41 posts categorized "Horror"

April 18, 2018


A Quiet PlaceDon’t believe the hype. “A Quiet Place” is a plot-hole filled waste of time. Scary? Not even close. All respect for John Krasinski (making his directorial debut) and his real-life wife Emily Blunt aside, the performances in this film leave much to be desired.

As Graham Parker sings, “Children and dogs will always win, everyone knows that. I won’t work with either one again.” Wise words. Deaf child actor Milicent Simmonds (“Wonderstruck”) seemingly couldn’t act wet in a rain storm. This film’s flaws however reach much further than shoddy portrayals.

A by-committee minimalist script from three writers (Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski) drops the audience into day 89 of an alien invasion. The premise is simple, alien monsters with acute hearing, and poor vision, track humans by sound. Sneeze loudly and you’re toast. Needless to say there is very little dialogue in the film. This is not a good time or place for characters to be having babies considering the inevitable cries that will cost you and your would-be infant its life. More on that later.

Our four-person family unit consists of Blunt and Krasinski playing parents Evelyn and Lee Abbott to adolescents Beau (Cade Woodward), Regan (Simmonds), and Noah (Marcus Abbott). These parents aren’t winning any awards for their responsible parenting skills. The number of children drops to two early on in the action before the remaining kids go missing. Where most parents would be worried sick, Evelyn and Lee are cool to a fault. "The kids will be fine." If the parents don’t care, why should we. Not only that, Evelyn has a fully-baked bun in the oven who, when he’s born, is the quietest baby you’ve ever seen or not heard.

The tail-chasing narrative comes down to a couple of irresponsible parents searching, or not, for their two missing young kids while bringing another one into an inhospitable world where it will most certainly be eaten within a matter of days if not hours. I suppose you could read the text (and subtext) as a poorly formulated parable about overpopulation in a capitalist society that hears everything you do, but that would be giving this boring film far too much credit.


So while the groupthink virus continues to consume so-called critics, “A Quiet Place” is on par with M. Night Shyamalan’s (a.k.a. M. Night Shyamalamadingdong) insultingly mediocre post “Sixth Sense” overwrought, underdeveloped, and meepy films. Your disappointment awaits.     

Rated PG-13. 90 mins. (C-) (One star — out of five / no halves)

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

October 22, 2015


Crimson-peak There’s a reason that Guillermo del Toro has felt the need to defend his latest film with the excuse that it is a Gothic Romance, as opposed to the ostensible horror movie, that the film’s trailer, and poster, indicates. Why would your "romantic" movie poster say "Beware?" Is there a danger of STDs? Genre confusion, however, is not this tedious film’s only fatal flaw. A protagonist breaking character is another egregious error that sends this visually appealing movie down its melancholic, if gory, path to entropy.

Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited return to his signature phantasmagoric style (see “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”) arrives with an unexpected thud. On first blush it seems possible that del Toro’s experiences making Hollywood films, has eaten away at his creative powers. Directing “Pacific Rim” might not have been the best career decision after all.

“Crimson Peak” is an exquisitely lush movie to look at, but it lacks suspense. Regardless of whether you go into the film expecting to see some preconceived notion of a gothic romance or a horror movie, suspense is a key element that should be there. For a movie that del Toro says is not a horror movie, sudden outbursts of vicious bloody violence play out in deadpan counterpoint to the mundane narrative at hand.

Crimson Fireplace
Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing is a shrewish author of ghost stories living in Buffalo, New York during Europe’s Belle Epoch. From her writerly perch Edith prefers Mary Shelley to Jane Austin. The subtext here is that she may be searching for her own Lord Byron. Edith’s naughty-librarian appearance (hair up with glasses) disguises a sharp wit, and lusty loins seething to tempt the town’s latest mystery man, Thomas Sharpe, a baroness earnestly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston.

Thomas earns Edith’s respect when he notices one of her ghost stories sitting on her desk in her industrialist father’s office. The charming baroness is dutifully impressed at the pages he peruses before discovering that Edith is the story’s author. More importantly, Thomas is in town with his not-right sister Lucille (unconvincingly played by Jessica Chastain), on a mission to find financial backing for a mining machine he has devised to remove the red clay upon which his British mansion is sinking. Naturally, Edith’s business-savvy father Carter Cushing (note the Peter Cushing reference) is the wealthy would-be investor that Thomas must convince. Is the love that blooms between Edith and Thomas to be trusted?

Thomas and Edith
In spite of her instincts about the kind of “toxic” man he might be, Edith marries Thomas after her disapproving father’s murder. Edith manages to act against the resolute instructions of both of her deceased parents when she moves across the Atlantic to live with Thomas and Lucille at “Crimson Peak,” a place her mother warned her never to go.

Edith’s writing aspirations go out the window after she moves into the gigantic snow-covered “Allerdale Hall” (aka Crimson Peak), whose land glows bright red. Allowing Edith's primary character trait (as a fiction writer) to vanish into thin air just when she should be using her ghost-infested surroundings for novelistic inspiration, removes a key part of Edith’s identity. It is as if del Toro is reneging on his female character’s intellectual promise in favor of a weak emotional bond with a man who is clearly not what he presents himself to be. It doesn’t help del Toro’s goth-romance gambit that Hiddleston and Wasikowska share an utter lack of romantic chemistry. A secret that Thomas and his sister share, explains the coldness Thomas exhibits toward Edith. Del Toro isn’t as daring in the realm of sensual expression as he is at showing sudden bloody violence.

The Mexican filmmaker has fun borrowing elements from films such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (see the decrepit mansion’s elevator) but the overall effect is overwrought and underwhelming. “Crimson Peak” isn’t an awful movie; it just isn’t a very good one either. Come back Guillermo del Toro. We need you.


Rated R. 119 mins. (C) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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July 15, 2013


Ghost Story —
James Wan Abandons Gore for Suspense

ConjuringSince carving his name as a modern-horror director to be reckoned with, James Wan (“Saw” - 2006) has been moving steadily toward a less literal, more haunting, approach to the genre. “Insidious” (2010) evinced a maturity of creepy style and suspenseful execution to rival even the impressive work of Ti West (“The House of the Devil”), arguably the best young horror filmmaker working in the genre today.

Operating from a fact-based script, Wan serves up a memorable if relatively gore-free haunted house creep fest filled with ghastly surprises in a cool '70s retro-gothic atmosphere. Although anchored by a now-clichéd paranormal-investigator plot device, Wan takes full advantage of the obvious narrative framework to escort the audience through a historically-bound hell house where a working class family find themselves trapped by an age-old malevolent spirit with a lot of ghastly history and deadly tricks up its sleeve.

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are husband-and-wife paranormal investigators/authors with an off-limits basement full of possessed accouterments taken from their many encounters with the supernatural universe. An especially demonically contaminated doll sits inside its own locked glass case in their Connecticut house. Their young daughter knows better than to go into the cellar, but still can’t resist a little visit now and again.


The couple dresses in the wide collar polyester styles of the era. The pair of college-lecturing experts on things that go bump in the night could have spawned their own ‘70s TV show — imagine “Charlie’s Demon Hunters.”

Blue-collar parents Carolyn and Roger Perron (played by the oddly cast Lily Taylor and Ron Livingston) move into a large but broken-down lakeside house in Harrisville Long Island with their five daughters. The “hateful” spooks that have inhabited the property and its land for more than a century waste no time sending a message for the family to take their leave, or else. All of the clocks stop at 3:07 am. Voices talk to the little girls. A grotesque female ghost makes frequent appearances. Pictures fall off the walls so many times that Carolyn doesn’t bother putting them back up anymore. The inexplicable murder of the family dog sends the couple to visit a nearby college where the Warrens are lecturing, in order to beg for their assistance.

Sure enough, the Warrens sense that horrible spirits possess the house during their initial visit. One malevolent spirit in particular means to bring serious harm to the newly arrived family regardless of where they attempt to run.


The Warrens return with their small team of assistants to set up cameras around the house, along with tape-recorders, to chronicle the evil that freely roams and terrorizes the innocent family. James Wan artfully employs handheld camera-work with inspired flourishes of shocking action to send goose bumps.

Lorraine is especially gifted with an ability to see into the dark spirit world, but each mysterious communication takes a toll on her — a detail that adds to the film’s sense of impending doom. Still, it’s Carolyn who is most susceptible to physical attacks from the demonic spirit at large. Shocking events transpire.


The Conjuring” backs up its creaking floor and slamming door tropes with episodes of all-out terror to send its audience to bed with a worrisome feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Nightmares may follow.  

Rated R. 112 mins. (B) (Three stars - out of five/no halves)

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