Category Archives: review-movie

Review: Zombieland

Theatrical Release Poster

“Without other people, you might as well be a zombie.” Thought one might expect a film called Zombieland, to be primarily about zombies, Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 horror-comedy movie, merely uses them as as a backdrop to the main story at hand- a story about humanity and the paradox of trust. Like Schopenhauer’s porcupine, each of the four main characters wants to trust and open up to each other, but their respective traumas and previous misgivings serve as the real antagonists of the film, and represent the real final bosses they have to overcome.

The decision to refer to each character by a code-name exemplifies this conundrum. When Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) first meets Tallahasee (Woody Harrelson), the latter explicitly rejects formal names, instead using places that relate to their background. The names serve as the most obvious signal that people in this world no longer trust one another- in a world over run by the un- dead, unknown people could just bring you down and/or ruin your chances of survival. Their paths soon cross with Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), and from there, the real story begins.

One thing the film does really well to develop the characters in lieu of names and paltry introductions is to constantly group and re-group certain characters, to help define their individual relations to their group relations and so on. These groupings help to create a more fulfilled and nuanced picture of each character ,making their personal journeys and attempts to overcome their self-defense mechanisms more fulfilling and well-deserved.

I love how the backdrop of the movie feels so much like a video-game. The opening shot does a great job of emphasizing the chaos and destruction the zombies wreak on the planet. From the early shaky cam, to the immediate on screen death, to the imploding and devastated planet- we’re all aware that the Earth has immediately gone through something graphic, but it almost feels like an intro cut scene to a game, before the player gets control of their character. The presentation of Columbus’s “rules” also helps sell the gamey feel of everything. They become part of the environment like on-screen instructions in a game.

There are also plenty of slow-motion shots used during action sequences- like when zombies run into a weapon or experience impact. These help the moments they’re used in feel more hype and comedic. All together, the elements help us enjoy the spectacle but invest into the characters and their personal struggles, creating a more rich viewing experience.

The humor in the movie was great and felt natural. A lot if it just felt like the characters expending loose emotions and felt like a transgressive laugh, in the face of an uncaring and cruel universe. Honestly, there were a lot of moments where I wanted to go and check up if the director had read any of Georges Bataille’s works given the way the characters interact with death and tension. All the effort spent in building up the characters and situations, really helps sell some of the funnier punches the movie has to offer.

My biggest issue with the movie is with one of the movie’s strengths- Jesse Eisenberg’s constant self-narration. The movie often takes the point of view of Columbus, who often monologues or reveals his insights as certain scenes progress. But a few of these revelations felt like they took away from some of the more emotional moments of the movie. I counted at least two moments, where a series of events played out on scene, and as a viewer I could “see” the point of it and emotionally resonated with the same. But then, immediately following it, I’d hear Columbus’s voice trying to explain the significance of what I saw and try and add in a funny or wise quip. It didn’t happen enough to derail the movie or its messages, but it definitely made certain scenes less effective.

Rating

TLDR: Zombieland is a beautiful character-driven movie about trust and human relations masquerading as a zombie-comedy movie. The overall aesthetic and attention to character development really help hit some great character moments and keeps the viewer engaged, despite some distracting narrative issues.

Final Rating: 8.5/10. I enjoyed the journey through Zombieland, and would highly reccomend to anyone who needs a laugh or wants their faith in humanity to heal a bit. If you like it – Zombieland: Double Tap is coming out on the 18th of this month. I don’t know why they waited 10 years for a sequel, but better late than never.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Thing (1982)

1982 Theatrical Poster

From the opening shot of the John Carpenter’s masterpiece science-fiction horror film, The Thing, I knew I was in for something different. After all, the first real thing we see is a UFO crash into the Earth before a great transition to the title card. Then immediately after, we cut into a helicopter chasing around a dog in the Antarctic, desperately trying to gun it down. The best part? This is only the beginning, and the story that follows is even grander and raises even more questions.

The story follows a group of American scientists, their encounter with an unknown alien creature that can imitate any organism it consumes, and their subsequent struggle to survive and eliminate “the Thing.” The acting is phenomenal from the entire cast . It genuinely feels like everyone is certain that they’re a “good” guy and everyone else is suspicious or corrupted by the alien creature. . Lighting and perspective are played around with a lot to amp up the feelings of paranoia. Furthermore, Kurt Russel as MacReady was captivating. He took charge of the scenes he was in, much like his character did during his movie. His serious reaction to a lot of the more imaginative scenes in the movie, really sell the impact and gravity of what’s going on.

However, what makes the movie truly mesmerizing and in turn, genuinely disturbing is attention to detail. From set design, to lighting you can tell a lot of the choices were done intentionally to seed additional doubt over the status of certain characters and to constantly cause the viewer to feel uncertain. The visual effects on display made me actually lean back in fear. The monster was disgusting and didn’t even feel out of place compared to special effects in movies today. I was shocked to see that this movie was actually almost forty years old. It’s aged phenomenally! There’s one scene in particular that I’ll go into more detail in the spoilers section, but after reading on how much work went into it, I appreciated how much more it actually scared me. This does come with a warning to my more squeamish friends- some of the visual scares are a bit bloody and there’s some really out there imagery, so be warned.

Put together- the elements of the movie present, at least in my opinion, a pretty bleak interpretation of human affairs and left me with a sense of nihilism. I can see why critics at the time weren’t huge fans. But despite, the seemingly bleak nature of the movie- it’s beautiful in it’s portrayal of the costs of survival and the things we’re willing to do in its name.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise or horrors so the spoiler free thoughts end here.

Rating

TLDR: The Thing is bleak and ambiguous, leaving a lot up the viewer for interpretation. From the effects to the cast, the story will constantly keep you on edge, nervous, and paranoid, just like the characters.

Final Rating: 10/10. It’s good. Real good. Take the deep dive. I know I know. A 10 in the first 3 days? I promise- it’s well worth it.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Scream

1996 Theatrical Poster

Movies don’t create psychosmovies make psychos more creative! ” No sentiment could better describe, Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher film/satire Scream. The movie chronicles the journey of Sidney Prescott, portrayed by Neve Campbell, and her friends as her small town is struck by a series of gruesome and horrific murders.

The opening scene of the movie really sets the pace of the whole film and I was shocked by the end of the movie, at how brilliantly the themes of the beginning shot are kind of followed through. Casey Becker, played fantastically by Drew Barrymore, starts her night off nonchalantly, and playfully entertains the phone-calls from her soon to be killer. But within the first few moments, the mood turns sinister and a Dutch angle is used to exemplify the tonal shift- something’s wrong.

Skip to 30 seconds to see what I’m talking about.

Introduction to Scream

This is repeated through the movie. There’s always a shift in perspective when something is off.

The visual effects were also amazing. Watching the movie, I never felt like I was watching something aged. The deaths were just as gruesome and I was blown away with how intricate some of the early deaths in the movie were portrayed.

Complimenting the narrative is one of the most imaginative scores I’ve heard in a horror film. There were a lot of songs that either served to foreshadow scenes there were to come or were just impactful because they didn’t feel like something that’d belong in a horror movie. For example, Youth of America, which sounded awesome, just felt really high octane like something you’d hear in an American Pie-esque movie, but after listening to the lyrics it just works.

Finally, the plot is amazing and filled with twists and turns, as you desperately try and figure out who the actual killer is. There were multiple times where I thought someone was the killer, just like certain characters on screen, but then the movie would do something to caution me against that belief. Then when I would least expect it, new information would be revealed that eroded my previous certainty in the situation. This describes the whole movie and that’s what it makes it genuinely scary. You honestly feel unnerved. You’re never certain what’s going to happen

The constant stream of horror references really reinforces the point and makes the movie that much more enjoyable if you consider yourself something of a horror buff. Whenever a movie is referenced, the movie usually tries to parody an element from the same which gives you cool Easter eggs. But more importantly, those allusions create expectations of certain rules characters should follow and constantly subverts them which only adds to the tension.

Unfortunately, the number of references also feels like kind of a problem at times. This may just be because I’m trying to watch the movie years later or because I haven”t seen a lot of the movies, but it almost felt like the movie kept trying to drop more and more names, and I became less interested because it started feeling too convoluted. This wasn’t a serious issue, but was something that I started feeling near the end of the movie.

Tone also felt a bit mishandled at some times- almost as if the transitions were a bit rough. The film does try to be scary, a satire, and a form of black comedy, but the serious feel of some of the scenes make comedic bits feel a bit out of place. It did work well most of the time, so I don’t think it’s too big of an issue.

Rating

TLDR: Scream is filled with twists and turns and brilliantly pokes fun of and subverts tropes. You may feel a bit lost, but no matter what you’re in for in for a pheonomenal mystery and a great time.

Final Rating: 9.3/10 One of the best I’ve seen. I was entertained the whole movie and didn’t know whodunit till the end.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Hour of the Wolf

Original Swedish Theatrical Poster

Hour of the Wolf is a 1968 psychological horror film directed by Ingmar Bergman. It follows the disappearance of a painter played by Max von Sydow and his wife’s reaction to his strange mannerisms leading up to and including the same.

First thing’s first- the acting in here is phenomenal. From the very start of the movie, Lizz Ullmann comes out swinging. Her constant aversion of the camera early on in the movie sets the tone of uncertainty. We never feel like we’re solidly in place and once a certain diary is read things start going off the deep end.

Bergman uses the angle of the camera and the environment to create visual effects that add to the uncertainty of the scenes. The faster and more dynamic movements during the “wilder” scenes makes the viewer constantly feel on edge if what they’re watching is real or a shared delusion with a character on screen. Several scenes like this happen through the movie and had me really questioning if something other-worldly was at foot.

On top of this, the use of long still shots on characters gives the viewer a real sense of what they’re thinking. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I’ve never felt that more than when I saw the longing stares and faces. Whenever the camera lingers on a reaction or zooms in more, which happens just enough to keep it fresh each time, I felt a bigger and more urgent sense of suspense. When would the scene end? More importantly- what would follow? This leads into the reaction shots. There are a lot of moments where you want to see what the character is seeing but instead the shot lingers on their face, so you’re forced to kind of play a guessing game of what’s going on- which not only adds to the suspense, but also makes the reveal (or lack thereof) that much more shocking.

From a plot perspective, there’s a lot that’s being attempted and a lot of it is commendable. I like the stories attempts at looking at the kind of boundaries of love or what it means to love or go towards love. Looking at that and it’s interweaving with the story of an artist who slowly loses focus and is forced to choose between his supposed delusions or a reality with his wife.

In terms of problems I felt that the story could’ve used more grounding. I understand it’s supposed to feel abstract, but there are a lot of elements and relationships that are alluded to but their inclusions feel kind of rushed or undeserved. As a result the themes of the narrative feel lopsided and rushed at times. Pacing in the second half also feels a bit rushed and as such, the subsequent attempt to answer the question the movie raises feels out of place.

Rating

TLDR: Hour of the Wolf is a grand nightmarish trip and will make you question what is and isn’t real. Even though it suffers from some pacing issues in the second half and doesn’t quite reach the mark in answering its thematic issues, it’s a trip worth taking and has quite a few mesmerizing scenes.

Final Rating: 8.5/10. Please go watch the movie if you like psychological/thriller movies OR you want to see the slow psychological collapse of people driven crazy by love.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts.