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…

Series Review: Midnight Mass (2021)

It’s finally here, friends… THE MONTH OF SPOOKS! That’s right, Oc-fucking-tober, a month of spooktacular content! Yeah, I’m excited. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Midnight Mass”.

“Midnight Mass” follows the residents of Crockett Island, a remote little mound somewhere in America, as strange things start happening around their home following the arrival of a new, charismatic priest (Hamish Linklater). This show is at its core a character-driven drama, delving deep into themes of grief, guilt, faith, and past traumas, and I find all of it compelling. The way that this stuff is handled throughout the seven episode run is some of the most nuanced and beautiful storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in any show. This even gives extra weight to the sections which lean more on classic horror, both in terms of thematic depth and  in terms of how much suspense and terror it is able to generate. So yeah, the story here is emotionally resonant, nuanced, unpredictable, scary, and overall just fucking spectacular.

The characters in this show are all very flawed, layered, colorful, and insanely interesting to follow. All of them have some past (or present) trauma going on, and it makes for some incredibly engaging character work. What helps this further is the frankly insane cast, featuring people like Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Hamish Linklater (who is the standout for me), Henry Thomas, Kristin Lehman, Rahul Kohli, Annabeth Gish, Samantha Sloyan, Annarah Cymone, and many more, all giving top tier performances.

The score for the show was composed by The Newton Brothers, who absolutely knocked it out of the park with the music here. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past, but I feel like they really outdid themselves here. Of course you do have some traditional horror stings, but there are also a lot of quieter, more emotional pieces throughout the show as well, along with some frankly haunting bits as well. It manages to hit every kind of emotion possible, making for a very engaging soundscape that adds a lot to the show.

“Midnight Mass” was created for Netflix by Mike Flanagan, who also directed and co-wrote all the episodes. And I gotta say, the dude knocked it out of the fucking park with his directing here. Not that Flanagan’s direction has ever been bad, but you can tell that this was a real passion project for him just by how all out he goes with the way his shots flow, how tightly edited it is, and how just how ambitious it can be at times. Further adding to this is the cinematography by Michael Fimognari, which is beautiful and really adds to the storytelling. The special effects in this are all great as well. It’s just an insanely well crafted show that you can tell everyone involved put 250% into. I know that is mathematically illogical (and possibly impossible), but I don’t care, it’s how I feel.

This show has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 91% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 74/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.9/10.

“Midnight Mass” is an absolutely phenomenal horror show that had me glued to the screen from start to end. It has a fantastic story, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/writing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Midnight Mass” is a 9.94/10. Which does mean that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Midnight Mass” is now completed.

Month of Spooks is off to one hell of a start!

Movie Review: E.T. (1982)

I can already hear some people mumbling “This isn’t horror, why the hell are you putting it in the Month of Spooks?”. And here’s my reasoning: It’s set during Halloween, which technically makes it a Halloween movie, which means that it works for Month of Spooks. Loophole, motherfuckers. So let’s talk about an alien non-invasion.

Ladies and gentlemen… “E.T.”!

The story follows a boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) as he one day finds and befriend and alien that he goes on to call E.T. And so we follow Elliott as he tries to keep his new alien friend hidden while trying to find away to contact E.T’s species. So now we have our family friendly alien non-invasion plot. And even when I put my nostalgia aside, I fucking love this plot. It’s a fun twist on an alien coming down to earth, usually we get aliens coming down to murder all of us, but this is about a friendly little guy. And the people behind the scenes of this manage to make it endlessly engaging, fun, charming, and just plain entertaining. It’s perfectly paced while still telling an emotionally investing story.

The characters in this are fun, interesting, and overall entertaining. First up we have young Henry Thomas as Elliott, the child at the center of the story. He has a bit of a troubled life, with his parents getting separated, among other things. But he’s still a good kid, and it’s fun to see his evolution after he meets E.T. And Thomas is great in the role. Next we have Robert MacNaughton as Michael, Elliott’s older brother. He’s kind of a jerk, but he does get some decent development throughout the movie. And MacNaughton is really good in the role. Next we have a very young Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Elliott’s young sister. Not only is she absolutely adorable, but she’s also a fun character that adds a little extra charm to it all. And Barrymore is really good in the role. We also have Dee Wallace as Elliott’s mother. She’s under a lot of stress, and Elliott’s misadventures certainly isn’t helping things out. But she’s still a loving and caring mother. And Wallace is great in the role. Yeah, ’tis a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was of course composed by the one and only John Williams. And as one would expect from that legend, the score here is fucking fantastic. The theme is as memorable as all his other ones, and the rest of the score of course has that magical, whimsical, and emotional quality that Mr. Williams is so damn good at. I don’t need to say more, you know how good this score is.

Written by Melissa Mathison (R.I.P), this movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, and of course he did an excellent job with the direction. He has a way of creating magic and excitement from the smallest of scenes. It also helps that the writing here too is absolutely delightful. But seriously, Spielberg could direct a movie of someone reading the phone book and it would be charming. Probably starring Tom Hanks. Anyway, not only does he capture the childlike wonder of Elliott discovering this alien, he also manages to create some eerie and outright disturbing moments throughout. And the cinematography by Allen Daviau is absolutely breathtaking.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10. The movie won 4 Oscars in the categories of Best sound, Best visual effects, Best sound editing, and Best original score. IT was also nominated for an additional 5 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best original screenplay, Best cinematography, and Best film editing.

So yeah, “E.T.” is considered a classic for a reason. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “E.T.” is a 9,88/10. Which means that if (of course) gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “E.T.” is now completed.

My blog, my Month of Spooks, my rules.

Movie Review: Gerald’s Game (2017)

Netflix. The streaming service quickly taking over the entertainment industry thanks to their original shows and movies. And today we are taking a look at one of their original movies.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Gerald’s Game”.

A married couple (Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood) feel like their love life has gotten a bit stale. So to spice things up they travel to a lake house to have some fun. However, their kinky games soon lead to Jessie (Gugino) having to survive, cuffed to the bed, after Gerald (Greenwood) dies of a heart attack. So now we have our dark character study. And you might think “Dude, don’t spoil it! Can’t talk about who dies!”. But Gerald’s death is what basically kicks the plot into gear. And I think this a damn good plot. As I not so subtly eluded to, this is a dark character study that delves deep into Jessie’s psyche and her troubled past, as this horrifying situation she’s found herself in forces her to confront her demons. And it’s a truly tense and engaging plot that I was invested in throughout. My only flaw with it is the ending. Had they cut the last ten-ish minutes out I would’ve thought that this movie was close to damn near perfect. And while it doesn’t ruin the overall experience, it did annoy me a bit. So yeah, ending aside, this is a great plot.

The characters here (the few worth talking about) are deep, damaged, flawed, and quite interesting. Carla Gugino plays Jessie, the main character who we see cuffed to the bed throughout the movie. As we learn throughout the movie, she has some dark secrets that she has hidden away for most of her life. And seeing her having to tackle these demons while also trying to find a way out of the bedroom is quite interesting, as I found myself really caring about her. And Gugino is fantastic in the role, best performance I’ve seen from her. Bruce Greenwood (AKA Batman) play Gerald, the eponymous game-starter. He just wanted a nice, kinky weekend with his wife, but he instead gets a heart attack and some stuff dug up about him. We learn some stuff about him that makes him a bit more interesting. And Greenwood is damn great in the role. The last one I want to talk about is Henry Thomas (that’s right, Elliott from “E.T.”) who plays Jessie’s dad in some flashbacks we see. And he’s a bit creepy here, and I’ll leave it at that. And Thomas is great in the role. Really, every actor here does a great job.

The score for the movie was composed by the Newton brothers and it’s pretty damn good. It’s emotional, tense, eerie, and often helped elevate a lot of scenes that they were used in. It really helped make things tense and even kind of scary at times. And I thought it worked beautifully within the movie. And on a quick sidenote: You can get a free download of the album from their website, and I think that’s really cool.

Based on a Stephen King novel, “Gerald’s Game” was directed by Mike Flanagan and I think he did a fantastic job with it. This is a contained thriller, based mostly in the bedroom of this lake house, and Flanagan takes advantage of this isolated setting. His directing is tight and incredibly tense, making me feel constantly on edge throughout the movie. I will also warn you: There is some disturbing as hell imagery in this movie (including gore). So if you’re in the least bit squeamish, then this might not be for you. But some of the imagery in this isn’t just disturbing for the sake of being disturbing, because I feel like it all has some sort of purpose to it.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 90% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 77/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

While having a less than great ending, “Gerald’s Game” is still a great fucking movie. It has a great plot, great characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing. As previously stated, the ending isn’t the greatest, but I won’t punish the movie that much over it. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Gerald’s Game ” is a 9,57/10. So while slightly flawed, it still gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Gerald’s Game” is now completed.

Batman & Silk Spectre’s Sexy Vacation.