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: Before I Wake (2017)

Good *insert the time of day you read this in here*, hope you’re doing well. Time for more spooktacular content. So let’s go!

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Before I Wake”.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are a loving couple who have made the decision to adopt a young boy (Jacob Tremblay). What they don’t know however is that this boy carries a special, strange secret. The story in this movie is an interesting one, often leaning more towards a dark fantasy rather than outright horror… at least early on. Towards the later half it leans heavier on the horror elements. And I must say that I found the story here quite enjoyable. It has some interesting themes that we’ve seen discussed multiple times in works by this director, and while this isn’t his most engaging or nuanced take on the subject matter, it’s still a generally well written and enjoyable narrative that managed to creep me out a few times.

The characters in this are alright, not the most deep or interesting ever, but they work well for the story. Kate Bosworth does a really good job as Jessie, Thomas Jane is great as Mark, Jacob Tremblay is of course great as Cody, the kid that the couple adopts. And then you also have an interesting supporting cast, featuring people like Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok, Kyla Deaver, Jay Karnes, and more!

The score for the movie was composed by Danny Elfman, along with the Newton Brothers (talk about one hell of a teamup), and I’d say they did a solid job together. It’s an ambient score that manages to build a fair bit of drama, helping add a good bit of emotion to certain scenes. There’s also of course some classic loud horror hits, and they work fine, even though we’ve heard that sort of stuff a kajillion times.

“Before I Wake” was directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (hell yeah), and also has a bit of an interesting production history. Apparently Relativity Media bought the rights in 2014, slating the film for a 2015 release, but later got pulled due the company going bankrupt. Eventually after much back and forth it then landed in the hands of Netflix, who finally released it in 2017 worldwide… except for the states who got it in 2018. So yeah, it’s an interesting tale. Anyhow, back to Flanagan.
This man doesn’t miss when it comes to directing. Even in this film, which isn’t one of my favorites he’s done, he still does a damn good job. His direction has this simmering, slowly burning, often dreamlike vibe that just makes each scene a hell of a lot more engaging.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 66% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6.2/10.

While not my favorite film from Flanagan, “Before I Wake” is still an enjoyable little horror-fantasy that I can recommend. It has a good plot, pretty good characters, great performances, good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Before I Wake” is a 7.44/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Before I Wake” is now completed.

I don’t know about you, but before I wake, I sleep.

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: 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.

Movie Review: Oculus (2014)

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BOO! Got ya there, didn’t I? No? Well, screw you. *Sigh*. Anyway, hello and welcome to a review that has been teased a bit on my twitter (Cough, shameless plug, cough) over the last two(ish) days. Mainly because I knew that this would come around these days as the introduction to something special. And by something special I mean a series of reviews that I call “The Month of Spooks”. What is that? Well you obviously didn’t read my post the other day where I first used that phrase. What I mean is that since it’s October I should review some horror movies. I already got a few suggestions by a person here on wordpress and I will maybe review those movies at some point. But if you have any horror recomendations I suggest you put them as a comment on the post “The Month of Spooks” which is relatively recent so you know what you can and can’t recommend. Anyway, rambling over, review time!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Oculus”.

In “Oculus” we follow siblings Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites). Ten years ago something very tragic happened to them which got Tim arrested and put in psychological care. But now he gets to come out, fully rehabilitated (yay?). However, his sister drags him into a sort of investigation to prove that a mirror is evil and is the reason every terrible thing happened to them as kids. And while this shit sounds like it would make for a terrible plot, it really caught me off guard. The plot is surprisingly deep and made me doubt everything through most of the movie. It made me ask “Are these guys just out of their fucking mind or is the mirror really an evil entity?” which is actually kind of great. The plot could also get really personal and emotional at times which is not something I ever expect from a horror movie, so that was kind of cool. However I feel like it started out a little slow. But after a little while the movie kicked into high gear and I was intirgued the entire way through. So high praise to this plot.

The characters all feel like they could be very real people… real people who are stuck in a terrifying situation. And the actors did a pretty great job. Brenton Thwaites as Tim was great, playing basically a male version of Scully from “The X-Files”. Now if you haven’t seen that amazing show then first off: Go watch it! And secondly: Scully is the skeptic of the two main characters in the show, and that’s what Tim is at first. And if Tim is Scully then that makes Kaylie the movie’s version of Mulder (the believer). And Karen Gillan did a fantastic job. What caught me off guard though was how well she masked her Scottish accent and did a terrific American one, she sounded legit. Every actor was really good in the movie.

The score for “Oculus” was done by The Newton Brothers and I think it’s pretty good. It’s tension-building, it’s well-composed and it just overall fit the movie pretty damn well. It’s also very electronic in how it sounds, not that that’s bad thing. Like I said, it’s a good score that fit the movie.

This movie was directed by Mike Flanagan who I have not seen anything else from. But I can still for sure say that he did a great job directing this movie, the shots look great. Here is a fun fact: This movie is apparently based on a short film that Flanagan made in 2006, also starring the character of Tim (Sidenote: Not played by Brenton Thwaites in that one). Another fun fact: It was shot in only 24 days which is a crazy short amount of time for a movie to be made. But I guess that since it is a pretty limited film in size and scope, that makes a little bit of sense. Also, since this is a horror movie, was it scary? Yeah… it was. But it isn’t like a “BOO, MOTHERFUCKER!” type of horror movie, it instead relies on dread, suspense and disturbing imagery to scare. And it did it perfectly, getting under my skin and disturbing me to the point of leaving my room after finishing it and then hugging my dog, true story. Would I call it terrifying? No, but scary and creepy are definitely adjectives I’d like to use for it which in itself is pretty great.

This movie has gotten some pretty mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 73% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 61/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,5/10.

“Oculus” surprised me on every level. It has a great & emotional plot, terrific acting and characters, a really good score, great directing and as a horror movie it manaegd to scare me. Although I will subtract a little bit because it started out a little slowly. Time for my final score. *Cough*. My final score for “Oculus” is a 9,57/10. Yeah, despite the slow start of the movie, it sitll gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
Seal of Approval

Review of “Oculus” is now done.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the scariest piece of reflective glass of them all?