Quick Hit: This slow-burning horror film is exactly what King intended.
I am at the point now, as I’ve probably surpassed 400 reviews in our short time together, DFP readers, where I fear repeating myself at times. Some of my favorite subjects in horror, and in regards to Stephen King, are easily repeatable and far from original. And yet, when I find new content to write about, like Netflix’s 1922, the first thing to say is usually something I’ve said before – Stephen King is the king of monsters, particularly of the human variety.
But something I don’t know if I’ve referred to before is his ability to give many of those monsters at least a convincing motivation. Sometimes they’re just plain crazy, sometimes they’re jealous, but more often their victims of the systems they were brought up in, or of downturns in life they couldn’t have expected. Take for instance Wilfred from 1922. He was raised in a world where a man was a man and that’s all he was, where his greatest joys in life should be his progenies and the land that he worked to sustain himself. Wilfred is a blue-collar worker before there were true blue-collars and while he can’t be forgiven or even excused, his inability to adjust to the new status quo that his wife presents at least makes sense (which is more than most of superhero villain motivations nowadays).
Director/Writer Zak Hilditch does a terrific job at shrinking the scope of the story to focus on Wilf, Arlette, and Henry. Arlette wants a much bigger world though, one with dress shops and even St. Louis, which is what gives the story its engine. Wilf slowly turns Henry against her, and eventually we have one of the most terrifying rat scenes in all of film. This becomes the driving factor in Wilf’s life before long, and the death of his mother causes Henry to go to dark places as well. Hilditch helps to shrink the action by focusing on shots of the farm, and also by continuing to give the cast moments of privacy – in groups of two and of themselves. Some of these are beautiful examples of good cinematography – right up with Mud, which we watched earlier this year.
All three of the main actors have terrific chemistry. Molly Parker, who plays Arlette combines with Hilditch’s writing to take make Arlette a bit more relatable – in King’s story, you almost root for her demise. Dylan Schmid does an adequate job as Henry, but truly comes alive once he leaves Thomas Jane’s shadow. With his almost Baby Faced Nelson like appearance, his role becomes much more sincere.
But, it’s Thomas Jane who makes the film truly worth watching. His gruff, squinting Wilf is easily a memorable character, but when combined with the accent that Jane gives him, he becomes unforgettable. Though Wilf obviously is not a learned man, he’s not dumb, and that also comes across in Jane’s acting. It’s a very good performance by a very good actor who landed a role right in his wheelhouse.
The movie has some stumbles, including a rushed introduction and a blink and you’ll miss it ending, but overall it is a good, well-paced film. I’m going to give it a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Terrifically taught and based on even better chemistry.
When I last saw the movie Creep, I was so excited that I went out and bought it on DVD so that I could share it with my friends. When I read the Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass were planning on making it a part of a larger trilogy, I was unbelievably stoked to get back to Peachfuzz masks and the uncomfortable stories of Tubby Time. So when I tentatively sat down (last October, my how the time has flown) to watch the sequel, I was excited, nervous… and thrilled to discover that Creep 2 is nearly as good as the original.
In fact, in some ways, it far outreaches the original. We pick up on our journey as Aaron (Duplass) is killing another victim. But unlike the gleeful man we saw seducing Aaron into first friendship and then a near complacent death, we have a shell of himself. Later on he blames this apathy on turning 40. Enter Sara, played by Desiree Akhavan with gleeful abandon. Another wannabe filmmaker, Sara produces a seldom watched Youtube channel called Encounters, where she finds Craiglist ads and responds to them. This leads her to Aaron’s ad, asking for someone to film him for 24 hours while he tells his story.
Unlike the original, this means that Aaron is forthright with his story – he blatantly states how many people he killed, and has no problem doing so. I began the film worried this would steal some of the first film’s tension, as it was taken from wondering if Aaron was really as off-his-rocker as he seemed. Luckily, Brice and Duplass mine the new relationship between Aaron and Sara for this tension. The tension is projected from the fact that you don’t know how much Sara actually believes about Aaron, as well you’re not sure at what point Aaron will get over his mid-life crisis.
The film is once again shot in the “found footage” format, but it’s extremely effective. There’s some really shaky camerawork especially towards the end of the film, but I don’t hold it against the film because it fits and up to that point the filmmaking style of Sara has brought us through mainly shake free to this point. There's also some incredibly beautiful shots using light and darkness, which I think is indicative of the characters in this series.
I’m also a huge fan of the acting performances in this film. Duplass has slowly become a favorite of mine as I’ve watched him dominate in things like Creep and Safety Not Guaranteed. His weirdly congenial Aaron is a treasure to watch: from his man-bun (which has never looked more appropriate for a character – bravo) to his penchant for attempting scares, I never get bored with Duplass’s Aaron. What really surprised me was how well Akhavan matches Duplass. His Aaron is even better when allowed to bounce off his weirdness on a character that goes (in one scene literally) tit-for-tat with him.
I think that this film fumbles the finale a bit, but not enough that it pulls a Cloverfield Lane or anything. It's just the one thing I think didn't match up with the talent of the original.
In conclusion, the writing is still smart, Aaron is still crazy, and I’m excited to see the third. I’m giving Creep 2 an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Dumb, unnecessary, and painstakingly familiar.
In a world full of James Bond, Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, and a myriad of other near superhero agents, I’m not sure why we need Mitch Rapp in film. Sure, there’s the fact that he’s based on the best-selling character from Vince Flynn’s novels, so there’s the built in fan base to consider, but really… why? I felt like I was watching one of those films, only that was slightly worse (than the originals) and didn’t have the name of the character in the title.
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) has just been transformed into a monster because his fiancée was taken from him by TERRORISTS.
Fast forward, and now he’s trying to kill TERRORISTS.
A CIA agent sees this, and of course, decides she needs to recruit him. She needs Batman, I mean, Michael Keaton to train him… because of course you would need The Vulture.. I mean Michael Keaton to train your agents. I mean, who else other than Birdman... No, Michael Keaton would be capable of doing so?
As you can see, this review is pretty much a wash at this point, but allow me to continue.
As you push forward, Rapp continues to gain more and more skills. Michael Keaton has things happen to him. Essentially, the whole plot is a wash, because it’s not really interested in making a movie that makes a lot of sense, or is good, as long as Rapp can punch people really hard, right in the face. Oh, and use NINJA STARS.
Keaton tries – showing some of the ability that makes him so talented. There is one scene where he grins through a bloody mouth as he’s teaching a student a lesson, and you can see exactly why he’s in this movie. But for the rest, there isn’t really an excuse. The acting for the most part is really bad, to go with a bad script.
I will give you this – there are enough entertaining moments that will keep it from an “F”. The aforementioned moment with Keaton is one of them. There's also another one that features a training exercise and electrical shocks that I though was inventive and well though out. I also enjoy the pace of the film – it never, ever slows down, and so the ending, while rushed, is at least over quickly.
I’m giving this a “D”. Sorry for the rushed review – it feels just like the film.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"