Halloween is owned by Universal Pictures and all the images you see in this trailer talk are the property of their respective owners
Directed by David Gordon Green
So it’s no surprise that we were gonna get another Halloween movie at some point. In fact, last time I heard at least, it was going to be a sequel with Michael in jail on the day of his execution and running wild in the prison which would have been an INTERESTING idea I guess, it was eventually scrapped once Dimension lost the rights to the franchise in 2015. Instead, we’re going back to basics with one last tale of Michael and Laurie resolving their differences with extreme acts of violence, and they even got Jamie Lee Curtis to take up the mantle one last time. So now that we have a trailer, what do I think of it? I guess I LIKE it, but I’m not in love with it. Jamie Lee Curtis is always great, and David Gordon Green is an… interesting choice for director (this is the dude who did the stoner trifecta of Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter), and yet it doesn’t seems suspiciously safe for a movie about a guy who commits vicious knife murders.
Hereditary and all the images you see in this review are owned by A24
Directed by Ari Aster
You know… I’m starting to feel like the old man yelling at clouds. For whatever reason, THIS kind of horror film (mostly put out by A24) is the new hotness in horror and I just can’t understand it. I’ve sat through far too many weighty and slow paced exercises in excessive cruelty that still manage to get critical acclaim, and I just can’t understand it. Now they had to make one of these with one of my favorite actresses which means I HAVE to go see it even if it’s probably gonna be more of the same. GREAT! I LOVE sitting through things that ruin my day, don’t you!? Anyway, will this be the one that manages to be thoughtful, interesting, and GOOD instead of just provocative for the sake of pretension, or will this be yet another film I’ll want to bury in the backyard with cement so that even if it comes back as a zombie it’s not going anywhere? Let’s find out!!
Annie Graham (Toni Collette) is a mother of two who just lost her own mother and is having trouble coping with the loss; mostly by repressing her feelings, but also because her mother was a… shall we say COMPLICATED person, and whatever secrets Annie is dealing with are not something she’s ready to share with everyone else. Unfortunately her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) had a particular attachment to her and is lashing out in her own way which is only bringing more and stress onto the family. Her husband’s pretty cool with it though (Gabriel Byrne) as he’s a PEACE KEEPER who really just floats in and out of situations trying to cause as little fuss as possible, and their son Peter (Alex Wolff) is well on his way to being an emotionally repressed mess of his own, though that might just be the teenage angst talking. Anyway… let’s just say that things get PRETTY bad from there as the death of Annie’s mother turns out to be the LEAST of their problems as… things get pretty bad from there. Annie’s slowly unraveling from the stress and the guilt of… whatever happens, and it’s tearing the entire family apart; especially Peter who… let’s just say isn’t quite equipped to deal with all this. With so much chaos at home and very little support outside of it other than Annie’s friend Joan (Ann Dowd), will this family manage to get past this… very bad thing that happened, and come together as a functional family? How much hardships, horror, and emotional scarring will they have to go through for even a hope of surviving… whatever this is? Why… you know what, just why. WHY!?
Truth or Dare and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Another day, another PRESENTED BY BLUMHOUSE film, which basically means it’s time to flip a coin! Heads Blumhouse wins, tails I lose but Blumhouse still makes a bunch of money! They’re certainly a studio that’s had their ups and downs as they’ve been responsible for getting films like Get Out and the Purge Franchise to the big screen, but are also responsible for The Gallows, at least half the Paranormal Activity movies, and that first Ouija movie. Now normally I’m at least SOMEWHAT aware when Blumhouse is putting out a horror film (at least one that has a shot of getting a wide release) but this one flew COMPLETELY under my radar which can only mean good things, right!? Does this film manage to rise above the underwhelming marketing it’s received and be a gem in its own right, or is this gonna be worse than Jem in its own right (yet ANOTHER of Blumhouse’s failures)? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a group of friends traveling to Mexico to celebrate Spring Break by drinking booze and eating nachos! One of the young women named Olivia (Lucy Hale) ends up meeting some cool dude named Carter (Landon Liboiron) and he leads the whole group to some abandoned church in the middle of nowhere to… I don’t know, party I guess? Doesn’t SEEM like the place to get wasted considering how much dirt and broken stuff is littering the floor, but Carter ends up convincing them to play a game of Truth or Dare. It goes… alright I guess, but Carter eventually flees and leaves Olivia with a warning; KEEP PLAYING THE GAME OR ELSE! Well THAT certainly seems weird. Anyway, the group heads back home to continue their college education, but soon enough ghostly figures and other strange occurrences compel them to continue the game with HORRIFIC results. Basically you can either do the challenge the ghostly visions propose which USUALLY involves hurting someone or hurting themselves, OR the ghosts will make them commit suicide because THAT’S not tasteless in the least! So I guess the game is on as each one of them has to take turns being tortured and risking death until… something happens I guess? I mean, that something is PROBABLY death considering there doesn’t seem to be a Get Out of Jail Free card for this situation, so… keep your chin up I guess! Can this group of friends find a way to outsmart this game that for whatever reason has followed them back home? What secrets will they learn about each other as the game continues, and how far will they be pushed to go just to survive? Did someone fall asleep at the wheel over at Blumhouse, because that’s the only excuse I can think of for how this managed to get past even THEIR lax standards!
“I dare you to not suck, movie.” “DAMN IT! That’s a trap and you know it!”
A Quiet Place and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by John Krasinski
We had quite a few good horror films last year like IT, Happy Death Day, and ESPECIALLY Get Out, but pickings have been a bit slim in the first third of 2018 with the only wide releases going to the fourth Insidious movie and the rather underwhelming Annihilation if you’d even want to count that. THANK GOODNESS that Platinum Dunes has stepped up to the plate because they’ve ALWAYS made good movies, am I right!? Okay, so the studio has a pretty shaky track record with some pretty awful remakes being their staple up until 2010, but they have gotten a bit better at picking movies what with The Purge series being under their banner and I even liked that Friday the 13th film they did, though I’m certainly in the minority on that one. This movie at least has been getting some positive buzz despite what I feel what I thought were rather underwhelming trailers, so maybe the steady improvement of Platinum Dunes productions will continue unabated! I mean as long as we forget about those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie… and the first Ouija movie. ANYWAY, does this latest thriller with a unique premise manage to be all it’s cracked up to be, or will the silence in the theater be less due to enraptured awe and more due to straight up boredom? Let’s find out!!
We begin this story in the near future where it seems that society has crumbled and the few remaining survivors are eking out a rather mundane existence as they try to avoid being hunted down by whatever it was that nearly wiped us all out. What is hunting them exactly? I don’t know, some sort of Silent Hill looking dudes with sharp claws that LOVE to slice and dice people whenever they can find them. The key to their success however turns out to be some EXCELLENT hearing skills, so in order to survive in this world you need to stay QUIET! At least the Abbott family has managed to make this new way of life work for them as Momma and Poppa (Emily Blunt and John Krasinski) have worked tirelessly to set up rules and precautions to protect their children and to keep their mouths shut! Sure, they lost ONE kid, but they’ve still got two left who know not to make even the SMALLEST of sounds if they want to survive, and there’s even another kid on the way which SEEMS like a bad idea considering how hard it is to reasonably explain to a baby that they’re crying is not very helpful at the moment, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there! Anyway, the eldest kid Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is having trouble dealing with the death of her little brother which she blames herself for and on top of that is deaf herself which makes it easier for her to communicate without sound but means that things might be a bit more dangerous if she can’t hear any approaching threats. At least she’s better equipped to handle what’s going on than her brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) who’s REALLY traumatized by everything that’s happened since the monsters came to town and spends most of his time being terrified about everything around him; not the MOST impracticable of positions to take, but it does cause some friction between him and his dad when he has trouble letting go of his fears to focus on the basic survival tasks at hand. So with one kid feeling guilty, another one scared of his own shadow, and a third one threatening to come out of their mother in the very near future, things may not be sustainable for that much longer no matter how much Super Dad tries to keep things firmly within his grasp. Can this family survive this terrifying threat for as long as it takes for someone to figure out how to destroy these creatures once and for all? Will they find a way to successfully have this baby and raise it without attracting the attention of the creatures that have the super strong hearing and extremely deadly claws? Seriously, how have you guys survived THIS long if knocking something over is enough to get these creatures to come a knocking!?
Winchester and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and CBS Films
Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig
SERIOUSLY!? We managed to go through ALL of January without a single notable horror movie!? Okay, I mean there was that INSIDIOUS movie but that one doesn’t count because… I didn’t see the other films. MY POINT IS that it’s been PRETTY light so far for a month known almost EXCLUSIVELY for terrible horror films, and for me this is the first one of the new year so I’m STILL gonna consider it a January horror film! Besides, that’s not even a particularly hard rule of thumb considering last year’s worst horror abomination Rings didn’t make it out the gate until the first week of February either. Will this be another entry in the never ending list of terrible first of the year horror movies, or are the people behind this just too darn talented to make the same mistakes that everyone else did? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the story of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) who is the widow of William Winchester; the man who started the Winchester Repeating Arms company and got SUPER rich doing so. Now she has all this money, but she’s been using it to build and rebuild and rebuild and add on and then do some MORE rebuilding on here house. Why is she doing this? Well she believes that the ghosts of the victims of Winchester rifles, instead of haunting say… their murderers, are haunting her house and I guess the multiple rooms and weird architecture confuses them or something. Anyway, Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) has been sent by the Winchester Repeating Arms company to assess the mental fitness of Sarah in an attempt to oust her from the company, but he’s not interested in being their lap dog and seems to genuinely want to help her; not like he’d get away with being so duplicitous what with her niece Marion (Sarah Snook) watching his every move. Of course, things start to get strange almost immediately as Eric starts to see creepy things of his own and Marian’s son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) is “sleepwalking” all over the place. Is Miss Winchester correct in believing that there are ghosts in her house and that they’re after her for what her company’s weapons did to them? Does Dr. Price have a much deeper connection to this place than either he or Sarah initially thought? Why does it matter if the house is a confusing maze of dead ends and random staircases!? GHOSTS ARE NON-CORPOREAL!!
“BOO!!” … “What? Ah, damn it! She’s not in this room either. WHERE THE HECK IS SHE!?”
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
Hark! Is it that time of year again!? Yes, it is time for the film critics to have their yearly ritual of ranking the films we saw in order of how much (or how little) venom we can summon up for it, and while I would love NOTHING more than to get this crap-tastic year over with and race towards the future, we can at least afford one more look in the rear view mirror before leaving it all behind. Also, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t get a chance to see all the movies that came out this year like The Florida Project, and there were films that I couldn’t have seen even if I wanted to like The Post, Phantom Thread, and I, Tonya, due to them getting extremely limited releases in the last weeks of the year. If the studios can’t be bothered to let me see the movie, then I can’t be bothered to wait several weeks to finish up this list. This is a 2017 list, so I’m finishing it in 2017!
Sure! Let’s start this off with a pairing so disparate that it’s likely to cause whiplash! Then again, it’s a probably a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the list as I try to find room for a little bit of everything… and by everything I mean legitimately good movies that everyone likes and amazing B movies that only I seem to like. The Big Sick was one of the better comedies of the year as I’m sure it’s been mentioned on several best of the year lists other than this one, and rightfully so! It didn’t quite make my top ten due to a bit of shaky structuring (time is a bit elusive in it) and the fact that it’s hard to overlook how much of this story is coming from only one viewpoint within it (being written by Nanjiani and Gordon who DID end up working out, it feels a BIT antagonist towards his parents who are drawn more broadly than hers are in the telling of this story), but there’s genuine heart in the way that Nanjiani is trying to navigate such an awkward situation where the right thing to do is kind of murky and his feelings about it all are even more so. It’s a situation, like many in life, that could have ended VERY badly for everyone involved but Nanjiani and Gordon’s script is smart enough to walk that line between genuinely trying to express one’s feelings for someone and having a character realize when that’s not enough and when they need to walk away. It ended up working out for these two but only after Nanjiani left her to live her life and to make her own choices which is certainly a worthwhile lesson for many of us to learn and for Hollywood to pick up on considering how much the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE is still a staple in so many so called romance films. Kidnap on the other hand… look, I just really had a lot of fun in it, alright!? I know it’s not going to be to EVERYONE’S taste (hence why it didn’t make the list) but it’s damn near perfect in being exactly what it wants to be. Calling something a NON-STOP ACTION THRILLER is about the most hack bit of marketing imaginable, but in this case it’s quite literally true and the film’s greatest asset. Halle Berry is chasing after the people who have kidnapped her son and she can’t stop moving. She can’t lose focus, can’t lose momentum, otherwise she’ll lose everything; and she knows that. Yes it’s over the top and barely makes any sense (there’s maybe three cops in the ENTIRE state) but the tension is there and if you’re willing to get behind its rather ludicrous concept you’ll surely stay engaged all the way to the bloody end of her bloody quest to save her son. Yeah, it’s goofy and has a few less than stellar editing shortcuts (why do they keep reminding us how low on gas she is when she NEVER RUNS OUT OF GAS!?), but they did a lot with what they had to work with which is often the sign of a great film more so than a film with many more resources not taking full advantage of them. Not a bad double feature if you ask me!