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Friday, December 30, 2016

End of Year movies binge!

  Finally have a bit of time to catch up on some movie watching. Christmas holidays have me getting a few days to kick back and relax. That means I have been checking out some of the films I have missed while I was so busy all year long. Binging means I will not give full reviews but at least here you can see what caught my fancy.
  For Christmas the family and I watched Gremlins (1984) a classic romp of Christmas disaster. The film sits in the eighties in its approach to the world but is timeless in its setting of small town America. This film is so much fun and really a dark little treat for the holiday season.
Train to Busan (2016) is an exceptional film. Set in an epidemic of zombie like behavior, the fast kind, it is really the story of a little girl wanting the attention of her Father. Mixed into the high speed train ride where passengers are struggling to survive is some nifty social commentary on work and its effects on society. Wonderfully executed with characters to cheer for, heroes and cowards it is a survival story built on people. Excellent action and thrills and the dread of being infected make this an great watch. Director Sang-ho Yeon really bring a tight and self written script to life in possible the best horror film I saw this year.   The Eyes of My Mother (2016) is a terrifying exploration of how untreated trauma can grow into a sick obsession and a whole lot of crazy. Spanning years in the life of Francisca a girl traumatized but the murder of her Mother and the subsequent strange behavior  by her father in the matter. She is spirals out of control and her need for someone anyone to have an emotional connection to has lasting consequences to those unfortunate few to cross paths with her. As a first film for by Nicolas Pesce is a driven mood peace with style and raw character driven edge.The lead Kika Magalhaes is great at capturing the insanity of the character.

Green Room (2015) This was an evil little movie of a punk band really being in the wrong  place at the wrong time. Heroin and Nazis are the factors in them not getting out alive but you know kids can be resilient. It is a tense edge of your seat struggle for the whole 80 or so minutes. Very satisfying in it's execution by Director Jeremy Saulnier. even the cleverly written way the survivors turn the tables.
  The Wailing (2016) - The comedic beginning of this film certainly makes it a strange gem of a film. For 40 minutes I was thinking this was a light comedy of errors with quite a bit of gore. Then there was a shift to a strange and scary ghost / demon story that was gruesome and compelling and the film gets deadly serious. Running more than two and a half hours it will challenge those with short attention spans but from where I sit it is worth the effort. The last forty minutes are great and knowing who is good and bad gets blurred all the way to the end of the film. Director Hong-jin Na did another great film Chaser (2008) which also delivered in suspense. I will continue to watch to see what he has coming out.
31 (2016)  I question why I watch Rob Zombie movies, I really don't connect with them at all. Again I gave it a go with yet another mean spirited piece of sleaze. This film is again is the basic Zombie theme, that there are wolves and there are sheep in the world and the sheep are there for slaughtering. I suppose the attempted twist should be given a bit of credit. Renown for mean unlikable characters he starts with introducing us to them, a group of lowlife carnies. Then in a twist they are not the lowlife murderers, instead they are the victims. There is also some statement in there about the wealthy using the poor for entertainment but that is lost in the survival game the poor carnies are put through. It's called 31 and they just have to survive 31 hours to win the game all the while being hunted by psychos with better weapons. You can guess how it goes, and know in the end that same mean spirited brain that thought up the plot thought up the ending.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) This was a wonderfully surprising film that goes from small town procedural to bat shit crazy horror in a mere hour and a half. Excellent acting by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox as a father / son coroner team attempting to find out the cause of death for Jane Doe (Olwen Catherine Kelly), a body found at a mass murder that did not fit with the deaths in that incident. As this autopsy starts to be interrupted by unexplained seeming supernatural events the two find themselves facing more serious threats as they attempt to find Jane Doe's secret.
They're Watching (2016)  Possibly the strangest film I watched in that tonally it was not really consistent. A story of a television show crew "International Home Hunters" that is doing a follow up segment in Moldova at the home of potter who bought a house there on an earlier episode of the show. It seems it is going to be about ugly American and their real disrespect for foreign cultures, sticking their cameras where they don't belong and getting a local mad at them. Somewhere though it shifts from the menacing locals to a real life witch wanting her story of death and destruction told. The insane final sequence is both weirdly entertaining and comically out of character with the rest of the film. Maybe if the crew was more likable this would be more recommended but the cliche loud disrespectful American is just so used up at this point. Depth in those characters instead would have made this better.
Demon (2016) - Wow what a sad film. Piotr (Itay Tiran) is a groom coming to Poland to marry the girl he fell in love with in London. While working alone on her ancestral home he accidentally uncovers an unmarked grave. Later on a rainy night he falls into the grave, its the eve of his wedding and so most of the film is about a Polish Wedding. Lots of drinking and dancing and singing. As the wedding night goes on something is not right with and slowly it is revealed Piotr is possessed by the spirit of the woman in the grave. Mixed in is lost of commentary on Polish defeatism and burying the past for the sake of the present. Ending in the saddest possible way this film pulls the heart strings and leaves the watcher in silence.
  I feel like I have made a good effort to catch up on what I missed sure there are some others out there but really this is just finally having some viewing time. To me it seems like a pretty good year particularly for small independent horror films. So many people out there have lists this time of year ranking the films so I will avoid that here. Happy New Year to all my readers. Leave comment if you wish they are always welcome.  --Eddie

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Incarnate (2016) Horror Exorcism

Incarnate (2016) - In theaters now! I listened to some heavy rotation advertising for this film on the Shock Waves podcast and seeing the Blumhouse logo at the beginning of the film I understood why since they are the company that also owns the podcast and (distributes?) the movie I can see why they would push it. The early show on a Friday afternoon (4:40pm) was a quiet show. In fact I was the only one seeing the movie in the audience. Its a mixed blessing since I hate noisy rooms when watching movies but on the other hand you only have your own reactions to judge the film by. Wondering who this film is being geared towards? Maybe the previews can give an indication. Split, XXX: Return of Zander Case, Annabelle 2, Underworld: Blood Wars, Assasins Creed, Sleight, and The Belko Experiment tell me that this is geared to a young audience but that seems appropriate.
    The film is definitely in the new screenwriting school of thought where the acts are clearly defined the breadcrumbs dropped and paid off later and there is a clear character arc for the main character. I say new screenwriting school, it has got to be twenty years since the screenwriting has firmed up the approach to film. Whether that be better more structured teaching of screenwriting or smarter choosing of scripts by executives there is a marked pattern in the structure of script that is quite identifiable and this film is in that category. The judgement is neither good or bad of this approach, on one hand the script is tighter and there is less extraneous material to sort through. Plot points and backstory are introduced and later developed further with just enough early information to make it work. On the other hand the structure is more predictable and less surprising, experimental and creative. Still overall it's a sign of a more professional approach that generally works more than it does not.
  The story by writer Ronnie Christensen centers around Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart) who years before lost his wife and daughter in a car accident caused by a drunk driver who happened to be possessed by a demon. This demon called Maggie has been become the single focus of his life. Maggie also for some reason really wants to taunt Ember sensing his ability even though he has spent years trying to hide it. He is  gifted in the magical ability to sort of sense what people are thinking. He as a doctor has developed a drug that allows him to enter the mind of a possessed individual and attempt to break the possession by getting the possessed to choose to leave the fantasy world the demon has trapped them in.  He has had some connection to the Vatican but has a different approach to possession than they. Where they look through the Christian lens seeing a struggle against the corrupting evil, Ember sees the demon as a parasite which can be interrupted in the dreamworld it creates in the host.
  For a film that is advertised as a new approach to a possession film it jumps through hoops to gloss over the thing it claims makes it different. Ember's thinking that possession demons are just parasite approaches their removal through science but the science is weak. A drug that allows him to enter the mind of the victim, some mumbo jumbo about auras and ions and near death experiments might put a clock on Embers encounters but overall there is not much there, in fact where it starts with the idea that he has a magical gift nullifies the science completely. Also countering the idea is the principle of choice on the part of victim, if the demon is a parasite, choosing to not have it should not be an option. All the machines and computer displays are a ruse to sell the audience but it is really still just a possession film.
  The case at hand is one where a boy, actor David Mazouz has been possessed by the Maggie demon and the Church has not been able to free the boy. His Mother (Carice van Houten, Game of Thrones) will do anything to get her kid back, and the Church goes to Ember and offers him a suitcase full of money to take the job. The plots and subplots are Ember wanting to settle his personal score, one about demons wanting to infiltrate the church, and the story of a Mother wanting to save her son are all compelling enough to move the story forward even if all of it does not hold up the science premise. There is an interesting mix of concepts in this films that are reminiscent of other films. Entering another mind and manipulating from the inside Inception, passing on demon possession through touch Fallen, exorcism and science Exorcist 2 as well as the classic demon possession scenes and for the most part it works but is not particularly exciting. Still all in all the film works for what it is. The beginning, middle and end are well structured and everything setup early is paid off. Even the final little twist where they flip the expectation around saving Ember is well done. I have this horrible aversions to scenes where someone gets brought back from the dead and the scene in the ambulance where this happens to Ember had me writing notes "Damn it! Fucking happy fucking ending, Fuck!" but the twist pulled me out of this rage and that was appreciated. It at least gave a real reason to have Catalina Sandino Moreno (besides being incredibly talented and beautiful) in the film since her role as church liaison was a bit weak.
  I have a feeling that it will not pull very big numbers at the box office mostly because in the end we have all seen this film before. Sure it has some newer ideas not used normally with this kind of film but it misses key features we want in a movie about possession. The first is we don't care about the victim he literally has one scene before possessed and then all of his backstory is framed through the experiences of his mother or father. Next by taking the religion out of the story the imperative for his soul is blunted, he does not seem like the imperiled one instead that is shifted to Ember who after the accident is in a wheelchair and he is the soul at risk. In fact the best scene in the film was when he goes back to his friend, Felix (Tomas Arana) to find him possessed by a demon. The struggle of a handicapped man against a walking demon was well executed by Director Brad Peyton but much of the rest of the conflict with the demon Maggie was dull taking place in the victims fantasy. Playing off this idea the last failure is that this movie is really not scary, the just mentions scene and the first possession scene are good but most of the movie is about dropping breadcrumbs and back story but not frightening. I wanted more of a nervous growing dread but did not get that. Still its well structured and there is enough to reluctantly recommend this film to others. I left it feeling like I was entertained even though it did not knock my socks off.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 239 people while the followers is only 35 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :)