Movie Review: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Been quite a while since I talked about a Marvel movie on here… yeah, 2019, blimey. And before we move on, I know these movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. I just like watching them and I’m gonna keep talking about them as long as they’re made. So yeah… on with the review.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.

After having lived a quiet life in San Francisco for years, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) must come out of hiding when his father (Tony Leung) begins stirring to enact a mysterious and potentially dangerous plan. The story in “Shang-Chi” is interesting to me, because it takes some of the familiar themes and structural pillars of other MCU movies, but makes them feel fresh by implementing elements usually seen more in wuxia stories and kung fu movies in general. But it also weaves in a pretty nuanced and surprisingly complex family drama throughout, which really makes the story feel more tangible and emotionally resonant. So when you blend all of these together, you get a narrative that feels familiar yet also fresh and unique for this franchise. And I loved it.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, pretty layered, and overall just quite interesting. Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi, our protagonist. He’s a man who’s gone through a lot of things in life, and it does create an interesting conflict with his more lighthearted side and the good stuff he’s experienced since moving to America. And I find him to be an interesting lead, with Simu Liu giving a damn good performance. Tony Leung plays Shang-Chi’s dad, Xu Wenwu, a mighty leader of the shady organization The Ten Rings. He’s a complex and interesting character that makes for a really compelling antagonist, and Leung is great in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Michelle Yeoh, Florian Munteanu, and many more, all giving great performances in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Joel P. West, and I think he did a great job with it. It’s big and epic, but it can also be quiet and emotional. And it creates this really cool vibe for the movie by blending elements of typical western action movie music with traditional Chinese music, and it makes for a really engaging soundscape that worked insanely well for the movie. There are also a few licensed tracks used throughout, and they’re fine. They’re not something I’d really find myself listening to in my spare time, but they worked well enough within their respective scenes.

Based on various Marvel comics, “Shang-Chi” was directed and co-written by Destin Daniel Cretton, and I think he did a great job with it. He has this really fun, yet grounded energy to his style that melds really well with a lot of the big budget comic book stuff. And it does help give the movie a nice vibe and flow that I highly enjoyed. I especially think his direction shines in the action scenes that are spread throughout this movie. There’s some nice, decently long takes, and we always get a good view of the action going on. But what I appreciate most about it is the focus on martial arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big, pew pew action of the other MCU movies, but there’s something so refreshing when instead of Iron Man flying around blowing shit up, it’s a dude using kung fu to fend off an opponent. And even when the action got way bigger in scale and effects budget, it was really fun and well handled. It’s just really well made and comes together so well.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.6/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is a fun and absolutely wonderful action movie with some well written and nuanced character drama. The story’s great, the characters are great, the performances are great, the music is great, and the direction is great too. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Shang-Chi” is a 9.90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now completed.

I really need to watch more Tony Leung movies.

Movie Review: Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

You know what’s kinda weird? Despite being a musician since childhood, I’ve never really been a huge fan of musicals. Or I should say, live action musicals. I don’t know why, it’s just a weird quirk of mine. But on occasion there might be one that cracks my grumpy heart. Is this one of them? I guess we’ll find out.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Tick, Tick… Boom”

The story follows Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), a young, aspiring theater composer as he struggles to keep his life afloat, trying to balance love, friendship, and putting together his first musical. I really loved the storytelling within “Tick, Tick… Boom”. There are moments it can seem slightly scatterbrained, but I think it really adds to it, since it perfectly encapsulates just how hectic Jon’s life is. The story takes an interesting look at the man’s life as well as the struggles of trying to be creative in a world where that can’t be a guarantee of success. But what carries the story the most is the sheer amount of heart. Right from scene one, it carried this warm, sincere charm that had me immediately hooked, and carried it all the way to the ending. It’s just such a nice and emotionally resonant story that hit me in a way that I haven’t felt in quite a while.

The characters here are colorful, charming, layered, and overall just all feel very real. Something about them all made them feel like actual people and not just characters performed by actors. Our lead character, Jon, was just an absolutely endearing and fascinating character that I loved following throughout the movie. And Andrew Garfield was absolutely fantastic in the role. Then we also get supporting work from people like Robin de Jesus, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Bradley Whitford, MJ Rodriguez, and more, all giving terrific performances. It’s just a damn good cast.

The music in this was composed by Jonathan Larson, and I loved all of it. The instrumentation, the melodies, the lyrics, it all comes together beautifully to create tracks that make me want to dance, cry, laugh, rethink my life… it’s all wonderfully introspective and I think all actors brought the songs to life marvelously.

Based on the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I think he did a really solid job. His direction can be a little rough around the edges at times, but even then, it’s really good for someone making their feature debut. The man has worked with musicals in different ways for years, so he has a good grasp of how it should work, and that experience and talent does help elevate his direction a little. Speaking of musicals, I love the way the musical numbers are handled. They flow nicely, and they’re wonderfully edited, beautifully moving between people and spaces in ways that few other musicals do. So yeah, this is really well helmed.

The movie just came out, but so far it’s been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

“Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a fantastic little movie that I absolutely loved. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and really good directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Tick, Tick… Boom!” is a 9.90/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

I’m gonna end up listening to that soundtrack a lot, aren’t I?

Movie Review: 7 Prisoners (2021)

I’ve been trying to come up with some relevant and mildly interesting thing to put as the intro for this one, but I’m coming up short. It’s just hard when you’re talking about something covering some serious shit. So I guess we should just jump into it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “7 Prisoners”.

Mateus (Christian Malheiros) lives a rough life with his family, barely scraping by on what they have. So to be able to provide for his family, he takes a job at a junkyard in São Paolo. But he soon finds out that this new life of his is way more rough and dangerous than he could have ever imagined. “7 Prisoners” is a hard movie to watch, due to its gritty, grimy, fly-on-the-wall style of storytelling. There’s nothing flashy or filmy about it. The movie has this very grounded and real feel to it, which often makes it a really uncomfortable watch. Throughout the movie, the story tackles some very real and heavy topics in really interesting, nuanced, and often even disturbing ways. And I was utterly enthralled by it all from start to end. Maybe it could be *slightly* longer, as a few moments feel a little brief, but on the wholeI do think it’s a terrific narrative.

The characters in this are interesting, layered, and all feel very real. They have this believable, worn out quality to them, like they’re real people in this world and not actors just hopping into a role. Mateus is more or less our leading man, and he’s a really complex character, beautifully brought to life Christian Malheiros who delivers a fucking fantastic performance. Then we have Rodrigo Santoro as Luca, Mateus’ boss/warden/captor. He is a terrifying antagonist. Part of it is because he can be very intense at times, but what really brings the scariness home is that he also shows a fair bit of humanity. It makes him more layered, and that honestly makes him more terrifying to me, and Santoro is fantastic in the role. We also get supporting work from people like Vitor Julian, Josias Duarte, Clayton Mariano, Lucas Oranmian, and more, all giving great performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Felipe Puperi, and it was good. It’s a somber, moody piece that never really stands out too much, subtly complementing the low-key style of the movie. It works really well.

“7 Prisoners” was directed and co-written by Alexandre Moratto, and I think he did a terrific job. His style is very simple, gritty, and very subtle. Like I said about the storytelling, it has a very fly on the wall vibe to it. It doesn’t stick out or feel filmy, it just feels like we’re observing a very real situation and it helps really add to the sense of unease built throughout. It’s just really well crafted.

This movie’s been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.2/10.

“7 Prisoners” is a great Brazilian crime-drama I highly recommend. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “7 Prisoners” is a 9.66/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “7 Prisoners” is now completed.

Brazil: Come for the sun, surf, and scary crime.

Great Music #38

Hey there, my friends, I hope you’re doing well. Welcome back to Great Music, the series where I ramble on about songs I enjoy. Been a while since last time… Jesus Christ, September 2020!? Man, I need to get better at doing these… anyhow, let’s talk music.

So what’s on our menu today? Well, I’ll tell you, just relax. So today we’re talking about a song by a band from my own home country of Sweden. The song I’ve chosen today is “I Sell My Kids for Rock’n’Roll” by Crucified Barbara… talk about eye-catching title.

Formed in Stockholm in 1998, Crucified Barbara was a hard rock/sleaze rock/metal band that had a decent audience for a while, but really came into the public eye when they competed in the 2010 Swedish Melody Festival (basically our lead-in to Eurovision) with their song “Heaven or Hell”. They then later broke up in 2016. Much like much of the general public, I didn’t really know about them until that one song. And even then, I didn’t immediately latch onto them (despite my love of rock and metal), that took another few years. But then I finally did, and “I Sell My Kids for Rock’n’Roll” has sort of become the one track I find myself going back to the most. It’s a rip-roaring belter of a song, with fast riffs, heavy percussion, and debaucherous lyrics. Now, this isn’t anything new within the world of rock music (Bill Idol, Mötley Crüe, and many more come to mind), but I feel that Crucified Barbara bring this unique energy within the song. I can’t quite put my finger on what, but they have this firey, balls to the wall attitude that makes this song stick out. Aaaaaand I love it.

Have a good one and enjoy the song.

Movie Review: The Trip (2021)

Marriage. Should be all about love and support. But sometimes it doesn’t quite go so smoothly. I mean, I’ve never been married, so I wouldn’t know, but I am a very observant man, so I know that not all marriages are perfect. In fact, few are… fuck, got a bit real there… let’s talk about a movie.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Trip”.

While going through a bit of a spat, married couple Lars (Aksel Hennie) and Lisa (Noomi Rapace) decide to take a nice little trip to their cabin for the weekend, both unaware that they both have violent, sinister plans for the other one. In a way it is “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” via “Gerald’s Game”, and I found that to be a really fun premise. It alternates between pitch black comedy and surprisingly tense and uncomfortable thriller quite well, handling both tones quite well and making it all feel like a solid, cohesive whole, while also managing to be quite unpredictable. I do think however that the movie might be slightly longer than it needs to be. If you shaved off five to ten minutes, the pacing would feel way better. As the final product stands, it doesn’t ruin the entire thing, but it does bring it down a little bit. So overall, a solid story, if a little poorly paced at points.

The characters in this are weird, colorful, flawed, unique, and quite entertaining. It’s hard describing them without getting too much into it, but I will say that all of the characters play off of each other well and have some interesting role within the story. And the entire cast is great, in particular our two leads Aksel Hennie and Noomi Rapace. But the supporting cast is rock solid too, containing people like Atle Antonsen, Christian Rubeck, André Eriksen, Stig Frode Henriksen, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Christian Wibe, and it was okay. Pretty standard thriller stuff, nothing that really sticks out in my mind. Worked well in the moment, but won’t be remembered afterward. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they are all full and help add to the mood of their respective scenes in really fun ways. So yeah, the music overall is pretty good.

“The Trip” (original title: I Onde Dager) was directed and co-written by Tommy Wirkola, and I think he did a great job here. He has this fun, snappy, off-kilter energy that really kept my eyes stuck to the screen, even when the movie dragged its feet a little. You can just tell that he has a lot of fun while crafting a scene, and that really helps keep it fun for the audience. But his style especially shines through in the more action-packed moments, as they are intense, fast, fun, and violent as all hell. If you’re in the mood for some really brutal and well made gore, it can be found here.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.9/10.

While its occasionally weird pacing does bring it down a little, “The Trip” is a highly entertaining thriller-comedy that I do recommend. It has a solid story, good characters, fantastic performances, pretty good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Trip” is an 8.01/10. So while it is flawed, I would definitely say it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Trip” is now completed.

And remember, kids: Don’t go on a weekend trip with your significant other if you’re going through something.

Movie Review: The Harder They Fall (2021)

Hello there! Now that we’re out of October and I’ve had a few days of rest, I can go back to talking about non-horror stuff for a bit. So let’s gooooo!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries. The bigger they are… “The Harder They Fall”.

When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) finds out that the man (Idris Elba) responsible for once causing him great trauma is getting released from prison, he unites with his old gang to track down and get revenge on this nemesis. “The Harder They Fall” is interesting in its storytelling due to how formulaic yet fresh it feels. I know, that’s a bit of a paradox, but hear me out. At the core is a very typical revenge western, something we’ve seen god knows how many times before, but then there’s a lot of times where there’s an interesting and unique spin put on one of the tropes, which keeps it feeling fresh and a little unpredictable. But then there are also other tropes that the story embraces with such gusto that those moments never feel dull or uninteresting. It manages to ride that balance between familiar and fresh beautifully, giving us a fun and engaging narrative that both entertains and engages.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, nuanced, and quite interesting. They’re all based on real people, but this isn’t adhering to any biopic format, so these real people can be used to dramatize in all kinds of interesting ways. And I found them all really engaging, with each actor firing on all cylinders. Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Lakeith Standfield, Edi Gathegi, Damon Wayans Jr, Deon Cole, Danielle Deadwyler, Delroy Lindo, they’re all fantastic, as are every other actor appearing in this.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeymes Samuel, and I really liked it. It creates a very fun and unique vibe by mixing traditional western strings and brass with elements of hip hop, funk, a little bit of jazz, and some other elements I can’t quite pinpoint. But it’s an interesting blend that may seem a little anachronistic on paper, but works insanely well within the film itself.

“The Harder They Fall” was directed and co-written by Jeymes Samuel  for Netflix, and I think he did a great job with it. Samuel has this really fun and electrifying energy to his direction, making each scene crackle in a way that keeps each moment highly engaging, while still allowing for more dramatic scenes to breathe and take their time. His style and energy especially comes alive during the action scenes, which are all kinetic, bold, and and absolute blast to watch. Adding further to the enjoyment of the movie is the editing by Tom Eagles, which maintains this snappy and fun kineticism that you don’t necessarily see in many films nowadays. It’s just an insanely well crafted film

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.3/10.

“The Harder They Fall” is an absolute treat, serving as both a send-up and subversion of the western genre. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing and editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My review of “The Harder They Fall” is a 9.67/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Harder They Fall” is now completed.

A rootin’ tootin’ good time

Series Review: The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

And here we are, my friends. The last post of Month of Spooks 2021. It’s been a fun ride, but it is time to wind down a bit. And to cap it off, we’re ending it the way we started it… with a Mike Flanagan show. So let’s go.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Haunting of Hill House”.

The story follows the Crains, a fractured family as they try to confront the haunting memories of what had happened to them in the past. “The Haunting of Hill House” blends a grief-driven family drama with a ghost story, and it is insanely effective. It’s difficult discussing the story and themes and general impact it had on me without delving into spoilers, but I’ll try my best. The spooky stuff is good on its own, it’s solid horror. But what carries my attention is how the family drama and character-driven subplots and the meditation on grief develops throughout, showing how everyone in this family’s been broken by the traumatic events in their past, and how they’re trying to cope with all of that. It’s a very nuanced, tender, and emotionally charged story that hit me in a way that few shows manage, even making me cry multiple times throughout. It’s a beautiful, scary, and sad story that I absolutely adored.

The characters in this are some of the most nuanced and believable I’ve seen in a show. They all feel so real and I found their personal stories and developments extremely engaging and interesting. And for the show we also have a huge cast, with everyone giving top notch performances. So I’m just gonna list them off, because I want to shout them out. So we have Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Mckenna Grace, Lulu Wilson, Victoria Pedretti, Paxton Singleton, Timothy Hutton, Anthony Ruivivar, and many more. It’s just a stellar cast all perfectly playing stellar characters.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, and they absolutely killed it, this might be my favorite work from them. They have this brooding eerie tension at times, and for a lot they go for a more somber, emotionally charged piano style that hit me right in the god damn heart, further amplifying the heartache that this show creates. It’s just excellent stuff.

Based on the novel by Shirley Jackson, “The Haunting of Hill House” was created, directed, and co-written by Mike “Let’s make sad stuff” Flanagan. Aaaaand, the man just doesn’t fucking miss. His direction here is stellar, building tension when needed, but also letting more dramatic moments breathe just the right amount for maximum emotional investment. I don’t know what to say here about his style that I didn’t mention in my reviews of “Midnight Mass” or “Doctor Sleep“, I can’t really elaborate much beyond it. The dude’s amazing. And Michael Fimognari’s cinematography is beautiful as always. It’s just an insanely well crafted show.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 79/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.6/10, and is ranked #132 on the “Top 250 TV” list.

“The Haunting of Hill House” is a masterful horror-drama, and a further showcase for why Mike Flanagan is one of the best filmmakers around. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Haunting of Hill House” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Haunting of Hill House” is now completed.

And with that, the Month of Spooks is over. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have tears to mop up. God damn it, Flanagan…

Movie Review: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)

Well, well, well, look what we have here… someone reading a blog post during the Month of Spooks, ain’t that fun. Anyway, what do we have on the menu today? Wolf stuff? Neat.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Wolf of Snow Hollow”.

When a series of gruesome murders start occurring each full moon in the mountain town of Snow Hollow, the people start speculating that some monster might be on the prowl. Skeptical Officer John Marshall (Jim Cummings) on the other hand is set to prove who might’ve done it, all while trying to care for his teenage daughter (Chloe East) and his ailing father (Robert Forster). “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” mixes elements of procedural cop drama, horror, and dark comedy, and I think it blend together really well. It’s nice and heartwarming, while also being decently suspenseful and even quite funny at times, and I admittedly never really saw where it would ultimately end up. I guess my only issue with it is the short runtime. I am a big proponent of movies that don’t exceed 90 minutes, but here I feel like it hurts the movie a little bit. It makes it feel like it’s rushing through certain sections a bit. Had they had another ten-ish minutes to let certain bits breathe a little more, it would’ve definitely improved it. But as it stands I still enjoyed my time with this story.

The characters in this are all quite colorful, flawed, fun, and pretty nuanced. Jim Cummings (not the Winnie the Pooh one) plays Officer John Marshall, our main protagonist, a troubled man going through a lot of stressful stuff. He’s an interesting character who makes for an excellent lead, with Cummings giving a great performance. Riki Lindhome plays Julia Robson, John’s (much more competent) colleague, and I really like her, she’s a good character, played really well by Lindhome. We also get some damn good supporting work from people like Robert Forster, Chloe East, Jimmy Tatro, Skyler Bible, Will Madden, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by Ben Lovett, and I liked it. When things need to be more atmospheric and suspenseful, Lovett gives us some brooding and quite eerie tracks and really helped set the mood nicely. But he also creates these frumpy and kinda bouncy tracks for scenes that are meant to be a bit more comedic. And I think he did a really good job on both styles. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and I think they’re implemented quite well.

“The Wolf of Snow Hollow” was written and directed by its star, Jim Cummings, and I think he did a really good job with it. You can tell that he’s improved a bit as a filmmaker since his debut feature, “Thunder Road”. Not that his direction in that was bad, but there’s a definite step up with this one. It’s kinetic, it’s fun, it’s a bit suspenseful, Cummings just nails it with his direction here.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While its brevity does hurt it a bit, I still found “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” to be a really enjoyable little horror-dramedy. It has a good story, good characters, great performances, really good music, and really good direction. Time for my final score. *Awoo*. My final score for “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is an 8.45/10. So while it does have flaws, Id’ say it’s still worth buying.

My review of “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is now completed.

Awoooo, Wolf of Snow Hollow

Movie Review: I Saw the Devil (2010)

Hello there, my friends, I hope you’re having a most spooktacular day. Anyhow, what’s on the Month of Spooks menu today then? Korean stuff? Haven’t done that for MoS yet… how exciting!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “I Saw the Devil”.

When his fiancée is brutally killed by a vicious and perverted killer (Min-sik Choi), special agent Soo-hyeon Kim will go on a crusade to get revenge. “I Saw the Devil” is an almost non-stop ride of darkness, depravity, and turning my stomach inside out. It’s a morally grey revenge story where you understand why the protagonist does what he does, even if you find yourself questioning his methods. It’s an interesting spin on the familiar serial killer/cat and mouse game stuff that balances dark, morally grey, and disturbing drama with unflinching and brutal violence. It’s hard to describe the narrative without giving stuff away, so I’ll just end this section by saying that I thought the story here was great.

The characters in this are all fucked in the head in one way or another. I know that sounds like a weird generalization in some way, but it’s true. They are all messed up in some way, and the movie explores that in really fascinating ways, which makes all of them quite interesting. What also helps make them compelling are the performances, in particular from our two leads. Byung-hun Lee is brilliant as our protagonist, and Min-sik Choi is delightfully icky as the serial killer. They make for a great pairing in this. We also get some really solid supporting work from people like Gook-hwan Jeon, Ho-jin Chun, In-seo Kim, and more.

The score for the movie was composed by a man known as Mowg, and I think he did a great job with it. Most of it is used to help build this kinetic intensity, which really helps add to the frenetic pace of the movie. But there are also slower, more moody track that build ambiance and emotion when the movie does decide to slow down a little. It’s a solid score that works really well for the movie.

“I Saw the Devil” was directed by Jee-woon Kim, and I think he did a great job. His direction is intense and unflinching, never shying away from showing brutal, bloody, or outright disgusting things… but rarely does it feel gratuitous in that sense. I don’t know how to explain it, but it handles all this stuff in a way where you do see a lot, but it never goes overboard. Anyhow, I especially think his direction shines in the more action-heavy scenes, with the intensity and energy of those bits crackling in a way I don’t see much of in a lot of other movies. And on one final note, you’ve probably figured it out already if you’ve read this, but there’s quite a lot of disturbing content in this. So if you have a weak stomach or you’re in general just very squeamish and easily triggered by graphic content… you’ve been warned.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 81% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 67/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

“I Saw the Devil” is a brutal and unflinching thriller that I highly recommend. It has a great plot, really interesting characters, great performances, really good music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “I Saw the Devil” is a 9.67/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “I Saw the Devil” is now completed.

See no devil, hear no devil, speak no… devil? No, that doesn’t work…

Guest Post: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Hello there, friends, I hope you’re having a great day. Once again, I get to take a slight break today (slight bits of editing and image searching doesn’t count as work, shut up), and lean back as my wonderful and amazing friend Mary gives us a third (and final) guest post for this Month of Spooks. So without further ado, let’s see what she has to say about “Bride of Frankenstein”.

Four years after audiences were delighted and horrified by Boris Karloff’s first outing as the Monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein, the director followed it up with a sequel. In this, he promised to find the lab-made man a bride. Whale was not interested in directing a sequel and Universal toyed with the idea of pursuing one without him, until he was finally persuaded to come on board.

The horror sequel drifts even further from Mary Shelley’s source material and – sadly – from the tone and emotion conveyed in the original movie. Nevertheless, it introduced audiences to a female horror icon, complete with startled eyebrows and lightning bolt hair.

The title credits roll and, whilst Karloff is given top billing this time, the actor playing the Bride is simply left as a question mark as a way to build suspense and keep your interest.

In a similar vein to having Frankenstein introduced by a bow-tied MC, Whale opens his sequel with a conversation between Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon), Percy Shelly (Douglas Walton) and, of course, Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester in a dual role). Mary insists that having her Monster die in a flaming windmill was not the ending she had in mind for her story – there are flashbacks to the original movie here in case you had forgotten what happened. Instead, she had planned for … cue wavy screen transition into the start of our new movie. It’s extremely twee and rather out of place.

The score is far more lively this time around, with sweeping violins and thunderous percussion in almost every scene. The expressionist inspired shadow techniques are once again prominent here – but only for the male characters in their laboratory. The females tend to get that soft focus close-up effect that makes everyone’s face look like a glowing moon.

Colin Clive is relegated to a relatively minor role in this sequel, owing to a broken leg (you’ll notice he’s sitting in most of his scenes) and his ongoing battle with alcoholism (making him increasingly unreliable on set). Valerie Hobson replaces Mae Clarke as the love interest, Elizabeth, and is given about as much to do as her predecessor.

Two new characters are introduced in prominent roles. The first is quite possibly the most annoying character to ever grace the screen. Minnie the maid (Una O’Connor) is seen – and heard – long before Henry or the Monster. She’s a gossip, scuttling around, over enunciating her Estuary vowels. Prepare to roll your eyes every time she appears on screen. Part of this is the poor, two dimensional “maid roles”, the other part of this is terrible overacting.

In contrast, we have the nefarious Doctor Pretorious, brought to life with a maniacal laugh by Ernest Thesiger. He is shot most beautifully, practically from his ankles to create a looming sense of doom and lit like something from The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. He takes on his own quest for creating new life, goading Henry back into the lab once more to stitch together some other poor soul. Thesiger barely blinks in the role and has a rich, deep Vincent Price-esque voice, making him the perfect villain of the piece.

Karloff has a far more to do in this film and we get to see even more of the Monster’s tenderness. The scenes with the blind violinist (O.P Heggie) are so touching. The violinist the only character to befriend him because he literally cannot see that he is a “monster”. The scene where he tucks him in for the night – resulting in a tear rolling down the Monster’s cheek – is a bit overdone, but rather sweet.

And, as the exclamation point on the promotional materials promised, we get to hear the Monster speak, giving the famous “Alone … Bad … Friend … Good” line. Karloff is alleged to have argued with the studios as he didn’t want the Monster to speak at all, but he was clearly overruled. And he was right – it turns the Monster into almost a comedy figure as he chomps away on bread and cigars, pointing out the new words he has learned.

Rather disappointingly, in a film called The Bride of Frankenstein, we do not get to see this ravishing creation for any longer than five minutes – and not until the very end of the film, either. It’s a shame that what could have been a very early prominent female horror role is reduced to nothing more than a gimmick for the finale of a film dominated by men and their desires. That being said, Lanchester looks truly resplendent in the role. Although she is not given too much to do, her jolting head movements, hissing and startled eyes convey all that they need to – she does not want to be there.

In fact, the gender politics are more prevalent than ever, here. Female characters are seen to be gossips or hysterical; fainters or screamers. It is the men who are brave and strong; daring and scientific. Yes, it’s the 1930s but it all feels a bit two dimensional. No female character is given any depth or, quite frankly, anything to do that doesn’t involve a male.

This definitely feels like one of these sequels that almost didn’t need to be made. It does look and feel relatively similar to the original, but tonally it’s all over the place, veering wildly from comedy maids to cackling villains. It’s clearly trying to capitalise on the popularity of the Monster by giving him more screen time but, in doing so, it almost changes the way you perceive him.

However, Karloff is once again excellent in the role and – despite the brevity of her screen time – Elsa Lanchester makes for a fantastic woman of horror.

Written by Mary Palmer