Film Review : Spring (2015)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 89%
Metacritic Score – 69/100

Directed By – Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead
Starring – Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti, Augie Duke, and Jeremy Gardner

A young man in a personal tailspin flees the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret.

I’ve bitched on this site before about how Horror movies need to start getting more creative. I’ve said that even if the acting or visuals are lacking in places, an original script can triumph over anything. This is case and point when it comes to Spring, directed by the guys who gave us the original film about addiction and the supernatural, “Resolution”. The trailer posted above doesn’t give TOO much away. It certainly is better to go into this, like every movie, knowing as little as possible. Seeing it won’t ruin much though. The film centers around a guy named Evan who goes to Italy to get away from his depressing life full of heartbreak and failure. He meets a girl named Louise and over the course of the next week, things happen.

So the film is labeled as a horror movie I mean, I opened up this review by talking about horror movies so what else would it be? This is a special kind of film though. The horror elements will satisfy people looking to get creeped out and scared, but this film has much deeper meaning and effect. The heart of Spring is the romance between these two lovers. The fact that the romantic aspect is coupled with a sci-fi/monster/horror film makes it that more special. This isn’t Jennifer’s Body, which was horrible apparently, but it also isn’t Let The Right One In. The story begins to unfold more towards the end of the film and here is where the real beauty lies. The mythology, while a bit confusing at times, still presents something I haven’t seen before in film. Telling what that is would spoil the story, but trust me, it’s interesting. The film also utilizes some straight forward romantic writing, almost as if Benson watched the Before trilogy a bunch of times before writing this script. I’m a sucker for those kind of films, so I ate this right up.

It’s not perfect though. For one, I wasn’t fond of the acting that much. Nadia Hilker was very good and this film should serve as a stepping stone to bigger things, but the acting from the rest of the cast was average at best. I just couldn’t see Evan, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, as a real person. I felt I was watching an actor. That’s never good. I don’t feel he’s a bad actor by any means. Hell, we’ve all seen a thousand worse performances from indie film actors. A story like this just needed a strong male performance to go along with Hilker and the nature of the script. The plot was also muddy at times. I got the gist of the film and the impact was felt, but it could have been a lot more polished and clean. I had to do a bit of reading afterward to get most of the story arcs.

The film is also gorgeously shot on location in Italy. I’ve always read that Italy can be a bit of a drag with all the tourists and scam artists buzzing around major cities and villages. The main town that this film takes place in however is a fucking beautiful place that I feel I could visit and never come back from. The lush landscape was captured very well by what I’m assuming was a drone camera. Lots of great shots of waves crashing onto rocks and some great color grading that gave the film a warmth about it. It was pretty.

My movie watching habits are changing. I’m finding less time to watch films and less things in the theater interest me. As long as I have films like this come in the mail however, film will still fascinate me. I love original ideas and I love when these ideas come in hybrid packages. Romantic horror films like this could end up becoming one of my favorite things to watch if their done correctly. This is definitely worth the watch and I’ll be anxiously waiting to see what Benson and Moorehead come up with next.

4/5



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Film Review : It Follows (2015)

IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 95%

Directed By – David Robert Mitchell
Starring – Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, and Daniel Zovatto

A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual confrontation.

*Insert STD joke that everybody seems to be making here*

There. Now that THAT’S over with…

I feel the need in every horror review I write to point out that modern horror movies are hard to do correctly. First off, studios have trouble greenlighting a lot of horror films because the great ones almost HAVE to be rated R and rated R films hurt box office sales. If your film does get on its feet, then it’s got to be pretty unique or else it’s going to come off redundant and stale. As of late, there has been an almost “rebirth” of 80’s style horror/thriller films that take simple premises and make them unique with style, atmosphere, and callbacks to horror classics of the 70s and 80s. Films like Drive, House of the Devil, The Guest, Cabin in the Woods, and The Innkeepers have done unique things with either tired tropes or dated plot devices. Cabin in the Woods did this perfectly and then spun us onto our head with the 3rd act. House of the Devil fully embodied an 80’s slasher flick. The Innkeepers took a typical ghost story and through atmosphere and brilliant camera work, made it unique and special. That being said, I’ll always respect and applaud films that try to do something different, or try to spice up something familiar. It Follows is a film that I respect, am intrigued by, but am left wishing it gave me a little bit more.

The film has a relatively easy premise. Whoever has “it” is followed by people, seemingly random people, and if they are caught, they die. They have to sleep with somebody and then “it” gets passed along to that person and the chain continues. If that person dies, “it” goes back down the chain of teenager sex until nobody is left. The followers only walk, and can’t be seen by anybody else. Off the bat, that’s a creepy premise. We all have been walking home late at night and notice that somebody is walking behind us. Even if that person is harmless, the sense of unease is there. So an entire film based on random people coming for you dead eyed at all hours of the night scares the shit out of me. I was disappointed though, not so much with the film, but rather by own self. You see, I wasn’t scared, not once, throughout the whole film. Save for one scene, I was watching this film no differently than I would watch a Pixar film. I guess the suspense just didn’t grab me or some outside forces from the day just numbed me to being scared but I just honestly wasn’t tense at all. I did however appreciate how one could find this suspenseful. They certainly did a good job keeping the camera flowing at the right places and still at others. There were many 360 pan shots that revealed some horrible thing or a stagnant show with something coming closer in the distance. I liked that. The film is well made. I just didn’t really get it.

Like I alluded to earlier, the film definitely paid tribute to classic films and directors. The score, which was amazing by the way, is straight from Carpenter himself. The night shots and horror scenes look like they were shot by Wes Craven. Hell, I was even reminded of The Shining a couple times when a scene would concludeand I was left scratching my head as to what the hell I just saw.

I think that’s what is eating at me with this film. It’s not as if I didn’t like it. I liked it plenty. I just didn’t get it enough to really love it. It’s a film that could definitely change my opinion of it over time, but I’m just not there yet. It’s flawed. The 3rd act was kind of a let down. There wasn’t a satisfactory end. Ambiguous is fine, but I needed a little bit more from it before it ended, which it abruptly did. There seems to be a lot of underlying themes that have NOTHING TO DO WITH FUCKING STDS that I just can’t seem to grasp. Is the film about relationships? We have Jay, a girl, played by Maika Monroe, running away from “it” while her friend Paul, played by Keir Gilchrist, is only trying to get closer to her. I enjoyed this dynamic. Is the film about the youth of adolescents? Are these kids literally running away from death which is slowly inching its way towards them? Like I said, “it” walks very slow. Whatever the main theme is, it’s not obvious, which both excites me and frustrates me. I like challenging films. I also like to figure things out. I haven’t figured this one out yet.

You should see the film. Why? Maybe you’ll understand it more than I did. If you’re a horror fan and have been waiting for a unique film that hasn’t been done before, then go see it. It’s a stylish film that does something completely different. Michael Meyers may have started the slow walk killer thing, but this film takes it to another level. I’ll always pay to see films like this. I love ambition. I just may not always get it. I need to watch this again.

3.5/5



Quick Reviews! : The Imitation Game, Housebound, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and Old Joy

I’ve been busy getting ready for a move so I wasn’t able to give these films a dedicated full review. Here are some quick thoughts on each film.

If I didn’t see Selma this year, Benedict Cumberbatch would have been my lead performance of the year. He’s that good in it. You can tell how dedicated he is in portraying Alan Turing as graciously as he can and it showed. Sure Turing was a bit frustrating to work with, but the man was a genius and didn’t deserve to endure some of the hardships during the end of his life. Graham Moore, who charmed us all with his Oscar speech, deserved his moment in the spotlight after crafting an airtight and seemingly flawless screenplay. From the start to the finish the film runs effortlessly like one of Turing’s machine, turning and spinning on a heartbeat like rhythm. I can see why Morten Tyldum was nominated for an Oscar. This film is just so well put together. The score, the acting, the cinematography, and the writing are all free flowing and synchronized. The film reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind, both in subject matter and in storytelling. I didn’t really understand the Keira Knightley praise but it’s always nice to see Matthew Goode in stuff. I love watching him act. Good show.

4.5/5

New to Netflix, this New Zealand film from director Gerard Johnstone actually surprised me. I expected a serious horror film but what the film really excelled at was the sort of horror/humor that guys like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson gave us early in their careers. The film centers around a brat of a woman who gets in trouble trying to steal an ATM and has to be under house arrest for nine months in the house she grew up in. Stuff starts to happen that you would normally find in a movie like this but then the film takes a sharp right turn. The result is funny, original, fun, and occasionally disgusting. Give it a try if you like movies like Dead Alive of Evil Dead.

3/5

This Studio Ghibli film was recently nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this years Oscars. This is for good reason. The film is gorgeous. What seems to be colored pencil from time to time, Princess Kaguya’s beautifully animated story tells the tale of a girl born from a bamboo stalk that grows as fast as the plants she grew out of. Obviously there is some magical realism here, but that nuance is why I love Studio Ghibli films. This one was directed by Grave of the Fireflies director Isao Takahata, and features his best animation to date. Every scene leaps off the page in a colorful albeit very subtle display of animation. The simple story didn’t wow me as much as Ghibi’s other films, but its the kind of story that you can just sit back on a rainy day, like I did, and just take it all in. The music was also fantastic.

3.5/5

This was a bit of a slow watch. I’m a fan of Kelly Reichardt. I thought “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meeks Cutoff” were wonderful examples of what you can do with still images and slow burn story telling. Night Moves was a bit of a disappointment but after seeing that Old Joy was on Netflix, I decided to check it out. I didn’t realize a movie that has a run length of only 73 minutes could drag so long. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the film. It was just the opposite of entertaining. Instead, it was a film that featured two friends going on a camping trip where their past and present only ever so slightly hits the surface of what we can see. There is a lot going on in the background of their lives that we aren’t directly told. I enjoyed it for what it was but I don’t think everybody will like it. It’s literally a car ride and a camping trip. Nice to see NJ natives Yo La Tengo doing the film score though. That helped.

2.5/5

Quick Review : Honeymoon (2014)

IMDB Score – 5.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 70%
Netflix

Directed By – Leigh Janiak
Starring – Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, and Hanna Brown

A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.

Gross. Let’s all I have to say after watching the last 20 minutes of this film. Gross.

You’ll understand if you watch it, and you should. I didn’t expect much from this. It’s the first film from director Leigh Janiak, who moonlighted as an assistant for a couple years. The plot is very simple. “Yay, we’re married! Let’s go up to my families old cabin in the woods. That should be fun”. Guess what, not fun. Who would have thought that? Rose Leslie was okay in Game of Thrones but the thought of her carrying a whole movie left me a bit cautious. However, I hadn’t seen a horror film in a while and Netflix just started streaming it so I gave it a go.

Pleasantly surprised.

Rose Leslie wasn’t that great. I was right in that regard. She gave the Canadian accent a good try but her true Scottish accent broke through a lot. It can be distracting at times. Treadaway however was very good. He was totally believable once shit started to go downhill for the newly married couple. The other two actors really weren’t in the film enough for me to comment. This was all Leslie/Treadaway.

I like slow burns, especially when it comes to horror films, the good ones anyway. When it comes to b-movie horror, please, up the blood and guts every minute until the film ends. The serious ones though, make it slow. I want to feel the tension. I want to get relaxed only to have something happen that puts the hair on my neck at a standstill. We got that with this film. It’s a slow descent into what seems to be madness but turns into something more mysterious and creepy. I loved how we were never given much of a glimpse of what was going on. Trust me, it was obvious what was happening, but I like the film kept it a mystery for the characters. Did I mention the last 20 minutes were gross? Holy shit, don’t watch this film is you’re going to have sex in the near future. Just don’t.

It’s totally worth the watch on Netflix.

3.5/5

Quick Review & Discussion : Borgman (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Amazon Watch Instant

Directed By – Alex van Warmerdam
Starring – Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex van Warmerdam, Tom Dewispelaere, and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen

A vagrant enters the lives of an arrogant upper-class family, turning their lives into a psychological nightmare in the process.

I’m going to break this up into two parts. One, a short review, and the other a short discussion. The discussion will have spoiler elements to it so don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film.

This creeped me the fuck out. Like, really did.

Borgman is a psychological thriller/overall creepfest of a movie from The Netherlands. There is a certain creepy I’m pertaining to when I describe this film. It isn’t creepy like how Zodiac, The Innkeepers, or any run of the mill ghost story is. This film relies heavily on the unsettling nature of German folklore. I’ll get to that in the part two discussion. There is just this extreme sense of unease that washes over you while you dive further into the film. There are no explanations and very few answers at first glance. It’s kind of a mystery.

The story is rather simple on the surface. A man, who doesn’t seem to really have a home, job, or purpose, successfully invades the home of an upper class family by appeasing to the wife. He stays on the property, just out of sight, getting to know the family better. What follows for the rest of the film is an assortment of what the fuck with a side of nightmare fuel. Seriously, nightmares are a big part of this film. You know, I can’t remember if there was a score or not, but if there was it was minimal. Alex van Warmerdam, the films director and supporting cast member, carefully constructs his shots that not only look beautiful, but completely add to the sense of dread and darkness that permeates from the film. It’s been described as a black comedy but I didn’t find anything funny with it. It’s also been described as a cross between Dogtooth and a Haneke film. The only real comparison I can see with Dogtooth is that it mostly takes place on the property which is very out of the way. The Haneke comparison is spot on though. There is just something about his films that etches into the brain and causes all sorts of unsettling emotions. The way Cache, one of my favorite films of all time, plays out is on par with this. We aren’t given any answers to what is going on. Any violence is disturbing, fast, and realistic. It’s unsettling because it feels real.

Haneke however has not really delved into the supernatural. This is where Borgman is unique. Sure, there aren’t creatures flying around or portals being opened. There are events and progressions that just can’t seem to be explained any other way though. It’s a genre blender and a half.

I urge you all to see this one. It’s on Amazon Watch Instant and most likely VOD. It’s a nightmare on screen without the fire and brimstone of a trip to hell. It’s thought provoking, unique, and wildly experimental. You’ll finish it without a clue in the world as to what you watched but if you’re like me, the answers will start to slowly creep in. Are these answers correct? I have no idea. It’s fun to find out though.

4.5/5




….

..

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Spoilers ahead

So I wanted to talk about this a bit, only because I seem to have stumbled across something on my own and I really want to share. Now, since I’ve written this, I’ve learned that there are a lot of other people that have come to this conclusion and that it is regarded as the intended understanding that the director wanted from his viewers.

I was watching the Netflix series “The Fall” last night. It’s a wonderful detective mini-series set in Ireland starring Gillian Anderson. Check it out. Anyway, in one of the episodes a suspect breaks into one of the police officers hotel rooms and does some snoping. When the officer returns, she finds this image as her background on her laptop…

That is a painting by Henry Fuseli called “The Nightmare”. I was fascinated by it so I decided to Google it. What I came across was that this painting was a depiction of a German folklore creature called an “Alp” or “Incubus”. This si a creature that targets mostly women and while they are sleeping, straddles them on there chest until the weight is so much that the victim wakes up and can’t move. Alps were commonly referred to as the cause of things we know now as “sleep paralysis” and “lucid dreaming”. The alp has the ability to control the nightmares of it’s victims and cannot be seen when the victim wakes up in fear.

In the, we see Borgman straddling Marina in a way that suggests he could be an Alp. Marina has nightmares that depict her husband either beating her or even attempting to murder her. This causes Marina to grow an intense hatred for her husband and a love for Borgman.

Now, my theory on who Borgman is and who his companions are is this. Borgman is an Alp and is the leader of other Alps. This explains why they all have a scar on their back. As for what is under the scar? I have no idea, but it seems to be an indication that they’re all alike. In folklore, these Alps have been connected to vampires which would kind of explain why they were sleeping underground in the beginning of the film. I think the priest and his gang find out about them and know what they’re up to. They try to kill them.

This just makes sense to me. It’s a fascinating allegory to German folklore and is just mysterious enough not to give too much away. I loved the film and and wondering if anybody else who has seen the film has any other theories as to what the fuck is going on.