Category Archives: A

Review: CAM

Director(s)Daniel Goldhaber
Principal CastMadeline Brewer as Alice Ackerman/Lola_Lola
Patch Darragh as Arnold/TinkerBoy
Michael Dempsey as Barney
Release Date 2018
Running Time95 minutes

I”ll be the first to admit that I thought this movie would be a crapshoot going in. I didn’t see any reviews or anything. I just thought the description sounded interesting enough to warrant a watch . A cam girl psychological horror? Even if it wasn’t that great at least it’d be something new. Man oh man, did I underestimate what I was getting into. From the very first scene, Goldhaber lets you know that this isn’t some trendy social media cash grab movie like Friend Request. Instead it’s a deep look into the horrors of internet privacy and security and the ways we’ve become almost defined by our digital personas.

The movie follows Alice Ackerman, more popularly known by her online persona, Lola_Lola. She’s a camstar who’s been rising through the ranks and is finally on the cusp of making the top 50 most popular content creators. However, just as things start to look promising, Alice notices that her account has been hacked by a girl who looks exactly like her. This clone “Lola” acts,looks, and feels the part and Alice is forced to navigate a harrowing situation with little to no support given the nature of the occupation. The set up is even scarier when you take into account the rise of things like deep fake technology. The movie isn’t based on real events, but I wouldn’t be so sure of that in a decade or two.

This is a movie that treats its subject matter with serious respect. The camgirls that are portrayed are real human beings. They’re smart and treat their source of income like any other working adult would do. Screenplay author Isa Mazzei needs to be commended for creating a nuanced, balanced look into the lives of a group that’s constantly judged but never given a fair shake at presenting their own stories. Likewise, every single person who knows of Alice and her occupation treats her differently. Yes, there’s slut shaming and vicious judgement, but there’s also acceptance and solidarity. It keeps the movie from feeling preachy, and helps focus attention on the plot, so the themes come off natural.

The discussion at hand is broad and touches on a lot of different topics that come together in interesting and horrifying ways. After Alice has her channel taken, she attempts to use different legal channels but never receives a proper response. It’s reflective of the way the law and corporations receive social buy in under the idea that regulative channels will properly do their job, but if people are willing to keep in line with sub-par service, then what’s the point of fixing anything? Interests are transient and there’s a quick fix for any kind of entertainment if you’re willing to look for it and have the capital to ensure that it happens the way you want. You don’t need to fix the system. You just need money to navigate it.

This idea is only expanded by the streamer/anonymous chatroom setting the story takes place in. Yes anonymity and ease of streaming allows content creators to reach out to their expanding audiences more often, but it comes at the cost of putting oneself out there. People give money to those do what they want, and given the ability of anyone to be a content creator, newer entrants have to constantly one up themselves and their peers. You never know who’s giving you the money or why they’re doing it. The audience never has to share and the information asymmetry can lead to some pretty horrendous situations. In some cases, it means receiving money to participate in awful activities. When a creator gives in, the result generates more depraved behavior because suddenly everything has a relative price point. It’s a vicious feed back loop that culminates in the virtual erasure of people. Cam girls aren’t people . They’re consumable objects . It’s just a question of whether or not the audience wants to hurt and/or sexualize them.

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TLDRCAM is a dark look into the tumultuous, and highly dangerous lives of cam girls. In a world where relevance equals money and money equals livelihood, people are forced constantly escalate their behavior to make ends meet. In the cam girl industry, that escalation comes with serious, sometimes horrifying costs. If you’re looking for a horror movie that effectively uses social media at the heart of its scares, look no further than CAM. It’s one of the best.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Evil Dead

Director(s)Fede Alvarez
Principal CastJane Levy as Mia Allen
Shiloh Fernandez as David Allen
Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric
Release Date2013
Running Time 92 minutes

Normally, when a horror fan hears the word “remake” they feel a deep sense of fear. Most horror remakes usually suck and are made as cash grabs that prey on nostalgia. They usually have a weak plot or one that’s functionally the same as the original with none of the soul or passion behind it. Certain iconic scenes will be redone as a moment of fan-service, but nothing of substance will be added to differentiate the movie outside of this fan-service. Outside of a few rare instances (like The Ring as an adaptation of Ringu) , horror remakes are doomed to fail because they refuse to innovate or add their own mark on the franchise. Thankfully for The Evil Dead fans, Fede Alvarez isn’t about that, and has managed to create a familiar but wholly unique Evil Dead origin story.

The film literally opens with misdirection, framing shots and moments to jog fan memories. You think you know what’s going to happen, but then it’s something completely different. Over the top violence, linguistic jabs, emotional turmoil. The first five minutes is like a small demonstration of what’s to come.The story picks up a while later, as a group of friends goes up to the iconic cabin the woods. Their purpose? To help their friend, Mia, get over her problematic drug addiction. The group is comprised of Mia, her estranged brother David, their eccentric friend Paul, David’s girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and the self-appointed leader of the healing expedition,Olivia (Jessica Lucas).

The set up adds a nice motivation for the trip. All the characters are going to help their friend deal with a life-threatening issue. When a user goes cold turkey they become more paranoid, frantic, desperate, and afraid. The set-up would make any sign of possession easy to disregard as just as an effect of rehabilitation. The stakes are set early on , so the groups decision to stick out terrifying situations makes sense. It’s a clever premise that’s utilized properly.

However, unlike the original movie, this soft reboot struggles at establishing memorable moments for its characters, outside of just really gory sequences. The only interesting characters are the siblings because they get the lion’s share of characteristics and backstory. Their estrangement gives the relationship a sense of mystery which keeps us invested in figuring out what really happened between them. The most memorable sequences in the movie involve them because they’re the emotional core of the movie. They both have reasons to care about and be cautious of each other and the movie demonstrates that nuance properly. Granted, it’s not like I hated the other characters. I did like Pucci’s performance as Eric, but the story only starts to make use of his ability to be manic in the third act. Outside of that, every character feels like they exist just to be abused and disposed of by the script/ the ghosts that get summoned by the Necronomicon.

Speaking of which, the Necronomicon looks amazing and I love how much fun the team had in making and styling it. From the protective sealing around it, to the scrawled messages in it begging users not to use it, the book evokes a different sense of dread. In the original , the text is indecipherable/in another language , but here there are very clear visual cues.

Evil Dead – Page from the Necronomicon warning users not to touch it.

It makes the danger more apparent, but it also makes the decision to read it seem more absurd. The original gets away with it because the circumstances leading up to it are just an unfortunate result of the supernatural and the worst of peoples’ habits coming together with catastrophic consequences. It’s not that its the worst set up ever. It just feels messy. The character that ends up reading it is repeatedly shown to be a bit eclectic in matters about the occult. It just feels like if that’s the case, and they’re thereto help their paranoid friend suffering from withdrawal, that they would not say horrifying incantations. I can forgive it though, because it’s an Evil Dead movie and no curse means no fun.

That’s good, because the movie is a TON of fun. There’s a lot of love for the source material on display and you can tell that Alvarez understood how to adapt those original moments and update them for mainstream audiences today. The gore is even more over the top here and there are sequences that will leave your stomach queasy after watching. What makes these bloodbaths stand out is that they’re all done with practical effects. The horrifying applications of sharp material to flesh will chill viewers to their bone, and it makes sense when you realize it’s created via actual practical illusions and tricks. I love that they went the extra mile in selling the hyper-realism because it gives the franchise something completely different.

Now that I’ve said that, if you like the Evil Dead movies because they’re really funny, this movie may not be what you’re looking for. The movie attempts to replicate a lot of humor ,and to be fair to it, I did chuckle at some of the fast verbal lashings delivered by the deadites. My issue is just that the humor is few and far between. Most of the time it’s too fast or just feels like something edgy that should be funny but has no real meaning or weight. Though the movie can’t balance the its serious and comedic tones at the same time like Evil Dead 2,the way it handles its themes of overcoming addiction gives it something unique that the others don’t have. It’s also not chock full of fan service. Personally, I think it has just enough references to have older fans smiling, without focusing on them so much as to alienate brand new viewers. Its the golden amount.

If you’re looking for an Evil Dead movie that’s more related to the first movie in the franchise and are okay with/enjoy a more serious story-line, you should definitely check this out. I think one huge advantage this movie has is how easy it is to show to people who want to be scared by a horror movie. Aaron Morton did a great job at getting great shots and Bryan Shaw’s editing keeps tension high at all times. There are no lazy sequences and the supernatural events always feel like a threat. Jump scares are expected but get the job done and don’t feel cheap. Gory moments are actually hard to stomach (if you don’t like gore), and demonstrate real creativity in figuring out just how far to push the audience. Alvarez is a master at pacing so the movie always feels like its progressing towards some goal. When I first saw this movie, I was on my feet during the ending. Couldn’t believe how cool and aesthetic it all was.

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TLDREvil Dead is a great soft reboot that manages to tell the original’s classic story with enough twists to feel like its own creature. The film’s packed to the brim with gore and scares alike, so check it out even if you’re a horror fan not familiar with the franchise.

I’m writing something more involved about this piece, so I’ll save the spoiler thoughts for that.

Review: Hush

Director(s)Mike Flanagan
Principal CastKate Siegel as Maddie Young
John Gallagher Jr. as The Assailant
Release Date 2016
Running Time81 minutes

Hush tells the story of Maddie, a deaf author, suffering from a particularly grueling case of writers’ block. Given her condition, she doesn’t notice when a nameless intruder stakes his claim in her house, hell bent on torturing her until it’s no longer fun and then killing her after. Little does he know that Maddie’s not ready to give in and she’s more resourceful than she looks.

This is the first Mike Flanagan movie I ever watched and is the first of many reasons why I will watch anything he makes (As of writing this, I’m only missing The Haunting of Hill House). Typically when I watch a movie, I have anywhere from a few to a lot of “Why don’t they just…?” or “That doesn’t make sense and would never happen!” thoughts. That issue happens far less often in a Flanagan movie because he spends time justifying every decision and helping the audience understand exactly what all the outs are. This movie takes great pain to humor the audience’s “what-if” scenarios, in a way that’s both logistically and visually satisfying.

The movie does a great job of establishing each of the main characters as individuals and as a cat-and-mouse pair that’s trying to take each the other one out. Siegel is excellent as the lead and manages to convey a lot of intention and emotion through excellent facial expressions and physical acting. She’s not allowed to talk in a traditional sense, so watching her “show” her thoughts makes the experience feel more personal. Within a few scenes, I was invested in her well-being and found myself rooting for her to win. She uses her circumstances and wit to constantly navigate the situation, so the movie feels unique in how competent the “final girl” starts off. It’s a refreshing change of pace that keeps the movie feeling fresh in a genre that needs new life injected into it. John Gallagher Jr. is unnerving as the unnamed assailant. He’s a total psychopath and the movie hammers that point in more than once. Early on, when he realizes Maddie is deaf, he decides it would be more fun to torture her and go in for the kill, because he could prolong it like a game. The cold, calm, and composed way John fulfills his actions makes it clear that the events in the movie are nothing more than sick and twisted entertainment for his character. Side characters are used effectively. None of them linger for longer than they need to and they’re presented as capable in their own right. It makes them feel like they’re real parts of the world, as opposed to throw-away characters meant to change the pace up and add new sources of tension.

Maddie’s condition is used to great effect and Flanagan has found a way to give her a voice in spite of her lack of speaking. Things happen in the background, and Maddie doesn’t turn around to look at them. It’s typical horror movie bad decision 101, but in her case it’s understandable because she can’t hear the noises of the “things” happening around her. It creates excellent square sequences where we see menacing things happen around her and know that she’s walking straight into harrowing circumstances.

Though the movie is deftly crafted and well-paced, it doesn’t do anything spectacular to change up the genre or make its themes refined. There’s a simple underlying story of defying expectations and using them to your advantage, but it’s only ever explored in one way. It’s relatable but not complex. That’s not a bad thing, but given how well executed and conceived the mechanics and performances are, the same level of nuance in the themes or story would have elevated this movie into something really great. Don’t get it twisted, this is one of the best slashers of the past decade. I just thought it had way more potential.

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TLDRHush is one of the best slashers of the past decade and is sure to entertain anyone who has a hankering for a bad-ass “final” girl. Deaf author vs sadistic psychopath plays out with a lot more finesse and nuance than you’d expect.There are innovative communication strategies, well executed chase sequences, and tons of chilling harrowing moments. Best part? It’s only 81 minutes, so you don’t need to spend a long time waiting around.
Grade A

Review: It Comes at Night

Director(s)Trey Edward Shults
Principal CastJohn Edgerton as Paul
Carmen Ejogo as Sarah
Kelvin Harrison Jr as Travis
Christopher Abbott as Will
Riley Keough as Kim
Release Date2017
Running Time 91 minutes

This is a movie I’ve seen three separate times and come away with a different interpretation of its themes each time. There’s multiple ideas I have stretching from the logistics of the plot to what thematic idea the movie most strongly ties into. None of these theories are more or less correct than the other, because the movie is intentionally ambiguous. Shults has said as much in interviews. If the idea of not having a “proper” answer irritates you, then you might want to skip the movie. On the other hand, if you’re someone who loves being forced to think and re-visit your previous interpretations, this is the movie for you. It’s slow and and purposely ambiguous, constantly acting provocative, but never pulling the trigger in giving you a coherent answer. I say this because advertising for the movie makes it seem like it’s going to be this cool post-apocalyptic creature-feature of some sorts and it’s not. The real “it” , no matter what it really is, is just a stand in for darker human thoughts and ideas.

The movie follows a family of three: Paul, the father; Sarah, the wife; Travis, the son. They live in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a disease that necessitates the infected be killed and then burned. The family is incredibly secure about ensuring their safety. As they meet more people and things start to go bump in the night, everyone’s suspicions rise and the misery starts to ratchet up. The movie is dark and things linger in the background. The camera cuts just when threads of the story begin to get just a bit less ambiguous . It gives the movie a frantic, uncertain vibe. Everyone’s character and their respective performance add to the mystery. All of them have understandable motivations and no one ever feels malicious. The element of fear is always present, so when revelations happen you get why everyone is so on edge. By the end of the movie, I was uncertain of who did what to whom and the feeling hasn’t changed on re-watches.

This is a tough movie to watch because it almost feels like a deep dive into peoples worst fears , the fears that paralyze action and cause social disintegration when they become dominant. Add on to that the natural decline in resources and you have a nice little state of nature. On my first view, I thought the movie was an allegory for the pitfalls of the Hobbesian state. For the unfamiliar it goes something like this – people are inherently savage and are motivated by a survival instinct. In a world without rules and assurances, they strive to maintain a hold on their resources. This leads to a state of perpetual violence because any other person is a threat to those resources and thereby the initial agents survival. Eventually, people, sick of living in constant fear, come together and form a government where a single authority figure, aptly named the Leviathan, determines what is and isn’t allowed. The movie feels like an instantiation of this larger theory and an examination of how it would eventually play out. It also feels topical given the global rise in nationalism and stirring of xenophobic fear of the Other. In a world where we’re constantly fed ideas that people from elsewhere are dangerous ,discussions like this are even more valuable. Should we be cautious and what are the costs of being too ready to eliminate difference?

What sets the movie apart from other post-apocalyptic movies is the sense of unknown. It’s established early on that the succumbing to the disease transforms you, but that transformation isn’t explained. The impact of it is hinted to be so awful that the characters are willing to drop anyone who even hints at having it. It makes you think about what it could be that’s so bad. Is it related to the night? Maybe, maybe not because the night is usually dominated by nightmare sequences. They’re shocking, but they’re not clear and leave their interpretation up to you. The movie is edited so that no definite answer can be reached. Everything blends into each other so you’re left to determine what’s real and whats fantasy. Obviously some theories seem more valid and others feel like wild conjecture, but the story is open to a lot. As such, the movie has immense re-watch value because you can always get something out of it, even if that something leaves you feeling misanthropic. This is the kind of movie you watch with friends who like to really get into making theories, because the subject matter and its presentation naturally lend themselves to being interpreted in different ways. On the other hand, if you like solid answers, the movie can come off as jerking you around. I only started to really appreciate it my third time and I think it’s one of movies that grows on you.

Given all of that, my issue with the movie is it I think it doesn’t go far enough. I’m fine with getting lost in a maze trying to figure out what’s going on, but I can’t help but feel it can come off as a bit dull the first time watching it. Unless you’re actively playing with a subtext and trying to view the movie through that lens, the whole thing can come off as hard to remember. The feelings it generates are certainly visceral, but the ambiguous storytelling makes it hard to remember finer details if you’re taking the story seriously at face value.

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TLDRIt Comes at Night is a puzzling look into the darkest parts of the human psyche. If you like slow, atmosphere driven, open-to-interpretation horror you need to give this a watch. There are no routine jump scares or straightforward plot threads here.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: 1922

Director(s)Zak Hilditch
Principal CastThomas Jane as Wilfred James
Dylan Schmid as Henry James
Molly Parker as Arlette James
Release Date2017
Language (s)English
Running Time 101 minutes

As someone who actually enjoyed 1922 (the novella), I was fairly excited when I saw that Netflix was going to distribute the adaptation. I’m even happier to announce that this adaptation is not only one of the better King adaptations out and about, but is also an effective horror movie in its own right. The story follows Wilfred James, a farmer whose way of life is under threat when his wife, Arlette, threatens to sell their farm land and leave for the city. Wilfred views land as an extension of ones worth and pride. Losing it is no real option. It gives him both the ability to take care of his family and represents the only thing he can leave his son, an extension of his name, and thereby another source of pride. Fearing that his wife will make good on her word, he decides to commit the cardinal sin and permanently remove her from the situation. However, he soon learns that everyone pays for their actions one way or another.

The framing device the movie uses to tie together all its events is Wilfred in the present day recounting his experiences fighting his wife, deciding to get rid of her, and the subsequent horrifying experiences he has to go through. The movie is a case study in the deterioration that accompanies sin. Even if no one is around to judge you, you know what you did. Your sub-conscious never forgets even if you can put your actions out of your mind. The way the framing device cuts in with the progression of the main story accentuates this feeling by giving the audience first-hand feedback on how the actions ended up impacting Wilfred in the future. As a result, watching him deal with the guilt of his action is both satisfying thematically and visually. The further he falls into the cycle of guilt , the more his world starts to visually crumble. You can always tell the state of his psyche based on the environment around him. It doubles as a cool representation of his inner thoughts and a source of visual scares.

Thomas Jane does a great job as Wilfred. You can see his resolve in his voice and demeanor. He comes off as someone on edge who’s forcing himself to stay rigid and coherent for the sake of his pride. Everything is worth it if he can succeed in his job as a farmer and in his duties as a father. His lineage determines his value as a human being and anything that could harm it is an attack on his very sense of self. It’s why his guilt manifests in such a strong and profound way. It’s because his perception of his worth has shifted, even if he can’t immediately tell it has.

My issues with the movie have more so to do with the original source material and not the adaptation itself. I think the adaptation does a great job at conveying the same sense of paranoia the novella had. The issue is that like the novella, there are some story moves that ruin the ambiguity of whether or not supernatural elements are actually at play. The story wants it to be ambiguous, but the way that it progresses makes that an impossibility. I wish the adaptation just edited certain moments in a different order because it would resolve the ambiguity issue. I also think there are certain additional sequences in the story that hurt the theme and characterization of Wilfred. I was sad to see them kept in the film adaptation. But if you enjoyed the full novella, then this should definitely please you.

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TLDR1922 is a twisted tale chronicling a man’s descent into depravity. By prioritizing his interests and being unwilling to compromise, he ends up slowly losing his sense of self. Though the ending kind of misses the mark, the movie should satisfy fans of dramas and psychological horrors.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: It Follows

Director(s)David Robert Mitchell
Principal CastMaika Monroe as Jay Height
Keir Gilchrist as Paul Bolduan
Jake Weary as Hugh
Release Date2014
Running Time 100 minutes

Wow, my relationship with this movie is complicated. The first time I watched it, it was after its initial release in the US (2015). I had heard a ton of rave reviews about it and was super hyped. I remember feeling really bored by the end of the movie and cast it away as being over hyped. Fast forward a few years, and I ended up randomly seeing the movie on Netflix and decided to watch it again. This time I enjoyed the movie more, but still didn’t think it was that great. Finally, as I was making my best horror movies of the past decade list (coming soon I promise), I decided to give the movie one more watch and ended up genuinely loving it. All the details I had never paid attention to before like the cinematography and the score came into focus and I could appreciate the movie in its entirety as opposed to just honing in on the stuff I don’t like.

The film follows Jay, a high-school student, who receives a sexually transmitted supernatural curse of sorts. She’s told by her transmitter early on that the titular “it” will follow her to the ends of the earth, taking on any form it can to get to her. “It” can only be seen by her and other people who have been recipients of the curse. She can escape “it” for moments at a time, because “it” can only walk slowly towards her. To temporarily get rid of the curse, she has to pass it on to someone else. With barely any time to get a grasp on this knowledge, Jay is tossed out and forced to reckon with the horrifying situation she finds herself in.

The inherent idea of “it” is terrifying to think about. STD/STI’s are scary enough but “it” takes those fears and personifies them in the shape of something that uniquely haunts each victim. Adolescence is the time for a lot of early sexual exploration which is scary enough. It’s an act that makes you vulnerable to an other and to think that someone would willingly expose you to an ailment in order to survive makes the experience even more harrowing. However, voluntarily passing on the curse uses sex as a kind of social glue, giving it a connective tissue. It’s allegorical for how we begin to approach sexual relations. Yes, it can be scary and harrowing but it can also create positive tethers that prove conducive. It’s not just sex though – sex is only representative of the most intimate form of opening up with each other, so the movie can be interpreted at a more general level of the way we interact with one another. Every time we meet someone new we open ourselves up to a range of interactions. Despite the risks, there’s a lot of positives that can come from opening up. It’s a multifaceted message that allows for hope and enables genuine terror.

If that’s not your cup of tea and you just want to see actual scary moments, It Follows has them, but they’re interspersed throughout the movie. “It” violently brutalizes its victims when it finally reaches them and the aftermath of its encounter is presented within the first scene of the movie. Watching our protagonists interact with “it” make the endeavor feel hopeless and you genuinely get scared whenever “it” is in the proximity of the latest person in the chain of the curse.

Now that the story stuff is out of the way, I have to say the production values on this movie are through the roof. It’s an audio visual treat and you should watch it just to have the sensory experience. Mike Gioulakis knocks the visuals out of the park. You can pause the movie at any point and get a picturesque visual worthy of serving as a screensaver or being printed and placed in a frame. Every time “it” comes into the screen, the tension becomes palpable. There were multiple times where I could feel myself gripping my knuckles. The synthy score by Disasterpeace reminds me a lot of John Carpenters music and gives the movie this cool hypnotic feeling. It’s amazing just how different every track feels and I’ve listened to the album a lot while writing or reading. I absolutely adore the title track and how its incorporated into the movie. Every time I hear it the hairs on my arms automatically start prickling up, so I’d say its association with “it” was well established.

Now that we’ve gotten past the good stuff, let’s tackle my biggest issue with the movie- the characters. I couldn’t tell you any of the personality traits of the characters outside of some small facts about Jay. That’s right I said facts, not personality traits. Jay and her group of friends all feel incredibly stale. It’s not because they lack dialogue or chances for interaction. In fact, I enjoyed some of the conversations the group has with each other. It’s just all the characters have the same “gray” disposition. None of them are particularly energized and they come off as low energy. This compounded with the slow pacing creates the perceptual issue that nothing’s really happening, which is far from the truth. It’s not even that the performances are bad. For example, Weary’s performance as Hugh, the individual who gives Jay the curse to begin with, is great. His motivations come off as justified and scummy, which is exactly how he needs to be. It’s more so that characters are never told to approach situations with a lot of levity. There’s no real opportunity for high octane moments given the way everything plays out. This means the characters only have a few range of emotions to go through which makes certain sequences feel more boring than they should be. It’s an issue that bugs me, but not nearly enough to make me discount the movie like I used to.

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TLDRIt Follows is a treat on your eyes and ears. The idea of a sexually transmitted curse is terrifying, but the nuanced way the movie utilizes it to open up discourse on the way humans open up to each other is beautiful. This is a slow paced movie that relies on atmosphere so if you want jump scares or a lot of action, you may want to skip this. If you enjoy slow burn/arthouse movies then you might really like this,.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!


Review: A Quiet Place

Director(s)John Krasinski
Principal CastJohn Krasinski as Lee Abbott
Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abott
Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott
Noah Jupe as Marcus Abott
Release Date2018
Running Time 90 minutes

A Quiet Place is that rare horror movie that unites both mainstream and cinematic horror fans. The story and its presentation is coherent on its surface level and is easy to follow so it doesn’t come off as confusing or ambiguous. The scary monster in the movie is revealed early on and isn’t kept hidden away from the camera the whole time. This makes it easy to digest for people who aren’t used to the weird places horror can go to. However, Krasinski doesn’t sacrifice artistic integrity in his pursuit of reaching a broader audience. The movie has gorgeous shots, genuinely scary scenes that aren’t cheap jump scares, and some real emotional moments.

The story follows the Abott family as they try and survive in a post-apocalyptic world over-run by terrifying alien creatures that hunt through their sense of hearing. In a world where the smallest noise has the possibility of leading to death, the family is forced to adapt to the world around them. I love how intelligent each member of the family is. None of them feel like they have plot armor and most of their actions make sense. In particular, the children, Regan and Marcus, come off as incredibly grounded and developed. Despite, their post apocalyptic grooming, they’re still developing kids with lots of growing left to do. They both strike a balance between competent survivor and child. In particular, Millicent Simmonds does a great job in portraying a teen angst and sadness against the post apocalyptic background. I was surprised at how effective it was. Normally, something like that would grind my gears.

I love how effective the creatures are in the movie. They’re used consistently so they never feel like a plot convenience. It’s demonstrated that they hone in noise, but that they don’t necessarily respond to every noise. This means that accidental noises aren’t a death sentence but are still terrifying because of their potential risks. Subtle details about the creatures’ nature and abilities are littered through the movie and I was astounded with how many clues I missed from my first viewing. I understand feeling frustrated at the early reveal of the creature. You’re not supposed to “show the shark” early because it ruins the expectation and build-up to the creature. However, I don’t mind it in the case of this movie. The decision to show them early on is done intentionally because the focus of the movie is the family and the way they grow and develop with each other in their new environment. The creatures are only a facet of the family’s respective story, and as a result they’re not the main focus of the movie.

As you’d expect from a horror movie about noise, sound design is on point. The movie actually refrains from awful jump scares and slowly builds up to its scares. Yes, there are jump scares, but they’re all justified given the nature of the plot and the way the situations come about. It’s sure to satisfy people who want to be scared and not annoy people who are put off by the horror genres increasing reliance on them. The movie is quiet for the most part, so when sound does come up its meaningful. It’s why I recommend watching this with absolutely no distractions. You want to be fully immersed so your ears can go through the experience with you. The score is used sparingly, but when it does come in its always purposeful. It always suits the mood and accentuates the emotional beat at the heart of the scene.For example, when A Quiet Life starts playing during that scene in the third act, I could feel my heartstrings being tugged at.

The movie succeeds because it gets us invested in our lead family. Despite the problems they go through and the situation they find themselves in, they never really stop loving one another. In a world ravaged by alien creatures, love is the one constant they have that can serve as a source of meaning. The way the movie tackles the love between a parent and a child and the lengths one party will go for another is touching and is something a lot of us can relate to. It’s not deep or ambiguous, but it’s poignant and resonant. This is the kind of movie that’ll make you hug your loved ones a bit tighter afterwards.

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TLDRA Quiet Place is the rare mainstream horror movie that critics and audience members can enjoy together. It’s scary and coherent on the surface, but is emotionally poignant in the way it approaches its subject matter. If you can get past a few “why?” moments, you’re in for a meaningful and entertaining trip.