Quick Hit – Matt Damon with an unplaceable accent and a ponytail has a predictable character arc in this effects driven movie.
This is a movie that features Matt Damon in a period piece fighting monsters on the Great Wall of China. That is what I went into the movie knowing, and that’s what I knew after I watched the movie. If you’ve watched the trailer, you know the plot – there are monsters on one side of the wall. An army of Chinese soldiers try to keep them back in spectacular ways, in really colorful armor. Matt Damon shoots things with arrows. The end.
And really, it’s that simple. Matt Damon may go through a short character arc where he generically becomes a better person, but none of it feels like there is any conviction. His sidekick steals the show more than once, and Willem Dafoe peters in and out of the movie at what feels like his own whimsy, seemingly playing a different character each time. There is a love story (kind of) with no passion.
The only redeeming quality in the movie is the effects. The creature effects are pretty good, despite being heavily CG’d. I also thought the actual design of the creature is good. I really liked the queen idea, with the communication through her hood, and her harem of protectors that are seemingly arrow proof. But the whole thing gets lost because rarely do you make a movie that features only on monsters. Plus, the whole thing seems strangely familiar. If you know what I’m thinking of, hit me up in the comments section – I honestly don’t know why these monsters ring such a bell in my head.
I was really disappointed here, and that’s a shame. I mentioned in the quick hit that Damon does an accent, but I’m not sure where it was from. It sounded to me as if he was trying to strip the Boston out of his voice so he just sounded like a generic European, but I almost would have enjoyed it more if he at least attempted to sound like he was from somewhere.
This movie isn’t very good, and I wouldn’t waste your time with it. I’m giving it a “D-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A killer mirror movie (ummmm) that somehow turns out scarier than you expect.
Believe it or not, this is not the first killer mirror movie. I’ve actually seen at least one other, starring 24’s Kiefer Sutherland. That was the 2008 Mirrors (which eventually spawned a sequel in 2010, Mirrors 2). However, those movies were pretty much the typical horror movie mumbo jumbo. Oculus, brought to us by Blumhouse and Mike Flanagan (Hush and the upcoming Stephen King adaptation of Gerald’s Game) is many, many steps above that.
It tells the non-linear story of a young boy and girl who have their parents go quickly insane. This is due to the influence of an antique mirror in the house. Alongside the images of them as children, we get to see them as two young adults in their twenties that have gone separate paths when it comes to the memories of their past. Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has embraced what has happened, binding her time for a moment where she can fight the mirror once more. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) has spent time in a mental institution and has decided that the mirror is just a mirror, and everything that occurred was his young mind attempting to deal with it.
There is a delightful amount of plots here, and that’s what ends up doing the film its greatest disservice. The mirror simultaneously seems to be filling people with thoughts, a portal to another dimension of the dead, and a living entity with its own agenda, as well as a reflection of the past and the present. It’s chock full of ideas, with very little eventual follow through besides some creepy ghoul ladies and gentleman. Along with that, the setting is perfect - a house, that somehow even in the middle of the day is full of shadows. It perfectly exhibits how it feels to be a child when something scares you - everything seems darker than it should be, and horrors hide everywhere.
What is the most terrifying is the parental aspect of the movie. I watched this on Mother’s Day, with my wife – in retrospect, not a great idea. This as a woman choking her offspring multiple times, often very violently (yes, there is such a thing as a violent strangle and an “easygoing??” strangle). There is extreme parental violence towards the children, as well as each other. In fact, all the violence in the movie comes from these interchanges, besides a well-placed lightbulb and a frightening booby trap.
I actually thought the acting, which is lacking in lots of horror films, was pretty good throughout the movie. Karen Gillan is the stand-out, with some terrific delivery and screen composure. But the mother, played by Katee Sacoff, is terrifying in her slow descent into madness. One of the scenes involves her chasing the little girl down the hall (I've included below for your creeped out pleasure of the day) and it gave me some decent chills. Speaking of the little girl, I wasn't entirely sold on their reactions, but for child actors in a horror film, they were serviceable.
The best part of the movie is the interaction that is set up between the Mirror’s interactions and the people it is influencing. I thought it was really creative to have the sphere of influence, and to have the Mirror essentially control your behavior and have you do things that you have no memory of doing. I also thought that the Lightbulb scene, though really telegraphed, was EXCELLENT. Yikes.
The movie ends pretty dismally (spoiler I guess?) but it’s a horror movie. Do you really expect the good guys to win?
I’m going to give Oculus a “C+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: A decent idea with a terrible amount of red herrings and false thrills.
This movie is another that had a decent potential. Starring Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay (Room), it also has one of the Stranger Things stars (the emo like one that gets essentially friend zoned at the end). I thought the ideas presented were decent, but there was a major problem – everything was over telegraphed and easily figured out.
Take this definition from Roger Ebert, who gave us the famous “Law of the Economy of Characters”:
Law of Economy of Characters
Movie budgets make it impossible for any film to contain unnecessary characters. Therefore, all
characters in a movie are necessary to the story—even those who do not seem to be. Sophisticated viewers can use this Law to deduce the identity of a person being kept secret by the movie's plot: This "mystery" person is always the only character in the movie who seems otherwise extraneous.
It essentially means that there are only so many characters in a movie, so if you are used to films, it’s easy to figure out. Despite the fact that the film continually gives us characters who serve literally no purpose (essentially trying to circumvent the Law – always a valiant effort but really tough to do), it’s painstakingly obvious who it is. The only thing that is remotely thrilling is the ideas about young Tremblay’s character – is he alive or dead? Who knows? Maybe he’s just a Casper, maybe Naomi Watts has been crazy from the beginning.
Let’s not think about the fact that the “reveal” is entirely ridiculous and almost funny. The idea that the driver for all the violence in this film is who it is is an interesting idea, but kind of strange when you consider it all. I won’t give it away for interested parties, but come on – you can figure it out.
Coupled with this terrible reveal, there is also the fact that the filmmakers really, really want us to know that it is going to snow (hence the title).Over and over we are given a weather forecast, and over and over the same things are said – it’s gonna snow. A lot. It almost makes me think of a poor man’s The Shining.
Despite all these setbacks, the acting is solid for the cast. Tremblay is good, especially with so little dialogue. Naomi Watts is given a few times to actually act, but it’s pretty worthless in the grand scheme of things.
Overall, this movie isn’t good. It’s boring, takes a really long time to get going, and is ridiculous once it does. I’m going to give Shut In a “D”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"