Category Archives: black-comedy

Review: Evil Dead 2

Director(s)Sam Raimi
Principal CastBruce Campbell as Ash Williams
Denise Bixler as Linda
Sarah Berry as Annie Knowby
Release Date1987
Language(s)English
Running Time 84 minutes

If I’d have known how funny Evil Dead 2 was, I’m pretty sure I would’ve watched The Evil Dead a lot earlier. Somehow, Sam Raimi took everything good from the fist movie, removed the unnecessary clutter, slapped in some intriguing retcons, and amped the comedy up by a factor of bonker. The result is a one of a kind sequel that gives fans of the original everything they want and more , while feeling like its own story The scares are more interesting, the turns are completely out of left field, and the movie has a lot more fun with itself.

I knew the movie was going to be weird the moment the first scene started. The movie picks up on a “recap” of the events of the first movie, except this time everyone except Linda is missing. Missing as in Ash doesn’t even mention their existence.In his recounting, Ash explains that he went to the cabin for a romantic get-away with Linda (not the fun group bonding we were told in the first movie). Once there, a similar series of events lead to Dr.Knowby’s tape being played and the evil of the Necronomicon being summoned. Right off the bat, the movie forces the audience to come to its own conclusions. Did Ash experience so much trauma during the first movie, that his mind warped the perception of events to the most painful event he went through? Did burning the Necronomicon at the end of the first movie cause an alternative timeline where everyone else didn’t exist? It’s up to you to decide. After the”recap” concludes, Ash finds himself forced to once again deal with the hijinks of the cabin.

With each passing supernatural phenomena, Ash finds himself slipping, unable to differentiate between real events, his delusions, and the supernatural happenings. His experience and interaction with the world feels surreal. Ash is very clearly is experiencing some kind of trauma . Within the span of a day he’s lost his friends ( who may or may not exist), had to kill his girlfriend, been tossed around by supernatural happenings, experience a litany of physical injuries (many self inflicted through sheer clumsiness), and been incessantly mocked by deadlites. It’s enough to turn anyone bonkers, and Bruce Campbell proficiently demonstrates as much with his absurd and hilarious facial expressions. He constantly moves/messes with his eyes, eyebrows, and forehead making him feel unpredictable and energetic, like a switch has flipped in him that’s caused him to become a loose cannon. He really channels this raw chaotic neutral/good vibe that never slows down.

Ash’s (Bruce Campbell) crazy facial expression.

His descent into madness is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. This is a man who’s clearly lost control in his life. He didn’t sign up for any of this and awful things keep happening at breakneck speed forcing him to constantly fight for his life. Losing your mind on top of dealing with all of these issues sounds like hell, like an infinite void that will never let go. Thankfully, the whole experience comes off as a joke. As Ash loses his mind, he becomes more unhinged and cartoon like, going from a clumsy and sweet goof to bloodthirsty and confident. It’s not that the situations are any less serious. It’s just that the story lets you experience them without falling into some weird nihilism.

Everything you loved about the first movie look and feel wise is here and polished up. Fast paced camera chasing subject through the forest? Check. Chainsaw slashing through deadlite splattering blood everywhere? Check. Bruce Campbell’s eyebrows threatening to fight the enemy by themselves? Also check. The best part is all the effects have gotten even better and more polished. The practical effect work feels even smoother and works seamlessly. Possessions look more crisp and grounded as opposed to just nightmarish. My only issue is that ome of the stop-motion feels a bit choppy in the third act, but that’s a small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

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TLDREvil Dead 2 is honestly just one of those rare sequels that takes an winning formula and fine tunes it to near perfection. The comedic turn the franchise takes gives it a unique flavor and allows its horrifying elements to really shine. If you enjoyed the first movie and want to see more, check this out. It’s one of a kind.
Rating10/10
GradeA+

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Director(s)Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Principal CastTaika Waititi as Viago
Jemaine Clement as Vladislav
Jonathan Brugh as Deacon
Ben Fransham as Petyr
Release Date2014
Language(s)English
Running Time 85 minutes

This mockumentary about vampires is less a horror movie and more a comedy making it the perfect kind of flick to show to friends who despise anything that’s too scary, while keeping with a horror aesthetic. The “documentary” follows a group of four vampires -Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr – as they go through their day to day activities as creatures of the night who have adapted to modern human society.

Each member of the vampire flat is distinctive and funny in their own way. I love how much I can remember about each of their personalities, which is just an indication of how well they’re written out. Viago is responsible, romantic, and the opposite of assertive. His calm personality completely goes against the idea of what we think a vampire is which makes watching him deal with bloodthirsty matters all the funnier. Petyr is a Nosferatu like vampire who’s completely traditional but hangs out with the “youngsters” as an older respected member. Watching his modern interactions with them is cute and endearing. Deacon is rebellious and feels exactly like a teenager who’s spent a bit too much time watching prank videos on YouTube. Watching his take on human pranks with vampire twists keeps the gags fresh and unique. Finally, Vladislav (my favorite) is like a Bram Stoker kind of Dracula, but with a lot of humorous gimmicks that keep him feeling like a dark absurdity as opposed to something scary. As you would imagine, their personalities lend to a plethora of interesting conversations and watching them convene about affairs and deal with each other is simultaneously reminiscent of the way we talk to our own friends but absurd with how far the vampires take certain things.

Waititi and Clement really have a knack on pop culture understandings of vampires and take great liberty in accentuating those perceptions to make truly memorable comedic moments. Werewolves and other creatures of the night show up throughout the movie and are made to play their own respective comedic beats. The interactions between all of them feels like a love letter to creature features all around. I love how seamless the creature world has been integrated into the human world. For example, vampires have to follow rules about being invited in, so they have certain vampire run locations where a bouncer will greet them in , fulfilling the rule. Moments like these give the movie a genuine novelty. Every interaction between a monster and a human is bound to tickle someone’s funny bone and there’s more than one moment that had me laughing to tears.

At the heart of the movie is a story about judging people , in this case creatures, unfairly. Often times we approach situations with a certain prejudice which colors our interpretation of why they’ve done certain actions or who they “really” are. We can’t begin to understand one another unless we actively reach across the aisle and try and see eye to eye. The movie explores this idea multiple times, never coming as preachy or corny. It’s just an authentic feel good time about trying to see the best in each other.

I only have one big issue with the movie. To some of ya’ll it might come off as a bit nit-picky, but for me it made the grounded realistic feeling of the movie a lot harder to get into. The movie goes along with the idea that vampires can’t be captured in mirrors because they don’t have reflections. There’s even a gag about it confirming that its “cannon”. However, if that’s the case then the documentary crew wouldn’t be able to record the group at all. Given how clever the movie was about everything else, I thought they’d either make a joke about how the mirror thing was an absurd human myth or come up with some roundabout way of circumventing it (ex: mirrors traditionally used silver which was bad for the vampires as evidence by the movie, so the cameras don’t use silver mirrors…etc ). I can forgive it because it’s the only big issue with the documentary style, which otherwise looks spot-on and like a convincing documentation of supernatural phenomena as if it was occurring in real life, but it stands out given how immaculate every other aspect of the movie feels.

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TLDRWhat We Do in the Shadows is a humorous interpretation to the monsters that lurk in our nightmares. The way it humanizes vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night while retaining the characteristics that make them memorable to us is genuinely impressive. The characters are engaging and the humor really hits, so feel free to show this movie at events. It’s a real crowd pleaser.
Rating9.0/10
Grade A

Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Director(s)Eli Craig
Principal CastAlan Tudyk as Tucker
Tyler Labine as Dale
Katrina Bowden as Allison
Jesse Moss as Chad
Release Date2010
Language(s)English
Running Time 89 minutes

You wouldn’t expect it from the title, but Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a heartwarming, hilarious, bloody good time of a movie. It follows a group of college aged kids who go to a forest to camp out. They run into a pair of hillbillies, Tucker and Dale, who they immediately typecast as murderous degenerates. As the misunderstanding between the two groups rises, blood starts flowing, and utter chaos ensues.

The story is crisp and to the point. No joke ever feels like it overstays its welcome and the creativity in execution and sense of comedic timing is immaculate. There are dark comedic moments that’ll have you laughing and looking away from the screen, but there are also genuinely funny moments that you’d see in a more lighthearted comedy. Somehow, the movie manages to combine both of them seamlessly leading to a unique comedic feel. The movie is narratively sound as well. The ending has a lot of interesting twists that are both hilarious but give the movie more of a thematic bite. It’s immensely satisfying to watch everything play out. The movie knows exactly what it wants to be and how to get there.

Despite all the absurdity on the screen, the movie boils down a story about misunderstanding and projection. The way that it explores that via the characters and their actions and subsequent revelations is a constant reminder to not fall prey to faulty first impressions. This including perceptions of oneself. Often times, the person who stops us from achieving our potential , is our insecurities. The movie is just as much about the way we count ourselves out, as it is about how we turn others into caricatures based on certain attributes. It might not be the most nuanced message, but it’s conveyed with such a deft hand that you can’t help but appreciate it. Plus, it’s not like the message is bad or anything. The world could do with people judging others less.

None of this is to say the movie is perfect. Despite doing a great job with its leads and the leader of the college kid, Chad, the rest of the characters fall to the wayside. They exist for the sake of the plot and feel like joke extensions. The setup for some of the kills also pushes the limits of believable. Yes, it’s a comedy movie and is supposed to be over the top, but there’s a threshold to how dumb a character can be.

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TLDRTucker & Dale vs. Evil is comedy about the pitfalls of misunderstanding and making improper assumptions. The movie is hilarious and proceeds at a brisk pace with twists and turns that should keep you entertained from start to finish. Some of the characters and their decisions feel a bit over the top, but you’ll hardly notice it as you’re laughing at the absurdity of it all.
Rating9.1/10
Grade A

Review: The Babysitter

Director(s)McG
Principal CastSamara Weaving as Bee
Judah Lewis as Cole
Emily Alyn Lind as Melanie
Robbe Amell as Max
Release Date2017
Language(s)English
Running Time 85 minutes

The Babysitter is a mixed experience to say the least. The story follows Cole, your typical bullied nerdy kid and his babysitter, Bee, who acts as his friend, guardian, and confidante. Late one night, he finds out that his beloved Bee is actually the head of a satanic cult and has to find a way to get out of her cult’s clutches.

The setup for the plot isn’t awful . A kid with confidence issues finds out his babysitter, one of the few people he genuinely cares about, is head of a demonic cult and must find a way to survive. It leaves a lot of avenues to be explored. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t make use of any of them. The nature of the satanic cult is never really messed around with. No cool ritual stuff or fun gimmicks. Interactions between cult members hint at a history between them (potentially funny) , but that’s never explored. Characters get no time to breathe or give us a reason to root for or against them.None of the cult members outside of Bee and Max (the crazy jock of the group) feels fleshed out so they come off as annoying caricatures. This second problem spills outside of the cult as well. A lot of the supporting cast feels useless or tacked on. Outside of Melanie, Cole’s best friend, no one is utilized properly.

Direction ranges from strange to slightly better than expected. The score is typical for the type of movie this is, so while it doesn’t distract, it doesn’t lend itself to leaving a big impression. The movie makes use of floating words and pauses to create a strange comic-book feeling. It didn’t really work for me and I thought it was kind of strange. It didn’t add anything thematically and if it was an attempt at satire, it came off strange.

Speaking of satire, the movie is pretty hit-or-miss with its attempts at being funny with the genre. It doesn’t fully embrace the absurdity of camp like Dude Bro Party Massacre III and isn’t as clever as The Cabin in the Woods. It’s pretty on the nose about things, so if you’re looking for subtlety look elsewhere. I thought some of the moments worked, but others felt tacked on. The satire also isn’t properly integrated with the theme at the heart of the story- facing your fears and growing up. If it was, I think a lot of the movie could have been elevated. In fact, the reason I liked Max, is precisely because his absurdity and depiction with Cole directly ties in to the latter’s growth.

You see, despite my criticisms, I do enjoy the story’s exploration with growing up. Cole’s coming-of-age journey is just a more extreme version of things a lot of us have gone through, and I think the movie really nailed it. The relationship between Bee and Cole is actually pretty sweet and well-established so watching him deal with the revelation feels meaningful. Weaving’s performance certainly helps sell the emotional undercurrent of the story . It’s easy to see why Cole would be devastated at the revelation of Bee’s true nature, but on the flip side easy to see how good she was at manipulating him.

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TLDRThe Babsitter has some interesting ideas but rarely manages to be anything more than average. If you like Samara Weaving or are in the mood for a cheesy teen black comedy , then this movie might hit the spot.
Rating6.3/10
GradeD

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: Ready or Not

Director(s)Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
Tyler Gillet
Principal CastSamara Weaving as Grace Le Domas
Mark O’Brien as Alex Le Domas
Adam Brody as Daniel Le Domas
Release Date2019
Language(s)English
Running Time 95 minutes

As someone who loved Samara Weaving’s performances in both The Babysitter and Mayhem, I knew I had to watch this movie. I didn’t even watch a trailer – I just went in expecting to see a fun Weaving movie. I got that and so much more. Ready or Not is funny, clever, and brutal all at the same time.

The story follows Grace as she’s made to play a game of hide-and-seek after marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family. Except in this game, getting caught means being killed. What follows is an intense cat and mouse situation where Grace and the Le Domas family constantly seek to out maneuver the other party. What keeps these moments fresh is the circumstance under which the game is played and the family operates. I won’t spoil it, but the movie keeps you guessing on what’s really going to happen the whole time. Up until it was over, I didn’t know what was actually going to happen.

Even after having only seen the movie once in theaters and once for this review, I can remember most of the characters and their personalities fairly well. This movie, unlike a lot of other ones with big casts, doesn’t feel like it wastes any of its characters. There are clear motivations for each member – which is even more impressive when you realize how large the Le Domas family actually is. Yes, some of the arcs or backgrounds aren’t amazing or profound, but the fact that they are there at all is impressive.

Weaving absolutely kills it in her portrayal of Grace. She’s funny, wide-eyed, resolute, bad-ass, desperate, and everything in between. Her energy shines through and makes it really easy to root for Grace. It gives you a reason to care about the story and I found myself invested in the outcome. I think Brody’s performance as Daniel (Grace’s brother-in-law) was also fairly well done. He showed complexity and nuance and has some of the best character moments in the movie.

The movie’s discourse on families is interesting and doesn’t feel ham-fisted. Grace wants to be in the family because she’s always been alone- so for her family is a safe place. Meanwhile, her husband Alex resents his family for the practices they engage in so he wants to run away – but he still feels the need to follow tradition- which highlights just how strong family can influence the ordering of our desires. The way the parents evaluate their children’s’ spouses speaks volumes in what qualities they consider valuable. The perversion of family values is where the movie shines and the way it frames that discussion in relation to wealth adds another layer to think about.

Now for the problems. There are some character decisions in the third act that feel a bit off. They’re not incomprehensible, but they feel like they could have been developed a bit more so they wouldn’t feel as sudden. There are also some procedural issues I had with what knowledge what characters had about the mystery at the core of the plot. It feels like certain people should know things that would radically change their actions, but they don’t. Finally, there are moments where the camera feels/is handheld which takes away from the grandiose aesthetic. I wish the shots were stable throughout/moved only during more action-y scenes. This issue felt even more prominent on my second viewing. None of these problems are enough to make the movie bad, but they do lessen the themes the movie builds towards.

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TLDRReady or Not is a clever twist on the comedic slasher genre. The plot is well-paced and will keep you guessing about what’s going to happen up till the very end. There are some story issues that creep up in the third act, but they can’t detract from the absurdly fun journey/ending. If you enjoyed Knives Out, you may also like this. It’s weird – but this movie feels like a spiritual horror version of that one.
Rating9.0/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: You're Next

Director(s)Adam Wingard
Principal CastSharni Vinson as Erin
A.J. Bowen as Crispian Davison
Release Date 2013
Language(s)English
Running Time94 minutes

I swear after I first saw this movie, I was certain a sequel would drop eventually, but unfortunately it seems like that’s not the case. It’s a shame because You’re Next has all the ingredients necessary for a classic slasher movie: stylish kills, great villain design, a dry perverse black humor, and a wonderfully bad ass main character in Erin. The premise- a rich family is targeted by unknown assailants and have to fight for their lives- is simple enough, but its execution shows a real understanding of the craft.

What immediately set this movie apart from others for me is how thought out the story feels. Character motivations are present even for the bad guys so everything has a human element to it. Erin is immediately likable and is a great protagonist to latch onto. Sharni is a bad ass and from the way she carries herself up to the way her character takes charge, it’s apparent that she’s not going to be a pushover. The killers each have different face masks corresponding to a different animals which represent their personality traits. It’s subtle character work that goes a long way in making the group of villains feel distinct aesthetically. The members of the rich family feel nice and distinct in the few moments they get to interact with each other. I wasn’t expecting so many characters to feel so unique.

The reason the characters feel so memorable is because of how odd they all are. The family might be rich, but that doesn’t mean they’re any more functional than a middle or lower class family. The earlier scenes where they play off each other are great, even if the delivery of some of the lines feels wonky. Someone’s always got something strange enough to say to add a “unique” sense of humor to scenes. I personally thought the movie was hilarious (intentionally). I appreciate dry in-your-face humor that’s predicated on the absurdity of what occurs. I think it’s a more acquired taste so if you don’t think it’s funny watching it, I wouldn’t be surprised. But I think watching it from the point of view of a comedy makes the viewing experience more memorable and might be something you consider trying out.

Despite nailing most of important stuff, the movie suffers from a lack of impact. What I mean is that we barely get a chance to gauge the characters relations among each other, so when people start dropping it doesn’t feel like anything.It’s a shame because the few moments they talk to each other had me laughing, but all of that is pushed to the wayside for immediate action.That might be good if you just want a constant source of action, but that’s not my cup of tea. The movie also struggles to balance its tone at times. It wants to be funny but then acts too seriously at other moments to let the humor breathe. It makes it hard to process, especially when the third act starts.

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TLDRIf you like weird humor that’s dark and kind of perverse and also enjoy gory slashers, then You’re Next is made for you. There’s a sensible story, aesthetically interesting villains, and a great protagonist waiting to be discovered. Just be wary of strange tonal shifts and bare-bones characterization.
Rating8.2/10
Grade B

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Happy Death Day 2U

Director(s)Christopher Landon
Principal CastJessica Rothe as Tree
Israel Broussard as Carter
Phi Vu as Ryan
Release Date 2019
Language(s)English
Running Time100 minutes

I was so happy when I saw that Happy Death Day was getting a sequel. I actually went to this movie on opening week and remember leaving the theater feeling immensely satisfied. After watching it again recently, I’ve come to understand why. It’s like every problem I had with the first movie has been resolved in this one. The movie makes the brave decision to ACTUALLY expand on the ideas (if only all sequels could do this) which help it carve out an interesting little niche.

The movie picks up immediately after the first one and it’s revealed that the cause of all the time loops is Ryan’s science invention. After a series of mishaps, Tree ends up sent to a parallel dimension and is forced to find a way to escape the baby faced killer again. The sci-fi addition to the franchise gives it some much needed personality and makes the gimmick something more interesting. The way the characters end up reacting to the new knowledge gives us a ton of fun creative scenes that really push the black comedy aspect.

Characters from the past movie get more to do in this one. Because it’s a new universe, everyone shows a different side of themselves which gives Tree a lot of room to navigate and form new opinions. It makes people from the first movie feel more layered and is a fun play on the butterfly effect. It also gives the movie a more poignant emotional core that really made me feel for Tree. Speaking of Tree, Jessica Rothe kills it again in her performance. She’s given more room to have fun in this one and she takes a lot of pleasure in it.

Unfortunately, the one area the movie didn’t really improve on is the horror element of everything. The killer and their motivation in the first movie was pretty whack so I was curious to see how it would play it out in this one, and while it’s believable to an extent, it also feels kind of out there.

The pacing of the movie also feels off- there’s one moment in the third act where it feels like the movie has a natural ending, but then it keeps on going. It’s not that the extension feels bad. In fact, what happens makes a lot of sense- but it feels like it’s missing the polish the rest of the movie had. Maybe a subplot should have been removed and some events should have happened in a different order. I don’t know. It’s just a weird anomaly. The end credit scene does give me hope that the third movie (Please come out) does some crazy stuff, so here’s to that.

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TLDRHappy Death Day 2U takes everything that was good from the first movie and amps it up. There’s a more interesting story, better character building, and even more fun levels of absurdity. The movie is more science fiction that it is horror, so if you’re expecting focused slasher you may want to look elsewhere.
Rating8.4/10
Grade B

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!