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Reviews

Malignant
(2021)

Rides the line between masterful suspense and hilarious schlock.
Malignant is a very well-made film. It's James Wan, that shouldn't be a surprise. He's an expert in executing effective jump scares and tense thriller sequences, and this movie is no exception. It also boasts impressive visuals and morbid creativity that has been lacking in recent Wan films.

When the mystery unravels, that's when the tone blurs. It's such an outrageous twist that has to be seen to be believed. But it's played completely straight, so it manages to feel farcical yet genuinely grotesque.

Whether you come away thinking it's horrifying or hilarious, horror fans are sure to find some enjoyment in Malignant.

Solace
(2015)

Bizarre and compelling detective thriller.
Solace is about a psychic detective taking down a psychic serial killer. Seriously. And thanks to its somber tone, gifted actors, and stylized directing, it somehow works. It helps that Hopkins and Farrell are cast against type, with Hopkins as the jaded ex-detective and Farrell as the enigmatic villain with a uniquely compelling motive.

There are plenty of flaws. The characters aren't fleshed out enough, the editing can be overbearing at times, and the dark tone often clashes with the fantastical premise. But it's a lot of fun and there's nothing quite like it.

2036 Origin Unknown
(2018)

The cure for insomnia.
2036 Origin Unknown is a modern day 2001: A Space Odyssey knock-off made on a shoestring budget. It's the story of a woman who finds a mysterious tesseract-like object on Mars and she investigates it, bouncing her ideas off the ship's AI.

It's the most boring thing ever made. Katee Sackhoff does her best - she's a fine actress. There's just nothing here. No interesting ideas, no relatable characters, no visual flair, no intrigue, no conflict, no momentum, nothing. It feels like an empty shell of a sci-fi short that was stretched to feature length for no good reason. The end tries to become philosophical and abstract, but it just falls flat on its face.

If you're having trouble sleeping, give 2036 Origin Unknown a shot.

The Invisible Man
(2020)

As good as a modern Invisible Man movie can be.
Leigh Whannell is not a subtle filmmaker - at least, that's what I used to think. The Saw and Insidious movies are over-the-top and shocking, which is fine, and I enjoyed Upgrade quite a bit, but I was afraid the Invisible Man would fall into the same trap of shock-value over substance. Thankfully, I was wrong.

From the opening scene, the movie sucks you in with tension and unease. Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) is trying to escape from her abusive boyfriend while he is asleep, and with practically no dialogue or exposition, we immediately understand the situation and feel for Moss' character. She's trapped in an abusive relationship and fears for her life. It's a testament to Whannell's deliberate direction, using visual cues to give us the information we need while slowly ratcheting up the suspense. The movie is not reliant on jump scares. There are a few, but they're 100% earned and actually effective because we care about the characters. The excellent score helps add to the atmosphere, alternating between pulsating ambience and melancholy orchestral bits.

From the concise writing, likable characters, clever directing, a powerhouse lead performance, and a genuinely scary villain, The Invisible Man gets just about everything right. I suppose you could nitpick some of the logic, but that's missing the point. It's a film about gaining freedom from a toxic relationship, and Whannell knows exactly how to pace the story so that we don't spend too much time dwelling on potential plot holes. Overall, a gripping and expertly crafted psychological thriller.

Girl on the Third Floor
(2019)

Converge? Neurosis? Count me in.
Girl on the Third Floor is another simple haunted house premise with a twist. Is this a great film? No, of course not. But it's damn entertaining. More than that, it's absolutely insane. The third act goes completely off the rails and it's both grotesque and glorious to watch. Horror films could use more insanity these days.

It isn't scary, which is the main drawback. You know where the story is going right from the start. The details are different enough to stand out and the gore effects are genuinely gruesome, but there's no real suspense to be built. And the tone is camp as it is, so it's hard to take anything too seriously.

Then again, why should we? It's a trashy horror movie about a guy in a weird house with a hot neighbor. Why not get crazy with it? And that's what they did, and it worked for me.

He's Out There
(2018)

Entertaining enough, typical genre exercise.
He's Out There is nothing we haven't seen countless times before. A group of people are terrorized while staying at a remote cabin. This time it's a mother (Yvonne Strahovski), her two young daughters, and her husband who's on the way.

This movie is off-putting at first due to the amateurish directing and ugly cinematography. It looks miserable, and not in a good way. It's also predictable from beginning to end.

What gives the movie life is Yvonne Strahovski. She just has a wonderful warm, maternal presence that makes her appear truly vulnerable. But she can still hold her own when it comes down to it. She lends the movie some credibility and relatability.

Things are vague regarding the killer's motive. There's some creepy imagery involving wooden dolls near the end, and the killer carves the eyes out of his victims. Again, He's Out There is nothing groundbreaking, but it's also not the worst way to pass 90 minutes.

Texas Chainsaw 3D
(2013)

Hot garbage
The TCM franchise hasn't had a great movie since the original, so no surprise, this one sucks too.

It opens with a montage of kills from the original, except with loud music stings every time Leatherface pops up just to remind you it's a crappy modern horror movie right off the bat. The main story is about a baby who survived a slaughter at Leatherface's house after the events of the first film. She's all grown up now and she and her friends are taking a trip to Texas to claim her inheritance; little does she know she's Leatherface's long lost cousin. Needless to say, when she and her friends show up, bodies start piling up.

On the way there, they pick up a hitchhiker who looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch model (a clear homage to the original). Then they arrive to an enormous luxury mansion, which now belongs to Alexandra Daddario's character. So naturally, the first thing they do is leave the house in the care of the hitchhiker they just met. I can't stress enough how dumb this movie is.

Everyone looks like they just walked out of their makeup trailer. Nothing is grimy and authentic like in the first TCM. It all feels so phony. Not to mention the terrible acting, lame kills, and complete lack of nudity. They tease Alexandra Daddario's glorious tits and there are some good low-angle ass shots, but that's not nearly enough for a movie this bad. I mean, give us SOMETHING.

If you're drunk or high enough, there are some good laughs here. Otherwise, I can't think of a single reason why you should watch this steaming pile of trash.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
(2017)

The death of a franchise.
The Last Jedi is a well-made film; it's visually stunning and well directed. The problem is that it singlehandedly ruined the sequel trilogy by closing the second chapter with a dead end. There are truly baffling character decisions, awkward humor, useless subplots - it's by far the most frustrating Star Wars movie because of the potential it had. If it were 20 minutes shorter, it could have been something special, but the last act sees our characters in the exact same spot as they began. As a standalone movie, it's watchable. As the second part of a trilogy, it's a disaster.

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
(2019)

A disappointing conclusion to the Skywalker saga.
I had no expectations for Episode IX after The Last Jedi wrote J.J. Abrams into a corner, but somehow The Rise of Skywalker still managed to disappoint. It doesn't feel like an epic finale to a trilogy. Most of all, it's because we hardly got to know these characters. This makes it hard to care about the constant action sequences and elaborate set pieces that take up most of the film, and even harder to care about the new characters that are inexplicably introduced.

The plot is essentially a scavenger hunt with our heroes having to find a MacGuffin that leads to another MacGuffin to lead to some place so they can find another thing, etc. It's complete filler. Should this be what takes up the majority of the NINTH AND FINAL film in a franchise?

The only interesting aspects of the film are between Rey and Kylo Ren. They have been the driving force of this trilogy - their conflict and struggle between the light and dark side is something Star Wars has rarely explored, and it was a fresh new angle to take. Here, Kylo is given a hackneyed redemption arc and Rey chooses the light side over the dark with no inner conflict or emotional stakes whatsoever. I'd complain about how contrived it is, but at least it's something.

Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, C3P0, and basically every other character have nothing to do. They just tag along with Rey, bickering and talking over each other, contributing zero to the plot. It's like there's no time to breathe in any given scene. Either there's an over-elaborate action sequence with shooting and explosions, or there's character scenes of Rey, Poe, and Finn yelling over each other and C3P0 providing "comic relief". It's constantly loud and abrasive, and the pace moves so fast that it feels like an assault on the senses.

Palpatine is back, unfortunately, and he's dumber than ever. Nothing about his master plan makes sense. The stakes are comically over-the-top; Palpatine wants a fleet of Star Destroyers with Death Star lasers to blow up every planet in the universe because... why? He really wants Rey to strike him down and take his place as the leader of the Sith, but he also bribes Kylo with the enormous fleet of Star Destroyers so he can have ultimate power, yet he also wants Kylo to kill Rey because... why? (Also, it's curious that he goes by Palpatine and not his Sith name, Darth Sidious, which always bothered me and goes to show how much the writers cared about Star Wars lore). He wants to Rey to kill him but he puts up a fight against her because... why?

I'm sure there are throwaway lines or answers in the novelization excusing some of these plot holes, but it doesn't excuse the sloppy writing in the film. They had 2 and a half hours to write a coherent film, and they made it as noisy and incoherent as possible. It's a bloated mess and quite possibly the worst film in the franchise.

Well, maybe not the worst, but certainly the most exhausting.

Quantum of Solace
(2008)

Shoddily directed and horrifically edited, but not a total misfire.
Quantum was my least favorite Bond movie for quite some time. After the over-ambitious Spectre, I look back at Quantum with fondness due to its simplicity. Not necessarily in its plot, but in its treatment of Bond as a character and his coming to terms with Vesper's death. It's an epilogue to Casino Royale. Bond is hellbent on revenge, and it's fun to watch that side of Bond every once in a while - it's like a discount Jason Bourne movie, and that's fine by me. Daniel Craig is great as always, as is Judi Dench and the rest of the supporting cast. The problems with Quantum lie mainly in the directing and editing.

The film opens with a car chase; Bond is being perused by thugs. Why? We find out later, but the fact that we have no information at the start makes it really hard to care about the action that's happening. On top of that, the camera is moving and cutting every half-second, it's nearly impossible to tell what's happening. This is consistent throughout the film, and it almost ruins the movie for me. It's genuinely awful.

We're eventually led to our Bond Girl Camille, who is one of the better Bond Girls actually, and she leads Bond to our main villain, Dominic Greene - a businessman who wants to buy a pipeline to steal Bolivia's water supply. Not exactly a James Bond-level threat, is it? Greene is not an intimidating villain whatsoever, nor is his henchmen Elvis, who is possibly the worst character in the history of cinema, and that's not even an exaggeration. He has a bowl cut and has no interaction with Bond at all. At least Greene has a creepy look in his eye. He's no match for Bond physically in any sense, but their final confrontation is entertaining if only to watch Greene yelp as he's swinging an axe for dear life trying to avoid Bond's fists while his fuel cell-ridden desert hotel explodes behind them. It's a good sequence, and the only standout moment in the film.

The rest plays out like a standard revenge story. Camille wants revenge against General Medrano for killing her family, and Bond wants revenge for Vesper by going after the organization that was blackmailing her. The writing is serviceable, especially considering the writer's strike; it could've been much worse. Where the movie fails is in its directing. It's pretentious and tonally clashes with the dark character study of Bond that the script is going for. It's a shame because there is a lot of promise here. I like the disconnected, emotionally torn Bond. He's kind of a dick, and I like that. He has good chemistry with Camille throughout. Again, if a good director was behind Quantum, I'm sure I would've enjoyed it much more.

What we have here is a Bond-Bourne hybrid that takes itself too seriously to be fun, and doesn't have enough great action to hold your interest. However, it has an intriguing plot, and it's nice to see a low-stakes Bond movie every now and then. It's not the worst Bond movie (bottom 5 maybe), but it's unique enough to be watchable if you're able to look past the editing.

Collateral Beauty
(2016)

Will Smith is sad for 90 minutes
Misguided, mean-spirited, melodramatic, and saccharine; Collateral Beauty is manufactured Oscar bait. The performances are all solid. Everything else is a disaster.

Will Smith is our protagonist I guess? He doesn't do much but mope around teary-eyed the entire movie. Apparently his daughter died, but we never see their relationship and we don't know much about Will Smith's character before he's in complete mourning. The real plot is Ed Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena trying to squeeze him out of their company. They want to make Will Smith's character look crazy, so they hire three actors to portray love, time, and death. See, Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to love, time, and death, blaming them for his daughter's death and other general bad things, so their evil plan is to film Howard talking to the actors, then digitally remove the actors from the footage so it looks like Howard is talking to himself. That way, he'll be removed from the company and the three of them will get his equity.

This movie doesn't work for many reasons. One, as I mentioned we really don't know Howard's character. He's sad. He cries a lot. He misses his daughter. He writes distraught letters to theoreticals. That's it. We're given no chance to relate to the character because his only characteristic is "I'm sad".

Two, the trio of business partners are despicable. A lot of time is spent on them setting up scenarios to humiliate Howard and constantly colluding behind his back, yet we're asked to sympathize with them when they show Ed Norton's strained relationship with his daughter, or introduce the fact that Michael Pena is sick. Who cares? These are horrible people. They make very little effort in trying to console Howard or even talk to him. Everything is behind is back even though he's apparently the creative force of the company.

Three, there is little to no interaction between Howard and the trio of scumbags. At one point Howard calls Whit (Norton) his best friend. Nothing in the movie indicated that they were friends, or even that they liked each other. They have one awkward interaction in the elevator, but we're just supposed to take the movie's word that they are dear friends. Howard spends most of his time with a girl he meets at a grief counseling class. We're barely given a chance to care about their relationship either because so much time is spent on the stupid business plot.

There is only one scene that had all four main characters that I can remember and it was the "climax" of the film. Again, we care about none of these characters and what should feel cathartic just comes across as phony and contrived. This is a miserable movie that tries to come across as good-natured and profound. It's neither. It's grief porn, basically.

I can't think of a single reason to recommend this movie. Maybe if you're trying to fall asleep, Collateral Beauty could help.

Joker
(2019)

A chilling character study that works in spite of its cliche script.
Joker is a character study about an insane person. It's not a comic book movie, it's not trying to be. Todd Phillips, who directed the Hangover movies, rose to the occasion here and made a solid origin story about the Joker. However, it's Joaquin Phoenix who makes it memorable and great.

The script has flaws, the biggest one being the lack of subtlety in the first half of the movie. I know it's not supposed to be subtle, but the way things constantly go wrong for Arthur - he gets beat up, he loses his job, he gets humiliated - is handled so clumsily.

There are a couple of shocking moments. There's a reason this gets compared to Taxi Driver. It's a little clunky at first, but things come together wonderfully in the last act. It's nice to see a movie from the villain's perspective for a change. Things are looking up for DC.

Hell Fest
(2018)

Throwback slasher, lacking originality and scares.
Hell Fest is commendable for a few reasons: it's a straightforward slasher flick - no demons, no supernatural elements, just a psychopath in a mask murdering people. It's a fun location too: a horror theme park, so people think the kills are fake or part of the act. Lots of potential there.

Sadly, the movie is brought down by how by-the-numbers it is. It feels like a horror film made by a committee desperately trying to revive the slasher genre. Yes, it has all of the necessary ingredients, but it's lacking in charm and cleverness. The villain is a flatline - cliché hoodie-wearing goon with no personality. The protagonists are somewhat likable. I blame the generic script and flat direction more than anything else.

The bottom line is, Hell Fest isn't scary. There are no new ideas, no innovation, nothing. We've seen it all before.

Annabelle Comes Home
(2019)

A serviceable conclusion to the Annabelle trilogy.
I had no expectations for this movie. Annabelle was a lazy cash-grab of a movie, and I use "movie" in the loosest sense of the word. Annabelle: Creation at least had a plot, characters, and a decent director, but it was largely predictable and not very scary. Annabelle Comes Home has elements of both of its prequels.

The setup is well done. The opening sequence is the most effective in the movie: We follow Ed and Lorraine Warren driving the Annabelle doll back to their house, and their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. It's pretty tense; you expect them to go for the easy jump scare, but they linger on unsettling shots instead to let the tension build. Once Ed and Lorraine exit the movie about 20 minutes in, it turns into a generic "people running around a haunted house" for the remainder of the film - the people in this case being the Warrens' daughter, her babysitter, and the babysitter's friend.

There's no real structure to it either. Gary Dauberman is a first-time director, and you can tell. He's not awful by any means, but a lot of the movie is flat-looking with no distinct visual style. There are a couple of creative ideas, like the reflecting TV and the color wheel that lights up the room, but they're not executed with any finesse.

There's never a sense of danger either. The babysitter's friend decides to go in the Warren's artifacts room and opens the glass box with Annabelle for some stupid reason. It's explained later on, but it's still such a dumb decision that you have a hard time feeling sympathy for her. Also, the demon can do literally anything. It can mess with electronics and move pretty much anything in the house. Basically, it could kill everyone at any point in time. But it doesn't because there needs to be a movie. So instead, the demon plays pranks on them for an hour before actively trying to kill them. There aren't any firm rules established on what the demon can and can't do, so we really don't know what to be afraid of. Unless you consider cheap jump scares scary that is, because there are plenty of those. Not as many as I expected, though, I'll give the movie that.

Overall, mediocre movie. Better than Annabelle 1, not as visually interesting as Annabelle: Creation - it's just blah. It's the horror movie version of empty calories.

The Perfection
(2018)

Breath of fresh air.
Weird, experimental films are always more satisfying than remakes, sequels, or rehashed ghost stories. I'll take a Velvet Buzzsaw over a Winchester any day. It's no secret that the industry lacks creativity. Thankfully, The Perfection proves that there is plenty of creativity left in the genre, and that there are still some boundaries left to be pushed.

Its narrative goes from strangely compelling to profoundly disturbing. I don't want to spoil anything because the less you know, the better. If you're into bizarre psychological thrillers, The Perfection is one to watch.

Winchester
(2018)

Winchester has an interesting story, but it's told in the dullest possible way.
There's a decent story here about an alcoholic living in the Winchester house who can't tell if he's experiencing withdrawals or something supernatural. Jason Clarke plays Dr. Price, who is invited to live in the Winchester house to give Ms. Winchester an ongoing psychological evaluation. Thing is, he's an alcoholic and Ms. Winchester won't allow him to be intoxicated as long as he's living in her house. So when he starts seeing apparitions, are they hallucinations? Are they ghosts? Dr. Price doesn't know and neither do we. Great setup.

But the movie chooses to go the boring route instead. It sidelines the interesting character study for a contrived ghost plot filled with every horror cliché in the book. What would a horror movie be without predictable, lame jump scares. There's not a single decent scare in the entire movie.

Winchester was a frustrating watch. The potential is right there, but it clutches onto these tired horror tropes for dear life - as if a mainstream audience wouldn't appreciate a deeper, more psychological approach to the material over a haphazardly-constructed, derivative, haunted house flick. It's the studio mentality - make it for a million bucks, we make 20 times that. They don't care about the integrity of the script or the material itself, and neither should you. By the way, this is a true story where 98% of the story is made up. Contradiction? No, marketing.

Again, Winchester is not terrible so much as it is frustrating. And boring. Don't bother with this one.

The Runner
(2015)

An almost engaging character study brought down by stock writing and uninspired direction.
In The Runner, Nicolas Cage plays a Louisiana politician who has to deal with a sex scandal and other personal issues. His performance is appropriately subdued and introspective; he also uses a Southern accent fairly convincingly. This is as close to watching Cage play Frank Underwood as we will ever get. The supporting cast is good too.

The problems lie in the production value. It looks cheap, the supporting characters are underwritten, and the direction is just baffling. There are so many unnecessary closeups, shot after shot, and it's all flat - no visual flair whatsoever. It doesn't help that the pacing is sluggish, so there's no way for the movie to gather momentum. It starts off running in quicksand and never gets out. There are brief moments where you care about the characters and that's solely because of the actors.

It could have been an engaging character study if there was a liveliness to the filmmaking and some semblance of pace. As far as Nic Cage performances, this is definitely one of his better recent ones. But it's not worth sitting through this slog of a movie.

The Punisher: Nakazat
(2019)
Episode 6, Season 2

Who is John Pilgrim?
Punisher season 2 was off to a rocky start for me. I enjoyed the fight scenes - excellent choreography as usual - but the plot itself was weak. I don't like the idea of Frank having a sidekick, and this girl sucks. Micro worked in season 1 because he was a likable character. I have the same issue with Madoni. She was important in season 1's plot. Here, she's kinda just dragged into it. Lazy writing is what it is.

What holds my interest are the scenes with John Pilgrim. All we know at this point is that he's a religious extremist, he has a sick wife, and seemingly wherever he goes, a bloodbath ensues. He's a breath of fresh air for Marvel villains to say the least. Who would've thought to pit the Punisher against a Da Vinci Code-esque self-loathing missionary with his own private army? What'll happen when he and Frank meet face-to-face? And who the hell really is this guy? (I don't know if Pilgrim is a comic book character, but I figure the less I know right now the better).

The subplot about the blackmail didn't grip me, though Frank's final scene with that Russian guy was great. The worst thing about the season is Jigsaw. Billy Russo was a compelling character with a clear arc. As Jigsaw, he's just an angsty thug who wears a mask because he has some scratches on his face. Hopefully they'll redeem him by the end of the season.

True Crime
(1995)

Bottom of the barrel crime thriller.
There's nothing worth seeing here. The plot is generic, the acting is bad, the characters are underwritten, the dialogue is painful, it's full of cliches. The only reason I saw this was because I'm a huge fan of '90s crime thrillers like Se7en and Kiss the Girls, and was hoping this would fall under that umbrella. It technically does genre and plot-wise, but quality-wise, this has to be one of the worst examples of the serial killer subgenre.

Silverstone's stone-faced performance does the movie no favors. At least Dillon knows he's in a trashy movie and his performance is suitably hammy as the mysterious rookie cop. He's also trying to an extent, unlike Silverstone who just looks bored. Watching them exchange dialogue is like watching a brick wall talk to a plastic bag. And their chemistry? Well, it's about as romantic and titillating as Irreversible.

I was at least hoping for some skin - an erotic sex scene to spice things up perhaps - but no, the movie deprived us of even that. There's no entertainment value to be had here. I laughed once, when Dillon first bumps into Silverstone's character and is promptly maced in the face. Though I'm not sure that was meant for laughs.

Again, there's no reason to see this movie, so don't. Watch Se7en again.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(2003)

A genuinely solid remake plagued by generic horror tropes.
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is unbeatable, that's a no-brainer. But as far as unnecessary remakes go, TCM (2003) is among the better ones. It takes the same premise - a group of young adults driving through Texas run into trouble with the wrong family - and tweaks enough plot points to make it stand on its own. It's technically well-made and the acting is good across the board, with R. Lee Ermey as the psychotic sheriff being a clear standout.

The problem here is what plagues most modern horror movies: subtlety, or lack thereof. Any time Leatherface pops on screen, it's accompanied by a loud music sting to let you know that you're supposed to be scared (as if a mongoloid wearing a skin mask wasn't enough of a red flag). It's annoying as hell, especially since you're trying to listen to the soft dialogue and your ears get repeatedly assaulted by the "scary" music. It's also directed in a very traditional way, which isn't a bad thing necessarily; but part of what made the original so effective was Tobe Hooper's ability to make the environment and atmosphere so grimy and authentic that you feel as if these events actually happened. Here, it always feels like you're watching a movie. You can never fully immerse yourself into this world because there's always a jump scare and music sting around the corner to remind you that you're watching a work of fiction.

Again, from a technical standpoint, this is a cut above many horror remakes, and within the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise this is probably the second best after the original. The gore is well done, the characters are somewhat relatable, and there are some genuinely effective creepy moments scattered throughout. If you're looking for a traditional, well-made, brutal slasher flick, TCM (2003) will give you exactly that - nothing more, nothing less.

Halloween
(2018)

A flawed but welcome return to form for the franchise, and for slashers in general.
After Resurrection and the Rob Zombie films, it's an understatement to say that Halloween (2018) was a pleasant surprise. Laurie Strode was given the T2 Sarah Connor treatment and is now a formidable badass, having waited forty years for Michael Myers to escape prison so that she can kill him. This is the showdown we've been clamoring for.

If there's one thing Halloween (2018) gets right, it's the protagonist. Laurie Strode is treated with respect here, unlike in other sequels (I'm looking at you, Resurrection). She's been training for forty years, preparing, praying for Michael to break out of prison so she can kill him. Her daughter had to learn how to fight at a very young age, and eventually Laurie was deemed unfit to be a parent. Because of this, they have a strained relationship, and it's believable. There's even a satisfying payoff at the end. Horror filmmakers take note: a little character development goes a long way.

There's also Laurie's granddaughter, and this is where the flaws start to creep in. The teenagers and their drama was the weakest aspect of the movie. Sadly, most of the second act is devoted to these characters that we really don't know or care about. There's Laurie's granddaughter, her boyfriend, the comic relief guy, her ditzy friend, and her friend's boyfriend. That's the extent of their characters. Naturally, they're only there as fodder for Michael (except the boyfriend who mysteriously disappears from the movie), but the fact is that we're wasting time watching these characters interact when there's a much more compelling story on the sidelines.

Comedy is used fairly appropriately in the film, the little boy being the clear standout. But there are a handful of farcical bits that are either ill-timed or simply not funny, or a combination of both. This prevents the movie from developing an overall atmosphere. This isn't so much a problem in the third act, thankfully, but the finale would've been more effective if a bleak atmosphere had been established earlier in the film. A few more wide shots of the streets of Haddonfield in the fall weather; more shots of Michael standing in the background eerily out of focus; limiting the comic relief to one, maybe two characters max; any of these could've been helped.

That's not to say that the direction is poor. Far from it. This is the closest the franchise has felt like a Carpenter movie since the original. Gordon Green does a good job of keeping Michael in the shadows - even unmasked, it's difficult to make out his face. You really get the sense that he is, purely and simply, evil. Background action is also prevalent and well done (as in, there's not a music sting whenever Michael comes into frame). Again, a breath of fresh air after the Zombie films which had the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

This is an excellent sequel to Halloween and a thoroughly enjoyable, well crafted slasher movie on its own. It's wonderful to see the Boogeyman on the big screen again, and now he has finally met his match. Is it a perfect movie? Absolutely not. But Halloween (2018) is something to be celebrated if only for one thing: it proves that slashers can still be scary.

The X Files: Rm9sbG93ZXJz
(2018)
Episode 7, Season 11

An unremarkable ripoff of Black Mirror.
I won't call this an X-Files episode because it's not. It has all the hallmarks of a Black Mirror episode - low on dialogue, high on atmosphere, "technology gone wrong" theme. The X-Files has had anti-technology episodes before (Ghost in the Machine, Kill Switch) and even crossover episodes (Millennium, X-Cops), but those were far more interesting because Mulder and Scully actually had a case to investigate. Here it's just Mulder and Scully doing trivial things and running away from drones.

It's not outright bad, though. The ultimate motive is funny. But the fact is, it's not X-Files. And even as a nameless episode of TV it's derivative, unremarkable, and boring.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings
(2011)

It's better than Wrong Turn 3...
Wrong Turn 4 is horror in its most gratuitous and least scary form. It's all shock value - ample nudity, blood, and gore - with no substance behind it. The premise is interesting: a group of hedonists get lost in a blizzard and take shelter in a sanatorium. It just so happens that's where our cannibal friends have been hiding out for the past 30-or-so years. It's a solid, straightforward enough premise in a creepy setting. Sadly, the execution is garbage.

The characters are immeasurably dumb. They have generic dialogue for the sake of saying words, and the decisions they make get stupider and stupider. The actors don't help either. I mean, it's an attractive cast, don't get me wrong. There are even a few lesbian scenes for good measure, and they're by far the most engrossing parts of the movie. It's when the characters start talking to each other that you begin rolling your eyes and cringing.

I'll give credit where credit is due. Wrong Turn 4 is watchable schlock. You can find enjoyment in the stupidity on display here. Also, the ending is very good. Aside from that, this movie is all shock and no awe. For Wrong Turn completists only.

The Cloverfield Paradox
(2018)

Mediocre sci-fi horror with the Cloverfield brand tacked on.
Remember "Life", the recent sci-fi horror "Alien" knockoff with a great cast that couldn't compete with its sterile script? "The Cloverfield Paradox" is this year's "Life", except worse.

I'm a sucker for sci-fi horror, so despite the bad reviews I went into this movie with an open mind. Truthfully, it's not terrible, mostly due to the cast. There isn't a weak link in the acting department. No matter how trite or cliché the dialogue is, they deliver it with the necessary gravitas. Sadly, this is a sci-fi horror film, so the bulk of the film's effectiveness lies with the scares. And that's where this movie fails. There was not a single decent scare or even an attempt at building suspense. There could have been tension had the location been bottled in the space station, but the movie cuts to and from an Earth storyline that has absolutely no bearing on the plot whatsoever.

The movie itself makes no sense. It takes a page out of the "Event Horizon" book with the alternate dimensions and whatnot, which is a cool premise. The problem is that as soon as things go awry, the rulebook goes out the window. Things just happen because why the hell not. Chris O'Dowd's arm gets cut off and begins to write a message on its own. Some guy starts convulsing and worms burst out of his face. A stranger suddenly materializes inside one of the space station's walls. "Why?" is a valid question to all of these statements, but the movie has no intention of explaining anything.

Then there's the Cloverfield aspect, which is clearly just tacked on at the end to capitalize on the name. Again, aside from the dedicated cast and some admittedly cool looking deaths, "The Cloverfield Paradox" brings nothing new or interesting to the genre. It's yet another "Alien" derivation with even less to say than the films that came before it.

Bill Burr: Walk Your Way Out
(2017)

Quality material wasted on a poor audience.
Bill Burr is not the most politically correct comic in the world. So I wonder, why in the hell was this special filmed in Nashville? He's performing jokes about fat people, Kanye West, and Hitler in front of a rural crowd. It's not even about the stereotype - it's about culture. Certain jokes work for certain demographics. Some jokes simply don't connect to particular crowds, and this special is a shining example of having excellent material wasted on a fickle audience.

The content itself is typical Bill Burr. Insane rants about how to solve overpopulation, famous dictators and their kill counts, psychotic stream-of-consciousness ravings on the 2016 presidential election; it's great stuff. It's also relatable to whatever slivers of psychopathy you have floating around in the back of your brain. He put thought into these rants, and they're somewhat rational, in a really demented way. But that's what Bill Burr is all about. Pushing the line of where comedy and reality intersect; challenging people to forget about the politically correct mentality for a minute and to think about what's logical. How do you get rid of overpopulation? Kill a lot of people. Simple. Extreme? Sure, but it's funny and it's true.

Some of his jokes don't land well with the audience. What's great about Bill Burr is how he calls them out on it. He has a good read of the room and can tell when jokes are heading south and when the audience is starting to turn on him, and he immediately picks up on that and fires back. It's a joy to watch. If he had a more receptive audience, I think the overall tone of the special would have been far more upbeat and engaging.

As it is, though, "Walk Your Way Out" is another quality standup special by Burr and is bound to appeal to fans of his cynical brand of humor.

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