Quick-Thoughts: The Night House

Honestly, this movie is worth the price of admission alone just so you can experience what may be the greatest use of a jump scare I’ve witnessed yet. Sound design chads, unite!

In spite of my jump scare comment, The Night House much more leans towards the mystery thriller genre than it does the horror. While the subject matter at hand is quite horrifying in its own right, it’s explored with that same curiosity something such as a Gone Girl (2014) had, and that’s probably going to piss off a chunk of audience members going in with straightforward slash n’ dash expectations. The puzzle piecing here is intriguing enough though even with its psychological confrontations of treacherous realities treading some familiar ground, but it still ultimately pays off with Rebecca Hall’s dominating performance also making up for what ends up accumulating into a needlessly overplayed and blunt finale, almost to a point of ingenuity with the down to earth and cautious dramatic tone of its previous acts; I understand its desire for internal explosion, but it shouldn’t have required the cheap plot tension to go along with it. When there are scares in this film though — especially in that first half — they are shot really REALLY creatively, and you can tell David Bruckner actually gives a s**t about nearly every frame he films. 

I hope for the near future of his career he can join the ranks of an Ari Aster or a Robert Eggers hype train with this whole horror drama renaissance going on if he were to continuously improve on these commendable ambitions. I’m looking forward to seeing his Hellraiser reboot now too. 

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“The Night House” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976)

Screened at Harkins • 2nd Viewing

For nearly three generations, this movie was what people who were being bullied resorted to as their therapy. Hey, trash school systems will do that to ya. This was the GTA of 1976. 

I can’t help but think about the line from the beginning of the movie where Miss Collins says “I knew how they felt; see, the whole thing just made me want to shake her too”, aiming this film’s moral compass at the law of hating and demeaning being more infectious to the human individual than that of loving and comforting. Carrie’s incel of a mother almost destines her to be laughed at; she puts the idea in her head first, which obviously helps encourage the infamous disaster Carrie creates. Hate spreads faster into pure souls than does love, and it’s crucial to understand the danger in that. Recall how Carrie was raised, being taught to distance herself from others and avoid contrasting culture while secondly receiving no love from her own mother to combat the solitude too, inspiring fear of all people which is the weak link that can encourage one to resort to drastic hostility. The more things you look at as “sin”, the more hate you feel for the world; it’s that simple; it’ll eat you alive. Stephen King just decided to make an allegory for this simple yet telling idea. 

Most of Brian De Palma’s composition, color lighting, camerawork, and editing with the slow-mo and split-screening being the highlights of it — seriously, we should bring that s**t back!!! — sort of insinuates to me that King’s story is not likely going to be done any finer cinematically unless you were to REALLY change his story drastically. Yet, I will probably still live through about five crappy remakes of Carrie to come anyhow, but I do hope they can top it regardless.

Verdict: B

“Carrie” is now available to stream on Showtime.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror (1975) – The Unsolvable Tale in His Filmography

2nd Viewing 

Magically you will be removed of your stutter. Magically you will be able to speak plainly. Magically you will be able to speak every word, every letter, with utter truth. You are no longer human, you can now speak your mind with pure conviction. So then, tell us your life with this utter truth, through memories which will undoubtedly lie to you. No, maybe not lie, maybe they are nothing but the truth now, they are objectively the only truth now, the only meaning, and nobody, no scientist nor god, can change that. 

A mind nor a mouth can never speak plainly. “Plainly” will never be seen as “truth” in our vocabulary. There will always be stuttering. 

Tarkovsky’s Mirror though knows this. A somehow near perfect, agonizing and confusing bottled-up collage of memory, of nostalgia, of sticking images or of phrases that have become riddles from lost context, of already explored mysteries that can’t be put back together, of possible fantasized dramatizations, and of the unexplainable deja vu, memories that instinctively help us understand the present and our developing beliefs. A man wanders into a mother’s territory, yapping to her about how we do not trust nature enough. A boy in the army acts upon his memory and is shunned for it through the current’s overruling. Some of Tarkovsky’s strongest use of atmosphere resides here, and not just with its chaotic structure between different pasts and newsreel footages, but in the evocation he’s able to extract from even the simplest of natural occurrences that then become intense, things that flee so quickly yet you’re never sure what made them needy enough to want to hold onto in the first place. Something as meaningless as drying water can poetically feel just as limited as a coming death in this world, where the confusion of these parallel feelings for the inevitable is what rattles the screen up with personality and success upon its audience. The endless existential grime lingering behind the film’s historical context also makes Mirror no less puzzling yet ironically comforting, exchanging similarities between characters and real life events that in a way bind us together as if we were one repeated experience happening in ordered harmony. Memories are what cause us to make sense of life, they are the closest things in allowing us to seem destined by nature, whether that destiny remains undefined in our heads. 

Theories are wonderful though, and if I had to put a pin on the main gist of the many ones scattered within Mirror, based on Tarkovsky’s own statements throughout his career, it’d be that this is by a long-shot the most laborious way of saying “sorry, Mom” ever conceived. The movie is clearly interested in attributable lineage of genetic personalities, particularly pertaining to Tarkovsky’s own ego and sensationalism he must have ran conflicting towards others in his own life, something he sees was passed onto him by his own mother; this blame then reveals a secondary layer of recollection though where Tarkovsky’s guilt towards how he has been interpreting memories of his mother becomes a newer appreciation for what she did otherwise, inspiring grief and desperation though for not loving or respecting her as much as he may have back then, resulting in today. The scene where a woman complains about how she wished for a girl, not a boy, to another (allegedly Tarkovsky’s) mother could help explain this. Yet, it’s further obvious that that, if even remotely true, simply can’t be all to the movie when looking at how it attempts to coincide these emotions with the scale of Russia’s own historical context from the war Tarkovsky lived through as a child. The collectiveness of these coinciding incidents lead me to believe there must be some connection between our helmed accomplishments and ruthless catastrophes that are bounded by this similar effect distorted memories can have on them. Maybe memory transcends strict time in this regard, tampering future with its bothering of past, restructuring sequence constantly just as the film has done to itself. Reality functions more like a mirror than it does an unstoppable continuum. 

Evidently, this is the most beautiful mess cinema has ever gifted us with. Literally! Tarkovsky would bring last minute add-ons or changes to the script day to day during production, causing scheduling turmoil and a lack of confidence for his project; the post-production crew could barely assemble the movie together during the editing stage cause even they didn’t know what the f**k was happening with these scenes that were so sporadically coined up by Tarkovsky on the spot from its incomplete script. The content of this project is partially mended by whatever memories spawned from the director during set dramas. Mirror is maybe the most infuriating, demanding movie ever made, yet that’s why so many of us seem to love it; this film moves in feelings for a past that it itself can’t even keep up with, therefore abolishing relevant, controlled logic or chronology unlike any piece of art I’ve consumed before. Yet, that’s exactly what scrolling through nostalgia is, nostalgia that then counteracts regret for what it has only led to in the present one’s relationships and own character, hoping for forgiveness in remembrance and acknowledgement of what it was before according to recollection. 

Damn, that last sentence would’ve made for quite a good transition into Tarkovsky’s 1983 feature if only he hadn’t made Stalker (1979) right after this. How dare he make so many masterpieces inconvenient to my reviewing.

Verdict: A

Andrei Tarkovsky Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Mirror” is now available to purchase from The Criterion Collection.

Quick-Thoughts: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004)

“I call Garth the Orson Welles of horror. And that’s not just because of his weight.” 

There are literally fake actor names used for the fake characters who are being played by real actors in Richard Ayoade’s…umm… Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace: a cozy little retro TV show parody garnished by awkward, inflated dialogue and little background details that add to its intentionally terrible continuity. Demoralizing the inspiration of the artist by ego-stroking their incompetence, this is a satirical take on pseudo-intellectual complexes in the entertainment industry, as well as the media they put out about their supposed genius stars and creators. It does a pretty good job too at making 80s horror/sci-fi/drama aesthetics and tropes that were commonly taken seriously at the time into rather hilarious phenomenons. The concept here however leaves a lot more to be desired from me, but for what it’s worth, Ayoade and crew still did a decent job with the 6 episode limit.

Episode 4 in particular though sums up basically why I get so annoyed when writers treat their audiences like idiots. This show sees it as a joke to hack on classic media, yet it’s quite customary and noticeable in media still. Oh my, is me saying that an irony? Am I being a total pseudo-bitch now too? 

Paul W.S. Anderson better answer to the “techie” joke too. If you know, you know. Yikes to that bulls**t…

Verdict: B-

“Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Don’t Breathe 2

The last line of Don’t Breathe 2 should’ve been, “Rey Skywalker”. If you’ve seen the movie, you know.

To a degree, I can respect this sequel for attempting to top the absurd shock-value twists and turns that partly made its predecessor the talk of the town during its initial release, and while a few of them are genuinely decent as “ideas” in this scheme of reaching for the craziest, they are all just executed horrendously. Somehow the big reveals of this movie, as nutty as some of them are, were unable to shock me as much as how pea brained and of a joke the plot used to express them did. Like, pretty much nothing in this narrative actually makes any sense with the added material it constantly implements throughout its runtime, with almost every following revelation opening up a whole new closet full of story holes.

Watching the desired tension coming from the cat and mouse direction in Don’t Breathe 2 is literally the equivalent to watching a 90 minute Last of Us (2013) gameplay video (if that game were hypothetically boring and stuck on one level) with every character in this movie having that same bugged AI-generated bot logic as the NPCs do, as well as having those near invincible bar levels of health like the user-controlled players do. Also, you know this movie was doomed from the start thinking that they should rely on having literally FIVE (three of which are JUST in the climax) homages to the original Don’t Breathe as if the first one was some cult classic that audience members were dying to see constantly referenced. I mean, that has to be breaking some new world cinema record for shortest time between release date of an original and release date of its cruddy sequel that references its predecessor constantly, right? 

Anyways, if you’re just dying to see the way, way, way more f**ked up version of Logan (2017), now’s your chance.

Verdict: D

2021 Ranked

“Don’t Breathe 2” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Don’t Breathe (2016)

Warning Spoilers Ahead • 3rd Viewing

Bro, they should’ve never gone for that sediment.

Wow, has it really been half a decade already since this came out? I must admit that Don’t Breathe still holds a special place in my heart considering just how ginormous of a thing it was back when I was still in high school. I remember me and my friends, classmates, family being uber curious about where the sequel would head given how open ended the conclusion of it was, assuming that it was on the way soon especially when taking into account how much of a success it was in theaters. Nonetheless, since these five years have passed by with no word of a sequel until now, the hype has pretty much diminished for it at this point. 

Don’t Breathe has some really great concept horror in it. I mean, not only is this a cat and mouse movie about burglars trying to rob a HIGHLY SKILLED BLIND ARMY VET of anything, but from the steroid of a hunting dog to the antagonist’s psychotic equity philosophy, there is an absolute madness of kooky ideas in this film that make it at least more interesting than a lot of the other high-produced modern horror. However, its execution is decent at best given the fairly constant amount of dumb s**t that happens in it, and I’m not talking about that magnificent insanity of a twist for which has been probably the most controversial element about the film to the public, but dumb s**t like a robber’s non-silenced phone ringing off conveniently while Stephen Lang is holding a gun point-blank at two of the characters. This is certainly no Panic Room (2002) when it comes to its intense craftsmanship or what it has to say socially — if it had really anything to say which I’m still deciphering from its half-baked law commentary — but considering this is my third viewing of the film and I still felt engaged by it, that’s impressive enough for me to give the film a pass. Stuff like the dimmed light sequence are still, again, too killer of concept implementations to be turning down this movie as a complete failure. 

But if I’m being frank, I think the selling point of this movie for me will always be the part where Jane Levy shoves a turkey baster full of a rapist’s own cum into his mouth. It never ceases to impress me when it comes to what I may see in movies…

Verdict: B-

“Don’t Breathe” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: John Water’s Pink Flamingos (1972)

Lives up to being the worst thing I’ve ever seen. My journey with film has led me to a whole other dimension of art now. There really is no turning back for my soul. I mean hell, this s**t gives the daring massacrist dark comedy in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and the aggressive celebritizing of serial-killers in Natural Born Killers (1994) a run for their money! Jesus Christ. How am I ever supposed to be a better person after watching this? How am I ever supposed to be at peace with the world after watching this? Do I officially just stop giving a f**k about anything at this point? 

However, I think I’d be feeding my hypocrisy if I decided to give this film a half star simply because I found one scene in particular involving a chicken — if you know, you KNOW — to be excessively graphic, considering I and most the people on this planet eat chicken almost every day for our own pleasures, just as the film had killed one for its own. I simply then can’t see myself to be in a higher position than John Waters like some conceited critics have, and with that said, it’d be bulls**t too for me to condemn what he’s done here as some low bar effort of artistic expression when it’s so earnestly a desensitized reflection of human desperation. Plus, I mean, by the time couches started rejecting the Marble’s I was dying of laughter. This movie works because it is sometimes extremely funny and sometimes extremely upsetting, making it all the more difficult to have a stance on or to further accept, and respectively so as showcasing the taboo should be.  

Everything begins making total sense as we head closer to Pink Flamingos ending though. Whether the film is showing us something as unforgivable as rape and murder in an off-puttingly casual manner, it’s evidently because Waters finds the way real life media has spoken on behalf of such abhorrent crimes as being handled far too off-puttingly casual themselves. He’s pulling back the “cover-up” layers of a time period of profitable publication that didn’t give a f**k about demanding justice issues, rather so pretending like such and such was culturally wrong but never advocating to take it seriously among forgotten victims and movements that were attempting to gain their recognition to actually fight wrongs, wrongs that aren’t legitimately taboo in consideration of how so much of it is hidden in the people around us for the sake of business; it’s easy for everybody to nod their heads and say, “yes, rape is bad”, yet rape culture somehow stays socially prevalent, enlightening on the fact that many people must in their hearts still think of it as some sort of joke just as the film depicts it as in this unusually outspoken world. It’s using a fictional cult culture as a way to mirror ironically both traditional and mainstream ones as nothing less than subtleties of the filthiest things people will do that we appear to despise, as well as absurdism to emphasize how far people are willing to go for self-glory and fame — a topic I have grown unhealthily obsessed with over these past two years in transition with me trying to start my own artistic careers. Pink Flamingos is an oddly amusing movie with some of cinema’s most quotable lines ever that is also sometimes insanely infuriating because it is telling a lot of truths in a lot of so-called “shock-value” exaggerations that did admittedly make me nearly puke once or twice. It also sadly holds relevant to today as well, especially in this mismatched age of internet. 

I wonder what a modern reboot would (and probably will) be like though. Without Divine, I’d say don’t even try. What a performance.

Verdict: B+

“Pink Flamingos” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997)

Yeah, I’d say this movie describes feelings of road rage pretty accurately.

This is a first time watch of a David Lynch movie so you already know I didn’t understand a good chunk of what the f**k just happened, but I imagine that this is supposed to represent having a final glimpse at the dreams you never got to experience before or as you face a soon to come death type of schtick. It seems to circulate this concept around the male fantasy or the glorified excess of how we’d like women to perceive us particularly as a constant necessity. It’s really hard to go any deeper without spoiling the film, so I’ll leave it at that and say though what Lynch has done here once again impressed and lured the hell out of me. It feels a bit like a precursor to Mulholland Drive (2001) as well with its alternating and eventually coexisting structure between reality and fantasy. I also did not expect in the slightest for Rob Zombie-like picks to be making the cut of a David Lynch soundtrack, but if we’re going to amplify the vibes of your stereotypical middle-aged American man who may be sus because of his wannabe-stud mindset, you gotta do what ya gotta do. 

But hey, not everybody can be Johnny Sins. That’s life, man. 

Verdict: B+

David Lynch Ranked

“Lost Highway” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986)

2nd Viewing

“Here’s to your fuck. Cheers.” 

Kyle MacLachlan doing the chicken walk is the cutest s**t I’ve ever seen.

An absolute essential “death of innocence” movie with the tie of the narrative being nothing more than a love triangle between our main character Jeffrey, Dorothy who signifies man’s desire and result of sadism, and Sandy who signifies man’s desire and result of purity. I think it’s fair to say that it almost feels not like Jeffrey is discovering these desires in just the evil that surrounds him, but in his own developing self as an adult, someone who can choose to give into love or harm in his innate sexual gratifications, which luckily though leads to a happy ending of mindful decisions as he battles these inner demons of socially unwarranted sadomasochism, protecting the world from himself by doing so. It truly is a damn shame that this movie didn’t get nominated for best editing, music, and sound design, let alone at least one for Dennis Hopper’s maniac performance as cinema’s greatest infernal urge, all being revolutionary technicalities that set forth Lynch’s renewed style for decades to come. 

Verdict: A

David Lynch Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Blue Velvet” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Nine Days

“I send flowers, and other people send pigs to eat them.”

I love this concept. What if every select few people had their own god who brings them into the world and watches over them, hoping for success, or who knows, maybe some gods are more sinister than others with which souls they choose to pave the world, as if all gods were competing for who could create the best lives. A god by the name of “Will” in this unique universe that first-timer Edson Oda has both written and directed seems to be constantly experimenting with which souls would better the existence of their own lives and not life all around, as if he were their guardian or parent. Will appears to represent your standard god here who begins contemplating if this competitive system of choosing a soul to live is broken and if nobody can truly know an individual through observation or conversation with them as he watches his previous chosen ones’ lives in retrospect and meets a soul self-named Emma who understands this discrepancy between say vs. do. In this case, Nine Days decently replicates the struggle of a god as a creator but also as a character who was once human. I say “decently” however because not only was the resolution to Will’s journey far too superfluous for my taste, but the drawback of this is to blame from the film as a whole having this unpleasant habit to sort of unimaginatively plot out the dramatic conflict he constantly faces with “eye-opening” uber-stereotypical personality types as if he were an amateur experiencing this job for only an eighth or ninth time, which should’ve been established instead to make this story seem more believable. 

Nonetheless, I do at least appreciate the film’s disclosure that some gods would probably play it by a “survival rate” theory rather than a “moral rate” theory, precisely calculating the longevity of existing time an individual would likely have rather than on other factors for which may be worth considering. Strangely enough though, I think Nine Days successfully does what M. Night Shyamalan’s latest Old wanted to accomplish: to make us appreciate life a little more from showing a series of candidates fighting to have one in the first place by proving there worth through toughness and perseverance, something some of us don’t even think we have in the first place, yet, here we live.

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“Nine Days” is now playing in select theaters.