Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Berlin Syndrome

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt
Rating: R
Directed By: Cate Portland
Synopsis: While holidaying in Berlin, Australian photographer, Clare, meets Andi, a charismatic local man and there is an instant attraction between them. A night of passion ensues. But what initially appears to be the start of a romance, takes an unexpected and sinister turn when Clare wakes the following morning to discover Andi has left for work and locked her in his apartment. An easy mistake to make, of course, except Andi has no intention of letting her go again. Ever.

I was always taught to be careful when traveling alone whether you're going to a new country or simply a new city. Clare is a tourist who obviously didn't get that memo. She's a photographer wanting to take photos of architecture. She travels to Berlin from Australia and quickly lets it be known to a stranger that she is exactly that...alone. This probably isn't the best way to go about things even though he is someone she finds attractive. 

 Andi is an English teacher who seems to live a normal life. He works, visits his father and takes Clare out. Soon, it's time for Clare to leave and head to the next stop on her trip. Andi doesn't seem very happy with this. Luckily for him, she changes her mind and goes to find him. This leads to a night of passion. The next morning, she finds herself locked in his apartment with no way out. The movie starts to pick up here. Why has he kept her locked in? Is she the first woman he's kidnapped?

The screenwriter chooses not to flesh out either character too much. We know vague things about each person's past. Clare's mother is awaiting back in Australia. Andi's mother abandoned him when he was young. As time passes, Andi treats keeping Clare kidnapped as if nothing is wrong. He brings her flowers even when she tries to escape. He likes to tie her down and take strange Polaroids of her. How long can he keep her hidden? Her mother hasn't had any contact with her aside from the texts he sends with her stolen sim card.

It's certainly a situation where she is ultimately powerless. Eventually, stockholm syndrome begins to kick in. She starts cooking and cleaning for him as well as having sex with him willingly. There were plenty of questions for me that slowly got answered. How were there no neighbors? This is explained by the fact that Andi is renovating the building that he lives in. Why does no one go looking for Clare? A missing tourist probably doesn't matter in the long run.

In the end, it's the psychological damage done to Clare that makes this movie work. Teresa Palmer plays the wide-eyed victim quite well. It's possibly her best role to date. There were a few times when I wanted to shake her and scream at her to fight harder. The ending was definitely the most frustrating. I wanted some concrete evidence that she would be safe. What happened to her after the climax? We're meant to imagine it instead.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Gerald's Game

Starring: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood
Rated: NR
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Synopsis: Gerald Burlingame and his wife Jessie attempt to rekindle the flames of their marriage with a retreat to their remote lake house. But when a dangerous sex game accidentally kills Gerald and leaves Jessie handcuffed to the bed, the latter is forced to overcome panic and hallucinations if she wants to escape. 

Adaptations of Stephen King novels have been hit or miss. There have been at least 58 of them with more in the works like the sequel to the latest IT movie, plus Hulu's Castle Rock series. For every good one, there are at least a dozen that are barely watchable. There's little wonder in whether it's the source material being hard to adapt or merely someone unable to bring the master of horror's vision to life. There are many reasons why these adaptations can go so wrong, but we won't get into those here.

Gerald's Game begins with Gerald and Jessie trying to rekindle the passion in their marriage. The attraction between them has faded. Gerald decides to handcuff Jessie to the bed and play out a rape fantasy. This goes bad very quickly with Gerald dying of a heart attack. Jessie is left trapped and trying to find a way to escape with little success. There are more horrors than just being trapped such as a stray dog searching for food, traumas from her past and a nightmarish man hiding in the shadows.

Jessie's ordeal is harrowing to watch. Will she manage to escape? She begins to hallucinate and relive pieces of her past that she'd tried to forget. Did her past put her on the path to her current situation? These are questions that do get answered in my opinion by the end of the film. There is a scene that will be talked about for quite awhile after this movie ends. It is gruesome to watch but well worth it.

There could have been many ways this could have fallen flat. Mike Flanagan has previously proven that he can craft horror in ways that others haven't. Oculus and Hush were both successful. He does very well with the material. However, it's Carla Gugino's performance that elevates the adaptation. She's fantastic as both the panic-stricken wife and the empowered survivor.

People might complain about the last ten minutes since so many were polarized by the end of the novel. I believe that the final scenes are what really tie together Jessie's journey and her road to the future. The real horrors come from the people she has encountered and the trauma she endured. There is no supernatural element here. For me, that's what makes it truly unsettling.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quick Movie Review

Nurse 3D (2013, USA) | Rating: 1.5/5

Ophelia has already done a quick little review of this movie, so I figured I'd throw in a short opinion of it as well. Originally, I was going to watch this low grade horror on Netflix, but I ended up catching it on TV and finding a little bit of humor out of it. Granted the humor was not intentional, I'm sure. The premise had some potential to be entertaining, but a lot of the time I was nervous that something risque might pop up and a parental figure would appear with all of Nurse Abby's breathy delivery and occasional lack of clothing in the kitchen...a couple times at least. As a villain I couldn't take her seriously as a threat, because of her acting. Everything that happened just seemed to conveniently work in her favor and the story just seemed silly overall.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016, UK) | Rating: 4/5

Remember me mentioning that I've been watching bad horror movies on purpose for some amusement this year? Yeah, I'm still doing that and I'll probably keep mentioning it in future reviews. So, this was one that I felt might be one of the bad ones, but surprisingly was very good. This is the best result I can get from things that look questionable or not of good quality. While I admit this movie isn't perfect with its storytelling, it does enough to get its point across and be perfectly suspenseful. The movie didn't rely on jump scares too much and mainly focused on atmosphere and the unknown. You know, when you know something's out there or behind the door and you can only hear it. That can be scary. Watching these two characters dissect our Jane Doe felt immersive like I was in the same room as them, which makes for an effective horror movie.

XX (2017, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Similar to ABCs of Death, this movie is a compilation of four female directors creating some horror themed shorts that star female characters. Hearing this concept made me excited to check out more lady horror directors, especially after seeing the Soska Sisters' American Mary and their survival horror game show, Hellevator. I first about it from Nightmare Maven and immediately stopped it when potential spoilers were going to be included in her review. After I watched it, I returned to her review for her thoughts and there was something I didn't realize that she pointed out, which was that most of the stories revolve around mother figures. I wasn't too bothered by it, but I do agree that there should've been more variety of character choices for our actresses. I don't want to give anything away, since each selection is fairly short and easy to spoil, so I'll be vague with my opinions. Similar to ABCs of Death, there were one or two that I wish had a full movie as the story was very interesting. "The Box" and "The Birthday Party" were my favorites. I loved the weirdness "The Box" gave me and it kept me thinking of what could've affected this family the way it did. Pretty much, it left me wanting more. "The Birthday Party" was darkly humorous to me and it mostly felt complete, but I wouldn't mind seeing a little more. "Don't Fall" was probably my least favorite as I thought it was a little confusing with its mythology, execution, and rules. It wasn't terrible, but the characters didn't interest me as much as "The Box" and "The Birthday Party". "Her Only Living Son" fell in the middle. It was interesting, but most of the time I was kinda confused what was going on or why what was happening was happening. Overall, I did enjoy the whole anthology and hope they put together another one.

The Entity (2015, Peru) | Rating: 3.5/5

Another one of those movies that looked bad, but ended up being...alright, actually. The thing that surprised me about this movie was that it was found footage, which is usually a turn off. I just haven't had the best of luck with the genre, but this one ended up being fairly entertaining. It does have its silly moments and times where it doesn't seem believable that any of the characters filmed parts, but for the most part I enjoyed following this little demonic investigation and watching them connect the pieces. There a couple somewhat creepy moments, but a lot of it is by the books for possession and found footage movies. Nonetheless, I wasn't bored and the characters were interesting enough to care about. Their dynamics really worked for me and kept me hooked into the movie.

3 Beauties (2014, Venezuela) | Rating: 3/5

More Spanish representation in this post! From my understanding from reading the back of the box was that this wouldn't have a "horror" element to it, but lots of drama. While I wouldn't completely put this in the horror genre, it definitely does slowly take a turn in a way of thriller aspects, I suppose. I'm not completely sure how to word it. I guess I can say that this movie takes sibling rivalry to a somewhat different level. The feud between sisters for their mother's affection (or really attention) is a slowing burning rage that eventually goes over the top. It's kinda least, I wasn't expecting it to turn out the way it did. In some ways, their rivalry can be quite amusing until that jealousy boils over. Not sure if I was supposed to find humor in some of their actions or not, but then again, I kinda have a dark sense of humor sometimes.

Friday, October 6, 2017

October Spoopy Challenge!

Well, another October has come and I'm still trying to challenge myself with reviews. I know I failed last year to meet my quota, but I have a bit of a head start this year. I'm trying my best to be a little more consistent here, especially with some big upcoming plans looming in the horizon. Anyway, the challenge is the same as last year's: review 31 horror related items (movies, manga, anime, tv shows, etc.). I'm feeling very optimistic about this and maybe I'll do some streaming on Rabbit with you guys as well. Let's give it a go!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quick Movie Review

Fences (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Based on the play of the same name, I heard a lot praise from the Academy and it seemed like an interesting movie. I love Viola Davis...and Denzel Washiongton too. Pretty much, I was happy that more African American stories were nominated last year and I would try my best to check most of them out that interested me. I feel like this movie isn't for everyone. It's definitely one of those "Oscar bait" movies in a way as the format feels like a play. In other words, it is very dialogue heavy and the story doesn't really change locations either. The movie is primarily at a house and moves from room to room or outside, much like a play, which is different. The handful of movies I've seen based on plays usually try to expand their location options, but this one doesn't and...I kinda think that's for the best. This is very much a character piece and the focus should be on the characters and how they interact with each other and grow. There are some great performances here and when you pay attention, you'll feel just as emotional attached as the characters do.

Passengers (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I wasn't super interested in this movie as it seemed kinda generic in ways, but I did plan on seeing it at some point. I like Chris Pratt and I like Jennifer Lawrence and these past couple years or so they have been quite the hype in Hollywood. Seeing them together in a romantic setting is kinda odd. You know that typical Hollywood age gap controversy and all, but yeah... Anyway, the movie. At the beginning, I realized that what I thought would happen from the preview did not happen and we were in for a somewhat different kind of ride. The movie is through Pratt's eyes and we pretty much follow his journey on this ship. At first, he's the only one roaming around and taking advantage of all the awesome technology, then he gets lonely and sees a pretty girl. Enter Lawrence's character. They fortunately get along and form a relationship, some misunderstanding thing happens, and eventually all human life is in their hands. Yeah, lots of generic elements from the romance and sci-fi genres put together. For the most part, I did enjoy it, but it's a movie I probably wouldn't immediately watch again and sing high praises for. It connects all the dots and the pay off is kinda bland and predictable, but the film isn't terrible, just nothing remarkable.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016, USA) | Rating: 4/5

I think it's been some time since there was a good teen/high school movie. I haven't really heard much about it, but the little I did hear from my subscribed reviewers were quite positive. So, I decided to check it out and see if it lived up to the high praise it received. In short, it did. I really enjoyed this realistic, almost cynical teen girl. I kinda can relate to her attitude at my current age. heh It's just really refreshing to see teens act like teens and not little adults. The take on the story is simply refreshing as we follow Nadine dealing with "big" problems in her life and just trying to adjust to almost strained and new relationships. I really liked watching Nadine and Mr. Bruner interact with each other on a somewhat more personal relationship with each other. Kind of like the father she never had type of figure. There's a lot of interesting dimensions involving their relationship, which adds to some great character development. Also, I have to applaud having an Asian love interest of sorts. Although, it isn't blatantly labeled that way; it does naturally become something that's realistic and admirable. Honestly, I think this movie is such a sleeper hit, because it really is quite good movie and a step up from The Duff.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016, USA) | Rating: 4/5

This documentary of sorts kinda flew under my radar, until it hit DVD for pre-order at my job. I read the synopsis and it actually sounded quite interesting. Plus, I've been checking out more movies and documentaries of recent black history exploits. This one is based on the famous writer James Baldwin's unfinished novel, Remember This House and is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The documentary tells of his relationships with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, along with his childhood and comparison to current racial disputes to the past. Since race and discrimination has been a hot button topic for last few years or so, this movie gives you good comprehension on the struggle back then to now. It doesn't beat you over the head with a specific message, but lets you contemplate on the topic and make connections with the past and present...and perhaps the future of race relations. Definitely give this documentary a watch, especially if you want a different take on black history.

Sing (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I know I made a few jokes about this movie in the After Theater Review of "Don't Breathe", but I heard a few good things about it. In the end, I did end up watching it...obviously. I was mostly skeptical going into this movie, but it defied my expectations. I imagined a typical music based movie where we follow one character in their journey to stardom. They become super famous, but ruin their relationship with their family or friend(s) with their ego and soon learn a lesson in keeping their ego in check and simply showing passion and not greed through music. While elements of this do appear, this doesn't really follow that guideline...thank God. It's also not a poor man's Zootopia either. Instead we follow a group of characters trying to win a singing competition and working through their personal struggles...while we also still have that corrupt character that loses sight of his original purpose in music. The story does a good job balancing out all these different stories and wrapping them up an entertaining package. It also tries to avoid as many cliches as possible, so it was nice to not have my predictions come true for once.