A mixed bag of good and bad.
I’ll admit it has been years since I read Enders Game. In fact I think I read it when it was a novella (the book actually went through several revisions) as when I went home and reviewed the story it was closer to the movie than I remember. It was a good book, and good source material for a decent movie. However, what we got seemed to alternate between good and seat squirming bad.
The biggest issue here is the pacing. The book is a tremendous story (actually several different stories, depending on which version you read. Orson Scott Card likes to match his book to the political clime) that takes place over six years. This movie tries to incorporate all that but in truth leaves the entire movie rushed and feeling like there are a lot of missing scenes. The whole development of Ender as a military genius had a very organic approach, with him and his friends at age six figuring out how to beat the other teams in the zero gravity game. In time they become a very tight group who knew each other instinctively and worked together as a team. In this film it all seems to come together like a portrait made by tossing cans of paint into a tree shredder. All of a sudden there is a completed mess and not a dook of an idea how it all came together. I honestly am going to blame this on the director not being willing to cast several boys to play Ender at different ages.
Another problem is this film more or less starts off with the base assumption that Ender is the savior of the human race and everyone is just there to help him realize it. In the book he was just another kid recruited into the Battle School and over time exhibited his command potential, along with certain psychotic personality traits.
Yet another issue that the movie actually shares with the book is the squirmingly inappropriateness of recruiting preteen children to fight wars. It’s actually harder to watch here than in the book (although the book started them off at six). When you see a bunch of kids together your brain wants to channel a Disney film, and to then see a bad imitation of Gunnery Sergent Hartman from Full Metal Jacket yell and scream at them like they are in Li’l Tykes boot camp is just dumb. The whole time you see these kids learning to fight you can’t help but feel that this is just wrong on so many levels. One of the adult characters more or less says the same thing by mentioning that using anyone under the age of 15 to fight is a war crime, but the issue washes off the screen and is never really approached again.
On the other hand the film is very pretty if you like long video game trailers, and all the acting exceptional. I am a huge Ben Kingsley fan and he looks weirdly great with face tattoos. Harrison Ford is a welcome presence on any screen for me, and Asa Butterfield pulled his role off nicely. Like I said, there is a lot of good here too.
The story starts off with a personal bee in my jock strap, a monolog about how the Formics invaded Earth and were defeated by a hero named Mazer Rackham (I wish Hollywood would realize how out of the film a monolog really takes us. It is a lazy directors tool to get around actually having to film something). Skip forward 60 years and the Earth forces are preparing for the next big push on the Formics by training children (in the book the training took the form of increasingly complicated games (kind of like the title of this movie) but here it is all classroom stuff) to be the soldiers. Ender (Asa Butterfield-Hugo, the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Wolfman. Image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category (yes I know it’s not the same Wolfman. I only have so many resources)) beats another kid in a game and gets bullied by him afterwards. He beats the kid near to death and is expelled from the program.
Meanwhile Col. Graff (Harrison Ford-Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner) decides that the cold blooded psychotic approach Ender took with the bully might be just what they need and with Major Anderson (Viola Davis-the Help, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Won’t Back Down) re-recruit him. He goes into orbit where Graff purposely alienates him for some reason (there was a lot of missing motivation in this film too) and he is more or less hated by his classmates. They don’t do any of the zero gravity games that were such a big part of the book until Ender is transferred to another group. There he has to deal with miserable bully Bonzo (Moises Arias-Hannah Montana, Despicable Me 2, the Kings of Summer) but meets good friend (and closest thing to a romance) Petra (Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit, She’s a Fox, Romeo & Juliet).
There he gets pushed around by Bonzo until he excels and is given his own army. His army beats Bonzo, who takes it the wrong way and tries to beat him up. In the fight Endor cracks Bonzo’s skull for him (in the book I think Bonzo dies) and feels so badly he resigns (again, missing motivation here really). Graff gets Enders sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin-Zombieland, Signs, Little Miss Sunshine) to talk him back. Once back in orbit he trains more. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t read the book so sufficed to say aliens/human space battle is joined.
Visually stunning, with great CGI and special effects. Camera work was really good too. Two stars. All the acting and casting was excellent, especially Asa and Harrison. Two stars. Sci fi movie. One star. Sci fi movie based on a book that made a strong effort to remain true to the book. One star. Ben Kingsley. One star. In the end a decent time watching. Two stars. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
The pacing issues really hurt the story, giving you little connection to the continuity of the plot and consequently made me not really get invested into the characters. A lot of good stuff got cut out I think. Two black holes. The whole child soldier thing was really off putting. One black hole. There were a lot of unexplained motivations, like why Ender even wanted to be in the program and then later why did he quit? One black hole. The ending, while true to the book, was truly underwhelming and opened up a whole new box of unanswered questions. I guess they are setting up for the movie version of Speaker of the Dead, but while Enders Game was great that book was garbage. Bottom line the whole movie kind of puttered out. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
A total of four stars. Decent, but based on having seen about 100,000 trailers all of which seemed more interesting and exciting than the actual movie I was expecting more. I’ve noticed that I tend to come down harder on films that are based on books I have read, but I really tried to see this film as a stand alone project. Should you see it? If you read the book, like science fiction, and are not bothered by pacing and continuity issues absolutely. See it on the biggest screen you can track down. It will be worth it. Date movie? Probably not. There isn’t the slightest whiff of romance in this film, and the cute kid is kind of off putting as a young sociopath. I’d choose something else, although I don’t know what based on what is out right now. Kind of a dearth of date friendly movies. Maybe Free Birds?
Thanks for reading as always. I’ll try to see at least one more movie this weekend. Maybe two. Follow me on Twitter for review announcements. If you have a comment on this film or my review feel free to post them here, but I get a lot of spam so don’t hate me if I accidentally delete it. If you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks and have a great night.
Carrie, Carrie quite contrary. Why was this movie made?
I’ll give you all fair warning: this review is going to have a lot of me bitching about and bemoaning my own miserable high school experience (or, as I like to think of it “The years whose name must not be spoken”). To say this movie struck a nerve or two with me is like saying being eaten alive by fire ants is an unpleasant way to die or George Lucas has ruined his legacy. However, you know how the saying goes: cows moo, pings oink, Dave bitches about high school. Read on if you are cool with it.
The real question here (and the same question that came up in movies like Footloose and Red Dawn) is “Why did this film have to be made?” It has been years since I saw the original Carrie (image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category) so I had to look up the plot in order to make sure my impressions were correct and sure enough this one is almost a scene for scene remake (with some YouTube thrown in). Remakes are as always a sure sign that Hollywood has just given up on the whole original idea thing (hey, creativity is hard work) and as the trend continues we can expect to see inevitable remakes of Citizen Kane, Blade Runner, Alien, Dumb & Dumber, and the Neverending Story (oh, wait. That last one is in production). Since there were two other remakes for Carrie done already (one for TV and one for something else I forget) this is actually the fourth Carrie, so I guess in three years we can look for another Carrie starring Willow Smith.
Where this film differs from the original is in tone and scope. The first film was a true horror film in the sense that Carrie goes nuts and mind murders her entire class. This film is more a teenage outsider angst drama with 20 minutes of action but none of the horrible dread that so made the first film work. Only the real trouble makers get killed, the gym teacher survives, and you tend to lose your hatred of Chris (the main bitch) when she is pleading with her daddy via text to come rescue her. A true horror film has one (and only one) survivor, not a bunch of kids sitting on the lawn while firefighters come to save them.
That being said, the fantasy of the alienated outsider gaining super powers and using them to kill most of his or her school mates is one that sat heavily in my mind from 1st grade up until my 30th birthday. In most films you are supposed to identify with the protagonist and revile the antagonist. When a film has you thinking “there but for the lack of mind powers goes I” while watching Carrie incinerate her class the film stops being a horror film and kind of turns into a dark comedy. I’m sure for those of you who enjoyed high school and didn’t view each school morning with the dread of a prisoner walking the Green Mile this film looks pretty awful but there was a big part of me wishing for a higher body count.
The story. If you have seen the original Carrie skip ahead a few paragraphs. If you haven’t and find them annoying there are a bunch of spoilers incoming so SPOILER ALERT. It starts out with Margaret (Julianne Moore-Crazy, Stupid Love, Children of Men, Magnolia) having the creepiest birthing scene since It (another film that is on deck for a remake. Can’t wait). She has a child who grows up into Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz-Kick Ass, Hugo, Let Me In). Margaret is a crazy super religious nut and more or less raises Carrie in a Bible Skinner box. Chloe has an awkward menstruation episode in the shower at school and thinks she is bleeding to death. Her classmates, headed by main bitch Chris (Portia Doubleday-18, Youth in Revolt, Big Mammas: Life Father, Like Son) and Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde-the Three Musketeers, Dark Horse, Endless Love), throw tampons at her and make fun of her. Chris films it on her phone. While this is going on a lightbulb bursts. Carrie is rescued by Mrs. Desjardin (Judy Greer-Three Kings, the Village, What Women Want), the PE teacher.
Carrie is picked up by her mother and locked in her prayer closet. Over the next few days Chris posts the video on YouTube and has the whole school laughing at her. Meanwhile Carrie is discovering she has telekinetic abilities and is researching and practicing with them. Mrs. Desjardin is pissed at the whole group of girls and forces them to do punishing exercises. Chris refuses and is expelled and banned from the prom.
Sue is feeling guilty and gets her boyfriend Tommy (Ansel Elgort-first film credit) to ask Carrie to the prom. At first she refuses but he shows up at her house and she agrees (with some encouragement from Mrs. Desjardin). Chris is pissed and gets her hoodlum boyfriend Billy (Alex Russell-the Host, Chronicle, Wasted on the Young) to kill a pig and rig a bucket with it’s blood over the stage at prom. She arranges for the king and queen vote to be rigged and Tommy and Carrie are voted in. On the stage the blood is drenched on Carrie and the bucket falls, knocking out Tommy. Carrie thinks everyone is laughing at her and goes on a mad TK killing spree, ending with the death of Chris and Billy in their car.
She eventually ends up home and washes the blood off. Her mother finds her and they pray together, but Margaret stabs Carrie in the back with a knife convinced she is a witch. Carrie kills her as Sue arrives to help her. More TK nonsense ensues leaving Sue pregnant.
Very well executed. The director Kimberly Peirce also did Stop-Loss and Boys Don’t Cry and her expertise shines through. Two stars. I am hesitant to give this film a star for story as you literally can’t get more derivative but if this were a stand alone film I would reward the plot, so one star. All the acting was excellent, and the characters all very believable. The bitch is a bitch, the hood a hood, the little goody goody a goody goody, and the alienated religious girl just as troubled as you would believe. One star. A bonus star each for both Chloe and Juliane. Both were awesome characters and very well portrayed. Two stars. If you have a burning hatred of your high school experience and all the little pretty children who went to prom (guess who was working at a pizza restaurant that night instead of attending? I spent most of the evening hoping they all got each other pregnant) than the last 20 minutes are very gratifying. One star. In spite of the first 60 minutes being all high school drama and build up I thought the pacing was excellent. I was engaged the whole time and never felt the need for a fast forward button. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
This film will get a black hole from me until someone can explain to me what function was served by actually making it. Remakes are like wearing water wings in a wading pool. One black hole. I don’t know where Kimberly Peirce went to high school but if I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was the world of the Time Machine where all the fat, ugly, nerdy, pimply kids were forced to move underground as Morlocks leaving the beautiful Eloi above ground to attend the Prom. One of the reasons Chloe worked as Carrie is until she dresses up for the prom she is the least attractive girl in the film and you know that is saying a lot. Normally I reward films for only casting hot chicks but in this case I really think a kid with self esteem issues (i.e. all of them) could really be damaged. Also all the dudes were pretty much hot chicks too if you know what I mean. One black hole. This film failed to really strike a tone. Was it a horror flick or a teeney bopper coming of age film with 20 minutes of blood? Were we supposed to hate Chris or feel sympathy for her? Are we supposed to identify with Carrie or Sue? A lot of grey in this film. One black hole. This film ate the rated R pie and then toned down the actual horror and violence anyway. Without the cussing it really was straddling the PG-13 line. It definitely felt softer than the first film. If you are going to draw a zero comp on your Warhammer army anyway I say make it as broken as possible. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A total of four stars. Not bad. If you are a fan of Chloe or never say the first Carrie I’d say this is well worth your time. However there is nothing really hear to require a big screen. Even the action horror parts of the film would not have look out of place on an after school special. There was only one scene that had the potential for visual excellence and it cut short super fast. Date movie? Odds are your date has fond memories of prom night and therefore you should probably steer clear. Bathroom break? You absolutely don’t want to miss Prom night but the rest of the film really is just so much lead up. I’d say any scene up until Carrie finishes making her dress is disposable.
Thanks for reading. I’ll try to see something else tonight and write it up tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. If you have a comment on this review or the movie feel free to post it here. If you have an off topic question or suggestion email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (single ladies are especially welcome to take advantage of this option). Have a great night.
I kind of wish I had been wearing a (sleep) mask while in the theater.
This film was clearly crafted in the Frankenstein mode: if they just stick enough body parts into it eventually lightning will strike and the monster will rise from the slab and terrify the local villagers (I mean excite the audience. Frankenstein image courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt category). This approach was clearly and unabashedly lifted from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Unfortunately what works for pirates apparently fails to work for Old West outlaws, especially when working with a character no one cares about at a time when cowboys just aren’t really that popular (go back in time to 2001 IMO).
This film tanked horribly at the box office and I’m not surprised. I think it fair to say I see a lot of films and with very, very few exceptions manage to stay awake for the duration of all of them good or bad. In this one however I was struggling to keep my eyes open. The worst part is after the third or fourth time I caught myself nodding off I realized I probably could take a 20 minute nap and not miss much (of course I would never do that. I have my “professional” pride to consider). This showing wasn’t even that late for me.
I think this movie is a good example of Disney really believing they can force out a new movie franchise if they just push hard enough. I’m glad to see it has failed in the past (cough cough John Carter cough cough) and seems to be continuing to do so. Don’t try to tell me what to like. I will say that I have seen the trailers for this about 1,000,000 times and if you go by the rule that the more the studios market a film the more likely it is to suck than it was inevitable that this movie be awful.
If grinding movie progression were an Olympic event this film would win gold, silver, and bronze by beating it’s competition to death at the finish line with a lacrosse racket. It goes a whopping 149 minutes (that’s 2 hours and 29 minutes) that feels like six hours. Each scene was padded and paced in order to be as long and agonizing as possible, with tons of long, panning shots of nothing interesting, guys riding horses, inane flashbacks, and character development that couldn’t be more predictable or boring each scene had been delivered via semaphore a day after you watch it. The Frankensteinian nature of this film comes from about 14 completely unnecessary subplots, about 800 leftist social commentary messages, and a plot that meanders back and forth to no real purpose.
The real failure of this film (in my less than humble opinion) is the lack of a clear, appealing villain. The obvious villain is outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner-Black Hawk Down, the Dark Knight, Contact) but his is so cartoonishly evil that you can’t take him seriously. If you have to make your villain a cannibal to paint him as even more evil you just might be trying too hard. About halfway through the movie (you know, at the three hour mark) the villain stops being Butch and somehow turns out to be a railroad guy (and by extension the evils of the industrialization of America). This shifting of villains can work well in a well written, complicated story but in a simplistic action movie (you know, kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean) use the K.I.S.S. principal: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
At this point in one of my reviews that bears closer resemblance to clubbing a baby seal than offering constructive criticism I find a couple of redeeming qualities in a film if only to assuage my own guilt, so here goes. I thought Johnny Depp did his usual stand out character portrayal (on the other hand if I were a Native American actor I might have issues with this film). It is hard to not like him in almost any role. Armie Hammer did as well as could be expected with his role. Unfortunately the writers painted him into a really bland, formulaic corner.
The story. The whole thing starts out in 1933 at a fair. A dopey kid is checking out a Wild West exhibit wearing a Lone Ranger costume and comes to what appears to be a stuffed Native American. The guy turns out to be an ancient Tonto (Johnny Depp-Edward Scissorhands, Benny and June, Sweeney Todd). This ham handed plot device leads to Tonto telling the kid the story of the Lone Ranger (Princess Bride style. This film does not hesitate to rip off movies other than Pirates). John Reid (Armie Hammer-Mirror Mirror, the Social Network, J. Edgar) is traveling back to his home town in Texas to become a Federal prosecutor. On the train is villain Butch Cavendish, headed to the same town to be hung. In the same prisoner car with Butch is Tonto, being transported for some reason(?).
Butch managed to find a gun hidden on the train car and is rescued by a gang of outlaws (if you like stereotype soup you are in for a treat). John gets caught up in the escape and ends up surviving the crash with Tonto. He heads out with his brother (James Badge Dale-Iron Man 3, the Departed, World War Z) and the posse to recapture Butch. They get ambushed and all killed. Tonto shows up to bury them all but a magical white horse compels him to resurrect John (or maybe the horse did it, or the magical spirits. This film suffers from a paucity of details). He wakes up and Tonto convinces him to wear a mask for no real reason.
Honestly, this is about when I started to doze off and a lot of the actual plot details might be missing (you aren’t going to suffer for the lack of them). Since each of these little plot devices is akin to a boring mini movie unto itself I will just spout out the ones I remember fire hose style. The head railroad guy has a creepy attraction to John’s brother’s wife and kid. The wife secretly has always loved John. Butch is actually working for the railroad guy. The railroad guy wants to transport tons of silver that he stole from the Native Americans and use the money to buy out control of the railroad. Butch was hired by the railroad guy to attack small settlements in order to get the US Army to attack them and negate some land treaty. Tonto thinks Butch is some kind of evil spirit that is causing nature to unbalance, manifesting in the form of jack rabbits that are turning into viscous carnivores who specialize in eating scorpions (no joke). The Native Americans attack the army and are slaughtered to the man. Butch turns out to be the railroad guy’s brother (Tom Wilkinson-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Batman Begins, Shakespeare in Love). Johns horse is magical and may or may not be able to fly. The kid and mom get kidnapped by the railroad guy or something. Tonto is suffering from PTSD from some childhood thing. The railroad guy gains control of the railroad at gunpoint. Large amounts of explosives are apparently stored at the bank and Tonto and the Lone Ranger need to rob it or something.
See what I mean about Frankenstein?
Johnny Depp was as good as you would expect. One star. Armie Hammer was decent too. One star. Hmm. Is that it, really? I guess so. Two stars.
The black holes.
The pacing on this movie was slow and painful, like being dissolved in a vat of acid. Two black holes. No good villain to give this film some focus. One black hole. So chock full of sub plots and social commentary you have a hard time seeing the actual story. Two black holes. A bonus black hole for the killer rabbit sub plot that was introduced and then blatantly ignored. One black hole. The action was comically stupid. One black hole. There was nothing in the movie to make me care even a little. The only character worth anything was Tonto and we see him alive and well fifty years later at the start of the movie. The plot had no hook. One black hole. Throw in a hot chick somewhere. I am a fan of Helen Bonham Carter but she does not incite my libido, especially when her character has a prosthetic leg. One black hole. Another attempt by Disney to force feed us a franchise. One black hole. The ending was a gigantic trite sandwich served with a side of trite potato salad. One black hole. The entire main plot was a long deus ex machina party where the only music was an old REO Speedwagon CD. One black hole. Total: twelve black holes.
So a grand total of ten black holes and based upon the box office sales I’m not alone in my assessment. Perhaps it is not as horrible as that but it has been a while since I saw something that really sucked and I guess I felt the need to tear something apart. Also since Disney is not hurting for cash I don’t have to feel bad about dumping on someone’s livelyhood. Worth seeing at all? Not really, unless you are having trouble sleeping. If you like Johnny Depp see Benny and June. If you are at all like me you will be bored in the theater. Bathroom break? The one nice thing about a movie made up of dozens of stupid sub plots is you can break any of them off and not really hurt the film much, so take your pick. If I had to choose one scene I’d say the railroad board meeting. It’s in the last 1/3rd of the film and by that point you will need to relieve yourself.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment on this film or my review here. If you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Have a great weekend. Talk to you soon.
Ever wonder what a 101 minute Cradle of Filth video would look like?
This is the worst kind of film for me to review. Not because it is bad. Handing me a bad film to review is like handing Jason Voorhees a half dozen college students on a spring break camping trip (Crystal Lake shirt from the Horror Movie T Shirt category). Two hours later and I am cleaning blood off my machete with a warm, satisfied feeling in my stomach. No, this film is tough for me to review because I am actually a fan of Rob Zombie.
It’s true. I like his music, and some of his films are amazing. House of 1000 Corpses and the Devil’s Rejects are horror classics. It’s to the point that as I arrived in the theater I already had the first two glowing paragraphs of this review written out in my head once this film turned out to be amazing (or even adequate).
Time makes fools of us all however, and in this case the amount of time is 101 minutes. I spent most of that time waiting for anything to happen. Ever take a long road trip and find yourself running low on gas? Ever do that and hit one of those weird stretches of highway where they don’t apparently believe in gas stations (hello West Texas) and as you approach each exit you desperately hope that you will see a Unocal or Mobil sign? Your desperation and eagerness increases with each passed exit until finally you end the movie parked at the side of the road on a desolate two lane highway with nothing but coyotes for company.
So it was for this film. Rob can definitely build atmosphere, and when it comes to horror foreplay he is a master. The problem is every time the build up reached the point where something, anything interesting had to happen it would stop with a screeching jump cut, leaving the audience with the equivalent of movie viewer blue balls. Even in the few scenes where something happens inevitably end up being dreams or hallucinations of some kind. I would like to say that having the main character wake up in a cold sweat after a vividly horrible dream is a cool movie tool to help establish otherwise intangible plot points. However, it should not be used to cover 1/3rd of the scenes. It became so standard during the course of this film that in the final scene where something actually was happening I kept waiting for the main character to wake up yet again.
This is why the film felt more like a Satanic rock video than a film. It is chock full of creepy Satanic images and hallucinations from deep in Charles Manson’s subconscious but lacking in anything really scary or disturbing. The whole thing felt like Rob Zombie messing around on his home editing system, putting together a video of some anti-Christian footage that his friends might enjoy while half drunk but not really for public consumption. Very self indulgent, and given that he cast his wife as the main character and a bunch of his friends as supporting characters I’d say that is an apt description. The whole time I was watching I felt the same burning desire for a fast forward button that I felt while watching Terence Malicks Tree of Life. I know Rob intended this film to be a tribute to the Shining but he more closely parallels Malicks film style, only without the Christian overtones.
The story, I guess. Sheri Moon Zombie (the Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses, Grindhouse) plays Heidi Hawthorne, part of a three man late night DJ team that looks like Rob learned a lot from his interviews on the Howard Stern Show (I actually listened to his last appearance on that show and he pretty much says that is where the inspiration came from). She and her fellow DJs Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips-Faster, Hide, Unknown) and Herman (Ken Foree-Dawn of the Dead, the Devil’s Rejects, Water for Elephants) interview Francis Mathias (Bruce Davison-X-Men, Harry and the Hendersons, Short Cuts) the author of a book on the Salem Witch Trials. That night Heidi has a record delivered to her in a wooden box that screams Necronomicon from a band called the Lords. She plays it and begins to hallucinate about witches. The next night she plays it on the air and a bunch of women in the town of Salem are more or less possessed.
At that point things kind of mosey down the road with not much happening. Every ten minutes another amazing scene is set up and seems to be leading to something that could be considered a plot point or pivotal moment, but just as you think something is about to happen Heidi wakes up. A lot of Satanic and anti-Christian messages and images are use. The witches burned (for the record, no witches were burned in Salem. They were all hung. I’m not saying that makes us any more civil than Europe. I’m just a stickler for historical accuracy) are trying to come back and want Heidi to be their vessel from which Lucifer (or something) will be born. Heidi’s landlady and her creepy sisters (Dee Wallace-E.T. the Extraterrestrial, the Howling, Critters Patrical Quinn-the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment, The Meaning of Life Judy Gleeson-Gilmore Girls, Spanish Fly, the Duke) are working together to make this happen and at one point beat Francois to death with a frying pan (closest thing to exciting as this film gets, honestly). Religious images are shown over and over again and laughable Satanic verse is spoken in a voice that makes monster truck announcers sound serious.
If you have an axe to grind against Christianity and love Satan then this is the movie for you. You can’t say Rob Zombie doesn’t deliver a message. One star. He does create good atmospheres. One star. His wife is pretty damned hot in the scenes where she isn’t looking like a strung out drug user. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes:
No real horror to speak of, nothing scary, and nothing happens. One black hole. The story is about as solid as a soggy corn flake and more or less serves to connect Rob’s images together. One black hole. The course of the entire film is like a beach ball with a BB hole in it, leaking air and finally ending with a vague fart sound and a quiet settling. One black hole. At no point in the film to you get an idea of what the evil plan is or even who the villain is. No antagonist to speak of, and when the plan is finally unveiled you still don’t know what the hell is going on or why you should care. One black hole. I don’t think playing a subdued character is Sheri Moon Zombie’s forte. Furthermore I felt no interest in her character or any kind of connection whatsoever other than she was hot (or any of the other characters for that matter). One black hole. Given the number of times I have bitched about rater R movies that avoid nudity this is weird for me to say, but there is a lot of nudity in this film but with very few exceptions (Sheri being all of them) you will truly regret having seen them. Some things watched can’t be unwatched. One black hole. It’s honestly hard to take Satanic rhetoric seriously. They have all the issues that Christian rhetoric has except that it just sounds silly (if you have ever listened to an Anton Levey interview you know what I mean). I mean, worshiping Satan means you actually believe in the Christian pantheon but are going to go with the guy who will burn you in everlasting fire. One black hole. It’s rare that I have to say this since I usually find something to entertain myself with but as I left the theater I really felt like I had wasted my time. Two black holes. Total: nine black holes.
So a grand total of six black holes. To be honest I was more than generous in my stars and reticent in my black holes. If I weren’t a Zombie fan I would have probably unloaded my black hole shotgun into this movies face and the closest thing to a star I could have found would have been that it was filmed in English. Sorry dude. I honestly hope your next film recaptures some of the magic of your earlier films, or at least has something happen somewhere in the film. Should you see it? Honestly probably not. If you are a Rob Zombie fan I think you will get more from renting the Devil’s Rejects. If you do go see it load up on Strawberry Mojitos at the Applebees down the street beforehand. This movie will look a lot better if you are plastered. Date movie? If I recommend you don’t go see this film there shouldn’t be any kind of logical process that would lead you to taking a date to it unless you secretly hate all women and see dating as your opportunity to punish them all for not being your mom. Bathroom break? There isn’t a single scene of this film (including the “climax”) that you couldn’t easily miss without losing a thing from your movie experience. Cut out, drop a deuce, smoke a cigarette, run back to Applebees to recharge your alcohol battery, and come back in time for the ending credits. Using your imagination while listening to to the post movie fake newscast might just make for a good time.
I always feel dirty after dumping on a movie by someone I like. Why can’t McG come out with something? Wrecking his movies is not only fun but I feel like I am performing a public service. Sigh. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to comment on this film or my review below. Off topic questions or suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon.
There is a plague in Hollywood and I’m not just talking about the ugly trend in remaking old movies into crappy new ones. I’m talking about the inclination towards “design by committee” movie making. One person has an idea and starts writing but by the time the director, producer(s), executive producer(s), stars, DOP, score composer, key grip, assorted wannabe movie making PAs, and the catering guy all contribute the actual original vision of a beautiful masterpiece is beaten down into a misshapen but relatively safe (from a financial point of view) movie like lump. If you have ever taught grade school and hung a big piece of butcher paper up for the entire class to do a beautiful mural you know exactly what I am talking about. Inevitably you get some pretty flowers, a rainbow, some horses (or unicorns), a black scrawl, some stick figures shooting other stick figures, something on fire, a swastika, and at least one penis.
(This, by the way, is how Hollywood cowardly hides from blame. If something were designed by committee then no one person is to blame for a flop failure. Of course this means no one gets the total credit for a massive success, but most people don’t have the sack to take that kind of chance. Also the Ash image is courtesy of the Horror Movie T Shirt.)
The point is this movie is the opposite of design by committee. Granted it was written by Fede Alvarez and produced by the great Sam Raime and Bruce Campbell, but it is clear they all shared a similar vision of what they wanted to do. Blood, guts, and terror. There was no extra message about saving the environment some parent wanted to shove in. The sole survivor was not the introverted nerd that no one liked, nor was it the sexy cheerleader with an inner psyche of hardened steel to show young ladies that they can compete in a mans (horror) world if they just have enough self esteem. There was nothing to distract the audience from the vision of gross gore, agonizing pain, and sphincter clenching fear. If this movie and another person wanted to tell you that they hated you the person would send a strongly worded email or possibly a burning bag of dog poo on your doorstep while this film would call in a tactical nuclear strike. No room for misinterpretation.
I suppose I should address the question of whether or not this is a cheesy remake like Footloose or Red Dawn. The fact is the Evil Dead 2 (one of the greatest, most flawless horror movies ever) was not a sequel to the first Evil Dead and was in fact a remake using the same set and actors. If you look at it like that technically this is a remake, but because it actually follows in the Sam Raime tradition and has brought some new ideas and production values I am going to laud this remake rather than pan it (that means I like it to those of you who don’t know what laud or pan mean). Very well done.
The devil is in the details and this movie got the details right. In case you were wondering the Sam Raime Classic (a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88) did manage to make it into the film, as did the shotgun and of course the Necronomicon. The cabin is still the same: somehow bigger on the inside than the outside, vaguely skull like in appearance, gigantic super creepy basement with locking trap door, and a side cabin filled with every tool possible for potential mayhem. They got rid of the animal heads on the wall and the bridge was replaced by a flooded stream, but watching this film felt in many ways like coming home (read what you will about my childhood from that statement). The only things I found off putting were stuff I wanted to see from the original film (like the fact that the demon camera no longer sounds and moves like a remote control biplane), but honestly this film has more than enough to make up for what is missing.
I’m not going to call this film flawless. There are plot holes and technical errors that in a lesser movie I would have happily used as an excuse to push it down a well. For the record a nail gun needs to be hooked up to a source of compress air in order to fire, and if you think you you can shock someone back to life with a car battery and some loose junk you found in a shed you can go ahead and stop filling out your medical school applications now. The plot is pretty predictable and the surprise twist at the end was pretty much expected. However, I was so enjoying the film that my suspension of disbelief had the power to believe that nails shoot straight like little bullets. Thus we see how a good movie can make up for minor errors.
The story you should all know if you plan to see this movie. A tertiary excuse to go to an old cabin is found (in this case it’s to help a girl (Jane Levy-Suburgatory, Fun Sized, Nobody Walks) get off drugs cold turkey). The girl Mia, her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez-Red Rding Hood, Dead Girl, Red), his hot girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore-the Road Home, Burning Man, Legend of the Seeker), his childhood friend Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci-Carriers, Beginners, Horsemen), and his super hot nurse girlfriend Olivia (Jessica Lucas-Cloverfield, She’s the Man, Psych) all settle in for a safe, uneventful weekend of withdrawal symptoms in a creepy cabin in a swamp. In spite of the fact that his family seems to own the cabin David is surprised to find an even creepier basement full of dead cats. They find the Necronomicon and Eric shows how smart he is by deciphering part of it and reading The Passage.
At that part the film is pretty much over except for the blood. We all know how it will go from there, and if you don’t I don’t know why you are reading this. Horrible things happen to beautiful people. Plot gives way for wonderful gore. Stuff referencing the first movie shows up here with good special effects.
Duh. Evil Dead movie. Three stars. Amazing gore and camera work. Two stars. A bonus star for the fact that there was no CGI at all in this film. All physical effects, which is a lost art that I appreciate. One star. All the details were right. One star. The three girls were easy on the eyes, although after the first 20 minutes they are all so covered in blood and filth you kind of lose any attraction to them. One star. For the most part most of the characters acted in a manner that didn’t drive me nuts from stupidity (although I might have bugged out when I found all the dead cats, I probably would have laid hold of the shotgun at the first part sign of trouble and not put it down to pee, and I definitely would not have read from the Necronomicon after getting about 100 messages that doing so was a bad idea). One star. There was actually some good chemistry between cast members and the acting was decent. Everyone seemed to know how to act terrified at least. One star. A singular function of purpose that seems lacking in most modern movies. One star. Total: eleven stars.
The black holes.
Sigh. I wish I could skip this part, but I would lose credibility with you, my beloved readers, as well as myself if I didn’t ding this film for the stuff I noticed just because I am a rabid fan. There were definitely some plot holes waving flags and yelling “Look at me! Look at me!”. One black hole. I’m going to give another black hole for the homemade defibrillator. The one girl was a nurse. Was it so hard to imagine she might have a first aid kit with an AED in it? Also defibrillation is only done in conjunction with CPR. One black hole. I watched the Evil Dead panel at Wonder Con and got the real feeling that the cast and director all became friends while filming, but I can’t not give a black hole for a rated R (extreme side of R if you know what I mean) and not have any nudity in it. This is why officers do not become friends with the enlisted men. One black hole. Pacing was good, but I feel a little ripped off for the film only going 91 minutes. Of course the first one was 85 minutes, so take this one as you will. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A grand total of seven stars. If you are a fan of horror or the Evil Dead this film is an absolute must see. If not you will literally be horrified by the gore and a lot of the concepts that were established in the earlier movies (tree scene, etc.). As a fan of the Evil Dead I see this as a fitting tribute and am very glad I saw it. Date movie? If she has a love of these films absolutely. If not you will never get a call back from her again. Be sure you know where she stands before taking her to this, and keep in mind that sometimes girls will say they like something just to try to develop a connection with you (in other words, if she doesn’t bring this movie up don’t even suggest it). Bathroom break? No way. Hold it. There aren’t any scenes integral to the plot that you must see (plot is tertiary at best after the first half hour) but there isn’t a blood soaked moment you won’t regret missing. Cross your legs.
Thanks for reading. More to see soon. I saw Admitted and will write it up, but am not really excited to do so. Kind of middle of the road. Follow me on Twitter (please. My numbers are pathetic) @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this film or my review can be left right here. If you have off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.