Monday, February 24, 2014


Description from Netflix:
After mysteriously losing her dog one evening, a Los Angeles barista questions her commitment to living in the city and decides to get out.  But when her going-away party takes an odd turn, she finds that the city just might not let her go so easily.

What I liked:
1. The acting was stellar.  I believe everyone involved had limited acting experience, yet they were all terrific.  For a slow movie to work, I have to feel invested in the characters, and it succeeded in doing that with some great acting.

Pictured: Acting 

2. The sense of paranoia and dread that slowly built throughout the movie.  There was one particular scene in which Suziey was walking down a road at night and was being followed by a car.  It was a long scene, but it was effective.  That was when the movie really seemed like it started to pick up.

3. The ending.  The last 20 minutes of this movie were terrific.  All of the paranoia and dread came to a head in terrifying and stressful fashion.  What had been a look inside the mind of a woman hitting a quarter-life crisis in a big city became a living, breathing nightmare for her and her friends.  This is when the movie turned from psychological thriller to slasher/home invasion.  The last 10 minutes or so is basically one unbroken shot, where the actress (Suziey Block) was actually tied up to make it more believable.  It's a tense and horrifying end to the movie, and the final scene is absolutely chilling. 

What I didn't like:
1. It opens extremely slowly.  Lots of scenes of Suziey going to work, talking to friends, and looking for her dog.  Short of the dog disappearing (which we don't even see), we're really just watching a girl go about her daily life, while getting ready to move.  It's really boring.  Beyond being really boring, it doesn't even seem like it's building towards anything for a long time.  It was about halfway through the movie before any tension started to build.  Which makes this movie feel an awful lot like Death Proof: lots of talking, not much happening.  It almost lost me in the first 20 minutes.  I'm glad I pushed through to the end, but, if I didn't know there was a good ending waiting for me, I probably would have hit stop before the 30 minute mark.

To recap: set in the city.  Slow start.  Lots of talking about nothing in particular for long portions of time.  A killer that shows up near the end and starts hacking.
Holy crap.  It's Jason Takes Manhattan.


Rating: 2.5/5
Let's break this down a little further:
First 60 minutes: 1/5
Last 25 minutes: 5/5

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Here Comes the Devil

Netflix description:
Grieving parents rejoice when their missing son and daughter return after disappearing on a family trip to Tijuana.  But they’re not the same children they once knew, even though everything looks normal on the outside.

My thoughts:
This movie was completely bonkers for the first 30 minutes or so.  I got 20 minutes in, and I wasn’t even sure there was a plot to follow.  It eventually settled in, but it took a while to get there.  Thankfully, it was entertaining, so I stuck with it.
Just as an example, here is a list of things that happen in the first half hour:
- Two naked girls messing around on a bed while a 70s grindhouse song rages.  This is the very first image we see.
- A man coming into the house and beating one of the girls senseless, an act that concludes with him cutting off a couple of her fingers and running off into the hills after the other girl hits him in the head with a fire poker.
- The same man madly humping the ground, while surrounded by severed fingers.  (This is similar to a scene in Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown.  Except I don’t think that book had severed fingers.  I don’t know.  It’s been a while since I’ve read it.  That Joseph Wayne was into some weird stuff.)
- A man and wife letting their kids run off into the hills (not unlike Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer) in an area they’re not familiar with.  While their kids are out of sight, they sit in their car in a gas station parking lot, talk about their sexual experiences as teenagers and get to third base.  Again, this is in a gas station parking lot.
- The line “seeing your parents make love isn’t the end of the world,” is uttered.  By the parents.  (They obviously never witnessed their parents having sex.)

For a while, I honestly thought the subtitles didn’t match the actual dialog.  I thought I was witnessing a practical joke by the subtitle writers.  “Wouldn’t it be funny if we totally changed the entire tone of the movie by writing insane things?”  (I would normally include some examples here, but they’re so funny that it’s best if you experience them for yourself.  I don’t want to ruin your joy.)
However, based the few Spanish classes I took, that did not seen to be the case.  The dialog really was as insane as it appeared to be.

Eventually, the movie settles in a bit into something resembling a plot, but even that wasn’t completely normal.  The kids come back to the car, but they don’t seem quite right.  Strange things begin to happen in the house.  A babysitter is run off, leaving only her bra and sanity behind.  I believe the intent was to build a sense of uncertainty in the viewer.  What is wrong with the children?  Are they possessed, or were they just mentally scarred by a traumatic event in the hills?
However, since the movie was titled Here Comes the Devil, it was pretty easy to tell what happened, so that sense of uncertainty wasn’t present.

The parents also briefly dabbled in vigilante justice, because of course they did.  They appeared particularly skilled at it, too.  I double-checked to make sure the father wasn’t actually named Frank Castle.  He was not.
Even this little storyline made little-to-no sense.  The parents had been dealing with the police since the disappearance/reappearance of their children, and the police had been extremely helpful.  And then, suddenly, they decide that knives and guns will give them all the answers they will ever need.
I’m not complaining.  I like a good throat-ripping scene as much as the next guy (probably more, actually.  I blame Dalton), but it just seemed odd.
I was going to say “odd and out-of-place”, but this movie had so many strange moments that I’m pretty sure the entire movie was out-of-place.

"Kids skipping school, you say? We should probably kill this guy." 

I was confused as to whether this movie was actually supposed to be scary or campy.  There were a couple creepy scenes, but nothing that was out-and-out scary.  The best scene was when the babysitter was telling her story of her evening with the kids, but it still felt like it was missing something.  They could have really kicked it up a notch there, and they didn’t jump on that opportunity.
At the same time, I really don’t get the feeling that it was supposed to be funny.  I laughed quite a few times, but it didn’t have a comedic feel to it.  I don’t think it was going for humor or camp. It was just so ludicrous that I couldn’t help but laugh.

This was a weird little 70s inspired possession movie, complete with lots of quick zooms.  It had a cool look to it, and I enjoyed myself throughout the entire movie, even if I was confused more often than not. 
After an absolutely bonkers opening, it kind of settled in.  Some creepy moments.  A couple cool little reveals.  It wasn’t overly scary, but it had its moments.  I really liked the visuals on the hill.
Crazy, but highly enjoyable.