Tag Archives: black-comedy

Review: Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains

Movie Poster

Virgin Cheerleader in Chains. I originally couldn’t believe the title of the movie when I saw it. All I knew was that I had to watch it. At only 94 minutes, it wouldn’t be that much of a time commitment. Even if it was bad, it might have some cheesy moments. However, after having watched the film, I can say I was pleasantly surprised with Paulo Filho and Gary Gannaway’s meta comedy horror movie. It’s smart, quirky, and fun enough for fans of the genre to give it a whirl.

The movie follows a group of friends as they try and film a low budget horror movie and end up getting more than they bargained for. But the plot really isn’t the main focus of the movie – it’s just a tool to allow the story to do clever and witty things. The way the film is cut together constantly forced me to pay attention to see how resulting scenes would play out. A good example, is the on the point dialogue. A scene will have characters kind of lament and make fun of horror cliches and then within the scene or the next scene, something will happen related to that initial commentary. It’s intentionally over the top and in your face about it, which for me made it all the funnier. It was a risky decision, but I thought it came off just right. Think closer to Scream than the Scary Movies. My only issue is that this incredibly direct set-up only happens a few times during the run-time, and I thought it was the best part of the movie. There are attempts at jokes made through more conventional meta jokes (whatever that means), but it never feels as unique as the more over the top scenes. There was one scene in particular where I had to go and pause the movie because of how much I started laughing , which I was surprised at.

Aesthetically the film is hit or miss (mainly hit). Most shots are well composed and look professional despite the low budget of the movie. However, certain shots stick out like a sore thumb. In particular, the nature traversal shots look out of place and more amateur. There are also these weird nightmare sequences in the first act that wonky and last too long. They didn’t creep me out as much as ruin my immersion in whatever was going on. Thankfully, the practical effects are great. There’s a lot of blood and a lot of moments of in your face violence. I’m more squeamish, so I had to look away at times, but fans of splatter films should rejoice. Set design is also great, and I appreciate the attention to detail. In particular, the house used for the third act oozes creepiness and I loved the way the way the rooms felt.

Finally, let’s talk about the acting. There are some performances in this movie I absolutely adored. Elizabeth Maxwell’s performance as Amber was amazing and she restored my faith in film after some shaky performances from others in the first act. Her “audition” scene had me crying in laughter after its conclusion and I appreciated it. Kelsey Priblinski is also great at Chloe and really starts to come to life when she gets “certain” suspicions about other characters. The scenes they have together were some of my favorite and oozed personality. However, there’s one one character that made me irritated in almost every scene they were in. Billy. I have no idea why he’s in the script- none of his jokes ever land, and he just feels like a walking racist caricature. I can’t blame Michael Morford too much for his portrayal of Billy, because it felt like the script forced the character to just be horribly unfunny. The accent probably made it worse, but that feels like a script decision. Otherwise, outside of some weaker performances in the first act, the acting is pretty good and believable.

Rating

TLDR: Virgin Cheerleader in Chains is funny and smart ,despite feeling uneven at times. I appreciated it’s meta-commentary and wish it had just gone further with it, but the incredibly fun third act was well worth it.

Final Rating: 7.3/10 If you enjoyed Scream you’d probably enjoy this too. It’s a bold meta-comedy with a ton of fun moments. Go out and support smaller movies, so we can continue to get cool innovative stuff.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Parasite

Theatrical Release Poster

I’ve never seen a movie by Bong Joon-ho before I saw Parasite, and if any of them are even remotely close to the cinematic masterpiece that I witnessed, I’m definitely going to have to check them out. If you can’t guess already, I absolutely adored every second of this movie and couldn’t keep my eyes off the screen. This is probably the best class consciousness movie I’ve ever seen and I’m already ready to watch it all over again.

The movie follows the Kim family – a group of incredibly skilled and intelligent scam artists. Because the family is poor and lives in an incredibly impoverished location, they each have to make full use of their wits in order to cling to their lives. The movie really gets started once the son, Ki Woo (Choi Woo-shik) infiltrates a rich family and slowly helps his own family infiltrate and take from his rich clientele. However, unlike the traditional rich evil character type we’re used to, the main “antagonists” of the film seem fairly normal and even nice at times. There are moments, especially closer to the third act where you can get why the main characters don’t like them as much, but they’re never overbearing. The best part? The characters don’t know their counterparts are actually nuanced and distinct from the archetypes they have formed in their head. As a result, interactions between the groups are comedic and thought provoking. The juxtaposition of the smart and poor with the rich, non-malicious, but ignorant creates this wonderful interplay of previously unseen class interactions. There are a lot of moments that forced me to recognize certain moments in my own life and unpack the assumptions and biases I had. Expectations are subverted , but it never feels like it’s done for no reason. It all calculated, but comes off as natural.

As a result, the movie can be funny when it wants and serious when it needs to be. Jokes hit well because of the way expectations are set up. There are always good punch lines but what elevates them to the next level is their thematic significance. After finishing the movie, I knew I had to watch the movie again to see how the earlier jokes figured into the way things unraveled.

The movie also shines on a technical level. Camera work is off the charts. There are gorgeous shots of the characters traversing treks of the city. These moments help to drive home the social positions of different character groups. The impoverished are geographically positioned lower compared to the rich who are placed higher. Pan and tilt shots are expertly used to amplify this feeling. The score naturally flows and accompanies the different sections In particular, the more epic musical tracks helped sell the tension in a lot of the latter parts of the film. The architecture of the house the majority of the action takes place in is also beautiful. The layout of it helped reinforce themes while providing eye candy. It’s relation to the sun and other sources of light was also something I wasn’t expecting but thoroughly enjoyed. All these elements always help reinforce one another making the whole experience feel more textured.

This is a film I think almost any one can relate to because it is fundamentally a story of a family’s struggle to survive under capitalism. Though the first part of the movie is more lighthearted, the movie never takes the characters predicaments lightly. Any possible mistake can risk upending everything. That’s the real beauty of the movie. We actually end up cheering for a group of con-artists swindling a naive wealthy family. Whenever something felt like it was going to fall apart, I felt genuinely scared, because I cared for and wanted everything to go well for the Kims. I could see large swaths of my life in theirs, and I think a lot of people will feel the same way. That’s why the tale never feels long or unbelievable. Take away the names and location and suddenly you have the tale of billions of people around the planet. That’s powerful.

Rating

TLDR: Parasite is a masterclass film. Every element from the story to set design helps sell a thought-provoking and bold story about class consciousness and the human condition.

Final Rating: 10/10. If you’ve ever felt like the world has had it out for you then you owe it to yourself to watch this cinematic masterpiece. It might be one of the most relatable and human pieces of art I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

Theatrical Release Poster

I’m going to be honest- when I first saw the trailer for this movie earlier on in the year, I thought it was an elaborate prank. A sequel to a movie over 10 years old? Sure, Zombieland was popular, but what would a sequel do for a story that seemed to have ended in a pleasing manner already? Thankfully, Ruben Fleischer’s directorial return in Zombieland: Double Tap, is a fun, over-the-top, and gory zom-com that doesn’t take itself too seriously and should be watched by any fan of the first movie.

The plot follows our main group and some bonus characters as they try and find Little Rock (Breslin) after she’s run off in a fit of adolescent rebellion. The story that follows is predictable for the most part and doesn’t take itself too seriously. To compensate for the lack of innovation, the movie just has fun with itself. The action scenes are bloody and entertaining. The film doubles down on the spectacle – new zombies, more deaths, and more blood. Most of the times this turns out well, and the absurdity is entertaining to watch even if it feels similar. Likewise, a lot of the comedy is based on references and parody specifically in relation to the first movie. Sometimes it comes off as forced or goes on for too long, but this is a rarer issue and didn’t derail my enjoyment too much.

For the most part the acting in this movie suits the tone and brought me back to the feeling I had in the first movie. Harrelson, Eisenberg, and Stone all come exude the characters we know and love. Harrelson still kicks ass but is a teddy bear on the inside. Eisenberg is still a nervous, awkward, rule follower trying to find stability. Stone is still smart-witted, sarcastic, and dealing with her emotions. Breslin feels less compelling as an angsty teen, but thankfully the bonus characters pick up the slack. Deutch’s portrayal of Madison stole the show for me. Almost every time her character was on screen I laughed or chuckled. Rosario Dawson also serves as a great counterbalance to Harrelson and is a fun, if somewhat gimmicky, character.

My issues from the movie stem from two places: the disjointed nature of progression, and the fact that the sequel is set 10 years later. Like I said earlier, the movie doesn’t have a lot of twists in it and feels like a rehash of story beats from the first movie. There are some changes to keep it interesting, but the progression from point to point feels forced. It almost feels like the group travels from one location to another to do a comedy bit or to have a zombie fight and then moves on. My second concern is my primary issue with the film. The ending of the original movie set in stone/pushed characters to certain developmental stages. Given that the main cast has lived with each other for 10 years, one would expect some more growth and change along these lines. Instead, the characters feel like they picked up a few months after the end of the last film. Some of their decisions, even if fun, feel lacking once put in context.

Rating

TLDR: Zombieland: Double Tap isn’t revolutionary, but what it doesn’t do in innovation, it makes up for in raunchy comedy and exciting action scenes. Some moments feel out of place from a larger narrative standpoint, but they can’t hold back the adventure at hand.

Final Rating: 7.5/10 . If you liked Zombieland, check this movie out. If you didn’t you won’t find anything here to change your mind. The movie also isn’t too scary, so if you want a fun comedy flick to watch this film more than fills the role.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: An American Werewolf in London

Theatrical Release Poster

John Landis’s horror-comedy, An American Werewolf in London, follows the tale of two backpackers, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Duance) as they travel through England and are subsequently attacked by a werewolf. The rest of the film that follows tracks the characters and their respective responses to the attack. Though comedic, Landis’s story works better is more often scary and tragic.

A lot of the humor works because it feels so “normal” and nonchalant in the absurd circumstances. Characters reveal serious information in very calm ways, which makes them feel like jokes, but the juxtaposition with the seriousness of the situation creates an unsettling feeling in the scenes that only underpins the horror. The sound choice in the movie also helped amplify this feeling and disjuncture. A lot of the songs were werewolf related and up-beat and positive in contrast to the macabre scenes proceeding the same. Often times I’d be laughing, but then feel dread upon thinking of the actual implication of what’s being said.

Furthermore, the special effects in the movie are phenomenal. Rick Baker’s make up work and practical design work makes the werewolf transformation in this movie the scariest and most spectacular I’ve seen- and the movie has now been out for close to 4 decades. It was refreshing to see real makeup instead of an overabundance of CGI.

The atmosphere of the movie, especially in the third act, feels out of step because the comedic and terrifying elements are hard to balance out. It works for the most part, but some of the more serious aspects of the movie felt less so because of the inconsistent tonal transition. This in turn made the end of the movie feel more abrupt to me, but the more I think about it, the more it makes the ending feel somber.

Rating

TLDR: An American Werewolf in London is funny and tragic. For the most part, the comedic bits serve to highlight and drive home the absurdity and make the tragic nature of the situation more amenable. It comes off unevenly at some points, but the film remains enjoyable and gripping till the end.

Final Rating: 8.7/10. If you enjoy irony, comedic juxtaposition, or enjoy great visual effects design I’d check this flick out. It was surprisingly to the point and emotionally resonant.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Theatrical release poster

At times, Drew Goddard’s horror comedy, The Cabin in the Woods, feels like two movies going on at once. The amazing part, is for most of the movies run, the two parts run and compliment each other well, adding a nuanced meta-tension. The film follows a group of college students who go to a cabin and experience a slew of horrors. The film chronicles their discovery and reaction to those.

The plot summary here is going to be sparse. A lot of the movie comes from knowing as little as possible before watching , so I don’t want to give anything away.

The first act of the movie is brilliant and constantly keeps the audience guessing as to what the underground facilities underlying purpose and meaning is. Horror tropes are constantly referenced, exaggerated, and toyed around with, in a critique of overdone and macabre cliches. It’s up to the viewer to ascertain the trope to get the full meaning of the scene. This lends the movie well to re-watches, especially by people who aren’t as familiar with some of the genres of horror referenced. For horror veterans, the movie is filled with great Easter eggs, and there was definitely a few moments that had me chuckling in appreciation at what was being done to change a certain convention.

On top of this the movie is genuinely funny. Watching the tropes come to life and be deconstructed becomes funnier and more rewarding the more you get to know the characters, which is only possible because the acting here is great. Everyone is slightly off the archetype they’re supposed to be, and everyone here is capable of breaking in and out, adding nuance to the old horror molds and helping to create something new. But the comedy also feels perverse. There were times I was laughing, but I felt wrong for doing so, and that confused feeling elicited a sense of horror.

The issues with the plot only start rearing up near the third act of the movie. A lot of the subtlety and novelty of the movie becomes more pronounced and heavy-handed which starts taking some of the “magic” away, but it’s that problematic because by that point a lot of the movie has already been “foreshadowed” in some fashion. Some of the character decisions also feel a bit strange. Almost as if the antagonist in the movie has an inconsistent”power scaling.” This feels more like a nitpick than anything and has to do with my own biases, but it felt like something worth mentioning.

Rating

TLDR: The Cabin in the Woods is a wonky and surprising ride. It deconstructs and plays with horror tropes in a way that not only elicits humor, but also disturbs the viewer by forcing them to confront the perverse nature of that humor.

Final Rating: 9.3/10. If you’ve ever enjoyed a horror movie you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. It’s well written, funny, scary, and illuminating without ever feeling too haphazard.

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!