I will be watching these movies with my wife, Kay (housewifelife.weebly.com). In the event that what I watch is repugnant, boring, or ludicrous to her I will include a “Wife Survival Time” in the review.
I usually count things like “Bumps” (false scare tactics), “Music Bumps” (the music is used to scare), “Creaky's” (Creaking doors, floors, repetitive squeaks), “Gross Outs” (wasn't scary, just for shock factor), and a few others.
The movie review will usually be based on the rules that it establishes, it's plausibility, the tone it sets, if it cheats, unanswered questions, and enjoyment factor. Some movies I will probably love because they are so terrible. Movies will be compared to other movies, but only as contrast. As much as possible I will rate the movie on it's own level; Comparing something like Army of Darkness to Amelie wouldn't make much sense, both are funny but in very different ways, both communicate to the audience different values and have different “rules” that they follow.
What are the “rules”? If a movie establishes at the beginning that only a stake, sunlight, or decapitation can kill a vampire, and then the vampire dies from drowning, that would be breaking the rules. The rules are decided by the movie itself. Unless a new rule is discovered that is legitimate, that is discovered before it is used, it is a cheat, or Moment of Bullsh*t. If the main vampire drowns at the end of the movie and the characters had no idea and say “Oh, wait. I guess we can drown them” it's different from “Hey guys! I found an ancient text that says we can drown vampires. Anyone have a pool?” The first way means the writer/director didn't know how to end the movie so he just tagged on an answer. It's the Dues Ex Machina and I hate it. Other Moments of Bullsh*t might be where a character goes against type, or makes a decision contrary to what they have said before.
I also rate on an “out of 5” format, with some variance. A zombie movie could get “3 out of 5 brains”, Carrie could get “4 out of 5 tampons”. I try to tie in the rating with whatever stuck out in the movie to me, or seems funny.
With ground work established, let's go to our first movie.
Halloween Review 1: Case 39
Starring Rene Zellweger and Bradly Cooper. “Directed” by Christian Tate
Bump Scares: 7
Music Scares: 0
Creaky: Door 5, Chair 3, Plate, 2
Genuine Creepy moment: 7
Gross Out: 2
Bullsh*t Moment: 2
Wife Survival Time: Full Length
In the very first scene I saw Leoban from Battlestar Galactica. No matter what movie I see him in, even though I have seen him before BSG, I will always know him as that. I don't know why. It also tells me immediately that the movie is filmed in Canada, specifically but not only, to British Columbia.
The movie starts off well enough. The creep factor is there: who is this girl and why is she afraid of her parents. Then we go to a series of almost vignettes with Rene Zellweger, in what I call the Highlander Police Establishment. In Highlander the police are shown going about there business, saying and doing things that are “police-ee” but aren't directly related to the events at hand. It's a customary style in many films to establish how our main characters world looks and feels like.
The tone of the movie is a kind of Film Noir. The colours are drab, the streets are wet (this could have just been because B.C. gets a lot of rain), the characters grim. It is reminiscent of Se7en, or Fallen, that kind of minimalist introduction.
We learn that Emily (Rene) is a social worker, and her character seemed like a busybody who cares about being right more than actually caring. Immediately I begin to ask certain questions, and that's not usually a good sign for me. Questions like “How does a social worker afford a house like that? Especially a single one?” I'm not saying a social worker couldn't, but honestly, they don't make that much, and women don't get paid as well as men. It's really a minute point. Then I ask questions like “what has happened for Emily to become so interested in this little girl. And really, the “clues” are circumstantial. Lilly's falling asleep in class and her grades are falling. You and I would come to the immediate conclusion; “Yes, there is some kind of warranted, horrible abuse happening to this sleepy child.” (That was sarcasm. There really isn't any justification for a social worker to get involved. In the real world this wouldn't have been a blip on the radar. A teacher might pick up something first, and then have to find some other evidence to bring to social services).
Ahh, then comes Bradly Cooper. I really wasn't sure what his role was: good friend, ex-boyfriend, potential love interest? He is a psychiatrist who works with children from abusive homes, but I don't know of many therapists who make late night calls to people they work with and have drinks with them, who don't have at least a sexual interest. The chemistry between Zellweger and Cooper fell flat for me. Then again I don't find anteaters attractive, so it may be just me.
There are a few bumps along the way, but there wasn't anything here I really hadn't seen somewhere else, and done better. It seems kind of jaded to say “the old bug crawling out of the eye routine” since this is a new horror scare tactic unavailable to previous generations al la computer animation. It's here, though. I saw this already in Constantine (done effectively) and Drag Me To Hell (didn't see it except in the trailer).
The real creep factor goes to Jodelle Ferland and her excellent acting skills (She's also from Vancouver Island, where I live). I first saw her in Tideland, and I think she will be the next Jodie Foster, able to segway nicely from child to adult actor.
The gore and gross outs are minimal, which doesn't constitute horror for me anyway. If gross outs are horror then Van Wilder is a terrifying movie. One piece of gore that I thought was used effectively was the kitchen fight scene between Leoban and a cop. It showed consequence of action. Leoban gets his head smashed into a refrigerator and the effect is pretty brutal. It told me that as fantastic as the film may get, it is still grounded in a world of consequences... or so I thought.
There are two moments of bullsh*t, one that is almost insulting to police officers and Catholics. When Emily goes to her police officer friend who has helped her in the past, she goes directly to his church knowing he'll be there. She explains the supernatural events that are going on. He doesn't quiet believe her (as anyone, even a devout person would react. Just because you're born again doesn't mean you were born again yesterday). It only takes one garbled voice recoding to convince him that SPOILER!!! They need to kill the girl. That's it. One person's plea and a garbled phone call and he's ready to pull out a shotgun and blow her away. Either he is a very gullible Christian, or a terrible cop. It is established that he is neither, so our just having to believe that a person would come to this immediate conclusion is a cheat.
The other cheat is the ending. I'm sorry, when you burn your house down and crash your car killing what to the rest of the world is a little girl, it would be interesting to see what happens to Rene. No, the movie ends with her just sobbing in relief. I would have preferred her to end up in an asylum or at least getting arrested.
END OF SPOILER!
I think Zombieland changed the horror genre enough so that we shouldn't have to see the same cliches happen over and over in horror movies. Like how you should always check the back seat! Or that it's absurd to lock yourself in with no way of escaping. Or going for a walk alone in the middle of the night in an isolated area when you are about to stop the bad guy.
There are several shots of a knife in various ways, and this is never paid off. It was a red herring, in my opinion. And Kay very cleverly pointed out that there is a shot where Rene bleeds on a case file, and the camera lingers on it making it seem important, when it isn't at all.
Kay's last comment: “The movie poster made Zellweger look prettier than she was. I wouldn't have even thought they were the same person.”
Watch it? If your bored, but don't go out of your way. You won't feel like you wasted any time, but you won't turn off the lights and make a mad dash for the bed.
I gave it: 2.5 Knives out of 5