TV-14. I don't know how this is TV-14, but it is. It's absolutely terrifying. Get ready to see a bunch of dead bodies. People die in the most tragic possible ways. There's a ghost with a knife. That's a thing. I remember when I played the first Silent Hill game, there were kids with knives. I remember showing everyone that sequence. Well, apparently, that's cool enough to garner a TV-14 rating now. It's pretty brutal. TV-14.
DIRECTOR: Remi Weekes
I think I get one horror movie a year with my wife now. That's okay. I get it. Horror movies aren't for everybody. Heck, horror movies should be for nobody. I don't know what it is about wanting to be scared by horrible things, but I totally appreciate it. It's interesting to me. Part of me really was going to make my wife watch The Brood, because I haven't seen it before. But I also knew that if I threw a David Cronenberg at my wife for the one horror movie a year, I might lose that one horror movie a year. Instead, the trailer for His House caught my eye. I do appreciate the Netflix Top 10 now. That's not a litmus for quality, but I do know that it might be a talking point at work.
I kinda / sorta believe that the New Golden Age of Television is over. Sorry. We have a lot of quality shows, but nothing is really water cooler discussion worthy. But I do think that we are in an era of horror that can't be ignored. Horror, for a long time, was considered cheap entertainment. It ticked boxes and adhered for formula. Given the right level of marketing, it would make a buck. If it didn't, it was forgotten. It felt like low-risk cinema. I think we have to give a lot of points to Jordan Peele's Get Out and to A24 for realizing that the rules of cinema should apply outside of genre. Making movies should be about art, message, and cinematography. We should care about what we're watching, not just the jump that we get from fear. I mean, I'm really fighting the high art versus low art thing right now, which is as pretentious as it gets. But movies like Get Out and His House seem to transcend genre. It's not to say that these movies aren't scary. If anything, these movies are scarier because they take the subject matter seriously. Investing in the film and investing in the characters make the moments more important. We care about these characters and we care about the plot.
Maybe message films get me. I think they do. I had a professor in college, while I was just a lowly theatre major, that stressed the importance of art having a message. The message is pretty overt. The way we treat refugees is similar to locking people in a haunted house. I can't help but make the comparison to zombie films, only with a loftier cause. Zombies tend to serve as setting. It's an explanation for why characters should be acting differently than they would in a traditional setting. Bol and Rial are trapped in a house with a witch and they can't leave because the horrors of Sudan are worse than living with a witch that is trying to kill them. That's powerful. It is heart wrenching thinking about the trials of the refugee. I've written about refugees before with the documentaries that I've watched about Syria. But that has always been a criticism of "there." It is terrible "there", it is fine "here". Admittedly, this is London. But I can't help but lump this into a criticism of the West. The fact that these people will jump through any hoops to prove that they are "one of the good ones" is terrifying.
For a long time in the movie, I was actually a little put off by the concept of the movie though. As much as I preach against formula, there is one trope that I kind of respect: the victims must do something wrong. From moment one, Bol and Rial are seen as "the good ones." Bol verbalizes the concept of goodness to the housing committee. There's this concept of gratitude and goodness that keeps pervading the story. So when they are tortured by this witch ghost (I can't quite express what kind of supernatural creature it is), it seems like it is unwarranted. But that's when the other shoe drops. The movie implying that Nyagak is their daughter makes it seem like Bol and Rial are the ultimate victims of a horror movie. They lose their daughter, are put into a haunted house, and are tortured by a witch ghost? The reveal that Nyagak is not their daughter and that she died in their care completely changes everything. It also gives context for why Bol and Rial view the witch ghost differently. Yeah, they're both being haunted, but it feels like Bol has gotten the brunt of the haunting. Rial somehow sees the ghost as just and appropriate for their condition. She also wants to make amends to the ghost while Bol is obsessed with assimilation.
Their attitude towards the witch ghost is telling of two very different philosophies. Bol sees the witch ghost as an obstacle from blending in. He goes clothes shopping and tries to mimic the clothing choices made by white families. He goes to bars and sings with the football hooligans. It seems like he wants desperately to please the housing committee, but he's really trying desperately to bury the Bol who got an innocent girl killed. He wants this to be a fresh start. Rial, however, acknowledges the sin and is slightly forgiven for her intentions. It wasn't her intention to take Nyagak. Because she stole her mother from Nyagak, Rial was going to be the best mother she could. But she faces this criminal failure, causing the death of this girl who was thrust into this situation. By acknowledging her sin, the torture becomes a kind of penance for her. But it also distances her from the philosophically different Bol, who can't understand why she isn't embracing this substandard lifestyle.
The kitchen table shot is something else, isn't it? Like, it's really effective. Most of the movie deals with hallucinations. There's a lot that is questionably real or imaginary. Most of this stuff really works. In fact, I love a lot of it. But I don't know if I love the zombie refugees. Besides not reading as effective as masked Nyagak, there's something almost cheap about it. Geez, I can't believe I'm writing this sentence down right now, but I think the corpses in themselves are haunting enough. I don't know if they really need to be up and walking around to earn a scare. The idea of dead refugees is actually more terrifying. Judging corpses might actually detract from something that is already haunting.
But the movie is scary. Like, this movie is really good and it's weird that it is only TV-14. It might be the most effective scary movie this year. While A24 keeps churning out impressive horror movies, I think stuff like His House might be both visually impressive and actually more scary than the most recent entries. I loved this one. It's pretty great.
Not rated. It's a 1956 horror movie. Aliens from space stuff. I would say that this one might be more troubling than traditional invasion faire, but it isn't like this is going to wreck anybody. The performances are haunting, but the gore is limited to destroying pod people duplicates. Also, one of the character gets a cut on his hand. A cut. On his hand. It's fine.
DIRECTOR: Don Siegel
Today's lesson is one of political bias. Good science fiction is supposed to be a commentary on who we are as people. I would lump Invasion of the Body Snatchers in as some pretty great science fiction. Sure, I might enjoy the 1978 remake a little more in terms of quality, but 1956 is a haunting time in America's history. While there is no one specific read on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I'm going to be taking a couple of things for granted. We're looking at McCarthyism and fear of communists here. This movie is prime time for that kind of stuff going on in American history. From any perspective, imagine sitting down in a theater in 1956 and watching this movie without seeing the fear of communism in every element. People that you knew and trusted are all of the sudden acting differently? They want to change your way of thinking? The hero of the story is trying to beg people to think for themselves. I mean, there's Twilight Zone and then there's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I find the era of McCarthyism one of the most scary moments in American history. Well, I find it one of the scariest moments in American history until the era I decided to live through today. (I'm not a time traveler...) Last time I wrote about the evils of McCarthyism, one of my readers tried to set me straight on how McCarthy may have had a point and I got the real wiggins after that. But my big thought in watching something that was meant to be pro-McCarthy propaganda was how my political bias allowed the story to work against Trumpians. I stress my own personal biases because I know that Trump's America could also be using the same film against me and my support for Joe Biden. (At the time of writing this, it is two days after the election and Nevada is just taking its sweet time releasing poll numbers.) So be aware, as much as I work to not be bias, there's no such thing. I have to critique myself at the same time. That being said, I'm going to write under the umbrella that I'm aware of my bias and am still writing the following.
I mean, what the heck happened America? People I thought were good people are very cool with some awful things because President Donald Trump, a bankrupt reality show host, told them so. I've become more political in the past four years than I ever thought that I could be. I have seen him do some absolutely abhorrent things and people keep telling me that "He's just telling it like it is." I always thought that the presidency was always about holding the guy in office to task, whether he be your guy or no. But I'm watching people try to spin disgusting things into moral victories and I don't know what's going on. Yeah, I know that people aren't literal pod people, but the embracing of vitriol completely baffles me. Part of the argument that Trump makes is that everything that is critical of him is fake news. He says it about everything and people believe him. But they watch what he says on Fox News and still believe it. It's kind of like a mix of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I brought the train back to the tracks!) and They Live!.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers was meant to embrace cultural themes, but as proven by completely inverted politics, there's something fundamentally universal about this story. It always feels a bit icky to write off friends and neighbors using hyperbolic ideas like pod people. But sometimes, a science fiction answer provides a better response than people being fundamentally immoral. (Again, from the film's perspective, I'm the ultimate pod person because I'm documenting all these progressive ideas for other people to read. I'm borderline kidnapping conservatives and asking them to join me.) But maybe that answer is easier. It's so hard to grasp why people can ignore objective evil. As a Catholic, we're supposed to be about objective truth. While Trump may do some things that I really believe in as a Catholic, like contesting abortion laws in this country, he's doing so many more awful things that are fundamentally anti-Catholic. And that's where Body Snatchers comes in. It's the willing acceptance of everything without criticism of anything. I think it is possible to say that one can vote for Trump, but hold him to task for the bad stuff. It's the Trump Train stuff that makes no sense to me.
The rules of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are weird to me. I mean, I love the "get woke" metaphor running throughout the story. Evil comes when you are sleeping and relaxed, so always stay awake and alert is cool. But are characters never ever allowed to sleep again. Is Dr. Miles J. Binnell doomed from moment one of the story? I mean, he has to sleep sometime. A Nightmare on Elm Street has confirmed that. So in my head, it was those pods that became the duplicates. But Becky Driscoll falls asleep in the most troubling scene in the whole movie and wakes up as a pod person. Do people swap bodies? Like, if someone wanted to make a duplicate of me, would I wake up in a plant version of myself after I woke up? Do they kill me after that? I don't...I don't understand. Like, it's very haunting to have Becky wake up and narc on Miles. That's cool. It's also cool that all these duplicates try talking the OG versions of us to join them. But I'm pretty sure Jack fell asleep for a second when the pod corpse was on the table and he was fine for a while. If someone could explain the rules to me and not try to convince me that Biden's the worst and "Yay Trump", I would appreciate it.
I love me some allegory. While Invasion of the Body Snatchers has some problematic allegory, it really works for a sci-fi horror movie. It also really rocks considering that I'm reevaluating my relationships with a lot of people in the wake of this election.
Um, I'm going to go with the re-rated R rating, compared to what it got originally. It's simply something I don't want to have on my page, nor do I want to confront my conscience for finding out the rating after I watched it. I mean, this is a pretty hard R. The sex is very graphic and gory. There's a lot of nudity and violence. There's death and blood galore. Also, you know, demons. But it reads more like a film noir than an exploitative movie. For as much disturbing stuff is in the film, it's not ALL OVER the film. It just has a handful of very intense scenes. Oh, and drug use. Can't forget the drug use. R.
DIRECTOR: Alan Parker
I need to actually watch a higher def copy of this movie. I have had this movie in my LaserDisc collection for a while. But the only version I've seen of this movie is the LaserDisc edition of the film. I'll preach LaserDisc all day, but LaserDisc movies tend not to have subtitles. That's normally fine. After all, the audio on LaserDisc is beyond impressive. But when a movie is as hard R as this movie is, I tend not to blast the volume in the house for the kids to hear while I'm exercising. So there's this bombastic score and sound effects track, but then Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro have a lot of whispering scenes together. It doesn't make for the ideal format to write about, given all of this information.
But I wish that I wrote about this during my film noir. I know that Angel Heart is a pretty respected film in a lot of communities. But there are elements of this movie that aren't necessarily mimicking film noir as a whole, but movies like Chinatown and Body Heat instead. That nose guard thing screams the bandage from Chinatown. The over-the-top sexuality screams Body Heat. There's just something about the movie that feels like the homage of an homage; a copy of a copy. I think I know what moment did it for me. There's a scene in the first half of the movie, before he goes to Louisiana. He's sitting at a reel-to-reel recording the events of the mystery. But instead of actually seeing how Harry is breaking down the events of the story, we get to watch the summarized version of it all. We don't really get a say, as spectators of an investigation, on how the story is going to play out. Instead, we have to follow everything that Harry says. Now, one thing that I discovered very quickly about the mysteries of film noir is that sometimes we just have to agree with the decision because the filmmakers told us so. There's often a lot of content to absorb --a lot of plot to digest --that might get in the way of a theme or a message.
And Angel Heart definitely fits that bill. For as much plot as the film tries to feed us, summary or otherwise, the story is about Harry Angel being Johnny Favourite the entire time. That's why were here. We want to know the big twist ending. And the end is worth it. From moment one, we know that there isn't going to be a traditional ending to this film because of Louis Cypher (groan). Robert DeNiro is screaming that he's the devil from moment one. Maybe it is because I looked at the sleeve of the LaserDisc before watching the film. But DeNiro isn't exactly hiding that he's the devil. He's got long hair in a ponytail, a choice to be sure. But his long nails coupled with the pentagram ring really clinches it. Considering how much of this movie intentionally telegraphs a supernatural atmosphere, it's kind of bananas that my brain still wanted to make sense of everything. Every few minutes in the movie, we see something demonic or cultish. That cabinet full of weird sacrifices should have been a clear reminder that the story wouldn't have a traditional ending. Heck, I've even seen this movie before and I still wanted to make sense from a rational point of view. It's like one part of the movie really wants me to adhere to convention while the other part of the movie wants me to prepare for the fantastic. It's a very bizarre dichotomy.
I don't know if I can approve of the sense of otherness that is created by the practitioners of Voodoo / Voudoon. Every practitioner is a Black person. What this kind of casting and cultural commentary kind of makes the movie feel like Harry Angel is the white man representing civilization and culture. However, every Black person in the film seems to be some kind of backwards criminal or cultist. Watching the sexual dances in the middle of the night seems like a gawker thing. While Epiphany Proudfoot may come across as a respectable character, there's something less about her. She isn't part of society. She washes her hair in a still as opposed to a shower. On one end, this is a commentary on the primitive elements of religion. But her race has to be taken into account. Yeah, the movie doesn't say that white people are free from guilt. It actually might be the central theme, that they are responsible for the evils of the world. Louis Cypher is white and overtly white. Harry Angel, a guy who has a name that is associated with goodness and justice is secretly a serial murderer. But that doesn't diminish that the Black men and women of this movie are treated almost like savages. There's something completely primal about the belief system of Louisiana and that we're just supposed to accept that?
I'm going to go on a limb here: the blood sex scene is trying too hard. There's a moment where it is really effective. There's a few drops and the rain turning to blood is haunting. But that scene just goes on too long. At one point, artistry turns into exploitation and the entire scene comes across as slightly crass. Also, this movie screams the '80s. Having the implied sex act sells the scene. But the reason that this movie got the X rating was because of how graphic the sex was. Like, the movie as a whole isn't pornographic. Why make this scene something that would be considered pornographic? I mean, I read as an old man here. But the shock value of this reads like the cocaine nightmares of the 1980s and that's such a bummer. There's a lot going on in the movie that it really doesn't need the shock value to take the film to a different level.
One day I'll watch a good cut of this movie. That's right. I foresee that I'll watch Angel Heart at least for a third time. That being said, it's not a perfect movie. It's a functional film that tends to take the cheap way of getting to places at times. But all that said, it's probably worth a watch at least once.
NC-17. I mean, are you going to argue against an NC-17? Probably not. The Evil Dead used to be the most upsetting movie that I owned. It's pretty graphic. There's the most upsetting gore, shy of Dead Alive. It also has nudity coupled with tasteless glorified supernatural rape. It's an exercise in brutality. None of this is meant to be a necessary judgment on my part (well, except for the rape stuff), but there is no denying that The Evil Dead has earned its NC-17 rating.
DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi
Why do I procrastinate? Now I'm all stressed out to write a blog about a movie that I have a lot to say about. (Also, I'm rushing, so I'm inverting letters. I apologize in advance if this comes out borderline unreadable.) Watching The Evil Dead in high school made me feel like such a rebel. I mean, I hadn't discovered Dario Argento or any of the truly horrible stuff that would later contextualize The Evil Dead. Instead, I would just watch this on repeat. Heck, the version I have is the Necronomion version, that comes in a fleshy textured DVD case. My kids were wondering what it was and all I could say, "Um...The Evil Dead?" Father. Of. The. Year.
I'm trying to come to grips with my thoughts on the movie now. After all, it was an old favorite. Heck, my love for this movie inspired me to watch all three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead, which is a genuine joy. But my takeaway from this movie was the characterization of Ash as a protagonist. There are a few franchises where the continuity is so screwy that I have to make theories on how I should be viewing the movie. I kind of lump The Evil Dead and its sequels in the same attitude I view Highlander and its sequels. My big theory about The Evil Dead though is that this is not the same Ash that we'll get in the subsequent movies.
My friend Pat, upon reading my Army of Darkness blog entry, stressed that Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a functional sequel to this movie. Again, I don't have much of a leg to stand on. While I recently watched The Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, it's been years since I've watched what many consider to be the quintessential entry in the franchise, Dead by Dawn. I have to rely on insanely old memory that doesn't work as well as it used to due to children waking me up from sleep on the reg. (This is also probably part of the reason that I don't watch remarkably graphic movies on the regular. I had to turn the audio up in the basement because old Anchor Bay DVDs didn't believe in subtitles.) But my thing is that the beginning of Evil Dead 2 changes how many people go to the cabin. There's some recasting of Ash's girlfriend Linda, but then it kind of goes right into Night 2 of the house when the first film ends with the camera entity crashing into Ash. Now, part of me is aware that Raimi and company are probably simplifying the plot for the sake of the recasting of Linda while providing the needed backstory for the masses who hadn't seen this midnight cult cinema staple. Okay.
But I really think that Ash is a wholly different character. The Ash that horror fans know and love is a dim-witted, cocky misogynist. He's cool in the face of horrific violence. I posit that this Ash is from a different cinematic universe. This Ash is polite and a gentleman. He cares about people's feelings and is willing to do selfless things because he's the protagonist / hero of the film. When he's alone with Linda, he gives her this ugly magnifying glass necklace (which I'll admit, he also does in Dead by Dawn.) But there is no sex hound in Ash. This is a place of comfort. He listens to his sister (kind of). He is annoyed when Scotty keeps playing Professor Knoby's reel-to-reel. If anything, Scott is more like Ash. Scott takes things too far. He's obsessed with sex and is remarkably overconfident. We also have to think about how each character reacts when the deadites finally arrive. Ash, coupled with his signature shotgun, stands petrified at the notion that he might have to chop up one of his friends. But Scotty is right in the fray. He's there, hacking away at people with axes. For a while, he's actually pretty successful, until he's ripped apart off camera.
Now, a lot of this can be chalked up character development. Part of me really wants to lean into the idea that the events of this night made Ash depend a lot more on his reptile brain. Against my point, Ash does seem to be a burgeoning action hero by the end of this film. The third act has Ash fighting all kinds of deadite nonsense. He's ripped apart and has gotten over his phobia of violence. We could imagine that by the time that he has gotten to the events of Army of Darkness, what inhibitions he had have been permanently stripped by this situation of crisis. If anything, Evil Dead 2 might actually support that theory. But Ash is genuinely no good at fighting anything part one. A lot of his survival is based on luck and timing. Heck, even the magnifying glass necklace catches onto a book, despite the absurdity of that entire scenario. Ash only survives the first day because of dumb luck. (I will also re-discuss what the rules of Evil Dead are if I have time and the foresight to do so.)
In Evil Dead 2, Ash almost starts as this champion against evil. Yeah, he takes his licks. That's part of the charm of these movies. Ash will always take a beating. But there's this confidence to him coupled with a skill when it comes to fighting these monsters. Remember, the movie ends with him getting wrecked by camera monster. The second film starts with him flying through trees and being unconscious for twelve hours. I see him fighting worse after that experience, not better. I really mentally think of Evil Dead 2 as the beginning of a streamlined universe. In that world, Scott and Cheryl didn't come along to the cabin. Instead, it was a couples trip with Ash and Linda. Ash was always kind of a cocky jock rather than a wallflower who blossomed into a demon killing machine. Yeah, it's lamer characterization, but it does allow me to wrap my head around the story.
Considering that The Evil Dead was the progenitor of the subgenre of cabin based horror movies, I should probably cut it some slack. But I want to talk about the ickiest scene in the movie, the rape of Cheryl by the forest. Now, this is an era where the most exploitative horror movie won the race. We were / are icky people who probably should get our acts together. But the torture of Cheryl is a little bothersome to me in the grand scheme of things. Scotty is the one who plays the Knowby tape, despite everyone's protestations. Heck, Cheryl is the most vocal about Scotty's behavior and is left genuinely shook by his behavior. Cheryl is also the one who doesn't fit the sexual archetype established by ancestor The Cabin in the Woods. Cheryl is both philosophically and sexually innocent. Yet she is the first victim. She's the one who is tortured the most by the Other (whatever the camera demon is) to the point where she becomes the most hideous of the deadites. Now, part of me thought that, because she was injured by the trees, that's what brought her possession on. Maybe gross demonic injury makes one more susceptible to demonic influence. After all, she stabs Linda in the ankle, leading her to be the odd cackling girlfriend in the doorway. But what contaminated Shelly? She was damage free when she turned into a deadite.
Which all circles back to the question, "Didn't Ash really win by luck?" I mean, in Evil Dead 2, his hand turns bad and he lops it off before he can be completely possessed. That at least is consistent with the Other's motifs. But why can't the other just possess Ash? The Necronomicon (a book unnamed in this movie) is burned up by Ash, clearly upsetting the Other. Why not simply possess Ash? That seems like the easiest way to torture him. After all, it's what it does. As much as I love these movies, I never quite understood why Ash got a free pass from possession.
Anyway, I enjoyed it still. Yeah, I wish the rape stuff wasn't in there. It feels really backwards and gross. I know it's also odd that I'm very cool with over-the-top gore and violence, but that's kind of what we sign up for when we watch horror movies like these. It's still fun, but it might be my least favorite of the three.
Rated R for sci-fi horror stuff mostly. There's language and some nudity in the background of one of the bunks. I guess Ripley almost gets killed with pornography, which is weird to write. Also, the end of the movie involves Ripley in her underwear. It's weird if you come into Alien saying that you can handle gore, gross goop, Giger-inspired nightmares, language, but then say, "But Ripley's underwear!" I don't know. Writing out parent guides for these things is a unique experience, let me tell you. R.
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
I'm one of the snobs who outright states that the original theatrical cut of Alien is the best in the franchise. I know that people actively swear by the sequel, Aliens. But I am not particularly partial to that movie. I'm sure that some day, I'll finally rewatch it in a vain attempt to justify my very strong opinion about that movie (instead of going in without prejudice, which is what a responsible blogger would do). But Alien has been one of my all time favorite horror movies...ever. Like, it definitely wins the best sci-fi horror film. It pushes every button of mine and ticks all the boxes. It's funny because I actively dislike the director's cut.
See, I watched the director's cut first. Being born in 1983, by the time I was old enough to decide to watch Alien, there was already a director's cut available. (Okay, I could have watched Alien before this point, but I would have been the chosen one if, when given access to R-rated movies, jumped right to Alien. This blog would be untouchable if I had that kind of artistic foresight.) In those days, "Director's Cut" simply meant "Better version of the movie." I'm sure that a lot of people still hold this philosophy. After all, studio systems suck and the directors, especially in case like Ridley Scott, tend to be auteurs if there was ever going to be one. But that director's cut was boring. I honestly thought that Alien was one of the most dull films ever. Kind of like how I never absolutely love Blade Runner, Alien was just tedious for how slow that director's cut was. Then I decided to do some reading...on the inside of the DVD package. Apparently, Ridley Scott never wanted to make a director's cut. He, too, agreed that the theatrical cut was superior to the director's cut. The studio paid him to make an alternate cut of the film for the DVD set that I bought. (Yeah, having not seen Alien, I decided to by the Alien Quadrilogy box set because it was shiny. I'm that guy.) So I'm not wrong about this.
In my head, I'm always subconscious about how stream of consciousness my blogs should get. I've been riding this fine line between fun chat and organized thought. But there were a lot of quick moments that popped into my head with this watch of Alien. Stuff like, "I tend to mix up Ian Holm and John Hurt, and that's a big deal because that's confusing Bilbo Baggins and the War Doctor." Stuff like that. But the biggest moment is that Scott buried who the protagonist of the movie is. Horror movies tend to start with ensemble casts. Again, I'm referring to stuff that is covered in The Cabin in the Woods. Traditionally, we know who the hero in this movie is. The final girl has a cool head and tends to be attractive, yet acts asexual. But 1979 was the Wild West. The butt-kicking female protagonist didn't really have her heyday yet. Halloween was 1978, which means that they were probably in production right around the same time. We now know that Laurie Strode and Ellen Ripley are the progenitors of the scream queens. They give way worse than they get, but that wasn't a thing at the time. I can imagine sitting in the theater in 1979 thinking that Tom Skerritt was the protagonist. Ripley, while certainly an important character from the beginning of the movie, definitely feels like simply a puzzle piece in a much larger puzzle. It's only when people start getting killed off one-by-one and Ripley starts taking more and more responsibility that we realize that she's the one we're supposed to get behind.
It's odd to think that there's wage inequality in the future. There are a lot of references to the one Black man on the ship having to do the crap job. Okay, it's not that odd. But the world of Alien seems to be a pretty crummy future. There still is an essential working class that gets paid less and that annoys the "haves". I know that the further you crawl down the Alien franchise timeline, the more the Weyland-Yutani corporation plays a roll, which ties into Parker's frustration with his paycheck, but I didn't realize how important the corporation was. I always thought it was odd that the sequels really played up the corporate unseen overlords elements later on, but they are actually pretty firmly secured in this film. I completely forgot that Ash was a full on bad guy in this one, mainly because I always have Lance Henriksen's Bishop in the sequel in my head. But the fact that Ash is actually this pretty impressive secondary threat in this movie completely caught me off guard, and I've seen this movie three or four times. (I also watch a lot of movies and details of these films escape me when it's been a few years.)
And I kind of have to say, Ash makes the movie. See, I appreciate the Giger stuff. I do. It's a very cool alternative to a lot of the sci-fi out there. But it's also not my cup of tea. It works...for this movie. The xenomorph (which the back of my brain is telling me not to call it a xenomorph anymore for some reason) is very scary and iconic. But for all the good scares in the movie, the one that gets me the most is when Ash's head gets all John Carpenter-y and separated from his body, yet he continues to fight the people around him. I don't know, but I'm guessing it is the white liquid that is just so troubling about the whole thing. Watching Ash flail around, trying to kill anything and everything around him beats the xenomorph in the air ducts. It's not to downplay the xenomorph (although it does look like he's extending out for a hug in that moment), but Ash might be the scariest thing in that movie. It could be why Scott ended up paying so much attention to David in Prometheus. That's just my guess.
But what makes Alien the absolute bees-knees is the fact that the xenomorph is smart and unstoppable. The reason that Weyland-Yutani wants this creature is that he's the ultimate killing machine. While I acknowledge that this is a crew of miners without combat training, they aren't exactly spring chickens. They have flame throwers and radar tracking. But the xenomorph gets them at every turn. I mean, that xenomorph at the end was being awfully polite letting Ripley get into a spacesuit before going at her. Sure, it built up suspense, but I also want to credit the other deceased members of the Nostromo who didn't get such a welcome invitation to attack the creature. But they have all these plans to get rid of it and the xenomorph always stays one step ahead. It takes a beating and keeps going. Like, it's even ejected into space and it took a thruster to the face and the only thing that stopped it was the rope burning, sending it off into the void. That's what bugged me about Aliens. Guns took those things down. Would Weyland-Yutani risk all it does if a group of space marines could take out a bunch of them? Remember, one should be able to rip apart an entire platoon and that's what it feels like in this one. As cool and terrifying as Ripley is, she has a lot of luck on her side in this one. Also, she keeps grabbing the cat and that seems a bit silly. Why doesn't the xenomorph eat the cat? I don't know.
I adore this movie. It's this nice slow burn that ends up being terrifying and complex. It's a monster in space movie, sure. But it also might be the ultimate monster in space movie. The alien is terrifying and the acting is great. The mood is sinister. It's got what I'm looking for this Halloween.
Rated R for horror gore, nudity, drug use, and language. It's got a little bit of everything because it is a commentary on a little bit of everything. Now that we hear a lot more of Joss Whedon's secret philosophy, the stuff with Jules comes across as a little bit more gross. But if you can separate the art from the artist, it really does feel in line with stuff that you would see in a Dimension horror movie. It has people indulging in vice and feeling the consequences of those vices via means of horror movie morality. R.
DIRECTOR: Drew Goddard
Oh, I wish that I lived in a world where it was okay to show my high school English class an R rated movie. Okay, I really don't. That would be a world of excess and bad choices. But I'm about to teach my unit on archetypes and tropes! It's also almost Halloween! What an amazing convergence of kismet to be able to show The Cabin in the Woods and then to talk about ancient archetypes! Alas, I guess I'll have to save this idea if I become a college professor one day. (I probably won't, but it's a nice thought.)
The Cabin in the Woods is one of those special movies that almost exists outside of reality. For years, it was shelved. I think it was due to movie studios being bought and sold, coupled with timing and a lack of understanding of marketing. Studio politics are weird to me. I'm always going to low-key gripe about how the studio system works. I was about to say that maybe it was meant to be, but I instantly reverse that decision. The Cabin in the Woods got kind of buried because of those studio politics when, really, it should have been the Get Out of its day. Both movies are absolutely phenomenal horror movies that are fun, but also are fundamentally think pieces that force the audience to engage in a way that seems contrary to the horror genre. These are genius films and it's a crime that these films were treated the way that they were. Yeah, The Cabin in the Woods has a pretty solid cult following, but a lot of that comes from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Joss Whedon stans that just can't get enough of Whedon's unique voice and storytelling style. Lord knows that I was once one of them. (Honestly, since Age of Ultron, as much as I love that movie, I kind of got off the Joss Whedon train because he just seemed so angry after that moment.)
But The Cabin in the Woods does more for education in terms of archetypes than I think any other movie does. It's metacriticism is so on point that it took what horror nerds would chat about in dark basements and made it part of an educated vernacular. It made Monster Theory a commonplace idea without actually saying the phrase "Monster Theory." (Note: It should be stated right now that I did my graduate thesis on Monster Theory and Locke & Key, so I'm going out of my way to sound pretentious. It's fun to wax poetic!) While a lot of the metatext is fairly surface level, like why we always have the nerd, the stoner, the trollop, and the jock as our archetypes, coupling these archetypes with the various tropes is super fun. I know that 2020 has inspired all kinds of use of the whiteboard meme from The Cabin in the Woods, but we get little hints of all of the many scenarios that Whedon and Goddard had cooked up. Sure, having the Redneck Religious Zombies may be the closest nod to the OG Cabin-in-the-Woods movie, The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, (it's a crime, by the way, that I'm getting to The Evil Dead after The Cabin in the Woods and Army of Darkness considering how many references I'm making to the progenitor of these films), but it also seems like this villain might be the one that Joss Whedon might have been the most vocal about. I mean, the guy is aggressively an atheist (yet has some wonderful characters of faith on Firefly), so having this zealot murderfest really feels a bit on brand, so I approve. But the tease that every horror movie is simply a shifting of trope upon archetype is great. The clear nod to Hellraiser is particularly successful. While there are variety in tone, the films serve to placate ancient beings starved for gruesome entertainment...
That has to be the read on this, right? The Cabin in the Woods has a big reveal. The reason that all these horror tropes keep on getting repeated throughout history is that the Ancient Ones, old-time gods who can destroy humanity on a whim, find our suffering to be some form of screwed up entertainment. I will stipulate that I'm not a horror nut, but I can also go to bat and say that horror movies are extremely entertaining. And, the thing is, they absolutely should not be. People who are appalled at horror probably have every moral ground for their distaste in the genre. But horror fans need their tropes. Yeah, we like tropes to be subverted from time-to-time, but there's something absolutely appealing about movies like Friday the 13th or Halloween. We love what we love and absolutely hate what we hate. (Maybe not me. I happen to be enlightened and better than everyone I know.) That makes us the old gods of this world. To get even deeper into the meta narrative of it all, the characters of The Cabin in the Woods are fictional. As much as we're supposed to be invested in them as real people, they are fictional. We only tolerate the movie as long as there is killing going on. When the killing stops, the credits roll. When Dana chooses to not kill Marty, the killing has stopped. The giant hand leaves no room for doubt that this world is over. The movie has ended. We have shut the film off with the suspense satiated.
Now I'm going to talk about something kind of gross, but it is something that keeps on popping in my head every time I watch the movie. The bad guys are kind of right, right? I don't want to be a "Thanos was right" kind of individual because those people are too much. I'm more of a "I get Killmonger" kind of guy myself. But the heroes of the movie are actually the people in the underground bunker. (See, I can't even feel comfortable saying that.) Whedon and Goddard make the people in the bunker hilarious, but kind of villainous at the same time. They bet on the most inhumane things, creating a Dead Pool for the employees. They ogle Jules and treat her as a sex object. They, without a doubt, manipulate four American children (not considering all of the other countries involved in this Lovecraftian agreement) into getting murdered horribly, chemically forcing them to obey their wills. They are bad people. But also, what is the alternative? It's not a hypothetical ending, like the ending of Ready or Not. It's a very real "We have evidence that the world is going to end a bloody death" if they don't do what they do. It's a Doctor Who scenario, where the morality is weighed against the practicality. When Dana decides not to kill Marty, mainly because Marty is the most evolved soul here, she kind of reads as a bad guy from a lot of angles. I mean, I applaud Dana's choice. It's the one that leaves her soul intact. But it is an ugly bit of a philosophy hypothetical.
Also, is The Cabin in the Woods supposed to be Joss Whedon's intended tone and message for Buffy Season Four? For those not in the know, Buffy Season Four is rough. Yeah, it has that awesome episode "Hush", but it suffers the same thing a lot of high school set shows do when they mosey on down to college. To couple an already awkward transition, they added this secret underground government organization that captured monsters. The short version of the summary is that it doesn't work, both in world and for the audience. It's kind of a dumb plot. But The Cabin in the Woods feels like what Buffy was shooting for. There might have actually been something going on with that and it could have been glorious. But The Cabin in the Woods almost thrives because it is the only movie that has made government agencies that captures monsters actually seem cool. I don't want to think about the annoying part of every Resident Evil game. Those stories are great until the underground lab is explored. But Goddard, through the inserting of the best casting choices ever, made the secret lab work and work well.
The Cabin in the Woods is a work of genius. Yeah, I wish I could go back to the halcyon days when Joss Whedon wasn't persona non grata. But he is and all I can do is appreciate the product and try to divorce him from it. Regardless, Goddard is still pretty well respected in my book and this movie rules.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020)
Rated R for things associated with Borat. Like, that should be enough of a description. But people keep falling for his hijinks. Borat / Baron Cohen loves getting people in precarious positions, allowing them to show some of their darkest personality traits. Jokes include outright racism, menstrual blood, incest, general sexuality, abortions, language, and so much more. There's nothing kid friendly about Borat, so just know what you are signing up for. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Jason Woliner
I honestly don't know how they make these movies. First of all, when the first Borat hit so huge, I knew that there was no way to make a sequel. It was impressive enough that there was a movie based on Da Ali G Show character Borat, but the first movie became such a part of the cultural zeitgeist that everyone was doing a Borat impression. But then, the second Borat movie not only was able to get around the insane fame that Sacha Baron Cohen has with this character, but was able to tell the most timely story ever?
Part of me guesses that the cast and crew set up their big stunts first. There's a stunt and they see how it plays out. Once the stunt is over, they decide to frame a whole story around it. I'm sure, in their minds, the big stunt was going to be the Mike Pence thing. It's a great gag. It's very funny. But the problem with the Mike Pence gag (I'm just writing assuming you've seen it. That's how this is going to go.) is that Pence doesn't do anything insane. He's his typical level-headed self. Sure, it's a funny gag to see Baron Cohen dressed as Trump offering a lady to the Vice President of the United States. But Pence didn't do anything so there's nothing all that damning. But then they got the Guiliani footage. Now that the movie is out, we all know what the Guiliani footage I'm talking about is. Now, I've read both Guiliani and Baron Cohen's statement about the footage. I can see both versions. But I'm going to side with Baron Cohen on this one because it's really weird that Guiliani even got into a bedroom with a young reporter, not even considering the implication of what lying on a bed entails. (Maybe Mike Pence is onto something about his rules about surrounding himself with women outside of his wife.)
But I'm guessing that they had that Guiliani footage and they knew what they were going to do. But then the Coronavirus showed up. There's all this footage in the movie pre-Covid and then the world just ends? I mean, it affected a lot of my favorite TV shows. It's funny that stuff like Supernatural came back and decided not to wear masks for scenes that take place in 2020, but whatever. But supporting my theory, this movie looks like it was written and rewritten on the fly. Instead of fighting the world situation, like every other form of entertainment, the filmmakers decided to go with the flow. In the closing credits, look how many people got credit for the script with this movie. It's probably because they constantly had to adapt to the insanity that is our world today.
And yet, it all works. Like, every moment in this movie feels preplanned. It always felt like Borat was out there to take down Covid-19, despite the fact that there was no way that this movie could have had the foresight to comment on what was going to happen. (I suppose those early scenes could have been out of order. After all, Borat does visit a Halloween superstore pretty early on in the film.) But because so much of what they do is unscripted, the fact that there is a cohesive plot by the end of the movie is mind-boggling. I'm genuinely impressed. I thought that South Park's turnaround time was on lock, but Borat might have outdone that.
So I've gone pretty hippie. I have. I became all political this year and I'm sure that I'm not alone. Borat seems to have matched me. I'm not saying that Borat wasn't political before, but he has aligned with a lot of my politics, with the exception of the pro-life stuff. That scene was slightly more uncomfortable, despite the fact that I got the joke being about dramatic irony. In a way, I suppose that it also seems meaner. It's hard to feel bad for some of the subjects involved in the movie. I mean, they say and do some pretty awful things with a smile on their faces. Sure, a lot of it could be editing, but Baron Cohen and Bakalova allow people to often dig their own graves. I can't forget that all these people have a camera next to them. I keep flashing to every social experiment that has documentation and how people behave differently with the assumption that documentation somehow means safety. But man alive, Baron Cohen knows how to get people to do some absolutely horrible things.
But as much as Baron Cohen is a bit of a bully with some of the choices he makes, there is an odd amount of heart in this movie. It comes from two people: Maria Bakalova as Tutar and the babysitter that is hired for her. I suppose that the filmmakers always want to have people feeling awkward. Getting people to feel awkward is the movie's currency. But there are moments where good people show the best parts of themselves. Having Tutar's babysitter give advice about how to combat the more toxic influences that Borat pushes on her is genuinely cathartic. The jokes are mean spirited throughout, so having this moment is kind of redeeming overall. But Bakalova's Tutar is part of the gag, but somehow a slightly less upsetting character. It's kind of amazing that Baron Cohen found someone who could give as well as he could with this shock humor. But Tutar has this character journey that, even if the politics of the film don't align with your own, you can still glean onto Tutar's narrative to find some common ground.
It's so odd that I have to say that the Borat sequel is a kind of art. Hear me out. This movie is as crass as it can get. At every moment, the filmmakers are trying to both gross and shock the audience to get a laugh. It's some really lowest-common-denominator stuff and it revels in it. But the Subsequent Moviefilm is also trying to elicit change. Good art doesn't pull punches. It is meant to make the audience uncomfortable to question social norms. In my case, it aligned with a lot of my now firmly cemented biases (I admit it), but I also know that Borat was extremely popular with a conservative base. It does a lot of what Archie Bunker did. By having this absolutely gross guy spouting off horrible things, we can see the problems in having those beliefs. When Borat goes into the synagogue, a scene that I really thought went too far at first, we leave with this absolutely touching moment between an old Jewish grandma and a racial stereotype. Borat's ugly core beliefs allow us to question our own misconceptions and disgusting things. Yeah, it may not change us. I'm still very pro-life, but there's some stuff that shows that humanity, despite all the ugliness that is shown, has sparks of absolute light in the world. That little old grandmother made me believe that the world is full of good people who are just willing to talk and make things better.
While I may not have found the notion of Borat himself, with his absurd commentary on third world nations, all that funny, the movie itself is crazy funny. It is the Borat that we needed for 2020 because he isn't going to pretend like things are normal. While I don't know how he filmed the quarantine bit, I appreciate what the movie does for pointing out the stupidity that the world has embraced. I loved it.
Rated R for a lot of violence towards women coupled with language that would make a sailor blush. I know I should be focusing on the violence-towards-women element of the R rating, but the movie really goes out of its way to include as many F-bombs as it can fit in an hour-and-a-half. Like, they aren't even hiding how much it likes that word. Similarly, with a lot of horror violence, it has its share in gore. There is also violence towards children. R.
DIRECTORS: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
I kind of need to shake a leg writing this one. I'm running out of time. (It's almost as if my job requires a lot of my attention and that it would be irresponsible to write a movie blog when I have a to-do list a mile long. I love that I have HBO Max to watch stuff like this. It was a low-key priority seeing this one and it eventually slipped under my radar. That being said, I can't help but see comparisons to two other films and I'm sure I'm not alone in seeing these comparisons.
Did anyone else feel like this was a blend of Get Out and Knives Out? (I know that both movies end in the word Out, but I swear that I'm pretty sure that one isn't a sequel of the other.) I read an article that stated that the filmmakers were aware of the thematic tone between Ready or Not and Get Out. After all, I'm glad when movies point out that rich white people are the real villains in our society. With the one case, it involves the victimization of women. I can already see the pretend reader of this blog commenting on how it has nothing to do with gender because the males are equally hunted in this movie. But the visual of a woman in her bloodied and abused wedding gown fleeing from white people can't be ignored. The Knives Out thing kind of just feels like the quirky family that can't get their act together and comes across as generally unlikable. And maybe there's a cinematographer thing going on, but these movies just absolutely look alike and I can't quite shake that feeling that there is some kind of art design attachment to both.
But I kind of dig what's going on in the movie. Okay, there was a time in the movie that I was about to riot. What the movie was saying about Alex to begin with bothered me. I mean, they were secretly on my team the entire time, so I can't fault them for the misdirect. But it made it seem like Alex was "the good one." We had a little bit of this in Vampires vs. the Bronx, the concept of the good white person. But the movie really was selling the idea that Alex was still a good person for doing all of this. The movie rests on the central conceit of deception. Alex, to get married to Grace, had to lie to her about a tradition that the family partakes in. Alex's motivation for not telling Grace that there is a small chance that she would be hunted is because he states that she would have left him if they didn't get married. I rolled my eyes pretty hard at this concept. The movie needed to have Grace surprised by this horrifying tradition. That's completely necessary to the whole "Most Dangerous Game" bit that orchestrates everything that happens from the beginning of the movie. But trying to get Alex to be one of the good guys is weird. She still loves him, even after he confesses the family's dark history.
But she really shouldn't. Part of the whole marriage thing is the understanding that the spouse is another part of you. It's why we try to avoid lying to our significant others. He clearly thinks very little of her if he isn't willing to share this very important element of his backstory. Similarly, if Grace agreed to do this, which she absolutely shouldn't agree to do, she could have at least prepared for the potential bloodbath that would ensue. She wouldn't be leaving her wedding with a dead groom and dead in-laws. She wouldn't be leaving with a hole in her hand and multiple lacerations. She has the right to all of these things, but Alex just withholds that stuff. What was his endgame? She would have to know about the family tradition in case anyone else in his family got married, right? Grace would potentially have to be on the other end of the hunt given the proper circumstances. What then? What if she just objected to hunting people, like she should? I mean, it is absolutely looney tunes that the family that has married into this gaming family are not only on board the murder of a stranger, but completely excited about it. What is the assumption that this would play out that way across time?
The same rules kind of apply to Daniel. I feel like Daniel only got all of this fun character switching stuff because he was played by Adam Brody, who is just too handsome to be full on evil. There's a moment in the woods where I was jazzed to see that he was just as evil as everyone else in the family, but he just had to warm up to it. When he frees Grace, it kind of feels like a cop out. I know that he explains away some of his choices when he frees her, but why go through all that hullabaloo if you were just going to help her escape to begin with? Also, I don't know if it makes him a good person. At least Alex kind of has a character turn that is based on something. Yeah, it's icky and gross, but it matches with the message of the whole piece.
Is the 1812 Overture an unfired Chekhov's gun? It was a bizarre choice that the head servant of the house kept going back to the 1812 Overture as his defining character beat. It's a gag that has happened in movies time-and-again to the point where it is almost a cliche. This character keeps whistling and singing that song, but we never get the "boom joke". It kind of made me hate that character. If they were intentionally trying to break the tradition of the boom joke, I wish that they would just vocalize the fact that the boom joke wasn't happening so it didn't feel like a lost opportunity.
I don't know which ending I like better. The movie provides this binary option: the Devil is real or he isn't. I adore how they made the devil real. The family members just blowing up is absolutely satisfying. It's the best way to have them die and I simply love it. I don't know why Grace doesn't die. After all, she is married to Alex. But I want to look at the other option. There's also something very satisfying about nothing happening to them. The directors really toyed around with that notion. After all, it is a little silly to watch these sophisticates running around with archaic weaponry to kill a girl before sunrise all for the devil. (The "Hail Satan" gave the movie just the right camp it needed for a horror movie.) But watching them all feel foolish to discover that they had killed so many people for no reason was almost better than watching them explode. After all, them actually dying makes them infinitesimally sympathetic. Killing to stay alive doesn't make you a super bad guy; it just makes you a bad guy. I want to absolutely hate them when they point out the evil religious fanaticism running rampant through the story. But think about if the movie just ended with them all feeling incredibly sheepish. Yeah, I would have gone the same direction as the filmmakers did, with everyone exploding too. But part of me would have just died to see everything being just fine and that all those people died for nothing. It would have been the ultimate Boomer criticism.
But for all my critiques, the movie is really fun. I know that "The Most Dangerous Game" has been repeated time and again. But there's something genuinely entertaining about how over the top the movie gets. It's not like the family is good at killing folks. Honestly, why would they be amazing at it? It's not like they kill people all the time. There's just this assumption that they would be great at it. The running gag of the help dying horrible deaths is fantastic. The movie just works. It gave me a good ending in terms of Alex. While I might have considered the alternate ending, the exploding family is super fun. It's not really all that scary so much as genuinely suspenseful.
Also, OnStar is the worst.
PG and probably a well-deserved P added to that G. Jonah Hill's Titan is super duper extreme. Like, he's actually kind of scary how violent. It seems like he's something out of The Boys. Similarly, it kind of has a gruesome-seeming death of a major character. It's pretty darned violent. I guess we can't ignore that the movie justifies a lot of bad actions. The movie isn't PG-13 worthy, but there are times where it gets pretty close. PG.
DIRECTOR: Tom McGrath
Last week, one of my seniors referenced this movie in his journal. I didn't really get the reference. It's not like I hadn't seen the movie. It's just that I saw the movie in 2010 and it kind of fell into obscurity for me. I didn't know that Megamind was the thing that the hip kids talk about. But again, this is the same generation that ironically watches The Bee Movie on repeat to get laughs. And now I hate myself because I sound like a Boomer. Let's start over.
I suppose that the biggest curveball that this blog ever took was the concept of family movie night. When I started the blog four years ago, I set up as the mission statement to write about every movie that I watched. In my head, this would force me to de-snobbery the website with movies that people actually watched. Sure, a Criterion Collection blog would have been a novelty. But then I realized that my brain would get tired and I would get a lot of interpretations straight up wrong. I know my own intellect and, as much as it likes to be challenged, that is an intimidating obstacle. So stuff like Megamind showing up was meant to water down some of the more heady, artsy-fartsy stuff. But now it is almost taking over. It's not that I dislike Megamind. It's just that I never realized how little of an impact Megamind has made on my life. I have this emotional jump to all of the many low-impact movies that I rented during my Blockbuster movie pass days. Movies like Along Came a Spider or that Ben Stiller comedy with Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Along Came Polly? Maybe they all started with "Along" or my brain can't help but catalogue useless information into alphabetical order.) Sometimes there is nothing wrong with these movies. Megamind is such an example. It's a fun kids' film that really feels like the product of its time. In some ways, it is very safe. In other ways, I suppose, it actually kind of seems counter-culture. For all the credit I'm going to give this movie by talking about it ad nauseum, it still kind of rests as a forgettable Dreamworks animated picture about superheroes.
The superhero / supervillain subgenre is kind of low hanging fruit for satire. It's really getting on par with the spy commentary that a lot of films like making since Peter Sellers' Casino Royale or Mike Myers' Austin Powers franchise. It makes sense. Sci-fi and fantasy always provide a template for allegory because science fiction is meant to be a commentary on humanity and its potential. Megamind perhaps does the same thing that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog does and questions if supervillains, given a proper background and some healthy relationships, would actually prove to be more altruistic than characters who have had everything handed to them. Now, I kind of want to look at this very notion within the archetype of the hero. While sometimes, heroes are raised in charming and blessed fashions, more often than not, a hero's background is shrouded in trauma. How many parents or parental figures are killed for the hero to find his meaning? Both Metro Man and Megamind share a similar background. They both come from a dead planet to Earth. Metro Man was raised in an environment that provided him with whatever he wanted. Megamind was raised in a prison. (Okay, I'm on board this joke. The nerd in me wants to comment on Mark Millar's Superman: Red Son, but the writer in me wants to distance himself from that guy.) Metro Man is clearly Superman. Megamind is alien Lex Luthor / J.J. Abrams' Lex Luthor. (Look it up.)
But what Megamind messes up in its Superman archetype is the notion of what it means to be blessed. Yeah, Metro Man gets real tired of being Superman. That's interesting and fun. But what I don't quite see is the concept of the responsibility of knowing that he is the last. What makes Superman interesting is that he is born of trauma, but he doesn't let that trauma burden him. Instead, it inspires him. He is the last of his species. His parents are dead. He has had to hide who he is his entire life and Clark Kent, for all the goodness that he has in his life, is a tether for him. Metro Man doesn't really have that. In the daycare section of the movie, Metro Man is openly a superhero, even as a child. It is a world that has normalized superheroes. Metro Man is unburdened, making the allegory a little bit weak. If Megamind is Lex Luthor, it doesn't quite work. Lex Luthor is based around the concept of xenophobia and extreme conservatism. He believes that humans should come first. Superman represents a weakening of the human spirit with the knowledge that everything comes easy for Superman. He sees himself as the weakened slacker in an Ayn Rand fever dream. His entire existence is over-compensating to prove that outsiders shouldn't interfere with natural born citizens.
But that's not Megamind's motivation. This is a really dark read, and its one that I've made about another movie (although I forget which one), but Megamind's motivation is the same as the school shooters. Listen, I like the idea that the entire story is a redemption arc. I think that is fun and interesting. But Megamind is still a bad guy. The movie celebrates him as the new hero of Metro City. But he created Titan. He has attacked the city time and again and endangered real people countless times. He's an attempted murderer. And it all comes down to the idea that his life was rough. Metro Man used to pick on him and that makes him feel justified to hurt others to find validation. That's...awful. I'm not saying that you can't have a villain with that origin story. Heck, it can ever make a character a sympathetic villain. But what it doesn't do is forgive him for the things that he has done. He's actively a bad person. It's really weird that Roxanne Richie falls in love with him. (I want to get into this in detail, so remind me to come back to this, 'Kay?) The notion that Megamind is allowed to do what he does because he had a rough childhood is absurd. That's why I don't love the Metro Man origin. Heroes often are born of tragedy. It's deciding how to frame that tragedy is what makes someone special.
As progressive as Tina Fey comes across, there's something that is really off about Roxanne Richie. Richie gains points for not automatically falling for Metro Man. One of the greatest evolutions of a character can be found in Lois Lane. She went from being a damsel in distress to being a personality match for Superman. It made sense that Lois and Clark were attracted to one another. Roxanne Richie doesn't fall for Metro Man because he is almost completely vapid. But alternatively, I don't like that she's into Megamind. Part of the message is supposed to be that she sees beyond his odd looks and his past and sees the man at the moment. But their entire relationship is based on a lie. Megamind spends a majority of the film catfishing Richie. He pretends to be someone he's not and puts on a whole show built on lies. Yeah, he's growing as a person, but none of his actions are even remotely okay. As I mentioned earlier, he's still a bad guy. He's just a bad guy who rectified his own mistake. It's kind of what Tony goes through in Age of Ultron. We shouldn't celebrate that Tony beat Ultron because he created Ultron. The same thing is true about Megamind and Titan. He's not a viable adult because he undid the problem he created.
But I do love the commentary about Titan. The movie nails the concept of entitled "good guys." Hal thinks he deserves Roxanne simply because he's not awful at the beginning of the story. Simply because he harbors a crush doesn't make him worthy of Roxanne Richie. I do love that the movie allows Roxanne to state that plainly. Seeing how messed up Hal becomes once he's transformed into Titan / Tighten is horrifying because it is telling as crap. There's nothing fantastic about his use of powers. It's just something to be abhorred.
Yeah, I laughed a few times at Megamind. It's a fun movie that may have some undercooked subtext going on. But the family mostly seemed to enjoy it and I had some stuff to say about it.
G, but the most uncomfortable G rating I've ever seen. Like, there are major themes of adultery throughout the movie. Ladyfish is perhaps one of the most sexual animated characters outside of Jessica Rabbit. It's really really weird and my wife and I were just hoping that the kids weren't picking up on a lot of the overt innuendo. For a G-rated movie, the whole thing is pretty sexual. G.
DIRECTORS: Arthur Lubin, Gerry Chiniquy, Robert McKimson, Hawley Pratt, and Bill Tytla
One of my friends a few years ago went off on a rant about how this is the weirdest movie ever. I should have heeded his warning. I suppose that part of me was intrigued by the notion that this movie could have been that weird. After all, it is part of the cultural zeitgeist, despite the fact that I know few people who have actually sat down and watched this movie. Yeah, I should have taken my friend's rant as a warning, but family movie night was upon us and we had limited access to film. It came down either this or Mister Popper's Penguins and the vote leaned hard into The Incredible Mr. Limpet. As the knight at the end of Last Crusade has made famous, we chose poorly.
The most insane thing about this movie is that it starts off with the title card followed by "Based on the novel by...". I don't know how much is credited to the novel. Maybe this is a one-to-one adaptation. Maybe it is loosely based on similar themes, but this movie doesn't even make sense as a novel. I imagine the tone was quite different. Probably the audience was entirely difference. I can't help but think that the jump between the novel and the film was probably comparable to the source material and the TV versions of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The movie desperately wants to be this family friendly comedy, looking at the works of Walt Disney and trying to imitate that style. Honestly, I only realized that I wasn't watching a Disney movie when searching for images for the movie and seeing that a lot of them were stamped with the watermark labeled "Warner Archive". Again, I'm doing a lot of guesstimation here, but I think the largest problem that this movie has involves the attempt to clean up a book that really shouldn't be cleaned up.
Because at its heart, Mr. Limpet is about affairs. I know that the movie really tries hard to lean into the patriotism of the third act of the film, but that almost seems like a misdirect from what is at the heart of the piece. For most of Henry Limpet's life, he has been seen as a waste of space. His wife is clearly having an affair, although the movie itself feels uncomfortable to share that information outright. She hates her husband and makes eyes at George Stickel while her husband is alive. Like, she really hates Henry. He seems to be a guy who hasn't changed a thing about himself since he was a child. It hardly seems realistic that a guy who is embodied by all the weirdness of Don Knotts just instantly becomes awkward and lanky. I mean, in an attempt to establish the patriotic themes of the movie, Limpet, while human and attempting to enlist in the army, weirds out his whole office by sticking a fish in the water cooler. (At this point of the movie, I was on board. I had flashes to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and thought that this movie was going to be a spiritual cousin.) So why would Bessie marry Henry? She holds him in contempt for the entire time that he's on land. She can't wait to get away from him so she can have a fling with her Navy guy on the side. Heck, the two of them rub their relationship in his face. He's just too preoccupied with the notion of fish to even remotely notice that this tomfoolery is happening in his home.
But Henry almost knows that he is loathed. I mean, people make it pretty clear. It's just that he uses his fantasy to become a fish as a weird sense of hope. Maybe one day, he will become a fish, which keeps him going. As depressing as it is (I just became aware that I'm wearing a mask and got more depressed), Henry at least has his priorities straight. He throws away his fish to save his marriage. It seems that he's all over the place, but it seems like Henry is just someone who has settled into his depression because of the social stigma that the alternative would demand.
And this is where the movie gets really muddied. I mean, the story is weird enough as is, but it gets just off the rails with its attempt to verbalize the themes. When Henry actually has his wish granted and we enter the animated portion of the film, the movie actually states "Be careful what you wish for." One of the original titles for the film was "Be Careful How You Wish". The movie sets up this whole morality play about being grateful for the life you had, like It's a Wonderful Life. But then the movie just decides to ignore that and it gives Henry Limpet the life he always wanted. There's very little downside to Henry becoming a fish. He has a moral conundrum about cheating on his wife, which is kind of sold as a double-edged sword. Like, it's a bummer that he shouldn't cheat on his wife, but he also feels self-esteem for the first time which is pretty gross in terms of making him a sympathetic character. He also loses his glasses, but that could happen on land. This isn't a cautionary tale about becoming a fish so you don't lose your glasses. If anything, everything that Henry imagined about becoming a fish works out and more. He not only becomes a fish, but he becomes a fish with superpowers?
I don't know where the superpowers come from. It's this thing that makes Henry Limpet an asset to the military. But it also...doesn't have much to do with fish. A lot of Henry's journey through fishhood is him finding value in himself. He has courage, but he didn't have the ability to do anything about it. I hate that I'm going to be making a comparison to Captain America: The First Avenger, but that's what's going on here. But while Cap got all the muscles and speed, Henry is a fish that makes a goofy noise that has no other purpose but alerting radar to the presence of Nazi U-boats. (I suppose that I should mention in the MPAA section that this movie has Nazis.) If the central idea involves simplifying one's life to find value, this is the opposite. Henry, by all intents and purposes, has the same outlook on life as a human being, but he's actually gained abilities, not lost. It's a really muddled message.
Henry's wife doesn't make a lick of sense as a character. She's introduced as this two-timing harpie who makes Henry's life miserable. She's clearly cheating on him. But then she worries about him all the time. She is very understanding when he ends up being a fish. I think that doesn't really gel with her close-minded attitude presented thus far. This kind of allows for my least favorite moment, especially when there's a romantic trope running through the film. Everyone is paired off nicely and there are no consequences for infidelity. I really don't like that one bit. It's so convenient and avoids the real emotional stakes going on. Also, Henry Limpet can't wait to have sex with a fish. This fish has no idea about complex human relationships and it's almost like reading into a someone as being completely vapid. It's gross.
Yeah, I should have listened to my buddy. This movie was rough. It's weird, but in all the wrong ways.
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.