot intelligence and the end has possibly the next stage of evolution. In my own viewpoint: 2001: A Space Odyssey is the eventual development humans may have to take in order to overcome the evolving technological beings we make. Simple enough in interpreting, which is why intent is never stated as it can remove the fun of the film. So where do It Comes at Night go wrong? It doesn’t have much seeming to be said: it’s like a mime yelling. The cinematography and acting is great, but it doesn’t appear to say anything so that anyone can say it means anything. It feels almost like Shults didn’t need to credit himself on the film, as whatever personality he has isn’t on screen except for a love of good camera work. His music, cinematography and mise en scene don’t appear to say anything, so that anyone can say it means anything. The red door can mean hell or death or lust or love: there’s no additional evidence of it. Even while further writing and researching what the film’s few iconic motifs mean: they all jumble up and end up saying nothing.

6. “POST-HORROR”
For the record, I don’t believe Post-Horror to even be a thing. It appears to just be a label given to seemingly pretentious art-house horror films that don’t do the traditional scares and use the horror medium to say things. “Entries” in this critic catalogued genre include The Babadook, The Witch, It Follows, It Comes at Night  and Hereditary. All of which are films that critics loved and audiences were mostly ambivalent towards. Personally: The Babadook was kind of weak, The Witch was good, It Follows was good, Hereditary was great and well…you’ve gotten how I feel about It Comes at Night. These films all empathise a slow pace, theme and cinematography as storytelling over traditional spook-house jump scares. I think The Witch works because its theme and dark ideas are clear, It Follows has one of the best premises and themes to match and Hereditary becomes a Japanese/Giallo Horror film with tons of gore and a rather clever theme.

Why It Comes at Night doesn’t work and my problem with this whole “genre” is that it feels like an excuse for why audiences don’t like a seemingly smart horror film. Horror films have always had themes (I mean they’re all about “Fear of X”) and the best ones have amazing cinematography (The Shining, Suspiria, The Omen, A Cure for Wellness). There’s just been a saturation of lacking horror fare that these seemingly arthouse flicks needed a defence for critics, so the “Post-Horror” tag seems to fit. The problem is that is creates a perceived notion of “regular audiences won’t like them because they’re not smart enough” and that any film that doesn’t fit in this brand (which is similar to how Mumblecore was made) isn’t a good film.  It removes a lot of nuance discussion if you say “Oh, it’s a Post Horror film where it can mean anything-therefore it’s good”. Personally, I am someone who prefers looking for what a director’s intended meaning for a film was and do my best to find it in film, but I couldn’t with It Comes at Night and realising no interpretation would definitively capture it annoyed me. In fact, I’m half convinced that Shults might not have had an overall intended vision other than “A film that anyone can interpret however they like”. And I feel that’s a weak point of the film. Many films have one or two distinct themes that stick to the point the films can last forever. Even today, Halloween is remembered as the slasher with gender politics, The Matrix is remembered for either being a transgender story or about questioning reality and Stand By Me is about the memories one has as a child. Without any distinct theme intended in the filmmaking or stated by the director (and you can tell by a lack of notice that the film got) the film will languish even more than say The Strangers which is somehow a popularly analysed film with regards to post 9/11 paranoid fears of outsiders.

7. CONCLUSION
Does It Comes at Night have good intentions? Yes. Does it necessarily have any toxic meanings? No. Could Trey Edward Shults make an amazing film that could win the world over? Yes. Do I think having the Death of the Author approach would do that? No. I hope in reading this, you understand why I thought this film was so frustrating. I don’t want films (especially horror films) to become odes to Death of the Author where directorial intent and vision is thrown out or hidden to not give into making it seemingly accessible for anyone. I want horror films and every genre of film to be lead by bold, visionary creators with so much to say. So I hope you truly understand why I took this time to take the halo off of It Comes at Night.

One Shot Opinions on 2019 film releases + Top 10 most anticipated films

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma
-GLASS:
I liked Split and I’m curious how M. Night will probably pull some commentary on the current Marvel train. I loved the idea of Bruce Willis fighting James McAvoy with Samuel L Jackson…I’m just worried the twist will be dumb…like the powers are because of the trees from the Happening.
-HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD:
I honestly have no interest. It just feels like a good looking film I’ll forget. Only weird thing was people bashing Toothless for being straight…why?
-CAPTAIN MARVEL:
Mostly just curious to see is the Skrull story leads to secret invasion in Avengers 4 or future films, otherwise it looks fine.
-DUMBO:
Looks like it’ll be boring…that’s all I got. Another forgettable Disney remake entry.
-SHAZAM!:
A fun 90’s style superhero film from the director of Lights Outs? Yeah I hope that’s good.
-POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU:
I’m not sold. The cgi looks good, but the designs haven’t grabbed me yet. Maybe that’ll change, but I’m more worried about the actual story. Still, Ryan Reynolds is awesome and I like the casual world of Pokémon in this.
-DARK PHOENIX:
This. Will. Suck. Its production history and creative team is similar to how Tom Cruise’s The Mummy went and it will be that bad. I’m half surprised Disney hasn’t shunted this to their streaming app.
-MIB:
A new in continuity instalment (because Emma Thompson is still here) with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson form Thor Ragnarok as leads, Liam Neeson is in this and its from the director of Straight Outta Compton and Fate of the Furious.
-TOY STORY 4:
I know I heard it’s emotional but…I don’t care anymore.
-SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME:
Wasn’t really a fan of the last Spider film, but this one has one of my favourite actors Jake Gyllenhaal as the villain Mysterio, so I’m sold.
-THE LION KING:
Really amazing visual effects for something that’s going to smaller, visually stunted and less interesting than the original. Another lame one for Disney.
-HOBBS AND SHAW:
A Fast and Furious spin-off with The Rock and Statham (while also having Idris Elba) from the director Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2? Ok, that sounds fun.
-DORA THE EXPLORER:
This will either be surprisingly funny and heartwarming…or guilty pleasure of the year.
-THE NEW MUTANTS:
I want X-Men by way of a horror film to be good.
-SPIES IN DISGUISE:
Great animation and cast…for Rio meets Cars 2…thanks.
-TERMINATOR 6:
James Cameron returns with the director of Deadpool for a T2 sequel? Alright.
-MIDWAY:
Roland Emmerich does a big scale naval war film so…fingers crossed.
CATS:
Tom Hooper returns to Les Miserables a furry musical…this is gonna be bad and I can’t wait.
Ok, now for the top 10 most anticipated.
10. ALADDIN:
I’m REALLY worried this will suck thanks to Disney’s continual remakes being good looking, if visually uninteresting. Guy Ritchie hasn’t made a film I liked in almost 10 years and his last one sucked hard. I want to be optimistic so…here’s hoping?
9. HELLBOY:
Yes I would’ve preferred Del Toro and Perlman returning but having the director of Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday is good, the cast is great (with Milla Jovovich playing the villain). I’m just curious why the trailer’s been taking so long.
8. STAR WARS EPISODE 9:
I haven’t been interested in a Star Wars sequel ever, but Last Jedi gives me hope in this. I’m just hoping JJ doesn’t give the fans who cried about Snoke and alike the satisfaction of really boring universe payoffs as opposed to a good story.
7. SONIC THE HEDGEHOG:
I’m a Sonic fan, I’m excited this is getting made by a good team and Jim Carrey is playing Eggman.
6. ALITA BATTLE ANGEL:
I’ve been waiting too long for this film and I want this James Cameron/Robert Rodriguez collaboration to pay off for this 200 million dollar anime adaptation.
5. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD:
Tarantino’s next film about fictionalised Manson murders starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino…I want this now.
4. JOKER:
Joaquin Phoenix as Joker in a low budget character piece (likely Killing Joke inspired) that this character deserves. Let’s do this.
3. IT CHAPTER 2:
2017’s It was better than I expected, so I’m hyped for this one.
2. AVENGERS 4:
Avengers Infinity War is my favourite film of 2018 so far and my favourite Marvel film. I like the action, story and characters, so I’m hoping it’s just as good for this hotly anticipated sequel (trailer come soon please).
1. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS:
No other film in 2019 has the promise of Kaiju, I loved the prior instalments and while I’m semi-concerned with the visuals being too dark-I’m still hopeful for this giant monster film so LET’S DO THIS THING

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1987

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Empire of the Sun
-Fatal Attraction
-Good Morning Vietnam
-Hamburger Hill
-The Last Emperor
-The Monster Squad
-Prince of Darkness
-The Princess Bride
-Raising Arizona
-The Running Man
-Spaceballs

10. AMAZON WOMAN ON THE MOON
Amazon women on the moon.jpg
A film that certain older generations (even me as a 21 year old can appreciate this) with the thrill of channel surfing while going back to a late night pulpy film. This comedic anthology was the brain child of John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Animal House) who was one of 5 directors for the film (the only other notable director being Joe Dante of Gremlins fame). The film is a rapid fire hilarity piece with scenes ranging from brilliant slapstick, excellent word play, to elaborate and hilarious sight gags. The feeling of changing channels back and forth feels appropriate as I used to stay up late as a child channel flicking between monster movies, South Park and random other stuff. Pretty much all the scenes land with a great cast including: Arsenio Hall (Coming to America), Michell Pfeiffer (Batman Returns) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix). If you’re not one who really gets the channel surfing aspect (as in being raised on YouTube and Netflix) this might go over your head, but for those who miss clicking through channels randomly late at night-here’s a nostalgia kick. But it’s hilarious as a series of sketches all the same.

9. WICKED CITY
Wickedcity.jpeg
A violent, high concept neo noir horror anime that leans into the exploitation aspect of the genre? Sign me up. I heard of this film when this was listed as an inspiration of The Matrix and upon watching I was surprised at the film’s quality aside from base level exploitation style anime. It’s a surprisingly complex narrative and world without overly long expository scenes, the characters are somewhat stock with enough nuances and the gritty 80’s animation still holds up when it comes to the imagery, action and other set-piece moments. While I can’t say it’s Studio Ghibli, Akira, Ghost in the Shell or Wolf Children levels of perfection-it’s certainly an inventive and memorable anime I can recommend to any mature viewer of the genre. In terms of its director’s pedigree: Yoshiaki Kawajiri would go on to make other great stuff like The Running Man segment in Neo Tokyo, Ninja Scroll, The Program segment in The Animatrix and the awesome Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.

8. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES
Planes trains and automobiles.jpg
This John Hughes comedy classic might not have been a box office smash, but it’s still a classic for a reason. From John Candy’s well meaning buffoonery, to the amazingly hilarious car scenes, to the rather heartfelt end and ESPECIALLY that full on swearing scene-the movie just rules. With jokes ranging from subtle to overt-the film is a reminder of when comedies used to be funny and not just “trying” to be funny. Steve Martin and John Candy have great chemistry in a great cast (with a Kevin Bacon cameo) and the entire film works as a Thankgiving holiday flick. Credit also needs to go to the late cinematographer Donald Peterman who captures great visuals for what could’ve been a basic road comedy (The same way he buffed up: Flashdance, Splash, Cocoon, Point Break, Addams Family Values, Men in Black and How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Whether you’ve seen this already or not: give a watch!

7. LETHAL WEAPON
Lethal weapon1.jpg
The film you think when a “Buddy Comedy” is pitched. Directed by master Richard Donner (The Omen, Superman, The Goonies), written by the always great Shane Black (Monster Squad, The Long Kiss Goodnight) and starring the amazingly cast Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. This movie stands as a classic for a reason: its action is well done, the story effective, its cast and performances perfectly synced in chemistry, the visuals nice thanks to Stephen Goldblatt (Outland, Young Sherlock Holmes, The Pelican Brief, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) and it’s actually strong not for its comedy-but the drama. See what I love most about this movie is Mel Gibson’s character suffers genuine depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure that’s funny sometimes, but it shows in singular moments and his overall behavior that he’s a seriously damaged man who learns to care for Glover and his family as his own. It’s a family that’ll never replace what he’s lost, but it’s a family all the same that turns his mindless suicidal attitude into something positive and worth fighting for. That’s why Shane Black is a great writer.

6. THE UNTOUCHABLES
UntouchablesThe.jpg
While it is a bit of historical revisionism and fantasising, The Untouchables is a great gangster film. While not entirely an action film, it’s a thrilling and engaging story about putting Al Capone (played perfectly by Robert DeNiro). With a cast including Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, JFK) and Sean Connery (Goldfinger, The Rock) the film is played pitch perfectly in terms of style and era. Its writing is magnificent thanks to legendary writer David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Ronin, Hannibal) and it’s directed by Brian DePalma (with help from Rumble Fish and Mission Impossible cinematographer Stephen H. Burum) so of course it’s a low grade Hitchcockian thriller and visual class act. Overall this movie just rules and can be entertained by any general audience, but it’s also a question of why Brian DePalma is so often forgotten? He was one of the Film Brats alongside Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese while making films like this, Blow Out, Carrie and Scarface-so why isn’t he more well regarded? Maybe his ode to Hitchcock wore out as film evolved (you can see that in The Black Dahlia) and he had a handful of problematic productions like Snake Eyes and Bonfire of the Vanities, but he’s still a great filmmaker. So filmmakers, film buffs and people who like good entertaining films-check this one out.

5. EVIL DEAD 2
Evil Dead II poster.jpg
For a while I wasn’t sure if I’d like Evil Dead 2, but I ended up loving it more than the others in the franchise. A mix between the pure camp of Army of Darkness and the horror with slight comedy in the first with more of a budget-Evil Dead 2 is (literally) an insane and visionary piece of filmmaking that isn’t a retread, remake or even a soft reboot of the series. It’s just one of the truly great horror films of the 80’s that has equal parts scares, horror and tragedy. Sam Raimi’s visual direction, sense of humor and visionary style melds perfectly with brilliant effects that hold up along with Bruce Campbell’s mostly singular performance a masterclass as an iconic hero and a subversion of one. Ya’ll just need to this, then you’ll truly understand the term…Groovy.

4. HELLRAISER
Hellraiser-UK-Quad-poster.JPG
A mix between body horror, sexual exploration and mild Lovecraftian horror (even if Clive Barker would detest that last one) Hellraiser is a truly great horror film more people need to see. While many simply know of Pinhead and the truly languishing sequels (which tried to be equal parts tame and shocking so instantly failed) the original is one of those great horror films about small people in a big universe. A family in a difficult position dealing with being from a dimension where pleasure and pain are one in the same is quite the good story. It’s a fantastic display of body horror, practical effects, mild existential themes and just works as a horror film. It’s the kind of horror film that appeals to me especially so your mileage may vary, but I will say the best aspects of the film are the performances of Pinhead and Uncle Frank (especially with Frank’s whole arc).

3. ROBOCOP
RoboCop (1987) theatrical poster.jpg
Paul Verhoeven’s major US exposure was one of the best action films of all time. A cop shredded to pieces rebuilt as a bad as cyborg is something that’s so simple and so perfect to see in action (despite none of the sequels getting it right and the remake failing). Its action scenes, use of direction and amazing effects still impress to this day-but there’s more to this film than just a cool idea. Robocop was a simultaneous satire of 80’s corporate culture in America of toxic capitalism and a satire of the 80’s action hero. In a film like Commando or Rambo 2, the hero never gets hit and seems invincible-while in Robocop the excuse is “he’s a robot” to also make the dry and emotionless acting of those heroes. And in Robocop, the evil corporation basically want the equivalent of a walking tank to guard people (despite it being faulty as all hell to the point it can’t walk downstairs) so create their own scenario to allow for that. It’s truly an incredible film now as it was back then, a must watch for everyone. And here’s hoping Neill Blomkamp’s “Robocop Returns” that’s a sequel to this film works.

2. PREDATOR
Predator Movie.jpg
A masterpiece of action, suspense and monster cinema-Predator might be not only one of the best action films of the 80’s, but one of the best action films of all time. With an all star cast lead by Arnie and directed by future Die Hard and The Hunt for the Red October director John McTiernan, the film stands as a classic for a reason. But While many know this film for its classic lines and iconic monster-there’s so much more to this film to be appreciated. Originally this was gonna be a film where the team takes on Jean-Claude Van Damme in a bug costume, but that clearly wasn’t working so instead practical effects master Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park) came on to develop the Predator we all know and love and it was for the better. Its cinematography by Australian DOP Donald McAlphine (Patrick, King David, Patriot Games, Mrs Doubtfire, Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia) is beautiful in the jungle, its editing is top notch, the comedy works just right, the effects are great, its cast is perfect and the AMAZING score by Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Infinity War) kicks ass. The premise either feels like “An 80’s action film with indestructible heroes where only a monster can kill them” or “An 80’s slasher with the cast being Rambo and friends”, but it works. In 80’s action films, the heroes where always guys on top of every scenario where it was only at the end with an equal did they suffer. But with Predator, the titular monster is ridiculously overpowered with invisibility, lasers and wrist blades. It essentially becomes a battle of who can become the real predator. I just love this movie, so ya’ll need to see it. And for the record, Shane Black’s sequel is the best after this one.

1. FULL METAL JACKET
Against a white backdrop is a camouflaged military helmet with "Born to Kill" written on it, a peace sign attached to it, and a row of bullets lined up inside the helmet strap. Above the helmet are the words, "In Vietnam the wind doesn't blow it sucks."
Of course it was going to be this, if it wasn’t-that would make me a bad filmmaker. Stanley Kubrick never made a truly bad film and Full Metal Jacket is no exception: becoming one of the best war films of all time. While the only other technical crew I can accredit is cinematographer Douglas Milsome (whose only other major credit was DOP for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), most of the credit goes to Kubrick’s perfect use of visuals, camera, music, editing and ability to create tone through acting. The late and great Lee Ermey deserves all the amazing credit for Drill Sgt Hartman and he remains one of the truly great characters of cinema. While the rest of the cast does amazing too considering the material, Vincent D’Onofrio as Gomer Pile is the one that will last with as he’s made to go through hell and into dark places. The film’s reflection and depiction of war and how it affects our fellow man in Kubrick’s Anti-War stance could not be more perfect as dark critique and sometimes humorous satire. As the film (even on the poster) sates: why would you have a peace badge and “Born to Kill” tag on your helmet? This film is just a masterpiece like most of Kubrick’s work and you absolutely must watch this.

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1988

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Above the Law
-The Accused
-The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
-Alien Nation
-Amsterdamned
-Beetlejuice
-Cocktail
-Coming to America
-Crocodile Dundee 2
-THE BFG
-Big
-The Blob
-Dead Heat
-A Fish Called Wanda
-Gorillas in the Mist
-The Great Outdoors
-Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-The Land Before Time
-Midnight Run
-Monkey Shines
-Oliver and Company
-Powaqqatsi
-The Presidio
-Rain Man
-Twins
-Willow

10. NIGHTBREED
Nightbreedposter.jpg
The second films Clive Barker ever directed (after Hellraiser) was both a fantasy horror film and a pro-Gay/LGBTQ culture film. NightBreed pretty has a guy get convinced he’s an evil murderer by a psychopathic therapist (played by horror director David Cronenberg) and finds out he actually belongs to a group of monstrous creatures who are actually quite welcoming. And eventually the film becomes a fight between this seemingly monstrous community and organised, religiously motivated cops and rednecks…get it? While the film is about as subtle as a sledgehammer and it’s initial release didn’t 100% work (The Director’s Cut is much better) the film still carries an air of passion and cultural exploration that most films wouldn’t. I can pretty much recommend this (even the initial cut) to anyone as a fun “outsider becomes savior narrative” (Because it’s not exactly a White Savior Narrative like Avatar) thanks to some great direction, performances, scares and some truly inspired monster designs with the final battle being fun and cathartic as all hell-but if you are someone who identifies within the LGBTQ community, this might carry a spell-binding effect.

9. THE THIN BLUE LINE
The Thin Blue Line poster.jpg
Directed by documentary titan Errol Morris, The Thin Blue Line is kind of like Netflix’s Making of a Murderer…but more objective. See this film examines a potentially false conviction of a murderer by going over various testimonies and shooting recreations tailored to each specific version of events to show discrepancies. Sometimes a car or placement of a person is different from each account and suggests ultimately that the imprisoned murderer…wasn’t the murderer. Now, just like Making of a Murderer-you can believe that this films leaves out information, but considering the number of people examined and the information given-it really doesn’t seem like that. The documentary is a post-modern classic wherein the film is challenging the establishment of crime (I mean American Police still have a not so bright track record) and it deserves to stand as that classic. If you need a great example of an engaging documentary-watching this.

8. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
An early version of Satsuki is near a bus stop on a rainy day holding her umbrella. Standing next to her is Totoro. Text above them reveals the film's title and below them is the film's credits.
I’ll be honest, I don’t get why this is so often considered an unquestioned anime classic. Same reason I don’t get why ET is a classic: both are well made, cute and slightly nuanced films that would be the foundational template for many films. Totoro certainly has its great animation and was one of the reasons Hayao Miyazaki became extremely popular and was able to make his more nuanced work. I feel the story is kind of unimportant to allow instead for cute antics, inventive creature designs and enough deviations from this kind of basic template of “Child gets Big Monster Friend” that it works. Totoro’s simplistic design is as iconic as other animated icons like Pikachu, Minions, Shrek and Mickey Mouse. Its Disney dub actually has a very good cast including the Fanning Twins (Dakota-Man on Fire, Elle-Maleficent), Pat Carrol (The Little Mermaid), Tim Daly (Justice League The Animated Series) and Frank Welker (Transformers, Aladdin) as the title monster. While it lacks deeper themes I prefer in his later work, this film certainly is higher tier animation of the time.

7. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Black thorns against a blood red background.
This controversial masterwork by Martin Scorsese that tells an alternative story of Jesus Christ is still an engaging, visual and emotional tale of this Christian Messiah. It was so controversial at the time because of its dark, post-modern revisionist take that Evangelical Christian boycotted and burned what they could of it, attacked patrons of the film in small ways and bigger ways like the crashing of a bus and a Molotov cocktail. Like…way to show everyone how positive your faith is idiots by attacking people who wanted to see it. Now I can get why people might get mad over this considering it takes the story of Jesus and makes it feel more akin to Scorsese’s filmography of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (having been written by the writer of those films Paul Schrader) as a dark examination of masculinity, sin and choices (The ultimatum Catholic Guilt story). it also feels odd that this mostly positive story got attacked by Christians…but the ultra violent and more questionable Passion of the Christ was riotously defended by the same group…like…wow.

Because I think this is genuinely a beautiful, emotional, nuanced, humanist and inspiring tale of how Jesus was still human and could make mistakes and sin. It shows his wife Mary was a prostitute without shying away from it and gives Judas a very nuanced role instead of the usual traitor. Its performances, especially by Willem Defoe (Spider-Man) as Jesus are wonderful, with not a single weak lead performance. It’s also a beautiful looking film thanks long time cinematographer of Scorsese Michael Ballhaus, its score is astounding thanks to musician Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer) and tis editing by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker is fantastic. This is a testament to faith based films trying to say something and not just be blind religious propaganda based on anger and ignorance to make money off the faith based audience.

6. THEY LIVE
A skull-like alien's face is reflected in a man's sunglasses
One of John Carpenter’s greatest films, a sci fi film that exposes the toxic and corrupting nature of 80’s capitalism. This is one of the best sci fi films of the 80’s in general, standing alongside Aliens, Blade Runner and The Terminator-a smart, entertaining and pop-culture institution piece of cinematic art. Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster in a story wherein Piper plays a man who discovers that advertising is a subliminal brain washing tool and the 1% of America are really aliens controlling you. A great paranoia thriller that actually has more to say than “they’re out to get YOU” and shows that controlling systems are more passive and target EVERYONE. Besides its strong message; its performances are great (because Keith David is always great), the action sequences (especially the six minute brawl) are fantastic, its narrative is naturalistic and not a cliché ‘Chosen One’ story, and it has iconic imagery and lines. Whoever told you the line “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of gun” comes from Duke Nukem is wrong-it came from this. Its direction is great, especially considering the low budget and it’s mostly thanks to cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe (Robocop 3, In the Mouth of Madness). And its low key, jazzy score from Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth is unique for their career, but certainly great. This is an absolute must watch, especially for genre junkies.

5. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
Theatrical release poster depicting filmstrips shaped like Roger Rabbit. The title "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and a text "It's the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble." are shown at the left top of the image.
Organising the top 5 of this year was difficult because it’s basically 5 amazing films I have to order begrudgingly. Roger Rabbit is one of those films that films buffs know of, but I feel more modern young film/animation fans should see. Before you could just CGI a character into the film, this was one of those films wherein they had to have actors acting to nothing, hide whatever they could and draw over 82’000 individual frames of art. Realized by Disney and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg under director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away), from a screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (Wild Wild West, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), based off the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. Starring greats like Bob Hoskins (Brazil, Hook), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Anastasia) and Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone, Monster House), shot by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park) and scored by Alan Silvestri (Predator, Avengers Infinity War) the movie just rocks. Its direction, acting, animation, score, narrative, themes, humor, action and mild dose of horror works as a great film that anyone can enjoy at any age. Mostly I love the character arc, the play back between Private Eye Eddie (Hoskins) and the titular Roger Rabbit. It’s a neo noir film with animated characters from all over the place, serving as a metaphor for racial discrimination. Yeah, Bright didn’t do it first…or anywhere near as good guys.

4. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES
A young boy is carrying a girl on her back in a field with a plane flying overhead at night. Above them is the film's title and text below reveals the film's credits.
This was the great Studio Ghibli film of 1988. From anime director Isao Takahata (Only yesterday, Pom Poko, The Tale of Princess Kaguya) and based off the novel by the last Akiyuki Nosaka-the film is a start emotional anti-war film that pretty much works as Japan’s answer to Schindler’s List. While many films set in World War 2 era Japan (Especially American films) deal with the famous battles, the warships and the planes-this one focuses on how war affects the smallest people in it. It’s about a brother a little sister forced to deal with this war they have no stakes or capability of affecting. You mostly just see them trying to survive and see the effects of this war. Yes, this movie is a kind of tear jerker masterpiece and I’ve seen it have flank thrown at it for that. Movies that falsely make you cry are one thing, but movies where we see what happened to real people and children is another. This movie was critical of the co-current generation (a spoiled generations from Japan’s prosperous Post War economy that had no concept of war, skipped school and often made gangs) and it did try to make them understand what their parents and grandparents went through. I feel the non-diegetic moments made only for the audience are designed to talk to the audience in its beauty and show who these characters were. It’s a relationship with the Japanese audiences to ask them to consider with more heart. Haunting, beautiful and ever-lasting in its effect, I can’t recommend this more.

3. DIE HARD
Die hard.jpg
If Die Hard wasn’t high on this list-I’d be beaten to death by action fans with Steven Seagal’s bad filmography. Die Hard is a classic for a reason: it’s a perfectly made, perfectly shot, perfectly cast, perfectly written and perfectly realised action film. It doesn’t have the biggest set pieces, the most revolutionary effects or some genre re-defining theme: it’s simply the best possible version of an enclosed character based action thriller. Bruce Willis made himself the everyman star as the true John McClane, with Predator director John McTiernan pulling perfect direction for a thrilling story and punctuating a story based off the detective thriller novel Nothing Lasts Forever. It also has the late Alan Rickman as one of the greatest villains ever leading a great cast, a subtle 80’s power fantasy and at the end of the day: it’s an entertaining, well excited action film that doubles as a post-modern Christmas movie. If you want a better summary of this, watch Moviebob’s video on it:

Also in terms of the other movies: 2 and 3 are fine with memorable moments, 4 is largely mediocre and A Good Day to Die Hard is straight up garbage. Also that final that’s some how supposed to have Bruce Willis also in it and has Len Wiseman from the 4th film returning to direct worries me.

2. DEAD RINGERS
Dead ringers poster.jpg
David Cronenberg is more than simply one of the greatest horror directors or body horror directors ever-he’s just one of THE greatest directors ever. Although he’s a cult director with many great and controversial films not many people went to see: Shivers, Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch, Spider, A History of Violence, Eastern Bodies, Cosmopolis (The Fly being his most successful)-his film stand the test of time. And I’d rank Dead Ringers as his best: a stomach turning film with great performances, a wonderfully realized theme and horror that’s more exposing than any 80’s slasher. Jeremy Irons plays the double role of twin gynecologists that share women (one clearly dominant and the other submissive) and it becomes and intricate body horror tale of sexuality, sex and questioning the body. It doesn’t need to explodes like in Cronenberg’s other films to be powerful, by the end it’s reach an emotional peak many films would fail at attempting. Bolstered by composer Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (The Empire Stakes Back) the film is hauntingly beautiful in more ways than one. Miss it for Halloween? Check it out now.

1. AKIRA
AKIRA (1988 poster).jpg
Full Disclosure: I think this is the great film ever made (3rd favorite of all time). A technical achievement in animation that not only speaks to ideas and themes that remain despite their dated origins, but also just one of the great untouchable films in my opinion. Granted you’ve probably heard this from any film/anime snob, but I’m still going to say my piece. And for the record I’m going by the 2001 dub that outshine the original English dub (but the Japanese dub is still great).

So the story of a Neo Tokyo dystopian city dealing with youth biker gangs, civil unrest and a secret experiment that might’ve caused the original disaster to make this world is one of the best stories ever told. Adapted by Katsuhiro Otomo (from his own, unfinished manga at the time) the film’s story I wonderful structured, paced and avoids cliché. The characters and their respective voice actors are wonderful, in fact the original Japanese dub was recorded before any of the animation was drawn-to remove the anime “lip flap”. Another special thing about the audio is that Akira’s astounding score (which I’d place as one of the best underrated scores alongside Tron Legacy, Batman V Superman and Alien Covenant) because it’d not only great but might potentially have hypersonic frequencies that your ears don’t register, but your brain does to add to the effect and I’d believe that. The film also invented 50 new colours due to the film being mostly done at night and needing special attention to lighting. It’s one of the best looking, best sounding, most viscerally charged films ever made. The movie isn’t just a great film because of its place in popular culture, it redefined animation cinema the same way Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and recently Blade Runner 2049 did. Speaking of which, Blade Runner 2049 might be the only post 1988 releases that achieves anything like this film. While Akira stands as a sci-fi masterpiece like Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell or The Matrix-it’s not been a film anyone could really replicate. I think the only other modern film that’s somewhat close to this movie is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but Akira is far superior. There’s a reason this film’s remake has languished in production hell for about 30 years: no one can one up this. The manga’s storyline continues after the end of this film (because again, the film was made before it was finished) and I’m not sure who could adapt this for the American Hollywood system. Directors from Stephen Norrington (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Ruairi Robinson (The Last Days on Mars), Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok) have potentially been able to make it, but none have accepted (even though I would in a heartbeat). I that either Akira should never be remand or be told by a visionary director with a master of action, horror and themes (James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Denis Villenueve and Zack Snyder would probably be the best for this).

Now onto the themes. Akira was made at a time where youth crime was on the rise, students were skipping school and Japan was enjoying its post war financial boom (similarly made works in response to this included Grave of the Fireflies and Battle Royale). And the theme played up here is the fear of a commonly known, yet older threat returning to change the world. Considering the film opens with a nuke type explosion and the name of the film is Akira (a very common name in Japan) so the idea that a revolutionary, dangerous element is by this seemingly simple name is like if everyone in the Western was fearful of someone named Michael, Sam or John. And the film shows this fear through realistic riot scenes, the youth gangs in rebellion, shadowy government agents and in the end…the literal smallest things imaginable being the greatest threat. And let me be clear, the ending act of this film is one of the best you’ll ever see and it’s the director that pulls this scene off that will define the live action adaptation.

In short, Akira still remains one of the greatest films of all time in animation, science fiction and in general. If you’ve NEVER seen this movie, it’s required viewing.

 

Why I Don’t Like The Exorcist

A man with a hat on his head, holding a suitcase, arrives in a house building in วthe night, with the film's slogan above him while the film's title, credits and billing underneath him.

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

My darkest, most controversial horror film buff truth is that not only do I not like the Exorcist…but I kind of hate it outright. I know this might not make sense considering my love of the horror genre…but then again I also hate horror “greats” like Scream, Hostel, Cabin Fever, Final Destination, Signs, The Babadook, Piranha 3D or even It Comes at Night and people are all subjective so it’s ok to not like a popular thing.

I think what permeates The Exorcist is its controversial status. This 1973 pop culture icon has long been considered on of the scariest, grossest and most controversial films of all time-to the point people believe the film was a cursed production and a demon lives in the celluloid of the film. And MANY people have stories about how they were forbidden to see it or didn’t have the courage to see it until they were an adult, telling others to see it. Here’s the opinion of someone who saw the film at age 16 for the first time, knowing of these and has now seen both the theatrical and director’s cut twice…it’s weak sauce by today’s standards. I know that sounds like saying we’ve become more nihilistic and desensitised as a culture than a film not holding up but…some things aren’t so scary or controversial anymore. Remember, the old school black and white Universal Monster movies terrified audiences…when they’re more gothic mood pieces and unintentional comedies nowadays. In looking at genuinely creepy/scary horror films of the past 20 years that I’d consider more terrifying/distributing than this: Ring, The Blair Witch Project, Antichrist, A Quiet Place, The Descent, Martyrs, Mother! and Hereditary. The Exorcist is now just kind of tame.

Lots of “controversial films” lose their staying power. I doubt many modern audiences would find A Clockwork Orange, The Last Temptation of Christ, Evil Dead, Natural Born Killers or 50 other films that upset crybabies of the prior decade. It’s like how currently “Goblin Slayer” is getting touted as a disturbing anime…despite it being basically 1940’s pulp fantasy book material. The Exorcist just didn’t scare me: the gore and nasty imagery was childish to me, Regan swearing and bodily actions was more hilarious than scary (like people who thought Toni Collette was more funny than crazy in Hereditary) and I just felt more bored than anything during this film. I know that’s the product of a lot of older films: slow creeping tension…but Alien, The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jaws did these better in the same time frame.

And I’m sure I’m gonna get told “I’m missing the point”…no I’m not. The Exorcist is not The Shining levels of subtle, it’s about as broad as it can be, but it’s kind of a stupid broad in modern context. The narrative here is that a modern (for then) progressive mother’s daughter gets possessed by a demon and only 2 Catholic Priests can save her. The basic message is “women can’t save their own daughters, it’s probably their fault anyway-it’s only the men of faith who can save her” (Considering the mother virtually disappears for the 3rd act). To be honest…that sounds like a message 70’s audiences would take…but it sounds ultra preachy in modern context doesn’t it? And that’s without getting into the uncomfortable narrative tropes of possession affecting women more than men (especially in narratives-I can’t speak on actual possessions) and how it seems more like families unable (or not wanting) to deal with women during moments of stress. It’s kind of like how the modern hatred of witchcraft stems from an ancient stupid push of sexism hidden as propaganda by the male controlled church. I know this might sound like I’m an SJW and hating on a classic to be a hipster, but I’ve tried 4 times to like it and it always loses me as an older film.

Older films can suck: Gone with the Wind is a pity story for the American Confederacy (while also having inconsistent performances and some dumb action), The Red Shoes is sexist in saying women need a man to be happy in any aspect of life and even The Crying Game makes gender more of a “plot twist for shock value” than a character important moment.  The Exorcist I think not only has an outdated story along with lacking scares, but it also has some truly bizarre editing that helped me recognize bad editing. The best example I can think of is a scene where Regan’s tests are intercut with a scene of Father Damien and it comes off like how Baz Luhrman had Moulin Rouge edited. it also has an ending that feels right out of The Babadook wherein nothing seems to have happened or been gained, making me feel like I wasted my time. I also feel its opening barely explains mood or atmosphere and is just there to set up a character who doesn’t really need a backstory (another example of more emphasis given to a male character). So yeah, there’s multiple reasons I dislike this film.

Some of the performances are good, the effects were nice and it’s not shot horribly-with some shots lasting in people’s minds forever. However I do have to call into question the director William Friedkin. While I don’t believe the film itself was cursed, Friedkin’s career was. Despite having back to back successes with the critically acclaimed and award winning The French Connection, and the box office smash turned pop culture institution The Exorcist…Friedkin never had another success.
-Sorcerer was a re-evaluated film that failed due to releasing against Star Wars.
-Deal of the Century was a poorly received box office dud that feels in bad taste, Rampage made no impact
-The Guardian was underwhelming.
-Jade was a critical and box office failure that helped kill the erotica genre.
-Rules of Engagement was a huge bomb and critical disaster.
-The Hunted was a box office disappointment that’s…descent I guess?
-Bug was ok, but didn’t really do it.
-Killer Joe was well received, but not a box office hit.
His only other notable works were the well received and descent hit To Live and Die in LA…and the absolutely homophobic failure of a film Cruising that incited a double homicide at a gay bar. So forgive me if I don’t think Friedkin is some brilliantly forgotten director suffering from a film curse…I just think he might’ve lost his way REALLY hard. Considering he doesn’t like horror films and made The Exorcist, it’s not wonder it comes off like a supernatural drama. I also think his methods were questionable on-set (I even think sometimes Kubrick and Hitchcock went too far) especially hitting an actor…like that’s just uncalled for and I couldn’t tell you which scene it happened in.

I’m not here to tell you that you can’t like this movie or that you shouldn’t watch it (Free will is your right) I’m just expressing how I feel. It’s just one of those films I don’t really like despite the critical acclaim and it’s ok for anyone to like or dislike anything (unless it’s a dumb reason like sexism/racism/homophobia). I’m sure there’s a classic film or film you “should” like, but just don’t. And I’m sure there’s “bad” films that most people dislike and you really do. Subjectivity is fine. I just wanted to say how I felt.

 

 

Movie Review: HALLOWEEN (2018)

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Halloween (2018) poster.jpg
…why do I have to keep educating older film fans? This feels embarrassing to have to do.

The original Halloween by John Carpenter from 1978 was the original “Classic” slasher. While Psycho, Peeping Tom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and early Giallo films technically did many similar things-Halloween was the modern template. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and pretty much every other slasher film primarily takes influence from it. It wasn’t a tour de force masterpiece like The Shining, Suspiria or John Carpenter’s The Thing, it was a lean and scary experience that did its job perfectly akin to The Blair Witch Project or Alien. Halloween still stands as a great slasher thanks to its minimalist design, brilliant execution and subtle theme. And this was strong enough for (now) 10 more films…even if the track record is pretty bad. Halloween 2 is disposable (with a twist that doesn’t really work), Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is the most interesting (but doesn’t really work 100%)  and 4 through to Resurrection (8) were interchangeable attempts at making another one (none really working). Aside from Carpenter, none of the other directors really built the franchise or themselves in any way. Rick Rosenthal of 2 and Resurrection never went on to do much else, Tommy Lee Wallace is only really know for the It miniseries and Halloween 3, Dwight H Little of the 4th film (for me at least) only really went on to make the second/best Anaconda film, Dominique Othenin Girard of the 5th film went nowhere, Joe Chappelle of the 6th film also went nowhere and Steve Miner who did H20 while having the 2nd and 3rd Friday the 13th film under his belt at least made the entertaining Lake Placid. Plus there were the 2 Rob Zombie remake universes that…pretty much started strong and died fast. Doing a retcon sequel so that only the 1st and last film count in this continuity is fine, and this movie is pretty damn great.

Halloween 2018 is probably the best Halloween film since the original and the most interesting since Season of the Witch. No, it doesn’t outclass the original because it’s completely indebted to it: but it’s certainly the most worth sequel considering how bad they’ve been and the 40 year gap. The premise of Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) waiting 40 years for Michael’s return, and she’s pretty much been a PTSD survivalist this whole time is awesome. Curtis in the lead is great as this grandmother Laurie-badass, determined and still human. Michael Myers in here is great (performed by the original and a new actor) having the menace he always had. Other performances by Judy Greer, Andi Matichak and Will Patton do a great job supporting as well. The plot works really well (by a screenplay co-written by actor Danny McBride) and its directing of actors, visuals and tension is wonderful thanks to David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Joe). Special mention to cinematographer Michael Simmonds (Cell, Nerve) who gives the best shot film in the franchise since the original thanks to a wonderful use of lighting, angles and some spectacular long takes. Also is score and sound design are BEYOND AMAZING!

But you’re here for a slasher to see cool kills, get scared and get some catharsis. And this film does a great job with building its horror, being as believable as possible with Michael’s mild teleporting powers (great use of negative space) and having some AWESOME kills. Most of the kills are down with great practical effects and character acting. Some of the best kills are off screen and done in the kind of “Build Up, Aftermath) execution Japanese horror often does. Its ending climax is actually really well executed, even if my favorite part is that ultra cool long take at the mid-point.

Now, I’ve been hearing two different opinions “Good Enough” or “Not Good Enough” and some of the negative reviews feel…like “film buffs” a generation above mine don’t get Halloween. I’m not going spoil anything, but I am going to discuss the themes of this and the original film so watch this video by Ryan Hollinger for a great analysis of the original film.

Ok, so one of the often taken away parts of Halloween is the idea that it’s a metaphor for sexual puberty in a woman. That Michael Myers is the embodiment of male predation and him trying to stab her with the knife is a rape metaphor. This interpretation…is completely different from Carpenter’s original intent and has always denied it as that. I like gender theory analysis in films as much as the next person, but I think it’s a very Freudian take and Sigmund Freud…doesn’t really belong in serious discussion anymore (here’s a man who thought all homosexuality stemmed from lacking a father). Instead, John Carpenter simply had Michael Myers viewed as the Boogeyman and the embodiment of evil. It’s why any of the attempts to make Michael more interesting in the sequels and especially Zombie’s remake-utterly fail. Michael isn’t special or motivated by human nature or anything like that. Michael’s not semi-tragic like Jason Voorhees, witty/creepy like Freddy Kruger or even just a man like Leatherface…Michael is pure evil, the darkness in the world. Anyone can think anything of any film and if your takeaway is the gender dynamic…then please embrace Death of the Author by what you see. As someone who embraces Auteur Theory (because I am one) and looking at more accurate analysis documentations of the film…I’m inclined to believe Michael is pure evil and it stemming from a VERY soft Lovecraftian influence. I know that’s a stretch considering Lovecraftian horror is either about madness, body horror or giant unspeakable horrors form beyond this world…but I truly believe Michael is the human embodiment of that. Friedrich Nietzsche once stated “…if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back at you” and I truly believe in watching the film and reflecting on the original…Michael is The Abyss. Michael’s evil is felt pretty much by everyone and there’s a twist later on that pretty much confirms my theory on that. Michael is the dark abyss, of infinite horror and a reminder of humanity’s worthless state. Not an undead human (Re-Animator), mangled body of tentacles (From Beyond) or giant space god (Hellboy)…just a man in a mask. Also considering John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian fueled Apocalypse Trilogy…it’s not out of the question.

Unfortunately, most critics have missed this because they seem to hold the prior films with some strange affection (even though most are just bad) and I didn’t really know what they wanted? I feel like this was something they wanted…but either in the fan script they have in their head, or they don’t actually know what they want. Missing this really great theme and being confused (despite it being explained) about an act 3 turn and hating the film for it feels…like missing the point and it’s disappointing that otherwise smart film fans have missed a really basic idea. But if you are also into the gender theory dynamic, the 3rd act will satisfy in its themes and horror-meta narrative.

Overall, I really liked this film and found it surprised me, entertained me and had more going on. I think Blumhouse keeps making enough good films (Insidious, Sinister, Get Out, Split) to outweigh the bad (Unfriended, Truth or Dare, Happy Death Day) and I’d like it if Blumhouse got Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw and Nightmare on Elm Street. They’d give them to passionate and talented directors to make and wouldn’t micromanage the hell out of it.

So I highly recommend this movie, hope a potential sequel can be made. HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!