The Shape of Water (2017) Review 

     Director Guillermo Del Toro has always been an astonishing visual director, even when it comes to a few of his lesser films. Even then the man has had a love for everything horror and fantasy, but even then there has always been a subtle fairy tale quality to his work. The Shape of Water not only embraces these attributes, they have come together to bring a different type of film that is clearly one of his most personal movies. 

     In 1960s America, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman working at a government facility with her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) when an amphibious creature (Doug Jones) is brought in for experiments overseen by Dr. Hoffstetler (David Stahlbarg). Elisa and the creature form a deep bond that is threatened by Agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) and his need to protect America. 

     Let me get this out of the way and say that it’s pretty obvious that this is just Del Toro’s version of the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon. Of course, it’s much more lyrical, even poetic than the earlier film. Even though the movie takes place in a bygone era of America, it feels like an entirely different world. The color schemes, with their hues of greens and blues, come off as a fairy tale. Even the musical score by Alexandre Desplat just reinforces the point, almost like something out of a French New Wave film. 

     If Sally Hawkins, and Octavia Spencer for that matter, don’t get Oscar nominations for their work, then clearly fantasy horror have no place at the Oscars. Hawkins has to give a performance entirely in pantomime, and has to rely on just her face and body movements to convey her emotions. Trust me, this is fucking hard to pull off and Hawkins makes it seem way too easy, she’s so good in this. Even Doug Jones underneath all that make-up gives such emotions, the chemistry between the two actors is better than most big budget movies that have tackled a similar romance. 

     Spencer manages to take an almost thankless role and gives depth to emotion to a woman who’s living at the height of the civil rights movement. Through the vile character of Strickland, Del Toro manages to touch on the issues of racism and sexism without getting preachy, but enhances the themes of isolation and rejection, even within our own civilization. 

     Del Toro has crafted a deeply personal work of art here, one that, yes, does pay homage to old school monster movies but that has its own qualities, it’s own take on the outcast monster story that we all grew up on in some form or another. It is just without question that this is one of the best films of the year, and needs to be seen. 


Stranger Things 2 (2017) Review

     Now that I’ve let this second installment of Stranger Things sink in, I’ve come to realize that the show made an 80s reference that might have escaped some; that the sequel is better than the original. The stakes are higher, the character development more pronounced, the overall story more satisfying. Oh and the budget is larger. That’s totally an 80s thing. 

     It’s been a year since the events of Stranger Things and everybody has more or less moved on with their lives. Will (Noah Schnapp) is still recovering from the Upside Down, Joyce (Winona Ryder) has a new guy in her life, Bob (Sean Astin), Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is still holding out hope that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is still alive somewhere. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Calab McLaughlin) are vying for the affection of the new girl in town, and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is still with Steve (Joe Keery). Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) is still pinning for Nancy. Hopper (David Harbour) is hiding a secret for everyone else’s good. 

     This is just the bare minimum set up for Stranger Things 2 everything else unfolds at a breakneck speed that can cause you to binge the shit out of it. I took my time and let it breathe so I could absorb the themes and references that the show is making. 

     The casting of Sean Astin as Bob is a stroke of genius because of the fact that he played Mikey in the 80s classic The Goonies. And I have to say that that man is the real MVP. He managed to take a character that could’ve been so annoying, but instead made him funny, warm, and even sympathetic. You usually don’t have characters like this in sequels typically. 

     What the Duffer Brothers have manage to realize in the horror genre is that symbolism and metaphor are aplenty. The love triangle between Dustin, Lucas, and Max (Sadie Sink) is something so embedded into the tribulations of growing up. Every person in school, no matter what age, has been through that. The show always excels when dealing with real issues amongst pure supernatural terror. 

     This season is at its core, about growing up and the confusion that brings; who we are, and how the world works (a theme heavily played up in the much mangled 7th chapter). There really isn’t any lulls in the episodes, but I don’t imagine anyone just jumping in at this point. The first season is mandatory. 

     There’s a lot to dissect and pick a part here, but that will arrive in do time. Everything is on point for this season and its still a fun ride to experience. 


Happy Death Day (2017) Review

     It’s difficult to find a fun horror movie nowadays. Yes, a horror movie is supposed to scare you, but you’re also supposed to enjoy it. Kind of like a rollercoaster. Happy Death Day has the right mix of jump scares, but it also has an enjoyment factor that is lacking from modern day horror flicks. 

     College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in a dorm room belonging to Carter (Israel Broussard) and high tails it out of there. Later that night, which is also her birthday, on her way back to her dorm she gets murdered by a masked killer. 

     And then wakes up back in Carter’s dorm, repeating the day. Getting murdered. Again. Repeat. She realizes that to stop the loop she has to find out who keeps killing her, or be trapped dying forever. 

     Alright, let’s not kid ourselves, this is Groundhog Day but with a slasher. And that’s completely fine. It’s a fresher take on an old troupe, and you unexpectedly get sucked into the story. The story thrives on the misdirection that having the events repeat themselves entails. 

     You would think that having a gimmicky premise would mean that the characters don’t mean shit, and some don’t, but Rothe’s performance as Tree is the backbone of the entire movie. If you don’t give a shit about her situation then the movie becomes a waste. But I did end up caring about her. She starts off conceited and self absorbed, and then realizes the value in her actions. Like Bill Murray in Groundhogs Day. 

     By the climax of the flick, I genuinely found myself caring about her situation, and I wanted her to succeed. It just felt great to see a horror movie that I rooted for the protagonist, while still laughing and being enthralled in the narrative. Its a simple film that achieves so much more that it needs to. 


So the Halloween Franchise is basically a Choose Your Adventure Series Now. 

     So now that I am finally able to digest the fact that original Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis is returning once again to Haddenfield, I’m able to finally get excited that my favorite horror series is back after a scant 9 year absence. No biggie. 

     What is a biggie though is that series co-creator John Carpenter said not to long ago that this latest entry will disregard everything that came after the original Halloween. Yes, this is a growing trend in horror now, but Halloween has actually done this before. Multiple times to be honest. There are so many timelines to this series you can legitimately pick where you want the fate of Michael Myers to end up. Let me guide you around this fun mess: 

Timeline A: Halloween (1978) & Halloween II (1981)

     Considering the fact that Halloween II (1981) picks right up from where the first one left off and that this movie was meant to be the end of the Michael Myers storyline, I’ve included it as its own timeline even though all the sequels featuring Myers do acknowledge this one. It also famously establishes that Michael and Curtis’ characters are in fact brother and sister. It became the foundation for all of the sequels that followed. 

Timeline B: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

     Also known as the “Jamie Lloyd Trilogy” these three movie have Myers waking up from a coma and going after Laurie’s daughter, his niece. This eventually leads to the whole Cult of Thorn storyline that attempts to explains Michael’s evil, but it literally ends up being a mess. 

Timeline C: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

     Halloween H20 was the first film to disregard a timeline, mainly films 4-6, and it’s ok if you stick with H20 but no. They had to do Resurrection and its a vile worthless piece of shit of a movie. Watch it if you want, I don’t have shit else to say about it. 

Timeline D: Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

     The infamous Rob Zombie movies. Here the slate was completely wiped clean and he did his own thing. While I don’t agree with every single thing that he did with his take, at least this has an end. With an actual sense of finality, there is a fucked up sense of closure. 

     Now with the new Halloween coming out next year being touted as ignoring all the other films, including the 1981 Part II which timelines B and C acknowledge as being canon, that means a new timeline that has Laurie and Michael not being brother and sister at all. Which means its back to basics for Myers, who’s back to being a force of evil. 

     I suspect that 2018’s Halloween will bring some sort of ending to the series, but either way it’s both sad and exciting that it’s ending. Oh well we can always choose which way the story of the Night He Came Home will end. 

Note: As have maybe noticed that Halloween III: Season of the Witch isn’t included as it doesn’t feature Michael Myers at all. It was an attempt to start an anthology series that quickly fizzled out. It is worth a look though, once you accept the fact that the Shape is absent. 

A (Relative) Ranking of the Friday the 13th Films

     A Friday the 13th in October! Literally, no better time to watch a Friday the 13th movie. The cosmos are just begging you to watch one at this time. But which one? No one’s got time for all of them, so let me help you out and give my subjective, as in this list changes every single year, ranking of the films of Jason Voorhees. 

12. Jason Goes to Hell (1993)

     Good Lord, what a piece of shit. I mean, shit, it goes against everything that the series established at this point. Body swapping? Get the fuck out of here. It’s fucking boring as sin, it just makes me angry. Angry that I wasted my time, that there was someone stupid enough to think that this could pass for entertainment. This ain’t fucking high art here; just have him slash teenager up at a camp. That’s it! Fuck this movie. 

11. Friday the 13th (2009)

     An unpopular choice, but it’s just dull. Like, it’s not fun at all. I hated every character, much less tolerate any of them. These flicks are supposed to be fun, but the movie is shot like a dark, drab photo, and every one takes this shot so seriously. The silliness was part of the charm. It just bums me out to watch this. 

10. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)

     More like Jason Takes a Boat Ride. Only the last 20 minutes or so is Jason in Manhattan, and he doesn’t take anything except our time and good sense. It’s got some good kills, and points for wanting to do something different, but you actually have to fucking do it though. 

9. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

     It’s Carrie vs Jason. That’s it. It’s alright, it just has a shot musical score. It tries to be a little deep, but it’s pretty generic, and the telepathic girl premise can only carry it so fucking far. But Kane Border is Jason in this and that guy’s a legend. 

8. Jason X (2001)

     Alright, it’s Jason in space and that is pretty stupid, but get some friends and booze involved, you’ll have a blast! It knows it’s ridiculous, it has outlandish kills, so it has the fun factor but the special effects are awful. Kind of adds to it to be honest. 

7. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) 

     I actually really dig this one. It goes back to the original formula of being a murder mystery. Tommy Jarvis has always been one of my favorite characters and I love his arc in this one. Shame it didn’t carry over, but it has some silly moments and vicious kills. Fun times. 

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

     Here’s just an excellently made Friday the 13th movie. Completely goes in a gothic style that is pretty fucking cool. There’s an actual sense of atmosphere, and a great sense of humor that doesn’t undercut the horror. Just really good and fun. 

5. Freddy vs Jason (2003)

     Being a fan of both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street how could I not love this. Yeah it spends a lot more time on the Freddy side of things, but I thought both characters were pitted against each other nicely. 

4. Friday the 13th Part II  (1981)

     This is the Burlap Sack Jason. I love that this one uses the Campfire Story troupe. The 80s cheese just adds to it, and the music is just great. Gets your blood pumping. There was an actual attempt at trying to build a mythology around Jason, and that’s just cool. 

3. Friday the 13th Part III (1982)

     Here’s where Jason got the hockey mask for the first time. It has a little more going for it; some fun kills, some melodramatic bikers, some fat dude who likes to pretend he’s dead, it’s got it all. And in 3D…

2. Friday the 13th (1980)

     The one that started it all. This is just a good slasher flick. The filmmakers are actually trying to make a good movie here, and they do. Violence, nudity, and stupidity just complete the package. If you don’t know the twist at the end, then watch it because everyone knows this shit by now. The idea one to watch on an actual Friday the 13th. 

1. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

     This is obviously not the “final” of anything, but it should’ve been. The flick that introduces Tommy Jarvis, who’s a 12 year old kid, gives the flick this sense of completion. Yeah there’s a lot of gratuitous sex and violence, but it’s the right amount. It just screams 80s in everything from the acting style to the costumes. It’s the one I revisit the most, and have a good time with. It’s a perfect representation of the series as a whole. 

     So there you have it, my very quick take on the merits of each installment. All have their good qualities that anyone can find their fun in. Except Jason Goes to Hell. Fuck that movie. Asshole of a movie. 

Leatherface (2017) Review

     I’ve always had a bit of a volatile relationship with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series. Although the first film is an endurance of horror neo realism the sequels have, well, been lacking sort to speak. Now we have the newest prequel, and second film to be called, Leatherface that attempts to answer questions that at least I wasn’t asking. 

     The Sawyer clan lead by Verna (Lili Taylor) has been broken up by the police lead by Sheriff Hartman (Stephen Dorff) after not being able to prove that they killed his daughter. So 10 years later, Verna attempts to get her children back from the mental institution, four inmates have escaped with a new nurse (Vanessa Grasse) and go on a rampage. 

     You’re probably wondering, “Wasn’t there already a prequel literally called The Beginning?”  Yes. Yes there fucking was, but that was to the shit remake from 2003. This one is a prequel to the continuity established by Texas Chainsaw 3D. Pretty much just the first film and the aforementioned film. 

     Alright, now that I needlessly cleared that up, to the film itself. It’s alright. I mean it has it’s flaws like painfully underdeveloped characters, some way over the top acting, and dialogue that would make Tommy Wiseau proud. Some can be forgiven for just being the trappings of what the fimmakers believe to be of the genre, but you can aim higher though. Just a little bit higher. 

     Lili Taylor though is a gem of an underrated actress, always has been. She would always play soft spoken vulnerable characters but here as the matriarch of the Sawyers she plays the exact opposite of that, and its pretty damn cool to see her do something different. I just wished it focused more on her character instead of the dipshit roadtrip from hell storyline. 

     The cool saving grace from said storyline is that out of the the male characters, you really can’t be sure who Leatherface actually is. Since he was a minor when taken, he was given a different name. And while the filmmakers have fun with this, there do sneak in some dirty pool thinking they’re clever. Once the reveal comes though, the film becomes interesting again. 

     This shot at a prequel is way more successful than the last time, when I almost renounced my love of horror films because it was that much of a steaming pile of horse shit. The reveal of how Leatherface got his mask was actually given some weight, and I thought it was cool and a little sad. I guess I should give up on the fact that this series isn’t going to go back to the original’s style of having a lack of gore and high amount of tension. It makes me a little sad, but hey at least I didn’t give up the will to live after seeing this prequel, so good job?

Cult of Chucky (2017) Review

     We’re seven films in, and 29 years later, into a franchise that many folks have all but forgotten. Chucky has always been a part of my childhood, and lead me to an intense distrust of dolls, that through the highs and lows I always stuck by him. Friends till the end, right?

     Following the events of the previous movie Curse of Chucky, this new installment titled Cult of Chucky, sees Nica (Fiona Dourif) locked up in a mental institution having been framed for murders that Chucky (Brad Dourif) committed. With the doll making his way through the asylum, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) makes his way to put a stop to Chucky’s reign of terror. 

     Seven films. Seven fucking films into a horror franchise about a homicidal doll should be this fucking unique and refreshing. I know a lot of you wrote the series off by now, but this goes into some uncharted territory. It plays up the mystery angle again, like the first one and Curse to be fair, and it creates some tension. Again, this is part 7! It absolutely works! Somehow it made it work!

     The film can’t help but falls into some standard clichés that are trapping of the genre, like you know who’s going to die, or who’s a villainous character, all that stuff. But the film is smart enough to realize that, and just embraces its trappings instead of being embarrassed by them. 

     The smartest thing Cult manages to pull off that the humor of the film has to come from Chucky himself, not the other characters. Rather the cheesy humor that put a lot of people off of entries like Bride of Chucky. It juxtaposes itself incredibly against the unbelievable amount of gore. Its been awhile since I saw a horror movie just love its buckets of blood. 

     The genius part of the movie comes in the third act that I can’t bare to reveal because I don’t want to rob you guys of the sheer lunacy that it has. But if you put thought into what the film shows you, then holy shit is it ever terrifying (while also laughing my ass off, not going to lie). If you’re at all a fan of Chucky, then you owe it to yourself to see this one. I know I already can’t wait for the next one. 


Gerald’s Game (2017) Review

     Stephen King to me has always worked best when he deals with real life terrors than his supernatural ones. Gerald’s Game deals with some truly disturbing horrors that will make many people squirm, and that is what King has always excelled at. 

     Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) take a trip up to theor cabin in the middle of the woods to spice up their marriage. During a kinky bout of role playing, Gerald has a heart attack while Jessie is handcuffed to the bed out of reach of the key. When delusion starts to set in, she starts to confront the demons of her past.

     As far as Stephen King stories go, this is one of his darkest, unique tales. Basically, to a certain extent, this is Gugino’s show. And I have to say it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen all year. You see the exhaustion in her face, the desperation she must be going through. Gugino is one of the few actresses that can play determination yet still be vulnerable. Its just compelling to watch. 

     The film does utilize some flashbacks that reveal the true nature of her torment, and it’s the most difficult thing to sit through. Henry Thomas, who plays her father in these flashbacks, gives a chilling performance that demonstrates the extent of evil. Director Mike Flanagan recognizes that in order to make horror effective for audiences is to recognize the characters as actual human beings, which in this case, makes the movie work. 

     Yes, Gerald’s Game not for everyone, and the ending does come off a tad bit forced, but the agonizing journey that Jessie experiences is cathartic, and incredibly tense and you’ll feel a relief when its over. And that has always been to me the most amazing thing about horror films. Truly, one of the best films of the year, not just for horror fans, but for everyone who sees it. 

Top 5 Non-Horror Stephen King Films

     In honor of horror novelist Stephen King’s birthday, I spent some time putting together the best non-supernatural stories that he had written. Some completely underrated, some that are obvious, and some that will surprise you. So starting with…

5. Apt Pupil

     The story of a boy (Brad Renfro) who finds out that his old neighbor (Ian McKellen) is a Nazi war criminal and blackmails him into telling him stories of the atrocities that he committed which begins to affect the boy. 

     This is one of those “tough to watch” films in that the horrible shit discussed is rooted in such a real life evil. You see this boy decend into evil, while the Nazi begins to take delight in the influence that he has over him. The ending of the film (changed from the novella) speaks volumes about the corruption of the human soul, and the reaction of the character played by David Schwimmer (yes, that guy) is the devastating reaction that any decent human being would have. True monsters can be human sometimes. 

4. Secret Window

     The story about a writer (Johnny Depp) getting over a divorce, trying to write a novel to get over his troubles. But one day he is greeted at the door by a stranger (John Turturro) who claims that the man stole his story. 

     Here’s a movie that was sadly overshadowed by its somewhat predictable ending, but the journey leading up to it is nothing short of compelling. Depp gives one of those now rare performances where he is subtle, and calm. The backstory of how he ended up getting divorced is heartbreaking, and the discovery of all that stays with you. Especially once you realize what the title truly means. 

3. Dolores Claiborne

      An old woman dies under the care of housekeeper Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates), leading her to be the prime suspect in her alleged murder. When her daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) comes back into town, the truth starts to rear its ugly head. 

     If there is one movie on this list that more people need to see, it’s this one. Jesus Christ, is everything on point in this film, from the acting to the writing to the direction, just everything. But I do have to warn you folks, that the truth revealed is ugly as fuck. I mean, Stephen King doesn’t fuck around here. It made me uncomfortable, but it made me see things in an entirely different light, and that good and evil are not so black and white. 

2. Stand By Me

     A dramatic tale of a writer reminiscing about the one summer where he and his three friends went on a trek into the woods to find the dead body of a boy their age. 

     Yes, Stephen King wrote this one. This has been hailed as the ultimate coming of age movie, and they’re not wrong. Everything in the movie feels so true, so genuine, like a long ago memory. This is the prime example of King’s focus on characters over plot. It feels like you’re hanging out with these kids. The sad thing is the movie gets more difficult to watch as you get older; it’s a beautifully bittersweet reminder of those carefree summers. 

1. The Shawshank Redemption

     The now classic story of prison inmates Red (Morgan Freeman) and Andy (Tim Robbins) and the bond they form over the years at Shawshank Penitentiary. 

     Maybe along with Stand By Me, nothing gets a more shocked reaction that this was written by Stephen King. The movie is just a drama; no creatures or superpowers in the mix, just the story of trying to live in prison. To me, there is no better life affirming film than this one. Hell I’m getting teary eyed as I’m writing this. I think back to this movie, and I think of the characters as my friends. Sorry, just thinking about the ending. The happiest ending that you’ll ever see in film, and the one movie that proves beyond all measure that hope is the best of things. I can never recommend a movie highly enough. 

     So there you have it, some movies that prove that Stephen King is not just about the supernatural. The man is a master storyteller, and these flicks are some of the best movies ever made. Give yourself a treat, and watch them. 

Mr. Mercedes: A Different Type of Stephen King Horror 

     Stephen King has been enjoying this bit of a resurgence lately, with It recently breaking box office records. Even though thw man has been known for his tale of the supernatural macabre, he does manage to find new ways to horrify you; and Mr. Mercedes is just that new flavor to get a taste of. 

     During a job fair, a man driving a Mercedes plows his way through the crowd injuring and killing many including a young mother and her infant child. Bill Hodges (Brendan Gleeson) was assigned to the case but was never able to locate the killer. Two years later, now retired, Bill begins to receive messages from the killer (Harry Treadaway) taunting him, goading him to kill himself. He just didn’t count on one thing: Bill starts to fight back. 

     I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Stephen King story that has both the elements of noir along with that of a cat and mouse game. As of this writing there have been 6 episodes (out of ten) and there is nothing supernatural about. Just the ugly depravity of human nature.

     The best thing about Mr. Mercedes is that it is a series so the characters are allowed to flourish under the episodic nature of television. Gleeson’s Hodges is a man broken, haunted by his failure to not only capture the Mercedes killer, but to keep his family together. The most shocking thing, as it were, about the series is that from the first episode we the audience know who the killer is. Treadaway’s Brady has that creepy vibe, but you can tell that he doesn’t want to be that way. Because of his introverted ways, he gets stepped on by his boss and mother, causing him to pursue a twisted sense of righteousness.  

     The series dives into some truly disturbing elements and images that will turn some people off, like the aforementioned job fair scene, but the quiet nature of the game that these to men are playing is just to juicy to pass up. These men have given themselves a perverted sense of purpose towards each other, and it’s only going to get worse for the both of them from here. 

     This time Stephen King has shown us that the monsters we should be frightened of don’t live in the sewers, but the ones that could live next door to us.