Tag Archives: thriller

Movie Review: Vengeance: A Love Story

Hello Again,

I just finished watching this movie and I have thoughts.

It is not a great movie. It is, at its best, an average movie. There are small moments here and there that make it interesting and there are some very large plot arcs that also make it interesting, at least to me.

****Just as a warning, the movie deals pretty heavily with sexual assault, so I’ll be talking about that as well.****

Let’s get the synopsis out of the way:

Based on Joyce Carol Oate’s Rape: A Love Story, Vengeance: A Love Story is about a young single mother, Teena (Ann Hutchinson) who is brutally gang-raped in front of her twelve-year-old daughter, Bethie (Talitha Eliana Bateman). Because the justice system caters to jagoffs and rapists, it’s up to Detective John Something (Nicolas Cage) to put away the trash….for good.

This is not going to be a typical review. I’m not doing a blow-by-blow of the cinematography or the acting or whatever you want. I do want to talk about the rape scene, which is brutal and awful and involves a child actor being present for a fair amount of it, to the point that the daughter covers her own brutalized mother’s nudity with the discarded and torn clothing.

This is…unnecessary. Whenever I see children in this type of movie, I think about Danielle Harris. She’s an actress who played the ten-year-old niece of Michael Meyers in the Halloween movies (IV and V?). Because the production team did such a lousy job of protecting her and screening her from the worst of it, she suffered nightmares and eventually did the Rob Zombie Halloween movies as a form of therapy, which is…the most mindbogglingly sentence I’ve had to type.

So there’s that. Additionally, I’m extremely over scenes of extreme sexual violence in movies because usually they’re just used as a catalyst to propel the male character to do some violence.

Ann Hutchinson as Teena.

However….this movie did something right. Nicolas Cage’s character is the over-the-hill cop who has seen it all and is tired of the system and the revolving door in our criminal justice system….except he’s very low key and he’s not really in the movie that much. He appears here and there and then shows up toward the end in a big way, but for large chunks of the movie, it’s about Teena and Bethie dealing with what happened and the emotional ramifications of that.

There’s an especially affecting scene when Teena is about to swallow a handful of pills in a suicide attempt and then throws them away in an angry fit. In a lot of movies, that would be the end of it. She conquered her suicidal depression in one angry act! But the movie continues to show that she is not okay, that she is still having trouble emotionally processing the attack and what happened to her and that’s she’s still suffering from suicidal ideation.

And Nicolas Cage is Sleepy Cage in this movie. He’s not grandstanding. He’s not taking over the movie when he’s around. He’s mostly silent, mostly in the background and mostly just waiting to act. And when he does act (yes it’s to murder the rapists) it’s thoughtful, careful, planned violence that removes the problem with no collateral damage.

This movie is still problematical in that in robs Teena and Bethie of dealing with the resolution themselves, but it does something right in that it actually highlights their journey after the assault. It highlights the women that were attacked, the women around them who are trying to help.

This is not a good movie. It has some great moments, Ann Hutchinson and Talitha Batemen work well together and have great chemistry and don’t pull any punches with their performances. And Cage makes the right choice in this movie and minimizes his impact.

I’m not recommending you see this movie, unless you, for some reason, think we need another movie in which a woman is brutally raped and her male whatever needs to avenge her. Vengeance takes a step in the right direction. Focus on her story. How she deals with it and copes with it.

It’s not his story.

-D-

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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

31 Days of Spoooktacular: This is Thriller

I’m going to be honest right here and right up front. I didn’t “grow up” with Thriller. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve been such a huge fan of the song and the music video (the full version).

If ever there was a way to condense Halloween, and the spirit of the aforementioned, into 14 minutes, the Thriller music video would be the way to do it.

First of all, it’s directed by John Landis, the director of the best werewolf movie ever made. There is no argument to make. You can bring up Ginger Snaps and The Wolfman and Dog Soldiers or even one of the Underworld movies if you’re a goddamn lunatic who prefers leather and Kate Beckinsale to balls-to-the-wall fear, but An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever made. Done. Period. Fullstop. Stop arguing. I’m tired of it. You can see his directorial touch in the scenes at the beginning of the music video, when Michael Jackson turns into a werewolf. John Landis equals Halloween awesome.

Second, I’m going to describe a scene to you: Zombies dance a choreographed dance around their leader who wears a black and red leather suit. This scene, which should have been ludicrous and absurd, is iconic. It has become embedded into our pop culture in a way that shrieking violins and opaque shower curtains have. Sometimes, zombies just have to dance.

Third, Vincent Price. For the 50’s and  60’s, Vincent Price was the voice of  horror. No-one is arguing with me. And, if they are, they’re just being difficult. He was the spooky voice that meant a murderer seeking vengeance was nearby or the Invisible Man’s return was close at hand. You cannot have Halloween without Vincent Price and Thriller had Vincent Price.

If you want to kick off the season right, watch the full version of Thriller.

NOW.

-D-

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Filed under Halloween: Rock and Shock, 31 Days of Spooktacular, Spoooky Beer Reviews and More

An Analysis of Fear

Over the years, I’ve made Horror my thing. I’ve watched countless horror movies. I’ve read countless horror stories. I’ve viewed the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. I’ve worked out the formulas for the non-Euclidian shapes of Lovecraftian geometry. I’ve sampled the wares of multiple cultures; the giallo films of Dario Argento, the existentialist nightmares of French cinema, and even some Bollywood rip-offs of American slasher films.

And, in all of my research, in all of my attempts to feel fear through fiction, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one way to craft perfect Horror. There is no one platonic ideal for Horror, hovering in the Aether like some malignant spider, hell-bent on the destruction of your pleasant dreams. Instead, Horror is a swarm of nightmares.

Fear is a personal thing. Certain people find certain things scary. What is scary for one person, is funny to another person. The supernatural doesn’t scare me at all, but I have a friend who believes that there are ghosts in the world. Horror must strive to reach only one person at a time.

Fear is primal. Something that is inspired by rudimentary thought processes buried deep in your subconscious. It is affected by the myths and legends of your culture. It is shaped by your upbringing and defined by your personal experience.

Horror, to be truly effective, must be individually tailored. For someone to feel that dread within, for someone to lose control of their conscious reasoning, they must read or watch something that has been specifically crafted for them. You cannot write a single story and try and scare an entire audience.

You’ll give a few people the creeps. And some people may feel the knife’s edge of Fear, but it will be dulled and blunted by the attempt to reach a broader audience.

The next step in Horror is not to try and reach the broadest audience possible. The next step in Horror is to make the experience as personal as possible.

Horror, as a form of fiction, has one goal: to create fear in the audience. Now, more than ever, it possible to achieve this goal. The Internet allows the Audience to approach the Creator and demand to be scared. It allows for the Audience to achieve something that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve before: they are able to get a customized, personalized experience that allows them to feel Fear.

Now, if only there was someone with a stronger work ethic than I to take advantage of it.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Horror: Movies, Books, Stories and More

Pick It Apart

I have a bit of difficulty watching a movie or reading a book. If it’s horror or thriller or anything to do with monsters, I constantly take myself out of the experience by critiquing it the entire time. I can’t help but ask myself how I would have written it or how I would have described a character or if I would have gone that route with the monster. Or I just get grumpy that I didn’t come up with the idea.

It makes it a little hard to get invested in a fictional world when I spend the entire time nitpicking the thing from start to end. “Well I don’t know if that’s a realistic way to depict people running in fear.” “Why would the ghost kill people that way? That’s entirely contrary to the nature of ghosts!” “This helldog is entirely too verbose.” I can’t turn off the critic, the writer, the little guy in my brain that wants to do this for a living.

If I want escapism, I usually go for movies or books that aren’t in my genres. That way, I spend less time thinking of how I would’ve done it and just enjoy the ride. Horror is for educational purposes only. It’s how I learn and develop what I do and how I become a better writer. And that is my excuse for why I watch so many terrible horror movies.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

Movie Review: The Baby’s Room

Article first published as Movie Review: The Baby’s Room on Blogcritics.

Sonia (Leonor Watling) and Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) are a young couple with a baby. They’ve just moved into that house: the one that needs a lot of work, has had five different owners in as many years and is probably infested with helldemons. Then, the unexpected happens and strange noises and creepy figures start menacing the family. It’s up to Juan and his video camera to discover what’s trying to kill them.

The Baby’s Room (La habitación del niño) is a Spanish made-for-TV movie, part of the Films to Keep You Awake series (Películas para no dormer). It’s similar to the Masters of Horror series of Showtime, in that there’s blood and nudity and an astonishing amount of cursing en español.

It’s a strange mix of quirky humor and gritty, stomach dropping creepiness. It has a very similar tone to Poltergeist, where there were those funny moments right before the audience is dropped into a pit of horror. Things will be hunky-dory, with Juan joking around with Sonia and then two scenes later, there’s a dead body slithering across the floor. All the scenes with Juan and his camera in hand are stomach clenchingly creepy. The camera can see what he can’t and he wanders through his rambling house witnessing terrible things.

For all the creepiness, there are problems. The Baby’s Room is a brutally quick 79 minutes. As a result, the pacing feels rushed. Juan believes he’s in a haunted house without even pausing to consider other alternatives. Juan’s wife runs out the door at the first sign of trouble and their marriage goes from idyllic to broken in the space of a day. Character development is hinted at, but there’s never any follow through. At one point halfway into the movie, the boss tells the Juan that all they ever talk about is soccer. This is funny, because up until this point, they’ve never mentioned soccer. There’s just not enough time to develop the plot, so it all feels condensed and forced.

The music is also unnecessarily bombastic. It kind of ruins the tension when violins and drums suddenly barge their way through the scene. What’s worse is the music is so generic. I know I’ve heard this scary music before in other movies. Sometimes, scary music hurts a horror movie more than it helps and this is one of those cases.

Overall, The Baby’s Room succeeds in being a creepy little movie, but bad pacing, a lackluster soundtrack and odd character moments keeps this from being more than an average thriller.

Dylan Charles

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Filed under Horror: Movies, Books, Stories and More