Posts Tagged ‘Horror movies’

The Babadook: Daytime Viewing Recommended—Movie

December 16, 2014

So very disturbing, but extremely well done, Australia’s “The Babadook” may be one of the creepiest movies ever. And it’s that excellence which makes it so horrific and terrific at the same time.

babadook_ver3_xlg

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, “The Babadook” is the story of widowed Mom, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her young son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Amelia’s husband died in a car crash while driving her to the hospital to deliver Samuel. Since then it’s been just the two of them. Amelia works as an orderly and seemingly has few friends except for a tenuous relationship with her sister who has a daughter the same age as Samuel. Samuel is in first grade and it’s his increasing aggressive behavior that has driven many of their friends away and has strained her relationship with her sister.

Samuel has a hard time sleeping soundly. He sees monsters everywhere. He has absolutely no problem speaking exactly what’s on his mind and what’s often on his mind is very weird and dark. He is very smart for his age and to counteract the monsters he “sees,” he has developed some fairly dangerous weapons to kill them. Amelia is in the habit of reading him stories before he goes to bed. One night the two of them read the pop-up storybook “The Babadook.” In retrospect that might not have been the best thing to do. Samuel becomes obsessed with “Babadook” and not in a good way.

What makes “The Babadook” so terrific is its acting. Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are astounding in their range. From where did they find Wiseman? He is absolutely fantastic. His Samuel is such an obnoxious child at times, that in the beginning you almost want go to the screen and hug his mother to let her know she’s not alone. He is terrifying in his earnestness that someone or something is out to get them and he will do anything to protect the two of them, most especially his mother. Wiseman does an amazing job in conveying how smart and resilient Samuel is. Davis is equally convincing as the mother dedicated to the well-being of her son while being at her wit’s end in trying to figure out how to help him.  Her portrayal of the over-whelming fatigue Amelia feels in raising Samuel is palpable. Her character’s transformation from soft and gentle Mom to something else entirely is beyond spine-chilling.

“The Babadook’s” script and direction is very sharp in its story-telling. Some of the film almost looks black and white and that adds to the movie’s sinisterness.

Jennifer Kent has come up with a horror film for the ages. By all means see it, but a viewing while it’s still daylight outside is highly recommended.

“The Babadook” is in limited release and available On Demand.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

Advertisements

Tusk: He is the Walrus—Movie

September 23, 2014

Is it possible that in “Tusk,” as an actor, Justin Long, makes for a better walrus than he does in portraying a human being? Based on this performance, the answer has to be “yes.”

Tusk Poster Wallpaper

With “Tusk,” writer and director Kevin Smith proves once again that he has a creative mind like no one else in Hollywood. Based on Smith’s SModcast 259 The Walrus and the Carpenter, “Tusk” is the story of wise guy podcaster, Wallace Bryton (Justin Long), who has a show with fellow shock jock, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment). They call their podcast “The Not-See Party,” in which Wallace finds videos of people doing a variety of stupid things, shows them to Teddy, and the two then make fun of the people on their respective videos. Wallace decides to follow up on one story—someone called “The Kill Bill Kid,” who accidentally sliced one on his legs while performing a stunt. “Kill Bill” lives in Manitoba, Canada, so after saying goodbye to his girlfriend, Ally (Genesis Rodriguez), it’s off to Canada Wallace goes. Once there he discovers that his story is no longer viable. Not wanting to waste the money his flight cost, Wallace decides to look for some other strange story in Manitoba. A handbill in a restroom bar provides him with just the ticket. The handbill is from Howard Howe (Michael Parks), offering free lodging for the opportunity to hear his lifetime of stories. Wallace’s curiosity is piqued, so he makes his way to Howe’s estate and what an estate it is!

Howe, confined to a wheelchair, appears to be the ever-so-gracious host and he does have some truly great stories to tell. Over tea, he reminisces about trips with Hemingway and others. Wallace is fascinated and doesn’t realize his tea has been laced with drugs. He passes out and when he awakens, Wallace finds himself strapped in a wheelchair and that’s just for starters. To tell more of his fate would ruin the movie’s “fun.”

Wallace has not been forgotten by Ally and Teddy who haven’t heard from him in a few days. Then they both receive a strange, disturbing voice mail from him and come to the conclusion that something bad has happened to him. They take off for Manitoba and meet with a local detective, Frank Garmin (Ralph Garman) who puts them in touch with Guy Lapointe, a former Quebec cop who has been hunting Howe for years. Together they go off in search of Wallace.

Thankfully, the success of “Tusk” doesn’t rise or fall on its acting. Truth be told, Justin Long isn’t all that good and in human form, he is in the movie a great deal. Granted, his character is not very likeable, but it feels like something more could have been brought to his performance. But when called upon to do other things, he really sizzles. Parks as Howe is riveting, and it’s easy to see how Wallace could be seduced by him. Although it’s nice to see Osment back on the screen, he’s not given much to do, but he does shine in his early scenes with Long. Genesis Rodriguez does a fine job as the girlfriend who’s too good for Wallace (or so we think). But Michael Parks aside, it is the unbilled, uncredited actor as Guy Lapointe who steals the show.

Truly only Kevin Smith could imagine something so bizarrely entertaining as “Tusk.” And if you’re a “Clerks” aficionado like me, you will definitely appreciate the scenes in the Canadian convenience store which are absolutely hysterical.

Your first reaction to “Tusk” might be, “what was that?” Part creepy…part very creepy…and part weirdly funny, you might not know what to think about what you’ve just seen. “Tusk” is definitely not for everyone. But if you love Kevin Smith as I do, “Tusk” should definitely be on your movie-viewing list.

3 nuggets out of 4

The Conjuring: Creepy Can Be Classy—Movie

July 21, 2013

The Conjuring” is one gigantic creep fest and I mean this the most positive way.The Conjuring

Directed by James Wan and written by Chris and Chad Hayes (brothers), “The Conjuring” is based on the real life story of the Perron family.  In 1971 the Perrons purchased an old, seemingly beautifully house in Rhode Island for their family of five girls and their dog, Sadie.  As the family moves into their new home, strange things begin to happen almost immediately. For starters, Sadie refuses to come inside the house, and it’s all downhill from there.

Desperate for answers, Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) goes to a lecture by noted experts on the subject of spirits and demonology, Ed and Lorraine Warren.  At the end of the presentation she asks the Warrens for their help. Without giving the rest of the movie away, the Warrens agree to assist and the remainder of the film deals with how they help, what procedures are put in place and the terrifying events that follow.

Part of what makes “The Conjuring” so compelling is that it is based on fact. This alone sets the audience on edge…these events actually happened. Director Wan respects the material and never goes over the top—although plenty of other odd things occur.

In addition to the terrific, understated direction, a real positive for the film is the top-notch acting. Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren is fabulous (frankly, after doing a season of “Bates Motel” and now this movie, I am not sure how she sleeps at night), as is Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren. They both do a great job at keeping it genuine, even when some truly bizarre statements come out of their mouths. Ron Livingston as Roger Perron and the aforementioned Taylor also shine, particularly Taylor who has the meatier role. The actresses who play the Perron children are also very good. Two who especially excel are Joey King (who seems to be popping up everywhere these days) as Christine, and Kyla Deaver, as the youngest daughter, April.

Everything about “The Conjuring” is handled with taste and “realness,” never dipping in to clichéd cheesiness. Truth can be stranger than fiction, and as “The Conjuring” proves, it can also be creepier.

4 nuggets out of 4

Stoker: Nothing Beneath the Surface—Movie

March 21, 2013

With “Stoker” renowned South Korean director Chan-wook Park makes his English-language debut.  Sadly, it’s not an auspicious one.

Somewhere beneath “Stoker’s” watercolor-like cinematography, the sinister music (and who knew Nancy Sinatra’s and Lee Hazlewood’s “Summer Wine” could be so disturbing), the blood spatter in all of its red fineness, and most especially, the two pairs of the bluest of blue eyes one has ever seen on the screen, is what turns out to be, nothing more than a slasher film, albeit a stunningly packaged film.  It’s because of this beauty that I will be creeped out for some time to come. However, don’t view this as praise or a recommendation, because it is most assuredly not.Stoker

“Stoker,” with screenplay by Wentworth Miller (“Prison Break“) and Erin Cressida Wilson, is basically India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) story. High-school age India spends most of her time in her own head and her one friend seems to be her father, Richard (Dermot Mulroney). He’s killed suddenly in a car accident and it’s at the funeral that India meets for the first time her father’s younger brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode). That’s when the creep factor begins in earnest.  A too soon immediate attraction from Richard’s widow and India’s mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman),begins for Charlie. He reciprocates, but  at the same time we also sense something not quite right in how Charlie interacts with India.

Mia Wasikowska is an outstanding actress. Her work in “Albert Nobbs,”  “The Kids Are All Right” and “Alice in Wonderland” is as good as anything  her peer,Jennifer Lawrence, has done. BUT in “Stoker” she is so one-note sullen (and the dark brown severe hair-style does her no favors) as to become painful and boring to watch.

“Stoker”  is no friend to Nicole Kidman. She probably thought that working with Park would be an interesting experience. Perhaps it was for her, but not for the audience. Kidman spends most of her time staring with her big, blue eyes. This movie is so beneath her.

Finally, Mathew Goode. He also spends a lot of time gazing, glaring or staring with his big, blue eyes. He might be “Stoker’s” most interesting character.

Chan-wook Park  has directed some very remarkable movies, but this is not one of them. “Stoker” is beautiful to watch, but is excruciatingly boring and fairly dumb. He lets himself down with this one.

1 nugget out of 4

Mama: Beware of Dark Spots on the Wall—Movie

January 23, 2013

What is Guillermo del Toro’s (and those who work with him) utter fascination with children and the walls that house them? Such is the case with “Mama.” Written by Neil Cross, Andrés Muschietti and Barbara Muschietti , directed by Andrés Muschietti and executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, “Mama” is not overly scary (depending upon your scare threshold) , but it is creepily satisfying and entertaining.Mama

“Mama” is about two sisters, ages three and one when we first meet them. Among others, their mother has just been killed by their father. Early on after the murders, the father grabs the two girls from their city apartment and escapes with them into a deserted cabin in the suburban woods. There he kills himself, leaving the sisters to fend for themselves…or is there more? Mama? Since the girls’ disappearance, their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has had people looking for them and his patience is rewarded when five years later they are found in the cabin, more wild animal-like than human. Following some therapy, the sisters go to live with their uncle and his rocker girlfriend (Jessica Chastain) both of  whom have been granted custody of the siblings.  But then what? Who did take care of the girls in the cabin? How did they survive? What do the butterflies, shadows, wall crumblings and black spots all mean?

Muschietti does an excellent job of combining psychological and visual terror…and that’s why “Mama” is so compelling. The two little girls–Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse are spectacular, especially Chapentier as the older sister. They actually make you care about them and that’s because these two are real actresses. It’s amazing, but true. Chastain, dark eye shadow and rocker-black hair looks and sounds very different from what we’re used to seeing.  She’s very good at portraying someone who’s not necessarily ready for motherhood, but finds herself caring in spite of herself.  In a dual role as murderous father and caring uncle, Coster-Waldau is very convincing as both men.

Is “Mama” for everyone? No. But it is definitely a cut-above most horror films. Now, if we can just break free from those walls.

2 ¾ nuggets out of 4


%d bloggers like this: