Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What I Watched in October


SICARIO is a sharp, well acted and tense crime thriller that focuses on its subject at an oblique angle. That subject is the American drug war and the methods that have grown up in various law enforcement departments to wage this battle. The film details the heavy toll on human life which is examined in arch detail with three characters in different stages of descent through the levels of the Hell that this war creates.  Emily Blunt is a young police officer given a career opportunity to work with what she thinks is a Department of Defense agent to take out a major Mexican drug lord. Josh Brolin plays the DOD agent hiding his true place in the government to circumvent international law in his quest to stamp out these criminal organizations. Benicio Del Toro is a shadowy associate of the supposed DOD agent who seems to have a set of skills and a task that only incidentally connects with the crime fighting operation he is a part of. This is a fascinating film that refuses to spoon feed its audience in the same way it refuses to offer up answers to the hideous problems it depicts. In a better world there would be more crime movies made of this caliber.


SINISTER 2 is a stronger than expected follow up to the original film that takes a minor character and expands things in a smart and effective way. As the finale of the first film revealed that this series is a part of the 'evil children' sub-genre this new tale uses that knowledge to set things up for the audience but then pulls a nice surprise as the horror ramps up. The movie boasts creepy atmosphere, a good pace and good performances even from the child actors. It's not going to make any converts to the cause but it is a solid modern horror entry and I'm happy to have this series' monster added to the gallery of big screen bogeymen.


Much has already been written about Guillermo Del Toro's latest film CRIMSON PEAK and I'll just say that I cannot understand some of the criticisms I've read online about the movie. (The most inane is the review I read that spelled out the author's disappointment because she thought the film was going to be about immortals feasting on the blood of a fresh bride! WTF?) This is exactly the kind of film I expected from del Toro - gothic, ghostly, creepy, beautiful and dark. This is a movie that wears its influences on its sleeve but does so in such a natural way that those unaware of the classic films being homaged need not notice. This is a movie that luxuriates in its own sumptuous colors and detail using the intricate set design to please our eyes as it also slowly reveals the true nature of the characters that inhabit the dank, rotting structure at the heart of the story. There are indeed horrible things in the basement as well as secrets hidden in the attic just like any good gothic mansion. Del Toro could go on making movies like this for the next twenty years and I would be a happy cinema fan.


I went to see THE LAST WITCH HUNTER fully expecting it to be a complete disaster. I'm  a big fan of star Vin Diesel as I think he is an actor that knows his skill set and always plays smartly to it in the roles he chooses. I was very happy to find that the script for this movie was actually well constructed and avoided the standard pitfall of most modern films of this type - snark! Yes, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER plays things straight only using humor to describe some of the characters and their relationships. The humor builds understanding of the world of the story instead of breaking the reality of the film. In the post VAN HELSING world this is a rarity with the soon to be released VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN being the latest yuk-fest to take this snarky, jokey path to cheapening the subject of the story being told. Sneering at the genre and its tropes is a poor substitute for cleverness! But I'll climb down from my soapbox and say that THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is a very well done supernatural action film with some effective horror elements woven throughout. The cast is well up to the challenge and the movie put a smile on my face more than once. I would welcome a sequel with more adventures of the team assembled by the end. This is the kind of movie most moviegoers will ignore with a turned up nose but it's exactly the kind I'm glad to see can still get made well - every now and then, anyway. 

The List
ASYLUM (1972)- 8 (rewatch)
TALES OF TERROR (1962)- 8 (rewatch)
PHANTASM II (1988)- 8 (rewatch)
PHANTASM III (1994) - 7 (rewatch)
SICARIO (2015) - 8
THREE THE HARD WAY - 6 (ridiculous but great fun)
SHUTTER (2008)- 5 (OK ghost tale)
A BAY OF BLOOD (1971)- 9 (rewatch)           
DARKNESS FALLS (2003)- 4 (rewatch) (not much going on here)
WITCHBOARD (1985) -6 (rewatch)
PIECES (1983)- 3 (rewatch) (so bad but soooo good!)
THE STUFF (1985)- 7 (rewatch)
SATAN'S BLADE (1984)- 4 (pretty bad slasher)
PRISON (1987)- 8 (solid supernatural horror)
HELLGATE (1989)- 2 (terrible horror effort)
I, MADMAN (1989)- 7 (well done horror fantasy)
DARK PLACES (1973)- 6 (Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Herbert Lom in a pretty good scare story)
THE BEES (1978)- 2 (possibly the worst animal attack film of all time)
SINISTER 2 (2015)- 7 (well done sequel)
CRIMSON PEAK (2015)- 9
ABBOT & COSTELLO MEETS FRANKENSTEIN (1948) - 8 (rewatch)
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)- 8 (hilarious vampire comedy)
CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)- 8 (rewatch)
DARKNESS (2002)- 8 (rewatch)
SORORITY ROW (2009)- 3 (pretty bad remake)
WRONG TURN 2 (20) - 7 (well done sequel!)
THE FINAL TERROR (1983)- 7 (solid backwoods slasher)
TALES OF HALLOWEEN (2015)- 7 (well done anthology)
CTHULU MANSION (1992)- 4 (bad but not as bad as I anticipated)
RATTLERS (1976) -6 (I thought this was solid low budget regional filmmaking)
30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS (2010)- 6 (not bad sequel)
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (Producer's Cut)  (1995)- 3 (terrible)
WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD (20144) - 8 (incredible Australian zombie film)
DIE, SISTER, DIE (1972) - 6 (mild thriller about inheritance in a nasty family)
DRACULA (1931)- 7 (rewatch on the big screen!)
DRACULA (1931) - 8 (rewatch of the Spanish version on the big screen)
HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995) - 3 (rewatch of theatrical edit)
HALLOWEEN (1978 )- 10 (rewatch)
THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015)- 7 


4 comments:

Nick Rentz said...

Rattlers was a pretty good low budget movie. What do you think are some of the best regional films?

Nick Rentz said...

Rattlers was a pretty good low budget movie. What do you think are some of the best regional films?

Rod Barnett said...

Well, the best would probably be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the worst would the same state's Manos, The Hands of Fate! 2000 Maniacs is pretty damned good but Savage Waters is one of the funniest bad movies I've ever seen. Wow! This is a big subject!

Nick Rentz said...

Can't argue over your picks. I didn't know if you had soft spots for Don Dohler films or Boggy Creek or whatever. It is a big topic for sure