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: Doctor Sleep (2019)

I just love that header image. My amazing buddy The Craggus took the first poster that was released for this movie and added a little of my shenanigans to it. Anyhow, let’s talk about a belated sequel.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Doctor Sleep”. The director’s cut.

A little over 30 years after the horrifying events at the Overlook hotel, a now grown up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) tries to get his life back together. While doing this he befriends a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) who also can Shine. But these powers also makes her the target of a dangerous cult that tracks down kids who can Shine, and then kills them and steals their power. So yeah, it’s a little bit of a departure from the claustrophobic thrills of “The Shining”. But that’s okay, because I found the story on display utterly enthralling. It’s a slow, contemplative burn of a narrative. Going in-depth with the effects that the Overlook incident’s had on Dan’s life, the story really gets to the heart of a lot of stuff, and it’s wonderful to follow… even made me cry at a point. But it’s not just heartfelt drama here, as this is also a horror movie. It’s not the scariest one I’ve seen, probably wouldn’t even crack the top five in terms of pure scariness. That’s not to say that there isn’t any creepy shit here. There is some good, subtle creepiness and suspense going on throughout, occasionally punctuated by some decently grim shit. And I think it works quite well here. Again, not the scariest, but I still enjoyed the horror elements of the narrative.

The characters in this are quite nuanced, flawed, and highly interesting. Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance, former tricycle enthusiast and currently broken man. Seeing the low point his life has come to after you-know-what is fascinating in itself, but it’s what comes from that that makes it even more interesting, as he has a really great arc in this movie. And McGregor does a great job with his performance. Kyliegh Curran plays Abra, the young girl that Dan befriends. She’s a smart, funny, and charming little kid who I think made for a good foil for Dan. And Curran is fantastic in the role. Next we have Rebecca Ferguson as Rose, a hat wearing lady who loves meeting new people… oh, and she’s also an immortal who kills people who can Shine, just so she can keep being immortal. Yeah, she’s our main villain, and she’s so mesmerizing and intense, with a lot of that coming from Rebecca Ferguson’s spectacular performance. We also get supporting work from people like Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Carl Lumbly, Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, Jacob Tremblay, Carel Struycken, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by The Newton Brothers, and I thought it was great. It’s an emotionally charged and eerie score that, while taking a lot of familiar horror cues into certain tracks, manages to feel somewhat unique to this movie. They also utilize some familiar notes from the original “Shining” film on occasion, and it never feels overly intrusive, but rather works as a nice tie-in to that. So yeah, there’s some good music here.

Based on the “Shining” sequel of the name name written by Stephen King, “Doctor Sleep” was written and directed by Mike Flanagan, and I think he did a fantastic job with it. His direction is bold, confident, and manages to create a good amount of suspense throughout. There’s something otherworldly about it, which helps add a good amount of eeriness to proceedings. And Michael Fimognari’s cinematography certainly helps add a lot to that, giving us a lot of gorgeous, dynamic shots that add to the atmosphere of the movie. It’s just really well crafted.

This movie has been decently well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 77% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 59/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

“Doctor Sleep” (director’s cut at least) is a fantastic horror-drama that manages to both entertain and deeply engage. It has a great story, really good characters, fantastic performances, great music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Doctor Sleep” is a 9.90/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Doctor Sleep” is now completed.

Three hours seldom fly by so fast for me.

Movie Review: Take Shelter (2011)

I would try to come up with some clever intro to this, but this movie stumped me in that regard. Can’t come up with something clever or fun for an intro to this. Ummm… Michael Shannon, amiright?

Ladies and gentlemen… “Take Shelter”.

When he starts getting apocalyptic visions, Curtis (Michael Shannon) starts trying to rebuild the old storm shelter in his backyard. But his strange change in behavior starts creating some problems with everything in his life, from his family to his job. And throughout the movie we sit and wonder, is he actually seeing the end of the world, or is he just a bit crazy. But it’s not so much a big and loud apocalyptic thriller (like some movies might do), aiming more for a human drama that explores the desperation of this man in trying to figure all this crazy shit out. It’s very slow-paced, but that works quite well for the story as it helps in fleshing it out. So it’s quite a good plot.

The characters in this all feel quite realistic and I thought they were all interesting. Michael Shannon plays Curtis, the construction worker who starts getting these strange and scary dreams/visions. He’s a good father and husband as well as a good worker. So seeing him change as a person due to these scary dreams/visions is quite interesting, and turns into an intriguing character study. And Michael Shannon is fantastic in the role, giving one of his more subdued performances (though he does get at least one explosive moment). Then we have Jessica Chastain as Curtis’ wife Sam. A lot of her arc lies in her reacting to her husband’s situation(s), and it’s quite interesting, especially since it leads to some emotionally charged moments. And Chastain is great in the role. Then we have Tova Stewart as Curtis’ daughter Hannah. Hannah is deaf, and that’s probably the most interesting aspect of her. She gets the least amount of development over the movie, but she’s still an interesting piece of this puzzle. And Stewart is good in the role. Then we get some supporting work here from people like Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Robert Longstreet, and more, all doing well in their roles.

The score for the movie was composed by David Wingo and it’s good. It’s less focused on melodies or being instantly recognizable, acting more as ambient noise for the various scenes. But it works quite well for the movie as it helps build drama and a sense of dread throughout the movie.

The movie was written and directed by Jeff Nichols and I think he did a really good job with that. While a lot of directors would’ve tried to build a lot of tension with their directing, making it as noticeable as possible, Nichols is a lot more subtle, carefully capturing the human drama and subtly building a sense of dread over the entire situation. And it made me feel a lot more invested in what was going on.

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 85/100. Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,4/10.

“Take Shelter” is a subdued and highly effective psychological drama. It has a really good plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Take Shelter” is a 9,56/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Take Shelter” is now completed.

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away