The Tall Man (2012) review

When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children.

Any fan of the Slender Man web series will have heard of The Tall Man as being a Hollywood attempt to capitalize on this phenomenon. The people who think that haven’t seen the movie. No, the promise the movie makes in its hype, its poster, and its first 20 minutes are soon dashed by convoluted storytelling and a piss poor reveal.

The movie is well made, and on a technical level it does everything to par, but doesn’t shine too bright. It feels like X-files meets Supernatural meets Mothman Prophecies, and that’s a comfortable feeling for me. After all, this should be a more script driven movie, not an acting, directing, special effects or production design driven movie. And that’s too bad in this case since the script fails to deliver. It’s not scary, it’s not thrilling, and it’s very convoluted.

The movie tries to juggle too many character relationships in the beginning, leaving you lost as to what’s going on. By the time you catch up new characters are introduced and the process starts all over again. Jessica Biel does a fine job as the lead nurse Julia, but she becomes victim to a script that takes her character in confusing directions. She’s not the only victim, with many of the characters acting very stupid or very strange. The side characters are competently acted with many of the actors being TV faces, but there’s not enough to keep you interested when the movie goes off the rails. Speaking of going off the rails, about halfway through the movie takes a twist, leaving you not surprised, but confused. You’re forced to think through what you just figured out and reevaluate it. In the process we are left with no protagonist and nobody to particularly care about. Even the young mute girl Jenny has confusing motivations and actions and we just aren’t sure what to think of her. The action on screen is vaguely intriguing, not because the plots good or the characters are interesting, but because of the mystery of The Tall Man. The movie does a good job of setting up the mystery and leaving it vague as to its true nature. We want to know who The Tall Man is and for 40 minutes after the main twist we just sit and wait for an answer. This is where the film falls apart. If what’s going on doesn’t directly help solve the mystery, then we just plain don’t care. Filler isn’t a perfect word to describe these scenes since they do help explain some character motivations (better late then never), but they don’t service the plot as much as the movie would have you think.

The ending is where all this build up, all these twists and turns should pay off… and of course it doesn’t. An amazing ending could have saved this movie, but instead of the supernatural mystery we’re promised, we end up with the blandest, most disappointing reveal I’ve seen since The Box. It’s not worth waiting an hour and forty minutes to see, but just in case there is some poor soul who wants to, I won’t spoil it. It does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and when you look back at the film you can come up with a dozen better twists and endings.

The Tall Man is not something I recommend to anybody. It’s not a film you should follow something else up with, but rather it’s a movie you follow up with other, better things. For those who liked the paranormal beginning I point you towards Marble Hornets, Mothman Prophecies, and The X-Files. For those who liked the more “Town is Evil, twists and turns” aspects of the movie I recommend the short lived series Happy Town, the anime Higurashi: When They Cry or once again The X-Files. All these are far more worth your time then The Tall Man, but then again so is watching funny videos of cats so that’s not saying much.

Psycho (1998) review

A young female embezzeler arrives at the Bates Motel which has terrible secrets of its own

The 1960 Hitchcock film Psycho is renowned for being one of the best horror films of all time. It’s a truly unique entry into cinema that stands out especially when compared to the dull remakes we’re bombarded with these days. However, remakes of films often times get passed off as shit before they’re even given a chance, purely based on the loyalty of the audience to the original. The bigger the fanbase, the more the remake gets torn apart. Which means that 1998’s Psycho had no chance in hell of getting very many good reviews. Often times any changes or artistic liberties that the director takes in these movies are reprimanded by hundreds of screaming fanboys saying that he/she pissed all over the original. We don’t like things different, but isn’t that the point of a remake? To offer a new perspective or different version of a classic story and its characters. Luckily/Unluckily 1998’s Psycho takes very few liberties, mainly because it’s a shot for shot, line for line remake, but without the tension, power, or style of the original. It’s a fascinating example that serves as a martyr for directors who like to shake things up in remakes.

Psycho (1998) and Psycho (1960) share 90% of their shots, 90% of their writing and about 30% of their quality. To see why the copy and paste format doesn’t work, one merely needs to watch about 30 seconds past the identical opening credits. The film steals the Re-animator music, I mean reuses the old Psycho score and opens on a beautiful helicopter shot of Pheonix, Arizona. What’s not beautiful is the awkward feeling you get looking at 1990s Pheonix, and more specifically a 1990s movie, while listening to the overdramatic 60s score. The entire movie mashes together 60s and 90s filmmaking, but instead of creating a retro experience creates an awkward clusterfuck. You can’t use a 90s camera and use 60s cinematography. Sure it works fine a good chunk of the time, but Hitchcock’s more iconic and stylistic shots are so foreign in 90s cinema that it’s hard to look at. It’s not helped by the gaudy lighting, which is far too bright and glowy, not using shadows at all. There should be some forgiveness since this is filmed in color and even in the 90s lighting specialists who knew how to light Black and White style were rare, however this film doesn’t even try, instead going for an overly contrasted light scale that doesn’t end up creating dark shadows, but just creates bathrooms that look like the gateway to heaven.

Another of the major 60s/90s conflicts that dominate this movie involves the acting. The dialogue is almost entirely copied from the original, with only a few 90s twists to replace the 60s would-be-anachronisms. The actors struggle monumentally with this dialogue, often times delivering flat performances. It’s clear the director is trying to go for the 60s acting style, but none of these actors were trained that way and can’t pull it off. What we’re left with is a weird mix of hamming to the camera and bland performances. There is also a lot of miscasting in this movie, but the most blatant of them is Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. Vince Vaughn is not the guy for this role. He’s a funny, outgoing guy and completely without any of the neuroses that Anthony Perkins had and brought to the role. He isn’t even physically built for the character, being far too bulky. When Norman showed up in the original he completely stole the movie and it wasn’t until he left the screen that the audience realized that the whole stealing plot was a thing. Vaughn has none of this power, instead leaving you bored and confused by what he’s trying to do. Instead of portraying Norman Bates he’s portraying Anthony Perkins portraying Norman Bates, but to be fair everyone in this movie copies their predecessor and all of them fail miserably.

There’s not much left to say about this film, mainly because it doesn’t have much to it. I’ve been harsher on this movie then others because it’s almost completely void of creativity. Sure it has its own moments, but everything it adds is superfluous garbage, failing to bring anything to the movie. The last thing I needed was to hear Vince Vaughn jerk off and I most certainly did not need to have random artistic images thrown at my face, especially if Hitchcock didn’t think it pertinent. It’s not worth anyone’s time. Anyone who has seen Psycho (1960) has already seen this movie and anyone who hasn’t would be a thousand times better off watching the original since this one can only taint your enjoyment of that.

Sixteen Candles (1984) Review

On the eve of her sister’s wedding, suburban teenager Samantha (Molly Ringwald) suffers silently as her family forgets her birthday. Even worse, some total dork (Anthony Michael Hall) keeps propositioning her with sophomoric innuendo when she really craves romantic attention from high-school hunk Jake (Michael Schoeffling).-Rotten Tomatoes

Sixteen Candles is the first in the series of films written and directed by John Hughes that left and continues to leave a permanent mark on pop culture. It’s one of the weaker entries, but it’s by no means a bad film. The writing, acting, directing, and humor are all strong, just not as strong as they could be, or compared to the follow-ups.

Molly Ringwald plays the lovelorn, slightly dorky teenager Samantha who, despite being an identifiable character, is not a fantasy fulfillment for the audience. She brings her persona to the role, and performs admirably, putting any modern day cliché (cough cough Bella) to shame. The rest of the characters are… ok. The acting is adequate, but a majority of the characters are stereotypes, at least to start with. As we get to know them we find that they are very much not cardboard cutouts, but sometimes the acting can’t support these role changes, particularly with Jake, the love interest. Another… almost awkward stereotype comes in the caricature of an Asian that is Duck. As the film progresses he becomes more human, but that doesn’t mean the first half of his scenes aren’t uncomfortable to sit through. The other notable Brat Pack role in this movie is Anthony Michael Hall as The Geek, a role he repeats and refines as his career goes on. His cocky but lovable character is a great example of part of this film’s appeal. We all knew people in school and our life like the people in this fictional school and fictional life. From the comic relief to the leads, we all knew these characters in some form, perhaps one that was perhaps less exaggerated. Except the chick from Poltergeist. No one is as awesome as her.

The film’s set in a two day span, a snapshot of a turning point in Samantha’s life. This form allows more emphasis to be put on characters and not narrative, and is quite familiar for those who are Kevin Smith fans. The film is the epitome of the 80s, from the clichés, to the clothes and settings, to the soundtrack, and to the pop culture references. Pop culture references are common in this movie, particularly auditory cues from various TV shows. This type of gag is probably best used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it works ok here. That’s not all this movie has going for it though, with its witty dialogue being the best used and most effective of its humor. It’s only passably realistic, but it serves its purpose in that it makes you laugh.

The movie’s nostalgic feel, stereotypes, clichés, identifiable characters, loose narrative, and humor and swirl together to make this realistic, yet unrealistic, atmosphere. It feels like a movie, but it also to a lesser degree, feels like reality. You pass off the cartoony sound effects and Dragnet music because you’re charmed by this movie. Charmed by the world that Hughes creates. An everyman’s world where your teenage years come back to life, or go down an alternate path (depending on your age). It’s hard to describe for those who have never seen a Hughes movie before, but it’s unique and memorable above all else. Even wanna-be Hughes movies, like Better Off Dead, can’t pull off that blend of honesty and humor, and it’s really a credit to the strong writing and directing.

The ending of this movie feels… odd in that it’s a happily ever after ending. It’s more neatly wrapped together then other Hughes films, and for a newer generation that can be hard to accept. The honesty of the movie that transcends generations seems to stop at the ending for me and for my generation. This film’s subtle message of “It can get better” that’s really just created by having a happy ending is hard to accept for us because we are so used to harsh endings. Even if things turn out ok, there are still problems to be dealt with. That seems to be the burden of our generation. We have a hard time accepting that happy ending when we can flip on our computers and see that it’s all a lie. We have to have YouTube videos of celebrities reminding us that “It Gets Better” because we have such a hard time believing it. Unfortunately, our movies, TV shows, etc… are not giving us this message like they used to. In fact there really isn’t a teen movie that embodies this generation like Hughes did for the 80s or Empire Records and a few others did for the 90s. The closest we have is Perks of Being a Wallflower, but even that deals with issues too… shall we say mature, for the average teenager. No instead we are spoon-fed terrible horror and action movies, with the occasional comedy that’s actually intended for adults. It’s a sad state we live in, but hopefully one that will be alleviated in some upcoming cultural shift of tides.

Back to Sixteen Candles (oh yeah that was a thing), it’s a movie that’s worth watching. Worth buying. Worth watching over and over again. Worth showing to your kids and grand kids and so on. It’s a movie that every teen should watch and perhaps out of the handful of Hughes films, one that everyone should watch. The plot itself deals with a girl’s crush, so it may be boring to a male audience, but I highly doubt it. It has plenty of male conflict and lowest denominator humor to keep almost everyone satisfied. It’s a light comedy, not too raunchy, not too high brow, and is sure to appeal to the teenager inside (or outside) of you. It leaves you wanting more, and luckily there is. May the 80s live on!

The Conjuring (2013) review

“The Conjuring” is the 2013 supernatural horror movie from director James Wan and is based on the real-life investigation by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film is yet another haunted house movie, but its 70s style, strong leads and brilliant directing put this film far above its contemporaries. For those who don’t know the film’s fairly basic plot, here it is. A family of seven move into an old farmhouse and soon are faced with sinister paranormal phenomena. They call in Ed and Lorraine Warren to investigate and (along with their assistant and a skeptical cop) the two unveil the goings-on of the house even at the risk of their own family.

The characters of the Ed and Lorraine stand out in the movie compared to the rest of the fairly bland characters. This is mostly due to the authenticity of the performances in portraying the real-life people, but also because they are unique characters in modern day horror movies. You can connect to them the same way you can the family, because they are people too. However they are above the average victim in that they know what’s going on and they can deal with it. It’s a fine line between hero and average joe that I’ve never really seen in a horror film before. Are they perfect? Of course not. The conflict between them over Lorraine’s safety feels quite forced after a while, but it doesn’t detract from the movie at all and frankly, I would be happy to see these characters again in a sequel.

The rest of the characters are all fairly bland, but have enough characteristics to them that they don’t feel like cardboard cutouts. Rather it feels like we just don’t know them well enough. The performances all around are fair, but nothing outstanding. The kids do a good job for being child actors, with the exception of a few spotty scenes. The father under-acts, often times feeling a touch too stoic and the mother is actually fairly good, especially when comparing the two sides of her performance. The cop and the assistant make good comic relief, but also serve their purpose and don’t feel shoved in (a mistake many other movies make).

In fact, everything in this movie, at least on an initial viewing, seems to have a purpose. The exposition is given fairly well, told through a brilliant opening sequence as well as college lectures. College lectures are a commonplace tool for exposition, foreshadowing, or laying the groundwork for symbolism, but the difference here is that it doesn’t feel forced when watching it. The lectures play into the plot, as well as give insight into character backgrounds and this helps them fit seamlessly into the movie. The character interactions and paranormal trickery all play on older ones to either push the plot along or provide a sense of dread. For example, a line of dialogue from the middle of the movie may provide a crucial plot point later in the movie, and a ghostly sighting in a bedroom will give you inordinate amounts of dread the next time the characters wander in there. In this way the movie feels almost too neat, like it tricked you into thinking it was developing characters when really it was just servicing the plot. But of course, you are so in awe of how all the pieces fit together that you forgive this misgiving.

Even with the strong writing and acting, what really makes this movie something special is the directing. Wan’s work almost seems to have been building up to this point, with him learning different techniques and mastering different styles of storytelling. The ‘70s flair of this movie is hard to ignore, with camera angles, zooms and lighting all screaming “Halloween” and “The Legend of Hell House.” This combined with the very accurate costuming and production design creates a vibe that is only a few steps behind Ti West’s ‘70s homage “House of the devil.” This film differs, however, from “House of the Devil in that its scares don’t come from just the third act.

“The Conjuring” is scary throughout, using the classic technique of ramping up the fear at night and giving relief during the day, all the while escalating at a very brisk pace towards its climax. The majority of the scares do come from jump scares, but it does not use scary music and loud noises to get you to jump. It instead uses the aforementioned dread and tension to get you all tense, then snaps that suspense in the most unexpected ways. It should be noted that this movie avoids the obvious jump scares almost constantly (with a few exceptions) and that is partly why it’s so effective. We expect Action A to happen, but instead it’s glazed over, building the tension more as our minds race to where the scare could come from. Sometimes the scares don’t come at all, like in the opening sequence where there’s not a single jump scare and instead it concentrates on setting the tone of creepiness for of the movie. When the scares do happen they are, above all else, clever. The games the spirits, and by default Wan, play are sometimes disturbingly pleasing. It’s that same joy that someone can derive from a bad guy’s clever plot, or a unique Saw trap. The doll named Annabelle and the innocent game of Hide and Clap are bound to become internet memes thanks to this movie.

This movie, above all else defies expectations. People who hate horror movies are going to hate this movie no matter what, but people who think jump scares are cheap or are just tired of paranormal clichés should walk into this movie with an open mind, because you may be surprised in more ways then one. Above all else I must emphasize that this movie should not be seen by children. This is a movie that even if you don’t find scary, contains all the elements to scar a child. It’s a blend of realism, familiarity, and bat-shit insanity and it’s sure to please for decades to come and it most certainly is going in my collection. James Wan’s career has been building up to this movie, and I feel that he still has a little ways to go. So if studios can keep a hands-off approach with his projects, we are sure to get some movies that every horror fan will be proud to call scary.

I’m so tired…

So ungodly tired. Not physically. Mentally, emotionally, socially.
I just am so confused. I feel like shit, yet pleased slightly. Angry, and sad. Ughhhh. Am I justified in what I think? or am I being an ass or hypocritical? Am I making it about me, or is it always about her?
…Am I strong enough…
or am I having my time of the month and so is she and we just really don’t know how to deal with it?
Is what I’m feeling true, real, right, worth saying?
Why did I post this…

Much Ado about Nothing (2012) review

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing is Whedon’s pallet-cleansing follow-up to The Avengers, and it achieves this, not just for Whedon, but for the audience as well. The film was shot over 12 days at Whedon’s home, but the quaint location is rarely an interference, and when it is it’s played for laughs. The film sticks with the original dialogue, trimming some monologues and excess conversations, but nothing’s lost in plot or character motivation. Whedon very cleverly turns a couple of the monologues into songs, which are surprisingly smooth and suave, adding to the films atmosphere.

The very hefty Shakespearean lines are carried well by the actors. Now before all the English majors jump down my throat, let me explain. The Shakespearean dialect is that of a stage, it’s grandiose and explanatory of characters emotions. It is extremely out of place not only in film, but especially in modern film. To use this dialogue is extremely difficult, unless you are merely translating the stage version to film, grandiose style and all. This is how most Shakespeare movies have been done, and in particular the works of Kenneth Branagh, who also directed a version of Much Ado about Nothing. The films are colorful, spectacular and while they do use the medium of film to their advantage, they use it mostly to add to the story. Whedon manages to fit the story into the medium of film, turning the larger-then-life stage version into a quieter, smaller, and by default more realistic version, which is what your average movie-goer expects to see from the type of story being told.
The actors treat the dialogue with the greatest of nonchalance, acting exactly as if the words they saying are natural and only occasionally bringing the tropes of stage acting in to accent a few of the jokes that require such. This blend works well, compensating for some of the aimless silliness that makes up the original and has been lost here due to the format, script, etc…

Whedon’s challenge when making this movie was to get you to ignore the location, budget, and dialogue and get you to focus on the characters and what they are feeling. With the help of the aforementioned acting, Whedon also has put this movie out in black and white, giving the film the slightest of a noir feel to it, but not too much so since the movie rarely has black and white lighting to it. The noir feel teams up and even helps the interjected mafia replacement setting feel all the more natural. What the black and white does is it takes your eyes away from the environment and focus on the actors. After all, it’s hard to pay attention to the colors of Whedon’s walls, or expect the vibrancy of a Branagh movie if there are no colors to begin with. What you can focus on is the ever moving Alexis Denisof, whose long monologues are a good example of why parts of this movie don’t work.

Alexis Denisof as Benedict does a great job, with the scenes between him and Amy Acker (Beatrice) having all the chemistry of their days back on Angel. However, during the long monologues he has fussing over his feelings, it gets hard to follow along, mainly due to his inability to hold your attention. This is partially due to his limitations as an actor, but also due to the inability to be as grandiose as Branagh and grab the audience with his presence, which would have been possible in a more stage-like version. It’s times like these when the limited charisma of the actors can’t push the monologues and dialogue in an interesting way, and the film slows down tremendously. However, these scenes are few and far between and easily compensated for by their performances when it comes to the humor.

The humor in this movie is brilliant, mainly for how basic it is. There are plenty of extremely clever gags inserted in, but for the most part the humor is very basic. It still works though, due to how unexpected it is with none of the slapstick or character reactions being what you would expect to see in even a comedy of Shakespeare’s. The actors still pull off the original wit of the dialogue well, but I found myself laughing more at the inserted humor, a testament to Whedon’s abilities to write humor around serious subject matter… or shall we say slightly more serious subject matter. I will not spoil the funnier parts of the movie, but the highlight of the film is most certainly Nathan Fillion and his merry band of police-men. Every scene they’re in has a brilliant blend of the original and new humor, and the movie is worth watching just for that. On occasion the bad guys are overly EVIL, but it’s by no means a betrayal of the original since Jon the Bastard was a mustache twirling fiend to start with.

Overall, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado about Nothing is a wonderfully funny and small film, a perfect pallet-cleanser from the mega-blockbusters Hollywood is rolling out today. It’s spectacular at times, but not overly spectacular. It has a story to tell and it tells it, but with a few stops to smell the roses along the way. Due to this, I’m saddened it doesn’t have a wider release, since I’m sure it would make money (Whedon’s name alone is enough to bump this far above being considered an average independent film), but just not enough as another showing of Iron Man 3, hence no theater chains picking it up.

It’s important that audiences have a light movie, and on top of that, a small one. The Great Gatsby could have benefited from this type of filmmaking, since that story was tailor-made for a slightly higher budget version of this film, but alas it became nothing more then a 3D tye-dye Dicaprio love-fest with a pop soundtrack. For now it seems I’m going to have to settle for crossing my fingers and hoping that Redbox or Netflix will pick it up out of mercy.

I recommend this film to any fan of Shakespeare, theater, dramas, those who hate the average comedy that comes out these days, and of course those looking for something different, but not too risky, to spend some time with. However, I must warn Whedon fanboys and girls to not see this movie purely because of him, because while it has his fingerprints on it, it most certainly is not Buffy saying shakespeare. If it’s at a theater near you, defiantly go and see it, and try to bring as many people as possible, as it’s sure to spark some fun conversation.

Pumpkinhead (1988) review

A man conjures up a gigantic vengeance demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy the teenagers who accidentally killed his son.

Pumpkinhead is the directorial debut of Stan Winston, special effects master, and it unfortunately shows. The movie has a strong premise: A demon brought against a group of city kids by a vengeful father whose son’s death they caused, however its execution is a disappointment even if some enjoyment can be derived.
The movie starts out with likeable characters in the father-son duo, making you think that they are the rare likeable protagonists in a horror movie. However, this is not the case with the son having the life span of a red-shirt, cut down in an unfortunate biking accident. The rest of the characters are stereotypes and 2D cutouts, with the acting having about as much inspiration, mostly due to the inexperience of the actors and director. However none of this really makes it a bad movie.

When watching it the stylized lighting and eerie soundtrack combine with the action on screen to create a tone that is rarely seen these days. It combines with the grit of the 90s technology and VHS quality to create a atmosphere that is indescribably horror. It’s that horror feel that we’ve all seen, be it on a random DVD rental, Netflix pick or late night TV viewing. It’s a tone that has been lost in the polished world of digital cinema that we live in now. It is actual shadow and grit, not artificially created shadow and grit.
Speaking of creating, the special effects are, as expected, amazing. Pumpkinhead looks alive, both in his movements and his appearance even if it’s fairly reminiscent of Alien. The practical effects put any CGI monster to shame, with the very presence of it giving the same effect as a Freddy or Jason has, and that’s something that’s hard to achieve with CG. CGI is best left for the fast moving monsters, because practical effects, by this example alone, have got everything else covered.

Alas, we must get back to why this film doesn’t work. As a director, Stan Winston has most of his technical bases covered, but he fails to create an essential aspect of horror films: Tension. It’s the bread and butter of Hitchcock, Craven, Carpenter, and any other director who has tried to instill fear. It’s what gets your blood flowing before the gory climaxes and what makes jump scares worth doing. It’s hard to explain exactly why it’s absent here, but in general it comes down to a combination of a few things. The stalking the creature does is not emphasized enough with the monster disappearing for large chunks of the movie. The killings aren’t powerful either, not that there needs to be more gore, but that they aren’t dramatized or made a big deal of. We should always feel the power of a death, even if we don’t care for the character being killed or doing the killing. Instead all we have are the character’s reactions, which aren’t strong due to the writing, acting or directing, but even if they were good it would most likely not be enough to convince us since we weren’t affected by the act itself. While not perfectly correlated, there is also a noticeable lack of dialogue. This is nice because we often hear characters whine and spit curses more then we should have to, but in this case it leads to having no idea what the characters are really thinking or feeling, since the acting just can’t support it.

Overall, Pumpkinhead is a nice atmospheric movie that while it delivers little scares can either provide some laughs for you and your chums, or some nostalgia, depending on what mindset you go into it with. It’s not a great movie, but if you’re a fan of horror or miss practical effects, you definitely should check this one out.

God such…

Intense emotion. I feel so defeated, so pathetic, so… alone. From a goddamn TV show. Why is it that I pour my heart and soul into characters, when the one thing I hate most, endings, is bound to happen. Why? Why do I feel more intense emotion now then I do during an average day? Do I revel in this negative aliveness or do I move on and cheer myself up? or do I blog about it and hope someone understands me….