PG-13 and even that is a bit extreme for this movie. There's some s-bombs. I guess we can't really expect a PG rating for this movie. But this one feels family friendly, even for a Marvel movie. There's all the punching and kicking and lo-key death that you'd see from one of these movies, but there's also a ton of heart. Because Ms. Marvel is aimed at younger audiences, the tone of the entire thing is open and fun. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Nia DaCosta
Two things I want to get out right in front, even before I start slowly unspooling these things. 1) The Marvels is an imperfect movie. 2) The pride in hating Marvel is stopping people from having a good time. Both of those statements can be true. Honestly, if you don't feel like reading a verbose blog about how much I enjoyed something despite its imperfections, you got the jist of it all. But if you really hate Marvel now after liking it up through Endgame, please give this blog a chance. I'm not going to change your mind. But I am going to appeal to you to be happy.
Okay, now that everything is out of order, I have to stress that I wasn't going to be writing this blog for at least a month. I've put more words on page this month and I can't believe I'm trying to find time to knock out a The Marvels blog. I haven't watched any movies during November just so I wouldn't have to give my blog the time of day. But I wasn't going to miss a Marvel movie, especially one that had Ms. Marvel in it. My kid loves Ms. Marvel. Her love for Ms. Marvel made me love Ms. Marvel. Yeah, Ms. Marvel is for younger audiences. But I also love that Marvel has something for everybody. I've been arguing with one of my former Marvel fangirls in my class. She was so deep into Marvel when I first started teaching her years ago. She had Marvel over everything. But now, she's Marvel's biggest detractor. It all comes down to the fatigue. Golly, I almost miss the days when people would go around spouting "Marvel" or "Superhero fatigue" whenever a Marvel movie came out. Now, people think that the quality of these movies has gone down. I'm going to argue that pretty hard.
I honestly will stand by and say that the Multiverse Saga has almost the same track record as the Infinity Saga. I just think that people really like ripping these movies apart. I'm sure that I've talked about this with other Marvel movies. But I also know that this might be my last time writing an MCU blog for a while. After all, the only MCU movie we're getting in 2024 is Deadpool 3, and that's almost going to be it's own thing, right? We got spoiled as an audience. Those early Marvel movies we're looking at through rose colored glasses. Those movies made us fall in love with Marvel because we hadn't seen anything like that before. But there's also an impossible expectation that Marvel keeps on pushing the envelope with every movie. Infinite progress is impossible. Kevin Feige, for all of his foibles (most notably not immediately recasting Jonathan Majors post allegations), has maintained a similar quality to his movies while sometimes pushing them in another direction.
The thing about The Marvels is that it felt the most like a Captain Marvel trade paperback. Kelly Sue DeConnick created a very specific tone for the Captain Marvel comics under her belt. They are simultanously grandiose space epics with just the right amount of oddball quirk to them. Nia DeCosta absolutely nailed what that vibe was supposed to be in this movie. It's a very bizarre movie. I never gets as weird as something like Guardians of the Galaxy, but I also didn't want it to be just another Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Instead, I was signed up for misfit team-ups in space. That's what I got. I will admit that every joke didn't work. But I'll tell you what. The hit/miss ratio on the jokes was still pretty darned impressive. I think I'm not alone in saying most of it came down to Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel. She's the perfect surrogate character for this world. It's shocking how I can't tell you the story of how Ms. Marvel was created, despite the fact that I know so much about it. I want to say G. Willow Wilson created her and she was meant to be both an opportunity to get a Muslim superhero on the page and provide a new Peter Parker for the 21st Century. What made Peter Parker such a great hero is that he was the audience that was reading the comics. Kids Peter's age were reading comics and imagining themselves as heroes. Kamala almost weaponizes that concept of acting as the avatar. She is a fangirl herself. Yet, she has this shorthand that is fantastic for a movie like this. As overwhelmed as she is about being in these superhero adventures, nothing needs to be explained to her.
It's just that I don't know why people are rooting against these movies. If I asked former Marvel fans why they're turning ship, I feel like they're going to give me a response about how the quality has dipped and that they don't want to support mediocre content. But I argue that it's just easier to hate these movies because this movie was incredibly fun. The worst thing I saw from Marvel in a while was the adjacent Secret Invasion, and even that was incredibly watchable. I know that I was ho-hum about Eternals, but I kind of want to give it another shot. I know I would at least enjoy watching it.
But that means I also have to be as objective as possible. As much as I loved the quirkiness and the fun of the movie, there's a hole in the film that needed to be filmed. I found it odd that The Marvels is such a short film compared to the other MCU films. It is actually less than an hour and the weird part is that the plot that needed to be explored is almost glossed over. There's this running thread between Carol and Dar-Benn. Dar-Benn and the rest of the Kree hate Captain Marvel. Part of it is because she turns on the Kree after they brainwashed her. But there's this sequence that we see from Dar-Benn's perspective showing Carol destroying the Supreme Intelligence. When she does this, she almost kills everyone on Hala. The clean water is somehow undrinkable, the air becomes unbreathable, and the sun has only just enough power to support life. Hala becomes a hell and Carol doesn't seem all that unphased by this. If I was to point something nerdy like this out, it reminds me of John Stewart and his accidental destruction of a planet. But with John Stewart, it haunted him. It became the definining trait of the character. Carol only feels a little bad. I thought that meant that Dar-Benn was either intentionally or unintentionally misunderstanding what she saw. But no, that happened. Maybe half-an-hour of a little character development in terms of this might have helped.
But the biggest fault of the movie might be the third act. I'm not really sure what the Quantum Bands do. From what I remember from the Ms. Marvel TV show, the bangle that Kamala receives actually just awoke mutant powers in her. But the bangle itself is tied to her powers somehow, right? If it wasn't, which clearly seems to be the case, why didn't they leave the bangle on Earth? They were also really concerned about Kamala getting too close to Dar-Benn because she has the bangle. Also, what is Carol's power set? When Carol shows up in the finale of Endgame, she wrecks the place. She's the greatest threat to Thanos single-handedly. It seems like Dar-Benn isn't nearly as strong as Carol was at the end of Endgame. I know. This is a typical thing. The same thing happens with Superman stories. It seems like Clark Kent can shift the planet with his pinky, yet when some bad guy of the week comes along, he gives Superman a hard time. It's that kind of stuff.
But I didn't hate it. It felt incredibly self-contained and, even though it contained a threat to destroy Earth (thus, of global proportions), it felt like a really small story of three families getting to know each other. I had a lot of fun with it. I'll watch this one over and over again. I loved the cats. I know a lot of people would hate the cat sequence. I also really loved the musical planet. Again, I just know that people hate this stuff now. It's like people hate fun. I don't hate fun. I like fun. This movie was super fun.
R, and even though this puts a cap on my horror movie blog entries, this is a movie that is mostly R for language than anything else. It puts the comedy first and foremost. Yes, there is gore and death. But really, the movie is going for a bit of low-key raunchy humor. Nothing overt. Two of the characters are intentionally crass and that's what probably gave it its R-rating. The horror, honestly, is probably more in the PG-13 camp.
DIRECTOR: Josh Ruben
If I'm doing my job, this is going to be my last blog for a while. I'm doing all kinds of other projects, so I'm going to take a film break. If I watch something, I'll still write about it. But right now, I got too much going on. Isn't it funny how that works out? I start getting a real readership, probably because of October's focus on horror movies. Then I need to take a break. If I was a real pro, I would do both and still maintain a modicum of quality to either. Do you know what? I'm trying, gosh darned it. Either way, I love that this was my last movie in the horror streak. Maybe once November ends, I'll come back with some wholesome content.
How did I not 2-and-2 together when I found out that Josh Ruben directed this movie? I don't think of Josh Ruben as a director. I think of him as one of my favorite people to come out of the CollegeHumor crowd. See, every year, my wife will tolerate a horror movie on Halloween. If she really wanted to put her foot down, that tradition would be kiboshed pretty quick. But I also try to pick something that would be quasi-accessible to her. Hybrid genre stuff tends to do well. For a few years now, I've failed to pick anything that would grab her attention and I don't think she caught too much of this movie. It's a shame because the movie was genuinely hilarious and I'm pleased to know that it's probably because of Josh Ruben's involvement in it. Werewolves Within seemed to be making the nerd circuit for a while, but I miss a lot of the smaller horror movies that make the rounds. So much horror gets released that it is almost impossible to filter out the good from the bad. Between having so many kids and having to find time for horror outside of husband-wife hangout time, I'm glad that I remembered that I wanted to see this one.
It really helped that I saw this one after watching season one of The Afterparty. I think that I've seen Sam Richardson in a bunch of stuff, but he's a leading actor who is charming as can be. He's borderline playing the same character that he would do in The Afterparty. There's something a little quirky and twee about him, but he acts as simply the best avatar for these movies. Maybe there's something about the archetype or character that he embraces. When a movie has the potential to be so bleak like with werewolf films, having that juxtaposition goes a long way to hold onto for an audience member. Finn as a contrast to the maniacs in this town reminds us that this is always supposed to be a comedy. Don't get me wrong. Those other performances are tonally perfect. But for all of the spiraling that the other characters, having Finn as this lynchpin is an excellent tour guide for whatever happens in the movie. Honestly, just looking at that third act, Finn is a godsend and a lot of that is given credit to Sam Richardson's wholesome performance. He even has a speech to remind you that some people are just nice guys and that's not a weakness. It isn't. It keeps us hopeful for a movie where almost everyone dies.
I'm kind of floored that this is based on a videogame. Video game movies tend to be quasi-terrible. But since Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, we kind of exist in this place where the term "video game adaptation" isn't such a dirty phrase anymore. Werewolves Within might have the distinction of being the first video game adaptation where the movie is probably better than the game. That's a little unfair because I haven't actually played Werewolves Within, the game. But I didn't even know it was a video game. My entire thought process when the Ubisoft logo showed up at the beginning of the movie was, "That's weird. They must be branching out." Yeah, no idea. I think the video game might be pretty minimal and based on the game "Werewolf", where people accuse each other of being werewolves. We called it "Mafia" when I was growing up. But oddly enough, the movie does a fairly strong job of both capturing the intent of the game and also presenting a story that is compelling and fun.
That's really weird. I'm thinking of Where the Wild Things Are and how disappointing that movie was and I'm thinking about this. Both are stories that are fairly miminal story. I know a lot of people liked Where the Wild Things Are, but I found the story underwhelming despite loving the visuals. Werewolves Within may have succeeded where Where the Wild Things Are failed in the sense that it took a really bare bones concept and built a whole film around it. I mean, the movie is an hour-and-a-half, the perfect length for a horror movie. It's not like it is this grandiose epic with a deep mythology. If anything, Werewolves Within capitalizes on the fact that we know this story. Like Green Room or Alien, we are stuck in a bottle. It's the Doctor Who Moonbase. There is something in here with us, hunting us down. We don't really have the opportunity to leave and, if we don't track this thing down first, we're all going to die. We owe Agatha Christie a lot for this format because it is such a versitile concept. You can throw any kind of overpowered creature into this narrative and you have a good story.
When I write these blogs, I pretend I'm some kind of authority. Everything, by the way, is just a version of imposter syndrome until its not. There are so many of these stories where people are being slowly exterminated and we have to figure out the killer. Often, the killer is someone to whom we don't pay attention. They are often given not enough screentime and we forget that they even exist. I think I mentioned this in another blog or two, but that was always Castle's problem. The killer would always be a glorified extra, pointing a finger at a red herring until the reveal at the end. I'm always a little disappointed at that because the audience is almost stumped by a lack of information. It's why I kind of like who the killer is in Werewolves Within. Again, these blogs are always spoiler ridden, but every time there is a killer reveal in a movie, I don't wany anyone getting mad at me. (You are reading an in-depth breakdown of a film you haven't seen? I mean, thanks for reading and continue checking this page. You know, once November is over and I'm writing again?) Cecily is a satisfying killer.
Maybe I'm being too kind because I find Milana Vayntrub to be the best. I know, she's just the AT&T girl to a lot of people. But Vayntrub plays the girl next door far too well. I'm still bummed that we haven't seen her as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but this might not be the venue to voice those gripes. But at one point, I was hoping for it to be her. The third act almost violently allows all of the masks to come down simultaneously. Again, we have Christie to thank for this. Everyone in this house / town is guilty of some awful crime. Marcus --much to my delight --is a thief with knife hands. Gwen commits vehicular homicide / probably just a manslaughter charge. Pete and Trisha are the worst form of Trumpians who want to open up a craft shop and human life be damned. It's just that we keep spiraling down this hole and all of the side characters have such good and over-the-top crimes already attached to them that Cecily is the only one who doesn't have baggage outside of Finn. (Yeah, I thought it was Finn for a second too.)
But the movie didn't need to go as hard as it did into Cecily's motives for being a werewolf. With lycanthropy, it's one of those things that people deal with. It's almost a metaphor for disease (and if you want to get really bleak, specifically a Covid or an AIDS situation). There's a sympathetic element to it. But Werewolves Within almost intentionally spits in the face of that reasoning. Like The Howling, there's almost a pride in
Rated R and that's probably accurate. A lot of people are talking about how brutal this movie is and I don't deny that this is harder to watch than other horror movies. But you are mainly looking at one really upsetting gore sequence and a bunch of little things happening. Even the worst of it isn't prolonged so much as it exists. There's a lot of swearing and there are a lot of Neo-Nazis. But those Neo-Nazis are thankfully the bad guys of the movie, so take that in stride. There's also references to drugs.
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Saulnier
Okay, I'm really stressed out because I have too much on my plate. I might have to keep this shorter, but we'll see. I'm going to be cutting back on movies for the month because I have set myself too many goals and I know that I can't get to all of the things I need to get to. But that's besides the fact. Also, I hate that I'm still writing about horror movies post-Halloween. I feel like I should be getting into the wholesome stuff around now. I'm wearing a Santa Claus tie, for goodness sake.
I was always afraid to get around to Green Room. I knew that it was A24, which I love but I need to slow down on. A24, especially in 2015, almost prided itself on showing the stuff that other people wouldn't. I always liked A24 for its respect of genre storytelling, but kind of shirked away from the sense of unease that the movies allowed. Green Room, even though it's the one that I feel a lot of people whispered about, almost seems tame to the likes of Hereditary or Midsommar. (Did I just pick two movies from the same director? I think I did.) But Green Room is one of those liminal pieces. Yeah, it's horror because it's about survival and it does get brutal at times. But honestly, this almost reads more like a thriller. As much as my brain wanted to make the story more complicated, it is incredibly simple. (Remind me to talk about the need for Patrick Stewart's character in the movie. Got it? Thanks.) This is, honestly, the heroes were in the wrong place at the wrong time. For those unaware of the basic premise, a metal punk band unfortunately gets stuck doing a gig at a Neo-Nazi backwoods venue. They witness a murder and are held captive so they can't tell anyone what they saw. As a simple movie, it really works. Neo-Nazis are bad guys and its the job of the protagonists to kill the Neo-Nazis before they get killed. Easy peasy.
I'm going to gripe a bit about one of my favorite actors and one of my favorite human beings. I love Sir Patrick Stewart. He's so good and he does all of the genre things I like. Maybe that makes me a little bias. But the addition of Stewart makes the movie a bit confusing. Stewart plays the big bad. He's the guy who is pulling the strings here. He's doing an accent that --Lord knows I've tried figuring it out --isn't quite American but isn't quite British. Now, Stewart, per ush, brings a sense of grandeur to his performance. He's an older Neo-Nazi. He owns the bar that has everyone trapped. He gives the orders. But his character also talks like there's some kind of masterplan going on behind the scenes. The movie really reads as if there's this deep dive conspiracy happening behind the scenes. I'm going to say this might not be Stewart's fault. The dialogue he's given is oddly cryptic. He feels like he's a guy full of secrets and those secrets are going to pay off given time. Like, there's a part where the Nazis (I'm just going to call them Nazis from this point on) are going to rush in and Darcy, Stewart's character, gives them rules. I get the rules now are just to make their story seem believable. But also, why say it like that? I sometimes need a little handholding.
But what makes this movie so effective is that it almost strays from the format a little bit. Pat, portrayed by the late Anton Yelchin, even states this in a speech to Amber. He knows that he doesn't have the ability or talent to take on a whole bar full of violent Nazis. He may not know kung-fu, but he does know kar-azy. Most of the movie is regrouping in the green room. It's why the movie is called Green Room. If you wonder why that other movie is called Phone Booth, same basic premise. Every time that these characters take two steps forward, they take at least a step back. It almost gets a little depressing at times because each time they leave the green room, one of the more interesting characters doesn't come back. Soon, the movie almost becomes an exercise in lacking hope. One of the times that they leave the green room, they find the bar oddly empty. It's this whole thing to get dogs to eat the band members, but there's something haunting in the fact that the Nazis don't need to throw everything at them. Pat never really gets to do the whole Rambo sabotage because he's not good at that and it's not realistic for the sake of the movie.
Actually, that might be one of the more fun, but less accurate parts of the movie. For all of Pat's bluster about just going full ape on them without a plan, Pat and Amber are only successful when they hatch a plan to trap the Nazis in their underground meth (?) lab. (They may have said it was heroin. I'm really bad at identifying what drug is being used in any scenario. It's because I'm a sweet and innocent baby boy. Notice the lack of swearing? Totally on brand.) The odd thing is that Pat's speech might be one of my favorite moments. It's nothing special. We've seen this bit in movies before. It's a bit of a trope, so much so as Amber points out how this is the hype up speech in that moment. But the fact that the speech doesn't really connect to the trap kind of leaves this open area.
Maybe that is what might make Green Room forgettable. I liked it. I won't say that I didn't. If anything, it was pure adrenaline put into a movie. It didn't hurt that they were a metal punk band, lending a metal punk soundtrack. It's just that I always thought of A24 as thinking man's movies and Green Room is almost the opposite of that. It's filmed like a thinking man's movie. The cinematography and performance lend a sense of scale that the movie doesn't actually need. Honestly, I mentioned Rambo earlier. This movie almost deserves to look like First Blood. But it isn't. Instead, this is just running away from Nazis while taking people out along the way. There's some dogs that get killed because dogs aren't people and human life should mean more. But because it is kind of dumb and there is no other shoe to drop, it's almost too simple to be an A24. There's the attempt to show the story of the two Nazis trying to escape the life. But that's almost background noise. It just feels like the Nazis feel like they have things way too organized to just be Nazis. And the real reveal is that they are just Nazis. It's something I both love and hate.
I don't know who to recommend this movie to? I mean, my big takeaway is that it isn't nearly as brutal as everyone made it out to be. I feel bad for Pat's arm and really, that should be wrecking him far more than it did. But it would also be annoying to have Pat constantly holding back everyone considering that he's actually one of the survivors of the movie. It's better than people make it out to be and it's way less upsetting. You know who I should recommend this movie to? People who love to see Nazis get wrecked. I wish it was more Indiana Jones style, where Nazis look like incompetents. But this is a horror movie. Oh geez, I just realized what comparison this movie really deserves! It's just an Aliens film.
Think about it. The eponymous green room acts as a moonbase or the Nostromo. We have characters whose only goal is to leave this location with their lives. Then there are just a hoarde of quasi-intelligent deadly monsters who need to get dispatched in order to make their way out. If they touch you, you take a lot of damage. Ultimately, the trick is to hunt the creature that is hunting you. That's an Alien movie. Maybe that's why the movie works for me. This is all now forming into a debate about what constitutes genre, but it is almost an affirmation between the almost familial elements between horror and sci-fi. Alien is really well made sci-fi horror. But I always allocate it to the realm of sci-fi over horror. If I had to choose one, it's sci-fi. But Green Room has nothing of the bizarre. If anything, it prides itself on trying to tell a real world story, despite the fantastic events that happen in the movie. Is there a version of this in reality? I don't run in any circles that would be associated with Green Room. I couldn't tell you. But the beats are the same and those same beats have legs.
So I like it. I don't love it. I like it. Part it me watched it, looking at the clock because I was running out of time. I'm still running out of time, I guess. But I'm glad I watched it. It's not the completionist in me. It was the curious cat who wanted to watch this movie and now he got it out of his system.
Not rated, because Shudder ain't a fan of marking everything on its platform as R. This one is brutal. There's some Eli-Rothy stuff going on here with body horror and gore. Also, the deaths are a lot. I mean, some of that comes from the subversion of expectation when it comes to death, but that needs to be considered. Also, there's some Spanish swearing. I mean, it's still swearing. This is a violent as heck movie and you need to consider that. Some of it is also suicidal horror, which is touchy at best. Then there's the rear nudity of a child. It's a lot.
DIRECTOR: Demian Rugna
Lots of stuff in this filler paragraph. I was planning on being done with horror come November. But then, that wouldn't take into account the stuff I was watching leading up to Halloween or on Halloween. I'm actually probably going to take a bit of a blog break after catching up on all of the horror stuff and catch up on my TV watching. Also, Henson told me that I had to watch this and I don't have Shudder, so I had to watch this with him. So this got thrown in there. Don't worry, I finished Green Room on Halloween. All I have to do is convince my wife to watch one horror movie before we go to bed tonight and I'll have the perfect Halloween breakdown. Also, happy All Saints Day. I wrote this on Halloween just because I know that I won't be able to tomorrow. Do you appreciate the lengths I go for you guys?
I was emotionally all over the place with this movie. For a while, I thought that I was going to hate it. I heard about this from an Instagram Reel, so I had incredibly high hopes about the movie. The beginning of the movie, I wasn't on board. It's not like this movie doesn't have a personality of its own. But it also read really hard like Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, a movie I absolutely cannot stand. If you have seen that movie and loved it, good. Continue liking it. I know lots of people who genuinely love that movie. I'm just not into the heavy gore stuff and the first third of the movie reads as a heavy gore movie. But let's be honest, this is borderline just an Evil Dead movie from Argentina. (I know I just said it has a personality of its own. I stand by both statements.) What starts off as a body horror thing continues as a body horror thing, but with a lot more plot than I was possibly ready for. Where When Evil Lurks succeeds is the fact that it goes for the unexpected. Honestly, every single blog I write should have a spoiler warning attached to it, but I am going to talk about the shocking moments of this movie. I stress that because this movie rules because of the shocking elements of the film.
There's jsomething so sacred about kids in movies. I get it. Perhaps it is the notion that there are some lines that filmmakers won't cross. Killing off the kid characters seems so taboo, but it has created a weird storytelling problems for most movies. Most thrillers and horror movies include kids. It raises our heartrates just a little bit more. But if you watch enough of these movies (which I don't necessarily recommend because I'm always worried about the desensitized in our community), you know the kid is going to end up just fine. Honestly, there's a kid in every Jurassic Park movie and all but one end up fine. (There's a cutaway of a featured extra in The Lost World: Jurassic Park that implies that something with compies happened to her.) But When Evil Lurks decided to tell a horror story, it was going to go right after the kids. Really, the first shocking moment is the ax to the face. The only problem? It was on the poster. So the first really upsetting surprise death is the little girl and the dog. And oh-my-goodness, is it a lot. Like, me, wide eyes. Hand over mouth. I couldn't process it. There's something really weird about it, but that's when I was on board the movie. (Trust me, I'm not thrilled with how that makes me look either.)
But then there's the other kid. Ther's a certain degree of "Fool Me Once" going on here that I honestly failed at. The second kid is a major character. A lot of the film is based on the notion of taking care of this kid who has just been through a lot. The possessed mother comes back, kidnaps him. Now, Rugna loves to mess with tropes. I base this only on this movie, but he's really good at it. Possessed mom kidnaps the kid in front of one of the main characters. We see her jump off the balcony, but is missing before they hit the ground. The protagonists form up and go to rescue this kid and it feels like the mission for the third act. We know how this is supposed to go. There's going to be a stand-off between Pedro, Jimi, and the possessed mom for the safety of the child. But does the movie do that? Nope. Jimi, about ten minutes later, just finds the possessed mom, feeding on brains of the little kid like he's an open bag of popcorn. Trust me. It's as upsetting as it sounds. Twice in this movie I did the hand over mouth thing.
Now, there's gotta be some analysis of who we are as people that we watch these movies. I talked a little about this with my blog on Funny Games. Funny Games makes you culpable for the events of the movie. It is a commentary on the odd voyeurism that happens with horror movies. I acknowledge that horror might be one of the least healthy genres. It's odd, because I want my kids to watch horror so that they can process scary things without having nightmares. I don't show it to them because, as intellectual as it makes me sound to say that I want them to understand that it is only a story, I'm not itching to traumatize them with movies that they don't want to watch. But Rugna is doing something fundamental with film. Yeah, his goal is the shock. I don't know how much of a message he has (but I do want to talk about that as well, despite the fact that I'm running out of time). I know that he's going for the shock. But a lot of entertainment is about either fulfilling expectations or defying expectartions.
The notion of fulfilling expectations isn't something to scoff at. If a movie's goal is to fulfill expectations, there has to be something special about the film in terms of presentation and quality Most movies aim to fulfill expectations. There's something very comfortable about things fitting into formulae. Defying expectations also can lead to quality, but the defiance of that expectation gives us something to talk about. Proof of that? I'm doing that right now. I think I really liked When Evil Lurks not because I wanted to see an Evil Dead style Argentinian film. It's because those moments really shocked me. When Rugna went in a totally blasphemous direction when it came to storytelling, I knew that nothing was safe. There was no concrete answer for how this story was going to go. There's value in that. It's the reason that we don't watch the same magician over and over again or repeat the same stand up bit. There's value in surprise. Yeah, is it gross that a possessed mom ate her kid's brain like it was popcorn? Definitely. I don't want that in my real life and I would probably be a mentally healthier person if I never saw that. But I also had fun with it.
I will acknowledge that When Evil Lurks gets a bit too complicated at times. I suppose that I have to coin a new subgenre of film for this movie: the horror mystical realism. This is a world where possession is almost synonymous with epidemic. I'm kind of breaking one of the many rules that this movie stablishes for its villain, the Rotten. The movie establishes quite clearly that, although it physically looks like some kind of contagion that causes a body to bloat and become monstrous, this is something from the devil. It's proven by its ending with the birth of a demonic child. But because the world knows about The Rotten (despite, for some reason, most of the cast being skeptical about this Rotten), it means that everyone knows the stakes when we're kind of just left to figure stuff out. It almost has that folk horror element where people know stuff about the role of nature that we're meant to discover through context. I'll admit it. I didn't know what was going on for a while in this movie. There's a guy cut in half in the woods. His job is to kill the Rotten Uriel? I didn't understand why Uriel wasn't supposed to be killed by someone else. But by the end of the movie, I feel like a quasi-expert about the Rotten. It also just meant that there was a necessarily learning curve on the movie that I imagine would frustrate a lot of viewers.
There's two kinda / sorta deep things that I want to talk about. 1) The end of churches. 2) The possession of the infirmed. I'm not sure I have a lot to say on them at the time. I'll just keep yammering and hope something smart comes out. The movie really goes out of its way to mention the church thing. Part of it comes with the territory with the mystical realism. I want to say that this is accusatory to the church, but we almost don't get enough information about how the churches led to the downfall of civilization. If I'm making that analytical leap, which this blog tends to do, this may be a message about the decline of faith in the 21st Century. I know. It's causing the elderly to bundle up sweaters a little tighter, but it really is part of the culture war. It's weird being left-leaning and attempting to maintain faith. But it is interesting because if faith is real and God is real, as I certainly hope he is, it would mean that the mechanics of his creation would keep spinning, regardless of institutions to explain and worship him. This also means that the devil stuff would be basically unopposed. I don't get the notion that the filmmakers are "Run to churches" with this movie though. It's almost like an interesting headscratcher. It's kind of a cool concept with an even more depressing deeper meaning.
There's something really upsetting about Jair. I mean, it's super interesting as a storytelling element, but seeing an austistic child being a challenge for a demon is something that needs to be examined. This is that analytical leap I was warning you about. Part of the story is that we kind of treat the infirmed as if they are possessed by demons. Pedro loves Jair, but he's also the distant father. There's this B-story code running in the background of When Evil Lurks that tells us that Pedro isn't a good dad. He's the one who isn't around. We support Pedro because he's the protagonist of the movie. But from what we understand, he's a guy who completely lacks conviction. He's surviving and he's kind of looking out for number one. One of the more moral things he does is that he tries to evacuate his children from the imminent arrival of the Rotten. (Really, it seems like he's just bringing the Rotten into his ex-wife's home. Pedro kind of sucks at this.) But he tries to be a good dad to Jair too late. This is a read on my part, but he can't tell the difference between his autistic son and a demon possessing his son. I do like the line that teases the notion that demons are trapped within a body that they don't know how to control. I mean, the Rotten gets over that pretty quickly. Still, interesting storytelling.
It's very good. I can see this being the upsetting movie of the year. I don't know if I love it. There are things that are pulling me both ways. The rules are great, but they don't make sense. I believe that if you tried to explain them, it would nerf the movie a bit hard. But it is also frustrating knowing that you really can't do anything about The Rotten. There's that similarity with It Follows, but I think It Follows pulls it off a little better. Still, thank goodness for a compelling narrative with genuine surprises that kept me on my toes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.