Series Review: Under the Banner of Heaven (2022)

Faith is fascinating. A belief in something bigger than ourselves, in something bigger than our very world. Whether it’s christianity, judaism, islam, or any other, I’ve always found that stuff interesting. So explorations of that in film, tv, and other forms of media has often lead to good stories.

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… “Under the Banner of Heaven”.

Utah, 1984. Devout mormon and detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield) finds himself tested when the violent murder of a young woman seems to connect to a local, powerful LDS family. So we follow detective Pyre as he tries to solve this horrible crime, as well as how the deeper in he gets, the more his faith starts to waver. And through his investigation we also get a deep look into the Laffertys, the family at the center of this case, and what kinds of fundamentalist actions they get involved in. The show also explores mormonism as a whole, including its origins. “Under the Banner of Heaven” is filled to the brim with story, themes, and backstories, and while I do find most if not all of it fairly riveting, it can also feel like an absolute slog to get through at times. Like, all the pieces here have an emotionally rich texture to them and individually make for really engaging and at times thrilling experiences, but something about the overall structure does make it feel like a drag at times. Like I said, the story and drama is generally insanely riveting, it presents a nuanced and intense look into a massively fucked up and complex situation, but I do think something about its structure does hurt it too.

The characters in this are all insanely interesting and I found them endlessly compelling. Andrew Garfield plays Jeb Pyre (pronounced Pie-ree, as I learned through this), good cop, loving family man, devout mormon. He’s a deeply interesting protagonist with such a fascinating arc and personal conflict, and Andrew Garfield is absolutely fantastic in the role. The rest of the cast is well rounded as well, featuring people like Gil Birmingham, Sam Worthington (giving a career best performance), Daisy Edgar-Jones, Wyatt Russell, Rory Culkin, Billy Howle, Denise Gough, Adelaide Clemens, Chloe Pirrie, and many more, all delivering top notch performances.

The score for the show was composed by Jeff Ament and it was really good. It mixes a lot of familiar thriller droning with elements of ambient rock and even minor touches of a few subtle western cues, making for a really interesting and atmospheric score that I think adds a lot to the show and its emotional impact.

Based on a book by Jon Krakauer, “Under the Banner of Heaven” was developed for FX by Dustin Lance Black, with writing and directing by him and a bunch of cool people. And I think this is a really well helmed show, a lot of well thought out shots, a lot of suspensefully directed sequences, some very well handled (and disturbing) bursts of violence. It’s somehow both cinematic and somewhat real-feeling, balancing what makes for solid entertainment while still making it feel grounded and gritty and believable. It’s a tricky balance, but they nailed it.

This show has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 71/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.5/10.

While its pacing is bogged down by its hefty structure, “Under the Banner of Heaven” is still a compelling crime-drama that I can easily recommend. It has a really good story, great characters, fantastic performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem, Amen*. My final score for “Under the Banner of Heaven” is an 8.32/10. So while it’s flawed, it’s still definitely worth watching.

My review of “Under the Banner of Heaven” is now completed.

And then god said “Yo, that Andrew Garfield guy’s pretty good at the whole acting thing” – The Book of Markus, 18:46.2

Movie Review: The Pale Blue Eye (2023)

*inhale*. Can you smell that? First new release of the year. I’m excited.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Pale Blue Eye”.

New York, 1830. When a young student at the West Point military academy is found dead, weary detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called in to investigate and hopefully figure out what happened. And to aid him in his quest, he secretly acquires the assistance of an enigmatic young man (Harry Melling) who goes to the academy. I find myself a tad conflicted when it comes to the story here. On one hand, I genuinely enjoy the murder mystery going on here, it has this dark and very pulpy feel to it that I love, and it does take some pretty interesting turns that build in engaging ways. But there are also aspects to the story where it can feel slightly unfocused, as it tries to not only be a pulpy detective thriller, but also explore various other dramatic avenues. And while that could be fine, the script never makes them feel truly cohesive or like they weave in and out of each other as well as they could. This unfocused nature can especially be felt towards the middle, where it almost felt like it dragged. The movie on the whole is a slow burn, but the middle section does feel kinda bogged down. But in the moments where it zeroes in on the desolate, isolated, almost claustrophobic mystery, that is when it shines. Those bits are genuinely compelling.

The characters in this I find to actually be pretty interesting. most of them are generally presented with somewhat interesting personalities and it’s interesting to see how everyone interacts with each other or react to the vents unfolding. Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, an aging and world-weary detective who’s gone through some rough times. He’s a compelling character that’s hard to describe since I don’t want to say too much. But he’s a solid protagonist and Bale is great as always. Next is Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet at the academy and Bale’s secret assistant/confidant. He’s an enigmatic and talkative fella and I loved seeing both his personal arc and how his relationship to Bale’s Landor evolves. And Melling gives a fantastic performance in the role, this is so far a career best from him. Supporting cast is great too, containing people like Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson (a bit underused, IMO), Charlotte Gainsbourg (very underutilized), Lucy Boynton, and more, all giving damn solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Howard Shore and he killed it. Chilling strings, harsh brass, the man just brings an emotionally resonant score to proceedings that I could feel deep in my bones throughout the entire thing. It’s haunting and beautiful and I loved it.

Based on a novel by Louis Bayard, “The Pale Blue Eye” was recently released on Netflix, and was written and directed by Scott Cooper, and while his script could’ve had another look, I can’t deny what a good director he is. The pacing of scenes, the way he shows and/or hides things from the audience, the man brings his A-game in that regard. He also has a great way of making this movie feel cold, and I don’t strictly mean emotionally. Rarely do I see a movie set in a cold or snowy environment that genuinely makes me feel like I’m freezing, despite wearing knitwear in a relatively well heated room. And Cooper, together with cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi masterfully makes that come across through the way they shoot the movie. Just thinking about some of these scenes makes me feel like I need a blanket.

This movie’s so far gotten a pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 56/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.7/10.

While it doesn’t quite reach its potential, I still found “The Pale Blue Eye” to be a fairly enjoyable little mystery-thriller. It has a mixed story, pretty good characters, great performances, great music, and fantastic direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Pale Blue Eye” is a 7.44/10. So while it is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth a watch.

My review of “The Pale Blue Eye” is now completed.

Linger ooooooon… your pale blue eyes…

Movie Review: Raymond & Ray (2022)

Hello there! First post of 2023. And I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get into a new year of blogging shenanigans. So let’s jump into the our first review of the year.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Raymond & Ray”.

When their estranged father dies, half-brothers Raymond (Ewan McGregor) and Ray (Ethan Hawke) reunite in order to bury the old man. And as they go through the motions associated with a funeral, the brothers begin to process their upbringing, along with learning about some of the stuff their father’s been up to in the years they’ve not seen him. On paper, I get what the story wants to do, and I think there’s a lot of great ideas found here, both in the bigger picture and in individual scenes. Sadly though, I never really found myself invested in any of it, something about the way it’s written just makes it feel like it never comes alive. I feels like the script could’ve used another pass or two. Not outright terrible, the ideas and even a few scarce moment are interesting, but the overall story feels undercooked.

The characters in this are fine. As with the story, they are the victims of a script that could’ve used more time in the oven. That said, they do still fare a little better. They feel a bit more defined, even if they never feel fully developed (despite the film’s best efforts). And then there’s the performances. On the whole, they’re generally pretty good. Ethan Hawke is great as always and just naturally slots into the role of Ray well, bringing him to life nicely. But then you have Ewan McGregor as Raymond, which I have mixed feelings on. I love McGregor as an actor, and he tries his best with his performance, but never did he feel like he fit the role. Whether it’s the dialogue or even a gaze, while his overall performance is technically good, I just never bought him as this character. Supporting cast is pretty good too, containing people like Todd Louiso (sidenote: where’s he been the last 15 years?), Sophie Okonedo, Maribel Verdú, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and a few more.

The score for the movie was composed by Jeff Beal, and I really liked it. It has this really interesting sound to it, mixing elements of lounge jazz with some mild thriller droning, and it makes for a soundscape that sometimes elevates the various scenes it can be found in. It’s solid.

“Raymond & Ray” was written and directed by Rodrigo García, and while we’ve gone over that his script isn’t the best, I can say that his directing is pretty solid. Everything’s nicely paced and his framing is nice. And that’s about all I can say, it’s well done. Not amazing, not terrible, just good.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 47% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While I think it has some good ideas, “Raymond & Ray” ultimately ends up being fairly underwhelming. The story isn’t very interesting, the characters are underdeveloped, the performances are mostly good, the music’s good, and it’s pretty well directed. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Raymond & Ray” is a 4.44/10. So I’d personally recommend skipping this one.

My review of “Raymond & Ray” is now completed.

Some spacemen use rayguns. Others use raymondguns.

Movie Review: The Big Four (2022)

GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! INDONESIA! BUZZ WORDS! Let’s talk about a movie, shall we?

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

When her father is murdered, a police officer (Putri Marino) goes on a quest to track down a group of elite assassins to help her in finding her father’s killer, as these assassins seemingly had history with the old man. Right from the word go, “The Big Four” intrigues, setting up a dark, violent world, filled with assassins, evil organizations, and… slapstick? Yeah, the story here is a bit of a mishmash of tones, ideas, and inspirations. The main revenge mystery at the film’s is pretty intriguing on its own, giving us some really intriguing world building and escalating the drama pretty well. But then it further builds on itself and its characters with bombastic set pieces and a little bit of Stephen Chow-esque slapstick. Not quite “Kung Fu Hustle” levels of cartoony, but it did give me his kind of vibes at times. And while this hodgepodge mix of “The Night Comes For Us”, “John Wick”, and goofy farce could (and honestly should) end up a fucking mess, it all comes together incredibly well to make for a really fun and enjoyable narrative. And despite being nearly two and a half hours long, it’s really well paced, never was I bored. It’s an enjoyable, well told story.

The characters in this are wonderful, all being colorful, charming, and a ton of fun to watch. They’re also really well defined, their personalities standing out and balancing each other out really well. The one that arguably sticks out the least is Dina (the policewoman), but that’s also since she’s sort of the straight man in this scenario. And Putri Marino plays it really well, so I can’t complain. As for the rest of the cast, I won’t go too in depth, as I think their quirks are best left experienced. But they’re all fun, and I think the cast is brilliant too. Abimana Aryasatya, Arie Kriting, Lutesha, Kristo Immanuel, Marthino Lio, and everyone else just deliver some really solid performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Bembi Gusti, Tony Merle, and Aghi Narottama, and it was alright. Can’t remember much of it as I sit and write (its lack of availability online doesn’t help) beyond the feeling, which was generally “Yeah, this is alright”. There’s also a little bit of licensed music used throughout, and those tracks work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Big Four” was (at the time of writing) recently released on Netflix, and was directed and co-written by Timo Tjahjanto, and the dude absolutely brought his A-game with this. As a fan of some of his previous action movies, I knew the dude knew how to shoot action scenes. But once again, he managed to blow me away just with the sheer intensity, creativity, and brutality on display. It’s been slightly recontextualized from his previous, more serious work, to fit the goofier tone, but it still carries everything we can expect Indo action at this point… AKA intense camera movements, gorgeous wides that clearly show what’s going on, and some of the goriest violence in film. And it’s all a blast to watch, delivering all the well choreographed, blood-soaked carnage you can ask for.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 86% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.1/10.

While its strange blend of tones, lengthy runtime, and gory violence might not be for everyone, I had an absolute blast with “The Big Four”. It has a fun story, great characters, really good performances, pretty good music, and fantastic directiong/action. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Big Four” is a 8.44/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Big Four” is now completed.

“Big Four”, my ass. Couldn’t see Metallica anywhere…

Along with the Gods: The Two Movies

Hi there. So this won’t be a typical review style post of mine (though it shares minor aspects of those). Instead it’ll be more like my post on the Fable movies (AHEM AHEM), loosely rambling about them in a bundled post. I should mention that both movies will from here on out simply be referred to by their subtitle, as it’d be too long and clunky to use the full title each time. So anyhow… let’s go.

The Two Worlds

After perishing in the line of duty, a firefighter (Cha Tae-Hyun) finds himself in the company of three spirit guides (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hyang-gi) who have been tasked with guiding him through the afterlife in order for him to potentially earn the right to reincarnate. Based on a webtoon by Ju Ho-min, “The Two Worlds” is an interesting blend of inspirations and tones. Most noticeably, it uses Buddhist philosophy as a springboard to tell an interesting and really fun fantasy adventure story, a morality tale that also happens to have some really fun VFX-driven action and colorful characters. Taking us through visually distinct environments to tell a nuanced fantasy story.
As we follow the firefighter’s journey through the afterlife, we get to know him more and more, seeing what led him to the initial incident. We see why he does what he does, we get to know the deepest inner workings of his soul, and finding out just how complex even the most seemingly good people are. And the way that affects the events of the movie, the ways his guides have to assist him, it makes for some compelling drama and some surprising suspense. So when we get to the climactic trials that are crucial in determining his fate, it put me on the edge of my seat, and also may have caused the waterworks to begin operating. Because while someone might come to this for the spectacular VFX, fun action scenes, or extremely good looking cast, soon enough they’ll also find that this movie has a strong emotional core as well. I am not ashamed in admitting that this movie made me cry. It’s one of those flashy action flicks that also happens to have some truly compelling characters and drama. But it can also be quite funny at times, especially with the quips and general demeanor of Ju Ji-Hoon as the delightful Haewonmaek.
What else is there to say? It’s a big popcorn flick with a great story, plenty of heart, a wonderful cast of characters, and some mesmerizing visuals. I loved it.

The Last 49 Days

Released a year later, “The Last 49 Days” sees our favorite spirit guides as they take on the task of helping a new soul towards reincarnation, all while also trying their damndest in trying to retrieve a fellow guardian (Ma Dong-seok) who’s been living on Earth for a long time. “The Last 49 Days” is once again a blend of things. Fantasy action, historical epic, domestic dramedy, and I think all these individual pieces are great… but together they don’t flow super well. I get that you need all the bits together to tell the complete story, take one piece out and the tower comes crashing down, but there is a whole lotta movie to this movie. And I’m not just talking about runtime, as it’s really only like 5 minutes longer than the first one, but rather it’s how much is crammed into it. There’s an exhausting amount of narrative threads going on at any one time, and while I found all of them pretty compelling on their own, their flow is just almost non-existent. It’s especially horrid near the middle of the movie, where things really begin to drag. You know that deep sigh you make when you’re bored? Yeah, that happened here. It’s just an exhausting drag at times.
So while the story is a mess, the characters do get some really interesting extra depth, which also leads to the actors getting more to chew on. The cast was great in the first one, but they really get to flex their acting chops here, and I think they give terrific performances here. And it’s just nice to have Ma Dong-seok be part of proceedings, the man just slots in flawlessly and brings such a unique charisma.
Action scenes are once again a lot of fun, not quite as flashy as what we saw in the first one, but definitely still highly enjoyable. Effects are still top notch (bar one or two obvious green screens), costumes and makeup are solid, and there’s some really fun cuts and transitions spread throughout. It’s just stellar on a technical level.
So while nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, I can’t say that I disliked “The Last 49 Days”. It still has some great stuff to it. If the first one’s a strong 9/10 for me, then this is maybe a weak 7/10. Hurt by its poor pacing, but still has a lot to admire.

So yeah, I watched and generally liked the “Along with the Gods” movies. Basically if you like big spectacle with plenty of heart and don’t mind reading subtitles, then I can easily recommend them. And apparently there’s a third and fourth one coming at some point… so I’ll be cautiously looking forward to those.

Have a good one.

Series Review: The Patient (2022)

Therapy, an important asset in our society, there to (hopefully) help people. Aaaand that’s all I got on that right now, so let’s get into the review.

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

On a day like any other, therapist Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he wakes up in the basement of one of his patients (Domhnall Gleeson), who Alan soon finds out is a serial killer. And as Alan tries to find a way to get out alive, he finds himself reluctantly having to council his captor. I find the premise of “The Patient” to be quite fun, a high concept thriller that lends itself to some really interesting bits of suspense. And in execution the narrative is quite compelling, creating an interesting dynamic between our leads, exploring their relationship, and the complexities that it carries. Because obviously Alan wants to simply survive, but the show also goes to great lengths to show that he, on some level, actually cares about helping Sam (his patient/captor). But it’s not just about a therapist delving into the psyche of this horrible man, but it’s just as much, if not more so, about Alan dealing with his own trauma and demons, which further escalates the drama and makes for a much more dynamic emotional spectrum, both when it comes to Alan’s personal stakes, and the story at large. There’s also this quiet undercurrent of awkward, dark humor to a lot of it, which I think adds to the show’s unique vibe. However, for as good as the story here can be, I do think there are things that bring it down a peg. Mainly, it’s the runtime, or more specifically the episode count. Ten episodes is usually a perfect length for a season of tv, but here it feels dragged out, mainly with the last few episodes, as if they had/wanted to pad it out to that length. Adding further to that sensation, the last few episodes are longer than the first half of the show. The first several episodes are roughly 22-28 minutes long. The rest are 30+, which really does add to the feeling of things being a bit stretched out more than needed. Again, the overall narrative is really strong, and it ends on a real high note, but those last few episodes does bring it down with the padding sensation.

The characters in this I found to be really interesting, as they’re never really shown to be simple, one-note things, but fully rounded and surprisingly complex individuals. Especially our two leads, they have so many interesting layers to them, which the show plays around with to give them a really electrifying dynamic. What also helps is that both Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson are fantastic, giving career best performances and playing off of each other really well. The rest of the cast is great too, containing people like Laura Niemi, Andrew Leeds, Linda Edmond, Renata Friedman, David Alan Grier, and more, with no one feeling like a weak link.

The score for the show was composed by Nathan Barr, and I thought he did a pretty solid job. It’s nothing too unique or memorable, a fairly standard droning thriller score that occasionally brings in some piano when a little extra sadness needs to be injected. It’s not bad, and it works well enough for the show. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and those work quite well in their respective scenes.

“The Patient” was created and written by Joel Fields and Joseph Weinberg, with directing done by a few different people (names will be in tags). And I think this show is generally well crafted. Scene direction have a nice pace to them and have just the right amount of linger to build a nice suspense, editing has a really fun flair to it, and there’s some really interesting shots throughout. It’s just solidly built stuff.

This show’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 88% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

So while it might be a bit longer than I felt necessary, “The Patient” is still a really fun and compelling little thriller series. It has a really good story, really good characters, fantastic performances, good music, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Patient” is an 8.01/10. So while it certainly is flawed, I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

My review of “The Patient” is now completed.

Steve Carell’s a bit good at this whole acting stuff, isn’t he?

Movie Review: The Night House (2021)

Spooky goings-on are happening on this here blog. I mean, it has through this entire month, but it’s happening once again. So let’s see what kind of spooks we’re dealing with this time.

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

Following the recent death of her husband, a grieving Beth (Rebecca Hall) slowly starts finding out that he may have been keeping some dark secrets from her, all while strange things start happening in her house. “The Night House” is a slow burn of a movie, a psychological horror that over the course of its runtime mess with the viewer. Sure, there are more in-your-face scare-scares too, and those are used to great effect, but the biggest strength is how it uses themes of trauma and grief to create an otherworldly atmosphere that made me question everything I was watching. And this uneasiness kept me on edge right from the word go, deeply unsettling me while also handling its themes in heartbreaking and deeply resonant ways. It’s a scary and beautifully told story that I absolutely adored following.

What I like about the characters in this is how real they feel, while still allowing for a fair bit of the theatricality that can be found in movies. Even as weird shit happens, there’s something that makes these people feel grounded in some sort of reality, which makes them really compelling to watch. And that’s as far as I’ll go in terms of characterization, as revealing any more could/may take any impact away. Anyhow, holy fuck, Rebecca Hall is amazing in this. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite a while now, but I will never cease to be astonished by how well she plays these sorts of characters. There’s so much going through her character’s mind at any given moment, and Hall just nails it masterfully. The supporting cast is great too, featuring people like Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit, Stacy Martin, and more, all giving stellar performances.

The score for the movie was composed by Ben Lovett, and I thought it was pretty great. Sure, some of it does devolve into the typical crescendo-ing horror droning, but then there are also some really interesting tracks utilizing strings amongst other things to create a brooding and quite spooky atmosphere, that also has this underlying sadness to it. It creates a sonically interesting and emotionally rich soundscape that I found quite compelling to listen to. There’s also some licensed music used throughout, and it works pretty well too. This movie has good music.

“The Night House” was directed by David Bruckner, and I think did a stellar job here. His directing style is fairly slick, without being overly flashy, creatively using space, blocking, and light/darkness to create visually striking shots that also work well to tell the story or just scare me. Combine this with Elisha Christian’s stunning cinematography, and you get one of the most visually intriguing horror movies I’ve seen in recent years. There’s also some clever and interesting visual effects here that work really well for this movie, they’re not super in-your-face, but when they’re there, they are just so cool.

This movie has been mixed to positively received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

“The Night House” unsettled me in a way no movie has before. Sure, others have deeply scared and unsettled me, but this movie does it in a unique way I can’t fully explain. It has a great story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Deep inhale*. My final score for “The Night House” is a 9.89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Night House” is now completed.

Can we get Rebecca Hall a nice movie? Between this and “Christine” and probably something else, she plays a lot of characters who get put through the wringer, and it’d be nice to see her just have a nice day for once.

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

My friends, I once again deliver a Month of Spooks review for y’all. So let’s quit this dawdling and get into it.

Ladies, gents, non-binaries… “Deliver Us from Evil”.

As a series of strange, violent crimes start plaguing New York City, police officer Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) finds himself having to team up with a very unique priest (Edgar Ramírez) in order to try and solve these disturbing goings-on. “Deliver Us from Evil” is a tale of two conflicting elements. At first glance it’s an atmospheric cop thriller, showing a man trying to do his job, all while dealing with an inner turmoil. And that bit I genuinely really like, there’s a lot of interesting and surprisingly compelling drama going on for it with Sarchie, the case, his family, and a few more things. But it also presents this fun, pulpy detective thriller that I enjoyed following, even if the movie drags towards the middle. But then we have the second part of the movie, which is the more overt supernatural horror shenanigans. Some of it is kinda fun, such as some of the stuff in the last act. But a lot of the horror stuff in the first two just doesn’t work for me. There’s a great sense of atmosphere with the movie, but when the scares hit, they kind of deflate it and take me out of the movie. So the horror of the HORROR movie is a bit of an issue. So the story here is very much a mixed bag.

The characters in this are pretty solid, all being given compelling arcs and personalities. Eric Bana plays Ralph Sarchie, a tough-as-nails and sarcastic, yet good-natured policeman with a bit of baggage in the trunk. It’s interesting to see how the events of the story affect him and how his past further informs the development he goes through. And Eric Bana does a damn good job in the role. Next is Edgar Ramírez as Mendoza, a slightly peculiar jesuit priest that Sarchie meets. He’s an interesting fella with an interesting story, and I like the rapport he has with Sarchie. And Ramírez is great in the role. The rest of the cast is pretty great too, containing people like Olivia Munn, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and many other talented actors.

The score for the movie was composed by Christopher Young, and it was alright. Fairly unremarkable eerie horror score. Nothing too noteworthy in either direction, just fairly standard stuff. Now, with that out of the way, I can mention that the movie also uses some licensed music, namely a few tracks by The Doors. I find this interesting, because the band has always had indirect (or direct, who knows) ties to spirituality, which adds something thematically intriguing to proceedings. It doesn’t necessarily make the movie scarier or more suspenseful, but it makes it a bit more interesting. So yeah, the music in this is mixed.

“Deliver Us from Evil” was based on a book that was co-written by… Ralph Sarchie? Yeah, he was a real person, and he wrote a book about investigating actual exorcism in actual New York. I will however take those musings with a pocketful of salt, so feel free to call me Scully. Anyhow, Sarchie’s book served as loose inspiration for this movie that was directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. And I think he did a good job directing this, the man is excellent at building a creepy atmosphere and utilizing space for his set pieces, and he brings that to this movie in spectacular fashion. While the scares in this felt tepid or annoying, everything inbetween (and even during some more overtly horror-y scenes) is wonderfully directed. This is further amplified by Scott Kevan’s dark and grimy cinematography that adds so much to the chilling vibes they build up. There’s also a fair bit of really cool gore and makeup and VFX work. It looks really rad and works well to add weight to the world.

This movie has not been super well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 29% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

So while its let down by sub-par horror and some pacing issues, I still enjoyed “Deliver Us from Evil”. It has a pretty good story, really good characters, great performances, interesting music, and damn good direction and cinematography. Time for my final score. *BOO*. My final score for “Deliver Us from Evil” is a 7.23/10. So while it is quite flawed, it’s still worth renting.

My review of “Deliver Us from Evil” is now completed.

What’s your favorite Doors song? Mine is probably “Break on Through”.

Movie Review: You’re Next (2013)

We’ve covered all various kinds of horror this Month of Spooks so far. Vampires, body horror, zombies… whatever the fuck we call “A Quiet Place”. So how about we bring it down from the supernatural and immediately monstrous for a bit and go with a good ol’ home invasion, yeah? *Police sirens ring out* NO, NOT LIKE THAT!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “You’re Next”.

During the Davison parents’ (Rob Moran and Barbara Crampton) 35th anniversary, they have gathered their children (with significant others) for a nice little family gathering. Their pleasant reunion is interrupted however when several masked killers start picking them off one by one. So it’s up to the family to find ways of hopefully making it out alive. At first glance it’s a fairly standard home invasion setup, but “You’re Next” quickly sets itself apart from other movies of the subgenre. First off by having a leading lady (Sharni Vinson) with a lot of valuable survival skills, which gives the usual cat and mouse antics a fun spin, making it feel like more of an equal fight. Some might say it takes tension out of it, but I say yes kind of, but it also inserts in a different kind of tension, as that capability means it becomes harder to see exactly how the survival chips may fall. The second reason it stands out is how the story progresses. I can’t say that I entirely saw how things were gonna pan out, and not just who and how they die, but also some of the reveals that go on. It’s a surprisingly involved story with intriguing turns that I can’t say that I 100% pegged. So you get both a fun, surprisingly involved story and slasher carnage, making for one a pretty enjoyable narrative. Is it necessarily among the best horror stories I’ve seen? No, but still a lot of fun.

The characters in this are all pretty well written. Right from the word go you get a decent idea of who they are and what their personalities are like, which helps things get going quickly. And it’s interesting to see how their personalities clash and play as the violent quest for survival continues. And the performances in this all work. I won’t sit and say that everyone gets as many opportunities to shine, but there’s no one here I’d call outright bad. I really dug Sharni Vinson as our lead, she has a commanding presence and it’s fun seeing her figure out ways to deal with the villains. Rest of the ensemble consists of people like Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Barbara Crampton, Rob Moran, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, Nicolas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, and more. It’s a pretty solid cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Mads Heldtberg, Jasper Lee, Kyle McKinnon, and Adam Wingard, and it’s an interesting mix. Early on it’s fairly typical horror/suspense droning, with a few stings, and it’s fine. It’s fairly generic, does its job fine, I won’t remember it in a day. But as the movie goes on the music gets a bit more interesting, taking on a more fun, synthy style that adds a bit of flair to everything going on. It still goes back to some regular stuff on occasion, which is whatever, but when that synth beat hits, it is so good. So yeah, the score here is… a little mixed, some great and some less so.

“You’re Next” was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard. And I think Wingard did a damn fine job with his directing, the man has a good way of having a creeping tension loom in the background, even as fast-paced and intense shit happens in the foreground. It makes for a pretty intense and fun experience that gives any action extra weight and eerieness to it. West is also great about showing violence. He’s not above showing the blood and gore, but he also shows that he has good grasp of when to cut or what to obscure in order to give violence its impact.

This movie’s been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 66/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.5/10.

So yeah, “You’re Next” is a really enjoyable home invasion thriller. It has a really good story, pretty good characters, really good performances, mixed to good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “You’re Next” is an 8.70/10. So it’s definitely worth buying.

My review of “You’re Next” is now completed.

Maybe I’m next? *Door knocks*. Coming!

Movie Review: Malignant (2021)

More spooky reviews comin’ your way! And before we begin, I just want to point out the silliness that is me reviewing the movie I used as basis for last year’s Month of Spooks poster a full year later. There’s some weird form of irony to it. Anyhow, let’s get into it.

Ladies, gents,  non-binaries… “Malignant”.

While trying her best to simply get by, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) starts getting grisly visions of a shadowy figure brutally killing people. And we follow her as she tries to make sense of these visions and hopefully find a way to stop them. I found the story here to be okay. It’s a fun enough mystery with a few enjoyable turns. That said, the story parts of the story aren’t necessarily what makes proceedings as enjoyable as they are. Because in all honestly, the main narrative feels more like it’s there to serve as an excuse for wild and creative set pieces. This is a bloody, campy-as-fuck sendup to old school supernatural slashers, but with the polish and tech of today to amp it up to 11. And the campy shenanigans are generally what I enjoyed about the story, as those bits are when the movie comes alive. And a fair bit of those sequences are stacked in the second half of the movie, with the first one, while not completely devoid of fun shenanigans, delivering a fair bit of setup, which does drag a bit. But when it’s going, the story here is a fun, bonkers, camptastic time.

The characters in this are fine. They aren’t given that much depth, which usually can be an issue, but weirdly works here since it weirdly adds to the fun and general vibe of the movie. They’re sort of shallow tropes that are there to serve the trope. The one with the most depth is arguably the lead character, as her and her past is explored in the movie. And she’s a decently compelling protagonist, with Annabelle Wallis giving a really solid performance. The supporting cast is pretty solid too, featuring people like Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Jean Louisa Kelly, Jake Abel, Ray Chase, Marina Mazepa, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Joseph Bishara, and it is tons of fun. Panicky strings, blaring brass, exciting and fast-paced electronics, thrilling percussion, Bishara leaves very little off the table and this creates this insanely fun and never dull soundscape. It’s an absolute blast to listen to and adds so much to the movie. There’s also a little bit of licensed music throughout, and I think that works really well too. I just really dig the soundtrack here, it’s fun, easy to listen to, and really works well for the movie.

“Malignant” was directed and co-written by James Wan, and hooooooweeee, you can feel him really flexing and letting loose here. As mentioned previously, this movie isn’t afraid of going camp, and Wan’s direction further elevates that fact, which makes me very happy. Dutch tilts, camera snapping into position, fun pans, sweeps across big spaces, fun reveals, kinetic action and editing. It’s all so insane and makes for one hell of a fun viewing experience, especially in the various set pieces, where things get crazy, hectic, and GORY AS FUCK. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an absolute riot to follow, giving us some really creative and delightfully ludicrous sequences. It just put a big, dumb smile on my face so many times.

This movie’s gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 76% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 51/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While it does drag in its first half, I still had a lot of fun with “Malignant”. It has a fun plot, okay characters, good performances, great music, and fantastic direction. Time for my final score. *OOGA BOOGA!*. My final score for “Malignant” is an 8.45/10. So while flawed, it’s still certainly worth buying.

My review of “Malignant” is now completed.

Sometimes it’s a bad thing if a horror movie doesn’t scare me. But this one was just so much fun that I don’t care.