It’s Shocktober again! I’ll put my capsule reviews here at the end of every week. Let’s get gross.
I have avoided the Stephen King book this was based on because it all seemed, well, a bit basic. The story is simple, a husband handcuffs his wife to a bed in a remote vacation house to reinvigorate their sex life. Things go wrong, and she must find a way to escape before she dies from malnutrition. I love Stephen King, but this just seemed beneath him. Well, I’m an idiot, because if Mike Flanagan’s adaptation is anything to go by, the story has a lot more going for it and I should have known that.
I’m more a fan of supernatural stuff than strictly realistic depictions of terror-inducing situations. A serial killer movie will interest me, but rarely creep me out as much as something like Nightmare on Elm Street. The best, however, blend the two modes and make a seemingly realistic film into something that might be supernatural or might be just out of the ordinary. Halloween is a good example. Gerald’s Game is another. While much of the film could be explained rationally as products of a psychotic break that the character in fact comments on, there are a few details that will stand out in contrast. These details lie at the heart of the film’s creepiest scenes (though not it’s scariest, more on that in a moment) and there are a few images here–especially from the nighttime and eclipse scenes that take on a surreal quality thanks to some impressionist lighting and coloring techniques–that will stick with me for some time.
The other thing that will stick with me is the escape sequence. I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say that Carla Gugino’s character, which she plays excellently by the way, tries to escape. The scene is shown in such terrible detail that I had a hard time watching it. Flanagan hasn’t gone this gross in his films yet, and it’s just another tool in his belt now that joins an ability to build tension and create believable characters in unbelievable situations. He’ll be a star soon enough. When he gets there, people will look back on Gerald’s Game as early evidence that he had it in him all along. It’s good, scary, funny at time, and supremely well acted. If this is a glimpse at what is to come in this Shocktober, color me very excited.
The Thing (1981) (rewatch)
Holy crap does this movie look good. There are a few standard topics when it comes to discussing The Thing. The first is usually how creepy the practical effects are, then conversation usually moves to the paranoia and the all-male cast. But the palate of this movie really stood out to me this time (perhaps because of the remaster?). There are three colors in the movie, basically: cold blue, bright red, and fiery yellow/orange. There are shades of white and black, too, of course, but it is those three bright colors that dominate the picture at all times. It makes the people seem alien at least as much as the plot does. In fact, the only time they really look like how they normally look is when the light from their back-mounted flamethrowers hits their faces. Then, in brief glimpses, they look like they did before that damn dog showed up. When the blue or red colors fill the frame, it feels like the people and thing-monsters are battling in another dimension. The rest of the movie is great and everything, one of my favorites. Next time you watch it, check out them colors. See if they mean something to you.
It (1990) (rewatch)
I used to love this. Now it feels like what it is: a made-for-tv miniseries which misses a lot of the book it is based on and replaces it with terrible acting and stunted scares. Perhaps it’s familiarity, but Tim Curry’s Pennywise, while still entertaining, just feels like an ineffectual mostly-human monster. That is, until he turns into a terrible puppet and loses all ability to even make an impression. It’s no wonder that I couldn’t really remember the ending, it’s so terrible here. It isn’t great in the book, that’s for sure, but hot damn if they didn’t screw it up even worse here. A greater sin, though, is that the back half is boring as hell. They get most of the kid stuff out of the way in the first half of the film, so the remainder just features bad acting and meaningless scenes. This really kinda scares me about the upcoming sequel to this year’s retelling. While the kid part works on its own, the adult sections divorced from a connection to the kids’ story just kinda sits there. The filmmakers behind the 2019 sequel will have to inject some really good stuff into the film to make it worthwhile. This film barely registers anymore. It’s sad.
Resident Evil: The Last Chapter
I don’t know how this happened. Well, first, I don’t know how a movie series “based” on the RE games lasted for so long, and then I don’t know how the final entry is somehow the best since the opening chapter. It’s packed with ideas (half of them cribbed from Mad Max, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing), like Paul W.S. Anderson and company just threw everything they had left in the tank at it. It helps that they retained Jorah Mormont (several times!) to give Alice a compelling antagonist to work against. I love the silly biblical stuff they threw in here for literally the first time in the 7-part series. The whole movie is a massive ret-con/backstory thing that doesn’t really make a whole ton of sense but who cares? Its fun as heck. Wanna see Alice twirl around and shoot a bunch of zombies? Wanna see her fight what the press materials call a Jabberwocky (GET IT???) in an act of vehicular battle? Wanna see her fight Jorah like 6 times? I sure do. This was a blast. Not scary, like at all, but super entertaining.
Tune in next week for a ton of Hammer and Universal monsters!